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The New Blogs in Town

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Howard County has been blessed with some really interesting writers, particularly when it comes to food. Using hocoblogs and HowChow as my go-to sources and my morning coffee accompaniment, I get what is happening in and around the area. And find new things to cook. And to blog about.

Like my latest finds in the food world.

Three Beans on a String. A fellow LFFC CSAer who loves to cook and takes amazing photographs. I met Elizabeth at Petit Louis Bistro, at a hocoblogs party there. I regularly read her posts and envy her photography skills. Her food looks great. I bet it tastes that good also.

The Unmanly Chef. Love the name. Jessie from hocoblogs sent me a link. HowChow had him guest post today. I see from that post we are both customers of Friends and Farms. And, I have to get my hands on these skewers, highlighted in his kabob post. I also need to try the egg in my kofta.

The Bare Midriff. Yes, Elizabeth’s blog isn’t new, just new on my regular reading list, that I just updated. I have been reading her blog for a while, but haven’t written about it. We met at the Gadsby event, another hocoblogs get together.

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Next month we have an event planned at Secolari, my favorite place for olive oil, seasoned salts, vinegars, and of course, that awesome Pappardalle’s pasta. More on the event later.

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Now, it’s nice to see more company on the food blogs column of hocoblogs. Bon Appetit!

hocofood@@@

Inner Beauty

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Growing your own food you quickly realize that ugly food is the norm when you have Mother Nature and a host of insects and small critters feasting when you aren’t looking.

I have gotten used to cutting out nibble marks in cucumbers. Ignoring the stink bug marks on tomatoes. And, reconciling myself to holes in the greens.

Still, I am always amazed when someone rejects great tasting food, fresh and just from the ground, because of imperfections on the surface.

In the past year or so, I have encountered this aversion to ugly food at farmer’s markets. Larriland. Food bank gardens. My mother (yes, mom, who didn’t like the dark spots in my potatoes).

I think too many people have become so enamored of those waxed vegetables in the supermarket. The blemish free fruit. They surely realize, I hope, that they drive up the cost of food.

Take tomatoes, for example.

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Heirlooms can be really ugly. But they have incredible taste. They will split, look deformed, and pretty much become the ugly ducklings on the farm stands. Last summer, we picked some beautiful heirlooms one Sunday morning volunteering at the Community Action Council’s garden. Many were rejected as being not good enough in appearance to take to the Food Bank. We were offered those tomatoes to take home with us or they would go into the trash piles. To me, throwing away good food is a crime, but since I grow my own and get lots of other varieties from my CSA, I didn’t need to take more on.

A few volunteers did take them to make tomato sauce. Who cares if they are split if you are going to simmer them down to yumminess.

I thought also about those gorgeous red fig tomatoes I grew a few years back. Grown at the historical gardens at the Conservancy. I bought a few plants at their plant sale to put in my own garden. Loved them.

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The Food Bank said they weren’t popular. They were discontinued in the garden in 2013. These little gems were so sweet, so concentrated, but they aren’t familiar so they weren’t taken.

As for Larriland, I can’t believe the amount of food that is left on the ground. Mostly because it was picked but not perfect, so it was tossed. Berries. Tomatoes. Peaches. Apples. The list goes on.

No, I am not talking about fruit that falls off the vines and the trees. You can’t help but see people in the row across from you, picking things and dropping them because they have flaws. Or, aren’t ripe yet. The waste of food boggles my mind sometimes.

With strawberries, the imperfect ones still go in my basket if I picked them. They become the basis for my strawberry ice cubes. Cutting the blemishes out. If you grew them yourself, you would use them. I can’t get past this obsession for flawless food. No wonder prices keep rising.

I know I don’t hold the same views as people who believe it must be perfect if they are paying for it. At least these days those less than perfect items get used for the soup or salad bars, or in any of those prepared foods on those food bars in places like Wegmans. There you can pay $8 a pound for veggies and fruit that would have cost $2 or $3 a pound if you bought them raw.

Unfortunately our farmers at the markets don’t have that luxury, as foods that aren’t bought become feed for their animals, or hit the compost pile.

As for those potatoes my mother didn’t like. They had small blemishes on the surface that translated into dark spots inside. You had to cut them out. The potatoes. Heirlooms. Blue or purple or pink. With amazing flavor. Just ugly.

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Do me a favor. Buy some ugly duckling items at the bargain prices the farmers charge at the markets. Give them some love and a little time. The freshness of the product is worth the small loss of a fraction of an ounce for cutting out the blemished spots.

#hocofood

To Honor Our Dads

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Both of our dads loved to cook. I remember watching my father in law at the stove, frying up something special. And my dad, with his favorite foods. That he made the way he liked them.

Our dads are no longer with us. My FIL, 33 years ago. My dad, 11 years ago.

We still have memories. Pictures. Favorite moments.

Tonight we honored them by cooking things from their birthplaces, and using techniques they loved.

Like pan frying.

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These are baby bella mushrooms from PA. My husband’s home state. The hanger steak. Also from PA.

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I pan fried a hanger steak with red wine mushroom sauce.

I also made one of my dad’s specialties.

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Cole slaw. A simple one. Cabbage. Carrots. A simple slaw dressing (I cheated and mine was from a bottle). My dad made his own.

The food tonight came from Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, in PA. And, Friends and Farms, mostly sourcing items from PA and MD these days.

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The salad. Baywater Greens. Strawberries from the community garden. Cheese from MD. A simple lemon vinaigrette.

The wine. Not local, but our dads were beer drinkers, and this steak begged for wine. My dad, Natty Boh. My FIL. Yuengling.

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For us, though, a toast using a ten year old cabernet reserve from California.

Here’s to memories. Here’s to dad.

#hocofood

Sunday Night Tidbits

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Us and Them. No, the answer is WE.

At our planning meeting for Howard County Conservancy events for 2015, we discussed the addition of the Belmont site to the Conservancy venues. Trying to remember to say “WE” instead of “US or “THEM”.

It has been interesting to observe the expansion of what my favorite non-profit organization manages and offers.

Like this event Tuesday night at Belmont.

JUN 10 – Tuesday 6pm Saving the Places We Love: Belmont, Howard County and Beyond: Come out for an evening with Ned Tillman, award winning local author of The Chesapeake Watershed. Ned will lead a 40 minute walk around the estate followed by a presentation on his latest book: Saving the Places we Love: Paths to Environmental Stewardship. Walk begins at 6 pm at The Carriage House followed by the presentation and book signing. Rain or Shine! FREE.

If you have never been to Belmont, it really is a treasure and worth a visit.

That brings me to a request of fellow countians. Please consider joining our cadre of volunteers. We now have so many cool opportunities to make a difference in a child’s or a family’s or a fellow adult countian’s life.

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I just feel as if I drop all cares from my shoulders when I drive up that driveway and enter that quiet lovely farmland.

I like leading field trips. I like heading up events. Heck, this summer I am leading geocaching, and an ESOL hike, and a food preservation class.

I don’t think they collectively fall into the same box, so to speak.

Anyway, if you can’t make Ned’s event Tuesday, you could join us on a history geocaching scavenger hunt on Saturday. I have all sorts of surprises in store for the participants.

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Saturday 10 am at our Mt Pleasant site.

Pre-register if you want to be guaranteed one of the loaner GPS units.

#hocoblogs

Markets, Farmstands, CSAs and Cooperatives

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Somewhere along the way during the past three years, I replaced the grocery store visits with fresh, regional, seasonal foods bought in four venues.

We started with vegetables and fruit.

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Sunday mornings at Olney, or Saturdays at Glenwood.

Add to that our visits to the local farmstands and local farms, for dairy, meat, cheese, bread and other goodies. As well as the veggies and fruit.

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You can go online and find year round open farm stands. Like England Acres, Breezy Willow or Copper Penny. I have been keeping track of the locations on my Farms page, and my local resource page.

There are at least six CSAs in this area. Some of them year round. Others, eight or nine months a year.

There are buying services. One, Friends and Farms uses regional suppliers. The other, South Mountain Creamery, delivers all sorts of items beyond milk, right to your door.

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Now, I have also expanded my garden.

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Add to that the pick your own sites, like Larriland, Butlers and Baughers.

It is pretty simple around here to replace grocery stores for most of what you eat.

Over these four years we have done just that. It took a while to find sources, but it is so satisfying to have really fresh foods. And we know the people that supply us with most of our food.

I just visited the new Ellicott City Farmers Market last Saturday. This is what I love most about farmers markets. The best things to buy and use.

I came home with two really great salsas. Some romaine. Radishes. Apples. A half dozen plants for my yard. I was tempted by the pizza, but had enough at home to pass it by this time.

I will be going back for more of that salsa.

Have you replaced the stores with your local businesses? The buy local challenge in July isn’t the only time to support your local farmers, vendors and small businesses.

#hocofood

Having a Meadow

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Since we moved from Columbia to the western parts of the county. One of those things that just boggles my mind.

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Having a meadow, that is. I am a city girl. Born and raised in Baltimore. In a row house. It most certainly is different to live where I can’t see my neighbors. Where I can have coffee on my patio in my nightgown.

I am lucky, I know. But, where did it come from? My mom hates it out here. Too dark and quiet for her. She is also a city girl. Born and raised just west of downtown B’more.

Why do I love it so much? Maybe a throwback to my great grandparents who had a small farm in western Baltimore County. Who knows?

Three times around our property line is a mile. A far cry from the 1/12th acre of our townhouse in Columbia.

All in all, it is something that interests me. That sense of doing something new. Of changing my comfort zone. Of growing even after retirement.

We all need to find those areas that challenge us. That make us different than what we were when we were young.

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Me, I’ll just be happy out here in the boonies. If only those people who are running the triathlons these days would only clean up their trash.

#hocoblogs

Monday at the Mall

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I am not usually a Mall person. I think the last time I visited Columbia Mall was when we bought our new ovens from Sears. A very long time ago.

My husband, has his hair cut at Cavallero. Right across the way from the scene of the shootings last weekend. For 35 years, he has been going to “Rex’s Place” which became Cavallero. He was just there earlier this month.

For me, the locavore and small business advocate, my only recent dealings with the Mall have been specialty stores, like Secolari.

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A family owned business that opened before Christmas.

To show support for the stores, we were there around 2 PM today, right after the Mall reopened. I went in and tasted olive oils and vinegars. Bought a few things. Met Casey from cookieride. And a few Chamber of Commerce members.

My husband popped over to Starbucks to get a small coffee. Ran into the governor’s entourage. That was interesting.

The Howard County community wants to show that we support the people who work at the Mall. That we know they need to get back to work, and they need our business to continue to succeed.

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It was a bittersweet afternoon. The tribute to the victims at the entrance. The fire and police presence. The reporters and cameras. Not the normal Monday afternoon scene.

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If you get the chance, and love good pasta, olive oil, honey, sea salts, and vinegars, stop by Secolari and welcome them to Columbia. Try the white balsamic vinegar with the black truffle sea salt.

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I will be making some interesting dishes using their ingredients to compliment my next basket from Friends and Farms.

And, caring about the health of the businesses in my county. My home for almost four decades. Which is still an amazing place to live.

hocoblogs@@@

#hocounited

Coping

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With everything. The cold. The snow. The burst pipe damage. The trauma of watching the TV with the senseless shooting news.

Yeah, sometimes things just pile up. You wonder just how much you can take. I have lived here 39 years this month. Howard County is one awesome place to live.

The people are wonderful. The location, close to DC, Baltimore, a train ride from NYC, a couple of hours from the ocean. A couple of hours from the mountains.

A place with all four seasons.

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Frankly, it is difficult to watch tragedies. Senseless tragedies. But, we get used to it as we age. 9/11. Hurricanes. Derechos. Tornadoes. Floods. Ice storms.

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This afternoon a Facebook friend talked about how the children are affected by the “Run, Hide, Fight” approach to dealing with the senseless violence. They talked about their parents who lived during the cold war.

Wow! That would be my generation. In grade school during the Cuban missile crisis. The civil rights riots. The Kent State shootings. The war protests.

I keep hearing those song lyrics. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. I grew up during some scary times. Did the Drop and Cover thing under our desks in fifth grade, while we hoped that missiles wouldn’t drop nuclear bombs on us.

I was in DC watching the Pentagon burn on 9/11. We lived with the fear of dirty bombs while commuting to DC.

In other words, we coped. We learned to deal with tragedy and stress. A week after 9/11 we drove to Montreal for a planned tour of the Gaspe Peninsula.

We won’t avoid Columbia Mall because of a shooter. We believe that showing strength during adversity is the way to live.

hocoblogs@@@

Old Friends, New Friends

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I always believe that life revolves around the friends we have. The things we love to do. The experiences. Looking for happiness and finding it.

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I am not sure where my husband picked up this cartoon. I swear it is what he does. But, he did go to the blog party at Alexandra’s Turf Valley this evening.

Really good company. A great setting. Lots of conversations. Good food. Thanks, Turf Valley for treating us so well.

We haven’t been to a brunch there in a while. We are overdue. And need to get back there.

We saw dozens of blogging friends. Watched the bartenders make some really nice cocktails. Listened to good acoustic music.

Not a bad way to spend a Wednesday night. The Mangione family resort is one of the favorite places to dine, have weddings, reunions, anniversary parties, you name it.

They did a great job tonight hosting us.

hocoblogs@@@

Missing My CSA

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Two weeks ago. We ended the CSA pick ups. Not much left around here, except for what is in the freezer. And a few root vegetables.

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A couple of parsnips, a turnip, carrots, an onion, all created the bed for a roast chicken. A chicken from the CSA, that fed us tonight. Gave us a chicken breast for a Chicken Caesar salad, a quart of chicken stock, plus enough shredded meat for a chicken noodle soup.

Did I take pictures? Nope. Too busy trying to deal with snow, ice, ripped down Christmas decorations, and a few downed evergreen tree limbs.

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Still, the snow was pretty. Just hope it goes away. And the predicted six to twelve inches next week does not happen.

I am already so tired of snow. Where is global warming when you need it?

In other news. Howchow tells us Highland Inn will soon open. Nice of them to miss my birthday.

Crossing my fingers here. Hoping that the winter CSA over at MOM’s Jessup will get enough sign ups.

I need some veggies. I see Breezy Willow isn’t open tomorrow. Too much snow.

Should I run down to Silver Spring market? Or hit Roots for the chili fixings I need.

Stay warm, my friends here in the frigid temperatures.

hocofood@@@

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