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Synergy

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I love it when a plan comes together.

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The chili is bubbling away in the crockpot. It will be used for dinner tomorrow. Nachos on Sunday. Maybe a lunch if there’s enough.

My two major food sources cooperated to give me almost all the basic ingredients to make a turkey chili. They also support a few other meals by combinations. Greater than the sum of their parts.

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Friends and Farms gave us ground turkey this week. This is the protein component of our basket. Besides that turkey, the eggs and bacon will show up in many places. Breakfast Sunday. A frittata next week. And, those pork chops. Will combine with the leftover half of my sauerkraut from last week’s Lancaster Farm Fresh share. Browned, then baked over the kraut, with a couple of sliced apples and some of that lovely apple cider. I am enjoying that cider. It has been used in many pork dishes. Used to make one awesome honey mustard dressing. I like getting it biweekly. It works in so many ways as a liquid base for meals.

The rest of the Friends and Farms basket.

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Pea shoots. Collard greens. Red onions. Garlic. Apples. Grapefruit from Florida. Shiitake mushrooms. Green peppers. Raw peanuts. Cheddar parmesan bread.

Turn to my winter CSA share from Lancaster Farm Fresh. Picked up right before heading out to Friends and Farms.

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Yellow onions. Rainbow carrots. Red beets. Portabella mushrooms. Popcorn. Yukon gold potatoes (squared – I traded Rose radishes). Cheddar cheese. Ground beef. Maple syrup.

Think about that chili. Ground turkey. Yellow onions. Green peppers. Garlic. Pull out a few jars from the freezer of tomatoes. A few cans of beans.

Super Bowl Sunday. I am thinking popcorn, peanuts and maple syrup. Close to Cracker Jacks maybe?

Two kinds of mushrooms here. Thinking mushroom soup.

Grapefruit. Beets. Red onions. There will be a salad in our future.

Meal planning made fun and easy when you get locally sourced fresh foods every week. Winter? Who cares? This is really good stuff. Without traveling down to DC to find it.

Evolution

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Or, how the farming communities have changed their models to reflect their customers’ desires. It used to be the case that Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs used one or two farms that pre-sold their crops. Buy in before the season started and reap the bounty of what was grown. Not much in the way of options, and very risky in bad weather years.

These days, things have changed. The models keep evolving. There are cooperatives. Home deliveries. Buying services. All sorts of sizes, add ons, payment plans and expansion of the definition of local.

Here in Howard County we have many choices in the winter. For us, finally, we got our winter CSA from Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative. The Coop has over 100 farmers in it now. And, they have expanded their options, offering packages and add ons. Today was our first pick up. What do you get in the winter?

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White mushrooms – Mother Earth Organic Mushrooms
Covington sweet potatoes – LFFC
Mixed winter radishes – Spring Valley Organics
Sunchokes – Lee’s Organics
Orange carrots – Rising Sun Organics
Parsnips – Rising Sun Organics

All of us who bought vegetable shares got these in our box. Some of us chose an omnivore package, with three add ons. Others may have chosen a Vegan package, which had tofu instead of chicken. They got bread, instead of cheese.

We got:

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Sauerkraut. Colby. Chicken breasts. I love the message on the sauerkraut.

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As for the other half of our winter food source, we still love Friends and Farms. Today is our one year anniversary of buying from them.

What is interesting today? The carrots in our Friends and Farms basket come from Lancaster Farm Fresh Wholesale. Many of the produce items come from the same cooperative that supplies our CSA.

As I said above, the evolution in provision of fresh local and seasonal foods has brought us many good choices. There is definitely a program and a package that fits a person or a couple or a family, a package that replaces mass market grocery store food.

Today, our small basket from Friends and Farms included the following.

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This was in our insulated bag. Individual Quick Frozen (IQF) green beans. Chuck roast. Eggs. Chevre. Cod. Ground beef. The ground beef was our chosen substitute for bread. The eggs. Our substitute for milk. What I love most about them is their flexibility to tailor your basket to your preferences.

For us, all the protein we need for a week comes in this basket, and in our CSA.

The rest of our vegetables?

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Sweet potatoes. Carrots. Thyme. Apples. Hydroponic romaine. Kale.

There are other winter options for food around here. Zahradka Farm delivers weekly. So does South Mountain Creamery. They both let you tailor your deliveries to include your preferences. This is so different from the days of rigid “Take it or leave it” CSAs.

Come March, add the early bird Breezy Willow to the choices.

We really are lucky. We can have fresh regional foods (mostly from a 150 mile radius). You can’t beat fresh produce. Way better than those cardboard tomatoes in the stores.

Tonight?

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I pan fried one of those cod fillets in some browned butter. Seasoned with bread crumbs and paprika. Served with those IQF green beans and a sweet potato.

Third Time Lucky

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With a winter CSA. We finally got enough participants to create a winter pick up spot for a 13 week Community Supported Agriculture program from the Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative.

For those of us who like that weekly infusion of a surprise basket of vegetables, getting this off the ground meant quite a bit to us. I chose what is called an “Omnivore Package”. 5-8 vegetables. One pound of meat. One half pound of cheese. One pantry item. Every week. We may get bison. We will get raw milk or aged goat, sheep and cow’s milk cheeses. We will get staples for our kitchen, like honey or maple syrup or horseradish. All from right up the highway in Lancaster County.

They changed our pick up from Thursdays to Wednesdays. I like that too. Gives me more time to get things done before the weekend comes. Then, we can easily heat up and eat, with a good made from scratch meal.

During this four week hiatus from the CSA I have been cleaning out some items from the freezer. Like all the chicken wings we got last fall.

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Perfect for a play off game day. Covered in raspberry jam, sriracha, honey, onions and garlic.

Or my meat loaf.

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Made with a half pound of hamburger meat and a half pound of pork sausage. A couple of eggs. Bread crumbs. Onions. Salt. Pepper. Drizzled in ketchup. Do you remember your mom making meat loaf? Didn’t you love it? Leftovers made great sandwiches.

I have also been making chicken salad from the chicken breasts. Egg salad from my Friends and Farms eggs. Some days I do feel like we have regressed into that world from my childhood, with all our food made from scratch.

Can’t wait to see what we get next week. Between Lancaster Farm Fresh and Friends and Farms, I don’t need markets or grocery stores this winter. Well, except when we run out of toilet paper.

CSA’d Out

I can understand it. Our first year we were overwhelmed at the end of the CSA season. But, we hung in there and learned from it, and drastically changed how we approached the weekly deluge of veggies.

I say this because at our first pick up last Thursday for our fall CSA, we heard that about 5 of our summer CSA members never picked up their last week of veggies, or fruit, or meat, or eggs. The food bank did well, as did our site host’s friends, who benefited from things the food bank doesn’t want. Like all that chicken and meat.

We are down to 30 members, from close to 50 in the summer. Enough to keep us going. Those fortunate enough to join us got new and exciting things, like these.

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Watermelon radishes. I roasted mine.

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Salanova lettuce. A red multileaf variety. So sweet. So flavorful. Devoured in a lunch mix with some poached chicken breast on top.

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Baby Hakurei turnips. Thanks to Elizabeth at Three Beans on a String these will be honey glazed with Larriland apples and served for dinner in a few days.

The whole haul.

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Napa cabbage. Will be a slaw soon, with apples. The beets. Already roasted and eaten. The potatoes. Made their way into a potato leek soup today, thanks to Friends and Farms having extra leeks for me to pick up this morning. Sweet peppers. Sliced in salad. Put into a frittata for tonight’s dinner. A couple of them are left.

As for that glorious cheese share.

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Biweekly in the fall. That stinky funky six year aged cheddar. The “Lanchego”, which is simply awesome. A Colby. New to us, from this supplier. Creamy and delicate.

I can honestly say I am not CSA’d out. I am really enjoying the variety, and of course, the freshness. You don’t have to rush and eat it all in one week. With food this fresh, in two weeks, I swear it is still better than grocery store produce.

Tomorrow is my husband’s 64th birthday. Stand by to see what I put together to celebrate. Will I still need him? Will I still feed him?

They Lied …

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… in a good way.

Both food sources have delivered far more than advertised. Friends and Farms individual share is more than adequate for the two of us. Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative’s half share, advertised as 4-7 items, is almost always more than that. Examples from this week’s shares.

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An individual basket costs $44 a week. This week there was swordfish and brisket, for the proteins. And, are there enough carrots in the mix? Tomatoes. Cheese. Bread. Potatoes. A couple of ears of corn (outstanding by the way). A small head of cabbage. Bosc pears.

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An almost one pound brisket that will most definitely feed my husband and me. Enough swordfish to make some very nice tacos.

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And, those lovely Italian plums. A snack we can’t stop eating. Free stone. Soft. Flavorful.

As for our other basket. We have rarely gotten 7 or less items. This week, it was ten vegetable items.

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For $19 a week, this is the bargain of the year for us. Ignore the apples. They were in the fruit share. Other than that. Green leaf and red leaf lettuce. Radishes. Golden beets. Green cabbage. Broccoli. Cauliflower. TWO butternut squash. Potatoes. And, a fennel that I picked up from the swap box. I did ditch my purple mizuna. I have more than enough greens around here, and have a couple of oranges, so I can make my fennel/orange/red onion salad.

The fruit share this week.

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Five pounds of Golden Delicious apples. And, a half pint of those addictive kiwi berries.

My chicken this week was a four pound whole heritage bird. Perfect for roasting.

With my butcher shop visit yesterday, and this haul, we are set for a week of meals. Broccoli and cauliflower joined some of that lamb from Mt. Airy tonight. A couple of oven roasted potatoes.

Thanks to these suppliers we are getting the most bang for the buck when it comes to good food.

Real Value

This week’s CSA share.

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As I looked at the selection, I decided it was time to do another comparison of the value of this half share. It cost me $19 a week for the summer, and again this fall, the same, since we signed up early for both seasons.

Most weeks I know this half share would have cost me more in the organic aisles of the local grocery stores. Here, proof again that it is true.

I used Wegmans on line shopping tool, for our local store. They have some of the best prices in the area for organic. The smaller stores, like Roots and MOMs can be even more expensive.

We had nine items this week. I did swap the red kale for some potatoes. I used the cost of the kale in my comparison because that is what we were sent.

Most expensive to buy. Organic cauliflower and broccoli. $4.49 for cauliflower. $3.49 for broccoli. Spaghetti squash (theirs wasn’t organic) $1.49/lb. Mine weighs almost two pounds.

Organic red kale was $2.69 each. Red leaf lettuce $2.29 each. Butterhead lettuce, not organic, $1.99. Hot peppers, not organic, $3.99 a pound. I had almost a pound of them. The only radishes at Wegmans on line were regular. Not the French Breakfast radishes we got. They were $1.99 a bunch. Organic baby beets, $2.99 a bunch.

All told. A smidge less than $27 to buy.

As for our fruit share this week.

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Seven organic honey crisp apples. At Wegmans these go for $3.49 a pound. Mine weighed slightly over 3 pounds. The kiwiberries. Who knows what they cost. They are rarely seen around here. Conservatively $4, maybe $5, if you can find them. Value, somewhere between $14 and $15. My fruit share costs $10 a week. Really worth it for those fruit varieties that are extremely hard to find without possibilities of pesticides.

This week I didn’t photograph my chicken share. It was boneless skinless chicken breast, and a couple of whole chicken legs. So, I will leave us with the photograph of a recent dinner with the Lancaster Farm Fresh chicken.

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The chicken breasts are usually parboiled first. I then make them into whatever suits my taste over the next few days. Maybe Caesar salad. Maybe chicken salad sandwiches. This time, I used some white wine, olive oil, some mixed herbs and quickly heated them in a moderate oven. The wine keeps them moist.

I also made some mushroom gravy using the Whole Foods brand of condensed mushroom soup. I now know that I prefer the Pacific brand, as this was a little thinner. I added some of the cremini mushrooms too. Spooned over the chicken. Served with some brown Jasmine rice.

And, those great zucchini fritters I have made many times. That Smitten Kitchen recipe is now a staple in my recipe file.

Red Veggie Week

When I opened my newsletter from Lancaster Farm Fresh, four of the eight items had the word “RED” in them.

I am a firm believer in eating by color. I even have the book from Williams Sonoma that tells us how great those rainbow of color veggies and fruit are for us.

According to the book, here is what red veggies bring to us.

“Red fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants for protection and healing. Promote heart health. Promote urinary tract health. Help reduce the risk of certain cancers. Improve memory function.”

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Here is what we got this week. That black futsu squash (which happens to be orange at the moment). That Italian style chicory. Bok Choy. Onions. And the four “red” items.

Red radishes. Red bell peppers. Red romaine. Red potatoes.

I include the potatoes because I will parboil them and use them in potato salad, including their skin. With organic veggies, I don’t mind using the skin.

Besides the vegetables this week, my fruit share included these items.

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Honey crisp apples. Asian pears, KIWIBERRIES! Again. We really like these berries. A great snack.

This was a cheese week too.

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Three cheeses. Once a month. Every month is different. We have had no repeats in five deliveries. A smoked gouda. A sheep’s milk ash cheese. And, a lavender goat cheese.

We also got 2.5 pounds of chicken wings and a couple of skinless chicken breasts in our chicken share.

This basket, with our Friends and Farms basket, means no trips to the grocery store again. Unless we run out of toilet paper.

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