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All Hail Kale

What is it about kale? You either love it or hate it. It isn’t a lukewarm response vegetable. Lately we have been getting some sort of kale every week in our farm share. Russian. Lacinato. Red. Green. You name it. We get it.

I never heard of it until 2011 when we first saw it in a CSA box.

Now, we don’t even blink when something new like kalettes show up.

Growing up the only greens we ever saw were lettuces, cabbages and spinach. Don’t think I ever saw collards or chard. I have to admit too that getting kale on a regular basis was a challenge for me. I tried salads. Only like ones with lacinato (or dinosaur) which is the mildest for me. I wasn’t fond of massaging the greens to make them tender and those curly varieties had some real bite to them.

Fast forward to my discovery of Joshua McFadden’s book Six Seasons. Which I cook from quite often.

The kale and mushroom lasagna in this book is just amazing. It’s a staple at our house.

I mean who misses the meat in a recipe with something this satisfying. I have made this dish following the recipe in the book and I have gone off and totally improvised. As long as two things are constant. The kale. Simply sautéed in a pan with a little water to help steam it. Wilted down to limpness, losing all that bite. And the mushrooms. Sautéed in butter until absolutely lovely.

I have used the recipe’s sauce, made with butter, flour, milk and chicken stock. I have also cheated and used Paciific’s organic cream of mushroom mixed with milk and a tablespoon of flour. The other element of this dish is the ricotta/lemon zest mix. I have also played around here and used whatever I have available. Sometimes adding goat cheese or mozzarella. Face it, I just use what I have to make the four layers. Mushrooms, kale, cheese and sauce. Layered with the noodles. This pan below made six meals for us. I cut it in pieces and freeze them to be reheated in the oven for a quick meal.

Looks awesome doesn’t it?

Honestly, I bet you could easily convert someone to being a kale lover with this dish. Use really good mushrooms and fresh ricotta and it is decadent.

Thanks to Six Seasons I have many recipes that celebrate kale, without having to resort to smoothies.

 

Sho Nuf Turkeys

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They used to be Maple Lawn. We thought they were leaving us. But they aren’t. I just ordered my Thanksgiving turkey from the third generation running the fresh turkey operation down in Fulton MD.

Their website has been updated to show the new operation.

Check it out.

It’s traditional around here to head down and pick up your holiday turkey.

Wonder if we will be getting new bags, or should I bring one of my Maple Lawn bags. Also, are they partnering with the grocery stores? You could pick up at Boarman’s, Whole Foods, MOM’s, or David’s.

This is our second year doing a small quiet Thanksgiving at home. Hoping to have a few friends over. No relatives left in the area.We could do a dinner at a restaurant but I am not ready to give up roasting that bird.

Recovery

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It’s been four months since the tornado. I have serious respect for those who soldier through natural disasters and put their lives back together.

We spend many hours dealing with the clean up, the restoration and the insurance claims. We finally finished the tree removal. Five days of a full crew, removing over a hundred trees.

The Cutting Edge did all our tree work. Highly recommended. Between them and Absolute Landscaping we have almost cleared it all. Absolute now begins the repair work.

Two small locally owned companies. Howard County at its best.

We have half an acre being cleaned up and reseeded. Days of milling and scraping, adding top soil and lime, and then putting in a hardy grass to prevent erosion. We were covered in invasive plants, which we are trying to eradicate.

Things look pretty bad at times, but we do have faith.

Some of this land will hopefully end up with trees from a grant to reforest with native nut bearing deciduous trees. We are included in a proposal by Howard  Ecoworks to use native trees to increase the forest canopy in the county.

Until then we are just stabilizing the area because we had major erosion in July when those three inches of rain ripped through our area.

Beyond the current work load around here, I did still make time to try something new with some native grapes. Muscadines. We had two quarts of them from our farm share.

I turned to Vivian Howard again for a recipe. Deep Run Roots.

Grape Hull Preserves.

Things are always better when you can add food making to your day. It’s my release valve. My escape from noise and dust.

Hopefully one day we will finish and can return to our hobbies, and our peace and quiet.

Forty

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Years ago today.

I met my husband. At a church brunch. He made quiche, believe it or not. He used to be the cook.

Remember when quiche was the latest thing?

Not that this is all about quiche. It was a choice. Go to a brunch with my roommate because she asked. Meet the owner of the townhouse when I spilled the rosé I was pouring into a glass. Clean up the floor.

Fast forward one year and four days. This was now my kitchen floor.

We met in August 1979 and married in August 1980.

Things have changed quite a bit in forty years. I obviously do most of the cooking. We have lived in three houses. Worked in many different places. Been retired for almost ten years.

The fifth was the day we met. The ninth is our anniversary. A pretty special week.

We lived in a Howard home starter townhouse in Owen Brown. Bought an out parcel townhouse in Scarborough. Harper’s Choice. Lived there twenty three years.

Moved to the rural west 14 years ago to follow our dreams. A garden. Radio towers. No covenants. Peace and quiet.

For better or worse. Sickness and health. Vows that mean something.

Still happy after all these years.

The Garden 2019

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What have I done this year? It’s been a challenge, that’s for sure.

With all the turmoil I did a minimum planting at the community garden. Tomatoes, Onions. Okra. Tromboncino.

The asparagus and rhubarb, my perennials, keep producing.

I did put in gladioli.

They went crazy. With a dozen of them flowering at once.

I also am finally getting tomatoes.

Mostly Early Girls. A few black cherries. I haven’t gotten any red figs or purple calabash heirlooms. There are green ones on the plants that survived.

I got three of the Italian zucchini, aka tromboncino. My two plants have more tiny veggies on them but not ready yet.

The okra is going nuts, as usual. I need to remember to get there often to pick them before they become too large and woody.

Okra fries from Deep Run Roots cookbook tame the “slimy” beast.

Gardening is my outlet. What’s yours?

Disaster Relief

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It’s been six weeks since the EF-1 tornado ripped through our property and took out 90% of our conifers and half our deciduous trees. Four full days of a seven man team with skid steers, chain saws, a 22 inch chipper, stump grinder and other noise making machines and we still aren’t done. One more day to go, but we have a break. We need to stabilize the soil and clean up the debris.

We found the barbed wire fencing from the 1890s farm. Our home sits on an old pasture, next to a century old farmhouse. Our neighbors live there. Our property was a pasture, horses in it for decades. The tree line is gone now and the posts and fencing were uncovered, under those annoying poison ivy vines that wound around the trees and bushes.

For a few days, the deer enjoyed the tasty leaves now in reach.

We just cope. Every day another task. Three cars into Chandler for auto body work. Next week Absolute Landscaping comes in to try and clean up clay, wood chips and the accumulated trash found under the tree line. Cutting Edge did all the tree work. They were awesome. We still have to replace the chimney cap, repair the roof, repair the deck, inspect the radio tower,and work toward the landscaping necessary to repair the groves lost.

Me, I turn to cooking comfort foods when I need to decompress. It is my favorite time for fresh vegetables. I did get some gardening done. I hope to get tomatoes soon. Meanwhile, I have made those things I love.

Loaded potato salad. With fresh green beans and baby red potatoes from our CSA. Fresh dill from my garden. Whole grain mustard.

One giant zucchini fritter. I was too lazy to make little ones. This was an adaptation of Smitten Kitchen’s fritter with sweet red pepper in it.

I also turned to Ottolenghi for a new recipe. Kale, asparagus, edamame.

With a killer topping. Pepitas and sunflower seeds baked with a maple syrup glaze.

This recipe came from Simple, the latest Ottolenghi cookbook. I have all of his books on my iPad and use them often. Cooking keeps me sane while working through the recovery from the tornado.

My husband? Is back on the radio once we got all the trees off his guy wires and the small tower up and running. That’s his outlet.

We will get back to normal someday. But right now, we just are lucky being retired, we can dedicate the time to “disaster relief”.

Weathering the Storms

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The Mother Nature kind, and the personal ones.

The personal storm is winding down. A health related issue, now manageable.

Then, out of nowhere, Mother Nature kicks us when we are recovering. Maryland is not known for tornados. Hurricanes, sometimes. The rare earthquake. A derecho. But now, tornados are coming on a regular basis.

On the 30th of May, we got ours. A direct hit. EF-1. 100 mph winds. No warning. The alarm on the phone occurred exactly when the power went out and things started swirling around our car. No time to react.

I should feel lucky. We were under it but it wasn’t on the ground. The chimney cap was ripped off. We lost one roof shingle. The satellite fin on my SUV was lifted and flung across the yard. Trees started breaking and falling in every direction.

We lost over 100 trees along our property lines. Small cherries and one massive pin oak. Almost every white pine.

My favorite weeping cherry took out a corner of our deck.

We just finished day three of tree removal. I am dealing with noise from chippers, stump grinders, chain saws and heavy equipment. Eight hours straight.

And welcome to the insurance world. Finding out that tree removal isn’t covered except in very specific circumstances. Juggling repairs on three vehicles. It’s a full time job, almost.

Well, at least Bambi is happy.

She doesn’t need to reach high to get those tender tasty tree leaves.

Lessons Learned? Check out your homeowner’s insurance to see what the difference in price is, between a dollar deductible and a percentage deductible. Consider cutting down diseased trees. Replace the developers’ trash trees with better ones. Avoid white pines, Bradford pears, and river birches. They are all weak trees.

We now have lost our screens. From neighbor’s sheds to highway noise to wind screens, we lost most of our privacy and sound barrier.

The good news? Less leaves to rake. Less pine needles. More sun to reestablish my garden.

We were also lucky with a less than 24 hour power outage. But we did miss this TV picture taken from a helicopter.

Ninety percent of the trees in this picture are gone. They were toppled.

Hopefully I can get the county to help us replace the canopy. They have a program to plant trees. We can certainly use them.

Mother Nature really is a five letter word beginning in B.