RSS Feed

Sunshine on a Baking Sheet

Posted on

It’s tomato season. I am drowning in yellow cherry tomatoes.

tomatoes and peppers for roasting

The yellow cherries are still overachieving. The husky red cherries are winding down but still available to add color to the sheet pan.

The tray is completed with scallions and sweet peppers from my CSA. When done, another pint of oven roasted tomatoes goes into the freezer. These containers guarantee that in the dead of winter I can bring summer and sunshine back on our plates.

It is very easy to preserve tomatoes. Cut them in half. Add sliced peppers, scallions, herbs, salt, pepper and a slight sprinkle of sugar. Olive oil and a hand mixing to incorporate it all.

Roast at 250°F until the tomatoes start to caramelize and shrivel up. Put in a container and freeze.

I have spent many hours at my garden this summer. It provides me an escape from the house without crowds. Every other day I harvest tomatoes and some peppers. Maybe a few asparagus. Zinnias. And soon! Sweet potatoes. Which are definitely doing well in a corner of my plot.

All in all, having a garden is giving me sunshine, and keeping me sane.

Ruby

Posted on

The 40th Anniversary. According to Hallmark, it is Ruby. You know, incentive to buy cards and other things from that Hallmark store.

August 9th 1980. In 95+ degree heat. We got married.

We thought that we would be going away to celebrate but Covid-19 ruined those plans.

As our celebration, like we do for minor events where I cook and we open old wines, we decided to commemorate that Ruby theme by opening an old Port. From the year we were married.

Yeah, it’s no longer ruby red but it was really incredible. We bought these Ports from Wells Liquors in Baltimore. They were from the closed Brentwood Inn. We figured they would obviously survive for anniversaries far beyond what a bottle of wine could do.

I served the Port with a few lovely dark chocolate salted caramels from Sweet Cascades. We picked them up at the Wine Bin.

I made simple pan fried tenderloin filets. Bought at Boarman’s. Seared to perfection. Opened a Beringer reserve cabernet. Buttered fingerlings. Sliced heirloom tomatoes. Nothing difficult to make.

It’s been an adventure. Forty years together. These days far more time together since we don’t get out much. Not the way we intended to spend retirement but thankfully having a larger hone and a big yard we can get some alone time when we need it.

Let’s hope better times are coming. So we can go out and celebrate my husband’s 70th birthday later this year.

Staying Sane

Posted on

It’s been over a hundred days since we’ve been anywhere. Except for curbside pickups and a few quick trips to grocery stores and markets. Oh, and the hardware store.

Thankfully we have enough space around here and enough to do to keep busy. Plus, my garden. It gives me peace and quiet while dealing with the squash beetles and the weeds. And harvesting asparagus.

I did get my first four yellow cherry tomatoes yesterday. No squash yet, and the cucumbers don’t look great. Lots of asparagus though.

The peppers? Hanging in there but the weather isn’t cooperating either.

I have been cooking quite a bit. Making the most of my Vegetable share. Particularly all the greens. I have been cooking from Toni Tipton-Martin’s book Jubilee, this month’s cookbook club selection.

Collards with cornmeal dumplings. This was a serious undertaking. Many steps. But the result was delicious. Those dumplings were awesome.

Island banana bread. Transports me back to Jamaica. Full of spices, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, with dates and pecans. This cookbook is full of absolutely flavorful trips down Memory Lane for me.

I found lots of new favorites along the journey. Like this broccoli and cauliflower salad with curried dressing. You assemble and dress this salad and let it marinate in the fridge for hours. These are the spices from the deep Caribbean, like we encountered in Trinidad.

I found that cooking from this book allowed me to reminisce about travels from decades past, while staying “safer at home”.

I downloaded the iBook version of the book. No trips to stores for much of what I made here. Thankfully Harris Teeter has curbside pickup and could provide us with many of the needed items. They also waived the pickup fee for senior citizens so kudos to them for their accommodation to us while we are taking care of ourselves.

The Book? It is written by Toni Tipton-Martin and is titled Jubilee, Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking. Paired with my other iBook from the exploration of the South, Deep Run Roots. Together they explore the rich history of Southern cooking through two separate perspectives but with very similar results in many recipes.

Vivian Howard learned how to prepare numerous items by watching Mrs. Mary and Ms. Lillie who cooked in Southern homes for decades. If you get a chance to record and watch Somewhere South or A Chef’s Life on PBS, both of her series delve into recipe origins and the complexities of Southern cooking are revealed.

Are you a collard eater or a turnip greens eater? What are the differences between Creole and Cajun? How did rice and okra and sweet potatoes get into the Southern diet? For me with my interest in cooking, baking and gardening I find that cookbooks with history in them give me a deeper understanding of life in the past.

To summarize from a very long story today, I have been staying sane by “traveling” and learning in the comfort and safety of my kitchen. I have also been supporting local small businesses for ingredients to do so. Not ready for restaurants yet, but farmer’s markets and farm stores have returned to our lives.

Thanks to Jenny’s market drive thru when I need something quick. To Breezy Willow and Mary’s Land Farm stores when I need meat or fish. To the Wheelhouse Market. To TLV and the other farmers at the markets here in HoCo.

I am staying sane by gardening, cooking and baking. What are you doing to stay sane?

Farm Shares

Posted on

What a difference a year makes. Last spring we barely had enough members to get our pick up site renewed. Now, Community Supported Agriculture is booming, with twice the number of people at our site. Lancaster Farm Fresh is showing on their web site that some of the shares are sold out. Including meat, chicken and cheese shares.

My monthly meat share provider, Evermore Farm in Westminster, is also slammed. The owner was telling me that they aren’t accepting CSA shares right now because of the demand. They also suspended sales of sides of beef and pork. We are lucky that we have locked in a medium share for the foreseeable future.

Now if I can find a local source for flour that would be nice. I am baking twice a week and can’t find bread flour or yeast. I may end up buying the grinder option for my KitchenAid mixer and grinding the wheat berries and rye berries from our winter CSA pantry share. They are in my basement fridge. I have been experimenting with a mix of whole wheat flour and some soft winter wheat which isn’t the best bread flour but it seems to be working.

Also, did you know there are local restaurants offering meat bundles, produce bundles, and packages to help with the much larger demand for fresh foods? We have replaced restaurant eating with home cooking and the once adequate supplies in the stores are quickly gobbled up. Walker’s Tap to Table up the road from us is offering these. Using JW Treuth for meat.

Jenny’s just opened their farm stand, giving us really close access to fruits, veggies, plants, and more. The farmer’s markets are back, as drive throughs. I think I can minimize my once every ten day visits for curbside pickup from Harris Teeter. Maybe drop back to biweekly. For the staples, like oils and vinegar, spices, and cleaning supplies.

Thanks to my meat share, and my vegetable share, I had everything to make a big pot of bean soup today. Because of course the weather isn’t cooperating and it’s cold out. Not grilling weather at all, but stay inside, make bread and soup, and cover the plants at night weather. I hear that Western Maryland had snow flurries last night. Not your typical Mother’s Day weather at all.

So, here’s to the wonderful bean soup.

Ham hock from Evermore. Seared with onions from CSA. Add six cups of water. Simmer a long time. Add pepper, oregano and thyme. Celery, carrots, green cabbage. A large can of white beans with the liquid to make it creamy. This soup spent six hours on the stovetop on low heat. It was awesome with my homemade bread. Who needs to go out? We can enjoy good food at home. Fresh from the farm to table.

Coping

Posted on

It’s been three weeks of not going anywhere non-essential.

It’s not fun being “old”.

In two days we were going to go celebrate my ten year anniversary of being retired. Now, we will raise a toast here at the house. We are really glad we have the luxury of staying home, and the privilege of getting things delivered.

I have been working on updating my resources, sadly neglected, on this web page to highlight the small local businesses that we support.

I also realized that maybe writing more will calm the nagging anxiety we can’t shake.

I know we are lucky. Right now, we get our weekly farm share from Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-op and our monthly meat share from Evermore Farm.  We have curbside service at Wheelhouse and at Harris Teeter.

Thankfully, my chest freezer in the basement is still full of tomato sauces and roasted tomatoes, blueberries, stocks, soups, grains, flour, nuts and pesto. The freezer up here has a good variety of meat and some frozen vegetables.

The pantry? Beans galore. Condiments. Oil. Vinegar. Spices and herbs. Pastas and lentils. Oats. Rice.

I started making my no-knead bread again.

The simple version. Flour, salt, yeast, water. An 18 hour rise. Google Jim Lahey no-knead bread if you want to try it. We were lucky to find yeast at Harris Teeter. This recipe only uses 1/4 tsp so we can make 8 loaves from one envelope.

The other staple? My simple tuna dish. Tuna, onion, white beans, salt and pepper.

The recipe calls for tuna with olive oil but anything will work. Over greens is our preferred way to eat it.

I am making soups. Omelets. Pasta with sauces. Eat one night. Freeze the other half for later. Minimizing the amount of protein in the dish. Heavy on the greens and grains.

Hanging in there. Praying for friends and relatives on the front lines.

How are you coping?

Milestones

Posted on

It’s been fifteen years. Since we packed up the boxes and started moving from the city to the country.

So much has happened. Natural disasters. Family crises. Medical setbacks. Still, I have to say. Leaving Columbia for a kinder gentler life was definitely worth it.

We came here so my husband could have towers for his radio hobby. So I could have a garden.  Things we couldn’t do when constrained by HOA’s.

I really can’t believe we have been here so long.

Some highlights.  Putting up that tower.

It used to be hidden from sight before the trees were toppled by the tornado. Now, it is visible from my kitchen and from the highway behind our neighbors.

The landscape has changed. We are adapting. I am planning a new garden since my yard is clear of tall conifers. I don’t want to give up my community plot because I love it, particularly the deer fence and the large stand of asparagus. Can I maintain two gardens? Time will tell.

I want to put in a large area of onions and I want to plant the most tomatoes I have ever attempted. They will go in the community plot.

Here, where it is most convenient, I want cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, herbs, and flowers.

Hopefully, there will be a couple of the tromboncino vines running through the dirt and producing those large unique squash which make perfect fritters.

I want to fill the freezer again with jars of sauce and roasted tomatoes. With caramelized onions. Zucchini fritters. Roasted peppers. This winter I am missing all those delicacies. That pesky tornado which ruined our summer and appropriated all my time meant I didn’t have my winter reserves.  I miss it.  Not much preserved at all in 2019.

My New Year’s resolution? Get back to those things that made me happy. Gardening. Canning. Birding. Cooking. Baking. Simple pleasures.

my garden haul one day in 2014

I will get there. There are many more milestones I want to make. Here’s to years more in my happy place. The oasis on the edge of the cities but far enough away to still be peaceful and quiet.

This is 2020.

The Wheelhouse

Sometimes we step back and look at where we live and what that means.

We live in a food desert. Nothing but convenience stores in a five mile radius. You need bread? Lots of marshmallowy white breads at High’s and RoFo. Milk, OK, we can get that too, Produce? Nope!

No sidewalks. No mass transit. Drive to the nearest town if you need anything.

Yes, we are different from urban food deserts. We can easily get to fresh food suppliers if we want to drive 5-10 miles. Still. I miss that convenience. Living so close to multiple fresh food sources. Not here. Not until now.

Welcome to The Wheelhouse.

Located in Glenwood, we now have a market run by a local farm, all year round. Need celery to make a tuna salad? Yep. How about really good dairy?

South Mountain Creamery is there. Bread? Great Harvest.

Plus, they have take out goodies, like chicken salad. Pizza. They also sell sandwiches and salads.

This is an amazing small business, giving us healthier options for meals. I really hope they succeed. I try to get there at least once a week. Western Howard County needs to have a local source for fresh food.

If you live or work out here in the western part of our county, please try them.

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

Posted on

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

Posted on

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.