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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Feeding My Farmer’s Market Addiction in Silver Spring

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It’s been two months since I set foot in a farmer’s market. I think I was having withdrawal symptoms, so I coerced persuaded my better half to drive me down to Silver Spring this morning. I can drive now, but can’t carry. I suppose that if I went by myself I might buy less, but there’s no fun in that.

I decided to issue myself a personal challenge. That is, not to set foot in Giant, Safeway, Food Lion or Weis for the next six months unless I absolutely have to. There are just a few things not available elsewhere that I buy in the grocery store.

My goal is to use CSA, farmers’ markets, Boarman’s, local veggie stands, small businesses, family owned businesses (have to say this to sneak in Wegman’s), pick your own farms, and everything else I can think of that will provide me mostly real food instead of processed.

I will keep track of what I do and use the blog to discuss how well I am doing in really changing my diet to eliminate more and more of the processed foods. Today was the beginning of stocking up on fresh foods, and clearing out the pantry and fridge of the processed stuff.

We arrived around 11 am and the first thing you see is the Atwater’s truck.

I had to pick up a loaf of kalamata olive bread to serve with the last chicken noodle soup out of the freezer tonight. We had demolished the two loaves we bought last week in Catonsville, partially by taking some to friends for dinner last night.

We got apples, spring onions and chard from Spring Valley. It is so good to see spring onions. I love them with microgreens, like the ones in yesterday’s CSA delivery. Down to Firefly Farms for cheese, and Mock’s Greenhouses for the wonderful cherry tomatoes, hydroponically grown basil and arugula.

I am going to make my own flatbread dough with the Union Mills flour I picked up at Breezy Willow a while ago, and put arugula, bleu cheese and Boarman’s sausage on it one night next week. The hydroponic greens and the high tunnel cherry tomatoes from Mock’s are a hint of what is to come in summer. The basil is intensely scented, making me want to create a caprese salad if only I had some fresh mozzarella. The tomatoes burst with flavor and you wouldn’t know they were “hothouse” tomatoes unless someone told you.

I was talking to them and yes, they will be a supplier to Wegmans in Columbia just like they are in Frederick. Woo Hoo! Their bibb lettuce is incredibly sweet and delicious but today I already had containers full of greens and spinach at home from the CSA. This week we will be feasting on fresh salads.

Stopped at Garden Path Farms to pick up short ribs to use in the crockpot tomorrow with the chard bought at Spring Valley and the CSA mustard greens.

Soaking cranberry beans from MOM’s overnight tonight, so dinner will be greens, beans and ribs in the slow cooker. I will use the last pint of my turkey stock from the freezer to make this. Another real food dinner made from scratch.

After picking up these goodies, we hit Lebanese Taverna for a kafta sandwich. There are so many interesting restaurants on Ellsworth just behind City Place. Want Pho? Peri Peri? Thai? Lebanese? Potbelly Sandwiches? The list is endless. 100+ restaurants in the surrounding area. Free parking in the Wayne Avenue garage. A Whole Foods across from the parking garage as well in case you aren’t already shopped out.

Take a cooler in your trunk. Hit the market. Next week they go back to spring hours. From 9 am to 1 pm. Have breakfast, brunch or lunch and get in shape for our markets to open in six weeks. Can’t beat fresh veggies, meats, cheeses, eggs and fruit from area farmers.

And follow me on my GGSAC* journey. The *Great Grocery Store Avoidance Challenge*.


Dinner in the Dining Room – Not Just for Holidays

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We eat in our dining room most nights. I don’t remember what prompted the change from sitting at the island in the kitchen, to setting the table and relaxing over dinner in the dining room. But, it has definitely influenced us. We spend more time sitting and talking and less time watching TV. Not a bad thing by any means.

Using the good napkins and not reserving them for company …

Using the fancier wine glasses, and the Dansk Bistro dinnerware. Inexpensive, the way we did it, but over the years, we ended up with enough to entertain. We found the glasses at Iron Bridge. They would order you a set of four for $40.

When we first moved into our town house, after one of the 1983 blizzards, our cul de sac of twelve houses (23 people) started getting together for a pot luck or themed dinner every other month. You entertained once every two years. The Dansk has been accumulating from years of scouring the outlets on the Eastern Shore, or in PA. Our set is mix and match, but still nice and festive. Somewhere along the way, years ago, I put the stoneware in the donation bags and decided that using the good dishes should be something we did for us. Don’t we deserve to eat off the good plates?

Flowers on the table. I always bring in some of my flowers from around the outside of the house. Before living here, I used to buy flowers at Giant, because they just made me smile. Now, having a variety of flowers all summer long gives me this sense of accomplishment in my garden.

I have to say, now that we moved away from Columbia and don’t eat out as often, the dinner time ritual here has created a transition from working all day long on something to relaxation and conversation.

Do you take the time to sit and enjoy a meal with your family? Do you only eat in the dining room on holidays? Do you have date nights? Like dinner and a movie on Friday night.

Winter CSA Week Fourteen – Only Four to Go

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About 3 pm, the cooler lid was closed. I can hear it from the kitchen. That means CSA delivery. Week fourteen with four more left. Two more dozen eggs to come. Four more deliveries of fresh meat. Then, a week of nothing, followed by the start of my spring/summer CSA at the Conservancy.

This week’s bounty showed how things change when the weather starts to improve.

For a half share, this is quite a bit of veggies. We got:

Beets (well, it was supposed to be plural, but that beet weighs 1 lb, 6 oz.)
Turnips, 3 of them weighing over a pound total
Potatoes, white and red, almost 2 lbs total
Mustard Greens
Spinach, this is a huge amount of spinach, almost a pound
MicroGreens, almost a pound

The microgreens alone at the Silver Spring Market used to cost $14 a pound. Five ounce bags at the store cost $4 if they are organic. CSAs are really a great deal when the weather cooperates. You get an amazing variety of veggies for your investment.

Everything was cleaned and put away. As for the meat delivery this week, it was bulk sausage, all wrapped up in plastic, but not particularly photo worthy. Over a pound of it. Can’t wait to make something with it. I may try out that scrapple recipe again and tweak it a bit.

As for the rest, my husband wants turnip, potato and carrot mash, like I made for a recent dinner. With some fresh sage from my garden used to make sage butter. Fresh rosemary out there too. Sounds like something to use in rosemary roasted potatoes.

Greens, beans and bacon sound good too. Meal planning is fun, when the foods do it justice.

For those of you craving spring veggies, take a jaunt down Rte. 29 Saturday morning and hit the Silver Spring year round market from 10-1, just north of Georgia Ave. on Ellsworth. I am going down to see what’s available in March. Haven’t been there since January, when pickings were slim.

Only six more weeks until the Howard County markets open, and until I get my first box from Sandy Spring. Dreaming of garlic scape pesto and mushroom pate already.


Springing Up All Over

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The plants and trees are gaining momentum, and as I walk around the property there are new things to discover.

Like, the redbud.

We have a running battle about the redbud. It is heavily shaded and not doing great, but it still tries its best to put on a springtime show for us. I want it to stay. The other half of this family thinks it needs to come out because it is being crowded by the maple and the oaks.

I have no idea what these are. It is one of my goals this year to identify all of the volunteer grasses, weeds, and flowers that carpet our meadow (and our quote, lawn, unquote).

All down the property line, a sea of different shades of green is spreading, and starting to take over in some places.

We don’t have grass all over our property, we have every different type of weed, wildflower, and invasive green stuff you can imagine. I don’t believe in messing with the environment that feeds and nourishes so many of our wild critters around here. The bunnies are happy; the birds are happy. TruGreen isn’t, but I don’t care. This is certainly not the back nine at Hobbits Glen.

Also, the toads are happy. We have three living in the pond at the moment. I don’t know how they get here. The nearest creek is about a half mile away. I like having them there. They will keep the mosquito population at bay. The pond has a small pump and trickle of water, but the lower shallow end has standing water. The toads love mosquito larvae, so they are welcome to live in the pond all summer.

The spring and summer birds are slowly returning. More finches, more red winged blackbirds and cowbirds. The hummingbirds aren’t here yet, but I read that they have been sighted as far north as Canada already. We always have two or three that frequent my feeder and my neighbors. They will come up even when you are sitting out there.

The butterflies are back.

The garlic in the herb garden is coming up nicely.

For me, spring is my favorite season, full of growth and promises of warmth to come. New beginnings.

Time to go out and do some more planting.

So What is National Local Mom and Pop Business Day?

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Is it just another Hallmark holiday, or what?

I had a draft post I was working on for weeks, that had this time stamp on the draft that sent it to March 18th, when I hit publish. Still need to figure out some of the quirks of WordPress, but I was working on telling the story of using small businesses for most of what we buy. Services and supplies, from people in the county, not from national and international chains.

It is here. Those who subscribe did get it. To update it even more and include food in the mix, I am posting tonight about the local sources of dinner from small, family owned businesses.

We did do one thing today using a mom and pop business. That is, if Cavallero and Company count. My husband has been getting his hair cut by Vince’s shop, from the days they were Rex’s Place. First, Arnold. Now, Wayne. No one else is trusted to cut his hair. Since the late 1970s, I think is when he started with them.

As for the rest of today, I celebrated with a grazing meal tonight. Almost everything on the table was small business.

The salad. Beets, onions and orange from CSA — the oranges come up from a small farm in Florida. Fennel from Roots. Lemon olive oil from St. Helena Olive Oil, CA. USA olive oil, not imported. Woman owned business, that I support wholeheartedly year round.

The cube steak came from Wagner’s in Mt. Airy. The flour from Union Mills. The cole slaw I made using cabbage and carrots from the CSA. The accompaniments were from Cava in Rockville MD. Harissa and tzatziki. Bread from Atwater’s. Butter from Trickling Springs. Wine from Elk Run. No big businesses here. It can be done with just a little effort.

For me, I want to support these businesses all year. Not just for one day. By the way, the wine was awesome. Thanks to Fred and Carol Wilson, who started their winery in the 1980s. This wine, a cabernet, is from 2002. It is ten years old and still full of fruit. Not brown or fading. Just luscious. MD can make really good wines. Supporting people like the Wilsons is something I believe in. They started the very first all vinifera vineyard in MD. Hats off to them for making this lovely wine.


Scrapple: The Last Frontier

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OK, I am truly becoming my dad. I have gone over to the dark side and made my own scrapple. But, it isn’t my fault. It is Mark Bittman’s fault. Darn that “How to Cook Everything” App on my iPad.

You see, I needed to make breakfast for the last week of the Dark Days Eat Local Challenge. I had one pound left of Woodcamp Farms sausage in the freezer.

I was actually looking to make sausage patties with some interesting seasonings, and maybe do pancakes with the rest of the local buckwheat. But, opening the app and typing in sausage, it came up with lots of boring recipes, and SCRAPPLE!

OK, not everyone loves scrapple, but being almost 100% German background, and growing up with the scent of scrapple a normal Sunday morning wake up call, as my dad fried it up crispy and served it smothered in ketchup, how could I resist making my own.

We used to buy our scrapple at Lexington Market. My dad worked downtown as a policeman, so Saturday he brought home scrapple. Made from whatever was left of the pork. Still, nothing in the grocery stores approaches that scrapple.

I was hooked. I needed to try this. I even made it local. And, you could make it even more local than I did. I had cornmeal on hand. Not from up the road, but from PA. You can get cornmeal from Union Mills in Carroll County. But this is all I had.

This is the cornmeal I used in this killer polenta a few weeks ago. The Bittman recipe calls for grits or cornmeal. We don’t have local grits, so cornmeal it was. It also calls for making a double recipe of the grits. Don’t do it. Too much cornmeal and not enough sausage. Next time I make this I will use about 2/3 to 3/4 of the amount called for in the grits recipe.

You can see when I cut it this morning to fry, there is way too much filler for the pound of sausage. If you are trying to eat less meat, it works but it is off a little on proportions. You can also see the little bits of fresh sage from my herb garden.

Cook it all up with a couple of local eggs, and serve. The recipe is after the pictures below.

It looks pretty good, and it was tasty. My husband thinks it needs a little more kick, but this was an eat local challenge and Tabasco isn’t local. It also fell apart as I was plating it.

Local Sources: Trickling Springs for the butter to fry it. Zahradka Farms CSA eggs. Woodcamp Farm pork sausage. Burnt Cabins Roasted Cornmeal. Sage from my garden.

To make it even more local and mostly from Howard County, use: Bowling Green Farms butter, Breezy Willow eggs, TLV Tree Farm sausage, and Union Mills cornmeal, available at Breezy Willow. This way it would be almost 100% Howard County sourced, with the exception the cornmeal from Carroll County.

The recipe, courtesy of How to Cook Everything –

Make the cornmeal polenta, or use grits. The recipe calls for 5 cups or water, boiling. Whisk in two cups of grits or polenta. I believe you should make this with 3/4 of what they call for. Cook, covered, and occasionally stirring, until smooth. Add water if necessary to keep it from thickening too much. You will know if it is too thick. You can’t stir it. Add salt and pepper and butter to taste while making. Be careful tasting. It is molten.

In the meantime, cook the sausage until done. You need at least two cups of cooked sausage. One pound will just get you there. I would go heavier on the sausage the next time I do this.

Mix the sausage into the polenta and add at least a tablespoon of fresh sage. I used close to two tablespoons, because there was so much polenta made. Maybe grits would cook down more but the polenta was really thick and there was quite a bit of it.

Pour into a buttered loaf pan and refrigerate overnight. Cut in slices and fry in whatever you want. I used butter to keep it local. Serve with eggs, any way. I like sunny side up when I have fresh eggs from the CSA.

My husband had a piece of Atwater’s bread, toasted, with his. I didn’t think it needed the toast, as the scrapple is hearty.

So, Dark Days are done. I made it all the way to the end. Now, it will be easier to cook with local foods as we get into growing season.

Try making scrapple this summer. Everything is right up the road, at our markets in Howard County.


The Final Week of the Eat Local Challenge

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In November I signed on to prepare at least one meal a week for sixteen weeks using locally sourced items. Locally being defined as within 150 miles of your home. The Dark Days Challenge is the Title. Over 100 people signed up. About 30-40 of us made it through the challenge.

Highlights to me of my meals included learning to make sweet potato gnocchi, making roasted cornmeal polenta, and using turnips far more than I ever did in the past.

These ingredients produced this soup. Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, apples and turnips. Thick, rich and satisfying.

The South Region, which included participants from MD, VA, NC, SC and TX, was one of the most active regions. Not surprising because it is fairly easy to source local items year round here. The northern participants struggled more.

This last week had a theme for us. Make breakfast. So far, I did eggs one day, but I intend to finish the challenge before Sunday with pancakes and sausage patties. Not going to go out without putting forth some real effort. Eggs are too easy.

In Howard County, we are lucky to have a year round CSA deliver. We also have access to meats and dairy from local farmers. We can also get produce from Amish markets in the area, and three year round farmer’s markets in Tacoma Park, Silver Spring and Dupont Circle. A Saturday morning visit to Silver Spring yielded enough fresh goodness, plus my Friday CSA delivery, to make Giant or Safeway superfluous in my life. Like the week shown below.

Friday Delivery CSA – beets, onion, sweet potatoes, celery, microgreens, broccoli, and Angus ground beef.

Saturday morning at the market – including chorizo, bread, mustard, high tunnel grown tomatoes, bibb lettuce, and not pictured, fresh basil.

Those of us who garden had put aside some frozen or canned items to use. I ran out of almost everything in my freezer, with one pint of turkey stock left. I used my last pickles in egg salad a few weeks ago. I still have half a jar of concord grape jelly from my neighbor, and enough frozen veggie items to make one more batch of veggie stock.

It made me think about what to do in the future. I intend to use Larriland Farms and Butler’s Orchards quite a bit this year to augment my garden and freeze/can items to use. I will also make good use of the summer CSA and farmer’s markets to get items to put away.

Why, you ask? Because, for me, eating fresh foods keeps my allergies at bay. It also limits my exposure to GMO vegetables, and to meats full of antibiotics and hormones. I feel better when I do this. Besides, serving fresh food to my friends and husband, prepared by me with love, is one of the things I enjoy best about being retired. Yum, TLV Farm kielbasa with CSA veggies, Canela bread from Boarman’s, and Black Ankle Syrah. Goodness, from Howard County and the surrounding area. Doesn’t get much better.


Bread: The Staff of Life

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I remember when bread started getting a bad rap. All those Atkins followers telling us not to eat it.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, I am a bread addict. Give me a good chewy bread, and good cheese, and I am happy. I love all sorts of breads. With butter. With fresh tomatoes. Rubbed with garlic. Grilled. Fried. You name it. I am there.

Around here in Howard County, we are lucky to have quite a few artisan bread makers within a 15 mile radius of most of the population. The Breadery, Bonaparte, Great Harvest, and Atwater’s all very near. Canela, even though from Gaithersburg, is available in stores like Roots, MOM’s and Boarman’s. Breezy Willow has Great Harvest making bread for them. Everywhere you turn, good, fresh bread.

Why buy that spongy, sickly looking stuff in grocery stores? Sink your teeth into something with substance and taste. I mean, does Wonder Bread even have a taste? How about a really dense chewy spelt bread, made with PA spelt, fully organic.

I am partial to Atwater’s because of their commitment to buy locally. Their wheat isn’t shipped from Montana, or somewhere else far from here. They have a sources page that will tell you who their suppliers are. And, the bakery itself in Catonsville is a great place for lunch. Right up the street from the Catonsville Farmer’s Market, where they also participate. Besides, we hit Catonsville quite a bit to get to relatives’ houses.

Spelt walnut bread from Atwater’s. South Mountain Creamery eggs and butter. A true locavore’s breakfast.

Sunday we went to get our Atwater’s fix, bringing home two loaves of bread, one country white and one rosemary Italian, and a ginger molasses teacake.

Markets start in a few weeks. Can’t wait to get some fresh baked goodness every week.


Hodgepodge Lodge

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How many of you remember this TV show, on MPT? Do you remember Miss Jean? Do you know that the Lodge has found a permanent home at the Howard County Conservancy?

The show was on MPT in the 1970s. I was in college when it was first shown, and I caught it occasionally while I was babysitting. The lodge fell into disrepair after the show was canceled, but it was moved to the Conservancy and restored.

If you take a short hike on the woodlands trails just east of the main buildings, you can find the lodge.

Walk down the hill past Ranger, the barred owl used for educational programs.

Continue down past the monarch butterfly garden, and turn right at the forest display board.

Wander along the creek until you see it on your left just before a large bridge crossing the East Branch. It is locked but sometimes the staff will open it for people to see the exhibits.

This is a good walk to take with little ones. There is lots to see. Bluebird Houses. Butterflies. Honey Bee boxes. The creek. Old farm equipment.

Before you leave, you can stop into the Nature Center, and check out the animals like the tree frog

and go upstairs to view the art exhibit, All Things Round. Details about the current art exhibit, in my earlier post, Art of Stewardship.

Enjoy Spring! Take a hike and a walk down memory lane.


Frost Happens!

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It never seems to fail. The tulips come up. The herbs start growing. Thankfully, I didn’t transplant the lettuces yet.

And then, we get a frost warning. I had to cut some herbs and bring them in, so I could cover the rest.

Covering the garlic and herb beds.

And the tulips in the front of the house, just the ones that haven’t opened yet.

The ones that had fully opened or that were all by themselves, not worth spending the time to cover the single bulbs, came in to be the centerpiece on the dining room table. I usually do this later in the spring, but you can’t beat Mother Nature.

The temps will hit the 20s here tonight. Here’s hoping it doesn’t mess up the strawberries and the fruit trees coming along nicely for spring.

As well as the grape vines. Budbreak has occurred in some areas due to the warm spring weather. Cross your fingers for the farmers spending a tough night protecting their plants.

As for me, I am just happy the weeping cherry hit its peak and is already shedding its flowers. I love it when it reaches that intense pink and white loveliness.