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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Rhubarb Crumble

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Nothing says springtime like rhubarb. You either love it, or have no clue what to do with it. If we get strawberries soon, a strawberry rhubarb pie sounds great, but until then, rhubarb crumble is the ticket.

The other day, when I stopped at Boarman’s, these long beautiful stalks of rhubarb just jumped out and landed in my cart.

This was the same day I found the steamed shrimp. I brought it home and searched my apps for a good recipe.

The iPad is such an amazing toy. This Food Network recipe was simple, straightforward, and looked good. I didn’t follow it though. I substituted all over the place. And, I make a real mess when I bake. At cooking, I am organized. When I bake, the kitchen is a war zone.

Since I had to zest an orange for the recipe, I decided to use it plus some fennel, the last of the CSA beets, red onion, lemon olive oil, salt and pepper and make a salad to go with dinner.

The rhubarb crumble will be dessert later tonight when my hubby gets home from teaching. I will serve it with vanilla ice cream. Since joining a CSA and getting things like rhubarb in the box, like we did last year, I have become more adventurous in the kitchen. Have you cooked with rhubarb? What did you make?


Visiting Alex’s Snowball Stand in Lisbon … And Other Random Thoughts on West County Activities

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Yesterday morning I posted that we would be going out to Sharp’s Farm to buy plants. While we were out, my husband wanted to try the snowball stand in Lisbon to see how they measure up to Woodstock, his favorite place for summer treats.

We spent about 30-45 minutes picking out plugs at Sharp’s, and it is warm and humid in the greenhouses, so a snowball sounded good.

After we settled up, I carefully wedged the plants in the back of the truck, I didn’t want them sliding around in the bed of the pickup. As you notice in this picture, these are not the two dozen flower plugs I bought, these are the pole beans, cucumbers and a few more exotic varieties of heirloom tomatoes. Somehow they enticed me, and now I need to rethink what goes where in the garden. The 3 inch pots at Sharp’s are only $1.50, a very good price for plants this large.

So, where are the snowballs? They are here.

They also sell ice cream and Nathan’s hot dogs. They have a children’s play area around back.

They are on the circle in Lisbon just up from the Town Grill and on the way to Larriland Farms. A really convenient spot to stop for a cooling ice cream or snowball after picking strawberries this May.

On the way home we stopped into Western Regional Park to see how it had grown. There are now five miles of trails in the park, paved and natural surfaces.

Weekends in West County. You also have lots of options for picnics. There are three locations where you can pick up foods to go and have a day in this less crowded Howard County park.

There is Vittorio’s.

Casual Gourmet.

And, Smokin’ Hot.

All in all, a good trip today. I am monitoring the updates on when the strawberries will be ready to pick at Larriland. In the meantime, my husband gave his egg custard snowball from Alex’s a thumbs up, for putting more than enough flavoring in it, and for the taste. We will be going back.


Grillin’ and Enjoying a Killer VA Wine

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Tonight we decided to grill using mostly local ingredients.

We wanted to try a killer wine from Virginia. This is a wine that will rival Bordeaux wines such as Pichon Lalande.

The year 2009 was one of those years where the weather cooperated in giving us big, flavorful wines worthy of cellaring. Linden had their barrel tasting the past two weekends and pre-released this 2009 Hardscrabble Vineyard cabernet dominant blend.

Dark, intense, a baby when compared to other wines. Here is an example of what winemakers are capable of producing in the Mid Atlantic region when it comes to wines. This wine won’t peak for at least ten years. It can be bought at a fraction of the cost of Bordeaux wines with less depth. It just overwhelms your palate. The filet, though, stood up to it..

The filets and the bacon were fron Boarman’s. The asparagus and potatoes from the Zahradka Farm CSA. A local dinner with a wine from the master. Jim Law has assisted countless aspiring winemakers, including Black Ankle winemaker Sarah O’Herron. He is one of those talented people who puts his heart and soul into his wines.

The year 2009 was a perfect year for making big wines in the mid Atlantic. This is the vintage to buy.

For a fraction of the cost of dinner in a restaurant, you can grill a steak and serve a killer wine. Trust me. We did dinner at Aida on Saturday. My grilled dinner with wine blew it away.

From start to finish, a simple grilled meal with an awesome wine can be had for half the cost of going out. In this area, we are blessed with wineries that produce excellent cabernets and chardonnays, at a fraction of the cost of French or California wines.

Check them out. Make a killer dinner yourself. Look at VA and MD for some big, cellar worthy reds.


A Typical (?) Day in West County

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Today started out with lovely weather. I uncovered the plants, fed the blue jays and squirrels their peanuts, put the tomato plants out to get some sun, and cleaned out the bird bath. This afternoon I want to plant some more herbs and finish prepping the vegetable garden.

That was all before this little visitor showed up, at 11 am.

Right outside my kitchen window, and chasing the birds and squirrels. Yes, it did get something.

Took it around behind the garden, then heard me and took off north from behind the pine trees and our shed.

Now I have to worry about what I put outside. Usually the fox hunts at dusk. There must be hungry babies up in a den somewhere on the undeveloped land north of us. There are about 11 acres of natural habitat north of us, that is the home for many of the animals that live here. I need to tell my neighbor to keep the kitties in, or stay out with them.

Well, since the weather improved, it’s back to putting plants in the herb garden and working on cleaning out the vegetable gardens for transplanting tomatoes next week. With the weather looking to stay close to normal, I might have the tomatoes transplanted the week before Mother’s Day, which is the traditional day that there is no longer a possibility of frost.

I may also head out later to Sharp’s to finish buying plugs of cucumbers, and some flowers for around the patio and along the front pathway. The greenhouses are open on Sundays from 12-5, and now that I have figured out the vegetable layout of the garden, it is time to pick up plugs of flowers to put out. They have plugs for 65 cents a piece, 55 cents each if you purchase two dozen or more. It is the most economical way to put in splashes of annuals all around your property.

Just a typical Sunday here in West County. What is your Sunday like? Any grilling tonight? Enjoy the great weather, in spring, the reason we don’t want to move from Howard County. Love this season of growth, warmth and anticipation. Might have to repeat this meal. Get out the steaks and wrap some Boarman’s bacon around some asparagus. Break open a bottle of local wine. Sounds like a great Sunday to me.


Nearby Farmer’s Markets – Silver Spring

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Now this is a farmer’s market.

Silver Spring year round Saturday market is really gearing up for spring. Twice the vendors than during the winter. Lots more choices, an entire block long pedestrian and bike friendly locale, with free parking in the Wayne Avenue garage. And, a Whole Foods right across the street for those who want to do all their shopping in an urban setting.

They close Ellsworth Avenue between Fenton and Georgia every Saturday morning year round for this market. In the spring and summer, there are at least twenty vendors. The web site is not up to date as they are missing at least one that I bought from today, Our House.

By going there today, I finished an entire month only visiting a chain grocery store once. That was Harris Teeter for seafood and coffee creamer, and some citrus fruit. In my challenge to myself to eat more unprocessed foods, mostly organic, the farmer’s markets are the way to find good food at less than the organic stores charge.

Today I wanted to round out my salad items, so I found:

Hydoponic tomatoes and greenhouse grown cucumbers from Mock’s Greenhouse. They will be one of the suppliers of greens and tomatoes to the Columbia Wegmans. They already supply the Frederick store. I also picked up a hydroponcially grown baby basil plant that I brought home and put in water.

With the tomato, some goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette, this will be the salad tomorrow evening for dinner.

Buying Firefly Farms cheeses there is less expensive than from other sources near here. And, they are fresher, I have found.

I also picked up a bag of rolls to have with the soups I have been and will be making this week. Atwater’s is right across from the parking garage and always does a brisk business in breads, croissants, cakes, cookies and scones.

Picked up an almond cake from Praline’s of Bethesda. Taking it to a friend’s for a birthday dessert after we go out to eat tonight.

And, as I said above, Our House Farm, of Olney returned with their lovely baskets full of exotic microgreens. They also sell at the Sunday Olney market which I frequent. Olney will open Mother’s Day Sunday. They also include artists, prepared food vendors and demos. They are not far from us, so between Glenwood and Olney, in the summer, we find most of what we need from local sources.

Today I mixed baby kale, mustard greens, arugula, endive and leaf lettuce to augment my paltry microgreens from my garden. The weather is not cooperating in their growth and we are cutting them sparingly these days.

This market is convenient to those in South HoCo. There is also a one year old market that opens again next Saturday at Briggs Chaney and Greencastle. I will be checking it out as well to see who sells there. Our markets in HoCo finally will open the following week, so I can shop locally for the next six months.

Shop Local. Support small businesses and eat fresh healthy foods (well, all was healthy except for that almond cake). Check out Silver Spring or Briggs Chaney if you live in South HoCo.


Hoping the Weather Changes

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This crazy spring, full of frost warnings and heat waves, has done a number on the plants. At least many of them seem to have survived the changes and are still on their schedule to bloom. I still have the tomato plants inside though. And, the delicate herbs. The weather in West HoCo is just a little cooler than Ellicott City or Columbia. We also are at 630 feet above sea level, one of the higher points in the county with little asphalt to retain heat overnight, so we get more frost warnings.

The spring flowers keep blooming, despite the strange weather. I noticed yesterday that my candy stripe azaleas were beginning to pop open.

I have two of this variety, and though they are a little spindly, they really do add a nice touch of color to the yard. They bloom much later than the others, like my red varieties.

The tangelo azalea is much further behind, and should burst next week. This variety is closer to the rhododendrons in size. It is being dwarfed at the moment by a volunteer burning bush that I have to prune way back this fall. It is at least protecting it from wind and frost damage, though.

As for the rhododendrons, they are coming along nicely and will soon burst open. One lonely bloom has been the vanguard.

Another isn’t far behind. This year I have the most blooms on the two plants. There are dozens of them instead of the 6-8 on each plant that I got other years. I think all the rain last fall made them happy.

We bought our house in the winter and didn’t know until spring just how many plants and flowers we had and what varieties they were. Every April, May and June we have the luxury of blooming flowers and trees. I don’t really need to visit Brighton Dam for azaleas as we have beauty in our back yard.

What’s blooming now where you live?

Winter CSA Finale Week 18

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The CSA ended today. One week hiatus and then the next one starts. We did get a bonus. Along with the six items I ordered.

I ordered and received.

spring onions
white potatoes

The bonus:

A frozen vacuum packed bag of cauliflower. With the leeks and spring onions, this will make a great soup.

We also got a package of the Angus ground beef for the freezer.

i just used an earlier delivered package of the beef to make mini meatball soup last night.

That dinner featured CSA spinach, carrots and leeks. Along with a Cellar Selection Syrah from Breaux in VA. Cellar Selection wines are fun. Small batch, hand picked grapes, lots of attention, a boutique wine from a large winery. As for the meatball “dumplings”, they were light but really featured the Angus beef. Love having ground beef that doesn’t include additives.

I have to say we were pleased with the Zahradka Farm winter CSA. A half share in the winter was the right amount for us. If you live in Howard County, they will be setting up on Saturdays at the Glenwood farmer’s market. We always buy exotic veggies from them.

Markets open in less than two weeks. Can’t wait. But, at least I have enough veggies here to tide me over until the first delivery of my summer CSA from Sandy Spring.


Lunch at the Lunchbox

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OK, so Frederick isn’t Hoco, but for those of us in West Hoco, it isn’t far to get there. Sometimes, with less traffic, I can be at the Costco or Wegmans there in less than half an hour. We had some errands to run this morning, and the weather wasn’t cooperating when it came to doing things around here.

We decided to check out Lunchbox. If you are a Top Chef fan, you know about Bryan Voltaggio and Volt. This past November, he opened a lunch place on Carroll Creek.

The menu is fairly simple. Soups, salads, pressed sandwiches, desserts. Decor is fun, too.

The sodas are a treat, like Cheerwine.

Little touches of whimsy like the bottle openers above the containers, and crates with “free” apples. Buy lunch, get an apple.

I did not take a picture of my meatloaf sandwich. Not great looking, but so tasty. I did like the set up in the corner that says it all.

Oh, and in good weather, you can dine al fresco with no views of parking lots or storm water management ponds. Frederick is really fun to visit. Take a trip out some day.


What I Scored at Boarman’s Today

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I have written before about how I love Boarman’s. Today was another of those days when you walk in and find a real treat.

21-25 count shrimp

I had to buy some. They looked so good in the case. I also picked up other meats and some bread and mushrooms to use with the beef broth I made yesterday and do a soup if it rains this weekend.

What I also love about going to Boarman’s is that one stop shopping thing. Where else can you get beer, milk and hard liquor in Maryland? I know some places in Montgomery County have beer and wine licenses, but Boarman’s also sells hard liquor.

Today I just caved in and bought some local beer.

I used the shrimp at dinner tonight. They were awesome. Check out Boarman’s. A family owned store in West HoCo.


Update on Brighton Dam Azalea Gardens

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Today on my way to Boarman’s, I detoured to see how the azaleas are doing.

I think they are pretty close to their peak right now. The gardens are absolutely lovely and today for 30 minutes, I was the only one there.

Well, except for our pollinating friends.

There are so many varieties there. I can’t pick my favorite but this one comes close. I love the yellow tint in the center of the flower.

Some of the flowers have fallen, the earlier blooming varietals. And, some haven’t even opened yet.

If you go during the week, you can have the entire picnic area to yourself.

Except for the workers down at the dam.

It is such a lovely spring day, this is the place to be.

The views from here are worth the drive out Brighton Dam Rd. They are open every day.