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Monthly Archives: November 2012

Making Popcorn

So easy. A paper bag. A microwave. An ear of popcorn. Three minutes. A bowl. Some seasonings. The result.

Popcorn from scratch

Popcorn from scratch

We got popcorn twice already in the CSA box this year. These ears are the larger ones. Called yellow popcorn.

fall plus csa week 3 2012 066

I made one last night to have while watching a movie. Perfect with warm cider. Simple last night. I just did butter and salt. Before the movie though, it was nice to wander out and check out the full moon. You could walk the property in the dark just enjoying the light of the moon. Perfect evening out there last night.

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The weekend is supposed to be awesome as well. We got a flier about Breezy Willow farm store being open on Saturdays starting tomorrow. If I recall, they have some lovely strawberry popcorn.

Tomorrow will see me at the Conservancy Natural Crafts Fair followed by a visit to Breezy Willow. Keeping it local.

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Say What?

Sometimes you look out the window and do a double take. Do you really see that? We have a stare down.

A young hawk and a squirrel. Doing that staring thing. But, I did divert the hawk by coming outside to take closer pictures. He swiveled that head around immediately when the door clicked shut. He did stay there long enough for me to get a few more pics, then took off.

I’m sure the squirrel was relieved.

Fall CSA Week Five

Heading into the home stretch. Only three weeks left after today. No worries. The freezer is full. Potatoes and squash in the coldest part of the laundry room.

2 Rutabaga
2 Bags Red Potatoes (Napa Cabbage swapped for second bag 5 Pounds)
1 Bag Purple Carrots
1 Head Broccoli
1 Head Bok Choy
2 large Leeks
1 Butternut Squash
2 large Yellow Onions
1 Bag Viola Turnips

The new one for us this week is the viola turnips. Never had them before. They should be interesting. The link says they are a rare heirloom.

We love the Hakurei turnips. Maybe this one will be another favorite.

Our preview harvest page at Sandy Spring said they were harvesting salsify this week. I was sad we didn’t get any, and am crossing my fingers hoping to get it before the season ends. I did a wonderful fritter from salsify last year, the post here, and a picture below.

Only ever found it at Harris Teeter, it was from Belgium and way past its prime. It is the root of the sunflower. Tastes like oysters. The fritters were lovely.

I am always intrigued by the new veggies we get. This week most of them were ones we have gotten before, but a new variety of turnips sounds interesting to try.

I also compared pricing with Wegmans this week. $38.50 to buy the same veggies as we got, but not all of theirs are organic. We pay $31.25 a week. Still ahead, even after the hurricane washout one week.

Making leftover turkey tonight with the last of the stuffing, and baking a few of those lovely red potatoes.

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Just BAKE IT!!!

As opposed to just doing it. It was a New Year’s resolution to bake more. I am trying to find my own sugar cookie recipe that tastes as good as my mom’s.

This recipe isn’t bad. My mom’s uses margarine. I don’t like using margarine, but every recipe I find without margarine isn’t as good as hers. I will continue this quest to find crispy chewy cookies without margarine.

my mom’s cookies

My mom’s cookies are also incredibly thin. Every time I try and roll mine that thin, they break. Still, this isn’t a bad recipe. Pretty easy too. I am blessed with the space to bake without stress as I have an area in the kitchen I only use to bake, and it is away from cooking prep.

I have already started assembling the supplies to make all the cookies I plan to bake for the holidays. My board is actually the cut out of the Corian counter from where the sink went, from our old house. Works great as a pastry, pasta and baking rolling base.

The recipe for the cookies:

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cups fine granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Slowly mix together. Then add:
2 sticks unsalted butter, very cold and cut into thin slices

Keep mixing on low. Add 2 large egg yolks and 2 tsp vanilla extract. Mix until it becomes clumpy. Make two flattened disks of dough, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Roll out, cut and bake at 375 degrees for 12-14 minutes. Rotate pans halfway through baking.

I put the sanding sugar on top before baking. I think it adheres better that way. You can also ice them. Too much work to make icing, so I like the simple addition of red and green sugar.

I make a few little blobs to use for taste testing. I also make one big blob with the last of the dough. That is my husband’s cookie so he won’t take the good ones.

Now I just need to clean up my mess so I can make some other favorites tomorrow. I think I am looking to make dark chocolate chunk cookies. And my hazelnut butter ball cookies.

What are your favorite cookies?

hocofood@@@

A Windowsill Full of Sunshine

It may be cold and blustery out, but it is so satisfying to pull out the last of the bag ripened tomatoes from the laundry room, where they have been ripening for a month, and line them up on the windowsill. Evoking memories of summer.

I had picked the last of the green tomatoes on October 20th, and put them away to ripen. The little ones ripened first and were used, but these were the last to turn. They sat in a dark cool corner of the laundry room for a month. Closed in a paper bag.

They mostly survived. I had to toss a few of them. They obviously don’t have that fresh from the vine taste, but are much nicer than store bought tomatoes. I will make a pasta dish with these, sauteed and adding some of my pesto I will pull out of the freezer. Back from when I was overloaded with basil and put up containers in the freezer.

Here’s to memories of summer and my garden.

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Giving the Gift of Time

It’s Giving Tuesday. Another new one I never heard of before. A number of posts around about philanthropy, nonprofits, giving to local charities and such.

Me, I think the best gift we can give is our time. If we can’t always give money, or if the cause needs volunteers more than money, what is the value of your time? Even something so simple as signing up to tutor, or mentor, or chaperon a field trip, or put your name on the list to bring nurses and aides to work during snow storms. These and other types of volunteering opportunities are all around us.

I volunteer at the Conservancy now that I am retired. We just got our year end newsletter and mailing. Volunteers worked last Monday to put the mailing together. Volunteers lead the hikes with those 3955 school children. Volunteers pour wine at Wine in the Garden. Volunteers help children make critters at the crafts fair, park cars at the Transit of Venus, and the Fall Fest. There are only a half dozen employees there, almost all of them part time.

For me, it would be simpler to write a check. Leading a dozen or more hikes a year and running four or five programs takes way more effort than writing the check.

How about other opportunities in the county? The County Rec and Park department is always looking for volunteers. Whenever we did the county trail hikes on the AT or C&O canal, the leaders were volunteers. Robinson Nature Center? Needs docents and other volunteers.

Sometimes writing a check is a good thing to do. Sometimes it directly benefits you, or indirectly. We like to keep our donations of money to local efforts. Even being good citizens and supporting our volunteer firefighters.

Or, we can always support a fundraiser. Even if it is volunteering to work at an event. But, there are simple ways to give. Like this one. Not the $100 a plate fundraisers. Something as simple as the firefighters’ event on the 8th of December.

Giving is easy. Just pick up the phone and invite yourself to support something you believe in. Now, I need to go get those cookies made to take to the Conservancy for the crafts fair.

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Final Fall Clean Up

We are in the home stretch of cleaning up the yard, the garden and the trees. Once all this work is done, we have a four month respite from outdoor work, other than cleaning up after any snowmageddon. Here’s hoping we don’t see any more winters like 2010.

We spend time now doing preventive maintenance so we don’t have problems if we get ice or snow, or both. That picture above was from before we replaced our roof and put in wider gutters to handle the runoff. We were lucky we didn’t have leaks, but we do try and fix things before they become an issue.

This year the derecho in June did more damage to our trees than we originally could tell. Now that all the leaves have fallen, we see evidence of major tree limbs suspended above and hanging onto other trees south of our house. Those limbs could weigh down with ice and snow, and take out trees threatening the south side, and the heat pumps. We have to decide how to safely get them out, and we need to crown clean our huge maples and oaks, to keep them from losing any more branches.

During the ice storm a few years back, we lost quite a few of our conifers. They couldn’t handle the weight of the wet heavy snow. Our trees provide us shade, privacy and are a noise block from the distant highway. Taking care of them is a priority.

Walking around I found many dead branches caught in other trees. They need to come out. I also saw many trees leaning over from the sustained winds of the storms last year and this year. We went through two hurricanes, a tropical storm and a derecho in a fourteen month period, from August 2011 until October 2012. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Those three branches are just hanging on the other trees, no longer attached to anything. We have at least four places where this occurred. Plus, there is a huge dead limb up in my bird feeder tree, my maple. One of the two that cracked during the derecho came down, but this one didn’t.

The trees that shade our home, and provide nesting areas for the birds, and allow us the privacy on our patio are a very important part of our property. That little bit of attention, pruning, crown cleaning, fertilizing and caring for them, keeps them healthy. We will spend some time this week and next getting them ready for winter. After all, they are worth the effort.

Multitasking

Seems like the six weeks around Thanksgiving to New Year’s are always super busy around here. Today is no exception. I have laundry going, dishwasher finishing up the last of the dishes from our Thanksgiving Saturday night and all the follow on cooking Sunday and I am slow cooking root veggies to get us back on track eating healthy meals.

Add to that the Christmas card writing, baking for this Saturday’s craft fair, and getting out the Christmas decorations.

In my fall cleanup I found lots of cards in the desk and I’m trying to use up old ones. No need to buy any in the next few years. I found more than enough plus another box in the guest room Christmas storage boxes. I also found the centerpiece flower holder I won at last year’s craft fair at the Conservancy. I decided to make my own centerpiece this year, using it. It was made by gluing cinnamon sticks on fabric around an oval flower holder.

I foraged in the yard, and found enough greenery including lavender, rosemary and savory from my herbs to make my own arrangement. A little sugar in the water will keep it fresh for a while, and I can replenish as it needs it. Added a cardinal for color. Instant centerpiece.

As for slow roasting the veggies, I have way too many root veggies in the crisper drawer, so time to make roasted root veggies with polenta. Tonight I will cook the polenta but now the veggies are getting nice and tender. Eating by Color, as usual, and getting flavor from spices and herbs.

Peeled, sliced in half or quartered, tossed in light olive oil, the sweet potato, apple and romanescu got some garam masala, a touch of cinnamon and a little butter. The rutabaga, golden beets, and both types of turnips got a no salt mix and some cayenne. Everything then got a light dusting of salt for flavor. Into the oven to roast for three hours on slow cook setting.

When they are done, I will cube most of them and heat and pour over the polenta. I make my polenta with the corn meal I get at Baugher’s.

It makes a dark rich polenta, perfect for big flavors. I made a Dark Days dinner last year with this polenta and short ribs. Tonight it will just be root veggies and I will finish it with a few bacon crumbles from the bacon I cooked up last weekend. Minimal meat. Mostly veggies. Taking a break from all those holiday foods.

Now back to the other task I have going. Making Christmas “gifts” to hand out at my brother’s big party. I am making my own dry rub mix. An easy fun holiday favor, or small gift to give friends and family along with my homemade cookies. As I have said before, we stopped buying “things” none of us needed.

As for the rest of my shopping, I will be doing most of it Saturday the 1st of December at the Natural Craft Sale. 9-3 at the Howard County Conservancy. I know that Breezy Willow will be there with lots of homemade items, including their soaps.

I hear GreenBridge Pottery will also be there. Critter crafts for the little ones. Master Gardener demos. Don’t miss it.

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Christmas Tree Weather

That’s what today brought us. The kind of day that makes you want to traipse out and get your Paul Bunyan posing done while chopping down your tree and dragging it across the fields. A little cold, about 40 degrees. Sunny. There were certainly lots of people out at TLV Tree Farm this afternoon.

The farm is right down the road from us. I stopped in this afternoon to see what lengths of pine and fir roping they had. I will be framing our doors with it. I also did pick up some Chesapeake spread to nibble on while watching the Ravens. And, of course, bread and rolls from Stone House.

The basic wreaths, undecorated were out front with the roping. There are lots of decorated wreaths and other craft items throughout the building. Santa was there too, in a sleigh, posing for pictures with all the little ones. The Dayton 4H club also is selling food.

It is easy to get to the farm from Columbia. Take Harper’s Farm until it crosses Rte. 108 in Hobbits Glen. It becomes Homewood. Just keep going straight. The road will change name at the first circle, becoming Folly Quarter. Continue straight through the circle. A few miles later, past Glenelg Country School and Triadelphia Rd merges in. Keep going straight, across the bridge over Rte. 32 and straight again through the circle at the Royal Farms. Lots of people taking advantage of the good gas prices there, with their trees strapped to the tops of their cars. We do have good gas prices out here.

Just a few more miles down the road, past some McMansions and a few farms. Then just at the sharp bend where Triadelphia becomes Triadelphia Mill, the tree farm.

Acres of trees on both sides of the property. Bring strollers if you have little ones. There is a map near the entrance telling you where the trees are located, by type.

We have probably traipsed the entire farm over the years we have bought trees here. This year we will head out on a weekday when it isn’t as crowded and it is easy to get one of the tree haulers. To me it really is Christmas when I get my tree and bring it in to decorate. The farm is open every day until the 23rd of December.

Now, the Ravens game is beginning. I will be heating up some turkey later to serve sandwiches on my favorite rolls from Stone House. Turkey sandwiches, Chesapeake spread from Bowling Green adding a little heat and cheese to the sandwiches, and maybe some popcorn from my CSA stash. Sounds like a cozy Sunday night to me.

Stone House Bakery’s rolls – so good!

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Small Business Thanksgiving

I didn’t get out shopping today. Out Thursday and yesterday, and I knew I needed to cook the turkey I got. It does look good, doesn’t it? A Maple Lawn Farm turkey, not brined. Convection baked. Simple, elegant, so full of flavor. Why did I ever buy Butterball?

My small business shopping will take place tomorrow and Monday. Tomorrow for Christmas greens and poinsettias at Greenway, and Monday to Atwater’s for bread, and the antique stores in Catonsville for inspiration.

Besides, next Saturday is the natural crafts sale at the Conservancy. The info:

Dec 1 – Saturday 9 am – 3pm Natural Holiday Sale and Crafts FREE! Browse tables of natural gift items, create critters from seed pods and natural gatherings. Enjoy beautiful music with a cup of tea. Watch Master Gardener demonstrations (creations to be raffled off), visit with talented local craft vendors, local farms, and nature critter crafts for the children of all ages. FREE

Last year I won the centerpiece for our holiday table at the Master Gardener raffle. This year I am looking to get local honey for gifts, and to replenish my stocks. I think I can pass on shopping today since I spend so much time supporting our local businesses and farms.

As for the Thanksgiving meal today, it was mostly local and almost all small business, so I did support the local economy heavily. The dressing contained Boarman’s sausage and veggies from my CSA. The bread was a baguette from when I went to Linden. They buy them locally and bake them. We bought one extra so I could cube it for my sausage, bread, celery, onion, sage dressing.

The wine was local, as well. Black Ankle 2008 Pinot Noir. OK, when we bought it, it was good. Today, it was stellar. Rivaled any Carneros pinot. Not quite Burgundian, but not bad for young vines.

Not a bad meal. Our personal private Thanksgiving, after the family feast on Thursday. Almost all items on the plate from CSA, Roots, Boarman’s, Maple Lawn, and England Acres. My local resources page provides links to most of my sources for this dinner.

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