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Monthly Archives: December 2012

Shopping at the Farms

It was a vow I made, to support local farmers. Eat more local foods, and even if they cost more, buy them and just adjust how much we eat. It is really easy around here to do that.

You don’t have to fight crowds with carts at grocery stores for many items. I learned to love markets in France. Our first trip to Provence.

arles market

My dream home. Provence. If I had my way, I would live there. I speak passable French. Understand more than I can articulate. Fell completely in love with the food and the land, and would move in a heartbeat to live that life style. Shopping for fresh foods locally. I didn’t have pictures of the live chickens. You picked the one you wanted and they dispatched it for you.

So, I do the next best thing. I shop here at our local farms. Even in the winter they are open for business. Today I went food shopping at two farms and one farm stand. We decided to take a ride because it was cold, windy and we didn’t feel like fighting crowds in stores and malls. The itimerary: Breezy Willow, England Acres and Baughers in Westminster.

On a mission. For holiday ice cream. Eggs. Fixings for tomorrow’s venison roast. And, possibly to have lunch at Baughers. I did get some great things there, like out of date peanuts, that they sell for $2.99 a case to feed the birds and the squirrels. Celery and mushrooms. Pears. Mixed nuts in the shell. The mushrooms for the venison roast. The celery to use to make some soup next week.

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From Breezy Willow, pumpkin ice cream. Eggs. Great Harvest whole wheat flour, since I am running out of flour from baking.

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From England Acres. Cauliflower. Spring Mill Bread. Sausage. Onions. Popcorn. Honey. Goat cheese. Baby Spinach. By the time I came home, I have all I need to make dinner tomorrow, and to make soup next week. And, a salad tonight. England Acres now is buying wholesale from Lancaster Farm Fresh, the cooperative that supplies my CSA. All winter. Open Saturday and Sunday, I can pick up fresh organic veggies from the same farms that supply me my CSA for 33 weeks a year. How can I go wrong with them? They have been my major source of food for the past 20 months. Love what they grow.

So, I use Roots, Wegmans, Harris Teeter and Costco for staples I can’t get at the markets. But, year round, we have great stuff not far from us. Fresher than foods flown and trucked in from across the country and the world. I just wish we had something like this up the road. The Arles market.

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Being a locavore is not hard around here. Wishing for unlimited spices, now that is a stretch.

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Frozen Foods

My way. Cooked from scratch out of the freezer. I made homemade bolognese sauce today, to be served with egg noodles for dinner tonight. The sauce makes the house smell wonderful, and most of the ingredients came out of the freezer this morning.

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Breezy Willow sausage. I used half of it yesterday in dinner, a layered egg based dish. Today I put the other half in a pot with an onion, garlic, and I grated some frozen carrot over it for natural sweetness. Look at how little fat there is in the bottom of the pan. Amazing when you buy fresh meat from the farmers. Not a lot of filler and grease.

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The carrot addition was something I learned this summer. Peel, blanch and freeze small carrots. Take one or two out of the freezer and grate them right into your sauce. When they are frozen they grate up nicely and it takes less time than dicing carrots. I also added my heirloom Amish paste tomatoes right out of the freezer.

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They provide the cooking liquid for the sauce. I added a little spice, and two tablespoons of tomato paste. Let it simmer for about 45 minutes, and perfume the house with the smell of oregano, garlic and onion.

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Tonight it will be simple to heat it up, boil some of the egg noodles I got out at England Acres, grate some Parmesan on top and toast a few pieces of bread. An arugula salad on the side. Another locavore meal, right out of my freezer. Loving all the tomatoes that I put away in the summer.

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Back in August. Blanched, peeled, seeds removed and packed away for days like today.

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The End of the CSA Road

The last box of the season. Weird. Since May 2011, I have had summer, fall and winter/spring CSA boxes. Mostly from Sandy Spring, but last winter I did use Zahradka. This winter we are taking a break. Eating out of the freezer, and the local farms and markets for ten or eleven weeks.

What did we get?

1 Bag Red Beets
1 Bag Arugula
1 Head Green Cabbage
1 Bunch Baby Purple Top Turnips
1 Bag Russet Potatoes
1 Bag Mixed Winter Radishes
1 Bag Rutabaga
1 Seminole Squash
1 Bunch Green Mustard
1 Bag Beauregard Sweet Potatoes
1 Bunch Red Komatsuna

Sandy Spring Fall 2012 CSA Week Eight

Sandy Spring Fall 2012 CSA Week Eight

And, yes, I cannot believe we got a two plus pound sweet potato. All together, there are four pounds of sweet potatoes and three pounds of russet potatoes. I can make sweet potato biscuits for the Christmas ham using just this one potato.

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I already used two russet potatoes in tonight’s dinner. I am making a baked strata with sausage, potatoes, collards, pesto and eggs. It is in the oven slow cooking right now.

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This strata was pretty simple. Mix three eggs with a little milk. Butter a pan and add potatoes, collards and sausage in layers. Plop a little parmesan in it, and spread some pesto on it. Pour the egg mixture over it and bake in a low temp oven. My slow cook temp is 250 degrees.

I will serve it with an arugula, pear and goat cheese salad, and some Canera rosemary bread. Maybe a pinot noir. I don’t know yet what I will find in the cellar that needs to be opened soon.

Here’s to eating out of the freezer, using mostly local items. And, to having to find something else to blog about with no CSA deliveries until March.

I do need to figure out what to do with the black radish. And, its other relatives. suggestions?

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Tree and Garden Maintenance

Today was a clean up day. We had landscapers come out to do the final clean up of derecho damaged trees, before we put up the crank up tower in the yard. We don’t need trees coming down on the guy wires or the tower. Now that the leaves are gone, you could definitely pick out damaged trees that strong winds could bring down.

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While out there, I took advantage of the mild weather and finished the haircuts on the spirea. Cleaned out those flower beds.

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I really cut them way back. Not a bad idea. They come in more vigorous every summer and have created almost a hedge of sorts. This is what they looked like in the summer. The bunny is a bonus. Baby bunnies, birds, chipmunks, all love to hide in the spirea.

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I also made my first attempt to clean out the veggie garden. It is a real mess. Full of dead tomato plants and overtaken by morning glory vines. I pulled out many of the cages and cleaned them.

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I was careful to salvage my tomato ties and not throw away any sticks, ties or rope. The tomato plants will not go into compost. I don’t need them growing in the compost pile. The twisty ties were collected and brought in the house to put away for next year.

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This garden plot is going to become herbs, lettuces and cool weather plants only. There will be a new garden next year. I need to get out into the field where I get more sunshine. The trees have now grown to a point where they shade the current garden site. Morning sun doesn’t come in until after 7 am. The sun starts disappearing behind the maple after 3 pm. Next year it will be worse as the trees get even taller.

There will be a new plot dug in and fenced. 20 by 40 is my goal. My 30 by 10 garden will now have a very large neighbor. This is the year I will do pumpkins, watermelon and lots more squash. Off into the field we will go. Oasis, who did today’s tree maintenance will be tilling and creating my new one. Ron is a local business owner, just a few miles down the road on Triadelphia Mill Rd. He and his crew did a great job today.

The new home for the garden.

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The tall grasses are my neighbor’s property. We cut ours so we can put the radio towers there. Now, I just have to find a way to keep these visitors from jumping the fence.

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The deer think nothing about galloping through our meadow and racing across my other neighbor’s front yard. The day I caught this one with the camera there were four of them out there.

Well, winter will be here in two days. I think this year is the earliest for my plant pruning, and I have a head start on garden maintenance. Time to hibernate for the winter, and hope we don’t have ice storms. At least if we do, we have pruned the trees to keep them from breaking off.

Cocktail Hour

You know, sometimes you just want to chill out. Have a cocktail and watch the sunset.

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It was a little too chilly to sit on the porch but we did enjoy the sunset from the dining room. What is better than kale chips and pastis.

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What is pastis, you say? Pernod. Anise liqueur, poured over ice with a splash of water. Something we grew to love in Provence. Now, kale chips. They are amazing. We got kale in the CSA basket. I tossed it with oil, spices and salt. Baked it for ten minutes at 350 degrees.

We ended up having a lovely dinner, for a Tuesday night. Rockfish, mixed Chinese veggies, in the skillet. Bok Choy, Napa Cabbage, water chestnuts, with scallions, garlic and ginger. Some soy sauce and sesame oil. So satisfying.

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The rockfish came from Harris Teeter. Veggies from the CSA. A simple slow food type of meal, served in the kitchen while taking a break from holiday preparations.

Served with a very nice Boisseau property Linden chardonnay. Not a bad dinner.

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The Linden Library Tastings

Sold out in two days. Only 112 lucky case club members get this opportunity to participate in the first of the winter library wine tastings, at Linden Vineyards. It is one of the really great things about their wines. Their ability to age, and age gracefully. The day before Thanksgiving we all got emails. Sign up for small 90 minute tastings in the new tasting room, over January and February. Wines from the library, accompanied by discussions with the owner/grower/winemaker, Jim Law and his other growers.

We were graced with the presence of Jim Law, and with Shari Avenius. This tasting featured Hardscrabble wines. We arrived early for our noon appointment, seeing the winery decked out for the holidays.

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The wines were selected to showcase the aging potential, and paired with a benchmark wine, the whites with a white burgundy, and the reds with a Bordeaux. The selected benchmark wines were in the same price strata as the Linden wines, to give you a fair comparison.

We all introduced ourselves. Eight of us, with Jim and Shari. Three of our four couples had been drinking these wines since the late 1980s and early 1990s. We all know how well they age. The sheets:

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Yes, that is not a typo. We tasted an exquisite 1997 Chardonnay Reserve, reminiscent of stellar old white burgundies. Proof that Virginia has the potential to make long lived big wines, the kind that keep and improve with age. I did not take my camera into the tasting room, as we were just intent on enjoying the rare time to question and discuss wine with Jim. Alas, we have none of these in our cellar. The oldest chardonnay we have is 2007.

As for the reds, the 1999 is just luscious. Thankfully, we have quite a few of those here. Plus, we just drank our last 1991 in September, and I wrote about it. What was funny was that we brought up a 1999 to open in case the 1991 was bad. Obviously, if you read my other post, you know it was still hanging in there. We also have some of the 2006 in the cellar.

We had a small plate of charcuterie from a local butcher to accompany the reds. The Whole Ox, in The Plains. We have to go there. We were served a lovely pate, some andouille sausage, and bresaola.

Our last wine was a 2002 Late Harvest Vidal. Dark and dense, slightly acidic but sweet. Really paired well with the pate. All in all, worth the time and the money to go to these tastings. You can see how Virginia wines can age, and how 20 years for a red, and 15 for a white are possible with the right handling and wine making skill.

Right outside the entrance to the tasting room are those original Chardonnay vines, planted in 1985. Right conditions, well cared for, and in good years like 1997, and the latest vintage, 2009, capable of becoming greater with age. We luckily have a case of the Hardscrabble 2009 Chardonnay in the cellar, and a case of the red Bordeaux blend from 2009. A very good year in VA for wines. Getting these wines is sometimes tough, as the case club members buy then out quickly.

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The 2009 Hardscrabble red was just released to the general public this month. Get some. You won’t regret it. For a treat, wander down this winter on a Friday, sit in the cozy nook by the fire, and enjoy locally made sausage and cheeses with a warm baguette.

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Even on a misty rainy day, sitting there and relaxing is one of our simple pleasures. They have glasses, bottles and half bottles available to taste. In the winter, they are more lenient about the patio being reserved for case club members on weekends. In the crazy summer months, weekends are reserved for the hundreds of us who belong to the case club. It is our reward for our loyalty. I actually recommend that people go on Fridays to avoid the crowds. Being easily accessed off of I-66 sometimes means huge numbers of people in a small tasting space. Reminds me of Napa Valley. Amazing how Virginia has grown as a wine industry.

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Sweets Week

In our local eating blog circle, this week is supposed to be a theme, about creating sweets with local ingredients. Needless to say, I have failed at the moment. I just haven’t had time to bake. I do have the ingredients. I even have good intentions.

Like making pumpkin bread with black walnuts. Pumpkin from the CSA, and walnuts from Baugher’s. I even roasted the pumpkins and the other squash and have the puree ready to go for making gift breads. It still sits in the fridge though.

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I split open the three squash and roasted them. The walnuts, plus some PA based pastry flour, and Breezy Willow honey will be the main ingredients in the breads. Stay tuned for later in the week when I finally get to bake a half dozen mini loaves of pumpkin bread. Similar in style to my rhubarb bread.

dessert breads

dessert breads

I like making dessert breads as gifts. No yeast requirement. Ability to improvise. Besides the breads I want to try making some bark using the walnuts.

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It isn’t easy making desserts with local ingredients. Flour, sugar, spices, all aren’t local. But, you can use the majority of the ingredients from local businesses. I have toyed with the idea of maple bacon popcorn. Using local bacon, local maple syrup and local popcorn. One of these days I will do it. Now, to just get the time to use the puree in the fridge, and make those sweet breads.

Any other local dessert ideas?

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Eight Years In

December 2004. The first time we saw our house. After months of frustrating searching and one bad experience with misrepresentation on a disclosure form. We drove by at night to check it out. It is dark out here. Really dark. But, the house was decorated and looked great. On the 16th we came back to tour it.

And, fell in love. It was probably the kitchen that did it for me.

kitchen

450 square feet. OK, so we have replaced the refrigerator and ovens. They were 18 years old when we moved in. I still love this room. The heart of our home.

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My husband fell in love with the family room. The paneling. That manly thing. The fireplace. The entire back of this house is kitchen and family room.

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We had no idea how different things are, in west county. Learning to be self sufficient. Thankfully, with a gas fireplace, and a wood stove in the basement. With snow throwers, tractors, pick up truck. Way different than living in Columbia. Things really are different out here. And so worth it. Nights are dark, yes. No glow from lights anywhere. Amazing sunsets.

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Peace and quiet. Privacy. I can’t think of any better place to live. Far from the noise and light. Even when it is crazy with the snow.

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So glad we made the leap into living here.

Words Fail Me

Sometimes it is just too much. Today was one of those days. The loss of innocence. My heart goes out to the families. I can’t think of much else. I take little ones on hikes. Teach them the wonders of nature. Today, hundreds of them were subject to horrors that boggle my mind.

We live in Howard County. An upscale county, like Newtown CT. The unthinkable occurred there today. Watching the news, I also saw the lovely poinsettia, given to us yesterday by the boisterous exuberant school children who are my neighbor’s boys. Little ones, not unlike the little ones in Sandy Hook. This could happen anywhere. Sad, but true, and oh so scary.

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Our prayers for the families.

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Fall CSA Week Seven

Almost the end. Soon, it will be the first time in over 18 months with no CSA to provide us with veggies. It will be strange, not having that weekly email telling us what new and exciting things we will get. Like yacon. Never heard of it before today. Should be very interesting to cook.

Yacon

Yacon

The rest of the goodies:

1 Bag Yacon
1 Bag Red Garlic
1 Bag Red/Green Kale
1 Bunch Strawberry Popcorn — Which I swapped to get more fingerlings
1 Bunch Collards
1 Head Bok Choy
1 Bag Red Fingerling Potatoes
1 Jarrahdale Squash
1 Bag Mixed Turnips
1 Carnival Squash

Sandy Spring Fall CSA Week Seven

Sandy Spring Fall CSA Week Seven

The funny thing about this week was the uncertainty as the farmers have less to harvest. Some of the choices in the email went on forever, like this one.

1 Seminole Squash – Shady Brook Organics
OR
1 Bag Yellow Onion – White Swan Acres
OR
1 Carnival Squash – Elm Tree Organics
OR
1 Bag Red Beets – Farmdale Organics
OR
1 Green Acorn Squash – Elm Tree Organics
OR
1 Thelma Sanders Squash – Liberty Branch Farm
OR
1 Bunch Leeks – Meadow Valley Organics
OR
1 Bag Kohlrabi – Tuscarora Organics
OR
1 Bag Red Onions – Tuscarora Organics
OR
1 Bag Chiogga Beets – Tuscarora Organics

We got the carnival squash in our box. I have to admit, I would have liked to have found kohlrabi, but not there. As for some of the other veggies, this is the second time for the large blue Jarrahdale squash. There will be pumpkin bread being made for gifts this Christmas. I now have six different squash sitting on the counter.

I also really love the kale this week. Look at these colors.

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I see red and green kale chips in the near future. These little gems will be a treat. I always talk about eating by color, or eating the rainbow. This week is one that really stands up and says “LOOK AT ME!!”

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As for using up last week’s haul, I just put the last of the spinach, and the romanesco, with some red fingerlings and parmesan chicken breast in the oven to slow cook.

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A little garlic and scallions, some chicken broth, and drizzled with olive oil. In a few hours, a feast. Not bad for a Thursday night.

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