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Monthly Archives: December 2012

Guilt Free Corn Chowder

Compliments of learning new techniques from other CSA bloggers. When you get a huge amount of root veggies, you have the option of making soups and stocks out of them. Roasting them first gives them even more flavor.

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Roasting the veggies is fairly simple. Rutabaga, turnips, onions, leeks. I cut them large if I am going to make a soup base. Sprinkle them with whatever looks good in the spice rack. Today I used Emeril’s Essence, thyme, parsley, paprika, garlic powder and sage. I also found that with the mild weather, my herbs are still hanging in there. I brought in some oregano, rosemary and thyme to add to the pan. They will be discarded at the end.

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The herbs add that extra level of taste to the veggies and they smell so good while roasting. I roasted the veggies at 350 degrees, after drizzling with a neutral oil. I used grapeseed. I added the secret ingredient too. Almond milk. I put a splash in the pan. The rest of the quart will be added to the soup while it is cooking on the stove top. This is how I get a creamy soup base with no cream. One hour in the oven.

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Dump everything into the pot. Add the rest of the almond milk. Let it simmer for at least an hour, and blend in a blender to the consistency you want. I added garam masala to the pot too. This is what it looks like when you are finished.

corn soup 001

I then added the last of the England Acres chicken, and corn from the freezer. The last of the TLV corn that I blanched and froze in October.

chicken corn chowder, no cream

chicken corn chowder, no cream

I put it all in the pot and just turned it on as low as it will go. The flavors should blend nicely and in a few hours we will have corn chowder for dinner. Served with some bread from a local bakery, bread I found at England Acres Saturday, it will be a satisfying locally sourced dinner. Except for the almond milk and the spices.

The bread:

Spring Mill Bread

Spring Mill Bread

Dense, chewy, really good. Now I have a new source for breads. Easy to pick up, they even sell frozen loaves at England Acres on weekends when the farm store is open. Fresh or frozen. Another good locally baked bread to add to my list.

Besides dinner tonight, I got a pint and a quart of the soup base. Already in the freezer, to be used when my CSA runs out in two weeks. I still need to use up these carrots and the rest of the root veggies in the crisper.

overflowing with purple carrots, leeks and turnips

overflowing with purple carrots, leeks and turnips

I know that having a full share in a CSA gives much more than two people can eat in a week, but using this freezer has made it work, and for the ten weeks we don’t get veggies, I won’t be using the grocery stores much as a source. I will be using what came all summer and fall.

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The Geminids

With a bonus. A comet has left behind some debris. If you come out to the Howard County Conservancy Thursday night, you could find a rare treat.

The weather is supposed to cooperate. Clear, cold. Very little moon light.

Dr. Alex Storrs and Dr. Joel Goodman (stardoc) will be there. Starting at 9:30 pm until you can’t stay awake. After all, the site is nice and dark, and the astronomers are an awesome set of teachers about the night sky.

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Don’t miss it.

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Maple. Bacon. Ice. Cream.

You heard me. Worth the trip to Breezy Willow.

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Maple bacon flavor. Really, maple ice cream with bacon pieces in it. My new favorite flavor. Beating out the salted caramel. I went out shopping to Breezy Willow and England Acres Saturday. Who needs grocery stores when you can get wonderful food, check out the chickens, and on the way home, watch the end of the Lisbon holiday horse parade. Beats Giant Food anyday.

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At Breezy Willow, the chickens were out foraging. There I picked up the ice cream, some cheese, some stocking stuffers and some meat for the freezer.

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Sage sausage, short ribs and chicken thighs. Lots of things to do my local food challenge. From there, I headed west on Old Frederick Road to England Acres to get the last of the whole chickens. One of them was that dinner a few nights ago. I also found some bread, egg noodles, cauliflower, oranges and the hot dogs for my chili dogs while I was there.

Oh, and their egg laying hens were running around enjoying the weather, too. Of course, the grass is always greener outside of the fence.

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Besides looking for bugs and tasty treats, one decided to enjoy a dustbath. Interesting to watch. Chickens are such fun.

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Later Saturday we got to the Tree Farm for my roping. Still waiting to get the tree. It is too early to put it up. But, today the front was being decorated with the roping. I just need to find my ribbons.

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Fraser fir roping, just enough to frame the front door. All in all, a very productive Saturday in our part of the world.

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The Predators are Back

Yes, the hawk has returned. And not your garden variety wimpy hawk.

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The other day I found squirrel feathers in the side yard. This has to be the hunter. He decided to plop himself on my feeder tree, and he proceeded to ignore all the little birds out there. He was looking for bigger rewards. The little hawk was out there a while back, but this is the first visit for our large hawks. He looks to be one of the Cooper’s hawks. We shall see if he decides to stand out in the meadow and hunt. Last year it was the favorite spot for mouse hunting.

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Two weeks ago, the little sharp shinned hawk was out there. So, now both predators have come home for the winter. It should be interesting out here. We will see if these visitors get as bold as the ones a few years ago. The ones that liked to hang around on my patio furniture about five feet from the back door and make way too much noise.

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Never a dull moment in West County.

My First Week in our Winter Challenge

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I will be finishing this first week in our Winter Challenge, by making venison chili dogs tonight. I did the venison chili earlier this week.

leftover chili

leftover chili

While out yesterday, I picked up some hot dogs and a couple of fresh chickens at England Acres. I am glad I decided to go get the chickens as fifteen minutes after I got there, a couple came in and bought the last eight in the cooler. No more fresh chickens until next spring. The hot dogs will get the chili coating tonight.

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These hot dogs are not precooked, so Judy at the farm recommended I put the chili with the hot dogs in the oven on a low setting and let the dogs cook in the chili. Then, pull them out and serve them in rolls or on bread. Besides the chili dogs, we will have the last of the spinach in a salad, and nibble on some fresh veggies with Bowling Greens jalapeno cheese spread. Great football food. Open a local beer and we have a simple dinner. Mostly local.

Dinner last night, which was supposed to be leftovers turned into a local feast. I couldn’t resist roasting one of my two chickens.

free range chicken ready for the oven

free range chicken ready for the oven

The bed is leeks, onions, carrots, and celery, all from the CSA. The chicken has my pesto and some butter, rubbed under the skin. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil. Put about four cups of water in the pan, because there will be chicken stock coming from it as well. I added the innards of the chicken to that pan, so it all cooked down into amazingly rich stock.

The finished product. After carving an serving, I did put all the rest of the carcass back in the pan, and returned it to the oven to make enough stock for four pints.

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This chicken was so moist and tender. You can not beat fresh chicken like this. Just as you can’t beat those fresh turkeys we get from Maple Lawn. I served it with brussels sprouts from TLV, picked up while we got our roping to decorate the front door. My kind of brussels sprouts.

TLV brussels sprouts

TLV brussels sprouts

The steamed sprouts joined some fingerlings from the CSA on the plate. They were parboiled. Butter from Trickling Springs, and a Linden Seyval Blanc. A local meal. Not what I originally planned for dinner, but sometimes you find things at the market which just scream to be made that day.

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The salad was only partially local, but the baby spinach was organic, and the feta was from Bowling Green Farm. The orange was bought at England Acres. She sells fresh citrus from small farms in Florida. After all, we don’t seem to have that many citrus farms in Maryland. The dressing, a honey mustard I made. Not my best effort. I need to work on this dressing.

The wine, from the hybrid grape, seyval blanc, was perfect with chicken.

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You can’t go wrong with this wine. Lemony, crisp, light and refreshing. It is so nice to see wine that hasn’t been drowning in oak barrels. It is a wine, though, that needs to be drunk when it is young. Also perfect with the spinach salad.

All in all, a good first week in our Eat Local Challenge. I am so glad to have the local farms keep their farm stands open all winter. I hit Breezy Willow for cheeses and meat. England Acres for the chicken and hot dogs, and a few veggies and bread. And, at TLV picked up those lovely brussels sprouts.

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Leftovers

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We seem to always have them. Some people love them, most are OK with them, and some don’t like them ever. While researching how to cook roasts from the venison we got, I spent some time at Backyard Grocery which is Susan’s blog from our SOLE food challenge. She has amazing recipes for venison. Like this onion tart made with leftover roast.

I used to be one of those Hating Leftovers type of cook, either pitching fuzzy little containers from the back of the fridge or eating more than we really wanted because we made too much, and didn’t want leftovers. I don’t know when that changed. Maybe having our kitchen in our old townhouse remodeled and getting a microwave convection oven. It changed me into someone who learned to love baking fresh fish. Once I could bake it without it drying out, I used that convection oven all the time. Neglecting the one in the stove below.

That’s why my crockpot is also my friend in the kitchen. The new one, just as simple as the one that died a while back. An 18 ounce package of ground venison joined with about a quart of tomato sauce, a can of organic black beans, a container of oven dried paste tomatoes, a white onion, 8 ounces of roasted sweet peppers from the freezer, one roasted jalapeno from the freezer stash, and a whole bunch of spices. I used cinnamon, garlic powder, chili powder, cilantro, salt, cayenne and smoked paprika. Added a tablespoon of honey and a few drops of sriracha. Let it go all day.

venison chili

venison chili

Crockpot liners make clean up so easy. No caked on tomato sauce ring to scrub. I put items directly from the freezer into the pot. The tomato sauce, the peppers. No harder than opening that cardboard box from Marie Calender or Stouffer’s and nuking your leftovers. After all, they aren’t freshly made. They were cooked months ago and frozen. Same with that pizza. Warmed up leftovers.

I do get that people say they don’t like eating the same thing for days in a row. Neither do we. Which is why when I make some things in the crockpot I freeze a few. Like my turkey orzo soup.

turkey soup to freeze

turkey soup to freeze

Made with the turkey from Thanksgiving, this soup used up the drumsticks. We ate it once for dinner, once for lunch and this container became a freezer resident, to be taken out and heated up for lunch or dinner in the future.

One item indispensable to me these days is this industrial cling wrap from Costco. I use it in many ways. To cover plates in the microwave as it doesn’t rip apart like the other stuff. And, to individually wrap items like the huge hunk of tuna I got from Costco a while back.

industrial strength cling wrap

industrial strength cling wrap

When I purchased the ahi last month, I came home and processed it into serving sizes, wrapped each dinner in its own plastic and placed them all in a large freezer bag. It prevents freezer burn, and I didn’t need to buy one of those super expensive vacuum sealers. I have had much success with this method. Just be sure to wrap securely and to also get as much air out of that outer bag.

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Right now, I have a refrigerator with a few leftovers in it. I will be busy the next few days and the leftovers will be dinner in some sort of rotation. Tonight the last of the ham and bean soup, and Monday the venison chili. Sunday is my favorite cooking day and it is also my Eat Local challenge day, so I need to get creative with the latest veggies the CSA sent us. I will see what sort of goodies I can pick up today at Breezy Willow, at their farm store where I will be getting the last of the stocking stuffers for a gift exchange.

And, it is pink ribbon weekend at TLV. Time to get that tree, to take advantage of the donation to the Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource Center from proceeds at the farm today and tomorrow.

See, so much to do to get ready for the holidays. Having leftovers makes my life easier. Without resorting to those prepackaged frozen foods from the store, or grabbing takeout. I definitely like this way of cooking. Besides, soups always taste better that second day.

bean soup

bean soup

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Transformation

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In one year. From a freezer full of grocery store items, and a pantry full of processed foods. It was one of my biggest resolutions last year. Start cooking real food. Use up the CSA. Support our local farmers and markets and small businesses as much as possible.

Now, the pantry has more staples and less packaged items. Most of it organic. The two freezers are full, with very few packaged items in them. Today I finally reached the point where the only meat in the freezer is locally sourced. All of it. From the local farms, and from grass fed and/or free range animals. It may cost a bit more, but we have learned to eat smaller portions and make the veggies on the plate more than half the plate.

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Dinners like my husband’s birthday meal featured small filets, lots of green and red veggies, and it was truly filling and good for us, as well. Portioning out the meat and fish is the way I do it now.

Yesterday I added this to the freezer. Took us a while to inventory and it definitely filled the freezer in the kitchen.

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Thirty seven pounds of venison. From the farm across the road. Our neighbor hunts over there, getting meat for us. We have the large garden, and supply them with tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, etc. from our garden in the summer. He bow hunts to keep the doe population under control around here, for us and the other neighbors who farm and garden.

Today the crock pot has a lovely venison chili bubbling away in it. The only non local items in the pot are the organic black beans, the olive oil, spices and herbs. The tomatoes came from my garden. The onions, sweet peppers and jalapeno, all from the CSA.

venison black bean chili

venison black bean chili

I have two weeks left in the CSA, then a break for two and a half months. I will be using my foods from the freezer and hitting the Saturday and Sunday markets at the farms, and in Olney. I still need to get seafood and occasionally I will buy from Boarmans for cuts that I can’t get from the farmers, but I finally have decided to minimize my exposure to meats from animals given hormones and/or antibiotics.

Local farms that will have markets this winter.

Breezy Willow on Saturdays
TLV Tree Farm on Saturdays
Clarks Farm on Saturdays
England Acres on Saturday and Sunday

Olney will have an indoor market at the Sandy Spring Museum, beginning in January. Add them to the current year round markets, in Silver Spring, Tacoma Park and Dupont Circle. All of those are a drive from here, but an occasional visit to DC for Sunday brunch and some goodies is worth it.

I am keeping my local resources page up to date, as much as I can. We are so lucky here in Howard County to have fresh food, eggs, dairy, cheese, ice cream, meats, honey, and lots of local canned and frozen specialties, made by local farmers and local companies. Just because the markets have ended in Howard County doesn’t mean we can’t find sources for the winter.

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Week Six of the Fall CSA

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Abbondanza! That Italian word for abundance. Richness. Copious amounts. In other words, our CSA box this week.

Sandy Spring Fall CSA 2012 Week Six

Sandy Spring Fall CSA 2012 Week Six

Here is the list.

Romanesco Cauliflower
1 Bag Purple Carrots (over a pound)
1 Bag Broccoli (incredibly fresh)
1 Bag Fingerling Potatoes
1 Bag Spinach (over a pound)
1 Quart Mini Dwarf Bok Choy
2 large Leeks
1 bag yellow onions (out of the swap box)
1 Bag Red Potatoes
1 Seminole Squash

I gave back a Napa Cabbage to get onions. With the venison coming, I needed onions to make chili. The Romanesco is one of my favorite items. It has a nutty flavor. I love roasting it in the oven with Indian spices and drizzled with butter.

Romanesco cauliflower

Romanesco cauliflower

As for the broccoli, this isn’t all of it. I must have grabbed and eaten three or four crowns as I was emptying them out of the bag. Nothing as sweet as fresh veggies, one day out of the fields.

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Now, the spinach as well. I had too much to fit in the spinner. Had to do it in two batches. I decided to leave some out to have for dinner with some sockeye salmon. My husband came home and started eating it right out of the colander. It is sweet, tender, packed full of nutrients. Yes, we are weird. We snack on fresh veggies like they are candy or fruit. There was 17 ounces of organic spinach in the bag. I bought organic baby spinach last weekend as I wanted salad greens. They cost me $4 for five ounces. Today we got at least $12 worth of organic spinach.

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My husband is also very happy, as we got fingerling potatoes. These little gems are such a treat. Parboil them first. Pop them in a pan with some butter, rosemary, garlic and salt and brown them. They are so good this way. They will be part of dinner tonight as well.

Heading over to In Her Chucks to link up. Not as many of us have fall and winter CSAs but there is still a ton of goodness being delivered from local farmers to those of us who love fresh food.

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Revisiting that Rainbow

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The Eating by Color rainbow. The one I blogged about a while back. Mixing fruits, veggies, grains, and nuts of different colors to provide the diet high in antioxidants and other nutrients that keep you healthy.

Dinner tonight was a rainbow dinner. Lots of local and organic. Totally vegetarian by design. At least once a week we try to eat vegetarian for our health.

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Two fairly simple plates. The salad included organic spinach, feta from Bowling Green, pears from Lewis Orchards, snap peas, croutons and dressing from the grocery store and pistachios. The croutons were whole grain. Many of these items are in the book I spoke of in an earlier post. Eating by Color. An older Williams Sonoma book.

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I love spinach salad. It preceded a plate of steamed veggies and stuffed squash. The Carnival squash and broccoli came from the CSA. The Brussels sprouts and cranberries in the chutney came from England Acres Farm. Simple steaming the green veggies. Baked the squash with Trickling Springs butter, some cinnamon and nutmeg, then added my homemade chutney to finish it.

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Look at how fresh that broccoli is. It is from last Thursday’s CSA delivery. Fresh veggies last so much longer than store bought. Although this meal wasn’t totally local, it had major elements that were. When the food is local, it tastes so much better, and you are supporting local farmers.

Oh, and just as an aside, here is a pic of the last of our yellow popping corn, popped last night in the microwave. This is a new found favorite, and if we don’t get popcorn tomorrow in the CSA, I may be buying some out at Breezy Willow’s farm store this weekend. Hopefully, they still have their strawberry popcorn around.

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Seventy Five Degrees

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That’s what the thermometer said when I returned to my car after a meeting at the Conservancy today. It is December 4th, for Pete’s sake! Really weird weather.

There were people flying radio controlled airplanes on the field. People jogging up the road to head off into the grasslands for a run. A lone motorcyclist cruising slowly through checking out the place. It was a weird sight, though, as yesterday when I was there, they were hammering in the poles along the road to show where the gravel ends and the grass begins. That “snow lane”.

Yes, it will rain and get cooler, but these lovely days are such a treat. A drink on the chairs watching the world go by on the road, and enjoying the last gasp of the mums and the lace maple.

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And, my garlic keeps growing. Hope it does OK over the winter since it is already so tall. This is what it looked like a while back, it is even taller today.

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I have been watching the long term forecast and we know it will be getting colder and damp for a few days. If you want to do something awesome next week, on Thursday the 13th of December, the Conservancy is hosting a meteor watch from 9:30 until you can’t take it anymore or 2 am. Dr. Joel Goodman and Dr. Alex Storrs will be there. The long term forecast calls for clear and freezing. Bring your woolies, your lounge chair, a blanket and a thermal cup, since one of our board members will be making hot chocolate for the attendees.

Put it on your calendar. Cross your fingers the weather cooperates. We had a great party for the Transit of Venus. Hope the Geminids give us another one.

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