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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Mixing It Up

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It’s time for the weekly Winter Eat Local posting, a Sunday night thing. Yes, today it’s Easter and I was off to my brother’s house to eat traditional foods, but I did take local Virginia wine down there to share with the family.

As for my weekly local meal, it was last night, and another crock pot meal using some of the venison in the freezer. The reason I am calling this post, mixing it up, is because I mixed all sorts of items to make this meal. It tasted great, just had weird combinations. And, was a mix of local fresh, local frozen, and organic canned items.

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Basically, a salad and a stew. The stew, made with venison rump roast, spent all day getting tender in the crock pot. I started with the roast placed on top of one of those huge carrots from the CSA, two of the parsnips, and an onion, again Breezy Willow CSA veggies. Then, the weird part, one pint jar of a root veggie puree made with last fall’s CSA, and taken from the freezer. This gave substance and thickness to the stew. One pint jar of heirloom Amana orange tomatoes from the freezer. Home grown tomatoes, blanched and frozen. Some frozen organic peas from last year. Two tablespoons of tomato paste. A bunch of dried herbs and spices, like cinnamon, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, parsley and oregano. Salt and pepper, too. All plopped in that pot for six hours on high. Oh, almost forgot, for the last hour, add a splash of chicken stock and some whole wheat egg noodles. Mine were picked up at Breezy Willow. They sell them at their farm store. Really good noodles.

It came out tender and juicy and full of flavor. Paired with it was a very simple salad. I made the croutons Saturday morning with the last of the Great Harvest old fashioned white bread. The greens were CSA greens. Olives from Wegmans. Dressing from Roots. Neither of those were local. Still, this salad is so satisfying. Almost stole the show from the venison but not quite.

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The croutons are really easy to make. I used one of my spice mixes, and some St. Helena Napa Valley grapeseed oil. A neutral oil, great for making dressings. I buy it by the 1/2 gallon. Mix bread cubes with the oil and spices, and a little salt. Put into a hot oven for five or six minutes. I used 400 degrees on the convection setting. Careful not to burn them, but get them dry and crunchy. I now have enough for a half dozen salads for the two of us.

The wine. An excellent pairing with venison, a cellar selection Malbec from Breaux in Virginia. 2010 vintage. Just the right touch of weight to compliment the venison. By the way, you could cut the venison with a fork, it was so tender. And, cinnamon and garlic powder. A spice combo that is a winning one.

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VA Malbec and MD venison. Nice dinner, and still enough left for another dinner this week. That’s why I love my crock pot. Easy to use. Makes enough for multiple meals.


National Mom and Pop Business Day

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Yesterday was National Mom and Pop Business Day. It is always the 29th of March. I forgot to post about it but we certainly do our part in supporting family owned businesses.

If you didn’t know it, but want to show support there are lots of ways around here to do so this weekend, and to say thank you to family run businesses by giving them sales on a holiday weekend.

How about Easter egg hunts? Clarks Farm opened today. Martha Clark and Nora Crist run the farm. They would love to see you on their opening weekend.

Brunch? How about taking your family to one of the small locally owned businesses, like Iron Bridge, Victoria’s, Tersiquel’s, Shanty Grill, Elkridge Furnace, to name a few. Any others family owned and operated?

Last minute meat purchases? Boarman’s.

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Wine? Elk Run. Black Ankle. Both nearby wineries run by husband and wife owners.

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I certainly did enough damage getting ready for Easter. Wine from Linden. I have to take Vidal Riesling. It is a family favorite. Also, some sauvignon blanc from Glen Manor, another family owned small winery in Virginia.

The lamb for my dinner. England Acres. The veggies. The eggs for my Easter brunch. Breezy Willow. Two local farms.

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Can you think of other places in and around Howard County that are family owned and operated? Besides food and wine and restaurants, there are small stores like Kendall and Clark’s hardware.

Shopping locally owned businesses keeps more of our money close to home. More and more, I buy items from individually owned businesses, and I am eliminating or minimizing national chains.


Spring Plan(t)s

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At the moment I made my header and background very springlike. The weather is finally coming around to those lovely days, but still a bit nippy at night. Those baby orchids were on the table at Linden Vineyards today. More on that visit in a post tomorrow, but today I am crowing about my garden planning.

I registered a major victory this week. Some of my heirloom squash seeds germinated, and are growing. Woo Hoo!

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I planted 20 seeds from the Thelma Sanders squash. Five in each container. One container completely germinated. The other three. Nada! Weird. But still, I have five possible plants to put in the ground this spring. This is what the squash looks like.

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We got it last fall in our CSA. First time I have dried and saved heirloom squash seeds. A 25% success rate is OK.

The other success is my heirloom garlic. I have to remember to keep watering the container ones. They could dry out more quickly. The dozen in the ground are all doing well. All told, 24 possible heads of garlic this year. With those lovely scapes, too. I will be curing garlic in the shed if they all come out fully mature in June. Let’s see how I do with curing garlic.

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After the mulching I was worried, but I looked today and all twelve of them are doing fine, and growing. Plus, all three of my chives plants are sprouting new greenery. A great source for fresh herbs in cooking. Crossing my fingers that the rosemary and thyme will prosper. I thinned them a little today, and they do have small amounts of lovely green new growth.

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The lower two pots contain mint. I will trim off the dead parts once they start taking off. Trust me. You can’t kill mint. The two upper containers contain garlic. I experimented here, and they are doing almost as well as those planted down in the beds. The pot on the deck had two chive plants, the third is in the window box on the left that also contains the lavender. Lavender, also a perennial, will come back, too. Not doing much yet, but I know they will generate fresh greenery.

I will be planting chard seeds this weekend, to transplant into the garden once the weather warms. Chard does well up near the house with just a few hours of sun. I cover it with bunny proof netting. Since spring seems to be coming finally, I am psyched for getting more things in the ground.

Planting anything interesting?

Road Trip!

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Day trips on weekdays out of season are one of the pleasures of retirement. Today we had plans to check out a fairly local “hams” set up to see options for my husband’s towers and shack. But, to appease me, we added a lunch stop and a winery visit, a new one for me to add to my Sixty@sixty list. First, lunch. At a local deli, Big Al’s Market, in St. Michael’s.

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Sometimes it’s nice to be bad and eat sinfully delicious pit beef smoked that day. Right out on the sidewalk. You also know it’s good food when the sheriff’s car and a police car are there for their pick up of lunch. Fresh seafood, caught off Tilghman Island and brought in daily, sold for take home, or eat there. Beef, pork, brisket, turkey, all smoked. Oyster sandwiches. Shrimp salad. All sorts of crab accessories for sale, too.

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The outside, with picnic tables. There are four tables inside too. They also said they had smoked salmon for sale. We should have brought a cooler and I would have been taking home local seafood from the market in the rear. Summertime, they do crabs daily too.

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From there we wandered up Talbot St. to St. Michael’s Winery, in business since 2005, and now growing many vinifera and hybrid grapes on the Eastern shore. Nice crisp white wines. We bought a couple (OK, three) bottles. Nice selection. Cozy little tasting room. Must be crazy during high season on the shore.

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I can do without the cute names, but the oaked chardonnay was a pleasant surprise. I first heard of this winery when one of my employees gave me a bottle of their chocolate zinfandel, a sweet red dessert wine good to pour over dessert cakes or ice cream. They told us they buy the zin grapes from Rhode Island.

Last stop, the ham shack up the road. My husband was suitably impressed with the towers and the shed converted to a shack.

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Surrounded by pine trees and right off the creek, great location for amateur radio. All in all, a nice eight hour road trip. A couple of hours down and back and four hours to wander around and make the visit. St. Michael’s is a lovely destination convenient to us, and on the way to the ocean resorts. I see more road trips this spring and summer, and for me, those road trips will almost always include looking for local mom and pop restaurants, or markets.

What could be better if you wanted Maryland seafood and Maryland wine? If you want to try St. Michael’s wine, they regularly attend Columbia’s Wine in the Woods, coming up in May.


CSA Week Four, Greens Galore!

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Lots of spinach and salad mix this week. A pound of spinach and 1/2 pound of salad greens. Fresh, peppery arugula mixed in those greens. Loving that spring-y quality creeping in among all the winter root veggies.

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This week it was still breezy out at Breezy Willow, but worth the wait.

We got:
1 pound spinach
1/2 pound salad mix
3 pounds potatoes
1/2 pound bean sprouts
1 bulb garlic
3 parsnips
1 pound humongous Brussels sprouts
3 grapefruit
1 Napa cabbage

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Bread: I picked the High Five Fiber bread.

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Value Added Week: this isn’t an egg week, so we got fresh cheese, I picked white cheddar. The other choices were colby or Monterey Jack.

I picked up some Trickling Springs fresh butter, to use in making this recipe for Brussels Sprouts. Just pull all those large leaves off the sprouts. Save the centers to steam another night. Get fresh butter and a little olive oil in a pan. Get the butter nice and frothy and brown, add the leaves. Keep them moving unless you like them crispy. Add a dash of salt and pepper. Just simple browned butter sprouts.

Although with the huge potatoes, I could make colcannon again. Add the parsnips to it also, maybe.

Last week we ate everything but two grapefruit, and the carrots. And, a third of the bread. Bread was the item I worried about. We don’t eat lots of it. I did decide that this weekend I will make croutons with the last of the white bread, to use on salads.

Looks like two people who love veggies can utilize all the CSA items. It does take planning, and making veggies the star of the dinner plate. Not a bad thing.

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Branching Out

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Or, using up the CSA box veggies in new ways. We know what we are getting tomorrow. Monday and Tuesday I decided to use as many veggies as I could.

By making stir fry, with shrimp.

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Most of the Napa cabbage went into this meal. Along with the last of the mushrooms. Some carrot. All the bean sprouts left. Add the other items from the store, like water chestnuts, cashews, jumbo shrimp, chow mein noodles, red pepper and scallions. Soy sauce, sesame oil, sriracha, garlic, salt, pepper, and cayenne flakes. Mix. Match. Don’t measure much. Really good dinner. Enough left over for me to have Wednesday while my husband is at a dinner meeting.

Tonight I made my first ever spinach souffle. Because of a recipe in my Eating By Color book.

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Great cookbook from Williams Sonoma. Mine didn’t rise as much as theirs. But, it still tasted great. Used more CSA eggs, and the spinach left in the spinner. I substituted red onion for the shallot.

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Bechamel I am good at making. Souffles, eh.

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I think I beat the egg whites too much. Still, it didn’t look bad, and was really good.

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Who know what I will try with tomorrow’s CSA delivery.


Water, Water, Everywhere!

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Only this morning it was snow. RIMPO Dayton weather shows us having 0.43 inches of precipitation already today, but currently that is four inches of snow.

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I finally did go out and put peanuts and mixed seeds under the table to keep the birds happy. By sometime tomorrow, it will probably all be melted again. At least the garlic and the herbs don’t need watering, and the rest of my greens are still indoors. Today over at hocoblogs I saw that JessieX had a post about all the salt dumped on the roads and the impact on our waterways as it heads down into our streams and rivers. We do use way too much salt around here but precip plus freezing temps at night mean black ice. Can’t seem to win.

This Wednesday night there will be another information session in Hickory Ridge, sponsored by four organizations in the county, to discuss stormwater management.


This would be a good place to learn more about how to minimize the impact on the Bay and our local rivers, from all this runoff, at least it is beautiful out there for today.

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Venison Chili with Virginia Wine

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Wine with chili. Only a real win if the chili is subtle, smoky, with cinnamon undertones. Not the “In Your Face” heat. Sunday is the day the Eat Local All Winter group posts what we made using locally sourced items. After a wonderful day hiking and discovering new things at the Conservancy with Tom Wessels, it was nice to come home to a warming meal, chili.

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Did you know we have young American chestnut trees surviving the blight, although they are fighting it, on the property in Woodstock? We found many interesting items today, and have the opportunity to learn more from the books about reading the forested landscape.

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I will save more details about what we learned for a future post, and get back to the other topic, What was dinner? The vast majority of the chili came from our freezer. It included a large container of heirloom tomatoes from my garden, onions and peppers from the CSA, and a beef stew stock made last fall. All dumped in the crock pot with a pound of the ground venison. Additional tomato paste, black beans and tomato/lime/cilantro mix (courtesy of Rotel) came from the pantry and weren’t local. Also, a couple of onions from last week’s CSA delivery, chopped up. The spices were cinnamon, chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. A splash of Pennsylvania maple syrup, and a chopped up jalapeno out of the freezer, another CSA contribution. Slow cooked for ten hours in the crock pot. It looked like this when done.

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Served on the side were Trickling Springs butter and that old fashioned white bread from Great Harvest.

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Since it didn’t overwhelm with heat, and had lovely flavor, I decided to open a VA wine. An old one. Predominantly petit verdot. A grape used sparingly in France in Bordeaux, but one which does well in the long growing season in VA.

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Yes, the year is 2001, a very good year for VA wines. This blend is vastly different than the other three blends Linden produced in 2001. With all of them in the cellar, we get to sample the differences. This wine has softened over the years, but is still lovely. Supposed to be past its prime, but we don’t think so. Cherry and tobacco in the taste. Very easy to drink. Not brown around the edges either. We do need to drink the rest of these though, as they won’t hold many more years.

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Later tonight, a bit of maple flavored yogurt from Pequea Valley Farm in PA, mixed with some blueberries from Butler Orchards, out of the freezer. Lots of berries left, and the yogurt is one I have talked about many times, available at Breezy Willow or at England Acres.

I have to admit again, eating locally in the winter is not difficult around here.


Salad Bars

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I remember when salad bars first became popular. For example, the amazing selection at the restaurant in the Columbia Mall Woodies. For whatever reason, I stopped going to places with salad bars. Probably because of getting Norwalk at a salad bar and buffet in Canada, ten years ago.

It doesn’t mean I stopped enjoying that mix and match of salads, but these days I can do it at home. Thanks to having a CSA, a freezer and the time to make the salads.

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Today’s lunch was brought to us mainly due to the lovely greens from Breezy Willow CSA this week. Spinach and mixed greens, sitting in the fridge in their salad spinners. Mushrooms from the CSA too. And, a dozen hard boiled eggs this morning. Some for lunch today, some destined for egg salad, and a couple to grab and go before tomorrow’s hike at the Conservancy.

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I hardboiled the first week’s dozen, now eighteen days old, and finally getting a little void that makes them easier to peel. We only have a dozen left now, and next week no eggs in the CSA delivery. We get them three weeks out of four.

The salads were simple. One made with a handful of greens, some Larriland blackberries defrosted from the freezer, goat cheese feta picked up at England Acres, a few Marcona almonds and a pomegranate vinaigrette. The other, spinach, eggs, mushrooms and a creamy Caesar dressing.

Lunch was finished with a tiny treat of yogurt, berries and granola. A favorite way to use frozen berries from last year’s picking. Mix with a little lemon yogurt. Berries from my freezer, granola and yogurt picked up at Breezy Willow on CSA day.

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A mostly locally sourced lunch. Variety and taste. Reminiscent of salad bars, without the treated/sprayed veggies, and without all those nasty germs.


Too Many Tomatoes

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No, you can never have too many tomatoes. At least that is the case at our house. I am currently deciding which plants to buy this year. I often get asked how we can handle two dozen tomato plants for two people. Easy. The freezer, and oven drying them first. I am plowing through the supplies in the freezer this winter.

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Between the CSA tomatoes and my tomatoes, I put away in the freezer approximately three dozen freezer bags of blanched tomatoes, plastic containers of oven dried with herbs or onions, and plastic containers of tomato sauce. I have less than a dozen left. Getting close to that point where I will be craving fresh tomatoes and can’t wait for summer. The other major item that freezes well and I have used extensively is the pesto. Tomatoes and basil, both staples in my garden. As winter ends, my stocks are being depleted. Greenway Farms is the source of my most prolific producing basil, which was the African blue basil. There will be another half dozen plants like the ones that I harvested all fall last year.

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I will definitely get more red fig, if they have them at the master gardener’s stand on Earth Day at the Conservancy. They produced lots of tasty tiny tomatoes, perfect for freezing. They are an heirloom, first cultivated in the 1700s in North America. They are sweet and dried, they are a treat, just like fig jam. I oven roast them with a little sugar, salt, pepper and olive oil. All winter long they come out of the freezer and onto pasta, bursting with flavor.

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I may do Great White again, as I had success with them last year. My best producers were the Amish paste, the pineapple, and the yellow plum varieties. Can’t wait to get those plants in the ground and see the first fruit of the summer. Nothing like a room full of sunshine, just picked tomatoes.

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Anyone else getting that gardening itch?