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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Not Your Typical Wednesday

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Well, it all started with tractor maintenance. Horsing around a 200 pound mower deck. At least that is what my husband did. I just got to “assist”, that is, sit on the tractor and raise and lower the deck.

He got to do all the greasing and cleaning.

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I also got to chase butterflies. They are everywhere at the moment.

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The highlight today though was the 5th anniversary party at Bistro Blanc.

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Sixty five lucky guests got to share in a spectacular dinner with wines to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the restaurant. I think the scallop appetizer might have been my favorite course, or maybe that incredible pork tenderloin.

Tomorrow I have to figure out what I am entering in the fair, but tonight I am just basking in the good feelings of an amazing meal with old friends, new friends and people who love good food.

Cheers to Raj and Marc and the rest of the staff at Bistro Blanc.


Hot Dogs and Fries … With A Twist

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Once every summer my husband requests hot dogs on the grill. Preferably those from his home state, and served on potato rolls.

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Since my motto is “Everything in Moderation”, even though I try to eat locally, while we were coming home from Frederick today (a trip to pick up tractor stuff to service the mower deck), I stopped at Wagners in Mt. Airy. If you have never been to Wagners, it is a must do.

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Much of their meat comes from local farmers and 4Hers. They also carry items from small local suppliers, like Kunzler. So, I bought a package of hot dogs to grill. And some potato rolls.

But the rest of the meal. Definitely not your typical fare. Thanks to the facebook page for the HoCo Farmers Market, I found a recipe for zucchini fries.

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I don’t have Shake and Bake in the house, so here is what I did. Cut the specialty squash into sticks. Filled a bag with panko bread crumbs, grated pecorino cheese and seasoned salt. Eyeballed the whole mess so I didn’t measure. Cracked an egg and whisked it. Dredged all the squash in the egg, then put batches of them into the bag to cover them. Put them in a pan and baked at 450 degrees for 12 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. I did wipe the pan down with light olive oil to keep the fries from sticking.

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Served it all with the last of the mozzarella and one of the CSA heirlooms. Oh, and my basil.

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A great grill meal on a cool sunny evening, sitting on the patio and watching the baby rabbits chase each other around the shed. Sometimes you just want a hot dog. So, indulge!

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Don’t Buy Food From Strangers

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The Lancaster Farm Fresh logo on their web site and produce bags.

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After finishing the Buy Local Challenge, and attending events where we could talk to the farmers, this logo is even more meaningful to us.

This morning at 9AM, the cell phone rang. It was the Amish farmer (yes, some of them use phones and computers in their business, they just don’t allow them in their homes) who gave us the fava beans. One of the farms that supplies our CSA, Sandy Spring, through the cooperative non profit venture now totalling close to 80 small farms.

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He wanted to know if it worked out OK. We again thanked him for his gift, and told him we got almost eight pounds of beans. Some were frozen. Some were used.

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To us, this connection with those who grow our food is something special that we have realized after a few years of buying locally.

With the latest food problem, that of cyclospora infecting people all across the USA, we feel that minimizing our risk of infection, by using locally produced organic fruit and veggies whenever possible, is one of our smartest decisions.

Buying local produce, meat, dairy, fruit and eggs, and belonging to an organic CSA all help us stay healthier and, definitely, eat fresher, better food.

So, here’s to the Howard County Farmers Markets, full of great local farms. Here’s to the local farmstands with fresh produce and fruit. Here’s to CSAs that connect us with the producers and make us part of their “family”.

Here’s to dinner tonight.

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A frittata. Made with Love Dove eggs, Misty Meadows milk, TLV’s fingerlings, Bowling Green Farms feta, Trickling Springs butter, Sandy Spring CSA chard, onion and green pepper, Breezy Willow ham, and served with Stone House bakery’s focaccia.

I know the people who feed me. Do you?


Buy Local Success … Big and Small

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The Buy Local Challenge ends tonight. Pledging to eat at least one locally produced item every day for nine days. Still time to enter the challenge contest using pictures that will be uploaded to the facebook page.

Guests at our picnic get together at the Howard County Conservancy took pictures to upload. Attendance was a little sparse because the weather didn’t cooperate until an hour into the picnic time, but those who came out got some undivided attention from our volunteers and our animals.

After all, how many of you get to feed the goats and take them for a walk with a volunteer. One of our guests did. He also brought one of his Boy Scout projects. Pine needle tea. They served it alongside some awesome looking BLTs using bacon from a farm in Cecil County. Home grown tomatoes, too. They had peaches for dessert.

We saw local cheeses. Local tomatoes. Easy fun simple. And, then believe it or not, the sun came out.

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We made caprese, and brought some Stone House focaccia.

Thanks to Casey Caulder Todd from Breezy Willow who came out to meet people and enjoy the picnic goodies with a small bunch of friends, volunteers, family who showed their support of our local farmers.

As for us, we made it easily through another local challenge. Our farmer’s markets and farm stands make buying and eating locally a real cinch. All nine days of it.

Now, if I could have had a working sandisk card in my camera, there would have been pictures. Note to self, never pick up a card and stick it in the camera without checking to see if it registers.

And thanks to Love Dove I had a farm bag to put some local goodies in as a prize for the best picnic spread.

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Hope the winners enjoy the local treats from Breezy Willow, TLV, Lewis, Stone House, Great Harvest and from our gardens.

Farm to Table restaurant weeks are still going strong here in the county. We should be at a couple of them this week.

And, just six days until the county fair begins. Crossing my fingers that more Box Car Willie tomatoes ripen before it rains again. I do have a good collection of herbs for that category. I hope to enter herbs, cherry tomatoes, heirlooms and romas this year. Sadly, all my cukes are done for the year. I may dig up some of my white sweet potatoes. They look pretty healthy and are spreading in the garden.

See you at the fair?


Eat A Peach

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Or in my case, freeze a peach.

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At today’s market, I picked up a basket full of seconds from Lewis orchards. Brought them home, blanched them, cut them up and put them away to become something good (like a galette) this winter. Whenever I can find the seconds, they are a great deal for getting peaches to freeze.

Or, maybe we will head out to Larriland this week. Peaches and blackberries. To round out my fruit stash for next winter.

Today I also oven dried and froze my first pan of cherry and roma tomatoes.

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I oven dry tomatoes after slow roasting them at 250 degrees for two or so hours. They were liberally sprinkled with pepper, dusted with salt and sugar, and tossed in olive oil before roasting.

These beauties will brighten a winter day in a pasta dish.

I have to admit, there are five fruits that I associate with July and August. Tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches and blackberries.

Yes, tomatoes are a fruit. A lovely fruit but not the same as those incredibly soft juicy ripe peaches.

And, yes, food savers are amazing devices.

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You just have to use the moist setting, normal and leave lots of room so the juice doesn’t all leak out.


Are there too many markets?

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After Lora’s comments on my Hump Day post, where she linked to the Baltimore Sun article about the Howard County markets, I have been thinking.

Do we have too many markets? Have we diluted the customer base? How are all the CSAs affecting market visits?

Many friends, other bloggers, readers and hundreds of county residents now get CSA boxes weekly. Add Friends and Farms, and South Mountain Creamery delivery and you have probably thousands of people who no longer buy the bulk of their fruit and vegetables at the markets.

The big CSAs are Breezy Willow, Gorman, One Straw, Zahradka, Love Dove and Sandy Spring. They keep growing every year. We went from about 35 members for Sandy Spring at our one site in Columbia to 59 this summer. My Farms page has links to all the local farms.

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Add the pick your own sites like Larriland to the mix, where people who are serious about getting fresh affordable fruit and veggies have made it extremely popular on weekends. It is even crowded on weekdays when we go to pick.

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What can be done to increase the visibility, and the profitability of these markets? Something that it seems is discussed quite a bit by the market board and the participants.

Are the hours of 2-6 during the week the right ones? Should it be 3-7 in the heart of summer to help the commuters get there before the good stuff is gone?

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I don’t know the answers but any and all thoughts and comments are appreciated here.

I am doing fine in the Buy Local Challenge. I hope others have made that pledge to support our farmers. Will you be joining us for our picnic this Sunday at the Conservancy? A chance to connect with neighbors and friends and share our local goodies. Crossing our fingers that the weather stays nice, and we can picnic in the grove. Otherwise, an indoor picnic looking at the trees through the windows of the Gudelsky Center.

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The Tomato Tsunami

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Week Ten. And so it begins. The onslaught of tomatoes. Thankfully, one of my favorite things.

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Tomatoes comprised four different items this week. Here is the list:

1 bag red tomatoes – chemical free – Breezy Morning Farm
1 heirloom tomato – chemical free – Breezy Morning Farm
1 quart garden peach heirloom tomatoes – Riverview Organics
1 bag specialty squash – Liberty Acres
1 bag green beans – Liberty Acres
1 bag red beets – Farmdale Organics
1 bag orange carrots – Red Fox Organics
1 bag red garlic – Liberty Branch Organics
1 bag sweet onions – Liberty Branch Organics
1 pack portabello caps – Mother Earth
1 pint mixed cherry tomatoes – Farmdale Organics

Farmdale is the farm we visited for the picnic last Saturday. Picked some of those cherry tomatoes while we were there. Here is the entire haul.

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I already roasted the beets. Some for salads. Some to pickle.

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I dry roast my beets in a bed of kosher salt. They shrivel up and concentrate the flavor.

As for that large heirloom tomato, it is destined to be sliced thickly. Covered in basil. Dropping a piece of fresh mozzarella on it and putting it directly on the grill. With dinner tomorrow or Saturday. Pics later.

Here’s to buying locally and supporting our farmers. How much of your food comes from a 100 mile radius of your home? The more, the better. For freshness, health and the environment you can’t beat eating locally grown fruit and veggies, meat, cheese, eggs.


Hump Day

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In the Buy Local Challenge.

Four days done. Four days left. Today is Hump Day. Have you eaten a farmer produced local item these first four or five days? We have, but then as a CSA member, it is really simple to use locally sourced items every day. They come in that weekly box of goodies.

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Don’t know what we are getting tomorrow, so I will wait and hit the farmer’s market on Friday to round out my menu.

I didn’t report on yesterday’s meal. A crock pot stew, made with CSA kale, fava beans, carrots, and onions, started with frozen chicken stock and finished with a TLV Tree Farm smoked ham steak, cubed. For the last hour, I added some riso.

Enough left to stuff peppers Friday for dinner.

As for today, the better half went off to Annapolis for a radio club dinner meeting. I decided, what the heck, and had one of those awesome tomato sandwiches for dinner.

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Along with some greens that I bought last week from Love Dove Farms. Plus, at lunch today we had some of those juicy fresh plums from our visit to Catoctin Mountain Orchards last week.

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CSA members have it easy in the Buy Local Challenge. With boxes or baskets full of vegetables and fruit, and maybe some eggs or cheese, you can eat well every single day without hitting a grocery store. Take our box from last week.

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Carrots were peeled and showed up at many lunches, plus in yesterday’s dinner. Corn is gone. Two dinners. One pepper eaten. Two for our dinner this Friday. Pattypan half gone, for dinners. Green beans and chard still there. Tomatoes gone, for salads and those sandwiches.

For the next four days, there are local markets every day. Check them out. Support a farmer and buy something to take for lunches. Or, fruit for a snack.

How about dinner at Black Ankle Friday night? A unique opportunity to support a local farm (one that grows grapes), and while there, buy some local cheese for dinner.

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All sorts of possibilities. Don’t give up on this challenge. And, think of ways to make it part of your entire summer.


The First Tomatoes

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Real tomatoes. Not the little cherry ones. The ones we wait for months to grow, blossom, set and ripen.

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The ones on the left are some type of yellow roma. Umm, I didn’t plant yellow roma. Seems my yellow plum seedlings weren’t. No matter. These will get used for some interesting tomato sauces. I have four of these plants growing.

As for the one on the right, another mystery. Out of my ten Amish paste plants, this one came up right in the middle of the row. I don’t know what it is. Still researching. I took it off yesterday before the storm hit as it was starting to split. There is a variety out there called Large Yellow Amish that looks similar to this. I need to get a few more of them ripe to see if this is what came up.

The mortgage lifter and box car willie are about two or three days away from my first harvest. Then, taste testing to decide which variety works best for the county fair.

As for those hillbillies, they really are slow. And the pineapples haven’t given me anything but blossoms. I might have two or three Paul Robesons by the fair, but I am not holding my breath on those. Bad year, with all this rain.

As for the cherry tomatoes, they are coming in strong now.

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There are large red cherry tomatoes. Sun sugar and supersweet 100s coming in. Interestingly enough, the supersweet 100s are the ones that have really been low producing. Hoping they get back on track and put out many tomatoes.

There is one lone Amish paste tomato on the tray. A small one. The rest of the Amish paste and Polish Linguisa tomato plants are full of green tomatoes. Nothing else ripening, but they are getting close. Hopefully, I will get enough to do sauces. I did see that the CSA will be offering 25 pound boxes of heirloom paste tomatoes again this year. I will be buying some if my plants continue to droop and turn yellow from all this rain.

Hoping to have lots of tomatoes for the Buy Local Challenge picnic Sunday at the Conservancy. Got a lovely ball of mozzarella at Breezy Willow last week, and my basil plants recovered from the bunny mauling. Sounds like a Caprese to me.

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My favorite fresh mozzarella, nest to the feta I used in that watermelon salad.

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African blue basil.

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Last summer’s caprese. Can’t wait for this year’s, coming soon.


Taking It Outdoors

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The Buy Local Challenge. I keep trying and it keeps storming. The contest this year is “Take It Outdoors”. The facebook page is where the photos will be uploaded.

We are hosting a picnic at the Howard County Conservancy this Sunday. With our own contest. Best picnic spread. And, best baked goods. Using local ingredients. Not everything has to be local but the pledge to use at least one local ingredient a day applies.

Here is one of my “outdoor” dishes. I had to bring it in and broil it but you get the idea.

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Those fava beans we shelled. In a classic dish with grilled (broiled) Halloumi. Beans, peas, mint, olive oil, salt, pepper and grilled Halloumi. You can find Halloumi at Roots.

For dinner tonight we also had corn and tomatoes, both from the CSA. Corn on the cob, grilled. Tomatoes in any salad. Easy dishes to eat outdoors.

Besides the picnic prize, the Conservancy is giving a baking prize. Here is your chance to rock that zucchini bread recipe.

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This is “my” zucchini cornbread, using this recipe.

Lots of possibilities to eat locally. And, to meet a few new friends at the picnic.