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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Holiday Weekends

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Sometimes I forget how hectic they can be. As an old retired person, I don’t always think about when the holidays occur. I am still on August time. Forgetting Monday is Labor Day.

We hit the highs and lows of holiday traffic today. Lows at Harris Teeter. Not much happening there. I do hope they get more traffic once the restaurants open and more housing comes in. We had most of the store to ourselves this morning. I was getting the Asian elements to make my bitter melon soup. Bean thread noodles. Mushrooms. Fish sauce.

We then headed out to Mt. Airy for three stops. The Tractor Supply Store. England Acres. Wagner’s Meats. Let’s just say the farm and the butcher were both out of control with people. We have never encountered lines at either location.

I got the 1/2 pound of fresh pork I needed for the soup from Wagner’s. While there, was tempted and bought some really nice looking boneless spare ribs.

I got some red peppers to make a new batch of ajvar with the CSA eggplant. Got milk, eggs and my husband’s favorite snacks, “WAY BETTER” tortilla chips made from sweet potatoes, or black beans, or blue corn, all at England Acres. There was no room to park and a back up in the driveway.

Came home to the usual. The sound of mowers and tractors. It may be a holiday but the people around here still keep working on the land. My neighbor was out whacking down his meadow with a serious piece of equipment. He wants to replant it with grasses suitable for mowing into bales of horse feed, aka hay.

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He asked if we wanted our far out there untouched area cut down a bit. And made short work of it.

I made some old favorites tonight. Kofta. Watermelon, feta and mint salad. Cole slaw.

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Yep, it’s a holiday. We just have to pay attention to the calendar.


Garden Update

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The garden is hanging in there but the stink bugs are out in force, so I have resorted to picking the tomatoes just before they get ripe and sweet. Cuts down on the damage.

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The one on the top left is an Amana orange heirloom. It will turn orange on the windowsill. The other larger heirloom is a mortgage lifter. This year they are not getting huge. The weather hasn’t been hot enough. A couple of orange romas, one Polish linguisa, a handful of cherry tomatoes, and one lonely sun sugar.

The supersweet 100s are done. I have yet to get a ripe pineapple tomato, even though right now there are dozens of green ones on the vines. Got what looks to be the last Paul Robeson yesterday. The hillbillies and the boxcar willie plants also have dozens of green tomatoes on them. Hope we continue to have nice days, in order to ripen them.

I am glad I put in 48 plants, as many of them are underachieving this year.

I have gotten my share of weird plants too. Like this one.

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I could have put it in the fair for strange looking plants.

The CSA has also given us some winners. Like this eggplant with a “nose”.

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Garden and CSA veggies played well tonight for dinner, where I made my ratatouille pie. Using Breezy Willow bacon and feta, England Acres eggs, Trickling Springs milk, and a combination of CSA squash, eggplant and onion, and my tomatoes for the ratatouille base. I really love this pie. Like a quiche.

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I used store bought pie crust this time. Being lazy. Bake the pie crust until almost done. I used two crusts for this. One on the base, and one hand torn and placed around the top of the deep dish.

Mix two cups of ratatouille with 1/4 cup grated cheese and about 6 strips of crisp bacon, torn into pieces. Dump on top the crust. Mix together four large eggs with 2 tablespoons of milk and 2 tablespoons of flour. Dump on top the ratatouille. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.

Great with a Cabernet. Enough left for lunch this weekend.


Bitter Melon?

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OK, this is a new one to me.

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Asian or African in nature, there are numerous varieties of this prickly looking bitter vegetable that is supposed to be a super fruit, when it comes to reducing blood sugar levels and some other things.

The full share CSA members found one of these in our boxes today. I hung around for a while to see how many would swap it. The answer, after watching about a dozen full share members pick up their boxes. ONE!

Interesting CSA members with us. Willing to try something we had never seen before.

So, I did the research. Expect a blog post about making bitter melon soup with pork. I need to get the rest of the ingredients, but I am going to try it.

What else did we get?

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1 Gold acorn Squash- Windy Hollow Organics
1 Yellow Watermelon – White Swan Acres
1 bag Red Potatoes – Green Valley Organics
2 8-Ball Zucchini – Red Fox Organics
2 Italian Eggplants – Windy Hollow Organics
1 Yellow Bell Pepper – Organic Willow Acres
1 Bitter Melon – De Glae Organics
1 bunch Thai Basil – Kirkwood Herbs
1 bunch Dinosaur Kale – Peaceful Valley Organics
1 bunch Lettuce – Landisdale Organics
1 pint Cherry Tomatoes- Taste of Nature

Never had gold acorn squash before. And, the eight ball zucchini are new to me. And that Thai basil. Wow! It overpowered you with the fragrance. There will be pesto made tomorrow.

What did I do with all this goodness? Came home and put it all away and made pizza.

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I used up the last of the chicken I roasted, with halloumi, scallions, marinara and garlic, oregano and olive oil.

I’ll get into the CSA stuff this weekend. I need to hit the hospital market for cilantro and shallots, and Harris Teeter for fish sauce, mushrooms and bean thread noodles to make this recipe for the soup.

Also loving getting lettuce again. Seasons are changing. The veggies reflect it.


Test Drive a CSA

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Fall Sign Up for the seven week extension of our Community Supported Agriculture was announced yesterday.

I belong to Sandy Spring CSA, in the summer and fall. I have moved around in other seasons, but like the variety of what we get. Here’s a typical fall box.

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This is a full share. Larger in volume and in number of items. For someone who wants to try out a CSA, the 60% share is a really good option. For seven weeks, you would be getting 5-8 items. The smaller share doesn’t get the more exotic veggies, but does get pretty much the same things we get in the full share.

If you ate two or three meals a day at home, like we do, and eat mostly vegetarian for lunch, a full share does work out. I pay about $30 a week for the full share. The 60% share costs $19 a week.

All of these veggies are organic, and would cost quite a bit more in the stores.

The other reason I like the fall share is that it begins just as the farmer’s markets are closing down in Howard County. For Thanksgiving and Christmas I have enough here to make dishes to take to relatives, or to pot luck luncheons. I also created a “root cellar” in the coldest room off the garage, where I keep potatoes and onions. I was using them well into February last year. I did end up planting a few of the sweet potatoes, which are about ready to be harvested in the next week or so.

Organic produce isn’t sprayed with anti-sprouting treatments, so your potatoes will grow eyes eventually and if put in water will sprout.

I like getting the full veggies too. Like the tops of the beets, the greens, the celery. Check out this celery from last year.

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I froze those greens, and pulled them out to make chicken stock with them.

The final delivery is just before Christmas. Last year that 2+ pound sweet potato got used in a holiday preparation.

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That full share did include some rare veggies, There was a seminole squash (a cooking pumpkin family squash) and that red komatsuna. Komatsuna is an Asian mustard green similar to spinach.

I really like getting the strange veggies that challenge me, by buying the full share. In the 60% share, you might not see the komatsuna. For a CSA novice, getting familiar veggies that are easy to cook is an introduction that doesn’t overwhelm you.

Believe me, my first summer, in 2011, before I started my blog and kept track, I do remember being overwhelmed. And, giving lots of stuff away because I hadn’t changed my cooking style.

Now, strange items don’t faze me at all.

If you want a short term “relationship”, and not a long term commitment, you might want to try out a fall CSA.

And you too might experience the fun of making a “Christmas tree” for Christmas dinner.

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Romanescu cauliflower, all decorated with cheese and spices and herbs.

CSA fall season runs from the first week in November until the week before Christmas. I pick up off Cedar Lane near the Robinson Nature Center. Convenient to Rte. 32.


Lake Woebegone

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If you remember the news from Lake Woebegone, where all the women are strong, the men are good looking and the children are above average, you have to chuckle at the latest list of the “wealthiest zip codes in the Baltimore area”.

Patch Report from the Baltimore Business Journal shows nine of the ten in Howard County. But, what does it really mean? All this data. Statistics. Lies, damn lies and statistics, as they say.

We live at the boundary of number one and three in their list. I still have to stop and remember that median and mean are two very different measures.

So, number one is Dayton, 21036 with a median household income of $166,007, an average net worth of $1.85 million, and median home value of $732,222.

Number three, which is Glenelg, 21737 has a median income of $159,570, average net worth of $1.86 million, and median home value of $720,833.

Number two on their list is West Friendship, number four is Cooksville and number five is Fulton (including Maple Lawn). All of them surround us. Lower down the list were Glenwood, Highland, Clarksville and Ellicott City.

OK, I look at these lists and think of the Lake Woebegone quote, and say to myself, wow, we are so below average in our house.

And, then I remember the McMansions, which drive that median number way up. There are dozens of McMansions being built here. Where it used to be a three acre minimum for building, and land prices used to be cheap, now they are cramming huge houses on an acre. I can’t figure how they get wells, septic fields, driveways, massive homes and roads all squished together without interference in the newer neighborhoods. These homes start at $700,000 and keep going into the stratosphere. They line Triadelphia, and Ten Oaks, and Howard Roads.

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We don’t feel like this is the wealthiest part of the world. My neighbors are teachers, firemen, bus drivers, people who bought here decades ago when land was cheap, relative to Columbia. But then, we don’t live in those new expensive developments either.

Every time I see references to the “rich rural west”, I cringe. It’s only the influx of the mansions that is driving these numbers higher. Back 15 or so years ago, there were less than 1000 homes in the entire zip code of Dayton. Still some small farms, too.

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Hundreds of new homes have been built during the boom years, and even now three new developments are adding more and more large homes on relatively small lots.

It is weird to see the changes that have occurred just in the nine years we have been here.

Oh well, being below average has its benefits. Less taxes, but still the “distinction” of living in one of the richest zip codes out there.

Here’s to those “damn lies”.


Rush Hour

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Something we really try to avoid, now that we are retired. Particularly on the first day of school. Today unfortunately we needed to take my husband’s car into the dealer for a recall and some “triage”. For the second time, a mouse crawled into the blower motor box and became mincemeat last Saturday.

You need to take it in, fast, before it really smells. The hazards of living in the country. Animals in unlikely places. So, at least we avoided Rte. 32 and all the commuter traffic, using the back roads to get to Clarksville.

The west county ICC. Triadelphia, Folly Quarter and Sheppard’s Lane to Rte. 108. At least we didn’t hit the long lines waiting to turn into Glenelg Country School.

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This is one of the worst commuting days, of all those that we used to have the longest delays when we worked. The absolute worst, though, was always the day before Thanksgiving.

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I-70 just after noon last year. After I ran the back roads to England Acres for Thanksgiving items, and to Boarman’s to get my turkey. I was reminded of Maple Lawn today, as we went past the farm on our way home from our errands. A visit to the new copying place in Maple Lawn, and a stop at Harris Teeter for a few staples I needed.

We use the back roads as much as we can. Guilford Road. Hall Shop and Brown’s Bridge. Highland Road. Since retiring, we really do try not to schedule things for that 7-9am or 3-6pm time frame.

Or, we just use the scenic routes. Today we caught a glimpse of the turkeys “free ranging” under the solar panels. That certainly is not something you will see on an interstate.


Thanks to their web site, I found the picture. I know I have one somewhere but I can’t find it.

Yep, summer in Howard County is coming to an end. Time to start thinking of fall, and pumpkins, and apples, and turkeys.


Big. Bold. Local.

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Without any food challenges around, the Sunday night dinners, which used to be as close to local as possible to meet a challenge, had changed. Tonight I brought it back to local. Just because there was so much local good stuff in the fridge.

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The big part of this dinner. Definitely the Big Cork Chardonnay from right up the road. The winery in Rohrersville isn’t open yet, but the white wines are available at Frederick stores. Dave Collins is making lovely Chablis-styled Chardonnay, which stood up to the meal I put together.

The star of the meal. Bold. Had to be the mushroom risotto. When we aren’t rushed, I like that ritual of making risotto.

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Made with the cremini mushrooms from the CSA, and with Trickling Springs butter instead of olive oil, a very rich and satisfying risotto.

Made also using the chicken stock from that carcass of the England Acres fresh chicken.

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Thick stock, almost gelatinous. I got one pint plus three half pints. The pint went into the risotto and the half pints are frozen for future use. Because it was so rich, I added about 8 ounces of water to thin it, before using it in the recipe.

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Oh, and dinner. This is what it looked like. Leftover chicken, you could say. But jazzed up with the risotto, the wine, and roasted delicata squash (baked with butter and fresh thyme).

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Enough chicken left in the fridge to make chicken salad, which will serve us for two more lunches. Not bad, for the chicken to make it to two dinners, two lunches, and those three half pints of stock will be used this winter.



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If there was ever a moment that defined how my cooking changed, and how our view of dining also changed, it was a trip to Greece and the Islands in 2004. Third time lucky, I would say. We planned this trip three times. First, 9/11 canceled my 50th birthday present cruise scheduled for late fall 2002. The cruise lines pulled their ships from the Med. Our next attempt, on Windstar, was canceled due to the fact the ship caught on fire and sunk six months before our scheduled cruise.

Finally in 2004, we made it there. Right after the Olympics. There, in the islands, we learned to enjoy small plates of fresh food, simply prepared and eaten at leisure, with wine, a view and good friends.

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Doesn’t this view beat that of a parking lot, or a storm water management pond?

This trip, and our trip to Provence, greatly influenced how I cook, and how we dine. We love putting together a mezze assortment. Mezze being the Greek equivalent of tapas.

And, we love dining out back watching the birds, squirrels, bunnies and butterflies.

Tonight I grilled some old pizza dough I found in the freezer. It looked ugly but tasted great. Put out an assortment of tomatoes, olives, mushrooms, and a jar of my ajvar. Nothing really fancy, just “flatbread” to dip and pile. Mix and match.

With a side arugula salad with balsamic.

No pictures of dinner tonight. Sometimes those messy plates of leftover goodies paired with bread or naan, are all we need to remember trips from the past. And, how good the fresh seafood, veggies and fruit tasted. Bought and enjoyed in exotic settings.

I don’t have to go to Greece to eat well. I can’t come up with a view that compares, but love my ajvar spread on charred warm pizza dough. Watching the crape myrtle in the sunlight. Not bad.

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With a glass of old red wine. Loving the Saturday night. What’s your inspiration?


Making Like a Squirrel

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Putting things up. Preserving them. Buying to fill the freezer. It seems most of August is spent getting ready for winter.

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Yesterday Breezy Willow sent us an email announcing the availability of bulk tomatoes, for you to can or freeze. $25 for 25 pounds of organic canning tomatoes. If I wasn’t drowning in roma and paste tomatoes from my garden, I would be all over this offer. Organic tomatoes for $1 a pound? Amazing! This is a bargain.

Also yesterday England Acres posted the availability of the next batch of roasting chickens. Pasture raised chickens. 4-6 pounds each. Plus, corn for freezing. I headed out there today to get chicken and corn.

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One of those chickens went into the oven tonight.

I have been using up tomatoes almost every two or three days, making sauce, or oven dried.

The freezer is getting full again.

Discussion today on facebook about what to do with hot peppers. I think there will be pepper jelly made this weekend.

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Larriland keeps sending notices. The newest fruits to ripen are the apples. They are starting to trickle in.

I have to admit, I am glad the weather has been mild, as my stove and my oven are going every day. This winter I will love having flavorful foods out of the freezer, to make locally sourced meals.

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Happy harvest season!


It’s Ratatouille Time!

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Sung to the tune of “It’s Howdy Doody Time!”. This week, the 14th one of our Sandy Spring CSA, we got the makings for some serious ratatouille.

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The List:
2 pieces Green Zucchini – Windy Hollow Organics
1 bag Green Beans – Freedom Acres Farm
1 pint Sungold Cherry Tomatoes – Liberty Acres
1 bag Lemon Cucumbers – De Glae Organic Farm
1 bag Red Roma Tomatoes – Healthy Harvest Organics
1 bag Mixed Heirloom Hot Peppers – Outback Farm
1 bag Japanese Eggplants – Maple Lawn Organics
1 bag loose Orange Carrots – Red Fox Organics
1 container Cremini Mushrooms – Mother Earth Organics
1 bag Garlic – Friends Road Organics
1 bag Purple Viking Potatoes – Bellview Organics
2 pieces Delicata Squash – Green Valley Organics

Yes, those are baby bellas in the back. Mother Earth is a member of our cooperative of farms. Nice that some of the best mushrooms come from the same area as our farmers for the CSA. As for those lemon cucumbers, I need to find some interesting recipes for them. We have gotten them in the past. I never got very creative with them.

I found a recipe that uses pesto, cucumbers, and ends up with shaved Parmesan and freshly ground pepper. I think that will work.

As for the ratatouille. Here is last year’s masterpiece, my ratatouille pie made using leftover ratatouille and with a recipe from Diary of a Locavore.

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As for making ratatouille, my list of ingredients.

1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups small diced onion, I use sweet white
1 teaspoon grated garlic
2 cups medium diced eggplant, skin on
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 cups diced green, red, yellow, orange (whatever you have) bell peppers
1 1/2 cup diced zucchini squash
2 cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes, preferably all colors
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make it in a cast iron pan if you can. A deep one. Put the veggies in, using the order above. That is, onion and garlic to soften, then the eggplant, then the peppers, then the squash and tomatoes. Add the basil at the very end.

I let it cook low and slow until all the flavors meld.

I will post pictures of this year’s batch, over the weekend when I make it.

As for my cooking of CSA foods, here is today’s goodie. Golumpki. Made with a combination of CSA veggies, my tomatoes, and a cabbage from Catoctin Mountain Orchards market. The sauce base was from my last container in the freezer from last year. Added some Orchard Breeze sausage to it. Not bad, but I wasn’t that happy with the final stuffing. I need to work on this recipe.

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Now, I need to figure out what to do with those heirloom hot peppers, and the delicata squash.

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