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Monthly Archives: November 2013

My Better Half’s B’day

Yesterday my husband turned 63. We usually do a celebration meal on our birthdays. But, he was out playing radio (at a club meeting).

So, tonight we did the birthday meal.
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Steak from Clark’s farm. Cauliflower from my CSA. Arugula from Love Dove Farm. And, cheese from Breezy Willow.

Served with a killer local wine.

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RdV 2010 Lost Mountain. Close your eyes and you believe you went to Bordeaux. Big, yet balanced. Fruity, but not that California over the top style. Restrained, yet absolutely yummy.

Not something I say everyday about wine.

I have to admit, the wine was better than the dinner. The steak should have been pounded and marinated more. The cauliflower was a smidge too dry.

The salad did rock, though.

In a while, tonight, we will have a simple dessert. A glass of Late Harvest Vidal, and a few pieces of coconut chocolate.

Well, at least my dinners are a fraction of the cost of a luxury meal at a restaurant.

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Another Tidbit Tuesday

So many little things happening today and this week. Much of it locally driven, but some of it really interesting.

So, what is happening?

I am waiting to see if they launch the Minotaur rocket from NASA. The new time of launch is 2015 EST. We saw the last one from the back deck. Skies look clear enough to see this one, too.

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I am checking with the NASA Facebook page for Wallops to get updates.

Today is my better half’s 63rd birthday.

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When he gets home from his regular radio club dinner meeting, we will share the dark chocolate sea salt bar with the rest of the lovely red I got with my dinner at Bistro Blanc. It is half price wine night there.

I went up there for a few reasons. A quick perfectly cooked medium rare lamb burger, and a delivery to Chef Marc of a dozen long stems of my rosemary, and a huge bouquet of three kinds of sage. Cleaning up the herb garden.

While there, I sampled something new. Two words I never thought would go together. Chocolate. Grappa. Hey, don’t knock it! It isn’t bad.

Since my husband went off with his fellow radio friends, I postponed his birthday dinner until tomorrow night. Currently, I am marinating a strip steak from Clark’s farm.

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It will be pan seared and finished in the oven tomorrow, to be served with roasted romanescu. And, I think I will open a really nice Virginia wine.

Speaking of wine, Big Cork announced on their Facebook page that their production facility will be open for tasting this Friday and Saturday. We hope to get there to see what they are offering. Their facility is in Frederick, just off I-70. Tasting time is 12-6.

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Last but not least I have been working on scheduling the farmers who will be offering goodies at the Conservancy Natural Holiday Crafts fair on Dec. 7th. We hope to make your holidays special with goodies from local farms, as well as all those local crafters who will be there.

More on the fair later.

Obviously, I am keeping out of trouble, and having a great time with all our activities and interests.

Somewhere in here, I should do some fall cleaning. Really.

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One Slow Cooked Bargain Meal

Actually, it turns out there will be two meals out of the turkey made in the crockpot yesterday.

It all started with those turkey drumsticks from Maple Lawn Farm.

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You can head out to the farm and pick up frozen turkey all during the year. The fresh turkey is sold for the holidays, but they have frozen packages and other specialties.

After bringing home those drumsticks, so I could vacuum seal some and save for soups this winter, I did keep two out to cook on Sunday.

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I have two packages like these in the freezer. Each package cost approximately $2.33 as the six pack was $7.

You can’t beat that for making an economical meal. Throw some carrots, onions, celery, some stock (my last container from last year’s turkey), two drumsticks, a little water, salt, pepper, poultry friendly herbs like tarragon and marjoram, all in the crockpot.

Since the turkey was barely defrosted, and the stock was a brick of frozen goodness, I put the crockpot on high for six hours, then renewed it for another 3 hours. In the last hour, I added some wide noodles and a bit more water to thin it out.

We had it for dinner tonight, and it was simply wonderful. Really rich. So much flavor. It’s amazing and you can’t believe the entire pot probably cost $5-6 in total ingredients. We only had half of it, so lunch or dinner later this week will be our second meal from these drumsticks.

My husband and I both like the dark meat on turkey and chicken, more than we like the bland white breast meat. At Thanksgiving, my husband always takes a drumstick on his plate.

I suppose you could say we are crazy, eating turkey the week before Thanksgiving, but soup is so good on crisp fall days.

If you haven’t popped out to Maple Lawn after the holiday rush, you should. Even the frozen turkey is so much tastier than those butterball things.

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That Gift of Time Thing

Interesting reading. Tom’s post about philanthropic giving across the USA.

That includes data probably culled from tax returns. In other words, if you don’t use it as a deduction, it doesn’t really count.

Data that says my friends and neighbors are somehow lacking because we don’t declare larger percentages of our income on our tax returns as charitable contributions.

It brings to mind that quote about “Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics”.

I look around me at Conservancy field trips. 5-10 volunteers. The clean up crews. Weekly. The restoration teams. The hike leaders.

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The Patapsco Heritage Greenway teams cleaning up the river on weekends.

The parents out there with their scout troops selling cookies, or working on scout projects.

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The Scout projects all across the county. The volunteers at the schools. For Neighbor Ride.

Those of us who put bags of clothes in the barrels all around the area, and don’t deduct them. The cash donations in the Salvation Army jars. Or, the $20 bills given to collections by fire fighters, or other local charities.

Quite frankly, when I looked at Tom’s list and saw the biggest leaders, and they were all in Utah (can you say religious tithing?), and this is used to say we aren’t philanthropic because we don’t tithe, I was somewhat annoyed.

I find there are hundreds, if not thousands of my neighbors and fellow countians, who open their pocketbooks, get in their cars, volunteer, give time and/or money to places they care about. We just don’t seem to care about being called philanthropic (because we don’t put these things on our tax returns).

I think I get it from this study. We have to account for every cent spent, on that 1040 form, to be charitable.

Oh well, I guess I will continue to donate to my favorite local organizations, put clothes in the St. Vincent de Paul container, take food to the Food Bank, spend hours volunteering, but because I don’t deduct these things, I contribute nothing to society.

Excuse my rant, but stuff like this drives me nuts.

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“Meat” Some Local Farmers

Today I did a loop to three local farms that sell meat products produced from animals raised on their farms. I am doing some background work for upcoming Conservancy events, and getting some absolutely lovely products in my travels.

I don’t know which farm I have the longest history for buying their products. A toss up between Maple Lawn and Clark’s.

Turkey from Maple Lawn. Year round, did you know?

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The fresh turkeys are available for Thanksgiving, but they also offer frozen items all year. Like these turkey drumsticks. My husband’s favorite part of the turkey, and perfect for soup.

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Six in a package for $7. I brought them home, wrestled them apart with a boning knife and put them back in the freezer in two packs. Good for future stock making and soups. And, maybe roasting a couple on the grill on one of our warmer days.

We have already ordered a small (8-10 lb) fresh turkey to grill for our Thanksgiving celebration. We pick that up at Boarmans the day before Thanksgiving.

As for Clark’s, I went to find brisket. They are difficult to find around here. A limited cut when you are looking at small batch production of just a few animals at a time. I did get one.

Copper Penny is a new discovery for us. We have seen them advertised, but this morning I saw their Facebook page said they were going to be open on Saturday mornings since their farmer’s market over in Anne Arundel County has closed for the season.

I went looking for two things. Soup bones and kielbasa. We are on this quest for the best kielbo in Maryland (to rival my husband’s favorite from PA). I also found mini chorizo, and bacon ends.

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Bacon ends are perfect to use, when cooking those CSA greens. Collards and bacon, for example.

All winter long, these farms and others in the area offer us an alternative to enjoy pasture raised and grass fed products.

I have some new places to add to my farm lists. My advice, though, go early if you don’t want to be disappointed. Clark’s was packed at 1220, and they were selling everything they had. Amazing following of locals coming there to purchase.

Copper Penny sold out of eggs before I got there, and the last of their chickens went too. Small farms. Nice to see that they have customers who support them all year.

My freezer now has just about all we need to get through the winter, until the markets and CSAs start up again next spring.

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Garlic and Hummus

What I did today. Planted garlic. The weather was perfect for it.

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I cleaned out a section of my garden. Turned over all the soil and added some conditioning. Put down the weed block, which will also keep the soil warmer, and protect the garlic. Put in 18 cloves of garlic, from the CSA and my stash I planted last year.

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The work in progress. I had to go back and clean it up, and water everything, and now I need to clean up the rest of the beds. Prepare them for winter.

As for making hummus, I have been doing reading about various ways to make a very creamy hummus. The secret. Take the skins off the chickpeas.

I used canned chickpeas, but after draining them, I rolled them between my fingers to pull off the outer skins.

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Voila! My best pumpkin hummus ever. The recipe.

1 can chickpeas, drained and skin removed
1 roasted butternut squash, scraped out of its skin
4 tsp. tahini
6 cloves roasted garlic (do not use raw)
2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp sriracha
1 tsp salt, or more to taste
Juice from one lemon
Olive oil drizzled in to reach the proper consistency

Everybody into the food processor, except the olive oil, which is added while pulsing. Taste often and adjust seasonings to get what you like. I used about 1/2 cup olive oil this time.

This stuff is so good. Got a kick to it. I keep messing with this recipe and every time, it gets better.

All in all, a good productive Friday.

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Unusual Veggies

Week Two of the CSA. We got a new one here.

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Salanova Lettuce.

The latest trend? All I know is that it’s expensive if you can find it, and we got two heads of it this week. $8 worth of lettuce. Along with the eleven other items in our CSA box.

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We got:

1 bag carrots
1 bunch collards
1 bag purple Viking potatoes
1 bag Yukon Gold potatoes
1 bunch celery
1 bag yellow onions
1 butternut squash
2 heads freckled lettuce
1 head romanescu cauliflower
1 bag purple top turnips
2 heads salanova lettuce
2 pieces rutabaga

I don’t know what is more fun. The cauliflower. The freckled lettuce. The salanova.

Why I love this CSA. Giving me veggies I never heard of. But, that are so good.

The bread this week.

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A whole wheat country French boule. We like the small sixe of the boule. Just enough for a couple of soups.

Adventures in food. That’s what a CSA will bring you.

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Soup’s On!

It is soup weather.

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The maple is screaming fall!

I have been making soup left and right. Today a revisit to one from a while back. Apple, turnip, Jerusalem artichoke.

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A completely vegan creamy soup. Made with CSA veggies and Larriland apples.

Recipe here.

I did modify it a bit. I used my roasted garlic. And, I added an extra apple. And, some spice. Nutmeg, cinnamon, garam masala. A generous pinch of each.

I had some for lunch today and saved the rest to have for dinner tomorrow. Drizzled with a little lemon infused olive oil.

Soups are one of the best things you can make to use up leftover CSA veggies. And, so are stir fry recipes. I made one of those tonight, and yes, I know it isn’t soup. But, it was really very good.

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Shrimp stir fry to use up the Napa cabbage from the CSA.

The ingredients.

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Toss it all in a wok or a stir fry pan. Scallions first, and thicker parts of the Napa cabbage. In oil. Add mushrooms and water chestnuts. Add sesame oil and soy sauce. Ginger and garlic powder.

Bean thread that was softened in boiling water goes in last.

Some hot peppers.

I can’t believe how my cooking has changed. All those CSA veggies are influencing me. Soups and stir fry. Warm, comforting foods to chase the chill.

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Tuesday Tidbits

Odds and ends about food and wine.

Like the grand opening of Petite Cellars.

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Owned by the former owners of Perfect Pour, the store in Turf Valley has been completed and the ribbon cutting ceremony was this afternoon. Courtney Watson was on hand to cut the ribbon, along with Chamber of Commerce representation. We enjoyed the event, wishing them well and picking up a “local” gin, from Loudoun County VA (Catoctin Creek). Love having a specialty liquor around to use for entertaining, and finding locally produced items complements what is important to me.

Two days in a row, we have been out and about. Last night we attended the opening session of “Iron Bridge University”, this time the first of six tastings featuring the wines of Italy. Vince does a great job of leading the educational series. This one highlighted Tuscany.

The events are hugely popular. All 36 seats were taken, and there was a waiting list of dozens of people. The entire six event series is a sell out. Good to see another family owned local business doing well.

I also was impressed with the local farms providing the Bridge with meat and vegetables. Farms like Clark’s and Valley Haven, in Howard County.

At home today for lunch, we enjoyed locally sourced items, paired with a few new finds. Like these wonderful crackers we found at COSTCO.

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These crackers are perfect with our ajvar, and my newest spread I made. I used the Bulgarian recipe as inspiration, but then just went off in my own direction.

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The eggplant spread is in the small bowl. I used two eggplant and four green peppers, roasted and peeled. A few cloves of garlic, some lemon juice, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Processed in the “food pro” until the right consistency. Sharper in taste than the red pepper spreads I make, but still very tasty.

The salad on the plate was made with the Tuscan kale in our CSA box. Some scallions, pecorino, olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice and avocados I picked up at Boarman’s when I was ordering our Maple Lawn Thanksgiving turkey. None of it measured. Whatever looks good, is the way I make salads.

All in all, a very pleasant Monday and Tuesday to start our week. Crossing my fingers that it warms up a bit, so I can plant garlic.

Hmmm, food and wine and cooking. I need to find some other hobbies. Nah, I don’t think so. These keep us busy enough.

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Free??? Energy Audit

Remember GreenFest in Howard County? Where you could put in your name and “win” a free energy audit? Free, being a relative term.

Because if you won, and they came out and showed you all the bad things in your house, you could either ignore them or address them.

Those pictures showing energy loss through doors, windows, ducts and telling you how bad your old appliances are.

Slowly we have been addressing what was identified as deficient in our almost 30 year old home. I can honestly say that today I really feel the difference from replacing doors and windows on the first floor of the house. It has taken us two years to get this far.

Just a bit at a time. This time, though, it was dramatic.

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The view from the dining room was enhanced with no window. Let’s not talk about the dozen or so flies I keep having to kill in the kitchen. So far, they did finish the outside of living room, dining room, and garage. And, there is a new door from garage to mud room. Our garage faces northwest. The front of the house faces west. Drapes would move when the cold fronts moved in. Now, there is a huge improvement. Although they aren’t done yet.

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Caulking was done. Trim work remains. And, the kitchen window will be replaced. Hallelujah! I will have windows that open! Current kitchen windows are on their last legs, so to speak.

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Of course, Thursday it is supposed to be quite cold. No cooking that day, and who knows where I will be able to take my CSA pictures.

I have to admit, I truly appreciate the changes once they are done. It’s just that the mess associated with renovations, and the frustrations with how long they take, taxes my patience.

But, a word to the wise. If you ever “win” that free energy audit, you may want to decline. Unless you want to spend what would have been vacation money to fix everything they find.

I know it ‘s the right thing to do here. But, it still drives me up a wall to deal with all the upheaval.

I just keep thinking about the good parts, like the view.

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