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Monthly Archives: February 2014

This Week’s Basket

It’s been so busy around here, I almost forgot about this week’s Friends and Farms basket. A really full basket this time.

Today my husband and I were talking. He is amazed that we rarely see a need to visit grocery stores much. This pick up of food, and my visits to the local farms, and my freezer full of Larriland goodness pretty much keeps us stocked for the winter.

What did we get this week?

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Let’s take it in stages, as it wouldn’t all fit in a picture.

I get a dozen eggs weekly, instead of milk. We are now getting eggs from a farm in Clinton MD. Mostly brown eggs, with a very deep yellow yolk. We got four more Asian pears. Love these pears, as they are so crisp and sweet. We got hydroponic spring mix, enough for two salads. And, grapefruit. Two of those. Root veggies, said the preview. That meant a few parsnips and one humongous carrot. A couple of onions.

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The meat included one whole chicken, uncured bacon and a small pork loin roast. Perfect sizes for the two of us. This was an egg week in the description, but since I get eggs weekly instead of milk, this week I got the yogurt. I picked vanilla, in order to mix it with my frozen berries from our summer picking at Larriland. We got rosemary and garlic, perfect for the chicken, and the pork. Potatoes and swiss chard. There will be a frittata early next week.

And, I almost forgot the bread. On the table they had lots of fruit breads this week, from the Breadery. Pumpkin, blueberry, cinnamon raisin. We aren’t fruit bread people so I picked a par-baked ciabatta.

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Should be good when I make chicken soup with the leftovers from baking the chicken today.

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This chicken, spatchcocked with butter, rosemary, garlic, and tarragon under the skin, and drizzled with olive oil became dinner. Except for the breast meat, which will become soup Sunday.

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I made creamed spinach with the rest of the spinach from last week. The rest of the angel hair pasta, cooked and served with grated Parmesan and lemon infused olive oil.

With a local wine. What could be better for a Friday night?

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A Linden Avenius chardonnay.

Dessert? Trickling Springs salted caramel ice cream. This was really a local meal, in the dead of winter. Can’t beat that.

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Cabin Fever

When you wake up many mornings, too many in fact, to a variation of this view …

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… you start thinking about the Jimmy Buffett song “Boat Drinks” particularly that line about shooting holes in the freezer.

Thankfully, the Howard County blogging community has a cure for cabin fever. Another get together, this time at the newly opened White Oak Tavern, on Route 40, in the Enchanted Forest shopping center.

The party is tomorrow night, the 27th. 5:30-7:30 pm. White Oak Tavern is a farm to table restaurant featuring lots of locally sourced items. The type of place I like to see succeed here.

A few of their sources, lifted from their winter menu.

Wagon Wheel Ranch – Grass-fed Beef, Free Range Chicken,
and Pastured Berkshire Pork

South Mountain Creamery – Dairy products from grass-fed cows

Mozzarella, peach ice cream and provolone from SMC

Hilltop Acres – Pastured Berkshire and Mulefoot Pork

Chapel’s Country Creamery – artisanal Cheese

Zahradka – Produce
Tuscarora Produce
Atwater’s Bread Co
Vann’s Spice Co
Zeke’s Coffee

I am intrigued by Vann’s. I have thought of going down to Rockville to Penzey’s, but might try ordering a few of the harder to find spices from this locally owned family business.

Come join our friendly local Howard County bloggers for a pint of ale, some good conversation, and maybe a burger and fries, or some ice cream from just up the pike.

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My Take on Cassoulet

A favorite one pot meal. Cassoulet. With all sorts of options and the ability to use what you have hanging around in your fridge.

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Served with an excellent local Big Cork Chardonnay. The last one, so it must be time to head up to Frederick for a few more bottles.

This dish came together because I had leftover chicken breast and garlic sausage. About 6 ounces of chicken breast and the same amount of a fresh kielbasa. They were both main elements of last weekend’s meals.

Start with the base.

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Olive oil heated in the pan. Added one sliced yellow onion and a handful of scallions sliced. Half of a green pepper. Three roma tomatoes, sliced. Half dozen cremini mushrooms. Other than the scallions, the rest of this dish was in last week’s delivery from Friends and Farms.

When the vegetables are soft and the onions translucent, add the sausage and chicken. Deglaze it all with a splash of white wine and some stock. Empty a drained can, or two if you like beans, of either cannellini or Great Northern beans. Some fresh basil, slivered. A couple of cloves of roasted garlic, smashed, or a teaspoon of garlic powder. A teaspoon of herbs de Provence. A little salt and white pepper. A teaspoon of tomato paste.

Put everything in a low setting in the oven. I use the slow cook setting, which is 250 degrees. For about an hour for all the flavors to meld.

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This picture is the before the oven photo. The plate up top is the “brown” version. It may not be the prettiest dish out there, but it definitely tastes wonderful.

You don’t need duck to make cassoulet. It works just fine with chicken. Not a bad mostly locally sourced meal.

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A Picture Perfect Weekend

I think spring is teasing us. Saturday and Sunday. Both days where you could just imagine the trees starting to bloom, and look for the crocuses and tulips to start poking their tips out of the thawing ground.

Solomons Island was hopping Saturday. We took a drive down there to sightsee since the sun was shining and it was warm out.

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Unfortunately we do know we will have a few more snow and sleet events, at least in the forecast, and that it will be chillingly cold again late this week.

Today I did get to Lowe’s (along with about half of Howard County, it seemed – and the other half looked like they were in the Costco gasoline line). We picked up some potting soil for my spinach, arugula, kale and mesclun seeds. A trellis for this Malabar spinach, once I get to transfer it outdoors.

I am heavily into garden planning. There will be new herbs, and lots less tomatoes. I will fill in my needs for freezing and canning using the pick your own option at Larriland.

I used up more of my pesto from the freezer in recent dinners. Like last night.

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Pesto is on the chicken and in the rice. Those split chicken breasts I got in my basket Friday were excellent. I used a simple method of baking them.

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I placed a few basil leaves under the skin. Added some defrosted pesto cubes rubbed into the surface. A little salt, pepper and olive oil. Split a couple of the roma tomatoes from the Friends and Farms basket, which by the way, actually taste like tomatoes in the middle of winter. Imagine that! Some scallions. A small splash of white wine. Baked at 325 degrees for about 40 minutes until they registered 185 degrees on the meat thermometer.

The jasmine rice was steamed and then a cube of pesto melted into it. A bed of spring mix with a Caesar dressing.

Frozen strawberry ice cubes. Back when I was talking about my CSA essentials I showed my simple method to preserve those less than perfect berries. Cut out the bad spots. Put the good parts in a blender with a little sugar and puree. Freeze in ice cube trays. In the middle of winter, this is your reward.

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Particularly when it is nice and warm outside and you are kicking yourself for not defrosting a few steaks. We did at least clean out the grill (something, either field mouse or chipmunk decided storing seeds in the side unit was a good plan). Fired it up and cleaned the surface. I will be ready when it warms up again. Maybe next week?

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Flexibility

I think I may be stretching the limits of flexibility this week. I went in today to pick up my basket of goodies at Friends and Farms, over in Columbia.

First, my pick up day is Thursday but we had an unexpected event yesterday where we would be out of the area for the day. No problem. Make a phone call and switch days.

Earlier I saw mussels on the anticipated weekly list, and even though I used to love mussels, a restaurant in Newport Rhode Island served me some bad ones. They are the one shellfish I can’t get near anymore. No problem. For those who prefer no shellfish at all, and those who don’t enjoy certain ones, you can choose the alternative protein. This week it was a couple of pounds of split boneless chicken breast.

I have already substituted eggs for the weekly milk, and yogurt for the biweekly eggs.

The flexibility is what is unique about this program.

So, what did we get?

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The perfect makings for pasta. Seriously. Basil. Fresh angel hair pasta. Tomatoes. Green peppers. Sweet Italian sausage.

Also, an option to purchase some cremini mushrooms to supplement your basket.

The rest of the basket included apples and Asian pears. Individual quick frozen butternut squash and corn. A pound and a half of spinach. Oh, and bread from the Breadery. I chose Montana white this week to use with some egg salad I made with the leftover eggs last week.

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Almost forgot. I saw they had Trickling Springs salted caramel ice cream in the market this week. Every week on the black board they list ice cream flavors, and meat options, for those who want to supplement their baskets with extras from the suppliers. There are always cheeses, cider, yogurt, eggs, and other goodies in the fridge by the door, in case your family wants something not scheduled for the week.

I have to admit. I do enjoy the winter baskets with all the creative regional items. When we aren’t drowning in the summer with boatloads of vegetables, these little specialties like the LaPasta fresh angel hair can inspire you for dinner.

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My house also smells of basil. I am tempted to make pesto for the pasta, but I do have a few Meyer lemons left so we may have to make Meyer lemon basil fizzes tomorrow while it is still warm out there.

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The living basil is already ensconced in a small glass with an inch of water keeping the root ball moist.

Hmmm, tomatoes and basil. Have to find a good mozzarella and I could make Caprese. Somehow this house full of summery scents will hopefully give us incentive to make it through the projected crummy week ahead.

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Tired of Winter

Officially, over it.

We have been working on the planning for the annual hike to the river out at the Howard County Conservancy.

It is scheduled for March this year. It gives us the opportunity to look for signs of spring.

March 8th, at 10 am. This hike is appropriate for most skill levels, but they are asking for a minimum age level of eight years old.

Last fall, we had groups go out. With lots of volunteers to shepherd groups.

If people felt it was too difficult, we had leaders who could bring them back to the building.

This is a fairly long hike, by our standards. It is a couple of miles in each direction. The first half, obviously, is DOWN to the river. The second half, you guessed it, uphill for quite a bit.

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When the group reaches the railroad tracks above the river, they are roughly halfway between Woodstock and Ellicott City. This land down there is part of Patapsco State Park. You don’t see houses or roads. It is quiet and really scenic.

This hike is one of the monthly free events, called the Second Saturday events. Many of us who regularly volunteer enjoy getting out and leading families, couples, friends, and singles to show them the little things about nature we have learned as volunteer naturalists.

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And, as a lead in to a request for new volunteers, the training for elementary school and middle school hike leading volunteers begins in two weeks.

Schedule for training is here.

I may be jumping ahead to promote spring events, but the thought of getting outdoors and saying farewell to the snow has me looking at the calendar and saying “Come On Springtime!”.

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Spatchcocked Chicken

Thanks to Steve Raichlen with his Grilling cookbooks I learned to spatchcock a chicken.

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Cutting it open along the backbone, and spreading it out in a baking pan. Guaranteed to give you maximum skin browning, while keeping the fragile white meat of the chicken moist.

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We have a few more whole chickens from our organic CSA source, Lancaster Farm Fresh.

We picked up our CSA in Columbia, near the Robinson Nature Center. I got a chicken share last fall. These Freedom Ranger free range chickens have an incredibly rich taste. Well worth the time to roast these chickens.

They will show up in a few meals this week. Roasted chicken. Chicken noodle soup. Stock that will be brought out for some risotto.

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I love making this rich, thick deeply flavored stock from the bones, gizzard, heart and lots of excess chicken skin.

What’s not to like? Chicken is such a versatile ingredient.

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