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Monthly Archives: March 2014

Four Years In

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Time flies when you are having fun.

As in being retired.

I have to admit though, this winter tested that “fun” thing.

Four years ago tomorrow, April 1st was my last day at work. I never intended to work again. I was positive that there was enough to do.

There certainly is quite a bit to do around here. Like volunteer. And, learn new things. Like gardening, leading hikes, the environment and so much more.

Robinson Nature Center needs lots of volunteers. So does the Howard County Conservancy, where I hang out. Master gardeners. Master naturalists.

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School volunteers. Park volunteers. Greenway clean up teams.

For me, my spring and fall are busy with leading field trips. Spring, summer and fall I have my garden. Usually in the winter there is still a lot to do, but this winter was tough with all the snow and the cold.

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All in all, Howard County is a great place to retire, if you want to keep your mind and body active.

Here’s to retirement, the third trimester of my life.

#hocoblogs

Farm Kitchen Soup

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The weather turned wet and blustery today so we wanted soup for lunch.

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Soup made from whatever I had hanging around in the kitchen. A leftover chicken thigh with rice. Some corn, green beans and chicken stock from the freezer. The last handful of sugar snap peas.

It reminds me of the stories we shared with some other volunteers out at the Conservancy. Where there was always a pot of soup hanging above the fireplace by a hook, in the farm kitchen. Leftovers from the family style dinners got dumped in the pot. There was always hot soup for the farm hands and the family when they came in from working.

This soup turned out to be very good. No recipes. No measuring. Just a slow simmer.

After all, around here, winter won’t go away, it seems. It poured all day today with rain, then turned to snow.

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This afternoon, a river in the yard.

This evening. So far, close to two inches of snow on the ground, with a possibility of more.

Days like this, being able to make a hearty tasty soup is a skill I am glad I developed.

Don’t give up on leftovers. Freeze little bags of veggies, and make extra rice and freeze it. Plus, freeze lots of pint and quart jars of chicken stock.

Reminds me of what all those resourceful farmers did. Oh, and I need to defrost and roast a chicken this week, and “stock” up on my stock.

#hocofood

Wanting to Garden!

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I am so ready for springtime and gardening. I can’t wait to lose the winter doldrums and start planting.

The seeds I started indoors are getting out of control.

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The scarlet emperor beans are a foot high. The edamame have pushed through the potting soil. Lots of arugula ready to transplant.

The cardoons are getting feisty.

Purple tomatillo. Check. I also started a small pot yesterday with dill seeds for the herb garden out back.

We had our kick off community garden meeting today.

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There are 24 new gardeners at the Conservancy plots.

Next week. Row cover pick up. The following week. Garden work day. Next week, also is Greenfest at Howard Community College. The following week, is the coop to coop tour for the chicken coops in Howard County.

Sometime in there I need to go pick up my plants for my summer garden from Sharp’s, and put the potatoes in the ground in the yard.

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We are deciding where to put the root plants. The hoops with row cover. Where to put the tomatoes and the peppers.

Spring can’t come fast enough.

#hocofood

Two Stop Shopping

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As I blogged yesterday, I did the weekly pick up down on Gerwig Lane for this week’s Friends and Farms basket, then I headed over to Wegmans to get those K cups, olive oil, and a few other small items.

Of course, I never get out of there without at least two bags of stuff.

Like the fixings to make a Greek salad, since we got cucumbers this week in our basket.

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I have learned to put extra items on my list by signing in on Sunday night and choosing what I know we will use. This week I added extra Asian pears, cucumbers and Bibb lettuce.

Our meats this week included turkey sausage, pork butt and chicken breasts. It was an egg week, and for me, the substitute yogurt for the eggs, and the eggs for the weekly milk, rounded out my protein and dairy.

I won’t need to purchase anything else to make dinners and lunches next week.

The pork, with the sauerkraut, and the pears will make a great dinner.

We also got frozen strawberries. Right now, I am enjoying refreshing drinks made of strawberries and seltzer.

I picked one of my favorite Breadery breads. Kalamata olive and rosemary.

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We also had spring mix, sweet potatoes, onions, and broccoli crowns.

Dinner tonight was inspired by those cucumbers, and the mix of lettuces.

At Wegmans, I hit the olive bar and also picked up some Campari tomatoes. I had the last of the Bowling Green Feta in the fridge, so Greek salad got made.

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The tuna. Pan seared with sesame seeds and sea salt. The last pieces of the tuna we bought last month. The fingerlings. A splurge at Wegmans. Since all I have in the house are the sweet potatoes from today’s basket. Half the plate. The Greek salad. A piece of that lovely olive bread.

A glass of pinot noir. What could be better for dinner?

#hocofood

The Runaround

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It’s what I am currently doing to fill in those voids in my pantry and fridge.

Wegmans has a few things I like, and can’t get elsewhere. So does Roots. And, Harris Teeter.

But, they are no longer the primary source of the foods we eat.

The CSAs and the Friends and Farms basket now comprise the bulk of my food sources.

Plus, what is in the freezer, from my garden and from places like Larriland.

Roots is my source for cereal, bulk foods and specialty items like coconut oils.

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Thankfully, Clarksville isn’t that far away.

As for Wegmans, they are the only source for two standard items in our kitchen.

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Shelf stable non dairy creamer, unflavored, for me.

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A really good choice for K cup coffee, this San Francisco Bay one.

We are still getting the coupon books, even though Wegmans has decided I don’t come there often enough to send me the Menu magazine. I asked. They said, I don’t do enough business with them.

Interesting reply.

Harris Teeter. The grocery store we use for other shopping. Mainly on Thursdays, since they give seniors like us a 5% discount on Thursdays.

So, tomorrow, while getting my Friends and Farms pick up, I will hit Wegmans to use the coupon for coffee, which we need.

I have to admit. It is not what I thought I would be doing, four years ago, when I retired. Interesting that the changes I made to focus on local buying, and small business emphasis, have shaped where I go and what I purchase.

#hocofood

Old Favorite, New Ingredient

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Frittata. With smoked scallops.

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Heading out to Roots today for cereal and coconut oil. Seeing smoked scallops.

I knew I wanted to elevate our frittata recipe to another level.

We had Swiss chard from our weekly Friends and Farms basket. Oven roasted tomatoes. Scallions. Parmesan.

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Cooking all that goodness on the stove and finishing it in the oven.

This was five eggs mixed with milk and Herbs de Provence. Poured in the pan before adding back sautéed scallions, chard and oven roasted tomatoes.

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Finished in a 350 degree oven. In an oven proof skillet.

Really. What could be a better local meal?

#hocofood

Beef or Wine?

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Trying to decide what was the star of tonight’s “mostly local” dinner. The fall apart tri-tip, or the fifteen year old VA wine.

I think it was the wine.

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That’s not to say the beef was underwhelming, because it certainly was a highlight of the meal. Slow cooked in the oven. With sliced onions and green peppers.

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I was going to do tacos, but we were in the midst of spring clean up and I needed a meal to cook all by its lonesome in the oven while we worked with the landscapers to get things all ready for springtime.

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Nice to be all mulched, weeded and swept up. In case spring every arrives here in Maryland.

I cooked the beef in a covered dish on a low (190 degree) setting in the oven. With a splash of red wine. A glug of olive oil. Peppers, onions, garlic. The peppers and onions and beef in baskets from Friends and Farms.

Late this afternoon I emptied a can of black beans into a small amount of beef broth, with about 4 ounces of corn (IQF, from Friends and Farms). Made a black bean and corn side dish. Microwaved a couple of potatoes.

Piled it all on a plate and served it with the local wine.

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Yes, this wine is fifteen years old. Yes, this wine is from Virginia. You wouldn’t know it though, if you tasted it blind. The equivalent in taste and nose, to a fine Bordeaux. Cherries all over the nose and the taste. No sense of age. No mustiness. Absolutely beautiful. Glad I have a couple more of these down there somewhere.

Jeff left Linden to head out on his own, years ago. Many of us love his wines at Glen Manor. Can’t beat something this special.

Who needs to go out and eat “meh” food at chain restaurants. Give me good food and good wines from around here and bring on springtime!

#hocofood