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Monthly Archives: May 2014

A Tale of Two Providers

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Both of them awesome. The source now of most of what we eat. Well, with the exception of my garden, which will provide all kinds of goodness in the next four months.

Today, our Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative CSA started up. For a 25 week summer season and a seven week fall extension. We dropped down to a half share because we still do Friends and Farms, and yes, we have a garden.

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The reason why we love this CSA. The diversity. Have you ever heard of Egyptian walking onions? Well, until today, neither had we.

Our half share included:
Green Kale
One pound of spring mix
Arugula (which was in the full share, but I swapped for it)
French breakfast radishes
Red scallions

The full shares got the purple asparagus. They had ten items in their share. They got microgreens in theirs.

I also signed up for the chicken share. Three pounds a week of free range, antibiotic and hormone free chicken. This week:

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Two chicken breasts and two legs.

Add to that bounty, the individual share from Friends and Farms. Between the two, we won’t be drowning in items and the portions are perfect for a couple.

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The complete deliverable.

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The sandwich steaks and provolone. Just what we need to make cheese steak sandwiches. The shrimp. Ten ounces in our individual basket. The small basket got twice that amount. Ten shrimp. Ten ounces. These are prime shrimp. There will be shrimp and grits, I think, to use up the last of the grits.

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The add on I picked up this week. Plain yogurt. I have plans for the yogurt. The special. Leftover ewe cream cheese for a sale price. I could spread this cheese on cardboard and love it. It is particularly good on specialty breads. I am also thinking of crackers with cheese and the last of my homemade pineapple habanero jelly.

The rest of the items in that picture above. Spinach, green onions, beets, hydroponic tomatoes, butter lettuce, bread and a couple of apples.

I really don’t need to touch a market or grocery store with this kind of variety coming to our home weekly.

Tonight’s dinner celebrated those sources. I was home alone as my better half is out for the evening.

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I covered a plate in spring mix. Sliced one of those hydroponic tomatoes, and added some basil from my garden. Shredded the end of the chicken from the last roaster (December delivery LFFC). Shaved a bit of Roots parmesan. And a scallion in the salad. I drizzled Newman’s Caesar dressing over it all. I was too lazy to make dressing with the yogurt today, but it will be made this weekend.

A glass of white wine, and what could be simpler for a meal?

Thanks to the regional deliverables of great ingredients, I had one of my fresh tasty meals.


Event Overload Again

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The third weekend in May. Absolutely one of the most overbooked event weekends around here.

Wine in the Woods. Both days, Saturday and Sunday.

The Preakness. Saturday is the race in Baltimore, and the Balloon Festival at Turf Valley the 15th-17th if the weather permits it.

The Columbia Triathlon is Sunday morning. Our love/hate relationship with this event depends on whether we need to get anywhere by car that morning. We live right off the bike race route.

The EC Tasting Gallery Pop Up at Bistro Blanc is Sunday night.

There is a Family Open House at Belmont Saturday morning 10-12, with guided hikes and other goodies. The Howard County Conservancy is providing environmental educational programs at the Belmont site.

We are volunteering for Big Cork at Wine in the Woods.

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Been fans of their wines since they opened the winery. Love the chardonnay, and really am looking forward to the release of their first red wines this fall. And, their new building out in Rohrersville.

As for that pop up dinner, we will be there. I can’t wait to see what the EC chefs and Chef Johnny at Bistro Blanc create in a culinary culture tour.

If I can drag myself out of bed Saturday morning to see the mass ascension at Oh-Dark=Thirty up at Turf Valley, I will be doing that too.

Belmont does interfere with Wine in the Woods. Darn. Van Wensil is leading two guided hikes which should be wonderful to do.

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Sunday morning finds us cheering on the leaders in the triathlon as they pass the Royal Farms at the circle where Dayton and Glenelg meet. We like heading up there for coffee and bagels and to watch the world class athletes as they head out, and then back, from their loop out to Triadelphia.

And, can’t forget to sit out and watch the Preakness while sipping a Black Eyed Susan. Last year they changed the recipe for the cocktail. Sounds really interesting, if you have St. Germain around the house.

What are you doing this weekend? Are you guilty of event overload, too? I’ll need a week to recover from all this entertainment.

Oh, and the azaleas at Brighton Dam are still blooming. If the rain the next two days doesn’t mess them up.


Simply Spring: Onions

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A staple in my house. Year round. Those different colors, textures, and tastes. Spring onions.

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These onions are being harvested from my garden. To thin the white onions I planted a while back.

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I planted a set of 80 white onions. I know I don’t want 80 onions in August, so thinning them out in the early weeks, harvesting those spring onions, will leave me with a manageable amount of onions to cure.

I use a very large amount of spring onions in my cooking. In my salads. My soups. Stir fries. Frittatas. I buy them when I don’t get them in CSA baskets.

This week, besides what I harvest, I am getting them from Friends and Farms, and in my first Lancaster Farm Fresh basket. This is one item that I know will get used quickly.

I just never thought until I started gardening, about all the items we get from the process of growing vegetables.

Like the onions, spring is the season for microgreens. Thinning out those greens.

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Like my kale and chard. And the arugula out on my deck. Those little gems pack lots of flavor. They don’t go to waste.

Garlic scapes. Spring garlic. Pea shoots. I am now a firm believer in putting everything edible to a good use.

So, here’s to spring onions. I think I will let them shine this weekend. Grill them. Make them a star of a dish. Instead of a supporting player.


Market Strategies

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Shopping strategies. Using local markets, CSAs and farmstands instead of grocery stores. For the period of May through November, much of what we buy comes from locally, regionally acquired sources. Small businesses mostly.

I haven’t set foot in a Safeway in years. Giant, maybe two or three times since January. Harris Teeter and Wegmans get visited often during the slow seasons, but not much in the summer.

I was over at Jenny’s market this Friday. Right off Route 32, a family produce stand. Yes, they buy things at the produce wholesale markets, as does Boarmans. That doesn’t bother me, as they are acquiring very fresh items, many of them local.

I picked up bananas and oranges at Jenny’s. Not grown locally, obviously, but major purchases for us, as we use citrus in many preparations, and bananas are important for our health. She also has avocados, lemons and limes. I don’t need to run off to a grocery store for those normal ingredients that show up in many of my salads. I can support a local family and get them there.

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The bulk of my food this summer. Three sources. Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, for a half share of veggies, for chicken and a monthly delivery of cheese. Delivered to a house in Columbia. That same day I will head over to Friends and Farms for an individual basket. Add to that my garden. Only a few staples and some spice and oil need to be picked up at any stores.

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In May 2011, I discovered Community Supported Agriculture. I did OK with it, but we did give away stuff we didn’t use. These days, since I have changed my diet drastically to use veggies and fruit as the dominant contributor to all meals, I almost never leave things go to waste.

Somewhere in the last four years, I made a massive adjustment in what I bought and how I cooked. Now, my cholesterol is way down. My HDL is the highest it has ever been. All other numbers at my physical are good, or better than good. Getting all that sugar and sodium out of our diets has made quite a difference.

Yes, it takes time to cook from scratch. To garden. To process foods for freezing and canning. But, I control what goes in them. I limit the salt. Don’t add sugar or high fructose corn syrup. I feel so much better.

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I like this market strategy.

This week the CSA begins again. And, I can’t wait to see what we get. And have fun with how I use it.


Scones, Scallions and Spice

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Busy week. Making scones for the first time. Harvesting spring onions in the garden, aka scallions. And, cooking with Indian spices tonight.

Let’s start with the scones. Made for the Mother’s Day event that was canceled. At least I only made the test batch before we got word that predicted heavy rains for today would make it potentially abysmal in the gardens. Turns out the rain was about an hour later than predicted, but we all know about those weather people. Not to be trusted, or believed. (Just kidding, it is hard around here to figure out the weather patterns).

As for those scones.

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Blueberries and peaches mixed with peach yogurt. Good peach yogurt from Pequea Valley.

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One cup yogurt and one cup fruit. I used defrosted blueberries and peaches, from my Larriland picking last summer. These were added to the other ingredients at the end. I started out with 3 cups AP flour, 1/2 cup cane sugar, 2 tbsp. baking powder and 1 teaspoon baking soda. One stick of very cold unsalted butter added to these and mixed until the texture of a cornmeal. Dump in fruit and yogurt. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Next, let’s talk about the garden, and the newly harvested scallions.

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I was thinning the white onions today. Took out three scallions that will grace the dinner table tomorrow. My first items this year.

Finally, the spice. The Indian inspired dinner.

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Spiced chicken with yogurt sauce. I started out with a recipe but didn’t really follow it at all.

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Except sort of, for the yogurt sauce. Easy to make. Big on taste. 6 ounces plain full fat yogurt. One lemon, juiced and zested. One tbsp. cilantro, chopped. Couple of shakes of ground ginger. 1/2 tsp. garlic powder. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix together. Put on everything! This stuff is incredibly tasty.

I had leftover chicken breast, cut into cubes, or strips, or some of each. About 8-10 ounces of chicken. Made a dry rub. Tsp. of cumin. Tsp. of coriander. 1/2 tsp. of paprika. 1/8 tsp. of cinnamon. 1/4 tsp. ground cayenne. Two garlic cloves, minced. Lemon juice and zest. Salt and pepper. Mix with chicken, then cover in olive oil and bake for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees (if it was already cooked chicken). With raw chicken, this would need 20 or so minutes at 400 degrees.

Serve with whatever bread you have to sop it up. I used the olive bread from The Breadery.

Serve it also with a wine that can stand up to the heat of the cayenne. I used a Traminette from Big Cork.

Let’s see what sort of goodies I can make tomorrow with those chicken thighs in last week’s basket.


Themed Baskets

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The latest thing in our weekly baskets. Foods that will work together to make a meal. Not just random, ripe, in season veggies, but well thought out combinations for exotic dinner ideas.

Sort of like Food Network and Chopped.

This week: we could do Indian or Middle Eastern foods easily.

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These are the contents of our small basket from Friends and Farms.

The ideas? Butter chicken. Spiced kabobs. Chorizo, eggs and asparagus. Ribs with peach yogurt barbeque sauce. Or with peppers and onions. Lots of recipes on the web site to tempt us, too.

The proteins, to start. Eggs, chorizo, chicken thighs and country pork ribs. Dairy, this week, peach yogurt and the small container of plain yogurt. To make those Indian inspired sauces and marinades.

We were supposed to get tomatoes, but a last minute change due to availability gets us tomato puree, perfect to use in marinades and sauces.

Onions. Peppers.

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As in seriously sized peppers.

White potatoes. Cameo apples. Broccoli. Cilantro (again, great in so many recipes).

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And the bread. Kalamata olive and rosemary. One of my favorites from The Breadery.

I am having a difficult time deciding what to make first. I think there will be spiced kabobs soon, though.

One of the broccoli crowns was steamed to use with dinner tonight. And, the peach yogurt will go two places. Scones for the Mother’s Day tea (on Saturday) at the Conservancy. The rest. In peach pops. Warm weather makes me crave peach pops.

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Yogurt pops are simple. Any flavor yogurt. Appropriate fruit. Blended together with a splash of simple syrup. Tomorrow, I am using defrosted Larriland peaches, and the peach yogurt we got today. I bought my cute little pop sticks at Casual Gourmet in Glenwood.

Hey, the temps are in the 80s around here. Time to think about summer food.


Weather Or Not

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As in extreme weather. The conference.

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It may have started out sunny, but we did have a serious little storm with some lightning and thunder, so we brought the conference in from the rain.

I volunteer for field trips. This one, for ninth graders from four local schools, was the second year the Conservancy hosted all sorts of stations and presentations about extreme weather.

Want to know about power lines, and why you should be really careful around them? Let BG&E demonstrate what happens when live wires come in contact with ladders, poles, and gloves.

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Oh, and they roasted a hot dog for the students. I missed that picture. At that point, we were checking the clouds rolling in and using the resources around us, including the Office of Emergency Management’s Command Unit.

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I am always impressed by the thoroughness and the complexity of events hosted by the Conservancy. From Ava Marie’s opening remarks to the presentations all over the grounds, and the learning activities, and the displays, this was another chance to engage the community and have a fun day as well.

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It was a pretty full house, and most of the students seemed to be intrigued and interested in what they were learning.

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If only Mother Nature had cooperated and didn’t make us cancel the last session, as thunder roared and cloud to ground lightning was seen in the western sky. Oh, and getting back to the buses while it poured rain. Just what we are used to seeing around here. Wait a few minutes and the weather will change.

I love my volunteer “job”. We are never too old to stop learning, and sharing knowledge is even more rewarding. Congrats to Ann Strozyk and all the volunteers today, for putting on this conference for over 100 students.


Horn of Plenty

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Seems like when it rains, it really pours. We have gardens in the works. Foraged asparagus coming up. CSA has given us notice that we are a “GO” for this summer and fall.

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The first spear of foraged asparagus. Showed up in my stir fry last night. About six more are showing out under the crepe myrtle.

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Tomatoes planted today. Earlier than ever before, but the temperatures are saying that we need to do this. I planted 26 plants at the Conservancy and I am putting in four here at home (praying for enough sun). At least I could run out and pick a few supersweet 100s and Early Girls, if the site gets enough sun.

My new tomato this year. German Johnson. Along with my favorites. Hillbilly. Pineapple. Work horses. Sun gold. Yellow plum.

Yesterday we did maintenance at the gardens. Like string trimming and trash removal.

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It is looking good up there.

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Onions anyone? The white onions are going crazy. Time to dig up a few spring onions, and enjoy them.

I am one very tired but very happy camper these days. Fresh veggies make me that way.


Mother’s Day Stuff

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Like tea and scones at the Conservancy. Or azaleas at Brighton Dam. Or brunch somewhere.

What are you doing for Mom’s Day?

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What could be more enjoyable than a leisurely stroll through all the gardens at the Conservancy while drinking tea and eating scones (some of them are mine!)? Garden clubs and volunteers are there to show you the beautiful flowers popping out in the gardens. Tea is being served in the historic farmhouse. This is all on Saturday the 10th.

On Sunday, you could head out to Brighton Dam to see if the azaleas finally look like this.

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We were there today. The azaleas are coming along, but this winter did freeze a fair number of buds so they aren’t as magnificent as other years.

Whatever you do, the promise of spring time temperatures and flowers galore should take you outside to enjoy this lovely weather.


What’s In Your Basket?

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CSA season is upon us. Baskets and pick ups will begin soon. For us, we still get our Friends and Farms weekly small basket. Which will soon change to an individual basket, if we hear that Lancaster Farm Fresh got enough people to keep our CSA alive.

One week to go for that decision. In the meantime, Friends and Farms continues to deliver their quality product. This week, much more on the fresh front.

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The wide angle view of the entire May 1 delivery.

What was in there?

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Arctic char. Which almost immediately was being marinated in wine, oil and spices. Next to the char was the package of sirloin steaks. They were the proteins this week.

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Well, except for the ewe crème cheese and the eggs. And the usual bread, this week honey whole wheat, rounded out the non vegetable and fruit items.

Moving on to the veggies.

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Red leaf lettuce. Greenhouse tomatoes. Sweet potatoes. A boatload of kale. Onions. Apples.

Oh, almost forgot about one of my favorites. The raw Virginia peanuts. There is nothing like roasting spiced peanuts, or maybe getting bold enough to make peanut butter. The peanuts have a sheet with the recipes.

How easy is that?

This week is serious small plate heaven. The cheese. Perfect for crackers. With some of my famous (?) habanero jelly on it. Peanuts. Sit out on the patio and have a snack with a beer. Kale. I like this kale for kale chips.