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Monthly Archives: September 2014

Fall Festivals

It’s festival season. The changing of the seasons and the leaves brings out the best of this area. The best weather and views in Howard County.

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The leaves are already starting to turn color. The month of October is full of festivals, and mazes, and pumpkin picking, and more.

My favorite, of course. The fall festival at the Howard County Conservancy.

Hay rides. Pony rides. Crafts. Animals. Story telling. Basket weaving. And so much more.

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Definitely something to do this coming Sunday.

As for other festivals. There are certainly many of them out there. Highland Days. The corn maze at Sharp’s Farm. Pumpkin picking and more at Larriland.

I am certainly looking forward to many fun days out and about. Enjoying the weather and the colorful leaves.

So Good …

… I almost forgot to take pictures.

But, then I remembered.

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This is my green tomato pasta. Revved up a bit. The original, from here. I have strayed far from this recipe. Yet I love the concept.

This is what I did.

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Created my tomato base. A half dozen green “yellow plums”. A large handful of underripe cherry tomatoes. Those two just less than ripe zebras from the Friends and Farms basket. Put into a hot, olive oil slicked sauté pan. With some scallions. And a large helping of stuff from Harris Teeter’s olive bar. Artichokes. Hot peppers. Sun dried tomatoes. Garlic. Mushrooms. All heated up to make one very awesome sauce.

I added a couple of cubes of this.

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My mixed greens pesto. Made with radish greens. Arugula. Carrot tops. African blue basil. Parmesan. Almonds. I never measured to make it. Just put in what looked good. Sometimes I think we need to cook by the seat of our pants. And not get hung up on measurements.

The pasta.

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Of course, it was Pappardelle’s, bought at Secolari in the mall. Cracked pepper this time. With a good bite. And just barely done. For that slightly chewy texture.

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Served with a lovely 2012 Chardonnay from Linden. Just the right touch to cut through the richness of the dish. A local wine. A locally sold pasta. My tomatoes. My homemade pesto.

Easy to make.

Doesn’t get better, and not that hard to do. Even while watching the football games.

Stuffed Peppers

One of the first things I did with the large lovely peppers in this week’s Friends and Farms basket. I decided to wait a few days and show what I made, using what we get in our weekly selection.

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What it looked like going into the oven.

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My half, at lunch today.

I had made chicken with rice the other night. Had some rice with mushrooms left over. Had some leftover beef short ribs with greens, red pepper and onions, too. Mixed it all together and stuffed the largest pepper. Not your traditional sausage stuffing, but it still came out very tasty.

As for the rest of this week’s food, here is the compilation, and where it is going, or has gone.

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Starting with protein and dairy. The yogurt has been opened and used to make honey mustard dressing. The eggs, already in a five egg frittata yesterday. It was served with dinner last night, half of it. The other half is Monday’s lunch. Spare ribs will probably be tomorrow’s dinner. Sausage in the freezer until I need it for a pasta dish on Wednesday or Thursday.

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The rest of our individual share. Heirloom tomatoes from southern Maryland. A couple of honeycrisp apples from Bear Mountain Orchards. Spinach. Hydroponic spring mix from Baywater Greens. A red onion. Baby bok choy. And two green peppers. One the star of today’s lunch.

Tomatoes are almost gone. They were served with a black bean soup I made overnight in the crock pot. The bok choy will go into a chicken stir fry. I am thinking of making creamed spinach using yogurt one night. Spring mix and red onion definitely salad material.

Apples are already eaten. It won’t be long before all this good food is prepared and served. I need to run up to check on the slow roasting mixed peppers that will be vacuum sealed and saved for chili this winter. That other green pepper ended up on the baking sheet, with those sweet and hot peppers from the CSA.

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Real Value

This week’s CSA share.

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As I looked at the selection, I decided it was time to do another comparison of the value of this half share. It cost me $19 a week for the summer, and again this fall, the same, since we signed up early for both seasons.

Most weeks I know this half share would have cost me more in the organic aisles of the local grocery stores. Here, proof again that it is true.

I used Wegmans on line shopping tool, for our local store. They have some of the best prices in the area for organic. The smaller stores, like Roots and MOMs can be even more expensive.

We had nine items this week. I did swap the red kale for some potatoes. I used the cost of the kale in my comparison because that is what we were sent.

Most expensive to buy. Organic cauliflower and broccoli. $4.49 for cauliflower. $3.49 for broccoli. Spaghetti squash (theirs wasn’t organic) $1.49/lb. Mine weighs almost two pounds.

Organic red kale was $2.69 each. Red leaf lettuce $2.29 each. Butterhead lettuce, not organic, $1.99. Hot peppers, not organic, $3.99 a pound. I had almost a pound of them. The only radishes at Wegmans on line were regular. Not the French Breakfast radishes we got. They were $1.99 a bunch. Organic baby beets, $2.99 a bunch.

All told. A smidge less than $27 to buy.

As for our fruit share this week.

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Seven organic honey crisp apples. At Wegmans these go for $3.49 a pound. Mine weighed slightly over 3 pounds. The kiwiberries. Who knows what they cost. They are rarely seen around here. Conservatively $4, maybe $5, if you can find them. Value, somewhere between $14 and $15. My fruit share costs $10 a week. Really worth it for those fruit varieties that are extremely hard to find without possibilities of pesticides.

This week I didn’t photograph my chicken share. It was boneless skinless chicken breast, and a couple of whole chicken legs. So, I will leave us with the photograph of a recent dinner with the Lancaster Farm Fresh chicken.

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The chicken breasts are usually parboiled first. I then make them into whatever suits my taste over the next few days. Maybe Caesar salad. Maybe chicken salad sandwiches. This time, I used some white wine, olive oil, some mixed herbs and quickly heated them in a moderate oven. The wine keeps them moist.

I also made some mushroom gravy using the Whole Foods brand of condensed mushroom soup. I now know that I prefer the Pacific brand, as this was a little thinner. I added some of the cremini mushrooms too. Spooned over the chicken. Served with some brown Jasmine rice.

And, those great zucchini fritters I have made many times. That Smitten Kitchen recipe is now a staple in my recipe file.

Printing My Own Money

If you have the time, watch this video.

If you come away with a desire to start a garden, it is a WIN.

This year I put in a 500 square foot garden at the Howard County Conservancy. A community garden. The results are in. I must have harvested at least $500 worth of food. Already getting back my entrance fee and dwarfing my yearly $45 maintenance fee.

How did I do? Would you believe 139 POUNDS of tomatoes.

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The largest producer in terms of pounds were those yellow plum tomatoes. These three plants, the puniest I put in the ground, gave me 271 tomatoes, totaling 27 pounds. There’s quite a bit of oven roasted tomatoes in my freezer from this harvest. I did get 54 pounds of my heirlooms. The pineapple, hillbilly and German Johnson varieties.

What is astounding is the amount of tomatoes harvested from six plants. Over a 1000 supersweet 100’s and almost 900 sun gold, both varieties of cherry tomatoes. There were 31 pounds total from those plants.

As for zucchini, my four plants yielded 28 pounds of zucchini. Lots of fritters, bread, grilled or sautéed zucchinis on the table this year.

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Cucumbers. Thirty four of them from six plants. Not the best year for them, but not bad.

My winners, though. The onion, leek, shallot plantings. I will definitely do them again next year.

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Greens did well too. Lots of kale and chard. The chard is still producing.

I also planted arugula and Bibb lettuce for the fall. The garden is alive and well.

So much satisfaction in growing your own food.

Now, I do need to whack out all the basil and put the pesto away for the winter. My last task before planting next year’s garlic, and putting in a bit of ground cover.

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Advance Planning

One of the side benefits of getting the Friends and Farms basket is the advance notice which lets me meal plan. About one week in advance the notice is updated on the What’s in the Basket page.

With this information, I begin planning what to do for lunches and dinners. Like this past week.

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I knew we were getting Coho salmon. I planned tonight’s dinner to use it. I will be doing crock pot short ribs Tuesday night, since I will be out most of the day. Crock pot meals work well around here. Eggs, already there was a frittata last night. Why?

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Because of this lovely rainbow chard I am still getting from my garden.

The other protein item pictured above came from the available items listed at our pick up site. The office in Columbia. I wanted to try the hot dogs for an upcoming picnic. They are from the main meat supplier to Friends and Farms. Wayne Nell and Sons. They sell Sechrist Brothers all beef hot dogs.

As for the rest of my basket, here is most of it.

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Everything is there but the arugula, Which was off to the side and I forgot about it. Found it later. Thankfully hydroponic arugula can be revived easily. Just add water.

The broccoli is destined to be steamed for dinner tonight. The mushrooms, with CSA bok choy and chicken will be stir fried. The potatoes already became potato salad to use with the hot dogs. The eggplant, with the red bell peppers I got from the CSA will become my ajvar, to use for those quick dinners where I spread it on flatbread and grill it.

The tomatoes, sliced to be the salad with dinner tonight. And, the zucchini will become fritters tomorrow night. To serve with the chicken I made the other day.

I bake all the chicken breasts I get and plan meals around them. Maybe a chicken Caesar salad. Or the upcoming stir fry. I get three or four dinners a week from my basket.

I also get dinner to the table quickly by doing that bulk cooking in advance. Like Thursday when we got home late. A quick bake of a frozen flatbread. A slather of ajvar and a sprinkling of goat cheese. A green salad on the side. Voila. Dinner.

Red Veggie Week

When I opened my newsletter from Lancaster Farm Fresh, four of the eight items had the word “RED” in them.

I am a firm believer in eating by color. I even have the book from Williams Sonoma that tells us how great those rainbow of color veggies and fruit are for us.

According to the book, here is what red veggies bring to us.

“Red fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants for protection and healing. Promote heart health. Promote urinary tract health. Help reduce the risk of certain cancers. Improve memory function.”

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Here is what we got this week. That black futsu squash (which happens to be orange at the moment). That Italian style chicory. Bok Choy. Onions. And the four “red” items.

Red radishes. Red bell peppers. Red romaine. Red potatoes.

I include the potatoes because I will parboil them and use them in potato salad, including their skin. With organic veggies, I don’t mind using the skin.

Besides the vegetables this week, my fruit share included these items.

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Honey crisp apples. Asian pears, KIWIBERRIES! Again. We really like these berries. A great snack.

This was a cheese week too.

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Three cheeses. Once a month. Every month is different. We have had no repeats in five deliveries. A smoked gouda. A sheep’s milk ash cheese. And, a lavender goat cheese.

We also got 2.5 pounds of chicken wings and a couple of skinless chicken breasts in our chicken share.

This basket, with our Friends and Farms basket, means no trips to the grocery store again. Unless we run out of toilet paper.

“Chopped” In My Kitchen

Sometimes it does feel like I’m on that Food Network show. Like yesterday. Our weekly preview email from Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative.

Tells us we are getting Galantina chicory, and black futsu squash. REALLY???? I thought we were beyond being surprised.

Like in the past, with things like Thelma Sanders squash and White Hamon sweet potatoes.

The squash intrigues me, as I may try growing it in the garden next year. Drying seeds and planting them. Like this.

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That was from my Thelma Sanders squash.

Seriously, I can’t imagine not having the fun associated with opening an email that introduces me to new and exciting vegetables, that inspire me to cook outside my comfort zone.

I am crossing my fingers that this fall we get more salsify.

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Life’s too short to eat boring food.

Tidbit Tuesday Again

Lots of random small talk today.

How about housekeeping? As in cleaning out the garden, getting ready for fall, and cleaning up my web pages.

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The Malabar spinach is going to seed. The big question is whether I will save seeds and replant in the spring. I didn’t use much of it. It did act as a very strong pollinator attracter though. Well, so did the basil.

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I imagine that the Conservancy bees got lots of pollen from the basil in the garden. Some days it was covered in honey bees.

Sometime this weekend I will be harvesting all the basil and there will be a pesto making marathon in my kitchen. I hit Whole Foods Sunday morning to get almonds and Parmigiano Reggiano for my pesto. Go early before the breakfast crowd shows up.

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It is almost time to plant the garlic. I have about two dozen cloves ready to go into my back yard garden. Once the trees start dropping leaves, they will get enough sun all winter and spring to grow and be harvested in early summer.

We are completely reconfiguring the Conservancy community garden plot. There will be four large squares instead of four rows. One for herbs. One for tomatoes. One for peppers, leeks, shallots and onions. And, one for everything else. I did plant some arugula and lettuce for fall. We learned quite a bit this year.

Keep the onions away from the corner where the hoses are. The excess water rotted a few of my onions.

Put paths around the outside. It keeps down on weed infiltration.

More on gardening in the near future. Let’s now turn to the other trivial things I have done. I updated a few items on my pages. Adding a couple of blogs I read. Making sure the farm page is up to date. Checking that I didn’t forget anything on my food preservation page. I still need to update my local resources, and to add my new page, still in draft, on HOCOBIZ. This will be my page that highlights small businesses in the area where I find really good service. These businesses are mostly family owned, but aren’t my food sources. Places like Kendalls, Clarks Hardware, British American. Oh, and restaurants. I will be putting a restaurant category on that page.

Yep, it’s time to do that fall cleaning. Like leaf raking. And weed removal. And, putting those wintery things in the cars. Where are those stupid ice scrapers anyway? Just hoping not to find too many days like this.

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Home Cooking!

That’s what I am doing today. Getting most of the CSA and F&F items cooked or prepped to make my week easier.

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Like making crock pot cauliflower leek soup.

I know we can be pressed for time, and trying to put dinner on the table is sometimes close to impossible. That’s why lately I have been cooking on one day and just reheating for a number of dinners after long busy days.

I had three leeks hanging around in the refrigerator. Got a cauliflower in the CSA basket. Scallions from Friends and Farms. I always have almond milk in the pantry. A little chicken stock from the freezer. Salt, pepper, garam masala. Made enough soup for at least two meals. Or one dinner, two lunches.

After taking it out of the crock pot, I did mash it up a bit with a potato masher, to make it creamier.

I also dry roasted the beets, for salads all week. I took four chicken breasts and put them in the oven next to the beets and baked them. I now have chicken for salad. For dinner tomorrow. And, for a stir fry.

Dinner tonight. Another one of those frittatas I rely on. The half not eaten will be lunch early this week.

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This one used a few of my tomatoes. The rainbow chard from the CSA. The top half of those scallions mentioned above. The last of the Scamorza from last week. Six eggs. Seasoned with a little Italian seasoning.

I have a real head start on eating well on the three days this week that we will be running around. And I made a major dent in the meat and vegetables delivered last week.

Still need to find a nice evening to make the edamame for an appetizer. And, to make hot pepper jelly with all those peppers we got.