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Monthly Archives: January 2016

60/40

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So I have a question. What percentage of your dinners are take out, restaurant or delivery? Are you like we were, back in the days when our commute dominated our lives in Howard County? Did you eat out more than half the time, every week? How about changing your percentages, to four days home. A 60/40 mix.

Believe it or not, you can change to eating fresher, more “expensive” food at home. It just takes a little effort to change dining out from majority to minority. Something so simple as one more night in, instead of outsourced.

I really love the protein and dairy bag from Friends and Farms. You can easily do four nights in, and still have three nights “out” with this affordable protein option. My $43 a week basket feeds the two of us, and provides us with the protein on our plates for at least four meals, sometimes five or six.

Take this week.

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There are chicken legs, chorizo, breakfast links and rainbow trout in our basket. Along with the weekly eggs and, in our case we have turnips since we don’t do the milk thing.

I can make two meals from the chorizo. Two from the chicken. We use the breakfast links in weird ways, like in tomato sauce or in soups. Not a big fan of pork for breakfast but these tasty links can be cut up and used in so many savory dishes. Eggs. For Meatless Mondays, they make great omelets or frittatas.

But getting back to the original thought. You can make a very simple meal from the trout. One that would cost major bucks at a restaurant. Less than 30 minutes. How?

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Plop those trout in a baking dish. Cover them in lemon infused olive oil, white wine and lemon pepper seasoning. Bake them at about 300 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

I made two simple side dishes. Boiled baby potatoes. Microwave steamed Brussels sprouts.

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Looks great, doesn’t it? I put the potatoes on while prepping the trout. I steamed the sprouts two minutes before the fish was done. Open a bottle of white wine and you have an excellent meal. With a little effort, and a little help from Friends and Farms.

Home Delivery

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As we muddle along in one of the first single digit wind chill days this winter, I am reminded at just how much I liked the home delivery options for food that are available here. We had our initiation into home delivery with Zahradka Farm. Back in 2011-2012 when I discovered them. At the time, they were somewhat unique in our area. For many reasons.

Like pick a size. Six, ten or fourteen item produce and fruit. Meat option. Egg option. Some pantry items you could order. I’ll never forget that first delivery a week before Christmas. With half a fresh turkey as the meat item.

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Plus, the romanescu cauliflower, which became a special treat in our Christmas dinner.

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Covered in grated cheese and pepper and spices. That was the beginning of what became a highlight in the dead of winter. Really fresh and varied vegetables through those dark days.

My last post was written about a new option around here. The Hungry Harvest, fruit and/or vegetable deliveries. They are what I believe to be the fourth option that allows you to stay home nice and warm, and receive fresh food delivered right to your door in Howard County.

Pair Hungry Harvest with FarmtoFork, a recently launched venture by Carroll Farm to Table and other local farms. You could order your vegetables and fruit from Hungry Harvest and your meat, eggs and dairy from FarmtoFork. We are lucky. Carroll is not that far from our house, and we have gotten their whole chickens to roast. They have a farm stand open all year. Times of operation are on their web site.

Last but certainly not least, the long standing home delivery service from South Mountain Creamery. They started with dairy products, and slowly expanded to include everything from meat to hummus to vegetable and fruit bags. We used to buy their products at the Glenwood farmer’s market. They stopped attending many of the local markets when they instituted year round deliveries to this area. You can choose weekly, biweekly or monthly recurring deliveries, or just order what you want when you want. Check out where they deliver.

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I still head up to the Creamery to pick up items for parties, like the cheese choices. Besides, nothing tastes better than their fresh milk, unless maybe it’s their ice cream.

Now that I think about it, a recurring delivery from these local companies would be a perfect gift to give elderly family members. You could easily put together something that covers the coldest dreariest months. Not a bad thought to keep in mind for next year.

For us, if our favorite Amish CSA ever stops supplying us locally year round, we would be very interested in using any one of the four.

Ugly Food

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I’m going to step up to the plate, so to speak, and talk about the latest venture in our area. One that rescues “ugly food” and delivers it to those who want to support the reduction in food waste. A very noble cause. One near and dear to those of us who grow and eat ugly food on a regular basis.

my garden haul one day in 2014

my garden haul one day in 2014

Any gardener will tell you. It doesn’t matter what it looks like. It still is good food.

Hungry Harvest, based out of the incubator for entrepreneurial efforts here in Howard County has gotten major press due to their appearance on national TV. Shark Tank. Where they received a substantial investment to assist them in growing their company.

I first heard about them from The Unmanly Chef, a fellow local blogger. I saw his pictures and thought, not bad. Doesn’t look all that ugly to me. The cost is a little high, but they deliver, and they donate to local food banks and food desert areas with every purchase you make.

I commend them for their commitment to providing good food to local charities and food banks. They aren’t the first around here to do that, but I love their level of commitment. We all need to stop judging food by appearance. Ugly food tastes just as good and sometimes better than that blemish free perfect produce sold in stores.

Hungry Harvest delivers produce bags. Organic produce bags. Fruit bags. To your door. Their prices for their regular bags seems reasonable. If you prefer organic, you can do better in price from our local CSAs. As for fruit, since I haven’t seen a sample, and I know what I pay for a fruit share from my CSA, I think they are a bit high here, as well. For example.

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This share costs me $8.50. For the $25 or $35 a share from Hungry Harvest, I don’t think I would be getting 3-4 times the amount of fruit.

I know that delivery drives that price up a bit. I am OK with that. I hope as they mature, that they will use more local farms and less volume produce companies from Jessup. I hope they can work with local farms and orchards to get that less than picture perfect stuff that doesn’t get picked. Like at Larriland.

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Lovely to eat. Not all that photogenic. Ugly tomatoes really are some of the best out there.

I also hope this helps us in our food bank gardening. In the past, we have been asked not to provide split or blemished vegetables. We have given tomatoes to the chickens at the Conservancy, the ones that had split after the rains. Our food bank turned them down. Maybe this partnership will eliminate the bias against blemished fruit and vegetables. I certainly hope so.

I wish Hungry Harvest the best of luck in growing their business. It’s a great concept, and easy for consumers to use. The weekly pricing, unlike the hefty upfront price tag of a CSA, is a great selling point. The more choices we have, the better the products.

Fishing Lessons

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We have the talon method.

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And we have the beak method.

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Which do you prefer? The parents out there seem to be teaching their juveniles how to fish.

This is in downtown Columbia MD. Wilde Lake. It seems the Triadelphia Eagles have relocated to become the Wilde Lake Eagles. I have heard there were as many as 20 out there. Today, we found 4 or 5.

The juveniles …

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… haven’t developed that white head and white tail.

As for mom or dad …

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… rather obvious, aren’t they?

I took my pictures today with my puny little D90 and a 200 mm lens. There were quite a few avid bird photographers out there.

If I win Powerball, maybe I will get one of those $2000 lenses, to do the up close shots. Still, all in all, it was just amazing to watch the eagles fish.

We hear that they are on Wilde Lake because of work being done out at Triadelphia, where they normally hang out. Eagles aren’t thrilled by all the photographers, walkers and bikers that ring the lake. While they are trying to get a meal.

If you get a chance, pop down. Morning or afternoon. They do like sunny days, though. When they can see the fish more easily.

Wildflowers in Winter?

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It may be cold outside but inside this Saturday you can be transported. To visions of the flowers that bloom naturally, here where we live.

Are you like me, who just waits for that first carpet of blooms, telling us spring is coming?

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Besides buttercups, and dandelions, what do you know about those perennial flowers (and weeds) that mark the changing seasons here in Maryland?

Do you know what these are?

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Would you like to hear more about the flowers you see in your travels, on your hikes, or your commute?

Come to the Howard County Conservancy Mt. Pleasant this Saturday morning at 10 am for one of their free events. A second Saturday “Wonder Walk”, except that in the cold dreary winter, the walks turn into talks.

Jo and Bob Solem, known to many who are active Howard County birders, are also avid recorders of the wildflowers that grace our area. They are presenting some of their finest pictures and talking about the lure of these flowers.

It may be cold and rainy outside Saturday morning but in the Nature Center, you can think about spring.

A Few Good Posts

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The New Year in blogging. My philosophy for 2016. I am going to go for quality, and not quantity. Fewer posts. More content. New material.

I realized that many of my posts are reruns of former years. Thanks (or no thanks) to Facebook memories. I want to remedy that. To find different things to blog about.

Interesting in my year end blog stats. How my older posts keep getting viewed. Like that baby chick thing from Tractor Supply.

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That post keeps getting hit. Over and over again. Even in the winter here, I get hits. From places in the Southwest, where I suppose they are looking for chicks in their temperate climate.

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My other big topic with staying power. That hexbeam of my husband’s. From all over the world. I think I should photograph more of the diagrams if the number of times that picture gets viewed is an indication of popularity of a topic.

Also, for whatever reason, people seem to be obsessed about life without heat. It was my second most viewed post. Mine wasn’t even that dire. It was a whiny post because our heat pump gave up the ghost and it was cold on our first floor for two days.

It is interesting to see what people read the most. Besides these few strange topics, my food posts get more views. I am not classified as a food blog, even though I do blog often about what I cook and what we eat.

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Those three top posts weren’t from 2015. WordPress tells me I should write about them again. Since they have “staying power”. Or maybe I should put more of my dining posts up here as they are also popular.

I don’t know. I like to write about what is happening now. Not what I did in the past. I do know that this year I need to expand my horizons and make this more of a regionally focused blog, instead of just Howard County. Spread the wealth, so to speak.

 

 

 

 

 

Keepers

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Happy New Year! I admit it’s good to see 2015 in the rear view mirror, and I look forward to 2016.

This year my theme for  my New Year’s Day post is a positive one. To focus on all the good things from my trip through 2015. Those “keepers”.

Let’s start with my garden and my food preservation. I have a short list of keepers here. I came to the conclusion that I needed to focus. Grow just what I use, and not be swayed into new foods that end up living forever in the freezer.

Keepers are preservable foods like zucchini fritters, caramelized onions, oven roasted tomatoes and simple syrups made from fruit. I find myself heading to the freezer to use up these goodies. Over and over until they are gone. For my future garden there will be tomatoes, onions, and zucchini to keep my supplies at a level that will sustain me through the following winter.

At Larriland next summer, the strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and cherries will be used to make the syrups. I am even thinking of pureeing and freezing peach ice cubes, instead of slices or halves.

They are the perfect size to drop into a container of plain yogurt, or to make an awesome sangria on these “warm” winter days. Or the best ice cubes out there.

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Ice cube trays have become my best preservation tool. I find that I use things that were preserved in small batches. No more large jars, except for tomato sauce. Everything else worked better for us if it was in individually portioned sizes. Including pesto, and compound butters.

Moving on. What worked and didn’t work for us when it came to healthy eating. I settled on a combination of Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA, Friends and Farms and Larriland to supply us with the bulk of our perishable foods.

For 47 weeks, I get a Community Supported Agriculture basket, which I have expanded to include bread, meat, fruit and cheese.

From Friends and Farms, I settled on a protein and dairy bag. Meat and seafood, eggs and occasional cheese. This works for us. It has changed my cooking and how we eat.

As long as these three sources are available to us, they will continue to be our source of food. We no longer shop in the frozen food aisle of any store.

If I can, I will put away my own “frozen” dinners. At least I know what is in them. I make large amounts of lasagna, meat loaves, meatballs, soups, stews, whenever I get a good quantity of beef and pork, or ground chicken or turkey.

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Having a meat option in our bags and baskets has changed my cooking dramatically. I use smaller quantities of meat in my recipes. I use more exotic vegetable combinations and have new favorites, like parsnips.

The biggest change I saw in the past year. How much I got used to having a dozen eggs every week. I made egg salad. Potato salad with eggs. Frittatas. Souffles. Crustless quiche. A meal with eggs in it replaced meals with meat.

Cod and catfish. Thanks to Friends and Farms, these two have become regulars in my dinner choices. Both are good choices from a sustainability standpoint.

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Simple meals. My new mantra based on wanting to showcase great food that doesn’t require fussiness or hard to find ingredients. That catfish was baked, after sprinkling it with bread crumbs, paprika, salt and pepper, and thyme. Served with an easy to make salad, and boiled fingerlings.

Other than food, what else happened in 2015 that I consider a “keeper”. I have to say it was my switch from paper to iPad. NPR on line. NYTimes on line. iBooks for my new reading purchases. Bon Appetit on line.

I have pretty much transitioned to reading all about it on a tablet. Maybe more so, because I can make the print bigger and easier on the eyes.

Last but certainly not least are the friends my husband and I have made, and are including more and more into our lives. We certainly have embraced retirement and expanded our circle of friends. Like those lyrics from an old Girl Scout song. “Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver. The other is gold.”

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Here’s to a happy, healthy 2016!