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Monthly Archives: March 2016

Come Monday

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Peace and quiet. No alarm clock. For the first Monday in about six weeks we haven’t had to set an alarm and wake up ready to go with painters, carpenters, plumbers, electricians or other subcontractors.

I realized that six years ago today I set an alarm and got up to go to my last week of work before retiring. My last Monday wake up, for the commute and the stress. Most of the time now, we get up when the sun wakes us. Being on a schedule was almost alien.

I look back on these six years. People told me, you will get bored. You will want to go back to work, if only for the social aspect of it. Interestingly, we have found our social circles in fellow retirees who are active in our hobbies.

Gardening. Ham radio. Volunteering. Cooking and baking. Blogging. Day trips. Wine tastings. We haven’t lacked for things to do.

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What have we done? In 2010, I went through naturalist training and started leading field trips at the Conservancy. I signed up to take the Howard Legacy Leadership Institute for the Environment and became part of that community of “senior” volunteers.

I joined my first CSA in 2011, and became very interested in changing what we ate, and how we cooked it.

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In 2012, after surgery, I got back into my garden, and my kitchen, and slowly recovered from spinal fusion. It took a while but now I hardly remember the long road back.

We do so many things with the local amateur radio clubs. Dinners, contests, lunches, picnics, field day weekend.

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In 2013, I became even more active in giving programs at the Conservancy. I got into preserving foods, and totally changing what came into this house. Eliminating most heavily preserved and processed packaged foods.

We have tackled some major renovations here. Making the house a more energy efficient and “senior friendly” place to live.

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We put up a radio tower, no, two of them.

So, I have to say it hasn’t been boring. I have never even once considered working again. Don’t have time for it. On April 1st, I will raise a toast to commemorate that last day of working. And the beginning of my journey, which thankfully almost never needs alarm clocks.

Hoppy Easter

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As the Easter Egg hunts, and egg rolling events accumulate this weekend, we have yet to establish if there really was an egg laying hare, aka “Oschter Haws” as the Germans called it. You have to admit, for those of us scientifically inclined, it is mind boggling to contemplate bunnies laying eggs.

I did dye eggs this year. Kept some older ones around, to be used for display purposes, so I cheated and used the Paas dyes.

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Brown eggs are always interesting to dye. And, the slightly speckled eggs come out very nice. I should have done the natural thing and made dyes from our red cabbage, or from the turmeric in my spice cabinet, but with all the painting and sanding and hammering this week, I was surviving in a corner of my kitchen.

They are done, more or less. Just some carpentry and plumbing to finish. I even got my grandmother’s china back into her cabinet in the dining room. Just in time to make the bone in ham from the CSA last week.

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Traditions for the holidays? Do you have them? Are they ecofriendly and healthy, or are some of them bad for you but you do them anyway. One of ours is the ceremonial Peeps. Has to be just one small box. The other one, Rhebs Candy.

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Who hasn’t been in that long line to pick up candy, up off Wilkens Avenue by St. Agnes Hospital. When we were young, my Dad brought the candy home from their stall in Lexington Market, which closed down in 2008. You can get the candies ordered online now and have them sent to you, but going into the store, smelling the chocolate, and picking out your own assortment was a real treat.

Well, I need to stop reminiscing and get a few things done for Easter. While putting the rooms back in order, hanging pictures and curtains, and finishing up from the six weeks spent making half the house look great.

Even More Carrots

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Friends and Farms must have been spying on me. They knew I liked carrots and gave me more of them in these week’s Protein and Dairy bag. Why are there carrots in a protein bag? Because we don’t do milk, and I substituted produce.

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For us, this $43 a week food source provides us with almost all the meat, fish, and eggs that we use in our cooking. They have expanded this option, giving us 5-6 pounds of premium fish and meat every week.

I like having local sources. Not getting irradiated or artificially colored beef.

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It’s a good deal for the money. Today we got a T-bone steak.

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Country spare ribs.

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Split chicken breasts.

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Bacon.

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Eggs.

If you are “less meatarians” like we are, you can feed two people with this option. Easily. I try to make meat be a small portion of the plate.

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We do so many things differently these days. We make egg salads, chicken salads, process the bacon to be used on multiple meals.

Consider what we do. Protein, one quarter of the plate. Carb, one quarter. Vegetables, half the plate.

And look into Friends and Farms, if you live around here. They are flexible with lots of options to choose.

More Carrots

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Every time my CSA gives us another batch of carrots in the winter, I think of Hocoblogs and Jessie.

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Why? Because that is the name of the Burning Man camp where Jessie is the “mom”, who feeds and nurtures them. Like she nurtures the hundreds of bloggers from our county who are members of the Hocoblogs community.

I am reminded again of our community when it is announced that we are having another get together. The latest one crossing my inbox is the invite to the Horse Spirit Art Gallery in Ellicott City. We are lucky that we still have an old town Main Street around here. Where you can stroll and eat, wine and dine, find eclectic gifts, while supporting local businesses. A Friday night, 5-7, after which you can check out the local restaurants, pubs and wine bars.

Our last foray into old EC was also at a local gallery, StillLife. At that gathering, we met the owners of Horse Spirit, who were leasing space up at Westwood on Triadelphia (my neck of Howard County).

I am looking forward to attending the April 15th event. Hopefully, I will have gotten my taxes done. Now that I have a bright clean new foyer, I am looking to add a locally inspired piece to it.

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I wonder if there’s a still life of carrots?

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Making Progress

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Today’s the first day of spring.

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My daffodils are blooming. Even that weird snow storm yesterday didn’t take them out. They are a bright spot in my cluttered kitchen aka renovation central. The only room on the first floor not being painted, it has become the storage site for all the dining room, foyer, powder room, closet and hallway stuff. Like dozens of pictures, fixtures, switches, knobs, hinges, etc.

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My family room isn’t much better. Chairs, table leaves, buffet contents, new light fixtures and mirror. The chaos moved from control to out of control.

I still have room to cook, and room to start the garden seeds.

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They are happily getting sunshine in the kitchen. I started arugula, dill, bibb lettuce and rainbow chard. If I get time to continue the spring cleaning of my garden plot, the onions will be planted later this week.

This egg crate method works very well for seed starting.

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I use a fruit box from Costco, covered in a layer of plastic and newspapers. Prevents leaking while watering.

All of these will eventually go into my community garden plot, sometime in the middle of April. Under row cover for the greens. The dill. It will be interspersed into my asparagus patch up there. I am really excited to have a two foot by twenty foot line of asparagus in my new plot.

And, in just a few weeks, I am off to Sharp’s Farm to get my summer vegetable seedlings. Spring needs to get in gear around here, and help us gardeners get plants in the ground.

Planting anything interesting this spring?

One Fish, Two Fish

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This is a post about fish. Fresh fish. The fish of my childhood.

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I know I was supposed to cook sausage today to go with my colcannon, but I forgot we were getting whole bronzini from Friends and Farms. And when you get fresh whole fish, you grill them immediately.

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What is bronzini? Or branzino? Or bronzino? A European sea bass, a good alternative on the Monterey Aquarium Seafood Watch List.

This week, two whole bronzini were in our basket. Not for the squeamish. Whole fish is an adventure and a real pleasure, when grilled to perfection.

Falling off the bone. Tender, juicy, with crispy skin.

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Simply prepared. Inside. Salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary, lemon and parsley. Grilled at a roaring hot temperature. . Served with a Sauvignon blanc, and that colcannon. Plus, a simple grill of a zucchini and a couple of Campari tomatoes.

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They were basted with a Balsamic vinaigrette.

Our fresh seafood comes every other week from Reliant Seafood in Jessup. Just behind the retail/wholesale supplier at Wild Seafood, where many of us go for crabs, shrimp and other delectable fish. Friends and Farms uses Reliant to supply them daily with incredibly fresh seafood. No smell. No slime. Absolutely some of the best fish we have ever had, other than the rainbow trout I caught decades ago in the southwest. Nothing like really fresh fish.

Oh, and the colcannon was excellent, as well.

Going for the Greens …

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… inspired by our CSA basket, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.

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That lacinato kale made me think once again of colcannon. So I decided to go looking for a truly Irish interpretation of the dish, one that I have made countless times and blogged about, almost as often.

I never knew about the Halloween connection, or the prizes inside. Amazing what we can find here on the internet, isn’t it?

But, getting back to the CSA basket, the kale and parsnips both made me think of making my version. I have to use the techniques from the web reference, as it hasn’t been the way I’ve finished mine.

As for the rest of my weekly Lancaster Farm Fresh delivery, picked up at my friend’s home near Robinson Nature Center, there were other real favorites this week.

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Five of the seven vegetable items came from the LFFC “brand”, which is what they sell to restaurants, stores and buying groups, like Friends and Farms. Two of the items were attributed to individual farmers. We knew that in the winter we would be getting some of the vegetables bought through the cooperative, to supplement what is grown on the local farms year round. Let’s face it, with a CSA that tops out some years above 4000 members, you can’t always get the local farms to have enough every single week. Or, that the small farms can provide enough of one item, so some of our items have the LFFC tag on it, meaning it’s an aggregate of many of the farms’ provisions.

This week we got zucchini. Five absolutely lovely green zucchini. A joy to get them in the dead of winter, and we had been told that farms south of us were being used to supply some variety in our baskets. I have plans for those zucchini. My store in the freezer of zucchini fritters is gone. Done. Inhaled. I love the Smitten Kitchen recipe for zucchini fritters and make dozens of them in the summer, gently layered in parchment and placed in the freezer. We used our last ones a week ago.

I will be grating zucchini and making a nice replacement batch. I have to pick up some plain yogurt at Friends and Farms to make tzatziki in order to enjoy some this weekend.

As for those sweet potatoes on steroids. I have plans for them. They were in the swap box, and I just decided I was tired of beets and sunchoked out, so I put the bags of each of them into the box and brought home those two behemoths. I want to make hummus with one, and bread with the other. Never made sweet potato bread and since I am a prisoner in my house while work is being done (still not finished after four weeks), it’s a good time to try a new recipe.

As for the rest of my stuff yesterday, here are the bread and cheese.

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And, the meat delivery of the week.

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Yep, bison is back. Along with chicken thighs and bacon. Not what works for tomorrow, but welcome additions to my freezer.

As for tomorrow there will be sausage for dinner. With colcannon. Bread. Cheese. Guinness. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!