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Monthly Archives: April 2016

Shopping at Friends and Farms

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Somewhere along the line, we reduced our reliance on grocery stores and increased what we bought from our CSA and our regional food bag.

Like our combinations at Friends and Farms.

The Protein and Dairy bag.

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Today we got monkfish, ground chuck, eggs, cheese and turkey filets. Instead of milk, I pick extra produce. Today it was arugula.

Arugula was also in my sample produce bag, which I went on line to choose. My CSA doesn’t start until next week so I went on line to order a produce bag.

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One with a protein option. Shrimp.

You can customize all kinds of combinations with this company. And buy extras at the warehouse.

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Like yogurt and ice cream and apples and rice. Meat options too, which I saw on the blackboard. Whole chickens. Beef brisket. Specials every week as they try to keep the inventory in the freezer at a minimum.

Most of our food comes from here, and our CSA. No recalled foods from small local suppliers. No vegetables with possible listeria contamination. No meat products with wood, metal, plastic or whatever in them. I am a true believer in buying from small local companies, and knowing who processes your food.

Just to show how easy it is to come home and make an awesome dinner.

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I sautéed that monkfish. Added it to a skillet of rice and vegetables.

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Made a fish stew that will go into my regular rotation. It was that good.

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This was simple. Yesterday I made a couple of cups of rice in my rice cooker. The leftovers from dinner become an addition to tonight’s dinner. I sautéed onions, garlic, and asparagus in olive oil. Added a container of crushed tomatoes. A container or spicy kale and bean soup. A teaspoon of sugar. A half teaspoon of salt. A splash of wine. After sautéing the monkfish I finished it in this mix.

Served with this.

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A locally produced merlot.

Between the local markets, farms, CSAs and Friends and Farms, I don’t need to go to grocery stores. Unless I need toilet paper.

Yeah I forgot to photograph the final dish. It was served over arugula. Which was in my produce bag and my sample bag.

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A double dose of arugula.

The King’s Vegetable

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Asparagus. Heralding springtime. One of the many names in Germany for asparagus is Königsgemüse, or King’s Vegetable. It used to be quite expensive and only the wealthy could afford it. This web page has some of the history, as well as many very nice recipes.

My new garden plot is giving me a prolific harvest of asparagus. I may be overwhelmed if the weather continues to be favorable.

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Less than a week from my first spears cut, and we are getting a good amount almost every other day. Yesterday my husband counted at least two dozen more that should be ready tomorrow or Friday.

Asparagus is a perennial. It needs at least three years from initial planting to produce. These plants are at least five years old, from my understanding when I consulted with the previous garden plot “owner”.

Nothing like asparagus just a few hours out of the ground. Just a simple steaming and a pat or two of butter.

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Last night’s dinner. Rice with mushroom gravy. Asparagus, and a couple drumsticks from my Friends and Farms basket.

Tractor Supply Chicks and Brighton Azalea Garden Update

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The new most searched topics for this blog. How much are those chicks? Are the azaleas blooming?

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First, the azaleas. Yesterday I was told out at the gardens that they are at the 35-40% mark for blooms. Tomorrow should be a good day to go, or next week, as more varieties respond to this warmer weather.

Oh, and take money. $6 per person to tour the gardens. Under 16, and 65 and over, don’t pay. This is new. I don’t know how rigorously they will enforce it during the week, but on weekends, they will be collecting money. I understand it. The gardens needed lots of work. Older plants died, and they have replanted extensively the last few years. The gardens are still lovely. Worth taking the time to visit.

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As for those baby chicks, not many left at the Mt. Airy store today, and they are on sale for a buck a bird. Yep, $1 each. Minimum of six chicks, unless there are just a few left. A couple of the tubs had sold signs on all the chicks in them. I suppose that when they get a few weeks older, they are eating more and the profit margin is shrinking.

While we were there today, I did pick up shallots for my garden. And, a bag of snap peas to plant. Tomorrow I will head up to my garden to continue planting. Not quite ready for the tomatoes for two more weeks, and the zukes and cukes won’t go in until the end of May. Too much of a risk. They don’t like any cold nights.

Spring is definitely hitting us hard now. If only the pollen would go away.

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Sharp’s Farm is Open

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The greenhouses opened today.

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If you have never visited the farm at Waterford, you have missed a great opportunity to purchase seedlings and plugs of heirloom and hybrid herbs, vegetables and flowers.

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Most of my perennial herbs behind my kitchen came from them. I buy my heirloom tomatoes there. They are conveniently located. A simple drive using scenic back roads. Head north on the Homewood, Folly Quarter, Triadelphia intercounty connector. Take a right on Sharp Road (named for the original family farm) and bear left onto Dorsey Mill which becomes Roxbury, and ends at Rte. 97. Head south (left) for just a few miles to Jennings Chapel. The alternative is the interstate but I find it more interesting to take that scenic route near the old location of the farm.

The farm itself is lovely.

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You may even spot the eagles nesting out by the lake.

I also buy my heavy row cover for my garden there. They have many unusual vegetables too. Like Malabar spinach. Or artichokes.

Not a bad way to spend a spring morning. We’ll be there sometime in the next two days to get tomatoes, herbs, cukes, zucchini and some supplies.

Grilling Chilling and Tilling

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Those three words sum up the weekend here. Ten hours in the garden. Three dinners from the grill. A couple of really nice wines and some kick back evenings watching movies.

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I did perfect those grill marks, didn’t I? A couple of very nice filets as an add on a few weeks back from Friends and Farms. A simple marinade of vinaigrette. A screaming hot grill. Baby rose potatoes from my last CSA basket. Carrots from Friends and Farms. Lettuce too. The tomatoes. Those were Hummingbird Farms hydroponic picked up at Roots. The same place I picked up this.

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Did you know Salazon chocolate is made just up the road in Carroll County? They used to have a shop in Sykesville, which unfortunately closed. All their dark chocolate bars have sea salt in them, and lots of flavor combinations.

Perfect to go with a duo of very old, very special local wines.

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1998. Yes, you read that right. Two of our favorite old local wineries. Allegro has changed hands since the Crouch brothers ran the winery a couple of decades ago. Their wine. Still absolutely drinkable, soft and great with the filets. As for the Hardscrabble, it still has tannin and can continue to age. Who knew? Almost 20 years old. They could compete with lesser growth Bordeaux, when it comes to matching your meals. We compared the two with dinner and later savored them with that awesome chocolate.

As for the garden, we did quite a bit of work the last two days. I finally got the onions planted, and the seeds for arugula and bibb lettuce under the row cover.

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My better half tilled the three rows I will be using for my community garden. One row, tomatoes will dominate. That middle row, greens and onions. A third row, cucumbers and squash. The already established fourth row is full of this.

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Asparagus. I have been carefully working around the tender spears that are emerging. I will probably add a few herbs to this bed, once I get it cleaned up.

And, for that final chilling part of the post, check out our resident killdeer, back and laying another four eggs.

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I took this from really far away and thankfully got to crop it without distortion. I hope to soon see the babies chasing mom and dad all over our community gardens.

And The Winner Is …

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… carrots. Yep, carrots. Well, tied with mushrooms, but they needed three varieties to match the two varieties of carrots in eight weeks. Out of the thirteen week Community Supported Agricultural winter share.

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We got orange carrots six weeks. Yellow carrots, two. We got mushrooms eight weeks. A combination of shiitake, cremini, and portabella.

All together, our 13 week CSA gave us 45 varieties of vegetables. Doing some math to compare the $330 price against buying in Wegmans (the best prices for organic), we would have spent at least $380 there. We did have to fudge a bit as Wegmans does not sell strawberry popcorn or garlic greens. I had to use farmers’ market pricing for those items.

My favorite this winter.

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Watermelon radishes. Sweet. With a slight hint of sea salt. A perfect appetizer.

We have a couple of weeks off before our spring/summer CSA starts. I will have to hit the local farm stands for vegetables.

No matter what. We will still support our Amish organic CSA, because they bring us awesome vegetables at less than store pricing, and only one or two days out of the fields.

Want to join us? 40-50 people hang out in a garage in Braeburn, picking up fresh foods. Check out the sign up page.

Perfecting the Pork Chop

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Really. A post about a cut of meat. One that we never bought, but now that we get them in our Community Supported Agriculture meat share, we have grown to like them. And, I learned the absolutely best way to prepare them.

In 15 minutes, you can have a dinner on the table that looks like this.

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Pan fried. Minimal seasoning. Salt, pepper and sage. A searing hot cast iron skillet with a slick of olive oil.

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Simple to cook. Incredibly flavorful.

Also, simple to keep that cast iron pan clean.

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Screaming hot water. An abrasive sponge. Nothing else. My pan, purchased years ago from Baughers in Westminster, has been seasoned with oil, occasionally a new slick added, and warmed in the oven. No soap. Never in the dishwasher. This pan is ten years old, and absolutely a joy to use. It sits on the stove, all the time.

Used for fritters. Frittatas. Bacon. Hash browns. Greek chicken. Sautéed greens.

Today, like many other days, it made perfect pork chops.

Our winter CSA ends tomorrow. For the summer, I cut back and didn’t order meat or cheese. With local farmer’s markets, I don’t have to do that. But, in the winter, Lancaster Farm Fresh gives us awesome choices. like those pork chops.

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