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Category Archives: Food

Snowdazed

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You know what? These constant snow alerts are getting old. Would it snow Thursday? How about tomorrow? Not looking like it right now thankfully. We got lucky this week.

It seems to be shaping up as one of those winters.

Snow on the ground and icy spots in the driveway. Not fun as we age.

We didn’t get the latest expected snow but we certainly are getting the cold. We have the faucet in the upstairs hall bathroom dripping since that is our weak spot when it comes to pipes getting cold enough to freeze. We updated the insulation everywhere we could access, just to prevent any reoccurrence of our minor flooding catastrophe that we had in January 2014.

Sometimes I feel like we are just living in anticipation of the next unplanned challenge. Every bathroom has a couple gallon jugs of water snuggled by the toilet for use in power outages. Burlap stretched between rebar is protecting the evergreens from wind damage. The newest trees have been treated with deer repellent.

The local meteorologists have a thankless job in the midAtlantic. Water to the east. Mountains to the west. Lots of hills and elevation changes that create uncertainties. Yesterday was a bust for those predictions with schools closing when they didn’t have to close.

When we moved out here 17 years ago, we moved 10 miles north but 250 feet higher in elevation. Temps are 2-4° colder than those in our old neighborhood. We get more snow, more ice and some serious wind.

This is also my time to use the oven and stove often in the kitchen. Keeps it warmer in there. This winter I am breaking in a new appliance and learning while experimenting.

I resisted following the trendy items like juicers, instapots, etc. But I finally caved and got an air fryer/smart oven. Threw away our old toaster.

I am having fun with it. Frying with very little oil. Proofing my dough for my bread baking. Making flatbreads and pizzas. And this summer I intend to use the dehydrator instead of my regular oven to process the cherry tomatoes from my garden.

Some recent uses.

A supreme flatbread with salami, ground beef and homemade tomato sauce on a quick rise dough.

White chocolate macadamia nut cookies from dough frozen before Christmas. I have several small containers with enough to make 6-8 cookies in each. The oven is a perfect size to make small batches.

I air fried button mushrooms stuffed with crab for dinner last night. Tonight I am experimenting with parsnips. Air frying them with Indian spiced seasoned salt.

I enjoy trying new things. Keeps us from getting bored during our cold dreary winters. I do have one small complaint. It takes much longer to make toast in this oven. It is perfectly toasted though, but five to six minutes is an eternity when you want breakfast.

Winter in Maryland. Completely unpredictable. We can embrace it, endure it or leave it. We aren’t going anywhere.

Just hurry up springtime!

Water Works

December has been a real pain in the butt when it comes to water. A leaking faucet. A pinhole leak in the pipes above the hot water heater. Coliforms in our water supply. The hits just keep on coming.

It all started here.

A pinhole leak which signifies a low pH. We need a water treatment system. Unfortunately those tests revealed bacteria, which prompted us to do a well shocking.

Chlorine put in the well. To kill the bacteria. The chlorine is still in the system after two days. When will it clear?

Who knows? But it is definitely interfering with my cookie baking. And the dishwasher is full. And I need to do laundry.

Our Christmas presents this year? A new faucet. A new water heater. And later this month. A water treatment system. Gee, isn’t that romantic?

I do like my faucet though.

Thanksgiving Weekend

So, the weekend is almost over. Just the Ravens game to watch tonight. It was a quiet weekend here. A little cooking. A little outdoor radio planning. A visit to W3LPL’s QTH to pick up an award plaque for our service to our local club.

I don’t do much on the radios around here but supporting the local club members is something I enjoy.

Just like supporting my local farms. Like Wheeler Farm at their market, and South Mountain for their ice cream.

We don’t do Black Friday. Never have, but small businesses get our money year round. Not just one day a year. Don’t do Cyber Monday either.

But Giving Tuesday? A big deal for us. Who benefits? The Amateur Radio Relay League and the Howard County Conservancy.

So yeah, the weekend is over but our lives are enriched by those organizations. Year round. They are our extended family.

Milestones

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Today is the tenth anniversary of this blog. I registered the domain name on 2 November 2011. Because? I wanted to write about my retirement and the things that interested me.

I was pretty prolific in the early years. Sometimes daily. Now, new topics are rare but I still enjoy writing. My phone has replaced my camera for taking the pictures. The iPad is my writing desk and the big bulky PC is a door stop, so to speak.

I am sitting at my desk in the study and looking at the scenery in the rain.

Waiting for the conditions that made this shot more than a decade ago.

Autumn is our favorite time here. Even with all the yard work to prepare for winter. We still suck up all the pine needles for our friends who use them on their berry plants. Many of the trees in the picture above are gone. Between the tornado and other wind storms that large grove across the street is no longer a dense screen and we see the neighbor’s lights in the evening.

What else has changed in this decade I have been retired? More traffic. More houses. More businesses up the road. I think we have more restaurants and carry outs less than a mile away than we did when we lived in Columbia. Five restaurants. Two carry outs. A coffee shop in the doggy day care house.

Jenny’s Market is now open seven months, and is taking turkey orders to fill with TLV farm turkeys. We have the ShoNuf turkeys in Maple Lawn and at Boarman’s market. No turkey shortage here in Howard County for Thanksgiving.

I will be getting a half turkey at Jenny’s since it’s just us again this year. Not quite ready to travel or eat indoors yet and I am not a fan of the choices from the local restaurants for the Thanksgiving packaged deals for take out and reheat at home. I like making the turkey my way and having all those leftover parts for future meals.

So, where am I going with all this rambling? Do I continue to occasionally write what I am thinking? Do I return to those endless posts about what I got in my farm share?

I hope we have more road trips, more restaurant meals, more new places to review in 2022. We are cautiously venturing out more and more. Have a visit planned to Linden Vineyards for a pre-release party.

Attending Iron Bridge University in the tented dining area where Rob is doing crazy things like pairing wine and potato chips. Seriously. By the way, Utz’s Dill pickle chips go really well with lightly oaked Chardonnay.

Well, enough rambling. I am off to do some errands and pick up my first fall CSA share which includes boneless chicken breast, chèvre and honey in my omnivore basket. Sounds like a ready made trio to make dinner this evening.

Crabby

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It’s been decades since we last steamed blue crabs. Last weekend we finally had the opportunity to put half a bushel in the pot and have our own personal crab feast.

I grew up looking forward to those rare celebrations of the “beautiful swimmers” as our Bay blue crabs are called. Simply prepared. Steamed in either vinegar or beer. Covered in Old Bay Seasoning.

Put the newspaper on the table, grab a mallet and a knife and get down to business. We have been enjoying the eastern shore crab houses the past few years. Not making the mess in the kitchen steaming them ourselves.

Now we have a neighbor who crabs every week and sells what he catches. We bought half a bushel of mixed size “sooks”, which are mature female crabs.

Cost us less than a pound of lump crabmeat costs these days. We ate a few dozen right from the pot, and then started picking crab meat to make soup and crab cakes,

The crab cakes were worth the time to pick all that backfin.

I made these in my cast iron skillet using browned butter to get them nice, crispy and dark.

We have until the end of the month to get more if we want to do this again. It’s been far too long and besides the little mess in the kitchen, they aren’t that hard to do.

Makes me remember growing up in crab country.

Cooking Up a Storm

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I don’t know about you but we can’t believe the thunderstorms we have been experiencing this summer. Major rainfall amounts and lots of wind damage with it. Flooded areas in our yard, even with all the improvements we made to handle it. Yeah, a 4.68 inch per hour rain rate will overwhelm your drains. Add to that, we had high winds which took down telephone poles on our main road. We ended up with a 27 hour long power outage. The longest outage in our 16 1/2 years here.

We had to deal with no sump pump while it rained, and then hours where we were finding coolers and ice to protect our frozen foods. We think that it is now time to do the generator purchase. We lost a little bit of food, and had quite a bit that was starting to defrost.

So, we cooked it all up.

From top to bottom. Bacon. London broil. Beef sausage. Shrimp. We ate for a week from these proteins. A steak salad. A beef ragû. Shrimp scampi. BLTs for lunch.

Of course, if we add to this the abundance from my garden, you could see how this could be overwhelming.

Tomatoes, peppers and okra. More than enough to keep me busy in the kitchen.

Dog Days

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You learn something new every day. I never knew what dog days of summer meant. I thought it had something to do with dogs. Not astronomy.

We are officially in the dog days, since the Dog Star Sirius has done its annual rising in alignment with the Sun. The ancient Greeks thought that the hottest time of year was caused by the Sun and the brightest star (Sirius) focusing their heat on the Earth.

Well, we are certainly getting our share of hot days. Another warm week ahead. This is the time in summer when I don’t want to cook much. Lots of salads and easy meals.

The tomatoes are starting to ripen, which means I will be heating up the kitchen making sauces and roasting cherry tomatoes to put away for the winter.

I made a trip To Sprouts Market yesterday to pick up simple items to continue this pattern in meal prep. Lots of cheeses, olive mix, some prosciutto and nuts/seeds.

Some of my latest successes.

An updated fennel and orange salad, with the addition of blueberries and almonds, and on a bed of leaf lettuce.

A Greek salad using a massive heirloom pineapple tomato, from my CSA. My large tomatoes are just beginning to ripen.

Tonight though, I put together one of my absolute favorites. Peach, tomato and burrata salad.

Tomatoes and basil from my garden. CSA peaches. Burrata bought at Sprouts. Olive oil from The Breadery in Oella.

This is a restaurant quality salad. At a fraction of the cost. Worth splurging on the burrata.

I also made a simple gazpacho today which is resting in the fridge. It will be dinner tomorrow, with a side dish of prosciutto wrapped cantaloupe. Some crusty bread. A local rosé wine.

I can handle the dog days.

The Waiting Game

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Well, the garden is planted. Just in time for heat to arrive. Daily watering to get the tomatoes going. Now, we wait for six to eight weeks for the first ripened goodies.

I started seeds at home and they were getting rather leggy while I was waiting for the weather to warm up.

I planted three varieties of heirlooms from Monticello. Red fig, purple calabash, and prudens purple. These were the last seeds from a trip to Charlottesville a few years back. All of them from the descendants of three hundred year old stock.

Last year only the purple calabash survived. Crossing my fingers that these healthy looking plants make it.The purple calabash have won ribbons for me in the county fair.

Every day I go up to the garden, I cross my fingers as these heirlooms are far more fragile than the hybrid tomatoes available to grow.

I do mix in some hybrids, like sungold and celebrity and early girl.

This year my theme is tomato sauce. I planted onions, peppers, basil and tomatoes.

A few squash plants, and a handful of okra. Yes, I really like okra especially when I can oven bake them as “okra fries”.

So easy to make. Crunchy. I use garam masala on mine, and dip in ranch dressing.

In the meantime, while waiting for the main event of the summer harvest, we continue to enjoy the asparagus and rhubarb in many ways. The latest?

Rhubarb crisp. A simple recipe from the web. Served with vanilla ice cream.

And people wonder why I don’t eat out much. I have too much fun creating things here and enjoying leisurely meals with a good bottle of wine. While waiting for those tomatoes to produce.

Springtime.

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Well, the calendar says spring but the weather doesn’t. We hit a low of very close to freezing this weekend. I don’t know whether to do heat or a/c in the house. Maryland is like that. Change in weather every day.

At least, the trees and flowers are busting out.

The crab apples have one of their good years. Sometimes they turn completely white, and some they don’t. This year, they are spectacular.

I love my flowering trees. The dogwoods will bloom next. Not there yet.

But the tulips are also blooming. I planted new varieties last fall.

Add to all the blooming, the first harvest from the garden. Asparagus.

Making a steak salad with sautéed asparagus for dinner.

We are so glad to see winter disappear. Time to plant, to harvest, to snip flowers. To protect our young trees from the impending cicada-paloosa. We aren’t looking forward to those cicadas.

Here’s to spring in Maryland. The reason we won’t move away.

Eleven

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I am sitting here watching the news and thinking about eleven years ago. And not having to get up to go to work on Monday morning. Ever again.

I retired April 1st 2010. A good way to spend April Fool’s Day. I have never regretted retiring as early as I could. Particularly when years like 2020 come along and recalibrate your plans.

I think retiring in the spring is a smart move. My husband retired in January. Dark. Cold. Stuck indoors most of the time. It is hard to transition when you are limited in things to do.

I found my hobbies and interests kept me busy. My garden. Cooking.

I then discovered the Conservancy and volunteering and the last ten years have been filled with activities that keep me busy even during the pandemic.

Last year I spent every other day for six months in the community gardens, tending my own plot, and helping with the food bank.

We have done more than a ton of food each of the past two years. Many of us who are retired use this outlet as our way to give back, while keeping active.

I also volunteer in many ways to support my husband’s hobby. Amateur radio. I cook for Field Days. For the annual “Fowl Fest”. I hope we get to conduct those activities soon, as we miss our friends and the good times we have when we are together. Like our crazy summer emergency preparedness field days. In the heat. Or rain. Or wind. But still, enjoying our hobbies with our friends.

I miss cooking for the radio guys. They are so appreciative of what we make for them. Yeah, we enjoy our meals here, but I have been cooking dinner every night for almost 400 days now. I really want to have those restaurant nights again, and want to cook for friends and family.

I know. This evening I am reminiscing, and also whining a bit about this lost year. Missing friends. Missing family. Missing my 50th reunion, which I hope will someday take place. Missing the gatherings. The sharing.

We just need to hang on a while longer. Beat this virus. So we can enjoy decades more of retirement.

But one good thing about this forced isolation. My husband got back into cooking. making a number of dinners now. Like the clam and fennel chowder I wrote about. And just simple things like pasta.

Here’s to better days. And meals with friends. And dinners at restaurants. And travel. Yeah, I miss travel. We will get there. Won’t we? I have faith. And I want to get out there.