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Category Archives: Food

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.

Springing Forward

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Let it be known, I hate DST. Always have. I call it Daylight Stupid Time.

It is just stupid to mess with the science. Should we replace “High Noon” with “High 1 PM”? The time zones pretty much align with the transit of the sun. Yes, the edges are off a bit. But, equal daylight on either side of noon is what a time zone delivers.

Plus, I hate that complete disruption of sleep that springing forward creates. If our teenagers are already sleep deprived with early school start times, why are we messing with them by making them get up in the middle of the night to go to school?

Thankfully now we are retired. We get up with the sun and ignore alarms.

Next week we pass the equinox, and enter the months of 12+ hours of daylight, whatever the clock says. We enjoyed the great weather this weekend and finally got out to celebrate the slow return to normal after vaccination.

Local, as usual. Our forays into The Common Kitchen Friday. And, Black Ankle Winery Saturday.

We did take out Friday at Anh-mazing Banh Mi.

They have a new Banh Mi. Cajun Seafood.

Banh Mi reminds me of Po’ Boys, but with serious additions. We also got a noodle bowl.

The Common Kitchen has so many options for good food. Our favorites are Namaste Indian and The Koshary, Middle Eastern. Now, we can add Banh Mi to that list.

Then, Saturday we had errands to run up towards Frederick. On the way home we decided, time to eat out for our first time in a year. Enter Black Ankle Winery.

We have been going there since they opened almost 15 years ago. Right now, over 80 tables socially distanced, where you can sit out and enjoy wine, food and sometimes music because Ed and Sarah have one incredible location catering to those of us who appreciate small businesses full of local choices.

We loved the hour spent there having lunch with a very good bottle of Albariño.

Best al fresco dining view in the area.

I am so glad we can get out and support local businesses. Making our way through the transition and springing forward.

Decadent

So OK, it is just Wednesday. No holiday. No significant life event.

But we live a fairly reclusive life, with no restaurant visits, no day trips, no outdoor activities because of the weather. We have been doing a weekly “cooking as a couple” dinner, which was a New Year’s resolution.

Tonight we cracked open a new cookbook of mine, I Cook in Color. By Asha Gomez.

Clam chowder, made with fennel and leeks.

We are using small, local businesses in our sourcing of ingredients for our cooking. We are supporting the small grocers, liquor stores, farms and a friend who is a wine broker.

We love Italian wines. Todd Ruby Wines is a wine brokerage owned by an amateur radio friend. He brings in awesome wines like this Greco di Tufo. Procured for us by The Wine Bin in Ellicott City. Perfect with the rich clam chowder.

As for the soup ingredients, Some of them came from Boarman’s. Our local grocery store. Littleneck Clams. Clam juice. Canned clams. Leeks. Fennel. Yukon Gold potatoes. Diced pancetta, which was a substitute for the smoked clams in the recipe.

We made our own seafood stock yesterday from leftover lobster claw shells. Used my CSA veggies in the stock.

The finishing touch, flour mixed with half and half, used CSA flour from a mill in Amish country PA.

How did we make it? Chopped leek, fennel and potato. Sautéed in butter. Added three cups of seafood stock. A bottle of clam juice and a can of baby clams. Browned pancetta. A pound of littlenecks.

Finished with a thickener of 1/3 cup of flour and a pint of half and half.

We have enough left for another night’s dinner. We only used half the clams from the bag. They were Chesapeake Bay clams from Virginia, harvested Monday, bought on Tuesday and cooked today.

This expansion of our cooking hobby is what is keeping us sane. While enjoying the fruits of our labor. Wonder what we will tackle on Valentine’s Day?

Dawn

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Of a new year, 2021, which we hope will be far better than last year.

Sunrise in the east, now that we don’t have massive evergreens blocking the view.

We have spent far more time enjoying the peace and quiet out here and doing some new, fun things while staying safe at home.

Like my husband getting into cooking.

He made cioppino using Ina Garten’s recipe from her Cook Like A Pro cookbook.

Including making his own seafood stock.

I was impressed with the flavor but he needs to “up” his food photography skills.

We can’t see the depth of shrimp, scallops, mussels and cod in the bowl. Make no mistake.This was one amazingly satisfying meal. Fun to do while we hang out here at the house.

We decided that once a week we will tackle something new with him cooking.

We will patiently wait for our turn to get vaccinated, so we can get back into a normal life. In the meantime, photography, bird watching, amateur radio and cooking will keep us occupied.

Here’s to a better year, a new dawning.

Christmas Past

Christmas present.

I am feeling a bit nostalgic these days. Missing my parents and in-laws. We always spent Christmas with one or the other.

This is our third year without my mom, who lived the longest and who was the driving force behind the celebration of Christmas. She never tired of the holiday. She always bought presents for us, even when she was slowing down in her late eighties.

I kept some of her decorations when we were clearing out the apartment and deciding what we wanted from her collection of many handmade items.

I make her sugar cookies every year. It isn’t Christmas without her cookies.

Those crispy thin cookies are all I need to resurrect Christmas past in our house.

Today I made a small feast. Mixed grill. Potatoes with peppers and onions. Cheese. Bread, Really lovely old wine. We sat for a long time at the table, reminiscing.

Time to head into the family room to see if the Saints can hang on and win.

Happy holidays to my friends and relatives. Hoping 2021 is far better than these last two years have been.

Gingerbread

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Do you sometimes crave those simple desserts from your childhood? Like real gingerbread. Not the cookies, but the cakey moist flavorful version, made from scratch.

For me, a few minutes spent sifting through my old recipe cards yielded this oldy but goody.

From the McCalls Recipe Box, which was my husband’s. I had the Betty Crocker box. I was cleaning out some stuff in the bookcase back in the bonus room over our garage I was trying to decide whether it was time to let go of the recipe cards. But they were how I learned, and so did my husband, to cook.

I was looking for comfort food, and gingerbread certainly fits the bill. I made a few adjustments. I went a little heavy on the spices. I used Grandma’s molasses, which I believe is dark molasses. I used the last of the self rising flour from one of my curbside pickups, where it was a substitute when flour was scarce. That meant no baking soda. I used a 10 by 15 pan so my gingerbread wasn’t the same height as the recipe showed.

Still, it is a wonderful trip back to the days of homemade goodies baked by my mom.

I really enjoyed doing this. I will have to dig through the cards and find something else to evoke those memories. Baking from scratch. Nothing from a box even comes close.

Turkey Day

The end of a quiet holiday weekend. Watching the Packers. After spending time cleaning up the cars for winter. Certainly not an exciting or sexy way to spend Thanksgiving.

I did do a turkey, but only a half one. Thanks to Triadelphia LakeView Farm and Jenny’s Market.

Not a particularly small turkey, at 10.9 pounds for the half. This was fairly easy to do. Dry brine overnight with salt, orange zest, sugar and lemon juice.

Roasted first at 400° for 20 minutes, then finished at 325° for two more hours.

We had the wing and part of the breast for dinner. I then made soup from the drumstick and the bones to have Friday night. Turkey noodle soup. Yesterday I made the breast meat with a covering of buttered cheesecloth to give us another meal.

Today we were turkeyed out so I made a rump roast. Slow cooked in the oven with veggies.

This was a small business Thanksgiving meal. Local vendors.

Time to start working on our small business Christmas. Poinsettias from Greenway Farms. Greenery from Triadelphia LakeView.

We can get through this year by continuing to be careful, and by supporting our small local farms and businesses. We are thankful for them being here for us.

Celebrations

So today my husband turned seventy. Yep, seventy!

Old enough to be labeled on social media as Boomers. Questioning our computer skills, even though he spent twenty five years running the computer lab at APL, making sure all those Masters’ candidates didn’t fry the hardware while doing their lab projects.

We used to program data collection systems in machine language for the Navy, so yeah, we can program our iPhones.

Now, I made a simple extravagant dinner at home. A combination of local and favorite items. Lobster and cake from Harris Teeter. Filet mignon from Boarman’s. Bubbly from The Wine Bin. A beautiful super Tuscan given to him five years ago by an old friend.

The hits of the evening were the lobster and the Tignanello.

This dinner was simple to make. Steam the lobster. Fry the steaks. Open the wines. Make a salad.

Enjoy a leisurely dinner and watch a good movie.

Happy 70th to my best friend, my hubby.

Isolation

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It’s been more than six months now. No restaurants. No wineries. No day trips. 200 dinners cooked. At least.

If it wasn’t for the garden for me and the radio for my husband, we would be crawling the walls.

I spend at least three days a week at the garden.

There have been so many people up there than I have ever seen.  Gardening is a way to escape. To enjoy what you are creating.

To bring home a record number of tomatoes this year. My record was 177 pounds. I am now at 182 pounds with a few purple Cherokees left on the vines.

The crazy part? Almost one third of them are yellow cherry tomatoes.

The green ones hopefully will ripen in brown paper bags, or I will make a small batch of green tomato chutney.

Cooking and baking fill up my days.

We have also had Zoom get togethers and Facetime calls with friends. And, I think we have logged more visits to the landfill than anywhere else, except for the grocery store.

I am thankful we have hobbies, friends, and projects to keep us busy. I am thankful we have space to spread out when we need a break from one another. Seriously. Having a spouse that’s also my best friend has helped us weather the isolation.

I am looking for winter projects right now. We have spent much of the past six months outdoors. We need to tackle some things in the house, with the help of the small business contractors we use. Some electrical work. Basement work. Garage clean up.

We also have done a fair share of binge watching. We were never big TV watchers when we had so many other things to do.

Would you believe? We finally watched Downton Abbey. Endeavor. DCI Banks. A Chef’s Life. I suppose we are finally getting our money’s worth with Amazon Prime.

We missed some major events and hope we will see them happen again. I missed having a 50 year high school reunion. We won’t be going out for my husband’s 70th birthday so I have to plan something special for here.

But, when all is said and done, being out here in a natural environment keeps me happy. And the garden is the best place for me to relax.

Sunshine on a Baking Sheet

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It’s tomato season. I am drowning in yellow cherry tomatoes.

tomatoes and peppers for roasting

The yellow cherries are still overachieving. The husky red cherries are winding down but still available to add color to the sheet pan.

The tray is completed with scallions and sweet peppers from my CSA. When done, another pint of oven roasted tomatoes goes into the freezer. These containers guarantee that in the dead of winter I can bring summer and sunshine back on our plates.

It is very easy to preserve tomatoes. Cut them in half. Add sliced peppers, scallions, herbs, salt, pepper and a slight sprinkle of sugar. Olive oil and a hand mixing to incorporate it all.

Roast at 250°F until the tomatoes start to caramelize and shrivel up. Put in a container and freeze.

I have spent many hours at my garden this summer. It provides me an escape from the house without crowds. Every other day I harvest tomatoes and some peppers. Maybe a few asparagus. Zinnias. And soon! Sweet potatoes. Which are definitely doing well in a corner of my plot.

All in all, having a garden is giving me sunshine, and keeping me sane.