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Eating Seasonally

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It’s the dead of winter. Headed off this afternoon to pick up my farm share at my friend’s house, delivered by Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative. While snow flurries fluttered down on me.

There are just a dozen of us participating in the winter 15 week CSA. Those winter vegetables aren’t fan favorites. Root vegetables mainly. Still, eating seasonally is something I committed to do eight years ago.

Many people would turn up their noses at meals featuring basic root vegetables but I consider it a challenge to make creative dishes from them. I also like having fresh vegetables just harvested. Our CSA does a great job of mixing things up even when there isn’t a huge selection available.

Here’s our first week’s basket. And what I did with it. With winter vegetables you may have them hanging around a while. Mine are stored mostly in cloth bags hanging in my garage or mud room. I can keep potatoes, turnips, onions, etc. for weeks as long as it is cool and dark.

Carrots are always in the basket. There were one dozen red onions there. Little baby popcorn. Mixed winter radishes. Japanese sweet potatoes. Red beets.

A treat – mizuna. An Asian green reminding me of mustard greens.

Another special item. Scallions. It seems they are thinning them out as these were quite thin and delicate.

I “omnivored” my basket this winter, which added a cheese, a meat and a pantry item every week. The SOOM tahini is the best I have ever tasted. There was gouda. And a bone in chicken breast.

I made Ina Garten’s herb roasted onions and added a few radishes to the sheet pan. I like her mustard based vinaigrette used in the recipe.

Once I discovered roasted radishes, it is the way I use them most of the time. Mixing the onions and radishes resulted in a great side dish for the chicken.

I put the chicken on top of the mizuna and baked it. Dusted with my homemade chicken dry rub. Mizuna was tossed with vinegar, oil and cayenne before putting it in the pan.

Carrots and scallions are staples in my fridge. Those little orange carrots were split and roasted. Bigger carrots are sliced and boiled. Served with a butter sauce, or maybe a honey glaze. Carrots and onions also appear in soups and stews.

I roasted the beets, peeled them and pickled them. As for the sweet potatoes, they are still in the mud room waiting for me to bake them and make hummus with that awesome tahini. Take your basic hummus recipe, add puréed potato and sriracha.

Here it is now, week three of the CSA and there are a couple of items left from previous weeks. Mostly potatoes and onions.

We have been getting mushrooms so I made beef mushroom soup today. Snowy weather always has me craving a warm bowl of soup. I had a soup bone from my meat farm share left which was just enough to make a quart of soup. Flavorful shiitake and cremini mushrooms. Spinach. Onion. Herbs. Simmered stove top for four hours. No wonder my electric bill is awful. All that roasting and cooking this month.

I can’t wait for the first greens to show up but right now I have to dig around for some inspiration using purple top turnips and rutabaga. Sounds like another sheet pan dinner this week.

Resolved

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The obligatory resolution list. Don’t we all make them? Do we keep them?

I now tend to keep mine simple. Like continuance of my buy local, support small, buying strategy.

And my continuing to rid our house of things we no longer need.

That’s enough for us to handle.

I looked at my dinner on New Year’s Day. Other than the mustard, everything was from local or small family businesses. Without trying very hard. It has been something we believed in. We use two local food sources for most of our food. Add to that, purchases from farms, country stores and local wineries.

Dinner was: Evermore Farms pork, Pappardelle’s orzo from Secolari at Mary’s Land Farm, Trickling Springs butter, Lancaster Farm Fresh roasted red onions, and Gabriele Rausse Viognier bought at the Wine Bin.

We believe in supporting our small businesses. Including local hardware stores, like Kendall and Clark’s.

As for the decluttering. We keep looking for places to give our excess stuff. Does anyone want some Christmas decorations?

A Quiet Christmas

As I noted last month with our 40th Thanksgiving, this is also the 40th time we have celebrated Christmas together. Now, retired, and free of the shopping angst of the season, we are enjoying the peace this year. No big commitments. Just a few cookies baked. A completely different approach in decorating. We are spending today at home, after a Christmas Eve dinner with some of our longtime friends.

This year, I did the massive grouping of poinsettias again. I also decided to pull out my favorite decorations from my mom and my MIL. They grace the stairs in the foyer, along with a ribbon wrap, a wreath and tiny white lights. Flowers in the kitchen and dining room. A few candles. That’s it. No tree. No outdoor lights. I have embraced the concept of minimalizing. No stress.

I had a good time a few weeks back, when I answered a request from an old friend to help them decorate their new place. I was happy to see some of my old decorations getting a new lease on life and get used, instead of being stored away. Large wreaths. Folksy hanging items. Ribbons. Wrappings. All those things that we no longer use.

Soon, I will head off to pan fry a couple flat iron steaks. Roast some root veggies. Try out my latest fermentation goodies. I pickled beets last week, and spicy rutabaga relish. Using the last CSA veggies.

Doesn’t everyone have spicy, Korean style pickled vegetables with Christmas dinner?

I am in the process of making a list of things I want to do in 2019, including writing more than I did this year. I may actually get another one or two posts written this month.

In the meantime  —

The Accidental Vegan

That would be me. By whatever means, I have become the cook that brings the vegetarian/vegan contribution to the parties. Whether it is the amateur radio Field Day, or the contribution to my brother’s dinners (for my vegetarian in-law’s in-laws), or the potluck volunteer luncheon, I bring the veggie-centric dish that is satisfying and different.

We feed the volunteers, the garden clubs and the vendors at our Holiday Craft Fair every December at the Conservancy.

I share cooking with my friend who also coordinates and cooks for our Amateur Radio Field Day. We have become quite skilled at meeting the needs of those who partake. We have all sort of dietary restrictions and preferences. I get large amounts of vegetables in my farm share (aka Community Supported Agriculture)

Add to that, my lactose intolerance, which has me modifying recipes to take out the dairy.

Last week I made two dishes for the holiday event. They were vegan. Easy for those with restrictions. One was a vegan cole slaw. The other? One awesome butternut squash and black bean chili. Recipes were requested. Here is the response.

I began cooking many dishes using squash once we started seeing behemoths like this in our box. I do hummus, I do lasagna, and now I do chili using them.

This chili was easy. Two large cans of black beans. One diced, roasted butternut squash – large. Two large onions. One can of roasted red peppers, sliced. One can of Rotel tomatoes and chilis. One can crushed tomatoes. Those pumpkin spices. Choose those you like. I am partial to cinnamon, cumin, and coriander. Some garlic powder. Salt and pepper. Crock pot all of it. Kick it up with more heat, or more garlic.

As for my cole slaw. I used Savoy cabbage, carrots and Granny Smith apples. All chopped. I made a vegan dressing for it. It was mustard, vegan sour cream, white wine vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. That vegan sour cream makes this dressing a great alternative for those who are avoiding dairy.

You don’t miss the meat when you add tons of flavor using herbs and spices. We certainly didn’t.

 

Home for the Holidays

The holiday weekend is over. Now to get ready for Christmas.

I realized this was our 40th Thanksgiving together. Our first, we headed to PA so I could meet my future in-laws. After that, we regularly spent the day with one of our families.

Usually we went to PA. Then, for the past 12 years we headed to Annapolis to visit my mom and my brother’s family. All of that changed this year. With mom’s passing, and my brother in the midst of a move to eastern VA, we found ourselves without plans for the weekend.

It was weird but also quite peaceful. No last minute crises. No traffic woes. We spent the last five days doing what we wanted when we wanted.

It was heavy with local influences, in a series of meals. We spread it out. I did oyster stew one night with oysters from Boarman’s. We had our Maple Lawn turkey on Thanksgiving.

I made sides and seasonings that we like. My dressing used chorizo and fresh bread cubes made from my CSA ancient grain bread. My homemade cranberry sauce was tangy from the lemon and orange in it. I made creamed spinach instead of green beans.

My husband went up to Dandelion Bistro Wednesday night to pick out a dessert for Thursday. Smith Island cake. Not traditional at all. So, so good though.

Tonight we used more of that leftover turkey along with some of the stock I made from the turkey bones. Pappardelle’s orzo bought from Secolari at Mary’s Land Farm.

We have enough turkey left for sandwiches, and enough soup for another dinner.

As for other things we did, we had a wonderful meal to celebrate my husband’s birthday at Hudson Coastal. We went Saturday night during our latest deluge. The restaurant was busy but not overwhelmed, and the food was excellent.

Today I watched the traffic backups and was thankful our days of nail-biting drives are over. But, we miss our parents. We are thankful we had so many years to share holidays. We just need to adjust to new routines and make new memories.

Tomorrow? Baking for the Conservancy holiday sale, where we make a potluck lunch for volunteers and vendors. The sale is Saturday and is a highlight of the start of many activities leading up to Christmas.

Lucky Seven?

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Yeah, this site is seven years old. In 2011, I registered the domain and started writing. I obviously don’t write as much as I did when I began.

It was fall. Lovely weather. I wrote mostly about my farm share, and my hobbies which included my volunteer work at the Howard County Conservancy.

I have to admit it was really about documenting the farm share to assist people (like me) who wanted to see what you got when you signed up for Community Supported Agriculture.

Pictures of vegetables.

Like those from my Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA. Which I also joined in 2011. And which is still a weekly part of my life. Those Tuesday pickups at Candace’s house, year round. 48 weeks of the year, with just a few weeks off over the holidays.

I haven’t documented them these days. I decided it was far too repetitive. But they still inspire my cooking, like this week when we got freshly grown ginger roots. Not dried. Young and fragrant. Making me want to make stir fry.

As for the Conservancy connection, I have changed what I do. Not as much volunteer naturalist, but still on the program committee, and still the community garden co-manager. I use my love of cooking to support our programs. Scones for the Mother’s Day tea. Vegetarian options to feed the volunteers at our Holiday crafts fair. Soups for pot luck meals.

I tell stories on paper. Why do I mention this? To advertise the upcoming storytelling event on November 9th.  At the Mt. Pleasant site of the Conservancy. Co-sponsored by CA and Rec and Parks.

Some good friends will be telling their stories. It reminds me that I should pay more attention to this site and keep my stories alive.

After all, sharing our stories keeps us connected.

Climate Change

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Yeah, I’m going to go there. I can’t ignore the effects on us. The rain. It’s so different these days. The amount. The impact.

The garden is affected the most. Tomatoes were a mess. Mushy. Split. Not producing because of the lack of sunshine. The other indicator. The tromboncino. Which loved the extra moisture and produced far beyond what I could get in the past.

Monsters that grew in no time. Like this one that went from nothing to 3 1/2 pounds in less than a week,

This was a crazy year for our gardeners. Already there have been at least 10% giving notice of leaving. Many first time gardeners disappointed with the results of their labor. So many rotten vegetables, and out of control weeds.

As for other local input, we hear from our winery friends that their harvests have been less than stellar. No red wines at all from one of our favorites.

When I go to the local weather website I see we are less than one inch from the highest yearly total in the 21 years they have been recording the weather. 51.7 inches right now. 52+ in 2011 when we had a hurricane and tropical storm. We still have 20% of the year left and it is going to rain tomorrow.

As I take stock from my garden, and plan for the future, I have to account for these changes. What works now? Do I change what I plant? We have what I call a subtropical climate with intense rain. Onions can’t handle this rain. Melons rot and split. Only my cherry tomatoes did well this summer and all my heirlooms struggled.

The okra likes the climate. The rhubarb suffered. Cucumbers and zucchini, other than the tromboncino, rotted. The asparagus produced far longer than in the past, because of the excessive rain.

I am just a simple gardener. Not trying to make a living from the land. Imagine what these changes are doing to the farmers in the area. What do they plant? Humid, rainy days impact their livelihood. Washed out fields. Our Community Supported Agriculture has survived thanks to its size and diversity, but small farms with limited plantings had reduced yields.

We can’t bury our heads in the sand and ignore it.