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Category Archives: Friends and Farms

Survey Says

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Ok. I know I don’t have a huge amount of readers just in Howard County, but for those who live here, could you help with a simple survey?

Local Food Survey

If you click on the link highlighted above, it will take you to Survey Monkey. A class at University of Maryland, taught by one of the cofounders of Friends and Farms, Phil Gottwals, is looking to find information about whether people make food buying choices based on some definition of “local”.

It’s an interesting survey, and you don’t have to answer the personal questions.

For other local Howard County bloggers, on the hocoblogs website, let me know if you want to help Phil’s students and spread the word using our social media contacts. The more people the students get answering their survey, the better.

Any other questions, add a comment below. And, I promise, this isn’t a click bait thing. No advertising or harvesting of email addresses.

Just students who are learning what is important to consumers. Like really good food.

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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.

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!

Date Nights

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With a local and small business influence. Do you do date nights? You know. Dinner and a movie. Or binge watching your favorite TV series. For us, we go out infrequently in the winter. Don’t want to deal with slick roads and deer.

We also find it interesting to put together a special meal. Maybe tapas. Maybe home cooked, but always using some of our favorite local foods.

Besides, we can put together one awesome meal at a fraction of the cost of eating out.

Take this week. Snowed in, for the most part. Many things to do around here. Not particularly the best time to head off across town.

We like to pick a special local wine. Like this one.

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You can build a meal around a very nice local white or red. Your preference. For us, we have four “go-to” wineries. Linden. Big Cork. Black Ankle. Old Westminster. We’ve always found their wines to be excellent. Yes, they are a bit pricey. All of them, but putting it in context, a bargain compared to buying wine in restaurants.

Consider this. A glass of house white may cost $7-$9 for a five ounce pour. Two glasses each over the course of dinner. $30-$40 before tax and tip. I can buy lovely wines like that Linden Hardscrabble for less than $30 after discount. At $30, a restaurant bottle of wine may be in the $10-12 retail range.

I start with a chosen wine. Build a meal around it. Our latest date night used 100% purchased foods. No cooking. No fussing. Just a couple of quick preparations. And I used small local sources for most of the food. I felt like I had created one of those small plate dinners like we enjoy at Pure Wine.

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This was it. Mushroom pate and spring rolls from Roots. I have tried to make my own pate and it’s OK, but not as good as Roots makes. The salmon. From Friends and Farms. Offered on a fresh catch special recently. That lovely watermelon radish. From our Lancaster Farm Fresh winter CSA. The bread, from Harris Teeter (only because we were told our CSA bread shares were victims of the blizzard). The bread was a Limited Edition Russian Black bread, made by their bakery.

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Sipping that big buttery Chardonnay while enjoying small tastes of fresh foods. Not a bad start to date night.

Total cost. Less than $60. Much less than going out.

Challenge yourself some Friday night. Pick a favorite local wine. Head over to Roots or Davids and see what looks good. Or, just pick up a rotisserie chicken. A few local cheeses. Maybe some chocolate for dessert. We love to have a red wine with dinner and finish off with a locally made chocolate like the ones from Salazon, made just north of us in Carroll County.

And rent a really good movie.

The Waiting Game

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And now we wait. All of the snow prep is done with the exception of a couple of last minute items. Over the years I have learned a few more tricks to keep us from having problems when it comes to water and with the perishable foods.

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Keeping a few of the milk bottles around, just for times like this. We have a small refrigerator in our laundry room. For snow events, I completely reconfigure that fridge to be nothing but liquids and the lunch and dinner options, which could be moved to a cooler if the fridge were to get too warm.

I keep one small cooler with an ice bag in it. It becomes the place to put whatever I need to take out of the small fridge. Our large refrigerator/freezer NEVER gets opened while the power is off. The freezer has been reconfigured to have all the meat on the bottom with other odds and ends on top, and covered with ice packs and plastic bottles that were filled with water and frozen yesterday.

After our longest outage ever, the 22 hour one after the derecho years ago, the fridge made it up to 44 degrees and the freezer to 16 degrees. In the summer heat. Yesterday I turned the temps down to minus six in the freezer and 36 in the fridge.

I also splurged on a treat, in case we have to eat by candlelight.

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When I picked up my Friends and Farms basket yesterday, I pre-ordered a couple of packs of smoked salmon. They will go into that small fridge, to be used as a “fancy” meal base. I have that large lovely loaf of sourdough from the CSA, along with the cheeses. I also will be making a full four cup pot of jasmine rice. I am perfectly content to make salads using rice, and salads using beans or chickpeas. Between the smoked salmon and the two cans of sardines in the pantry, we could have some awesome candlelight dinners. Unfortunately, the cold could become an issue at some point, and our wood stove is in our basement.

I have cranked the heat up in our house today. Up to 74 degrees. If we lose power, we never open the west facing doors, using the smallest east facing opening, our mud room back door, to minimize heat loss in the rest of the house. Replacing our doors and windows over the past few years has helped us.

Finally, I learned two new tricks when it comes to having water, the non potable kind. I fill up the top loading washing machine and stop the cycle when it’s full. No clothes in it, just water. In a pinch, it could be used for flushing the toilets. Add that to our “recycling” of sump pump water. The other simple thing I do is fill the larger side of my sink, to put dishes in it. Keeps down the need to use paper plates, and when I get power back, we just pull out the dishes and fill the dishwasher.

Last minute tips. We have at least three pair of gloves for each of us. Usually, when we come in from snow removal and we have power, we throw gloves and hats in the dryer. Can’t do that with no power, so we have those spares while waiting for the others to dry out.

And, I filled all the birdfeeders and watered all my indoor plants.

I think I’m ready. Just hoping we don’t meet this when we open our mudroom door.

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60/40

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So I have a question. What percentage of your dinners are take out, restaurant or delivery? Are you like we were, back in the days when our commute dominated our lives in Howard County? Did you eat out more than half the time, every week? How about changing your percentages, to four days home. A 60/40 mix.

Believe it or not, you can change to eating fresher, more “expensive” food at home. It just takes a little effort to change dining out from majority to minority. Something so simple as one more night in, instead of outsourced.

I really love the protein and dairy bag from Friends and Farms. You can easily do four nights in, and still have three nights “out” with this affordable protein option. My $43 a week basket feeds the two of us, and provides us with the protein on our plates for at least four meals, sometimes five or six.

Take this week.

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There are chicken legs, chorizo, breakfast links and rainbow trout in our basket. Along with the weekly eggs and, in our case we have turnips since we don’t do the milk thing.

I can make two meals from the chorizo. Two from the chicken. We use the breakfast links in weird ways, like in tomato sauce or in soups. Not a big fan of pork for breakfast but these tasty links can be cut up and used in so many savory dishes. Eggs. For Meatless Mondays, they make great omelets or frittatas.

But getting back to the original thought. You can make a very simple meal from the trout. One that would cost major bucks at a restaurant. Less than 30 minutes. How?

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Plop those trout in a baking dish. Cover them in lemon infused olive oil, white wine and lemon pepper seasoning. Bake them at about 300 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

I made two simple side dishes. Boiled baby potatoes. Microwave steamed Brussels sprouts.

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Looks great, doesn’t it? I put the potatoes on while prepping the trout. I steamed the sprouts two minutes before the fish was done. Open a bottle of white wine and you have an excellent meal. With a little effort, and a little help from Friends and Farms.

Unintended Consequences

“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” – Yogi Berra

I think about this Yogi-ism often when confronted by what I consider to be strange logic. Like recently where a fellow CSA member mentioned that they might not sign up for CSA again, because they got too much food from it. To me, I understand that they may have signed up for a wrong size basket, but still, I find it interesting to hear. I am happy that we get more than we expected, because that means it was a good harvest year for the farmers.

I know of years where we didn’t get much. I know that often in the early spring months the baskets are a little light. Which brings up questions from the members that they aren’t getting their money’s worth.

Compare. The first spring share this year.

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A half dozen potatoes. A few beets. A small bundle of asparagus.

By the end of the summer season.

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Bags of peppers. Greens galore. Huge carrots. Brussels Sprouts. Not only more items, but more of each item as the year progressed.

It isn’t just the quantity of items in a CSA that prompts comments. Other observations over the last year or two perplex me as well. Comments about the early bird CSA at Breezy Willow. Because they bring in citrus from Florida. I think it’s a great thing to give us fresh foods in that final part of winter, when we are all ready for something fresh.

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In March, when most of what you get is from cold storage, it was wonderful to see pink grapefruit and oranges from Florida. I think that’s a good thing. One to celebrate.

As for the other local or regional offerings available here in Howard County. We are so lucky that we have choices. Year round choices. Almost every CSA in the area has experienced growth. Sometimes those growing pains have consequences. Like when Friends and Farms has to change chicken suppliers to find one that could continue to cover the size of the program.

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I really liked those Free Bird chickens. But Locust Point in Elkton is just as good.

Then there were the bread suppliers to Lancaster Farm Fresh. In fall of 2014, they used this small artisanal baker from Lancaster.

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Loved those boules. The following year, they had to give it up, as the demand was too great for their capabilities. Now, we are lucky to have She Wolf Bakery in Brooklyn making the vegan loaves that can be used for all the members.

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Change is inevitable. Success in our local vendors often requires adjustments. I for one am happy to see them succeed. I look forward to starting anew in January. With a winter CSA and my Friends and Farms protein and dairy bag. Just happy that we have such great choices so close to where we live.

Chicken Soup

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The perfect thing to make when it’s cold out. Only it isn’t cold out.

But it is the perfect thing to make if you are in full bore cookie making mode. Which I am.

This is a different soup recipe. Compliments of the Amish Market in Laurel. J.R.’s stand, to be exact.

We picked up some packages of organic bean soup mix there when we visited a while ago. Yesterday I wanted to make a simple soup to use up one of the chickens in the freezer. To make room for Christmas cookie dough.

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The recipe called for a small whole chicken. This local one came in a recent Friends and Farms protein and dairy bag.

As for the rest.

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I had celery, carrots and onions from a CSA delivery at Thanksgiving. I had chopped off the tops of the celery and kept it in the freezer to use for soup.

This is slow cooked, six hour simmering chicken soup. With broth so rich it is amazing. Perfect for dinner with one of the breads from SheWolf bakery.

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I soaked two cups of the mixed beans overnight. Rinsed them and put them in a pot with water, the whole chicken and spices. This recipe called for turmeric, savory, garlic powder, salt and pepper. I added some tarragon. After the chicken was pretty much done, you take it out and strip it off the bone. I put it back, added carrots, celery and onions, and let it simmer on the small burner for three more hours.

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Look at how thick and rich the broth got. This recipe made enough soup for three meals for the two of us.

Tomorrow, while I am a cookie making machine, I can just heat it up and have an easy dinner.

I need to get back to the market and buy some more of these beans. It is the organic “harmony” mix.

 

Talking Turkey

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Yes, it’s time to order that Thanksgiving turkey.

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We have all sorts of options around here. I can order directly from Maple Lawn Farms. If I want to pay by cash or check, and stand in line a very long time. I can get a free range bird for around $2.50 a pound.

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I can pick one up at other sites, like Boarman’s or MOM’s or David’s or Roots or Whole Foods. I will pay more at these places but they do take credit and debit cards.

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Whole Foods will also sell you all the fixings. Easier than DIY, but pricey.

As for other options, there are restaurants open for dinner. Check out Richard Gorelick’s new blog, with a list of places that are open in the area. I did leave a comment that The King’s Contrivance is also open.

Other sources. Friends and Farms, just slightly more expensive than Maple Lawn. Lancaster Farm Fresh, my CSA, is offering organic turkeys but they are closer to $5 a pound. I will probably get mine from Boarman’s like I always do.

I will also head over to Maple Lawn between Thanksgiving and Christmas. To get some drumsticks for the freezer. Maybe a smoked turkey breast this year for our Christmas buffet here. You can pre-order all of these items.

Somehow the holidays are sneaking up on us. Even though the weather is still really nice.