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Category Archives: Locavore

Staying Sane

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It’s been over a hundred days since we’ve been anywhere. Except for curbside pickups and a few quick trips to grocery stores and markets. Oh, and the hardware store.

Thankfully we have enough space around here and enough to do to keep busy. Plus, my garden. It gives me peace and quiet while dealing with the squash beetles and the weeds. And harvesting asparagus.

I did get my first four yellow cherry tomatoes yesterday. No squash yet, and the cucumbers don’t look great. Lots of asparagus though.

The peppers? Hanging in there but the weather isn’t cooperating either.

I have been cooking quite a bit. Making the most of my Vegetable share. Particularly all the greens. I have been cooking from Toni Tipton-Martin’s book Jubilee, this month’s cookbook club selection.

Collards with cornmeal dumplings. This was a serious undertaking. Many steps. But the result was delicious. Those dumplings were awesome.

Island banana bread. Transports me back to Jamaica. Full of spices, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, with dates and pecans. This cookbook is full of absolutely flavorful trips down Memory Lane for me.

I found lots of new favorites along the journey. Like this broccoli and cauliflower salad with curried dressing. You assemble and dress this salad and let it marinate in the fridge for hours. These are the spices from the deep Caribbean, like we encountered in Trinidad.

I found that cooking from this book allowed me to reminisce about travels from decades past, while staying “safer at home”.

I downloaded the iBook version of the book. No trips to stores for much of what I made here. Thankfully Harris Teeter has curbside pickup and could provide us with many of the needed items. They also waived the pickup fee for senior citizens so kudos to them for their accommodation to us while we are taking care of ourselves.

The Book? It is written by Toni Tipton-Martin and is titled Jubilee, Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking. Paired with my other iBook from the exploration of the South, Deep Run Roots. Together they explore the rich history of Southern cooking through two separate perspectives but with very similar results in many recipes.

Vivian Howard learned how to prepare numerous items by watching Mrs. Mary and Ms. Lillie who cooked in Southern homes for decades. If you get a chance to record and watch Somewhere South or A Chef’s Life on PBS, both of her series delve into recipe origins and the complexities of Southern cooking are revealed.

Are you a collard eater or a turnip greens eater? What are the differences between Creole and Cajun? How did rice and okra and sweet potatoes get into the Southern diet? For me with my interest in cooking, baking and gardening I find that cookbooks with history in them give me a deeper understanding of life in the past.

To summarize from a very long story today, I have been staying sane by “traveling” and learning in the comfort and safety of my kitchen. I have also been supporting local small businesses for ingredients to do so. Not ready for restaurants yet, but farmer’s markets and farm stores have returned to our lives.

Thanks to Jenny’s market drive thru when I need something quick. To Breezy Willow and Mary’s Land Farm stores when I need meat or fish. To the Wheelhouse Market. To TLV and the other farmers at the markets here in HoCo.

I am staying sane by gardening, cooking and baking. What are you doing to stay sane?

Farm Shares

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What a difference a year makes. Last spring we barely had enough members to get our pick up site renewed. Now, Community Supported Agriculture is booming, with twice the number of people at our site. Lancaster Farm Fresh is showing on their web site that some of the shares are sold out. Including meat, chicken and cheese shares.

My monthly meat share provider, Evermore Farm in Westminster, is also slammed. The owner was telling me that they aren’t accepting CSA shares right now because of the demand. They also suspended sales of sides of beef and pork. We are lucky that we have locked in a medium share for the foreseeable future.

Now if I can find a local source for flour that would be nice. I am baking twice a week and can’t find bread flour or yeast. I may end up buying the grinder option for my KitchenAid mixer and grinding the wheat berries and rye berries from our winter CSA pantry share. They are in my basement fridge. I have been experimenting with a mix of whole wheat flour and some soft winter wheat which isn’t the best bread flour but it seems to be working.

Also, did you know there are local restaurants offering meat bundles, produce bundles, and packages to help with the much larger demand for fresh foods? We have replaced restaurant eating with home cooking and the once adequate supplies in the stores are quickly gobbled up. Walker’s Tap to Table up the road from us is offering these. Using JW Treuth for meat.

Jenny’s just opened their farm stand, giving us really close access to fruits, veggies, plants, and more. The farmer’s markets are back, as drive throughs. I think I can minimize my once every ten day visits for curbside pickup from Harris Teeter. Maybe drop back to biweekly. For the staples, like oils and vinegar, spices, and cleaning supplies.

Thanks to my meat share, and my vegetable share, I had everything to make a big pot of bean soup today. Because of course the weather isn’t cooperating and it’s cold out. Not grilling weather at all, but stay inside, make bread and soup, and cover the plants at night weather. I hear that Western Maryland had snow flurries last night. Not your typical Mother’s Day weather at all.

So, here’s to the wonderful bean soup.

Ham hock from Evermore. Seared with onions from CSA. Add six cups of water. Simmer a long time. Add pepper, oregano and thyme. Celery, carrots, green cabbage. A large can of white beans with the liquid to make it creamy. This soup spent six hours on the stovetop on low heat. It was awesome with my homemade bread. Who needs to go out? We can enjoy good food at home. Fresh from the farm to table.

Coping

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It’s been three weeks of not going anywhere non-essential.

It’s not fun being “old”.

In two days we were going to go celebrate my ten year anniversary of being retired. Now, we will raise a toast here at the house. We are really glad we have the luxury of staying home, and the privilege of getting things delivered.

I have been working on updating my resources, sadly neglected, on this web page to highlight the small local businesses that we support.

I also realized that maybe writing more will calm the nagging anxiety we can’t shake.

I know we are lucky. Right now, we get our weekly farm share from Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-op and our monthly meat share from Evermore Farm.  We have curbside service at Wheelhouse and at Harris Teeter.

Thankfully, my chest freezer in the basement is still full of tomato sauces and roasted tomatoes, blueberries, stocks, soups, grains, flour, nuts and pesto. The freezer up here has a good variety of meat and some frozen vegetables.

The pantry? Beans galore. Condiments. Oil. Vinegar. Spices and herbs. Pastas and lentils. Oats. Rice.

I started making my no-knead bread again.

The simple version. Flour, salt, yeast, water. An 18 hour rise. Google Jim Lahey no-knead bread if you want to try it. We were lucky to find yeast at Harris Teeter. This recipe only uses 1/4 tsp so we can make 8 loaves from one envelope.

The other staple? My simple tuna dish. Tuna, onion, white beans, salt and pepper.

The recipe calls for tuna with olive oil but anything will work. Over greens is our preferred way to eat it.

I am making soups. Omelets. Pasta with sauces. Eat one night. Freeze the other half for later. Minimizing the amount of protein in the dish. Heavy on the greens and grains.

Hanging in there. Praying for friends and relatives on the front lines.

How are you coping?

The Wheelhouse

Sometimes we step back and look at where we live and what that means.

We live in a food desert. Nothing but convenience stores in a five mile radius. You need bread? Lots of marshmallowy white breads at High’s and RoFo. Milk, OK, we can get that too, Produce? Nope!

No sidewalks. No mass transit. Drive to the nearest town if you need anything.

Yes, we are different from urban food deserts. We can easily get to fresh food suppliers if we want to drive 5-10 miles. Still. I miss that convenience. Living so close to multiple fresh food sources. Not here. Not until now.

Welcome to The Wheelhouse.

Located in Glenwood, we now have a market run by a local farm, all year round. Need celery to make a tuna salad? Yep. How about really good dairy?

South Mountain Creamery is there. Bread? Great Harvest.

Plus, they have take out goodies, like chicken salad. Pizza. They also sell sandwiches and salads.

This is an amazing small business, giving us healthier options for meals. I really hope they succeed. I try to get there at least once a week. Western Howard County needs to have a local source for fresh food.

If you live or work out here in the western part of our county, please try them.

All Hail Kale

What is it about kale? You either love it or hate it. It isn’t a lukewarm response vegetable. Lately we have been getting some sort of kale every week in our farm share. Russian. Lacinato. Red. Green. You name it. We get it.

I never heard of it until 2011 when we first saw it in a CSA box.

Now, we don’t even blink when something new like kalettes show up.

Growing up the only greens we ever saw were lettuces, cabbages and spinach. Don’t think I ever saw collards or chard. I have to admit too that getting kale on a regular basis was a challenge for me. I tried salads. Only like ones with lacinato (or dinosaur) which is the mildest for me. I wasn’t fond of massaging the greens to make them tender and those curly varieties had some real bite to them.

Fast forward to my discovery of Joshua McFadden’s book Six Seasons. Which I cook from quite often.

The kale and mushroom lasagna in this book is just amazing. It’s a staple at our house.

I mean who misses the meat in a recipe with something this satisfying. I have made this dish following the recipe in the book and I have gone off and totally improvised. As long as two things are constant. The kale. Simply sautéed in a pan with a little water to help steam it. Wilted down to limpness, losing all that bite. And the mushrooms. Sautéed in butter until absolutely lovely.

I have used the recipe’s sauce, made with butter, flour, milk and chicken stock. I have also cheated and used Paciific’s organic cream of mushroom mixed with milk and a tablespoon of flour. The other element of this dish is the ricotta/lemon zest mix. I have also played around here and used whatever I have available. Sometimes adding goat cheese or mozzarella. Face it, I just use what I have to make the four layers. Mushrooms, kale, cheese and sauce. Layered with the noodles. This pan below made six meals for us. I cut it in pieces and freeze them to be reheated in the oven for a quick meal.

Looks awesome doesn’t it?

Honestly, I bet you could easily convert someone to being a kale lover with this dish. Use really good mushrooms and fresh ricotta and it is decadent.

Thanks to Six Seasons I have many recipes that celebrate kale, without having to resort to smoothies.

 

Omnivore It

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It’s been a while since I highlighted my farm share contents. Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative is the source of most of my produce year round. 48 out of 52 weeks we get some sort of vegetable share and a few add ons.

This winter I added an option that included one cheese, one pantry item and one package of meat every week. It is called the omnivore package. For those inclined, they also offered us a veganize option, which was bread, tofu and pantry item.

This was a recent weekly selection and I want to feature it because I am so impressed with the Soom product. Locally owned in Philly. Sisters. Our co-op contracts with them. Besides their regular tahini, this week we got the chocolate version. Which is destined for a cookie recipe I found.

Other local products have shown up as pantry items. Like this garlic pickle relish.

I have been using this everywhere. In egg salad. Making a shrimp scampi last night. Mixed with some chili sauce to cover polenta which I then baked in the oven. The Sweet Farm is located in Frederick MD.

But the biggest surprise had to be the whole turkey legs last week. I kept thinking when I saw the email announcing the three items for the week that they can’t mean multiple legs. I thought “whole” turkey legs, really? Not drumsticks?

Nope, they were whole turkey legs.

Two of them. Total of 6.85 pounds. These were broad breasted black turkeys. A hybrid breed that can reach 40 pounds in weight.

When I buy a fresh turkey from Maple Lawn Farms, I get a 12-14 pound bird. These legs were humongous. I kept them in the freezer because it looks like I will be grilling them. Together they would overflow my large roasting pan. I also think I may have to figure out how to separate them while frozen and only make one at a time. They are much too large to make soup.

Thankfully, we both favor dark meat in turkeys. But even one of these legs will feed us for days. At about 4-6 ounces a serving and discarding the bones, there are easily 6 servings here. Any and all suggestions for what to make with these behemoths are welcome.

All in all, I believe we are getting our money’s worth from the omnivore add on. We paid $26 a week for this share. The combined value of the products we received definitely exceeded the amount paid. We have gotten lamb, bison, turkey, chicken, pork and beef during the winter. We have gotten honey, tahini, sauerkraut, maple syrup, chocolate tahini, herbal teas, jam, dried mushrooms, AP flour, scone mix, pasta and that awesome garlic pickle relish. We get goat, sheep and cow milk cheeses – my favorites are the aged goat cheeses.

I am about to begin my 9th summer season with the co-op. Still happy with the quality and the quantity. They also still amaze me with the occasional completely new produce item, even after all these years.

Now, I just have to conquer those turkey legs.

 

 

“Ramp” ing It Up

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It’s that spring ritual for me. If it isn’t asparagus, it’s ramps. If it isn’t ramps, it’s morel mushrooms. And, when they are done, it becomes garlic scapes. Etc. Etc.

I post every year about those fleeting specialties that grace our table in all their glory.

Ramps, last year, for example. That post also mentions the fresh morels from Jenny’s Market. Yesterday when I saw the signs on route 32 for the market, they highlighted the seasonal goodies like the mushrooms.

I have also written many posts on asparagus, and on garlic scapes, but today I want to show another simple preparation with the ramps that were still available at the Silver Spring farmer’s market.

Ramp pesto.

I found a recipe in Laurie Lundy’s amazing book on Appalachia. The book is called Victuals, pronounced viddles, according to the introduction. I also grew up hearing it pronounced at vittles. No matter, it is a very complete collection of recipes and their history in the Appalachian communities.

I ended up using her guidelines for ratios, but using what I had in the pantry.

4-5 ounces of ramp leaves. Three large bulbs. I blanched the leaves. Wrung them out after their ice water bath. Put them and the bulbs in the food processor with about 1/2 cup of pistachios. Added 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese. Poured in the olive oil while watching it emulsify. A little salt and pepper to taste. I used this pesto on pasta, and on flatbreads. Added it to an omelet with sautéed potatoes. Put a little on a freshly baked potato. I made it twice already in the past two weeks.

Ramp season is fleeting. They are wild, and not agreeable to cultivating.

An interesting fact I recently heard on the newest Parts Unknown. The West Virginia episode that premiered last week. The farmers in West Virginia are paid $2 a pound for ramps that are taken to New York City where they fetch up to $32 a pound. Talk about a markup!

We pay about $4 a bunch to the West Virginia farmers who frequent the Silver Spring market. Those bunches weigh about 5-6 ounces so they are getting around $12 a pound by selling direct to customers here. A big difference in price.

If you get the opportunity to buy from the local communities, they do far better than selling through distributors.

Now, I just need to head up to Jenny’s and get some locally sourced morels.

 

The 2018 Spargel Season

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The first asparagus in my garden this year were recorded 26 days later than a year ago. This cold wet spring is doing a number on the growth and readiness of our favorite spring “heralders”. I picked a half dozen spears on the morning of the 26th, and saw about a dozen that I should be able to harvest tomorrow morning. Contrast 2018 to 2016, where we also had a late spring.  The numbers were closer to what we are seeing now.

But, I still had 27 spears by the 26th then. I had a whopping 54 in 2017 by this date. I keep records of my garden, just like most farmers do for their crops. Bud break, first harvest, length of harvest, total numbers, total weight, etc.

I still only have a few annuals in the ground. My perennials, like the rhubarb and the herbs, are slowly awakening.

Spargel season is fleeting. White asparagus is a special treat in the spring, and we had our first ones at Lupa last week. Lupa is a new restaurant in downtown Columbia. Owned by the same people, Tony Foreman and Chef Cindy Wolf, that gave us restaurants in Baltimore, and replacing Petit Louis Bistro on the lakefront.

We shall see if Italian fare does better in that location than the former French bistro. We were impressed with the freshly made pastas, including the fettucine with spargel and mushrooms that I had for my dinner. They also featured a white asparagus salad that I had been tempted to try, but I ended up enjoying perfectly executed calamari as a first course. For pizza lovers, there is also a white asparagus pizza on the spring menu.

I like Lupa, with its reasonably priced courses. My husband’s gnocchi were delicious, as we brought home a small amount of leftover pastas which graced our dinner table on Wednesday. We will try and visit the gelateria when the warm weather finally arrives. Having that little area off the dining room become a place to enjoy homemade gelato and sorbet in the summer is another nice addition to the dining options on the lake.

Where else have you seen asparagus featured? Do you like to cook with asparagus? Are you waiting for them to arrive in our local farmer’s markets, and at Jenny’s Market? Jenny’s is supposed to open later this week, and I can’t wait. My go-to right up the road food stand. Where I run to when I need one extra ingredient missing, as I am cooking. I always seem to run out of scallions, or onions, or citrus, and I love that they aren’t 7 miles away. For six months of the year, Jenny’s helps us stay sane with her great selection. She has promised that there will be asparagus when she opens, for those who love cooking seasonally.

Some of my favorites with spargel?

A simple mixed grill. Whatever looks freshest, brushed with oil, seasoned lightly, and served with something easy like kebabs, fish, or steak.

Maybe a frittata. Chopped asparagus, added to the egg mix, with herbs and greens.

Pasta primavera. My favorite pairing is peas and asparagus, with flavors enhanced with sautéed spring onions.

I have to admit, I have been really looking forward to retiring all those root vegetables from my diet, and getting into spring cooking.

 

Safe to Eat?

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OK, raise your hands if all this talk of salmonella and E-Coli is ticking you off.

What is it with the inability to keep food sources safe?

We are in the middle of our transition from winter to spring CSA, and have had to buy produce at the store. No farmer’s markets in the area yet. Other than Silver Spring, but we were busy last weekend and ended up buying romaine at the store. Which we had to throw away now that the CDC can’t pinpoint the source of the E-Coli.

And people wonder why we buy most of our food from our farmer friends. We know where it was grown. We can actually meet the people who grow our food.

We have eggs from our meat and egg share from Evermore Farm. Yes, we pay more for farm fresh eggs but at least our farmers seem to be able to monitor their products and we aren’t looking for tiny labels to see if what we have is part of that millions of eggs recall on the East Coast of the US.

As for the romaine. Annoying to throw out packages of organic romaine because we don’t know where it originated. I can’t wait until May 1st when the spring CSA begins. And, for mid May when our local farmer’s markets begin. Love Dove has awesome greens, right out of the fields. I hope they will be at Clarksville on Saturdays, but if they aren’t, we can also get good organic vegetables from Earth First. Earth First is right down the road from us, and so is Triadelphia Lake View Farm. Both farms sell at our markets.

For local CSAs, besides my Lancaster Farm Fresh which is adding a second pick up in Dorsey Search, there are at least four other major sources of food right out of the ground.

Gorman Farm. Breezy Willow Farm. Wheeler Farm. Triadelphia Lake View Farm.

No excuses to buy older, less fresh, possibly suspect produce.

As for eggs, again, lots of local sources. Copper Penny. Breezy Willow. Evermore Farm. To name a few.

When I switched from industrially processed foods to locally grown, I found the difference in freshness to be incredible. Thankfully, this also means I have a face to associate with my food. People who eat that same food so they have a vested interest in keeping it safe.

Join me in supporting local farms and producers?

Shopping Small

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Small towns. Small businesses. Small eateries.

Do you just do that American Express thing the day after Black Friday? Or, do you support your local businesses all year round?

It drives me nuts when people come looking for suggestions on social media, and they are directed to chain restaurants and big box stores. When Home Depot is the recommended site for Christmas trees, for example.  Really????

OK, everyone who reads this blog knows I frequent locally owned businesses as much as I can.

Take this weekend. Friday we made the trip to pick up my meat CSA share in Westminster and combined it with stops for food and supplies at three different small businesses.

I like to find new places to have lunch. Places off the beaten track. Like PORK and BEANS. A store attached to a factory that processes pork. With artisanal coffee beans. And, one very good ham sandwich.

Yes, I know, the view isn’t spectacular, but the ham is awesome. They also have bacon and that local favorite, scrapple. We brought home some ham for lunches, but I need to go back when we need a ham for a dinner.

After lunch, we headed down to Evermore Farm to get my meat share, then a detour to New Windsor. To Homestead Farm, just southeast of town and not far from Rte 27. They are building greenhouses and expanding their business to include hydroponically grown produce. Grand opening in May.

I discovered Homestead a few years back, on one of our day trips. They offer dairy from Trickling Springs and Pequea Valley, and very good bakery items from local bakers. This trip? Plants and bakery items were our purchases.

Red cabbage and rainbow chard for my garden. Along with a bag of gladiola bulbs.

My husband snuck these in the basket. Killer macaroon and scone from a Westminster small business. Rare Opportunity.

We then headed home but stopped in Sykesville for onion sets at the local Southern States. How many places can you go where a lovely gray cat snoozes on the counter where you check out? Sykesville is my favorite local small town. Full of small places to shop.

Do you have those special family owned places near you? Do you give them the business they need to survive? I hope so. They are so much better than those crowded crazy chain places.