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Category Archives: Real Food

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.

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.

 

“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.

 

Winter in the Spring

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It’s only fitting that on the second day of spring we get smacked with eight inches of snow. Heavy wet snow. Tree branch breaking snow. After all, I did just post a few weeks back about our unseasonable warm weather, and look where we are now.

Our CSA is also still stuck in winter mode. If I see carrots on the newsletter Friday night, I may finally reach my limit and give them to people on street corners. Ten weeks running. Every color. Some of them downright weird.

Mutant ninja carrots, even.

Then there are the vegetables on steroids.

The 2 and 1/2 pound red beet. It was split, roasted and diced for salads. Many, many salads.

Followed by the next delivery with this “little” treasure.

There were two sweet potatoes that week. Total of more than 5 pounds. Far too large to roast. I gave one away, the little one, to a friend and the other, the behemoth, will become an ingredient in another adventure in lasagna. Maybe this weekend.

I cannot wait to see real baby greens on the list for my weekly pickup. I am so tired of winter, and want to get my garden going. Bring on the arugula, the pea shoots, the spring mix. Bring on the local farmer’s markets where I can get something light and refreshing. And put away those humongous root vegetables.

 

Moroccan Meatless Monday

I have to admit that dinner tonight wasn’t intentionally meatless because we just planned to have the leftover soup from a cooking spree.  It also isn’t 100% meatless because it had chicken stock in it. So, it was almost meatless, and it could have been if I had used vegetable stock in the soup when making it.

The latest Cooks Illustrated arrived with a almost vegetarian version of harira, a traditional dried legume and pasta soup with a boatload of spices. Many versions of this soup contain lamb, which would probably elevate it to a whole new level.

These are just the dried spices. It also includes fresh ginger and garlic.

Why is all this so significant to me? Because, the soup was made by my husband who decided he wanted to start making soups this winter and picked a very unique one to begin with.

The soup begins with the onions, celery, garlic, ginger, some cilantro and parsley, the spices, the lentils and the chickpeas simmering away in a 50/50 mix of water and chicken stock. Not all that hard except for all the chopping and grating involved. Later, the container of strained tomatoes and the orzo get added with a slow simmer allowing the flavors to develop. Almost at the end, you add the greens. We didn’t have chard so we substituted collards.

The finished product gets fresh parsley and cilantro on top before serving, and a squeeze of lemon.

I admit. This would really rock with roasted lamb cubes in it. But, all by itself it is a hearty filling soup and I’m glad my husband decided he wanted to try it.

 

Roots

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Four ways.

As in ancestors. Veggies. Stores. And markets.

Trying to tie up some loose ends and get out a post, I realized that the word roots pops up more than once.

In the winter, I tend to dig into my Ancestry tree, and try to follow the links. It’s a cozy way to spend an evening when it is brutally cold out there. It dawned on me that since so many of my ancestors immigrated from Germany (or countries surrounding it, border changes notwithstanding), I can understand my interest in cooking and baking and buying from the Pennsylvania Dutch country.

Hence, the interest in the Roots Country Market and Auction in PA. We haven’t gotten there this winter but I love poking around the market and the outside flea market. It’s where I found a treasure trove of Time Life Cookbooks last year.

As for our local Roots Market, part of Conscious Corner, I headed there last week after picking up my winter CSA (full of root vegetables). They are the closest to us in terms of distance, when it comes to looking for organic goods. I needed greens, since my life does not 100% consist of root vegetables. I wanted spinach, arugula, bibb lettuce, parsley and I needed organic citrus to zest.

All for this.

Raisin Caper Vinaigrette.

From a new cookbook that is my go-to for CSA items. Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden.

Here’s a quick way to make this. You can then dump it all over those winter root vegetables you get from your CSA. Like these.

Last week’s haul from our winter CSA. I roasted the Hakurei turnips and drizzled the vinaigrette all over them.

The vinaigrette. Simple to make. Take 1/3 cup of raisins. Marinate them for half an hour in balsamic. Enough to cover them.

Meanwhile, food process three garlic cloves and a tin of anchovies and three tablespoons of drained capers. Add the raisins. A few squirts of lemon juice and about 1/4 cup of olive oil. At least half a cup (or more) of fresh parsley.

Springtime in a bowl. To cover those root vegetables. Tonight we served it over pierogies. Later this week, over potatoes. You know, all those root vegetables out there.