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Local Food Challenge Theme Week

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I seemed to miss the memo, or left the email get too far down the list of saved. We were supposed to cook vegan in our weekly Cook Locally challenge, the one that my small group of online locavore friends agreed to take.

I cooked lots of vegan the past two weeks. We eat less meat than we used to eat, but most of the recipes weren’t completely local.

In the spirit of the challenge, here are the things I made that qualify as vegan, even though I used all sorts of ingredients in them.

Pumpkin hummus
Fennel and orange salad
Guacamole — no pictures, just a simple mix of avocado, jalapeno, onion, lime, salt and pepper

The posole, was the largest recipe. We ate that soup for at least four meals finishing up today at lunch with the last of it. I really like using the chayote.

chayote 011

My husband’s comment today again was how this soup had that tanginess of sauerkraut.

As for that pumpkin hummus, it has been to the potluck luncheon and has shown up at lunches this weekend. We got an acorn squash last week from the CSA, and I still have sweet potatoes, as well as a quarter jar of tahini. Maybe more hummus will be made and consumed.

We eat mostly food made from scratch these days. Lots of vegetarian, and even quite a few vegan choices. Making us feel better, and using up those lovely fresh veggies from Breezy Willow. At least a fair amount of them.

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As for how well we are doing, the fruit is almost gone. Half the onions. Still have the squash, the eggs, the Brussels sprouts and the turnips. And, half the potatoes. Can’t wait to see what we get this week. The advance email just came in, and there are some really good additions that will lend themselves to some stir fries. Plus, no repeats of what we have left so meal planning can combine items from both weeks.

Wednesday will give us new inspiration for our challenge. Now, at the moment, we are officially drowning in eggs, so vegan doesn’t seem to be on the menu much in the next few weeks. I am saving some eggs to get old enough to do Easter eggs.

Oh, and I still have quite a bit of venison left to use, so giving up meat entirely isn’t something we will be doing. I just have converted to using this as my mantra.

Everything in Moderation.


I Love Lamb

Valentine’s Day. What could be more romantic than dinner shaped like a heart?

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Not only did the lamb end up in the shape of a heart, there was also a heart in the cheese.

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Boarman’s lamb rack. Cherry Glen Monocacy Ash goat cheese. The local contributions to our Valentine’s Day dinner. Most of the rest was organic, but the lamb and the cheese were locally sourced.

The wine. From deep in the cellar where there is a box of wine that we won at the Taste for Life auction a few years back. A local charitable event to raise money for cancer research. It has now moved to Baltimore but for years it was held at the Ten Oaks Ballroom. We bought some lovely wine there at the auction and have been opening one every year for a special occasion. This was the year to open the 1996.

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Besides the lamb and the wine, I also served a salad with the goat cheese and my homemade fruit vinaigrette. I made this vinaigrette using St. Helena Olive Oil Co. balsamic and extra virgin olive oil. Plus juice from my strawberries and blackberries. I defrosted some of them this week to use to make dressing.

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Keep adding berries to the bowl and smash them up to release the juice. Strain them through a fine sieve and add a three to one ratio of oil to vinegar. I added some dried mint and dried basil plus salt and pepper to the dressing.

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Mixed greens. Cranberries. Monocacy Ash cheese. Dress with the vinaigrette. Grate a little sea salt and pepper over it.

Later tonight a little sea salt caramel gelato. A nice homemade Valentine meal.


Sweets Week

In our local eating blog circle, this week is supposed to be a theme, about creating sweets with local ingredients. Needless to say, I have failed at the moment. I just haven’t had time to bake. I do have the ingredients. I even have good intentions.

Like making pumpkin bread with black walnuts. Pumpkin from the CSA, and walnuts from Baugher’s. I even roasted the pumpkins and the other squash and have the puree ready to go for making gift breads. It still sits in the fridge though.

squash 003

I split open the three squash and roasted them. The walnuts, plus some PA based pastry flour, and Breezy Willow honey will be the main ingredients in the breads. Stay tuned for later in the week when I finally get to bake a half dozen mini loaves of pumpkin bread. Similar in style to my rhubarb bread.

dessert breads

dessert breads

I like making dessert breads as gifts. No yeast requirement. Ability to improvise. Besides the breads I want to try making some bark using the walnuts.

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It isn’t easy making desserts with local ingredients. Flour, sugar, spices, all aren’t local. But, you can use the majority of the ingredients from local businesses. I have toyed with the idea of maple bacon popcorn. Using local bacon, local maple syrup and local popcorn. One of these days I will do it. Now, to just get the time to use the puree in the fridge, and make those sweet breads.

Any other local dessert ideas?



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In one year. From a freezer full of grocery store items, and a pantry full of processed foods. It was one of my biggest resolutions last year. Start cooking real food. Use up the CSA. Support our local farmers and markets and small businesses as much as possible.

Now, the pantry has more staples and less packaged items. Most of it organic. The two freezers are full, with very few packaged items in them. Today I finally reached the point where the only meat in the freezer is locally sourced. All of it. From the local farms, and from grass fed and/or free range animals. It may cost a bit more, but we have learned to eat smaller portions and make the veggies on the plate more than half the plate.

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Dinners like my husband’s birthday meal featured small filets, lots of green and red veggies, and it was truly filling and good for us, as well. Portioning out the meat and fish is the way I do it now.

Yesterday I added this to the freezer. Took us a while to inventory and it definitely filled the freezer in the kitchen.

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Thirty seven pounds of venison. From the farm across the road. Our neighbor hunts over there, getting meat for us. We have the large garden, and supply them with tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, etc. from our garden in the summer. He bow hunts to keep the doe population under control around here, for us and the other neighbors who farm and garden.

Today the crock pot has a lovely venison chili bubbling away in it. The only non local items in the pot are the organic black beans, the olive oil, spices and herbs. The tomatoes came from my garden. The onions, sweet peppers and jalapeno, all from the CSA.

venison black bean chili

venison black bean chili

I have two weeks left in the CSA, then a break for two and a half months. I will be using my foods from the freezer and hitting the Saturday and Sunday markets at the farms, and in Olney. I still need to get seafood and occasionally I will buy from Boarmans for cuts that I can’t get from the farmers, but I finally have decided to minimize my exposure to meats from animals given hormones and/or antibiotics.

Local farms that will have markets this winter.

Breezy Willow on Saturdays
TLV Tree Farm on Saturdays
Clarks Farm on Saturdays
England Acres on Saturday and Sunday

Olney will have an indoor market at the Sandy Spring Museum, beginning in January. Add them to the current year round markets, in Silver Spring, Tacoma Park and Dupont Circle. All of those are a drive from here, but an occasional visit to DC for Sunday brunch and some goodies is worth it.

I am keeping my local resources page up to date, as much as I can. We are so lucky here in Howard County to have fresh food, eggs, dairy, cheese, ice cream, meats, honey, and lots of local canned and frozen specialties, made by local farmers and local companies. Just because the markets have ended in Howard County doesn’t mean we can’t find sources for the winter.


My SOLE Food Sisters and our Winter Eat Local Challenge

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For five years, a group of bloggers and blog readers took on a challenge to cook locally during the winter, at least once a week, and blog about it. We called it the Dark Days Challenge, for the dark days of winter here in the Northern Hemisphere. Ten of us, called the south region made it all the way through the challenge, and we bonded in our support for one another.

We continued our blogging together, setting up a Southern SOLE food challenge, using our gardens, farm stands, CSAs, markets and local producers for some staples, as a basis for cooking with our bountiful summer goods.

We decided we wanted to continue this winter and do our own Dark Days again. We will be keeping our google reader going with the participants, and our leader, Emily, from Sincerely Emily, is putting it all together right now. We will blog on Sundays or Mondays about what we made, from our freezers, our canned fruits and veggies, our dried herbs, a few local winter markets, some farm stands that are open year round, and let you know you can still find good things to cook in your own backyard, regionally. From places like Breezy Willow or TLV or Clark’s Farm, all open on Saturdays this winter.

Breezy Willow last January

Breezy Willow last January

What is SOLE food? Sustainable, Organic, Local and Ethical. Pick two or three or all four for most of your ingredients. Eggs from free range chickens. Locally produced meats from animals that aren’t given hormones, antibiotics or fed grain to fatten. Seafood from the local waters. Winter veggies from farmers who don’t spray pesticides or use GMO seeds. Fruit from growers who practice IPM, and minimize what they put on their trees. Those types of things. We state up front that certain items like oils, spices and in our cases, citrus, beans and grains, won’t be local if we don’t have sources ever for those items. Chocolate, for example, or cinnamon. Salt and pepper. Olive oil. When I cook my dark days meal, I do use things like olive oil that have traveled a lesser distance, like my oils from California. Much closer than Spain, Greece or Italy.

my "local" olive oil

my “local” olive oil

It is a fun challenge to make a meal by minimizing non-local items. We will be running our challenge from December 1st until May 1st. I will be updating my food challenge page to follow it.

To kick off my week, I will be making venison chili this week with the venison I will be getting Tuesday. Newly processed. A freezer load of 50-60 pounds, to keep us in stews, chilis, soups and a few nice meals with the loin and the steaks. Out here in our neck of the woods, the bow season is fairly long and we are supporting the deer management practices, to lower the over population in our forests. In some of our watershed areas, they have done night counts that register 6-8 times the number of deer than the vegetation will support. If we don’t use managed hunts, we end up with large numbers of starving and diseased deer.

After providing deer meat to family and friends, many of our local hunters support FHFH (Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry) with donations of deer to be used as a nutritious inexpensive source of protein.

I will be using my frozen chunky tomato sauce and CSA veggies to make my meal. I will write a post about my dinner, and also link up with the others who are supporting the eat local challenge with me. A year ago, when I started this blog, my CSA and my locavore tendencies were my main source of postings. I do believe it is not that difficult to make one meal a week using something produced right down the road. Even if it is only a couple of eggs for breakfast one Sunday. Served with a walnut spelt bread from Atwaters in Catonsville. Spelt is a local grain, grown in PA.

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Anyone interested in taking the challenge, add your name in comments here, and add your link, or your description each week as we go through the winter supporting our local farmers and businesses. Definitely a way to support the best that Howard County and the rest of the region offer us. Truly the Land of Pleasant Living.


My Ultimate Comfort Food

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Bean soup. Every fall I have this urge to make bean soup from scratch. Just like the soups I had as a child, and those lovely Navy bean soups at White Oak, the Pentagon and the Navy Yard.

my homemade crock pot bean soup

Bean soup made creamy without using milk or cream. Tonight it will be “what’s for dinner” and it is definitely not local, except for the ham and the base veggies. I started with a bag of Bob’s Red Mill cranberry beans.

I like these beans for many reasons. I know they aren’t traditional for Navy bean soup, but they are high in protein and potassium and I always have at least one bag of them in the pantry. I get mine at Roots or Davids Natural Market. You can sometimes find them elsewhere. I used the entire bag to make this soup.

I added a quart of Pacific Low Sodium Chicken Stock. I don’t have a quart of homemade stock at the moment, I need to make some, and when I don’t have homemade, this is a staple also in my pantry. I buy it in bulk at Costco.

The veggies in this dish are simple. A medium white onion, diced. One leek, cleaned and cut in pieces. Celery, cut from the entire head of celery in order to mix the leaves and the stalks (about the equivalent of three-four stalks of celery). I want the beans and the ham to be the dominant flavors here so I go easy on the veggies, and I added some oregano, thyme, and parsley, all dried, about 1/2 tbsp of each. I salt to taste, so can’t give an amount. A tsp of Emeril’s Essence, and a tsp of pepper.

The best part of this soup is the smoked ham steaks I bought from TLV Tree Farm a few weeks back. A pound of them. Three slices, two thick and one end with all the smoky goodness.

These ham steaks are lightly smoked, and are bone in. I cubed most of the meat, and definitely included the bone in the pot while cooking, as well as the fat edge.

removing the bone once the soup is done

To serve with the soup tonight, I will choose a big white wine, just don’t know which one. Either of these will work. The Linden 2009 Hardscrabble is a big Burgundian style chardonnay, and the Pearmund Old Vine is from the Meriwether plantings on their property. A bit more oaky than the Linden.

With the soup, I will be serving the olive and feta focaccia I bought at Glenwood Market from the Breadery. It will be heated in the oven on the pizza stone with a drizzle of lemon olive oil from St. Helena Olive Oil Co., my favorite source from Napa.

I may even remember to take pictures tonight, but dinner will be whenever we can squeeze it in, if the contesting husband of mine takes a break. Or, I may be giving him a bowl of soup down in his radio shack and having mine in front of the TV. I’ll just need to cut the focaccia in small strips. If I take pics, I will update my post later with them.

This soup made enough for at least three meals, maybe four, so Monday night will also be a soup night, and the rest will be frozen in a small container to heat up for lunches until it is gone. As for the way to make creamy soup without milk, use the blender. It is a little messy to do, and don’t overfill the blender with hot soup. I blend about a third of the soup, taking care to get mostly beans and avoid chunks of ham. It turns stock and beans into a creamy consistency, but leaving much of it chunky to show what is in it.

Here’s to soup night! Stay warm!

bean soup with ham

Updated to add the pic of dinner —

bean soup, focaccia and chardonnay


Eating Locally: The Wrap Up for Summer

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The Summer SOLE Food Challenge, SSFC, is over. I made it through remembering to post almost every week. Eating locally is so easy around here when the markets are still hopping.

Today is the East Columbia Market. Miller Library finished yesterday. The Glenwood and Oakland Mills markets will continue until the weekend before Thanksgiving, and East Columbia ends on the 15th of November. Stocking up on meats from the markets will allow me to continue to put something made in Howard County on my table throughout the winter.

We haven’t heard yet what would be included in the delivery and whether our CSA delivery will take place today. After I finish with the first graders at the Conservancy, I am either picking up a fall delivery, or heading to East Columbia to get a few things. I let the refrigerator get pretty empty before the storm.

I did remember to take some tomatoes and pesto out of the freezer yesterday so tonight there will be pizza with TLV bacon, tomatoes and pesto from my garden, and Bowling Green mozzarella. Mostly local, except for the crust.

The pesto and oven roasted tomatoes are defrosting today. The bacon is out, and I will fry up the entire package, crumble it and use it in salads, omelets and soups. I need eggs, as I hit zero yesterday. Sounds like a trip to TLV Saturday is in store.

You can eat healthy, organic, IPM, non GMO foods around here fairly easily. The ten of us from our challenge have all signed on to continue looking for sources and posting about what we do in the winter. Details are being worked out by us now. I will modify my Food Challenges page to reflect it.

I made a really good crock pot potato leek soup last night, letting the soup cook while we cleaned up the house, and put things back where they belonged. No pictures, because besides being exhausted, two of the potatoes were purple so the soup looked a little weird.

Yes, you can mix all sorts of potatoes into that soup. One of them was even a white sweet potato. I put half the soup in the blender just before serving so we had chunky creamy soup. Four leeks, all the potatoes, an onion, a little celery from the fridge, my homemade veggie broth as a starter, and towards the end I added a cup of almond milk to make it creamy but keep it lactose free. Everything was cut into cubes or small pieces and dumped in the crock pot with a little salt, pepper, and herbs de Provence.

OFf to chase first graders around for a few hours. We are teaching rocks, fossils and extinct animals. Should be a fun morning. Here’s hoping the sun comes out.


A Chicken in Every (Crock) Pot And Ready for Sandy

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While we run around filling bath tubs and clearing leaves out of the rain gutters, and positioning a trash can near the sump pump, and all those lovely other things, my crock pot is happily making dinner. I put half a chicken in it with CSA veggies and it is close to being done. I will microwave a few potatoes and we have a quick easy dinner before getting back into the waiting game. I will have a local dinner tonight. Open a VA wine and relax now that all the preparations are done.

frozen half chicken from tlv tree farm

I need to thank howchow for letting us know Harris Teeter wasn’t crazy crowded. We decided to err on the side of caution and get six more gallon jugs of water. Some fruit, since I didn’t get to the farmer’s markets, and a gallon of honey crisp apple cider from Zeigler’s. Not local, but still family made. The bath tubs will be filled tonight with water to flush toilets, and the coolers are ready to go if needed. Ten bags of ice are in the freezer now. Two will come out tomorrow into the cooler with the refrigerator foods we want to consume if the power goes out. That way we won’t be opening the refrigerator at all, or the freezer if we lose power.

All day today the birds went nuts trying to buzz feeders that aren’t there. Finches were sitting on the patio chairs (left out there since we can’t carry them far and there is no free place to put them) looking for the bird bath and the feeders. Ever watch a bird make a beeline for the feeder pole, then find nothing there but the pole. Very confused. The furniture was all moved over to the far edge of the patio near the area where the feeders and bird bath were located, and which now are all safely in the shed. I did remember to spread as much food as I could on the ground so the birds get something. They really are accustomed to coming here for food in the fall and winter.

The antennas are all down. The side of the house looks weird with no wires. This is the view from a few months back. Spring when the cherry trees were blooming. All the wires had to come down and tension taken off the ropes so they won’t snap. Here’s hoping the trees all hang in there the next two or three nights.

amateur radio antennas off the attic

On the local 2 meter repeater, we are reminded that CARA will appropriate the frequency tonight to support RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service). Amateur radio operators will be supporting the county in emergency communications traffic during the storm. We will have our hand held transmitters here at our house available with charged batteries so we can monitor communications (and communicate if we need any assistance in our area).

All in all, we are now even more resigned to a long, frustrating, series of days watching this storm cross over the east coast and impact our lives.


Finishing the Eat Local Challenge

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Monday is the last reporting day for our Summer Challenge, to eat at least one meal a week using locally sourced ingredients. Who knows how crazy it will be around here by Monday, but at least I know there will be a number of local meals consumed by us. Many of them involving local eggs.

farm fresh eggs

I made eggs for breakfast today and used up the last of the Canela wheat bread for toast. I will be hardboiling a dozen eggs and putting them aside to make egg salad in case we lose power. We set up a small cooler for lunch foods, placing all the condiments and salad makings in it, the way we ate breakfast and lunch after the derecho in June.

I always have my tuna, cannellini bean and onion salad ingredients on hand, but they aren’t local. Well, the onions are, but not the rest.

Tuscan tuna and bean salad

Hmmm, Tuscan tuna and bean salad, served with local breads and a few of my dill pickles from the jars. Mostly local. I have a loaf of potato onion bread in the freezer from Stone House. I can warm it in the oven tonight to defrost it and save a few hunks to have with a simple salad. Egg salad, or tuna salad. I have celery from the CSA. The only non local items as usual will be condiments like mayo or olive oil.

I am cleaning out the most perishable (and the more pricey) items in the meat/fish freezer, so I will be baking a large whack of wild Alaskan salmon tonight. Since I have been so diligent here in getting ready for this storm, the odds keep getting higher that it will pass us by.

It is only when I have no ice, no water, no batteries and ignore the frantic admonishments on the TV, that we end up with no power. Still, we are crossing our fingers. At least the temperatures aren’t bad. No real high temps, and no subfreezing temps in the future that would make us miserable without A/C or heat.

The SSFC Eat Local Challenge is ending, but the ten of us are talking about how we will address winter eating, using locally sourced items. Sometime in the future, our google reader will have the details, and we will continue finding ways to eat local foods year round.


Eating Locally: Zuppa!

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Accidental soup. That is what happened. It started out as sausage and cabbage. A little too much liquid in the crock pot. It ended up a lovely local soup served with a Maryland wine. The summer local challenge is in its next to last week. The ten of us are still using market and CSA veggies, plus what we grew, to make local meals.

Here is mine. TLV Farm sage sausage. Cabbage, turnips, purple potatoes from the CSA. Apples from Lewis Orchards. Cider from Lewis Orchards. Chicken stock from the freezer, made from TLV chicken. Canela bread with South Mountain Creamery butter. Most of the ingredients can be sourced by following my local resources page.

sausage and cabbage soup

The spices and seasonings were the only non local items in the soup. The wine. A Viognier Gruner Veltliner from Black Ankle, a MD winery.

The crispness of the wine cut the sweetness of the soup. I did add caraway, nutmeg, seasoned salt and pepper to the soup, but the cider really kicked it into more of a sweet zone. VGV, from Black Ankle is an interesting blend. The Gruner tones down that tartness of the Viognier.

This dinner is my weekly contribution to the Southern SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) Food Challenge with my cyber “sisters” that I talked about in a recent post.

One week to go in this current challenge. I believe we decided to continue working together to show how we source and cook from local ingredients all winter long. For me, come January, I have no winter CSA. It is freezer, farmstands and the two local year round markets.

I will be able to pick up things at our winter market fest at the Conservancy in January, and at the couple of farms that will be open on Saturdays. One or two trips to Silver Spring should round it all out. Eating locally is so much easier in this area than it was a few years back. Add to that, I will be doing the Early Bird spring CSA with Breezy Willow. Local cold storage veggies and green house lettuces, citrus from FL and all I need to do is survive January and February without a CSA delivery.

I have become so used to weekly boxes of fresh organic veggies, those two months will be an experience. But, I can still eat the rainbow. Use those frozen goodies like my pesto and my tomato sauce, and plow through my massive amount of potatoes sitting out in the cooler part of the mud room. Who says we have to suffer with processed foods in the winter? I remember getting root veggies like these last December.

Here’s to local eating!