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My Cyber Circles

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I have been meaning to write a post about the three different circles where I travel in cyberspace, in other words, talk about my cohorts in posting. I started my blog in November 2011, mainly to document my CSA, and to learn how to use social media. Something we didn’t do all those years I worked for Uncle Sam. The Navy wasn’t keen on us using social media.

Now that I am retired and looking around to expand my circle of acquaintances I found this blog has triggered email correspondence, and in many cases, it has resulted in meeting people, as we do in the hocoblogs community.

I think we are due for another get together soon, as it has been awhile. Linking and reading each others’ posts is how I keep updated on what happens around here. Food, politics, social events and life in hoco in general. Plus, it got me into using facebook, and twitter, with connections made on both. Including Marshmallow Man and Gingerbread Girl.

The second circle is the locavore circle. I got into it, with a Dark Days Challenge, by attempting to find local meats, dairy, produce and staples during the down period when farmstands and farmer’s markets are not available. I learned that there is actually quite a bit around here in the county and surrounding Maryland counties, that make it easy to cook at least once a week using locally sourced items. My local resources page was built during that challenge.

Now, our group of ten women, who blogged all last winter, are continuing to read each others’ blogs, swap recipes, learn new techniques and keep in touch. The Soffrito, another hocoblogger, and I have met for coffee at the farmer’s markets and keep in touch by email. I have the list of all ten of us on my challenges page, and we have a file folder on the google reader, where we keep up with posts. Their blogs touch DC, VA, MD, SC, NC and TX. Rebecca at Eating Floyd is my source for learning to preserve foods. Emily at Sincerely Emily was our coordinator in last year’s challenge and kept us motivated throughout the long winter season. We intend to keep posting even if the Dark Days Challenge doesn’t materialize this winter.

AnnieRie Unplugged – me
Backyard Grocery Northern VA
Bumble Lush Garden near DC
Eat. Drink. Nourish. South Carolina
Eating Appalachia Blue Ridge VA
Eating Floyd Southwest VA
Family Foodie Survival Guide Northern VA
Sincerely, Emily Texas
The Soffritto right up the road in Woodstock
Windy City Vegan North Carolina

My third circle is the “What’s in the Box” circle. Started by Heather at In Her Chucks, this circle is the CSA and farmer’s market bloggers who link up weekly. I get a good source of information on what to do with strange new veggies, and have expanded my resources. Plus, In Her Chucks is a fun blog to read.

my CSA box

I almost feel like these blogging circles are the modern day equivalent of pen pals. I know that really dates me, to remember when we had pen pals and we, ***GASP***, sent snail mail, only we called them letters back then.

On November 2nd, my blog will be a year old. I am surprised that I still find enough to write about. Thankfully, there are lots of opportunities around here, and lots of inspiration. Thanks to the community here for linking us up, and spreading our thoughts around the area, and far beyond.


Eating Locally: International Week

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This week is an international themed week with my circle of Southern SOLE Food Challengers. I made a crock pot soup yesterday that will feed us for a few days. It is based on my favorite Caribbean style spicy black bean soup, but as usual, going off into Use Up the CSA direction.


Here is the recipe that I used. Open two 15 ounce cans of organic black beans and put in crock pot with at least the equal amount of chunky tomato sauce. I used my homemade version from my garden tomatoes. I put them in right from the freezer. That is the base.

Here is where I deviate. I added all the CSA greens I had from a week ago. Kale, chard, curly endive and green leaf lettuce. This filled my crock pot to the rim, but it will cook way down. I added a splash of olive oil and a splash of balsamic. I grated three garlic cloves and a healthy amount of ginger into it.

I had an andouille sausage in the freezer from an earlier trip to the farmer’s market in Silver Spring. I cut it up into small pieces. Then, added a healthy dose of sriracha sauce. Jerk seasoning would work, as well. A large pinch of salt and some cayenne.

Let it cook on high for at least four hours. It will be served with dinner tonight, as I like my soups to age a day before I serve them. I will open a bottle of Linden Rosé’ but a good local beer will also work.


Foodie, Meet Locavore

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I have written before about how my two different “worlds” collide. The locavore in me who eats as much fresh local items as I can, and that inquisitive foodie that loves ethnic foods from all around the world, and searches for exotic spices, fruits and veggies.

Last night’s dinner reflected that conflict. It turned out to be extremely tasty. Italian whole grain flatbread with ajvar, pesto, chicken and parmesan on it.

I used the last of my pesto and the ajvar I made a week ago. We had been noshing on it and there was just enough left to spread over the flatbread. I had leftover roast chicken from a visit to Bistro Blanc Tuesday night, which I shredded and added on top.

pesto and ajvar

A little Parmesan from Roots. Some herbs, salt and white pepper. Simple, served with a side salad of arugula, grapes and almonds. And, we opened a very nice Verdejo from Paso a Paso. We found a number of inexpensive bottles of Spanish and Portuguese wines at Pine Orchards a few weeks back.

Thanks to my locavore friends in our food challenge, I discovered ajvar. I also found jars of it at Roots. VaVa Ajvar, and they also sell something called Lutenica. I bought one of the ajvar to compare to my homemade version. My husband agreed. My version is better. We will have to try the Lutenica though. To see how it is made.

According to the tag, this is a Macedonian version of the spread. My original recipe was Serbian. My recipe used vinegar and garlic. This one is milder due to the lack of those ingredients.

As for the flatbread, bought at Roots, I really like this quick and easy way to make dinner. There will be many more dinners made using my frozen pestos and ovendried tomatoes spread over flatbread.


1991 Linden Cabernet

Twenty one years old. Still dark, rich and a lovely wine. Who says Virginia can’t produce stellar red wine?

1991 Linden Cabernet

We bought Linden wine for the first time in 1992 at the Virginia Wine Festival. It was then we met Jim and Peggy Law, who were producing their first vintages on their farm off I-66 east of Front Royal and just below the Appalachian Trail. We bought a couple bottles of 1989 back then, because what we tasted held great promise. The 1989 and 1990 vintages are gone from our cellar, but one lonely 1991 bought at one of the earliest visits to the winery was still down there.

the label on the Linden 1991

What is amazing is that 21 years after production, it still tastes like the description. This wine probably cost us $15 back then. Not cheap for a Virginia wine then, but I have California wines that never reached the complexity this Virginia wine has. We paired it with our monthly filet splurge. Sunday night dinner, then football. The dinner.

Filet, baked potato and salad Caprese

Mostly local with steaks from Boarman’s. The potatoes from the CSA. The tomatoes are mine, as is the basil. The mozzarella, not local, bought at David’s Natural Market.

This meal, our next to last summer challenge meal, was so satisfying because the wine stood up to the steak. No brown edges. No off odors. Really an amazingly complex, flavorful wine. The dried fruit aroma was still intense although the other descriptors were a bit faded and hard to find. The taste was still there, though. A long finishing wine. The tannins has definitely softened , yet there was still structure there.

I keep saying Linden makes wines that would command twice the price if they were from Bordeaux or California. Having the luxury of the cellar allows us to be patient and enjoy the wine’s development over time. Glad we opened this one last night. Too bad it is the last of that vintage. I had brought up a bottle of ’99 in case the ’91 wasn’t still good. Looks like the ’99 will get put on the shelf for a while longer.

Now, the oldest Linden wines we still have are the 1997 reserve. Three left. This winter we will have to try one to see how they are doing.

Preserving #hoco

Maybe I should call this one, my house reeks of garlic. But, that’s not particularly pleasant, unless you love garlic. This weekend finds us preserving food. Getting ready for winter. Making like the squirrels who are burying acorns (and corn). I can’t believe it when corn starts growing in the middle of my yard.

But, I digress. Today I popped off to the Glenwood Market to pick up a few things. And, when I returned, I was slow cooking and drying tomatoes. The tomatoes are winding down in the garden. I do have quite a bit of little ones, that I oven dried to make pesto.

Heirlooms ready to oven dry

Our theme this week for the Southern SOLE Food Challenge is preserving. I certainly am putting food away for winter. Besides the tomatoes and the pesto, I learned a trick from Lewis Orchards, at the market. Buy the buttermilk cake from Stone House Bakery. Cut it in quarters. Wrap it. Freeze it.

the cake

Wrapped and ready to freeze

Take those frozen Larriland Farms strawberries. Some whipped cream. A quarter of the cake. Make summer happen in the middle of winter.

Check out what my friends are preserving, by clicking on the links on my Challenges page.


My House Reeks of Basil

Really. The entire first floor smells like basil. The blue basil will not give up. It keeps branching out and growing. I whacked back another batch and have two cups of it sitting there waiting patiently to become pesto. The containers below are from a few weeks back, and are happily resting in the freezer.

Pesto ready for the freezer

Our locavore cooking challenge has a theme this weekend. Preserving and canning food. I am not a big canner, but with my new chest freezer I have become a freezing fool. Tomatoes, berries, peppers, corn, pesto, and sauces. I have a good supply put away to sustain me during the 14 week hiatus from getting CSA deliveries.

It’s hard to believe the basil started out in May looking pretty bare. And then it went wild. This is the herb garden before you could even see the basil.

Every growing season surprises me. This year the basil and rosemary took off. So did the thyme. The sage died. Don’t know why. but it did. The marjoram and tarragon also succumbed to the heat. It will be interesting to see how the rosemary does this winter. It has come back for three years. And, the thyme has wintered well.

It is almost time to plant the garlic. If you want to try something simple to grow, head to the local farmer’s markets and pick up some garlic. Put the cloves in a big flower pot, with lots of mulch over them. Come next May, you will have fresh garlic you grew. I loved my spring garlic from my flower beds, harvested in June.


Eating Locally: What Did I Do Last Week?

Getting towards the end of our group who blog about our local eating adventures during the height of the growing season. Next week we get to blog about our preserving and canning adventures but this week, I just have a few random comments.

About how the CSA has changed my life. How would you like flourless squash brownies?

Flourless Squash Brownies

Because of our linkyparty on CSA recipes over at InHerChucks, I found A Little Nosh (love her tag line). This is the before picture. There is no after picture. They got eaten too quickly.

About how certain plants went crazy and others bombed. The basil created another huge round of pesto making. I got six more cups of basil out of this cutting. Two or three more cups of basil still out there.

Basil being rinsed

If you look at the picture below, you will see the good tomatoes and the ones the stink bugs destroyed. Careful cutting before slicing or processing was necessary to avoid damaged areas.

Heirloom tomatoes, some with stink bug damage

About how the farmers markets and the farm stands have replaced grocery stores in my shopping trips. I discovered England Acres and go there frequently. I get eggs and meat from them and from TLV.

England Acres fields

About almost completely eliminating processed foods and grocery store meats. Dinner Friday included TLV beef short ribs, CSA potatoes and kale, and tomato sauce made with my Amish paste tomatoes. Nothing processed in this dinner. All fresh. Almost all local. Except for the olive oil I used to brown the meat.

slow cooked short ribs

Check out my Local Challenge page and see what my friends are cooking. You may get addicted to ajvar, like I did. Mine is redder than Rebecca’s. Haven’t figured out what I did differently. Eat a local meal soon and enjoy the last of the summer bounty.

Ajvar, a Serbian eggplant, red pepper spread


Eating Locally: A Tasty Brunch

It is a holiday weekend. A lazy morning. Late brunch. Using mostly local ingredients. Somewhere we picked up a bottle of locally produced Bloody Mary Mix. VA made. We made Virgin Mary’s. At our age, vodka at 10 am means a nap not long afterwards. This is a spicy thick rich Bloody Mary Mix. Anchovies and clam juice. The sea in a glass.

Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mix

Besides that, we made our favorite eggs with toast. The eggs. TLV Tree Farm. Bought at the Howard County Market at the hospital. The butter. Trickling Springs, bought at England Acres Farm. The bread, from Roots.

I love making eggs from free range chickens. Look at the yolk on these eggs.

This brunch counts as one of my local meals for our Southern Sole Food Challenge. Ten of us from south of the Mason Dixon Line are cooking a local meal every week and blogging about it. Today for me, it is brunch. Check out what the others make at their sites, listed here.

Do your own local meals. Buy at the Howard County Farmers Markets. Or, at the local farms. Check out my local resources page to see where I buy local good foods.


Eating Locally In Style: RdV Volt Dinner

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OK, I had to drive over 100 miles round trip to eat food from Frederick. It was so worth it. My foodie and locavore worlds collided, as well as my VA wine addiction. For our anniversary this month, we treated ourselves to dinner at RdV, in Delaplane, prepared by Bryan Voltaggio of VOLT in Frederick. The food and the wines did not disappoint.


We first met Rutger de Vink when he was an apprentice at our favorite VA winery, Linden. In 2002, he was pouring wine at the barrel tasting of the wonderful 2001 vintage. We lost touch with what he was doing, only finding out that he found his place on a hillside in Delaplane where he planted grapes and started his own winery. Rutger’s mission was to use terroir to the extreme. Granite deep into the ground.

The granite in the cave walls

His first vintage, 2008, sold out quickly to the Ambassadors, his wine club members who took the tour and drank wonderful reds from three year old vines. His 2009 wines, a good year in VA, are stellar. Big, in your face, yet balanced reds. Two of them. Getting there is hard. Make a reservation for a tour. Taste the wines. Buy in. Be guaranteed to buy every year. These wines aren’t available in stores. Only a few restaurants sell them. They are, simply, awesome reds.

2009 Rendezvous, the red we drank last night

The winery holds chef dinners periodically. We were lucky, as two of the 40 people in attendance to have a celebration of local foods with Bryan Voltaggio, paired with wines whose grapes shared that same granite terroir. We had a Loire white, an Alsatian white, a Morgon Gamay and 2009 Rendezvous, with appetizers and dinner. The menu for dinner.

dinner menu, RdV and Volt

The appetizers were served in the upper level of the winery, below that lovely silo. Trout roe with pork skins and arugula cream, clams casino, an incredible sausage on a delicate cracker, all paired with a Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur lie. Then, we descended into the fermentation cellar to be seated and treated to an amazing dinner prepared by the chef. I only have good pictures of the lamb and the dessert. Here are the stars of the dinner.

Lamb, head to hoof

Berries and cream, vanilla shortbread and goat cheese ricotta

Bryan and Rutger enjoying the appreciation after the meal.

So how was the Rendezvous? Exquisite. A baby. Deep, rich, a perfect match for the lamb. This is a wine with the ability to last for years. RdV is certainly raising the bar when it comes to making big reds in Virginia. He learned quite a bit from Jim Law. It will be fun in October to see them go head to head at L’Auberge Provencale. Think of it. Hardscrabble versus Lost Mountain. Terroir squared. I am happy to see Virginia winemakers pushing to elevate their reds to that level of excellence found in Bordeaux. Last night was a magical evening. As we left late in the night, the silhouette of the winery framed the skyline.

Eating Locally: Mexican Style

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Last night I made my Southern SOLE Food Challenge, SSFC, meal with a Mexican influence, compliments of our CSA basket that had lovely poblano peppers in it. Most of the meal was local, with just a few exceptions, like the black beans and the mozzarella.

Chicken, black beans and stuffed poblanos

The picture doesn’t do it justice. The poblano got soft, silky and it was filled with creamy mozzarella that countered the heat. The chicken came from our winter CSA, one of the last deliveries from Zahradka. I simply seasoned it with garlic powder, cinnamon, salt and pepper. The black beans did come from a can. A can of organic beans, drained and rinsed, then placed in the pan with grapeseed oil, and covered with my rhubarb sauce. A one dish oven baked meal.

Really good with a Yuengling, the local beer from my husband’s home county in PA.

I got the rhubarb recipe by reading one of the posts in our inlinkz party. I didn’t use it on pizza, but it has been used often. Tangy, rich and so delicious.

Rhubar-b-cue sauce

Besides Sunday night, we also used up some of our local meats the other day. I slow cooked a brisket from Woodcamp Farms. It has been used three times since Thursday. I used the rhubarb sauce on it, after dry rubbing it with the Rub Joe Meat coffee rub.

Slow cooked barbecue brisket

Finding locally raised beef, lamb, pork and poultry is pretty easy in the county. My local resource page shows quite a few of the places where I buy meats.

Veggies are easy. Fruit is easy. Meat is easy. Seafood is easy. Herbs are easy. The hardest part of eating locally is finding grains and beans. Still, having the bulk of the meal come right from local farmers is better than having it shipped halfway around the world.