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Recovery

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It’s been four months since the tornado. I have serious respect for those who soldier through natural disasters and put their lives back together.

We spend many hours dealing with the clean up, the restoration and the insurance claims. We finally finished the tree removal. Five days of a full crew, removing over a hundred trees.

The Cutting Edge did all our tree work. Highly recommended. Between them and Absolute Landscaping we have almost cleared it all. Absolute now begins the repair work.

Two small locally owned companies. Howard County at its best.

We have half an acre being cleaned up and reseeded. Days of milling and scraping, adding top soil and lime, and then putting in a hardy grass to prevent erosion. We were covered in invasive plants, which we are trying to eradicate.

Things look pretty bad at times, but we do have faith.

Some of this land will hopefully end up with trees from a grant to reforest with native nut bearing deciduous trees. We are included in a proposal by Howard  Ecoworks to use native trees to increase the forest canopy in the county.

Until then we are just stabilizing the area because we had major erosion in July when those three inches of rain ripped through our area.

Beyond the current work load around here, I did still make time to try something new with some native grapes. Muscadines. We had two quarts of them from our farm share.

I turned to Vivian Howard again for a recipe. Deep Run Roots.

Grape Hull Preserves.

Things are always better when you can add food making to your day. It’s my release valve. My escape from noise and dust.

Hopefully one day we will finish and can return to our hobbies, and our peace and quiet.

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.

 

 

Springing Forward

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Not my favorite time of year. Adjusting to the time change.

I am working on so many projects and just can’t get motivated to get up when I should, as my brain keeps telling me it’s too early.

Are you like me? Wishing they would just pick a time, one or the other, and stop the switching back and forth. You know, standard time is only four months long, and the daylight saving time is now eight months of the year. Why is the standard only 33% of the year?

For us, we like to have dinner as the sun sets. We tend to be busy outdoors and come in for dinner when we have to stop working in the garden, or maintaining the property, or in my husband’s case, working on his antennas and towers.

Enough complaining. I have to admit that today has been beautiful. Temps in the mid 70s. No rain. It all missed us. I headed into Clarksville earlier to do a few errands and I could see that the businesses are taking advantage of the weather. The windows are open at Food Plenty. I bet there are a few people already out on the patios. Maybe I should fire up the grill. After I move it back where it belongs. The wind storm a couple weeks ago actually pushed it around a bit.

This may be just a short taste of the coming spring, but it is most welcome after a wet miserable winter.

I am thinking about that summer trip to Charlottesville and the view from Barboursville.

The octagonal ruins designed by Jefferson. Made me think of the tomato seedlings growing in my kitchen. All heirlooms from Monticello. Prudens purple, purple calabash and red fig. Hoping that this summer will be kind to my veggie garden, and not drown it like last summer.

What signs of spring make you happiest? Flowers. Gardens. Outdoor activities. Grilling. Dining al fresco. That’s my short list.

Zero Point Seven

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Degrees. Fahrenheit. The lowest temperature here in the boonies, measured just south of us in Dayton at the RIMPO weather station. This was Thursday morning at 4:52 am while we were still all bundled up and warm, sleeping.

I am so glad I don’t have to commute in this weather. At that hour, before retirement, my husband would have been leaving to catch the commuter bus.

We haven’t ventured out much and we have been taking care of the birds and squirrels that live in our pine trees. I did find out that my bird bath heater doesn’t do ZERO degrees. The water was frozen Thursday. It was OK this morning so it hasn’t bit the dust.

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This is what it should look like. It was a solid sheet of ice and I did not try to take pictures in that temperature.

It does pretty well in snow, like during Snowmageddon a few years back.

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Having fresh water is the most important service I can provide them.

Since I have been stuck at home, I have been following social media using the neighborhood pages. Many requests for plumbers, or HVAC people. I have to say that periods of bad weather are not the time to go looking for immediate help if you haven’t already established a relationship,  A plumber who knows you and your property will fit you in. Ken Griffin did a same day service call when we had a bathroom pipe freeze and break five years ago. Environmental Systems Associates has come in less than 24 hours when our heat pumps have failed. We use both of these local businesses for work when it isn’t an emergency so we aren’t looking for recommendations on line during a crisis.

Right now it is still snowing. There’s at least three inches out on the benches. This wasn’t predicted to happen. Looks like tomorrow we will be clearing the driveway and the cars. I have to go pick up my monthly meat share delivery at the Wegmans parking lot at noon. Evermore Farm has about 20 of us on their delivery route throughout the area and I am fresh out of eggs. Looking forward to the chicken too. I pick up three dozen eggs, a chicken, and 7-8 pounds of Angus beef and Berkshire pork. I could have home delivery but this gives me an excuse to shop once a month at Wegmans.

I think I will stop by Mother Natures in Snowden for bird seed. My supplies are dwindling. They are right down the road from Wegmans.  Might as well make this an efficient trip.

Stay warm everyone.

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.

 

And The Winner Is …

… black cherry tomatoes.

Not only did they win me two ribbons at the county fair, they also are the highest producer in my rain soaked garden. I have harvested close to 25 pounds of these flavorful heirloom tomatoes from two plants. Plants purchased last spring from TLV Tree Farm at the Clarksville Farmers’ Market.

This is the second year they have taken second place in the heirloom tomato category. It’s the closest I have gotten to that elusive blue ribbon, and the $35 special premium attached to winning it.  I just can’t get my other heirlooms to ripen early enough to enter them in the fair. Next year will be even harder as the fair is a day earlier for entries, and I barely had adequate numbers of my other vegetables.

I did put in seven entries and came away with seven ribbons. Two firsts, three seconds, and two fourth place ribbons. My first place winners were my okra, and I had the largest tomato. Not very large, a green heirloom variety called Aunt Ruby’s Green German. It was a pound and a half. It’s crazy. I only got a half dozen of them from that plant, so it will not be bought again next year.

As for other notables from my garden, this is the year that the Italian cucurbita moschata, aka tromboncino took over my garden. It’s crawling everywhere and giving me 1-3 pound squash every time I go there.

This is the latest one. 2 Pounds, 14 ounces. There are seeds only in the bulb, so they are sweeter than other summer squash if you get them before they become too large. In past years, friends have found hiding ones that have weighed as much as 10 pounds. Those with darker green skins are treated like winter squash, peeled and used in soups or in muffins and breads.

I have been making and freezing trays of fritters. By themselves or paired with corn, or with sweet red peppers, we make a batch, have a few with dinner and then freeze them stacked on parchment. All winter long I can pull out a sheet or two and have fritters as a side dish with dinner.

Here is one of my earlier harvests of the squash.

And these are the other major producer this year. My okra. Drowning in okra. I had a market pack with ten plants in it. They looked quite pathetic when I planted them and I expected many of them to die. Nope, they didn’t. Out of ten tiny plants, seven survived and are now six feet tall and producing like mad. I have made many fries, have sautéed them, made a hash, and am running out of ideas. I do donate quite a bit of these to the food bank every Tuesday as we get dozen of them weekly.

Last but not least, the heirlooms.

Not a great year. Many cracked from the excessive rain. I did get quite a few of Rutgers tomatoes. Those are the red ones with the cracked tops. The green ones were those green German variety. The two on the bottom right were from my Amish CSA and not from the garden.

But these were still my favorite. At the height of summer, they were large and sweet.

I roasted these. Spread out on a tray. Rolled in olive oil, sprinkled with salt, pepper, and oregano. Low temperature for a few hours. Like candy.

The garden is winding down. Just okra, cherry tomatoes and lettuces. A big basil plant and sage. Almost time to do my winter pesto and maybe spread some Tuscan kale plants in the corner to see how they do.

This summer was awful for the gardeners. Far too much rain, excessive heat when it wasn’t raining, and bugs galore. Still, I love the challenge and I enjoy my harvests.

“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.