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Soup Season

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Somewhere in the last week the weather changed. It got cooler and breezy and it rained quite a bit. Just the type of weather to make me pull out the crock pot and make soup.

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This week it was split pea soup with ham. Ham from last winter’s CSA meat share, and a bag of split peas. I tend to buy the meat share from our CSA in fall and winter. The fall share is just eight weeks long and the winter share is 13. Not as big a commitment as a 26 week summer share, so you get to kick the tires, so to speak.

I made this simple soup with leftover uncured bone in ham. From a March delivery. I have been working at drawing down that freezer. Dump a bag of split peas in the crock pot. Add a pint of chicken stock and a pint of water. Add an onion, diced. Shred the ham and add it. Add the bones, too, if you have a bone in ham. Salt, not much, and pepper. That’s it. Eight hours in the crock pot. Two dinners for us.

Served with the last of my ripe tomatoes.

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Some goat cheese. Asiago pepper dressing. Spring onions. Salt and pepper.

The other star of dinner. The bread.

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Again, compliments of the CSA. We get an amazing variety of vegan whole grain breads. They last a very long time, and have that denseness and chewiness that a good bread should have.

Finally, the wines.

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We did a Sauvignon Blanc throwdown, between Linden and Glen Manor. Linden makes theirs in the style of a French Fumé. Glen Manor, reminds me of a New Zealand pineapple-y SB. It was fun to compare against the richness of the soup.

Now, on to more experimentation with soups. Next up, pumpkin soup.

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The Triamble (also called shamrock) pumpkin that we got today in our box is supposed to be amazingly tasty, and I have a few soup recipes that I want to attempt with it. I will be roasting pumpkin this weekend, for sure.

Rainy Days

Finally, we get a good soaking rain. Good enough to give the sod a fighting chance to survive.

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Although it also kept the carpenters from working on the deck.

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I will be happy when they get done with the work and we can finish seeding the sodding the yard. The mud runs are getting a wee bit eroded.

The good news also, the tomatoes in my garden got much needed relief from the heat and drought conditions.

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I am running low on ripe tomatoes, and there are many green ones on the plants up at my garden.

Today though was cooler, dreary, just the type of weather that screams “SOUP!” and has me reaching for the pans and the crock pot.

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I dug into the freezer and took out a package of my Maple Lawn turkey drumsticks. The last ones from my visit at Thanksgiving. I freeze them with two to a pack. Just the right amount to make turkey stock, and crock pot soup.

Don’t make the mistake that I made and put frozen turkey into the crockpot. It could crack your ceramic from the thermal shock. I started my stock this morning on the stove.

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The turkey will defrost, and you should take it out and let it cool down enough to shred. What you see above is the bones, skin and tough pieces, used to make a hearty stock. Those shredded pieces?

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Went here. In the crock pot. This is a two step process, but yields at least four meals.

In that stove top pot, I placed the legs with carrots, onions and celery. Tarragon, parsley, salt and pepper. I forgot that I didn’t have carrots in the freezer, so Jenny’s came to the rescue here. I will miss the market when it closes in five weeks.

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When she opened this morning, I bought enough carrots to use today and to cut, blanch and freeze some for when I need them in the winter. The freezer is getting back to being ready for the end of the markets.

In the crock pot, I put water, the better parts of the carrots, celery and onion (I use the ugly stuff in the stock, and then discard them). After I got the turkey ready, I shredded it to remove all those pesky little bones that turkey drumsticks have. Seasoned and left to slow cook all day. I just added the egg noodles at 4 pm, so they will be perfect when we are ready for dinner at 6.

A nice bowl of soup. Some of our awesome CSA bread.

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Last Tuesday we got a loaf of miche.

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One of my favorites from She Wolf Bakery. I definitely will be getting bread in my fall CSA share, as I love the vegan breads we get. They stay fresh all week. No mold. Don’t get hard and stale. Bread and butter, with soup. A perfect meal to herald the change of seasons.

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The flowers? Just a bit of sunshine on a rainy day.

A Peek at the Week

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In food. From my two local, seasonal, regional food sources here in Howard County. It may be December but with the advent of high tunnels and the use of greenhouses, you can still get very tasty fresh foods without them being flown from all over the globe.

A basket of vegetables and fruit from Amish country, for example. Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, delivered to our pick up site.

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This is what $30 a week got me for a half share and a fruit share. Last Thursday’s delivery. A salad spinner’s worth of young arugula. Three small heads of specialty lettuces. One large leek. Three parsnips. A small stalk of Brussels sprouts. Two yellow onions and a bag of white potatoes. The fruit share was a mix of apples and two humongous Asian pears.

As for Friends and Farms individual share. Also picked up on Thursday.

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One large pork chop. One small whole chicken. One half pound of hickory smoked bacon. A dozen eggs. Thyme. Hydroponic tomatoes. Four Bosc pears. One red onion. Four potatoes. Fresh curly kale. One small hydroponic leaf lettuce. The pumpkin ravioli was an add on. From the always stocked refrigerator on site.

All the meat from Friends and Farms has been used. Half the eggs too. This was the last week for free range pastured eggs from Miller Farms. We will get Nature’s Yolk eggs in the winter.

Lots of soups on the menu these days. All the fixings that go easily into the crockpot.

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That chicken? Became dinner Friday night with the leftover breast meat being part of a cream based soup today. Soup was a perfect dinner after getting that perfect tree from Greenway.

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Now, I have to go decorate a tree.

Giving Thanks Again

Today. Instead of mindlessly spending money at crowded shopping centers. Like a number of my local counterparts, I completely avoid the downtown mall in Columbia and any of the megastores between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Tomorrow I will go out and get the beginnings of our Christmas decorations, namely the garland and the poinsettias. From our local farms. I may head up to Breezy Willow to get some presents, but with the Howard County Conservancy holiday natural crafts fair next Saturday, the 6th, I may just do all my shopping there. Making my presents to friends and family completely locally sourced.

Today, though, we had our private Thanksgiving. Where we gave thanks for continued good health. For 35 years of Thanksgivings together. For friends who we will be seeing over the next few weeks at holiday parties. And family who will get together again for Christmas eve.

Yesterday we went to a family dinner, like we have done for most of these 35 years. It wasn’t until about 10 years ago that I made my first turkey as we were always in PA for Thanksgiving.

Now, we stay home. With no close relatives left on my husband’s side of the family, we no longer deal with the congested, sometimes icy and snowy trip up I-81. Watching the weather Tuesday night into Wednesday, I could understand the thoughts and actions of those trying to get home in bad weather.

Still, my MIL did the turkey in PA. My brother does the turkey here in MD. I never cooked a whole turkey in my life until 2006. Our second Thanksgiving after moving here. Our first without a trip to PA. We do Thanksgiving on Friday for us. Just a small “hen” from Boarman’s. This year was 12 pounds.

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This year I “did good” on the brining and the browning. Not so good on the gravy.

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Even though I washed off the brine before baking the bird, the pan drippings were too salty to make gravy. Happily, the turkey was moist enough not to need gravy and the stuffing was moist as well. We did a simple meal. Turkey. Stuffing baked on its own. Brussels sprouts. Dinner roll. And, I forgot to bring out my homemade cranberry relish.

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Served with a light pinot noir. Leftover pumpkin roll for dessert. As for that cranberry relish. It will get used with all the leftover turkey.

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I have a whole container full of breast meat to make meals. I also have the carcass and the innards in the crockpot making stock.

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Turkey soup next week on the menu definitely. Here’s to the holidays! Full of friends and family, and great local food.

Soup People

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Some are. Some aren’t. We obviously are. Considering the number of times I have blogged about soup.

Particularly, a good quick soup.

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Like bean soup, without all the preparations I used for the one above.

This one was simple. Because. It is cold and rainy. I didn’t feel like roasting a chicken today as I was out of the house too much.

But, I have my trusty pantry.

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You know. You can pull a couple of cans of beans. Today I used the cannellini beans. Two cans. I had chicken breasts cooked.

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I always have chicken in the freezer, from my two sources. Every week I find a day to bake or poach chicken breasts. To have them ready for lunches or dinners. They get eaten quickly.

Then, a little flavor. Today it came from a box of Pacific condensed cream of mushroom soup. And, a couple of cubes of my latest pesto. Right out of the freezer.

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Dump it all in a crockpot. With a little bit of water. Dinner in a few hours, with no stirring or pot watching. I did tonight’s batch on a high setting. It was perfect after two hours in the pot. Served with some naan. And a salad. And, of course, a glass of Linden chardonnay.

Home Cooking!

That’s what I am doing today. Getting most of the CSA and F&F items cooked or prepped to make my week easier.

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Like making crock pot cauliflower leek soup.

I know we can be pressed for time, and trying to put dinner on the table is sometimes close to impossible. That’s why lately I have been cooking on one day and just reheating for a number of dinners after long busy days.

I had three leeks hanging around in the refrigerator. Got a cauliflower in the CSA basket. Scallions from Friends and Farms. I always have almond milk in the pantry. A little chicken stock from the freezer. Salt, pepper, garam masala. Made enough soup for at least two meals. Or one dinner, two lunches.

After taking it out of the crock pot, I did mash it up a bit with a potato masher, to make it creamier.

I also dry roasted the beets, for salads all week. I took four chicken breasts and put them in the oven next to the beets and baked them. I now have chicken for salad. For dinner tomorrow. And, for a stir fry.

Dinner tonight. Another one of those frittatas I rely on. The half not eaten will be lunch early this week.

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This one used a few of my tomatoes. The rainbow chard from the CSA. The top half of those scallions mentioned above. The last of the Scamorza from last week. Six eggs. Seasoned with a little Italian seasoning.

I have a real head start on eating well on the three days this week that we will be running around. And I made a major dent in the meat and vegetables delivered last week.

Still need to find a nice evening to make the edamame for an appetizer. And, to make hot pepper jelly with all those peppers we got.

Using the Crock Pot to Preserve

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Sounds like a strange way to preserve food, but my crock pot is a way to easily transform excess vegetables into freezer ready meals, soups, or simple ingredients to use all winter long.

I went looking through my pictures, and some of my best preservation techniques aren’t recorded anywhere.

Like this really simple one.

Caramelized onions. Fill your crock pot halfway with sliced onion rings. Melt about half a stick of unsalted butter. Mix the butter all over the onions. Put your crock pot on low for at least 10 hours, or better than that, 12-15 hours. I then let the onions cool and put them in my largest ice cube trays. Freeze them. Pop them out and store them in the freezer in a large container. Take out one or more whenever you feel the urge to have onions, on burgers, beef, potatoes, etc. They are easily cooked in a frying pan and used for all sorts of meals.

Spiced apples are another simple recipe. Take all the apples that will fit in your crock pot. Add some cider for moisture. Some cinnamon and sugar. A little nutmeg. Slow cook for 10 hours. I cool them and put them in pint jars. To make flavored yogurt. Fill a pie crust. Make a galette. They are happily resting in my freezer waiting to be used.

Soups. Stews. Stocks. All can be easily made in a crock pot. After one meal, the rest goes into pint jars or containers in the freezer. All winter long, I can pull out chicken corn chowder, bean soups, Tuscan bean soup. Even more. Any of the soups on my compilation can be frozen to use out of season.

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This soup, my Grandmother’s tomato cream soup, freezes well. Or, like in the post, can be made with frozen tomatoes and stock.

What else can be made in the crock pot? So many ways to go, with fresh or frozen ingredients.