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Eating Local – High on the Hog

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“I don’t know why I want to eat anywhere else!” My husband’s comment at dinner on Sunday night. We did an Eat Local challenge meal. It was really only leftovers, with a side and a salad, but what leftovers! I appreciate the praise from my husband who agrees, unless it’s something special and a fancier restaurant, dinner at home beats most of what is available around here.

The Treuth pork chops from last week CSA delivery. There had been three huge chops, so almost two of them were left from my crock pot meal last week. With the greens and sweet potatoes, all packaged up to wait for another night. I put them in the oven to heat up and made a salad and a new recipe for a side dish.

Mashed turnips and carrots with sage butter. Three turnips, two large carrots, from the CSA, boiled, then simmered until tender. Drained and finished in Trickling Springs butter with sage from my garden. Really sweet and just the right amount of sage butter.

The salad, spinach from the CSA, my microgreens, Firefly Farm chevre, and Everona Dairy dried fruit topping. Finished with Catoctin Mountain Orchard’s raspberry vinaigrette. The pepitas on top were from Roots Market, bulk aisle, not local.

Dinner accompanied by a Linden 2009 Hardscrabble Chardonnay, big enough to stand up to the tomato preserve/pepper jelly glaze on the pork chops. According to tasting notes on the Linden web site, this wine will peak in 2014-2017. It certainly is a baby now, with huge amounts of apricot and ginger on the palate. Just enough oak not to overwhelm.

Dinner was really good last night. I have now been completely converted to cooking with turnips. Thanks to the CSA and the Dark Days Challenge. Two more weeks to go in the challenge, which ends on April 1st. I made it through every week with at least one local meal, and sometimes more than one.

Eating Locally — A Crock Pot Meal after a Hike

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Today I went hiking on the Conservancy trails for the first time since surgery eighteen days ago. I made it two hours, although we walked to different locations and stopped to talk to the group we were leading. I can handle that.

Before leaving the house though, I put the center cut pork chops from the CSA in the crock pot with collards, sweet potatoes and a sauce made with local ingredients.

The sauce was made with:

All local, including the pepper jelly hell from Suzanne of Glenwood. I did add a tiny bit of honey from the bees at the Conservancy. Went away for eight hours and came back to this.

Pork chops from Treuth’s in Oella. Apple sauce from Quaker Valley in PA. Tomato Preserves from McCutcheon’s Frederick MD. Sweet potatoes and collards from Zahradka Farm. Broth added to the pot, defrosted turkey stock from my Maple Lawn turkey.

Another successful week eating locally in the winter.

Winter CSA Week Eleven, and Dinner from the Box

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An accidental Eat Local Dinner was made today because the freezer was too full.

Today is CSA delivery day, so this morning my husband went to grab an ice pack to put in the cooler for the CSA delivered meat and eggs. The freezer is pretty full, between sorbets for me while recovering and the accumulation of meat and frozen veggies delivered the past few weeks.

So, I said, take out the chicken and put it in the crockpot. Frozen? Yes, frozen. Frozen chicken in the crockpot is an easy way to make soup. If you try to put a fresh chicken in the pot, it will totally disintegrate before dinner. Chicken mush isn’t appetizing. The beauty of crockpot cooking is the ability to use frozen items like we did.

The makings for dinner. All dumped in the pot, including the butter used later to spread on the chicken, and the turkey stock left in the freezer since Thanksgiving. It is the start of three or four meals, which included chicken tonight with potatoes from the CSA box last week and greens delivered today. The rest will be shredded then the broth pulled out of the pot. Broth will go back in Sunday with a soffrito and the chicken to make the basis for chicken noodle soup. Leftover big pieces of chicken will be used for chicken salad, and there will be enough soup for two dinners. The only safety tip about cooking frozen meat is to let it cook on high, not low, for at least 6 hours, then switch to low if you don’t want it to fall apart.

This is the platter ready to serve. All of this chicken won’t be used for the dinner, but put aside for the salad. All of the rest of the carcass and dark meats are still in the crockpot waiting to be pulled apart and deboned.

As for what came today in the CSA box, there were:

Salad Greens – used for dinner
Collard Greens
Oranges from Florida
Mixed Onions

The meat this week was JW Treuth’s center cut pork chops.

Also included were my biweekly eggs, all shapes sizes and colors, even a long pointy one.

So, dinner tonight was almost 100% from my winter CSA. The only non-CSA items were the butter from South Mountain, the turkey stock from my Maple Lawn turkey, and the dressing for the greens from Catoctin Mountain. Oh, and salt, pepper and herbs de Provence.

Eating Locally: Lunches This Week

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In order to give my husband a break from cooking a completely local meal this week, I decided to concentrate on what I have been eating most days for lunch. I know I get into lunch ruts and this is one of them. The beauty of it is that I have been eating mostly local items for lunch, and for breakfast all week.

The best part of this choice, the last of my canned pickles.

With my CSA delivered eggs, some CSA celery and definitely not local mayo, my husband made a batch of egg salad for me. It has lasted for four days. The color is only from the yolks, no mustard. There is salt and pepper in it as well. Here is all that is left in the bottom of the storage container. Getting down to the dregs of the salad and time to make a new batch.

While talking about eating locally, for the Dark Days Challenge, my breakfast has included a local item most days as well.

My neighbor’s canned concord grape jelly on toast. Wish I had some Atwater’s bread for it, but due to my diet restrictions after the surgery, I need to eat soft breads. Can’t wait to get back to real food.

You can still eat most meals with a major component coming from local vendors and sources, and skip the processed stuff at the store. My mayo is organic, but obviously not made from scratch. That is a bit much to ask my hubby, who is still carrying the brunt of the cooking load since I can’t stand over the counter and cook until the doctor clears me.

Fifteen weeks into this challenge. Eating locally grown or made items at least one meal, and usually more every week. We are lucky to live in a fresh food oasis, instead of a food desert.

Eating Locally – Post Op and Vegetarian

This may be one of my stranger Dark Days Meals. It is cooking now, under the direction of my husband who is cooking while I recover from my surgery. This week we were challenged to eat a vegetarian locally sourced meal. Ours will be a combination of items that I can swallow, and that he can prepare. There was a tiny bit of leftover tomato sauce made using Quaker Valley Orchards tomato sauce and local PA mushrooms. He is going to microwave it and serve it over Amish whole wheat pasta that he will make on the stove top.

Part of my meal will be heated applesauce from Quaker Valley. I have been eating some of it each night since coming home from the hospital.

Quaker Valley Orchards are 60 miles north of us. We get their fruits and veggies and sauces at the Silver Spring Year Round Farmer’s Market.

Descriptions from their website:
Applesauce – Our applesauce is homemade with our fresh apples peeled and cooked with our own cider and a touch of cinnamon, no sugar is ever added or needed! Our apple blends have our small fruit added that was frozen in season.

Tomato Sauce – All our tomato sauce sold at market is made on the farm in our kitchen with our own tomatoes. I make it in small batches and preserve it using a pressure canner. We enjoy it all winter long.

My husband will also be eating a large spinach salad that he will put together using CSA spinach, radishes and Firefly Farms Chevre, drizzled with Catoctin Mountain Orchards Blackberry Splash Vinaigrette.

He is slow cooking sweet potatoes with honey and butter and cinnamon in the oven, cooked at 170 degrees until they almost fall apart and caramelize. I can handle that as well. Swallowing is a wee bit difficult still, but I get better each day.

Obviously, I am not up and cooking, nor will I be taking pictures. I do have raw pics of the spinach and sweet potatoes and radishes from our Zahradka Farm delivery on the 17th of February. Still able to put together tasty meals using local items.

My husband will probably open a Linden claret and have a glass, while I get to enjoy Howard County well water and ice. 😉

Eating Locally – Bison and Polenta

Week 13, three months into the challenge to eat at least once a week with locally sourced items. All of the main ingredients for dinner came from less than 150 miles of our house. A few exceptions, spices and oils/vinegar, as noted when I started this personal challenge.

This week I challenged myself to cook items new to me for cooking, but not new from experience in restaurants. Bison, from Gunpowder Bison, and bought at the Silver Spring Year Round Farmer’s Market. Short Ribs, slow cooked in the oven. Served over soft creamy polenta and with honey glazed carrots.

The bison was first rubbed with “RubJoeMeat” coffee based dry rub bought last year at one of the local home shows. It is not local, obviously, but perfect for bison. Then, I placed it in an olive oil rubbed shallow pan, added red wine, balsamic vinegar, sliced white onion, and spread some McCutcheon’s tomato preserves over the top. Salt, pepper and cayenne. Baked at 225 degrees for three hours.

The polenta was made using Burnt Cabins roasted cornmeal. Nothing but water, cornmeal, salt, pepper and unsalted butter. Also, I steamed carrots then glazed them with honey.

Here are the supporting ingredients that went into the meal.

This was a really tasty meal. The polenta set up beautifully with an earthy quality: using roasted cornmeal created this heartier version of a soft polenta. The bison is lean, but using the wine and vinegar kept it from being dry or tough. The tomato preserves are awesome. Just tomatoes, sugar, and citric acid. Slightly sweet but still tart like tomatoes. This stuff is also great on toast for breakfast. The McCutcheon Family has been in the butters, preserves, jams and jelly business in Frederick for 74 years. We can find their jars of goodness all over the area.

As for the wine to stand up to this meal, we chose the 1998 Linden Hardscrabble. A fourteen year old Virginia red wine. Still with oodles of fruit and still tannic. Not brown around the edges. This wine is a killer wine and it proves that Jim Law has truly mastered the art of making big wines right here in our backyard. If you are a fan of Black Ankle and have tasted their big Crumbling Rock or Slate wines, they are babies compared to Linden. Sarah O’Brien is pushing Black Ankle in the direction that Jim Law took Linden. These are very concentrated wines. It will be interesting to see if Black Ankle can get to the level of Linden as their vines mature.

I have added Jim’s notes from his web page below the picture for those who want to know more about this lovely wine, that almost but not quite upstaged my bison and polenta.

Linden Vineyards Cellar Notes:

Aromas: Cocoa and dried herbs, especially rosemary.

Palate: Flavors of dark cherry, cloves and black pepper with firm, yet fine grained tannins.

Food Pairings: Red meats, rich cheeses, and dishes with olives or garlic.

Vineyard: Estate (100% Hardscrabble Vineyard), on Blue Ridge at 1,300 to 1,400 ft. with an eastern to southern slope. Deep, well-drained mineral soils give cherry character, deep color, and good structure. Vine ages from 8 to 14 years.

Vintage: 1998 was an unusually hot and dry year. A severe hail storm on June 15 reduced average yields to just 1.5 tons/acre (about 22 hectoliters per hectare). Harvest was September 22 through October 7.

Winemaking: A blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot and 3% Merlot. Grapes were destemmed and lightly crushed and fermented warm in small open bins. The cap was punched down by hand two times a day. The wine was pressed off just prior to dryness and put immediately in primarily one and two year old Virginia oak barrels. The wine was bottled after 21 months of oak ageing. 332 cases produced.

Eating Locally for Valentine’s Day, in the Dark Days Challenge

Maybe I should title this post, why I can’t wait for the Columbia Wegman’s to open. I will be going out to dinner even less when specialty items are right down the road. (OK, 15 miles but who’s counting?)

Sunday night is the night we relax and have a great meal. And, since my husband teaches on Monday nights, plus we are not crazy enough to try and go out on Valentine’s Day, I decided to do our Valentine’s Dinner on Sunday. For me, as an avid cook of real food using local ingredients, I love to find great inspirations to build a meal around.

Our trip to Wegman’s Friday found us that inspiration, wild caught Chesapeake Bay rockfish. Our rockfish are really striped bass and are a best choice on the Monterey Aquarium Seafood list. It is advised though not to eat large amounts of fish that could contain mercury, so this is one of those “eat occasionally” seafood choices.

The morning after I brought it home, I put together a marinade and placed it all in a plastic bag for 24 hours. The marinade is not local. It is one of the few non-local items on the menu. I used St. Helena Olive Oil and some leftover white wine (Bota box pinot grigio) plus cilantro from Wegman’s, salt and pepper, and a squeeze of lemon.

This lovely Bibb lettuce, from Mock’s Greenhouse in Berkeley Springs WV and bought at Wegman’s as well, is the basis for the salad.

We usually find Mock’s greens at the Silver Spring Freshfarm Farmer’s Market, and we were happy to see more than one item of theirs located in the produce section at the Frederick Wegman’s.

The salad was made from this lettuce plus baby beets from our Zahradka Farm CSA, and Mountain Top Bleu Cheese from Firefly Farms. Both of these sources are on our local source page. I used Catoctin Mountain Orchard’s peach vinaigrette for the dressing. I stocked up at Catoctin in December since they take a very long break in the winter and don’t return until spring. I know not all the ingredients in their dressings are local, but the peaches are theirs.

I baked two small sweet potatoes from the CSA delivery, and served them with South Mountain Creamery butter. Sauteed a mess of collard greens in TLV Tree Farm bacon with onion and garlic from the CSA, and plated it all with the baked rockfish. The rockfish was baked in olive oil with a couple of pats of South Mountain butter placed on top at the end to melt.

Dinner was served with a Glen Manor 2009 Sauvignon Blanc. Jeff White used to work for Jim Law at Linden, and his sauvignon blancs are lovely. They have that citrusy note. This wine was big enough to stand up to that cheese as well. We always eat our salads after our dinner, almost as a palate cleanser and the salad went well with the wine. You had to have the fish before the cheese kicked in. That mountain top cheese from Firefly is intense.

All in all, it was a really nice meal, for a fraction of the cost of going out. $20 for the wine, $20 for the fish, and everything else from the weekly CSA deliveries plus freezer and pantry. I like splurging on good ingredients and good wine and making a celebratory meal like this. Less stress. Easy to cook. Really it is easy to cook these things. They just take time. Sundays for us are the perfect night to enjoy the results of my hobby.


Eating Locally Hasn’t Been All That Difficult

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Here we are, I believe on Week Eleven of the “Dark Days Challenge“, where over 100 of us from across the US, with one or two from Canada and the UK, are trying to see if we can make one meal a week using ingredients sourced from 150 miles or less from where we live. We have exceptions like spices, oils, chocolate and coffee. Plus, whatever we declared before we started. I will use locally produced items that may contain ingredients like flour or baking powder that aren’t local. Atwater’s bread is one of those sources.

So far, every week I have been able to source and use local items to make at least one meal. I finally reached the repetitive stage in this week, the eleventh one. I did an omelet for dinner, not much different than my frittata of a few weeks ago.

Finding a CSA that delivers all winter, and having numerous markets open year round, has made this fairly simple. Silver Spring, Tacoma Park and Dupont Circle all stay open year round. Zahradka farm provides home delivered veggies, fruit, meat, eggs, bread, and specially ordered items using an online weekly form. After picking which options you want for the 18 weeks, and pay in advance, we just sit back and take delivery weekly.

For this meal, the inspiration was a package of bacon from TLV Tree Farm in Glenelg, bought from Jamie this past year at the Fall Fest at the Howard County Conservancy in October and put away in my freezer with other goodies like a brisket and sausages. I defrosted it to use for Tuesday’s omelet and for Southern greens I will be making this weekend when my CSA arrives with collard greens. I admit, belonging to a CSA means you have to plan meals.

The baby Swiss cheese from a recent visit to South Mountain Creamery along with their milk and unsalted butter is going to be used for this 5 egg omelet. I am getting my biweekly delivery of eggs this coming weekend from Zahradka Farm CSA so I needed to use up some of the ones from last month. The spinach is from the CSA as well. The mushrooms I picked up at Boarman’s. They are labeled as from our favorite local source, Kennett Square PA. I get these mushrooms most of the spring and fall from the Sandy Spring CSA that delivers to Columbia and to the Conservancy.

Come this May will mark our second year with the cooperative of 70-80 organic farmers around Lancaster, including Mother Earth mushrooms. Until then, though, I am eating lots of greens, onions, potatoes, leeks, chard, cauliflower and broccoli. Eating seasonally is something many of us stopped doing when year round veggies from all over the world came into our chain supermarkets.

Taking this challenge has brought me back to simple cooking, fresh foods and decreased allergies. I am glad I did it.

On to the omelet, I cut up some bacon, browned it in the pan, added the veggies and mushrooms, then poured in the egg and milk mixture.

The finished product fell in pieces when I was trying to serve it so there are no dinner pictures.

We poured a glass of Linden Chardonnay from VA and buttered some some Atwater’s Bread, making this a completely local meal except for the salt and pepper.

A source that I have relied upon to tell me where to find local foods is the book Dishing Up Maryland by Lucie Snodgrass. I bought mine at Black Ankle vineyards last year, and I have seen it at Baugher’s Market. Besides the great recipes, there are pages of local resources in the back, a great place to find farms, artisans and markets in the state.


Finishing Out a Dark Days Week with Sweets

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This week I attempted to reduce the clutter in my fridge by cooking as many local dinners as possible, and using small business or organic items if I didn’t have local ones. For the most part, I made it.

My first report

Sunday Dinner

Followed by:

Three days including a grilling day

I am happy to say I made it through the rest of the week as well. Thursday night we finished up the leftovers from the Sunday night pasta meal, augmented with an organic roasted red pepper sauce made from Pacific soup, thickened with a touch of local flour and some red wine. Forgot to take pics.

Friday and Saturday the weather changed and I fell back on using the crockpot.

Friday I made greens with chorizo bought at Dupont Circle Market in December from Cedarbrook Farm in WV, and a huge sweet potato from Baugher’s farm stand. The collard greens were from the CSA, and the carrots and chard from the Silver Spring market. My teeny little dried peppers. Onion – CSA

The chorizo was browned on the stove before placing it on top the veggies in the crockpot. It came out really nice, spicy but not overwhelming.

Finally, Dark Days Dinner with Sweet Ending — a mini-challenge to make something sweet for Valentine’s Day, even though we aren’t there yet. Not a huge sweets fan, me, but my husband is. I decided to make a sort of peanut “brittle” using Virginia peanuts bought at the Common Market. I roasted them with a coating of walnut oil and salt, then added them to a pan of local honey with pepper. Poured them out on a plate and put them in the freezer. Enjoyed them last night while watching a movie.

As for the dinner, it was homemade chicken soup in the crockpot. All local except for the egg noodles. They are from the Amish Market in Shrewsbury, bulk, made in PA but not guaranteeing the source of the flour. Chicken from South Mountain Creamery. Turkey stock from my freezer, made with my Thanksgiving turkey. Carrots, onion, celery all from Zahradka Farm CSA.

I forgot to take pics again, but here are the leftovers ready for the fridge.

It was served with Atwater’s rosemary bread and Blue Ridge Dairy butter, and a Linden Chardonnay.

Now, this week I need to work on getting the fridge under control. No buying of anything but milk and bread.

And, I need to get rid of my husband’s water pitcher. Boy, is that puppy in sad shape with dings and marks. Wonder how old it is?

All in all, a good week of eating locally and cooking from scratch. Of course, being retired helps.

This is Winter?

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Really. Today it hit 67 degrees. Yesterday 64 degrees. Where is winter? But, I am not complaining. We fired up the grill yesterday.

In the spirit of Dark Days, the potatoes were CSA. The merquez lamb sausage was from Whitmore Farm in Emmitsburg MD, bought at The Common Market. I did deviate a bit with naan from Wegman’s and olive bar Mediterranean salad. Still main part of the meal was local.

Monday night I did an omelet. All local with the exception of the parmesan sprinkled on top at the end and a few Nicoise olives from Wegman’s. CSA eggs, PA mushrooms, chard, collard and beet greens, CSA and Silver Spring Market. Onion from CSA. South Mountain Creamery baby Swiss cheese. A splash of South Mountain whole milk in the egg mixture.

As for tonight, Wednesday, heated up leftovers from Sunday night’s Dark Days meal. Three days down, most dinners local.