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The Hurrier I Go …

… the behinder I get. Credit to Lewis Carroll.

When did Thanksgiving creep up on us? Ten days to go. Halfway through November already. Time just flies by, and nothing much is getting done on time.

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I finally ordered my turkey. Went to pick out the wines I will take to the family get together. Did my own planning for when we will do our turkey. I am one of those who really loves the cooking and baking and coming together to share a traditional dinner, but in our family, Thanksgiving is my brother’s day to shine, so to speak, as the turkey maker and the central point of family and friends gathering.

This year, our little turkey (we order a 10-12 pound bird and pick it up from the farm on the Monday before the holiday). Less crowded, and I can brine it Tuesday and cook it Wednesday. For us, dinner where we open a really good Pinot Noir and share the best parts of the dark meat is our Thanksgiving at home. With totally non traditional side dishes. Things we like, maybe crispy Brussels sprouts, creamed parsnips and onions, or a leek casserole.

As usual, we are using a local farm, Maple Lawn, as the source for our turkey. Here, you have many options. Go to the farm and pick up the size bird you ordered. Instead of a whole bird, you want just the bone in turkey breast. Or, a smoked breast for serving up sliced and used for many sandwiches.

This year I did order the small turkey, and a new item for us, the bone in breast. I will also pick up a package of drumsticks for the freezer, to use for soups in the future. The bone in breast will be frozen to use later. I like going to the farm. The prices are great. $2.30 a pound for fresh turkey. $6 a pound for the bone in breast. Cash or check only.

You can also order from local stores, like Boarman’s, Whole Foods Columbia, and David’s Market. They tack on a surcharge, and yes, you can use plastic to pay for it. Still the same turkeys as we pick up directly.

If you want to find local turkeys where you live, you can use the marylandsbest web site and search. Other states have similar resources.

For us, too, we like to serve local wine with our dinners. I will be taking local white wines from Maryland to my family celebration, and we will be opening an Ankida Ridge Pinot Noir from Virginia at our little dinner. Our favorites for family meals are local dry rosé wines, maybe a Riesling, or this year, we are taking one sweeter wine for those who don’t share our passion for dry wines, a “Russian Kiss” from Big Cork. Made with grapes native to Russia.

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We were up at Big Cork yesterday to pick up our quarterly wine club wines, and then, a great detour. One I tend to forget to make. If you want to add one local item to your dinner, think about ice cream.

South Mountain Creamery is on the Maryland Ice Cream Trail. And it is on the back way home from Big Cork. We got to watch the cows gather for their afternoon milking.

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I got some salted caramel ice cream to have for our Thanksgiving, along with some cheese, yogurt and I found a small beef brisket in the frozen meat case. I miss having South Mountain at our Glenwood market, but they stopped attending the market in favor of weekly deliveries of milk, cheese, meat and other items, door to door across our county.

As our largest supplier of the Thanksgiving food items, our CSA will deliver next Tuesday. Who knows what new items will become a side dish.

I need to end this post, and get things done. Or I will be even more “behinder” than I am now.

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Memorial Day

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I can’t find my flag.

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The one that we flew over the tower on 9/11 last fall. I know I folded it up and put it away in a plastic bag. So, this year no flag out there for the commemoration of Memorial Day.

I used to not get Memorial Day. How was it different from Veterans Day? Then, it hit close to home, when colleagues at the Pentagon were killed by the crashing plane. Now, it is so significant to me.

I don’t do Memorial Day Sales. Memorial Day picnics. I just reflect on what it means to have friends and relatives risk their lives, and sometimes lose them, in order for us to be free.

I think I need to find a smaller flag to hang out front. And, if I find that lost bag, to hang the large flag on the tower again.

To remind us that we are lucky to be free, because of the sacrifice of the brave.

Hoppy Easter

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As the Easter Egg hunts, and egg rolling events accumulate this weekend, we have yet to establish if there really was an egg laying hare, aka “Oschter Haws” as the Germans called it. You have to admit, for those of us scientifically inclined, it is mind boggling to contemplate bunnies laying eggs.

I did dye eggs this year. Kept some older ones around, to be used for display purposes, so I cheated and used the Paas dyes.

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Brown eggs are always interesting to dye. And, the slightly speckled eggs come out very nice. I should have done the natural thing and made dyes from our red cabbage, or from the turmeric in my spice cabinet, but with all the painting and sanding and hammering this week, I was surviving in a corner of my kitchen.

They are done, more or less. Just some carpentry and plumbing to finish. I even got my grandmother’s china back into her cabinet in the dining room. Just in time to make the bone in ham from the CSA last week.

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Traditions for the holidays? Do you have them? Are they ecofriendly and healthy, or are some of them bad for you but you do them anyway. One of ours is the ceremonial Peeps. Has to be just one small box. The other one, Rhebs Candy.

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Who hasn’t been in that long line to pick up candy, up off Wilkens Avenue by St. Agnes Hospital. When we were young, my Dad brought the candy home from their stall in Lexington Market, which closed down in 2008. You can get the candies ordered online now and have them sent to you, but going into the store, smelling the chocolate, and picking out your own assortment was a real treat.

Well, I need to stop reminiscing and get a few things done for Easter. While putting the rooms back in order, hanging pictures and curtains, and finishing up from the six weeks spent making half the house look great.

Going for the Greens …

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… inspired by our CSA basket, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.

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That lacinato kale made me think once again of colcannon. So I decided to go looking for a truly Irish interpretation of the dish, one that I have made countless times and blogged about, almost as often.

I never knew about the Halloween connection, or the prizes inside. Amazing what we can find here on the internet, isn’t it?

But, getting back to the CSA basket, the kale and parsnips both made me think of making my version. I have to use the techniques from the web reference, as it hasn’t been the way I’ve finished mine.

As for the rest of my weekly Lancaster Farm Fresh delivery, picked up at my friend’s home near Robinson Nature Center, there were other real favorites this week.

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Five of the seven vegetable items came from the LFFC “brand”, which is what they sell to restaurants, stores and buying groups, like Friends and Farms. Two of the items were attributed to individual farmers. We knew that in the winter we would be getting some of the vegetables bought through the cooperative, to supplement what is grown on the local farms year round. Let’s face it, with a CSA that tops out some years above 4000 members, you can’t always get the local farms to have enough every single week. Or, that the small farms can provide enough of one item, so some of our items have the LFFC tag on it, meaning it’s an aggregate of many of the farms’ provisions.

This week we got zucchini. Five absolutely lovely green zucchini. A joy to get them in the dead of winter, and we had been told that farms south of us were being used to supply some variety in our baskets. I have plans for those zucchini. My store in the freezer of zucchini fritters is gone. Done. Inhaled. I love the Smitten Kitchen recipe for zucchini fritters and make dozens of them in the summer, gently layered in parchment and placed in the freezer. We used our last ones a week ago.

I will be grating zucchini and making a nice replacement batch. I have to pick up some plain yogurt at Friends and Farms to make tzatziki in order to enjoy some this weekend.

As for those sweet potatoes on steroids. I have plans for them. They were in the swap box, and I just decided I was tired of beets and sunchoked out, so I put the bags of each of them into the box and brought home those two behemoths. I want to make hummus with one, and bread with the other. Never made sweet potato bread and since I am a prisoner in my house while work is being done (still not finished after four weeks), it’s a good time to try a new recipe.

As for the rest of my stuff yesterday, here are the bread and cheese.

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And, the meat delivery of the week.

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Yep, bison is back. Along with chicken thighs and bacon. Not what works for tomorrow, but welcome additions to my freezer.

As for tomorrow there will be sausage for dinner. With colcannon. Bread. Cheese. Guinness. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Keepers

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Happy New Year! I admit it’s good to see 2015 in the rear view mirror, and I look forward to 2016.

This year my theme for  my New Year’s Day post is a positive one. To focus on all the good things from my trip through 2015. Those “keepers”.

Let’s start with my garden and my food preservation. I have a short list of keepers here. I came to the conclusion that I needed to focus. Grow just what I use, and not be swayed into new foods that end up living forever in the freezer.

Keepers are preservable foods like zucchini fritters, caramelized onions, oven roasted tomatoes and simple syrups made from fruit. I find myself heading to the freezer to use up these goodies. Over and over until they are gone. For my future garden there will be tomatoes, onions, and zucchini to keep my supplies at a level that will sustain me through the following winter.

At Larriland next summer, the strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and cherries will be used to make the syrups. I am even thinking of pureeing and freezing peach ice cubes, instead of slices or halves.

They are the perfect size to drop into a container of plain yogurt, or to make an awesome sangria on these “warm” winter days. Or the best ice cubes out there.

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Ice cube trays have become my best preservation tool. I find that I use things that were preserved in small batches. No more large jars, except for tomato sauce. Everything else worked better for us if it was in individually portioned sizes. Including pesto, and compound butters.

Moving on. What worked and didn’t work for us when it came to healthy eating. I settled on a combination of Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA, Friends and Farms and Larriland to supply us with the bulk of our perishable foods.

For 47 weeks, I get a Community Supported Agriculture basket, which I have expanded to include bread, meat, fruit and cheese.

From Friends and Farms, I settled on a protein and dairy bag. Meat and seafood, eggs and occasional cheese. This works for us. It has changed my cooking and how we eat.

As long as these three sources are available to us, they will continue to be our source of food. We no longer shop in the frozen food aisle of any store.

If I can, I will put away my own “frozen” dinners. At least I know what is in them. I make large amounts of lasagna, meat loaves, meatballs, soups, stews, whenever I get a good quantity of beef and pork, or ground chicken or turkey.

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Having a meat option in our bags and baskets has changed my cooking dramatically. I use smaller quantities of meat in my recipes. I use more exotic vegetable combinations and have new favorites, like parsnips.

The biggest change I saw in the past year. How much I got used to having a dozen eggs every week. I made egg salad. Potato salad with eggs. Frittatas. Souffles. Crustless quiche. A meal with eggs in it replaced meals with meat.

Cod and catfish. Thanks to Friends and Farms, these two have become regulars in my dinner choices. Both are good choices from a sustainability standpoint.

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Simple meals. My new mantra based on wanting to showcase great food that doesn’t require fussiness or hard to find ingredients. That catfish was baked, after sprinkling it with bread crumbs, paprika, salt and pepper, and thyme. Served with an easy to make salad, and boiled fingerlings.

Other than food, what else happened in 2015 that I consider a “keeper”. I have to say it was my switch from paper to iPad. NPR on line. NYTimes on line. iBooks for my new reading purchases. Bon Appetit on line.

I have pretty much transitioned to reading all about it on a tablet. Maybe more so, because I can make the print bigger and easier on the eyes.

Last but certainly not least are the friends my husband and I have made, and are including more and more into our lives. We certainly have embraced retirement and expanded our circle of friends. Like those lyrics from an old Girl Scout song. “Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver. The other is gold.”

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Here’s to a happy, healthy 2016!

 

 

 

Indulgences

Eggnog. Local eggnog. A once a year indulgence.

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From Trickling Springs. Located in Chambersburg PA.

We get our eggnog at Friends and Farms, when we pick up our protein and dairy basket. Their products are available in quite a few stores in the area, too. Roots, David’s, Whole Foods, and more.

I use many more of their products, like their butter and milk.

For Christmas dessert, I made a couple of glasses of nog.

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It wouldn’t be finished without grating fresh nutmeg over it. Then, off to enjoy dessert.

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A couple of the homemade cookies and a glass of eggnog.

 

A Very Merry

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No, that isn’t our view this Christmas morning. I had to look back to 2012 to find a white Christmas around here. It was more like this out there.

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And, right now it is pouring rain. I should be thankful it isn’t snow, as all the moisture the last few days would have created large amounts of the white stuff.

It’s been a quiet day here. We do our big thing on Christmas Eve, and then we spend today recovering before another week of visits and celebrations. We still have my birthday, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day to enjoy the excesses of the season.

I would be remiss to not mention again just how awesome our local shops and farms are. With great examples. Like Boarman’s market staying open to help someone who went to our big chain grocery only to find out they were out of parchment paper. Those last minute cookie baking sessions always seem to find us missing one thing we need. Boarman’s employees stayed after normal closing time to come to her rescue.

Breezy Willow opened on Christmas Eve with more cookie tins and plates, since they sold out of everything they had made for their normal Saturday farm stand times. I was there because I forgot a few little hostess gifts for my family.

Kendall’s came to the rescue again for us, as we had another run in with someone who doesn’t like mailboxes, and who smashed ours overnight before Christmas Eve. We do have a spare mailbox just for these occasions but I didn’t have numbers for it.

So, after all that last minute running around we spent a lovely afternoon and evening with my family and friends.

We are always asked, what are you getting for Christmas and usually our answers are a bit strange. This year, I got my dining room chairs redone, with The Cover Uph getting them finished in less than a week.

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Decking out that dining room for dinners is one of my little pleasures. Replacing the 30 year old wool covers was a splurge and a gift to me.

Tonight we will have a simple crock pot dinner. The house smells like cinnamon from the red cabbage and apple dish that has been slow simmering for the last few hours. We are making a smoked kielbasa and opening a bottle of Virginia wine.

We’ll have some eggnog as dessert while watching Andy Griffith. I mean, seriously. Talk about wild and crazy holidays. With all sorts of partying. We gave that up long ago, and on a wet and dreary evening, we are having “A Very Merry” holiday just chilling out at home.

Hope you all are having a great time too, and are making your own memories.

Be It Resolved

Do you do New Year’s resolutions? Do you keep them?

I have been putting together a simple list of things that I resolve to continue. I don’t need to add to it. In basic English. Just Do It.

Like “EAT HEALTHY”. Not that hard to do with a CSA and Friends and Farms. When someone gives you vegetables and other basic staple items, it is easy to make healthy meals. Like this one.

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Rainbow trout with vegetables. Compliments of Friends and Farms. Some quick frozen corn and green beans. A baked potato. If you wanted to eat better, this is a simple way to begin. Buy a sample basket. Pick a size. If you like it, order a monthly basket. Customize it. Right now, we buy a Protein and Dairy basket. We get meat, fish, eggs, cheese and in place of milk, I chose to get a random vegetable. It can be anything. Like the acorn squash a few weeks back.

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Stuffed and ready for dinner.

Another resolution. EXERCISE. We tend to do that by working outside. Tower work.

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And gardening.

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Crawling around in the dirt planting vegetables.

My last big resolution. BUY and EAT LOCALLY.

More and more of what comes into this house takes a short trip from the source. Whether it is food, or wine, or beer, or plants, or just services, we use local farms and stores for most of our purchases.

So this year I will be eating locally, buying locally and traveling locally. Not hard to do. For lists of sources to buy locally, I have numerous pages on my blog. Just check the header above.

 

 

Cookie Central

I miss Gourmet.

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For twenty five years, I subscribed. Not just for the cooking, but for the writing.

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The seasonal articles. The travelogues. I can’t just get recipes from Epicurious. I have kept my back issues, preserved in a bookcase. Archived by month. Every December I pick a few years to read and relish.

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This year’s trip went back twenty years.

I am baking most of my cookies this year from past issues.

A few new ones.

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Like the lemon butter cookies, which taste just like those you can buy from the local Otterbein bakery. Which I sometimes pick up in Boarman’s while standing in line to check out.

A simple recipe. Cream together 1 1/2 sticks of butter and 1 cup of sugar. Add an egg and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Meanwhile whisk together 2 cups of flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Slowly add to butter mixture in a stand mixer. Add 1 heaping tablespoon of lemon zest, and 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Make a log of the dough. Refrigerate. The longer the better. Mine was put in two days before baking. These cookies will get soft quickly, so I cut the log in half before slicing and kept the rest refrigerated until ready to do two more sheets. I got six dozen small cookies from this recipe.

In a preheated oven, I use convection bake at 350 degrees F, but the recipe  calls for 375. I have learned that my convection bake setting cooks faster and you can lower the heat making it easier to get good cookies without burning the bottoms.

I baked these for 14 minutes. The recipe calls for regular baking of about 15 minutes on that higher temperature.

I also made the chocolate version of these butter cookies.

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These were more difficult to work. They tended to crumble. They were drier in handling. The difference. Add 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa, 10 1/2 ounces bittersweet melted chocolate and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to the mixer after adding the flour mixture. Don’t add the lemon like I did to make the cookies above. This mixture was very stiff and much drier. They taste intensely chocolate. Not that sweet. I sprinkled demerara and sparkly sugar on them before baking.

I am still doing cookies today. There will be sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies and maybe gingerbread. This year there will be boxes given to many of the family and friends who celebrate with us.

I love it when the house smells of cinnamon and nutmeg.

‘Tis the Season

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Time to get into high gear and prepare for the holidays. A few things to do, and Christmas decorating to get started.

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First up. The Lisbon Parade this coming Saturday. It has changed. It is now starting in the late afternoon.  They had to change from a horse parade to a farm equipment theme. Logistics got too complicated, and the parade was so successful that it outgrew its boundaries.

Not to worry. The party still looks awesome. And that dinner at the Firehouse? Not a bad idea.

As for the other things. I need to head over to get my poinsettias and my tree.

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I love the varieties from the Greenway Farm greenhouses.

I also need to stop at TLV for my garlands, and for the beef for our Christmas dinner.

Then, it will be time to start making my cookies. I have been planning ahead this year, making the dough early and freezing it. Makes it simpler to just concentrate on baking.

Somewhere along the way I have to get to Breezy Willow, too. I need to buy stocking stuffers, like their soaps. Maybe a few of the alpaca items for presents. Tea. Jams. Honey. Cheese. Lots of things to buy from the locals.

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Doesn’t this beat the parking lot at the Mall?