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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.

The New Normal

These days. My typical Tuesday, to do all my shopping in one fell swoop.

Pick up the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share.

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Lancaster Farm Fresh. An Amish cooperative of over 100 farmers. Organic for the price of conventional. We are in the last third of the summer season. Getting ready to sign up for the eight week fall extension.

Figuring out what to make with what we got. Thinking about stuffing peppers.

Heading off to Boarman’s market to finish my shopping. Those back roads from Braeburn to Hall Shop to Highland.

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Picking up the proteins that now replace what I used to get from Friends and Farms. Sausage for stuffing. Filets for a date night dinner. Chicken breasts for tomorrow.

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Finding local eggs there since there are no eggs left in the house. So much of what we eat now comes from the local sources and the small businesses around here. Not a bad way to shop.

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The best part of these pick ups? That amazing bread from She Wolf. A real highlight of our CSA. Maple and Oat Sourdough.

Slow(er) Food

A few days ago I blogged about fast food options at home. I got a few comments about my cast iron pan.

csa and lamb dinner and pans 015 And, about seasoning it. I have had my original two pans about a decade or so. I bought them at Tractor Supply. On sale. They are Lodge pans. I am not sure if others are as good, but these pans have handled just about everything and are very easy to clean, and to keep seasoned.

I only use hot water to clean them. With an abrasive sponge to scrub. I season occasionally with olive oil. Put in the oven. They are definitely non stick.

Besides using them for quick cooking, I do make dinners that take a bit more time. Like with these pork chops.

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I had seared them in the pan, then I put them in the oven with some apple cider to finish them while keeping them moist. Pork takes a little more time to cook.

As for other options that need more time in the oven, but not a huge commitment in active preparation, I have many meals that take 10-15 minutes to set up. Then, about half an hour to execute.

Like this week. This was my CSA basket.

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So many choices. The first night I decided to make lamb meatballs with stuffed patty pan squash and fingerlings.

I stuffed the squash with half a tomato from my garden, crumbled feta, herbs and olive oil. Boiled the fingerlings. Put the squash in the oven while prepping the meatballs. It took about 15 minutes to prep. 30 minutes to cook. The result?

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Excellent meal. By the way, I cooked the meatballs in a muffin tin. It wasn’t a very fancy meal but it certainly was full of flavor. And done in less time than driving to a restaurant, getting put on a waiting list and hanging out for 30-45 minutes waiting for a table.

We had a nice cocktail out on the patio. Once the oven timer went off, we came in, opened a pinot noir and had a leisurely meal.

I have learned to cook simply. Using the fresh ingredients from my CSA. Baking or sautéing a protein. Taking the time to sit at the table and have a quiet conversation. While not spending $50-$100 for dinner. :Like you easily can do around here. Those drinks, appetizers, wine, tip, taxes and desserts all add up.

We like to go out a few times a month, but can eat better foods, with incredible wines, by putting together meals with great local fresh ingredients.

 

Melon Season

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Here we are again, in the abundance of summer Community Supported Agriculture world, where all of a sudden a fruit or vegetable dominates your weekly allocation. These past two weeks? Melons.

All sort of melons.

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Last week there were three of them. This week, four. YES, FOUR!!!!

Those melons in the picture above included an heirloom cantaloupe. A “modern” cantaloupe. A yellow seedless watermelon.

As for the difference between heirloom and modern cantaloupe. Just a touch different in terms of acidity.

And, a soft fragile rind.

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I remember from my childhood, only having cantaloupe in the summer. Getting them fresh from the fields on the way to or from the ocean. Maryland Eastern Shore cantaloupes. They were a breakfast treat. Sliced into quarters. Sprinkled with salt.

Now, we get more creative with melon. I have become enamored of this recipe lately. It is very similar to my watermelon, feta and mint salad, but with a more complex dressing.

As for what we are doing with this week’s watermelon. I am thinking melon margaritas, if the weather stays this hot.

This week’s basket included four melons. A French Chanterais. An heirloom cantaloupe. A “baby doll” watermelon. A regular cantaloupe.

Anyone have other ideas for what to do with all this melon?

Regional and Seasonal

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Blurring those lines again.

And making decisions that give people more options for good food. While keeping their businesses profitable.

The old Community Supported Agriculture model used one or two farms, without all sorts of add on options. It was great in good years. Not so great when flooding, or drought, or extreme heat or cold, impacted the yields. We see now how two of our major food sources have expanded their horizons and brought in farms from farther away.

I can hear it now. “but it’s not local. Not from our state(county)”. Maryland is a very tiny state. 42nd in terms of area. You know, if we lived in Texas, we could be more territorial. Just for fun, I put my map on my iPad over the state of Texas. Moved the view to Maryland. I could make it all the way to SC if I put MD on top. Or all the way to upstate NY if we were on the southern edge of the page.

Thinking regionally is a good thing. It gives us access to fresh food from a surrounding area that may not have had all the rain we did.

Cast in point. Our CSA, Lancaster Farm Fresh is bringing food in for their wholesale business from farms south of us. When they need to meet demand in the CSA, they occasionally use that wholesale produce for our boxes.

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Like these collards last winter.

If you want a sense of what drives these decisions, read this interview with our CSA founder Casey Specht.

The refinement of our CSA model into a full service food delivery system is a remarkable journey in seven years.

Then, take a look at what Friends and Farms is doing. And excerpt from our latest newsletter. Phil’s Farm Field Trip

“With 14 days of rain in a row and little relief in sight, we decided to send Philip on an expedition to find both sun and spring produce among his many friends in the Carolinas. He finally encountered the sun in Newton Grove, NC, and the produce was not far behind. Burch Farms in Faison was busy at work harvesting leafy greens and a little further down the road, strawberry harvest was just wrapping up. But the real purpose of the trip was a little further South at the Farm of Chalmers Carr where the season’s first peaches were being harvested. Because our local harvest was decimated by the late winter storm, we are asking Mr. Carr to start shipping peaches to us within the week. We know it is early, but we can’t risk a “peach-less” summer. To top the trip off, Philip stopped by the Pine Ridge pecan orchard to visit what we hope will be a bountiful fall harvest of paper shell pecans. So far, so good!”

I can’t wait to order those pecans.

I have done quite a bit of my shopping from them, in addition to getting my protein and dairy bag. Just this past week.

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Checking out the refrigerated items. Picking up my favorite yogurt. A few cheeses. Not to mention the butter I normally buy from there, Trickling Springs butter. I do love how our food services add so many items from small farms and vendors to their inventory.

Food Safety

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Raise your hand if you were one of the millions contacted that you had bought possible listeria contaminated foods. That would include me. The ORGANIC edamame from COSTCO. Bought in 2014. Yep, it took two years for them to figure out they had a problem.

And people wonder why I stopped buying as much processed food. Why I run from my CSA to Friends and Farms to get most of the basic food we cook and eat. Why I do pick your own farm food, and process it myself.

We have seen three different recalls in May. CRF frozen vegetables and fruits from everywhere, it seems. Rice from Trader Joes and “pictfresh” veggies at Harris Teeter. Nature’s Promise at Giant Food. Around here these stores provide most of the pwople who live in the area with their weekly groceries.

I wonder why we have all these regulations driving our small local farmers crazy, while we allow mega producers to go TWO YEARS with possibly contaminated food.

Thankfully, that edamame didn’t make us sick. And, we haven’t bought grocery store frozen food in quite a while.

I have become convinced that the closer we remain to the source of our food, the better we have it. Since that “organic” label isn’t a guarantee that you get better quality, I think I will rely on knowing where my food originates.

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The Amish cooperative that gives us much of our food has that motto. Along with this philosophy.

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If we support our local farms and farmers, who feed their families with the same food they sell us, we wouldn’t have to worry about the industrial processing which may or may not contaminate our food.

It’s not as easy to take time to buy from small farms and producers, but at least you have a face to match to the food you buy.

Join a CSA if you want to take more control of the vegetables you get. Find a local meat producer to have fresher meat without hormones, antibiotics or questionable handling. Pick your own, at places like Larriland.

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And, by all means, don’t just assume because it’s organic, that it’s better. Farms around here take great care in growing food without undue use of harmful pesticides. They are an affordable alternative to mega-company organic stuff that costs more without being any better.

Springing into Market Season

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Yes, around here we know the seasons have changed when the farmer’s markets, and Jenny’s have opened.

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Jenny’s announced on their facebook page that opening day is Friday the 6th. For me, this is such welcome news. No more driving when I need some citrus, or bananas, or extra vegetables to complete a meal. Jenny’s is only a mile away from me, and open every day of the week. Yes, some of the produce is from the wholesale markets but they also support local farmers who don’t sell at the county markets. You haven’t had lima beans until you have their fresh picked, fresh shelled beans in the middle of summer.

As for the farmer’s markets around here, Wednesday is the day Miller market opens the season.

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We have to hit Love Dove Farms for fresh greens. You know it’s really the beginning of the fresh fruit and vegetable season when you can make this awesome salad.

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Greens and strawberries. A simple yogurt dressing. If you want, the addition of some ewe cream cheese.

Five of the eight Howard County markets open this week. Miller library, Wednesday. Cradlerock library Thursday. The Friday hospital market has expanded hours, opening at 11:30 am, to accommodate the lunch crowd. Saturday, Maple Lawn opens Sunday Oakland Mills. The newest market in River Hill Garden Center, opens on the 14th, and the Glenwood and Ellicott City Old Town markets return that same day.

This web site, MDSBEST, will help you find local farms, markets, CSAs and food sources in the state.

For those who read my blog and don’t live in Maryland, I found local harvest to be the best place to find local purveyors.

As for us, Tuesday our CSA begins again. Wednesday I may be hitting Miller Library to get salad fixings. If you want to change what you eat, and eat more locally produced foods, the salad greens are the easiest way to begin.

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And a couple of salad spinners are the best thing in your refrigerator.