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Too Many Vegetables?

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I am still trying to wrap my head around that statement.

My CSA site host went to a conference last week, to meet with CSA management and talk with the dozens of local site hosts in the DC metropolitan area. Our CSA, Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, has thousands of members in seven states and the District. Using over a hundred local small farmers to offer us vegetables, fruit, meat, dairy, eggs, flowers, herbs, bread, “farm”aceuticals. You name it. Mix and match. Customize the size. Everything but home delivery and choose your own, like you would at a market.

They brought back the small share. Four items. Because people thought 7-8 items for $23 a week was too much produce. Really? Are we still putting 8-12 ounces of meat on a plate and saying we only want a couple of ounces of vegetables on that plate? I thought we were getting away from meat-centric meals.

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Obviously, we aren’t. Many of my local farming friends are seeing a decline in membership, and in purchases at markets. Companies like Blue Apron are replacing CSA shares. According to the CSA management, briefing the site hosts, people want recipes. They don’t know what to do with the vegetables they get.

Never mind the fact that our CSA has a huge web site devoted to providing that information. We seem to have created a generation of people who want to be spoon fed. Tell me every week what to do with corn. With cauliflower. With fennel. With leeks. Etcetera. Etcetera.

I know. I am whining here. I just really don’t get it. We have so many choices around here, and yet, people aren’t staying on as members, with many of our local farm CSA options. Membership is declining. Friends and Farms folded. The Glenwood Market isn’t opening this year.

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I hope we have our CSA again this summer. We can’t seem to find 30 people in a town as big as Columbia who want inexpensive very fresh organic food. From people who care about what we eat.

Crossing my fingers and hoping our local sources remain.

A Winter CSA

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Community Supported Agriculture. In the dead of winter. Believe it or not, many farms here in the MidAtlantic have crops in high tunnels and greenhouses, all year long.

Recent comments on local blogs and Facebook lament the condition of produce in our grocery stores. Yes, even the higher end stores have slimy produce. We all miss that fresh from the ground delivered produce, ours is only one day from the field.

Here, where we live, there are two winter CSAs. Zahradka and Lancaster Farm Fresh. There are other delivery services, but not all their produce is local. And yes, Zahradka and LFFC bring in regional vegetables to augment the harvests. After all, who would complain about a chance for citrus, or maybe greens from the Carolinas.

Here is our first delivery from LFFC, yesterday.

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Looks good to me, for roughly $26 a share. All organic. About 10 pounds total. A couple of pounds of carrots. 12 ounces of tatsoi. Turnips. Chard. Red beets with their greens attached. Onions. Two absolutely lovely watermelon radishes.

I added many specialty items. Pantry item. Yogurt. Cheese. Bread. I could have added meat or chicken, eggs, milk, tofu, grain and flour, fermented beverages.

It is nice to have a source of fresh food when the farmer’s markets are closed. There are just a handful of us this winter. Thanks to our CSA for keeping us going, even when we didn’t meet the minimum. I suppose we should all be thankful for Roots and David’s and MOM’s, the local organic markets where our driver drops off produce on the same run as our CSA pick up. It’s really nice for us, since our cost is lower than buying the produce there.

I missed having fresh veggies on our four week break. So happy they are back.

Great Grains

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I have been slacking off. Forgetting to write about some of the really fantastic additives to my fall Community Supported Agriculture basket from the farmers’ cooperative at Lancaster Farm Fresh.

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My flour and grain share. Two pounds each. Every other week. This past week was the pastry flour and the spelt berries.

Two weeks ago.

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Bread flour and rye berries.

The first delivery last month.

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All purpose flour and cornmeal.

The flours are all from Daisy. They aren’t easy to find. I used to get mine at Atwaters in Catonsville. The Anson Mills which produce Daisy flour are located in Pennsylvania. Atwaters sold bags of their wonderful flour. I am loving the quality of the bread flour for those holiday breads like my chocolate zucchini bread or my pumpkin bread.

The grains, all come from Castle Valley Mill in Bucks County Pennsylvania. Other than wheat berries, which we got from Friends and Farms a few years back, I hadn’t been a big grain cooker. I purposely ordered this add on to my CSA share to remedy that lapse.

I am loving the berries. I found the perfect way to cook them, in my rice cooker. Simple. One cup berries. Three cups liquid. I have used all water. All veggie broth. A mix of chicken stock and water. Turkey stock and water. Add some seasonings. Set on the brown rice setting and let it do its thing. Makes absolutely perfectly cooked berries.

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Served here with a wilted arugula salad. Cranberries, pistachios, a drizzle of Secolari’s lime olive oil. A squirt of lemon juice.

I also downloaded an iBook, called Grain Mains. So many interesting ideas, including a take on a “gazpacho salad” using berries.

Who knows what will come in my final biweekly basket on the 13th of December. I do know that I am loving this addition and will be adding it to my winter subscription.

Bitter Sweet

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Bitter like the greens. Sweet as the beets.

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It may be a slow improvement, but still. The change to my lifestyle and my eating habits since retiring has been paying off. My annual physical was yesterday. Saw much improvement by moving away from commercially prepared highly processed foods and by cooking from scratch as much as possible.

I considered naming this post “A1C is the new LDL” since decades of eating low fat, or no fat, and not cooking with basic ingredients has impacted our health. Face it, we had significantly more sugar in our diets while we worked and commuted. Too many frozen dinners, carry out meals and high carb restaurant choices like pasta, or pizza.

Now, my generation fights the battle against Type 2 Diabetes. All those low fat meals contained hidden sugars.

I am glad I made the switch. Even though it is time consuming to cook this way. I also know that my CSA is the real reason I don’t give up.

That salad up there. I made the dressing. The greens and beets and berries are from my CSA. So is the cheese.

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The creamy dressing. Yogurt without added sugar. A very tiny bit of preserves. White balsamic and good olive oil. A pinch of salt and pepper.

It’s not the only thing we have added to our vegetable share. We get cheese, fruit, meat, yogurt, and bread. I have added a grain and flour share for fall.

This is the bread we now eat.

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A different one each week. No dairy. No sugar. The miche is awesome with soups and stews. Comes with our CSA delivery. Made in a bakery in Brooklyn NY. This one and the polenta are my favorites.

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Today I threw a whole bunch of things in the crockpot. Minimizing sodium, sugar and preservatives. Yeah, I didn’t skip the fat. Mostly the healthy fats, like olive oil. A layer of greens. A layer of beans. Some lovely beef short ribs from Boarman’s.

I admit it. If I didn’t have a year round CSA delivery, I probably wouldn’t have stuck to the “real food” diet. I would have been lazier and bought some ready made items. Having those vegetables hanging out in the fridge and on the counter reminds me daily that I need to continue this path. I don’t want my golden years to be consumed by health issues. I don’t want to take all sorts of prescriptions to combat something that I can prevent with a little effort.

Here’s to my feeling good about the progress. Here’s to getting better, while not feeling old. Here’s to that heart healthy red wine. Can’t forget that.

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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.