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And The Winner Is …

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… Salad Mix. We got it eight times this spring. Followed by spinach and grapefruit. All three big ticket items if you bought them in a store or market and were looking for untreated or organic foods.

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I always do a value added post. What I paid versus what I got. We paid $462 for twelve weeks of Breezy Willow early bird CSA. By a rough calculation we got over $500 worth of veggies, fruit, eggs and bread, if you use organic sources for veggies, and farmer’s market prices for bread and eggs. Citrus a little harder but this was prime Florida citrus, not inexpensive by any standard.

I used Wegmans online for most of the veggies. David’s, Roots, MOM’s and farmers markets could even be higher.

I have always maintained that if you want to eat fresh untreated healthy food, a CSA is the way to do it.

We got salad mix eight out of twelve weeks. Something everyone can relate to, and will probably eat. We got spinach seven weeks. These two simple yet yummy veggies were a mainstay in our house. Lunches and dinners. Stir fries and salad plates. It is easy to use these up.

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What tastes better than fresh greens, eggs, mushrooms? So many days we indulged in lunches that we would have paid big bucks to enjoy in a restaurant.

If you ever considered a CSA, you should really do a little research and try one. We move around a lot and try many of them. Breezy Willow is definitely a winner. Check them out.


Abbondanza – Spring Veggies Abound

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CSA Week Eleven from Breezy Willow, a visit to Miller Library market and strawberries from Gorman. Who needs grocery stores in spring and summer around here?

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We got:
Tuscan kale
Three beets (one is hidden)
Romaine (weighs two pounds)
Three pounds sweet potatoes
Half pound shiitake mushrooms
One pound green beans
One pound Brussels sprouts
One pound bean sprouts ( not there, I swapped)

My swap got me three more of those lovely grapefruit. Bread the Great Harvest White. This has become our favorite toast for breakfast. Reminds my husband of English muffins when toasted.

And, last but not least, those lovely eggs. This was the last delivery of eggs for early bird CSA.

I also picked up peach yogurt, Great Harvest croutons for salads and some chicken legs.

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Before hitting the CSA I stopped at Miller Library market to get a few things. Like curry to use with the chicken.

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Fresh veggies from Love Dove to pair with the strawberries. French breakfast radishes and arugula. I know, I know, there are holes in the leaves. I like seeing holes in the leaves. It means no bug died from chomping on pesticide infested veggies. If you want fresh veggies that haven’t been treated, look for holes or bugs (like corn with little happy worms).

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Organic practices. Many of our local farms follow organic practices and give you fresher than grocery store items that aren’t treated or sprayed. For less money most of the time, too.

Got my feta for the salad from Bowling Green. Was looking for short ribs from TLV but will have to wait until Glenwood on Saturday.

Between the farm stands, markets and CSAs in Howard County, you can eat quite well using grocery stores for just a few staples.

Today while out, I did a loop. I had errands in Columbia so I hit Wegmans for coffee, lemons and limes, paper goods, and shrimp. Stopped at Gorman to check out the farm and get some berries. Headed up 29 and hit Miller library before continuing out to Breezy Willow. I have all I need for the vast majority of our meals, using locally sourced items.

Salads. Meats. Stir Fry. Side dishes. Dairy (now that Misty Meadows is at the county markets). Cheese. All readily available and really fresh.

Now, what am I going to make with these lovely shiitakes?

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Wegmans, wordbones and howchow

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Say what? This title conveys my route to finding howchow and wordbones aka Dennis Lane. I am a foodie, and yes, a locavore, but still a foodie. Hunt Valley Wegmans was an amazing source of foods years ago, when we ran up and down I-83 to PA to visit my MIL.

Rumors that HoCo was getting a Wegmans sent me on a google search which led me to howchow. This post sent me to discover Tales of Two Cities, and all that lovely inside information Dennis managed to find.

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I used howchow to find restaurants and checked out a few posts about Wegmans by Dennis. A year or so later, I started blogging. I approached howchow to get linked into his web site, and he graciously helped me with links and references. I owe quite a bit to him in getting me local readers last year.

I then met Dennis at my first hocoblogs party, and we talked about many mutual friends. A week later, after my spinal fusion, I was housebound, so I read his entire blog. WOW, what I learned about living here would fill a book!

Tales of Two Cities gave me more info about HoCo than any newspapers did. For me, though, having Dennis add me to his sidebar, and help me grow my locavore/retiree/west county blog was just one of those unselfish things HoCo bloggers like he and howchow did.

This little blogging community is simply awesome. We really care about where we live and what we do. Missing Dennis’ blog will be difficult for many. Missing his close friendship is something I won’t experience as he was a new friend, but I read in their blogs about the closeness of his friendships with my fellow bloggers and I see their pain.

From my little corner of the blogosphere, I think HoCo has many talented writers who will stand up and blog more to share things all of us love about living here.

The local bloggers are wearing red this week to celebrate Dennis’ life. I have nowhere special to go but here is my “red”.

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Wegmans Marketing Strategy

What is it with the aggressive mailings from Wegmans? They have upped the ante in their latest mailing to the all anonymous “residents” in this area, at least. Don’t know where they are mailing closer to the store but we are 16 miles away from them.

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It used to be $30 in coupons. Now, they have increased the value. And, changed from a free item to a $5 coupon, plus the other two $1 coupons, weekly.

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Still, $7 savings barely will cover the gasoline to drive from west county to Wegmans, so is it worth it? 30-40 miles round trip depending on where you live. Most of us out here don’t drive energy efficient mini vehicles. We have a pickup and a couple of SUVs, since we get more snow and ice, and we have to haul much more than when we lived in the city. For us, 1 1/2 gallons of gas would be what it would take just to run to Wegmans to pick up those few items. $6-7 worth of gas.

Since most of the coupon items don’t interest us, it is only the $5 one that is a draw. I have to admit, though, that we will drive further to buy from our local farmers, than to go to a grocery store.

As for our coupons, when I get to Columbia for car repairs, dental work, or doctor appointments, I would use some of these coupons. For things like the coffee packs, better pricing than Costco for this San Francisco Bay.

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If I remember correctly, these K cups are $32.99. With a $5 coupon, they are seriously cheaper than anywhere else to buy K cups.

Hmmm, maybe worth it to go once or twice in the six weeks. Dental appointment next week. Car maintenance next month. A very good price on coffee. Otherwise, not worth the gas consumption to grocery shop there.

I do appreciate the place, but it isn’t my weekly place to shop.


Planning for Valentine’s Day

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I know many people make reservations and go out to celebrate Valentine’s Day. To me, the crowded restaurants, rushed service and the push to turn over the table make for a less than pleasant experience. We prefer to stay home and have far better food at a fraction of the cost. From celebrations past, some ideas to have an in house dinner with minimal fuss (unless you want to cook, like I do).

My personal favorite. Chocolate and wine.

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Last year we shared a Biale Zinfandel and dark chocolate with chili. This was after a fairly simple dinner. Salad with a fruit based vinaigrette. You can pick all of the ingredients up at Roots or Harris Teeter or Wegmans, including a good cheese, and baby beets. Or, whatever you like. Romantic looking, isn’t it? This was local cheese and butter lettuce from Mock’s. We bought the cheese and the lettuce at the Silver Spring farmer’s market, but you can get something just as nice in the stores mentioned above.

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Dinner could be simple, or more complicated. I usually pan sear some sort of steak or lamb. This year I will be doing rack of lamb, picked up at Boarman’s, but you could just get a couple of petit filets and get them done fairly quickly. Here is the plate from our anniversary of lamb shops and potatoes. Fast, not that hard, and so good. Seared in a hot pan, then transferred in the pan to the oven to finish.

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Or, pick up a few crab cakes at Boarman’s. And, a few stuffing mushrooms. This recipe is easy to do as well.

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Take the stems out of the mushrooms. Spread a little Dijon mustard in them. Use two large mushrooms per crab cake. Drizzle with a neutral oil like canola or grapeseed. Sprinkle Old Bay on top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10-15 minutes, until brown.

You can serve these with small potatoes like the ones above in the anniversary dinner picture. Boil them in salted water for 15 minutes, or nuke them (I still occasionally nuke potatoes even though they don’t come out as nice as boiling and finishing in a pan or the oven).

We almost always stay home for major events and anniversaries, and indulge in fancier foods and really nice wines. There are lots of places around here to also pick up good already made foods. Really good sushi, maybe. Or, shrimp steamed to your specifications.

We like putting music on, maybe satellite radio or a CD. Light a few candles. Share a split of sparkling wine, or open an old red wine. Break out the good napkins and just do nothing but cook, relax and enjoy an evening with food, wine and music we chose.

Think about getting something to serve at home, even if it is something already prepared. But, you can make it simple. It is really nice to put together that salad, pop the crab cakes in the oven, and then savor that chocolate with a glass of wine.


Wheat Berries

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In my 60@60 challenge, one of my categories was new proteins. I decided to buy some wheat berries at Wegmans. In the bulk food aisle. They are high in protein and fiber. And, they are chewy.

After buying them, we had wheat berry “risotto” at Bistro Blanc at the cellar dinner. Marc, the chef at Bistro Blanc, told us be sure to toast the wheat berries first.

I searched around on the internet to find a recipe. Then, never really followed it. I pretty much winged it based on my interpretation of risotto. I did remember to toast them, after they had been soaked overnight.

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Into the oven they went, and since there was more than a cup, the rest went into the refrigerator, destined to become a salad later this weekend.

For the risotto, I started with scallions and mushrooms in olive oil. Added the wheat berries to the pan. After they got all happy with the olive oil and veggies, added a cup of white wine. There were also six cups of low sodium chicken broth on the stove to use in this recipe.

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It took 45 minutes of adding broth and stirring occasionally to get to the final product. At the end, I grated a little pecorino into it. All finished it looked like this, with salmon and roasted veggies. Brussels sprouts and romanesco bought from Zahradka at the farmers event last Sunday.

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Did I mention they are chewy? Not what you expect from risotto, but really tasty. A meal this hearty required a big white wine, or a light red. We chose to go with a big white. Linden 2009 Hardscrabble Vineyard Chardonnay. A huge white wine. Almost as “chewy” as the wheat berry risotto.

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Cross another item off my list for becoming sixty years old. This meal was a definite winner. Oh, by the way, the Linden can last a decade. It is that big of a white wine.


Wegging Out … Again

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It isn’t my fault. It is Mother Nature’s. Claire holds a Friday facebook contest. We won this week. A new de-icer for the birdbath. I had to go pick it up.

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They are right around the corner from Wegmans. I had planned to go to Roots today, but decided to hit Wegmans with my coupons after picking up my de-icer. And, some seed. And, another squirrel deterrent. A new witches hat, like this one. They are the best for keeping squirrels out of the good seed.

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When I got to Wegmans, I wandered around looking for new items for my sixty at sixty challenge. I got plantains. I may be making mofongo this week. Hey, why not?

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Wegging Out

As opposed to vegging out. We went to Wegmans today, after not getting there for months. There was a very good reason. Rockfish. We got an email about it, and since a significant birthday is tomorrow, one of those ends in zero ones, I wanted something nice for dinner.

Who cooks on their birthdays, you say? Really. You think I wouldn’t be cooking? Well, we were going to do Ruth’s Chris but the weather is supposed to be somewhat dicey all day tomorrow. I think we will save that gift card for a better weather day in the future.

I don’t mind cooking great food for birthdays. I also love rockfish. My husband bought a lovely Puligny Montrachet to have with it. A simple lemon butter topping on the fish. Baked potatoes. An arugula and goat cheese salad to start. Specialty cookies with a late harvest wine for dessert. The cookies are rum balls and raspberry filled wafers from Wegmans bakery. My foodie world and locavore worlds had one of those collisions today.

I did get some other interesting things there. For tonight, spicy shrimp spring rolls before I put out an oven baked brined turkey breast from their rotisserie cart. I did throw a few Brussels sprouts from an earlier trip to the store into the mix.

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Wegmans now has their own brand of K cups.
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Plus, we found another source, one that is environmentally friendly, San Francisco Bay. Price the same as going to Costco.

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These cups generate less waste, as there is no plastic surrounding container. Should be something different to get used to using. We shall see. We ended up getting scallops for New Year’s Eve, and other staples I normally only find at grocery stores. They had Meyer lemons. I have Aranciata. I only need to find fresh basil to make the Meyer Lemon Basil Fizz cocktails we love. Wegmans disappointed us, as they were out of the local Virginia potted fresh basil. Don’t need sage, or the other ones they had. No fresh basil there. Interesting.

We don’t get over to the eastern side of Columbia often anymore. It is a 35 mile round trip. I only ended up using three coupons. Too many of them were for frozen or processed or prepared foods. Not what we normally use. Let’s see what comes this month in the mailings. They haven’t let up on sending us things. The holiday version of the Menu magazine had ten coupons. They obviously want customers from west county. The little booklets keep coming, as well. I did get some pepitas in the bulk food aisle.

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Next week I don’t think I will be running out there for frozen waffles or packaged meat. Their promotional giveaways don’t rank up there in fresh food items most of the time, and today, I never found any of the carrots. They must have run out of them.

Still, all in all, a decent store. Now off to have some turkey with a local white wine. My last day as a fifty something. Wait until you see what I want to do in my sixtieth year.


Fall CSA Week Five

Heading into the home stretch. Only three weeks left after today. No worries. The freezer is full. Potatoes and squash in the coldest part of the laundry room.

2 Rutabaga
2 Bags Red Potatoes (Napa Cabbage swapped for second bag 5 Pounds)
1 Bag Purple Carrots
1 Head Broccoli
1 Head Bok Choy
2 large Leeks
1 Butternut Squash
2 large Yellow Onions
1 Bag Viola Turnips

The new one for us this week is the viola turnips. Never had them before. They should be interesting. The link says they are a rare heirloom.

We love the Hakurei turnips. Maybe this one will be another favorite.

Our preview harvest page at Sandy Spring said they were harvesting salsify this week. I was sad we didn’t get any, and am crossing my fingers hoping to get it before the season ends. I did a wonderful fritter from salsify last year, the post here, and a picture below.

Only ever found it at Harris Teeter, it was from Belgium and way past its prime. It is the root of the sunflower. Tastes like oysters. The fritters were lovely.

I am always intrigued by the new veggies we get. This week most of them were ones we have gotten before, but a new variety of turnips sounds interesting to try.

I also compared pricing with Wegmans this week. $38.50 to buy the same veggies as we got, but not all of theirs are organic. We pay $31.25 a week. Still ahead, even after the hurricane washout one week.

Making leftover turkey tonight with the last of the stuffing, and baking a few of those lovely red potatoes.


Monday Odds and Ends

Sometimes a recipe just becomes one of those favorites. A keeper. Like the green tomato pasta from The Chew. I already wrote about it once, but I have made it at least three times since I found it.

I do experiment with it, though. Today I did it with tiny shells, and I added wild Alaskan pink salmon. I had a plate full of green tomatoes.

not ripe grape, plum and pear tomatoes

The last from the garden. The ripe ones will go in a salad later this week.

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Out in the garden, nothing is left but a few Amish paste and two or three pineapple tomatoes. I will pick them soon, even if not ripe. I want to make this dish one more time before fall sets in and tomatoes are history. I sauteed them in olive oil, with scallions, garlic and oregano.

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No pictures from dinner. I was too busy getting the lovely pasta on the table while it was still warm. I did make some late last month that I served with ravioli, that looked like this.

green tomato pesto with ravioli

Use any pesto you like. Use any pasta you like. It is those green or slightly under ripe tomatoes that make this dish special. And, having inventoried the freezer today, I found I have lots and lots of pesto to use. Now, I just need to figure out how to get the tomatoes for the dish.

garlic scape pesto cubes in the freezer

The freezer is full. I did inventory today. All winter long, I will have pesto, fruit, tomato sauce, veggies like caramelized onions, veggie stock, beef stock, whole tomatoes, peppers, all to pull out and enjoy the CSA and my garden’s contributions to my meals.

Almost seven cubic feet of food. I didn’t think I would get that much preserved and processed. The freezer up in the kitchen is half empty, in hopes of getting some venison from my neighbor. It does have a half dozen chickens, some lamb, brisket, bacon, sausage and roasts, all from the farmer’s markets, to use all winter. I have almost turned the corner into having 100% locally sourced foods in my freezer. It is a good feeling to replace what I had with locally grown meats, veggies and fruit.

I do admit though, that I have to keep that citrus supply coming, for making those lovely Meyer lemon basil fizz drinks.

basics for meyer lemon basil fizz

Three simple ingredients as a base. Vodka is optional. Refreshing, yet with that hit of basil. I use lemon basil, since I grow it. I first discovered these lovely drinks back in April. They have become a staple in our summer dining. I just add a splash of vodka, keeping them light and refreshing. I get the lemons and the Aranciata at Wegmans. Too bad they don’t have the liquor store to give me one stop shopping.

I may take a trip out to Larriland, to find some green tomatoes to pick, and freeze. To keep this pasta recipe around all winter.