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Change is Hard

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First of all, Happy New Year! I have been fairly busy with the painting around here, and haven’t kept up the blog. At least I remembered to change the copyright notice date to the current year. Hopefully, I can remember to write the correct year on all these checks we keep writing.

As for the past, current and future, I admit, not sorry to see 2016 go away. To us, 2016 brought Medicare, Social Security and lots of other reminders of getting older. Like realization that bad weather is worse when you aren’t a spring chicken anymore. Last year’s blizzard and tornado proved to be problems for us. In minor ways, but still problems.

We learned that we had to change things. Make things more accessible. Eliminate possible accident sources. Update bathroom, kitchen and other interior spaces. All these things are disruptive. Sometimes I think even more so because we are retired and here most days. We didn’t get to run away to the office and come home to the chaos only at night. Or, have the luxury like those on-HGTV people who could stay elsewhere while their houses were under renovation. I understand why people resist doing renovations. It can literally stress you out to the point of wanting to give it up. Yes, the results are nice, but living in complete disarray gets to me.

Every item from my pantry is in bags and boxes on my family room floor. Cooking is difficult.

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Add to it, the sheer shock factor of going to a bright yellow.

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Let’s just say I really like it. My better half? He’s still adjusting to the major color change.

We at least had New Year’s Eve dinner even while working around it all. I have to say that this recipe is a keeper, and it was a simple meal served with an excellent bubbly.

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Emeril Lagasse’s Oyster Stew. Recipe from online. Oysters from the Jessup Seafood Market. A side salad. Champagne savored from beginning of cooking through to a glass just before we gave up and crashed around 11:30. Yep, we couldn’t make it until midnight.

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Here’s to a better brighter 2017! At least my kitchen will be bright and cheery.

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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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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Soup Season

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Somewhere in the last week the weather changed. It got cooler and breezy and it rained quite a bit. Just the type of weather to make me pull out the crock pot and make soup.

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This week it was split pea soup with ham. Ham from last winter’s CSA meat share, and a bag of split peas. I tend to buy the meat share from our CSA in fall and winter. The fall share is just eight weeks long and the winter share is 13. Not as big a commitment as a 26 week summer share, so you get to kick the tires, so to speak.

I made this simple soup with leftover uncured bone in ham. From a March delivery. I have been working at drawing down that freezer. Dump a bag of split peas in the crock pot. Add a pint of chicken stock and a pint of water. Add an onion, diced. Shred the ham and add it. Add the bones, too, if you have a bone in ham. Salt, not much, and pepper. That’s it. Eight hours in the crock pot. Two dinners for us.

Served with the last of my ripe tomatoes.

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Some goat cheese. Asiago pepper dressing. Spring onions. Salt and pepper.

The other star of dinner. The bread.

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Again, compliments of the CSA. We get an amazing variety of vegan whole grain breads. They last a very long time, and have that denseness and chewiness that a good bread should have.

Finally, the wines.

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We did a Sauvignon Blanc throwdown, between Linden and Glen Manor. Linden makes theirs in the style of a French Fumé. Glen Manor, reminds me of a New Zealand pineapple-y SB. It was fun to compare against the richness of the soup.

Now, on to more experimentation with soups. Next up, pumpkin soup.

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The Triamble (also called shamrock) pumpkin that we got today in our box is supposed to be amazingly tasty, and I have a few soup recipes that I want to attempt with it. I will be roasting pumpkin this weekend, for sure.

Low Hanging Fruit

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The Maryland Buy Local Challenge began yesterday. An annual event that encourages people to buy from our local farms and small businesses that support farmers in the state.

With all this heat around here, who is in the mood to cook? Still, you can participate in the challenge in cooler, creative ways. Like visiting local wineries.

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We visited a new one for us, last weekend. Up in Thurmont. With weekend music. Catoctin Breeze.

A bonus up there is the relatively close location to a covered bridge over a babbling brook. A perfect place to get you toes wet, and cool down.

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On your way to or from the winery, you could stop in at Catoctin Mountain Orchards for some fresh fruit and other homemade goodies. Made with mostly local fruit, they have all sorts of desserts you could bring home.

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Or, you could head out on the Maryland Ice Cream Trail.

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Other options. Visit a brewery.

Or, pick berries at Larriland, or another pick your own place.

Hmmm, berries, ice cream, wine, beer, desserts, do you need anything else?

Going for the Green

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In wineries. Black Ankle Vineyards is an amazing place to visit if you want to see a “green” winery.

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Sitting there on the patio, looking up at the living roof.

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Noting the solar panel, on your way down to the building. Once inside you can see the straw construction, and the reclaimed material in their counter tops, along with many other examples of how they continue to reflect their love of the land, and their dedication to sustainability.

We hadn’t been there in a while. It is one of the closest wineries to our home. One of the priciest in Maryland as well. They tend not to participate in festivals. They do a very good business with sales on site. In the past, we found very few wines available year round. They often sold out of the most popular varietals.

Friday night music, with hundreds picnicking on the patio and the lawn.

This visit, we went on a Sunday. Still, one very busy place.

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They are adding a new outdoor tasting area, to handle the crowds on popular days.

We did a tasting, and rejoined their wine club.

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Sat outside and enjoyed a glass of rose and of the Reserve Chardonnay. With a local cheese, from Cherry Glen. One of the two great goat cheese producers in Maryland.

Glad we took a day trip out there and reconnected. They are still making outstanding red and white wines from estate grown grapes.

An All American Dinner …

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… on an All American holiday.

Fourth of July. One of my favorite holidays. Mainly, because we relax. We grill. We watch the illegal fireworks out here in west county.

So, what did we do this year, in the cold, dreary, rainy weather?

We still cooked a meal using mostly local ingredients, and a local wine. But, we couldn’t easily grill. Besides, it was too damp and miserable to stand out there and grill.

We started with a local flair on the classic gin and tonic.

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Made with Catoctin Creek Gin. A fairly local distillery in northern Virginia. By the way, their rye is awesome for a classic Manhattan.

The last steaks from Friends and Farms, who unfortunately went out of business last month. Leaving us to scramble for a new source of outstanding meat and seafood at reasonable prices. More on that in a later post.

As for the side dish, enter my zucchini.

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Yes, friends, lock your car doors. It is zucchini season. We have zucchini many days of every week. This was simple. Baked with my onions and a can of diced tomatoes (I am finally out of tomatoes in the freezer). Served over Pappardelle’s pasta, picked up at Casual Gourmet.

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Highlight of this meal, the wine.

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Another Virginia product. This one a keeper. 2009 was an excellent summer here in the midAtlantic. Hot, mostly dry. Perfect for red wines. RdV is the best of Virginia. This bottle, bought at Bistro Blanc the night before they closed (what is it with my favorite places closing this year?), it was big, bold, a baby. It needs more time to develop.

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The meal?

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Pan fry the steaks. Add some steak sauce. Serve the zucchini-tomato-onion bake over the pasta. Open wine. Celebrate the 240th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Some Enchanted Evening

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One of my very favorite evenings to enjoy the beauty of Mt. Pleasant. And the Conservancy where I volunteer.

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Wandering around the Honors Garden, sampling wine and food from a large number of caterers. Mussels. Shrimp and grits. Lovely little mini caprese salads.

Heading up to the barn, for the Jailbreak beer.

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And Mission BBQ, and Elkridge Furnace Inn.

It was a fun evening. The only fundraiser the Conservancy does. Close to 500 people pre-registered and there were many more walk up purchases of tickets.

Makes for a great event, for a treasure in our county.

The wine was great, too. Thanks to Cindy’s Liquors for that.

Now, I get to put together those community garden baskets for the winners of the silent auction.

… Plus You Get Strawberries*

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Strawberry season is upon us.

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Gorman Farms opened this past week. Details on their web site. TLV Tree Farm is bringing strawberries to the Howard County Farmers Markets in Oakland Mills, Miller Library, Maple Lawn and HoCo General Hospital.

Larriland has a notice up on the web site. Look for picking to start sometime next week. I will probably be there, as usual.

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It doesn’t take long to fill a basket.

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One basket is roughly ten pounds of berries. Two baskets make twenty pounds, where you get the price break. I come home and start processing. This is the easy part.

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Just hull them. Clean them up a little. Flash freeze them and put them in small bags or containers in the freezer. Perfect to drop into lemonade or wine or a cocktail.

A little harder. Make puree and freeze it in ice cube trays.

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Put one of these in a glass of wine. Chills it perfectly and makes your own wine cooler.

When we are ambitious, we make crisps and crumbles and pies and shortcake, but mostly we just enjoy the fresh berries.

*The quote from Ron Finley’s Guerrilla Gardener TED talk, a favorite of mine. “gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city, plus you get strawberries”

All Over the Map Friday

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Because. There are so many things happening that I can’t focus on just one.

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Like how happy we are to have rhubarb and garlic greens and scallions to celebrate spring cooking.

Like the fun we have in the rain while leading field trips.

Like looking forward to grilling season with all the good food we get from local vendors.

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We’ve already done the hanger steak but if the sun actually hangs around, I will be grilling chicken wings. Drenched in butter and hot sauce.

Tomorrow, I will try to hit the River Hill and Ellicott City opening day. Glenwood, I’ll save for my regular weekend trips but I want to check in with Copper Penny at Ellicott City. Their market in AACO lost its site, so I am glad they found a new home next to the Wine Bin.

Speaking of the Wine Bin, we need Rose wine. And they have lots of it.

After I help with check in for Hike to the River at the Howard County Conservancy I am off to check out the markets.

Now do you understand why this post is all over the map? There is so much going on, and it’s that time of year when we love to get outdoors. Click on my links to hear more.