Local Living… Wine!

Quick drive by to share our Maryland wine tasting on Saturday!

frederick wine trail

Such a pretty drive!

First stop was Linganore Winery, where we tasted 16! wines. Picnic after that!

 

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(Picture shamelessly stolen from Stephanie - our 3rd partner in crime.)

After that tasting, we hung out there for some bread, fruit and cheese. Divine!

Then we made a quick stop at Loew Winery, where we weren't super impressed with the wines and generally disappointed with the tasting. So we headed to Elk Run!

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Gotta love any winery that has a cat wandering through the tasting room. His name is Moo!

We did the "choose your own adventure" tasting, where you picked any 6 wines to taste. Lots of interesting wines there, including a zinfandel and port. The pinot was the big surprise winner... that, and the sangria.

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Yummy sangria!

We finally ended our day at the Wine Kitchen in Frederick. Everything was delicious, I would definitely go back!

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Ok, so it's not California by any stretch... but I was really pleasantly surprised with the wines. Such a fun day with Steph and Kristin, and I think we'd all go again!

 

So Many Projects, So Little Time

Projects to do, in which I apparently mean "things to cook." I can't help it... On the path to local-ism and self-sufficiency, the kitchen is my place to start. I can't really grow things where we live (too much shade) though I have tried... and so far, I'm not raising animals (cats do not count!). By the time I can do those things, at least I'll know what to do with my spoils! In the meantime, the kitchen is my workshop.

In no particular order (except the ghee, which is on deck for this week):

  • Ghee
  • Sausage
  • Popcorn on the stove - If there was ever a post to motivate me, this is it. Plus I threw out all my microwave popcorn.
  • Granola
  • Cheese! (Been on the list for... 3 years now.)
  • Nut butters - Lots of options on this site, and others, but this one may just be at the top of my list.
  • Mayo
  • Beef stock (This is on the agenda because the 1/4 cow purchase includes bones... so, why not?)
  • Learning to cut up a whole chicken
  • Tallow
  • Tortillas
After my success with naan (fried in ghee in my cast iron on the stove... hence the need for more ghee, but otherwise followed that recipe completely) over the weekend, I might try to get to the tortilla making sooner rather than later! I'll probably add to this list, any maybe provide updates on how I'm doing.
My friend Stephanie yesterday said I'm "hippie-ing out" on her. And it made me happy. I'm OK with that!

Getting busy!

Turns out, I'm just not very good at blogging. Oh well. I've decided not to care about that, and get to it when I can and want! My last extended absence was more or less a result of not accomplishing anything locavore-related. In this case, it's exactly the opposite! Can't really say what kicked me in high gear, but I'm not complaining.

I've been cooking. A lot. I mean, a lot. It's been awesome. I've been inspired by so many blogs, cookbooks, recipe sites and cravings. Some recent projects (all of which I planned to blog about, maybe I'll actually get to a few):

  • Season of Soups! I've always been picky (in which picky = broccoli cheese only) about soups, and I decided to kick that aversion this year once and for all. I'm shooting to make one new soup recipe each week. (With as many local ingredients as possible.) Here's what I've made so far:
    • Loaded Potato
    • Chicken Tortilla
    • Chicken and rice
    • Pumpkin Black Bean
    • Cheeseburger Soup (Jay's favorite, hands down - said it was the best soup I've ever made.)
    • White Chicken Chili (sort of... no actual chilis were harmed in the making of this soup, so I may have to try this one again.)
  • Chicken Stock - Directly related to the above project! I've been making a batch every week or so using a whole, cut-up chicken in my crockpot. I end up with delicious shredded chicken and healthy stock, both of which makes me feel better about spending $22 for a free-range, pasture raised chicken. To the linked recipe, I just add a bunch of water, enough to more or less cover the chicken. I'm going to see if I can get a second batch using the leftover bones... maybe save the wings to add to them?
  • Homemade Vanilla Extract - I have two batches going, one started 2 months before the second. The first one had (remedied this morning) less fresh beans and used Dewers as the base. It may or may not turn out, but the fact of the matter was that we had a bottle of Dewers no one wanted anything to do with. The second uses absolut vodka. The second has been brewing maybe 6 weeks and is starting to smell like something I'd actually like to use. Oh, and I did buy my beans from Amazon, and they're far better than anything I've ever purchased from the grocery.
  • Lard. Yep, I said it. Such a bad rap. I ordered pork fat in my last Polyface delivery (5 lbs for me, 5 lbs for Penn) but it ended up coming in a 3 and 7 lb bags. So, I quickly (hahaha) whipped up some lard for use in baked goods that call for shortening and any other shenanigans I can get into. (So, the recipe said 8 hours in the crock pot would do it, but after almost 24, I ended up finishing on the stove. And buying a new crockpot.)
  • Local food hunt and gathering. I recently read Joel Salatin's new book Folks This Ain't Normal (please read it), and I'm more motivated than ever to opt out of the existing food system. I'm getting really close to not needing Safeway anymore. (Even though they recently declared me a "VIP" customer. Oy.) I've found some new, and started using some old sources:
    • Polyface Farm: Ordering almost all our chicken and beef here. In fact, finally bit the bullet and ordered 1/4 cow this year. And 10 chickens. For delivery the same day. Oh, and I'm going camping, so Jay's left home to deal with all that. Thanks, honey!
    • My Butcher and More: Love this place! They have a price list on the wall for local meats verses non-local. And deal directly with lots of local farms. Our source for Bison, chicken breasts (now considered a treat), sausages (so far, Italian and lamb feta), and duck fat(!!!).
    • South Mountain Creamery: Such a convenience! Delivery to our door of milk, cheese, granola, bread... even turkey products (whole turkeys, ground turkey, turkey jerky). They have other meats, but our needs are pretty much covered with the other sources.
    • Farmer's Markets: There are 3 for me to choose from (aren't I a lucky girl?) in the Anne Arundel County area convenient to me. My favorite is the Riva Road market on Saturdays. More vendors, more produce vendors to pick from. But the Westfield market on Sundays is also a nice stop, not too many options, but I can get most of what I need there. The Downtown Annapolis market is nice, but a little more of a hassle with parking, and the furthest away.

There may be more, but I'm drawing a blank! There's Chicken Tikka Masala in my (new) crockpot and Naan dough rising... Can't wait!

Still here…

Between my business trip and a nasty cold, I've been pretty much down and out. I managed to start a batch of homemade vanilla extract and make some fairly local potato soup, both things I'll share once I'm out of this sick fog!

Things I've bookmarked recently for future ideas...

Another thing... I keep hearing about Elderberry. What's the deal with it?
Back soon!

Stocking Up

As I mentioned, we lost every bit of our food due to the power outages from Hurricane Irene. Figured this was a pretty good time to get refocused in local food! Thus, my weekly shopping on Saturday went from one stop to three. First up was the Anne Arundel County Farmer's Market. I was clearly in good company with this plan- the traffic was crazy! But, I ended up with some good loot!

  • Gala apples
  • Asian pears
  • Peaches
  • These tiny fruits that seem like a cross between a plum and apricot - wish I'd written down the name! Plum cot?
  • Blueberry jam
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Green beans

I could have bought more but the crowds used up my patience!

My next stop was a new destination - My Butcher and More. How great is this:

Our meats are hormone, steroid, and antibiotic free at the time of harvest and come from independently owned farms where the animals are humanely raised. The animals are 100% grass fed or they are fed all natural non-animal by-product feeds.

I'd seen them on the listing for a local dairy, and figured it was worth the visit. Yes, it definitely was! Even though they were in the process of restocking due to Irene (popular task, apparently) they still had most everything I was looking for. They were closed almost a full week due to power outage, and told me they had lost over $8k worth of meat. So sad!

I tried to add ground pork to this list (for meatball making) but their machines were busy making their italian sausage. As a concession, they offered up the option to buy the sweet Italian sausage, fresh off the machine!

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (sliced in half, so I can pound for Gina's Chicken Rollatini - wonder if I'll ever find local prosciutto?) from New York
  • 4 links house-made sweet Italian sausage (only 3 remain... so tasty!)
  • 1 package pre-formed Bison burger patties from Gunpower Bison in Monkton, MD (Really excited to find a source for this that doesn't require a trip to the Downtown Annapolis Farmer's Market!)
  • Quart of 2% milk Kilby Cream in Rising Sun, Maryland. (Ironically, this was not the dairy who lead me to My Butcher, but it was what they had in stock. They may have also had their ice cream, which I'll have to try at some point... but trying to remember the goal of local food consumption and at least weight maintenance!)
  • 1 lb tub salted butter Kilby Cream

I rounded out the day at Safeway for some necessities like soda and flavored water. Also, bread and mayo, which yes I could make myself... but it wasn't on the agenda for this week. I ended up making some peach, pear skillet jam on Sunday, which I'll share soon!

Clean Slate

Hello there, blog world! It's been an embarrassingly long time since we talked.

It's been hard to get back here, as I've spent most of the last year decidedly opposite of my goals of eating locally. I set off to lose weight in the Fall, and since I really didn't have any idea how to do that - I joined Weight Watchers. The program worked great, but the problem really was that my diet was consisting of frozen and/or boxed processed foods. Breakfast - frozen WW breakfast sandwich, Lunch - yet another "frozen delight." Afternoons would be fiber bars or popcorn. Dinners, I might do better - making meals from Fat free this and reduced fat that. Sure, I'd throw in some fresh fruit or veggies throughout the day as a snack... but not very much in my diet that one might be able to purchase from a farmer's market or directly from a farm.

The last few months I've pulled more and more away from the land of processed and frozen. Still not quite getting back to the local goals, but still, closer to real food. But the scale's been showing the changes. I kept meaning to jump back into locally sourced, but just wasn't making it a top priority.

Well, Hurricane Irene came to town recently, and it looks like she's giving me a jump start. With the power out multiple days, by the time we found a generator, our food was long gone. Completely empty deep freezer, side by side freezer currently contains nuts and coffee. Even the fridge looks starkly empty: soda, beer, a few things that were shelf stable: bbq sauce, homemade strawberry jelly, and almond milk.

Since we're more or less starting with a clean slate, I'm challenging myself to carefully consider the items going back into the house. I haven't quite figured out how to make local, whole foods work in a diet situation either, so that's challenge #2.

I managed to acquire eggs from a coworker. She's raising Silkies and Americanas (so jealous!) so the eggs I'm buying from her are either teeny tiny or green. This batch is full green. I'd been buying several dozen at a time from Polyface, but this is much, much more local and nice to really know the person caring for the animals. Still hoping to raise my own, but that continues to be another story.

I talked (begged) Polyface into allowing me to order after their cutoff date, so today I'll be picking up some meat:

  • 4 lbs ground beef
  • 1 broiler chicken, cut up
  • 1 lb bacon
  • 1 whole Freedom Ranger (new breed of chicken they are "trying out" this year)

While I don't think this is enough to cover the next 5 weeks until the next Polyface delivery, my coworker had also given me a lead on a really local farm that produces beef, pork and chicken. I'd like to try them out too! I do love Polyface, but we don't care for their pork products, so it would be nice to find a source we prefer. Supporting a more local, small farm, definitely a bonus!

I'm a bit at a loss though for the main transition plan... The diet-friendly meals call for things like 99% fat free ground turkey breast and boneless, skinless thinly sliced chicken cutlets. Reduced fat cheese and fat free milk. Not something I'll solve today, so I suppose I should just try to work through it one step at a time. If anyone's still out there, I'd love thoughts on how you do it!

Off The Program

Today I'm interrupting this blog to document a non-local but really yummy meal. I'm still in Colorado, and last night we went to Le Bosquet in Crested Butte. It's a French-esq restaurant we decided, featuring a variety of small plates, fondue, salads, soups and entrees. And, everything was quite good.

I started with the wedge salad, which featured a homemade blue cheese dressing with crispy pancetta. The blue cheese had really nice flavor.

Wedge Salad

After that, I had two small plates... A trio of sausages: venison with orange, duck and pork with orange and one with chipotles - and two kinds of mustards.

Trio of sausages

And the second small plate... Portabella Fries with Gorgonzola cream dipping sauce. No question, the highlight of the meal.

portabella fries

Tiffany and Chris ended their meal with Chocolate Fondue... We all got a taste, and it was really, really great!

Chocolate Fondue

LE Bosquet Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Picked a Peck of Pickles…

I mentioned the other day that my canning was a success... I wanted to share the recipe, because while I haven't tasted this batch, we did taste them in class and they were awesome.

This recipe comes from my canning instructor, Marla Luther who got it from a USDA canning book.

Recipe: Reduced-Sodium Sliced Sweet Pickles

Ingredients

  • Brining Solution:
  • 1 qt distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp canning salt
  • 1 tbsp mustard seed
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Canning Syrup:
  • 1 2/3 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp allspice (Jamaican, preferably)
  • 2 1/4 tsp celery seed
  • 4 lbs (3-4") pickling cucumbers

Instructions

  1. Wash cucumbers, discard ends
  2. Slice into 1/4" slices (food processors are your friend)
  3. Combine all the ingredients for the brining solution and bring to a boil.
  4. In small batches, add cucumbers to brine and process 3-4 minutes until color becomes dull green.
  5. Drain slices in colander.
  6. Combine canning syrup ingredients and bring to a boil.
  7. Tightly pack cucumbers into 4 - 5 pint jars.
  8. Fill jars with canning syrup leaving 1/2" headspace.
  9. Wipe jars clean!!
  10. Process 10 minutes.

Quick Notes

I used high quality sea salt since I haven't been able to find canning salt yet. It's important not to use regular salt with iodine. Some of the cucumbers I used were larger than they called for... they had seeds, which is what you're trying to avoid, but I can live with it.

Microformatting by hRecipe.

So, those monster zucchinis...

The left and right ones are just over 1 lb each. The middle one... 2 full pounds!

Finally, I shared this on Facebook the other day, but I wanted to share it here too... A beautiful triple lily I had no idea grew in our yard.

This post is part of Fight Back Friday on Food Renegade.

Canning Equipment: What You Need

One of my lovely readers asked me about what's needed to get started with canning, preferably without spending tons of cash. I thought it was a great question, and one I should address here!

I'm not known for just dipping a toe into a project, but in this case, I actually did. I didn't buy every available option and gadget... and turns out, I've got enough!

I have two books, Homemade Living: Canning & Preserving with Ashley English (which I already discussed here) and Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. Ashley's book is charming, and makes canning approachable... and the Ball book is chock full of recipes for ideas and inspiration.

ashley english canningBall Canning

As far as supplies, if you want to order online I'd suggest Amazon. (This is no surprise to those who know me, I love Amazon. ) There are, of course, other options if you'd prefer to price shop or buy from a traditional store.

I bought this water bath canner and I've been pleased with it:

Granite Ware 21-1/2-Quart Steel/Porcelain Water-Bath Canner with Rack

You'll also want to get one of the nice kits they have out, something like:

It's cheap, it looks cheap... get it anyway. You'll thank me later!

Back to Basics 5-Piece Home Canning Kit

I haven't ventured into the world of pressure canners, but if you know you definitely will be doing that, you can save some money and just buy the pressure canner. You can use it as a water bath canner as well, as long as you don't seal it! One word of caution, and PAY ATTENTION TO THIS!!! If you have one of the glass top cooktops, you'll probably want to stick to water bath canning. The weight of the pressure canners can damage your stove!

When/If I buy one, this is the one I plan to buy:

Presto 23-Quart Aluminum Pressure Cooker/Canner

Because I have the glasstop stove, I'll have to get something like this (or someone should build me my outdoor stove!)


Camp Chef Explorer Series EX-60LW 2-Burner Modular Cooking System, Black

If you wanted to buy locally, True Value and Ace Hardware are your best options. I bought my jars from True Value recently, and they had other supplies there as well. For some reason, those stores seem to stock more of the canning supplies than the larger big box hardware stores.

So, as you can see, between the books, the water bath canner and the kit, you can get started for about $60 with all new materials. There are cheaper ways to do it, but it's not a huge upfront cost either.

I haven't tried this, but I've heard yard sales and thrift stores can be a good source of used jars. Just check that there are no chips or cracks, particularly on the top rim. You'll need to get new lids (they are not reusable) but other than that, you're all set!

If others have things that they love and want to recommend, please do!

Drowning in Local Produce

A terrible problem to have, I know...

Week 5, and these words make me want to cry:

5th CSA Share: Kohlrabi, Snow Peas and Carrots

Oh boy. I should also mention that the kohlrabi that I claimed would be consumed last night was, in fact, not. Not a sugar snap pea either. Let's just say, Jay had to work late last night, and he considered not having to eat more kohlrabi a fringe benefit.

Here's the rest of this week's share - I can't really explain how I ended up with something different than shown on the Clagett's list... but here's what I've got:

  • Purple kohlrabi - the largest one I've ever seen. Weighs 4 lbs. Seriously.
  • 2 lbs kale
  • 1 onion
  • 1 lb carrots
  • 1 lb sugar snap peas
  • 2 small zucchinis

That oughta do.

I mentioned before that I was making carrot cake muffins... Look, I'm calling them muffins because that means they're acceptable to eat for breakfast. Icing and all. They're made with local carrots and eggs, that means they are healthy. Don't judge.

I made these carrot cake cupcakes, following the recipe almost exactly (except for adding a bit more cinnamon because there can never be enough). They don't - in any way - look pretty like hers (or otherwise, really), but they're yummy.

Off to...

... stare at the produce hoping it'll inspire me (and fit in the fridge)

... make frozen pizza

... roast some sugar snap peas

... drink some beer
And, surely, there will also be cupcakes muffins consumed.

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