Monday, October 13, 2008

Apple Update

Well, almost half a month down and so far I've been able to keep up with the apple a day challenge. I finished up my apple crisp for dessert for the remainder of last week and thanks to a timely trip to Bigg Riggs booth at the Leesburg Farmers Market I have been enjoying my all time favorite apples Jonagolds strait from the fridge. I have always liked apples but have never really had a favorite until last year when, on a very, very cold day at the market I tasted each and every apple sample Bigg Riggs had out and bought several of each of my favorites to take home in its own labeled bag to finish the taste test. The crisp but mild sweetness of the very cold Jonagold stayed with me.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

End of the CSA Season

Change is hard but brings new opportunities along with the challenges. Next week is our last week of CSA shares from Great Country Farm and I'm not sure what I'm going to do. I'm a little excited that I wont be buying all that gas or having to do the long drives to the farm but that was my choice and sacrifice for the the fresh vegetables, fresh air, the chance to show my daughter where food comes from and the all around good fun of a half day picking and playing. I'm sad that I wont be getting an assortment of fresh vegies but that means that I can pick and choose what I want from the year round farmers market and not feel any guilt at trying out a local business resturaunt knowing that I have another 4 tons of tomatoes/kale/squash/... (fill in your most abundant vegi of the season) that I should be eating at home. It also means the opportunity to do other things on Saturdays, like explore some of the local living history parks and take advantage of all the wonderful holiday open houses.

I have been stocking up on the more hardy vegetables like apples, winter squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes and pumpkins. I have been using the swap out option of my u-pack to get a double portion of apples or squash instead of the end of season, oversized tomatoes or less than storable tiny potatoes. I plan on making these last as long a possible and after halloween I want to can up the pumpkin mash for use throughout the year. Last year I froze most of my left over pumpkin cooked mash and enjoyed weekend pumpkin pancakes into the spring. But this year the freezer wont be an option.

This year, with my family joining me for Xmas I have decided to do the turkey then. I'm purchasing a fresh bird for Elaine @ Fields of Athenry when she does all her birds but putting it on ice to enjoy with the family. That will take up what little freezer space I have. Oh, how I long to have a big freezer...and a backup generator to go with it. Thus the other reason freezer is not an option,the fear of loosing all my hard work to a power outage. Last year I lost some fridge stuff but no freezer items to a brief power outage but it was a very, very mild winter and we were very lucky. Im not so hopeful this year and since I have the ability to can, why not.

I've also been spending alot of time searching around the net for other winter options including winter CSA shares, year round markets, stores that carry local products and growing my own winter greens. I just found that the newest farmers market group in town, Smart Markets Inc., will be running thier Oakton market as a year round. If I can find seeds I might start some winterable rutabegas or turnips or maybe kale for soups. I also hope to start baking more breads but first I must find a better source of grains than the supermarket.

The Greatest Birthday Gift

Birthdays are tough but not for K. In K's world every day is a birthday complete with birthday cake and presents. It means coming home from daycare with goody bags filled with stuff I wouldn't normally let her have and lots of stickers. At 2 years old with her 3rd birthday less that a month away she doesn't understand the time concept of months let alone years and suffers from none of the other baggage that we, as adults, tie into our birthdays. And yet, for 2 days on my birthday weekend, she got it and what I got was the gift of Peace!

Saturdays during the summer and early fall mean Farm and Farmers Market Days. I decided to go do everything even though I am still suffering from an annoying cold and cough that I can't seem to kick completely. We get a hurried start out the door at 8:20 for our 35 minute drive to Leesburg to the year round Leesburg Farmers Market, which is only a .5 mile detour on our route to the Farm. Once the shopping and "sheep" petting (one vendor has pelts on display) is done we load back up, usually with a locally baked muffin, scone or even cookie, for the remainder of our drive out to Great Country Farms in Bluemont. We spend the morning picking up our CSA share, pick the u-pick bonus, bouncing on the pumpkin bounce, sliding down slides, playing in the play area, feeding the goats, petting the animals and generally running around. K sleeps the entire trip back while I drive. This leaves her refreshed as we arrive home but me exhausted.

Yesterday, I offered her a movie while I checked my email and tinkered with my blog reader and she picked Ice Age. Once it was on I decided to sneak into my room for a 5-10 minute nap; essentially however long it took for K to notice my absence and come jump on my back demanding I get up. In true form after 10 minutes she wandered into my room. My covers were pulled up in a fashion that caused her to not be sure if I was in bed or if it was just the blankets so she started patting down on them looking for me. She found my leg with a rather hard pat, leaned over, hugged my leg and said "good night mommy" then walked away. Deep sigh of relief. After another 15 minutes or so she came back in, this time climbing up on the bed. I thought my nap was over for good but all she did was place several of her favorite stuffed animals beside me, cover them with blankets, give me a kiss on the cheek and walk away.

Through my exhausted nappy slumber I could here her moving throughout the house sometimes laughing at the movie, sometimes in her room playing with her play kitchen, sometimes knocking down her blocks. The movie had ended a little time ago when I finally felt rested and got up. Looking at the clock I found she had let me rest for 2 hours! This peaceful time was just what I needed. Thanks for the early birthday present.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Apple Week 2

With fall in full swing I met the morning with my best shawl collared deep red sweater and a killer sore throat. That meant lots of tea, which meant getting out the local honey, which lead to a plate of golden delicious apple slices to dip is said honey. Work was agony but early to work equals early home so I had some extra time to tackle the pile of dishes, start the belated laundry cycle, move the old ill fitting clothing out of the closet and onto the to-be-donated mountain that is taking over one corner of my room. Except for one instance where she bolted behind the fish counter at Whole Foods, K has been mostly cooperative and a good sport with only minimal bribery. She whined a little about dinner but then settled for coloring at the table while I managed to not only cook whole wheat pasta (always takes longer) and reheat the chicken but also put together an impromptu apple crisp loosely based on a recipe in the Whole Foods coupon flyer I was browsing at stoplights on the drive home.

Starting with 3 of my CSA Red Rome apples sliced and lightly sugared covering the bottom of my favorite blue 9" square Pyrex I tossed in a couple of handfuls of frozen whole cranberries. Next I mixed 2 cups of some long forgotten Trader Joes blueberry muesli (which is nicely preseasoned with cinnamon) with 2/3 cup flour, drizzled with oil and honey (can be adjusted to taste but I used 6 and 4 tablespoons respectively) and tossed with 1/2 walnuts before pressing on top of the fruit. Baked covered w/ foil at 375 for 45 minutes and then another 20 uncovered produced a very nice impromptu crisp.

For both lunch and dinner I enjoyed a portion of the 4 boneless whole chicken breasts(not half breasts like you positioned in nice little lines on a tray at your grocery store) I picked up from Fields of Athenry at their booth at Great Country Farm on Saturday. I breaded and finished them with tomato sauce, but no cheese using the chicken Parmesan directions from the Cooks Illustrated 08 Cooking Light issue and I will never do breaded chicken any other way. The breading stayed on, cooked to a golden brown w/o burning and stayed crisp, not soggy even 2 days later. I cut a few bite size bits off to give to K as "chicken nuggets" and served them over the bed of whole wheat penne and more sauce. A delicious dinner that would have gone great with wine but alas it was water for me and apple juice for K.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

An Apple A Day

It seems that October is the wrong time for me to start challanges. For the past several years I have been aware of, inteded to be involved in, but unable to keep up with the various October Eat Local Challanges. Not for lack of trying but October is a bad month to scale back on anything. Yes, local produce is in abundance, the change of weather makes me yearn for homemade soups and my intentions are always the best. Then life gets in the way. Job changes, impending holiday expenses, unexpected medical bills, metal fatigue and a sudden onset of cooking apathy. What happens next is that I suddenly find myself at the end of October eating convenience food manufactured in hong kong and yearing for the fancy produce shipped in from a land far, far away even as the freshly picked local produce sits languishing in my refrigerator crisper or the bottom of my pantry.

This year was shaping up to be much the same. I was already in a no clean dishes when I need them equals no time to cook mood and had let several bunches of late summer spring onions dry out and get tossed when I ran across something that reinvigorated my will to source local and organic. It may not live up to the average Eat Local Challange participants standards but its a start and even something I know I could do. Eat an apple a day every day in October. Simple, right? Im too lazy to try to track down who started it but I crossed it on a Farm to Philly post late last night when I was too tired to be reading anything but to awake to be sleeping, the best time to aimlessly browse the internet. My take on this challenge will be to eat a local apple each day in some way shape or form without prejudice to the nutriousness of the dish; raw apple, last years canned applesauce and apple pie all being equal.

The frist thing I did with our first CSA provided crop of local Gala and Golden Delicious apples from Marker Miller Orchards and the Braburns from Bigg Riggs was to make the apple pandowdy from Cooks Illustrated. I used a mix of all the apples and I dont remember which I used or which worked best but they all were delicious. I had that for desert every night until Wednesday. Didn't eat any local (only the ones in the Starbucks pack) on Wednesday but Thursday, Friday, Saturday and today I finished off the Braburns in raw slices and whole. DD has been demanding the canned apple sauce from last years crop almost every day too.

I pack my own share from the CSA and with the new delivery of Red Rome apples I choose apples over my portion of potatoes (since I already have many), pears (not a big hit with DD) and green beans (had them continuously for a month) [note to self: next year blog about share w/ weight and totals]. Now I have of 20 green, red and golden apples packed into the crisper, some as small as 1/2 my fist others the size of almost 2 fists. I'm sure I'll be able to find many ways to use them and in a pinch a raw apple makes a healthy dessert.