Posts Tagged ‘food’

Friends and Farms

Hi hi. I promised an update on our new Friends and Farms service. We’ve gotten three baskets of food, and I can happily report that I love it!  Our first week’s basket included:

  • milk,
  • cheddar cheese (from NY… I was actually a little disappointed by that fact, but the cheese was tasty anyway),
  • corn,
  • tomatoes,
  • onions,
  • plums,
  • green beans,
  • green peppers,
  • a cubanelle pepper (?? I think that’s what it was),
  • “sandwich steaks” (thin cuts… we cooked them in a pan and had cheesesteaks),
  • chicken breasts
  • a loaf of bread
  • a watermelon
  • two humongous carrots

It all comes in two reusable shopping bags and one insulated bag packed into a big, plastic crate. Here’s the bounty, out of the bags and about to go in the fridge:

As mentioned, we used the beef for cheesesteaks, followed up by cold sandwiches for lunch the next day. We chopped up some of the tomatoes and onions for bruschetta (whipped up by Paula while she was here), and used the chicken for piccata (I like this simple recipe) and a quick stir-fry using more onion and the green peppers (served with a side of rice). I cooked the green beans in butter and olive oil with a shallot, two cloves of garlic and some chicken broth (similar to the recipe found here) – DELICIOUS.

I muddled some fresh mint and watermelon with a packet of Splenda and added ice and Leblon Cachaca (a liquor similar to rum) and called it a watermelon mojito. Totally amazing. I ripped off the idea from Ina Garten. If you wanted a less hardcore version, you could add some soda water. Or maybe lemon-lime soda? That might be good too.

Here’s the second basket:

There’s a whole chicken in there. With giblets – ew! I was intimidated, but I’ve cooked a whole turkey before, so it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. Plus, a great feature of the F&F website is that they provide recipes using some of the ingredients each week. I followed their “garlic chicken in a pot” recipe, and it turned out really well. And garlicky. It calls for four heads of garlic. Heads! Not cloves! I smelled like garlic for days.

In addition to the chicken, the basket included:

  • milk,
  • a loaf of bread,
  • beef short ribs (I braised them, recipe here but I didn’t use any pancetta),
  • grape tomatoes,
  • jalapenos (tomatoes plus jalapenos equals fresh salsa in this house),
  • peaches,
  • lettuce,
  • cucumbers,
  • zucchini,
  • yellow squash,
  • potatoes,
  • a honeydew melon,
  • a dozen eggs
  • breakfast sausage.

By this Friday’s basket, I figured out that we can see the items better if I put them on the counter. Duh.

This week’s haul is:

  • milk,
  • a loaf of bread,
  • chicken pieces,
  • pepper & onion sausage (I plan to use it in F&F’s risotto recipe),
  • grape tomatoes,
  • apples,
  • mustard greens,
  • corn,
  • green beans,
  • whole milk yogurt (REALLY good – like melty ice cream),
  • cantaloupe,
  • the biggest eggplant I’ve ever seen.

I’d be interested to price out a similar list of groceries at our Safeway to see how it compares; I’m thinking it would probably be cheaper than the $51/week we’re spending, but shopping at the Safeway would take away two of the main benefits. For one, we’re eating way more fresh produce now, even though we always had access to it. And secondly, we have a jumping-off point for meals. So instead of wandering aimlessly through the grocery store, we have to come up with ways to use the ingredients in the baskets (it makes us eat more varied meals, too).

Oh, also, the tomatoes are SO GOOD. Those food people are absolutely right when they complain about the tomatoes from the grocery store tasting like “nothing.” Our F&F tomatoes have been notably sweet and tomato-y.

I would whole-heartedly recommend F&F to others, but I don’t think it’s for everyone. It’s best for people who eat most of their meals at home, enjoy cooking and are willing to experiment with new foods. I, for one, have never cooked with mustard greens. I don’t know what they taste like. I never would have put them in my shopping cart at Safeway. I’m guessing they taste like mustard? Guess we’re about to find out.


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Summer’s Last Gasp

Back-to-school happens around here next week, then Labor Day, and then summer is unofficially over. Boo-hoo. I love fall, but where did the time go? Since time slips by so quickly, I’m already looking forward to next spring. I told Andrew I want to have a vegetable garden in 2013, and he’s on board, so we’ve got time to plan ahead.

In the meantime, here’s a little update on the plants around here.

First of all, remember how I didn’t know this plant’s name?

It’s “Mandevilla.”

Check out my cheery little tomato:

I’ve had two dreams about eating this tomato. Isn’t that weird? I keep trying to pick the fruit, but it’s still holding onto its stem pretty firmly.

Here’s my basil plant:

He’ll be yummy with that one tomato when the time is right.

The wave petunias kept out of rabbit-harm’s way:

This one’s going crazy:

And this morning, I woke up to our first gladiola blooms! Amidst this thicket of weeds and yard debris, we’ve got a pink bloom and a yellow bloom.

So those are our plants. I’m glad we managed not to kill everything this year, haha. It makes me excited for homegrown vegetables next year.

Speaking of produce, Andrew thinks I’ve gone hippie because I signed us up for this local service called Friends & Farms. I have looked into joining a farm co-op or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) a few times over the past year; these are organizations where you pay upfront for a share of a farm’s crop, and you pick up your produce each week. If it’s a bumper-crop year, you get a lot of food in your basket each week, but you share the risk with the farm, so if it’s a bad year, you don’t get as much.

All of the local CSAs I’ve found have been pretty pricey, and I’m not sure Andrew and I would be able to eat tons of corns or beans or lettuce by ourselves each week of the season. There are some “premium” CSAs, which might offer meats, eggs, cheese, bread, flowers, honey, or herbs in addition to produce each week, but these are REALLY expensive.

Enter Friends & Farms, which just started service in June. They are similar to a CSA, but they have a full roster of farm providers, so they offer a greater variety of products in each week’s basket, including bread, cheese, protein, eggs, and milk. It’s $51 per week, which I think is completely reasonable for such a variety of food staples, produce, and protein that are sustainably grown. F&F also lets you semi-customize your basket; for instance, Andrew and I opted out of receiving any seafood because we hardly ever prepare seafood at home, and we chose 2% milk over whole or skim.

Our F&F basket won’t replace all of our weekly grocery shopping, but I’m looking forward to having some built-in variety (I don’t know about everyone else, but we end up buying the same things week after week). I’ll let you guys know how it goes. I pick up our first basket on Friday!

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Leaps and Bounds

What a difference two days makes. There are so many exciting bathroom milestones, I don’t even know where to start. I guess we’ll start with the color conundrum.

You’ll recall we were trying to pull inspiration from our new shower curtain:

Landed on bright sky blue:

And hated it. Susiemommy was here on Thursday, and the three of us were discussing it. She pointed out that blue paint can reflect harshly on a lot of skin tones. I don’t know if that’s true, but let’s just go with it. The she said “What about a peach or pink?” and I said, “Ew, fleshy.” Then Andrew said “Terra cotta!” (or something… probably not actually “terra cotta” because that doesn’t seem like a color he would describe) and I said, “Ugh, no.” Then, unprompted by me, Susiemommy suggested gray, and I beamed. Andrew had suggested gray in a separate conversation, so I felt like I now had permission to embrace my neutral-loving sensibilities.

Even gray is tough. The gray in our bedroom goes blue a lot of the time. Fortunately I had just read this blog post by Emily Henderson, listing her favorite grays. We went with Benjamin Moore’s Gray Owl – without even testing it. I was swayed by Emily’s sales pitch: “this gray can do no wrong. Ever.”

First coat is on the walls.

It came out looking very putty-ish and has kind of a greenish tint. I’m not declaring love or hate until the room is done.

Guess what happened yesterday? Two big things. The window wall is tiled TOP TO TAIL.

And. (drumroll please).

We’ve started to lay the floor.

When I say “we,” I mean Andrew and his dad. I helped pick the exact layout, but then I cleared out for the most part. This marble was not cheap, and the installation was giving me heart palpitations, so better that I was not that involved. Especially when Mike (Andrew’s dad) laid the first square foot of mosaic and his reaction was “uh oh.” “Uh oh”!?!?!? The adhesive squished up between the tiles just a smidge, and immediately started to discolor the marble. We pulled up that portion, and I whisked it away to perform surgery, aka wash the evil thinset off. At that point, I wanted to halt the whole production, but I let the boys do their thing and figure it out. I THINK it’s all going to work out. Fingers (toes, eyes, legs, etc.) crossed. I would pretty much be devastated if this marble doesn’t turn out well. Okay, life would go on, but I might cry a little first.

There were a few spots where the stone seemed to be looking cloudier than it was, but the word on the street is that the porous marble sucks up some of the moisture from the thinset, releasing it (and returning to its initial coloring) later as it dries.

We can’t walk on the flooring for 24-36 hours, so work is halted for now.

No doggies allowed either.

Sorry Widge.

One more note about the marble, and then I promise we can move on. When I placed the tile order for the marble mosaic and the ceramic subway, the saleswoman sold me two bags of grout. Both are bright white, but one is sanded and one is unsanded. Sanded grout is more durable, but 1/16″ grout lines call for unsanded grout. So at the point of sale, when the saleswoman at Avalon was explaining this to me, I went ahead and ordered one bag of each: unsanded for the walls, sanded for the slightly larger grout lines in the floor.

Later research revealed NO! WRONG! SO STUPID! That sanded grout can scratch soft marble. Since we’ll be picking up a new batch of grout, Andrew and I have been considering a color other than white for the floor. Maybe a soft gray. Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion to this discussion.

Andrew’s dad was here yesterday to help in the bathroom, but my parents and Aunt Maryann also came down to help out. They spent all day working on the outside of our house. So nice and generous when they have their own houses to maintain! Let me show you my favorite thing that my dad did. There’s a sidewalk that starts just beyond our house, and it’s typically the way we go to walk Widget. Yay for sidewalk, boo for boobie-trapped sidewalk. This big holly tree has a couple of nasty, prickly branches ready to scratch the ish out of our face if you’re not paying attention, right where the sidewalk begins.

My dad is a holly-pruning/removing and weeding pro, so here’s what that patch looks like now:

Wha…? Crazy, I know. It looks like an actual bit of landscaping now. We’re not 100% sure this is even considered “our” property (might be the neighbors’ or public property), but I think the entire neighborhood will thank my dad for nixing that scratchy bugger.

It’s hard to say what my favorite project of Susiemommy’s was, but it might be this:

Yup, after a long hard day of work, she fed us all.

It was a productive day, but now we have to wait to walk on our bathroom floor before we can continue. The mandated wait time might be a blessing in disguise. Andrew and I can try to clean and organize our disaster of a house, finish up some yard projects, and oh yeah, we have a wedding to go to tonight. It’s going to take me even longer than normal to get beautiful (how do I disguise legs covered in bruises?). In the meantime, a little before & in-progress? I think so.

Or did you want to go way back to the REAL before? Okay.

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It’s my favorite time of year. Days are warm and sunny, while nights and early mornings are crisp and chilly. Trees are gorgeously aflame, supermarkets have plenty of acorn squash, and I get to pull out my sweaters and Uggs.

Yesterday could not have been more perfect weather-wise, and I went to Baugher’s Orchard in Westminster, MD with some peeps. We picked apples and sampled (and bought) some of the best cider I’ve tasted.

I also discovered a new variety of apples. Usually a gala girl through-and-through, I tried an idared and found it exceptionally sweet and crisp. We just couldn’t decide if it was pronounced “i-da-red” or “i-dared.”

As an added bonus, I can use the produce I bought as home decor.  Here are my hand-picked idareds hanging out in our dining room fruit bowl:

The pumpkins I snagged, guarding our front door:

And here’s a peek at our front yard, in its autumn-y splendor:

Fall is good.

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Yesterday marks one year of marriage for Andrew and me.  He was full of surprises, from making me breakfast to framing some of our honeymoon pics.  He even found a pink and purple bouquet, since those were the colors for our wedding invitations, bridesmaids’ dresses, and flowers.

Yes, my Goodwill end table still has the price tag on it.  How embarrassing.  Our low-key anniversary of breakfast and football-watching was topped off by dinner at Iron Bridge Wine Company and a thawed piece of wedding cake that we froze (it was a little dry, but surprisingly good!).  We also bought a fresh cake, just in case.

Nom noms.  Just for fun, here’s a slightly-off-kilter picture of us cutting the original deliciousness:

I’m sorry, I can’t remember who took this one… Paula, maybe?  It’s the best picture of us cutting the cake, I think – better than the pro’s (even if the cake does look minutes away from falling over, haha).  Maybe the ground was just that uneven?  Entirely possible.  But anyway, I like that this picture doesn’t actually have us EATING the cake, because those shots were pretty unflattering and that you can see how the scalloped detail on the top and second-to-bottom layers of the cake mimicked the scalloped beading on the bodice of my dress.  Talk about a happy accident!  That was entirely unintended, unless my sub-conscious spoke up when we explained to our baker the design we wanted.  I also like the Picasso calla lily (the cream flower with the purple center) on the table.  I’d considered using them in my bouquet, but wanted fuller, softer blooms; I’m glad we had them somewhere because they are a gorgeous flower.  Ah wedding details, remember when you ruled my life?

Happy one-year, Andrew!

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