It’s all about Fall, y’all…

Saturday marketing has changed slightly now that the fall weather has really set in. Today’s haul included kale, apples, bacon, cheese, onions, broccoli, and salad mix.

I am already planning a full day of cooking tomorrow. I may end up putting BOTH crock pots to work since I have a craving for the kale, and I have a head of cabbage I want to get cooked up. I also have sweet dumpling squash that are so beautiful I’m not sure I want to cook them! Look at these pretty things:

It looks like a decoration, not something you’d eat. I hear they taste like sweet potatoes, so they should go beautifully with kale and ham.

Also, the apples…oh the apples! It’s that time of year and I have butternut squash in the freezer. I have been lusting for Ina Garten’s recipe for butternut squash and apple soup which you can find here. Definitely on the menu for sometime later this week.

We got carving pumpkins for Mads and the Boy… and also two sugar pumpkins that I’ll roast and put into the freezer. Those babies will make excellent pumpkin mousse/custard on Thanksgiving day. Or maybe, just maybe, pumpkin brulee? I can’t eat pie crust anyway, but I LOVE pumpkin pie. This may be just the ticket and will give me the chance to use the brulee torch my Spouse got me earlier this year.

Fall… my favorite season, and my favorite inspiration for all kinds of cooking. Warm spices, rich greens, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, and my slow cooker. What’s not to love?

OH and got word today that TUESDAY we pick up our pork. So at some point before then, I need to make sure I get the freezers re-organized to be able to fit it all in. Guess if I’m going to get it all done, I’d better get SOME sleep. Goodnight all!

Early market morning

It’s an early fall morning and I am at my favorite farmers market one full half hour before they open. Most of this is due to the fact that I had a show last night and had to deliver my daughter to referee a soccer match at 8:30 but a lot of it is cause I am anxious to get back to farm fresh produce and to stock up on all the good fall stuff in my market. It doesn’t hurt to know that most of the eggs are usually gone by 915 so if you’re not here early you just don’t get any.
Show closes this weekend so we’ve been really busy wrapping up performances and planning our cast party. My contribution today is going to be chicken barbecue done in my crockpot. Also because it’s “Steel Magnolias” I’m tempted to make a batch of “cuppa cuppa cuppa” just to see what it tastes like! Of course lots of theater means very little blogging and for that I apologize. Once we close on Sunday my schedule should even out again and I’ll be able to return to blogging on a more regular basis.
In orher important news we got the hanging weight of our pasture raised pig that we ordered and it came in at a whopping 220 pounds. That is a lot of bacon. I have to admit that ever since I knew that the animal was going to the butcher I’ve been craving pork roast ham pork chops and bacon! Maybe this morning I’ll get to pick up some delicious farm fresh locally grown apples to cook with my pork. I’ll definitely keep you posted… I hope you’re having a wonderful Saturday wherever you are!

I learned a lot about myself today

It’s FRIDAY! It’s also my day off…and rather than sleep in, I got asked if I would accompany some friends to have the most fun possible at 9 am on a Friday. I hadn’t really planned this trip, so I didn’t have a whole lot of cash on me. I decided I was just going to go to help Kim and her mom do the bidding, kind of like an auction coach. Instead here’s what I discovered about myself:

I suck at being an auction coach. I’m much better being an auction participant.

It does not matter how many I have in my freezer, or in my fridge, I am physically unable to walk away from fresh green beans.

I will indeed buy a bushel of sweet potatoes just because they’re tiny and cute.

I am going to need many recipes and ideas for things to do with butternut squash ($4 for a huge boxl? REALLY?)

Nothing makes me squeal like a little kid than finding farm fresh asparagus on the last day of summer and then only paying $3 each for 4 huge bunches.

So I could REALLY tell that the seasons have changed, because there weren’t nearly the number of wagons lined up to sell the produce. Additionally, there were far fewer cucumbers, tomatoes, summer squash and zucchini. Instead we were treated to the emergence of pumpkins, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and kale. It was still beautiful, and two weeks from now, I’ll be back out there bidding on greens, apples, pears, and mums!

But for today, here’s what I got:


Total spent? $30

Herbs, sweet potatoes, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, green beans, poblano peppers (which will be dried to make ancho chiles!!) asparagus… Yum.

I look at my impromptu trip as a journey toward self discovery…and at least my addiction is healthy, right? RIGHT?

Oh and I got to see Dave from Zekiah Farms at the auction too. Always a bonus. PLEASE go visit him and his wife…they run a QUALITY operation and are awesome folks to be around. Besides, their price on organic, free range chicken cannot be beat. For real. Go see him, and tell him that Stacy said “Hi!”

My weekends are FAR too busy lately

Hi all!  So once again it’s late, and I’m jotting down my food related events before trying to get a full night’s sleep.  We drove up to college to see Stretch, and to take her furniture to her.  I got in a visit to the WONDERFUL Amish and Mennonite Farmer’s Market in Springs, MD.  Spent about $35 on veggies for her, and then ended up hauling them HOME with me.  The good news, is she’s right behind us, and by the time she gets here, I will have her food all packaged up and in the freezer, ready for her to transport back to school on Tuesday morning.  

We were so busy moving furniture around, and helping her set up her little home that I didn’t have time to cook anything!  So once I got back to my kitchen, I whipped up two baking pans of beautiful, seasonal ratatouille, and then a large lasagna pan for my potato and squash gratin.  Stretch’s roomie is a vegetarian, so all those hints I’ve been giving her on how to cook meat and know when it’s done are going to do NO good for her roommate.  

So I made ratatouille, inspired by the Disney movie.  Using my mandolin I sliced up the yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant, and red pepper into thin slices and then stacked them, alternating in a bed of herbed tomato puree, chopped onion, and sliced garlic.  I used good canned tomatoes to make my puree, and seasoned it liberally with Herbs de Provence, salt, and pepper.  Put in the bottom of the pan, then lay in the alternating vegetables, finishing it off with a bit of extra virgin olive oil, and perhaps a bit more salt and pepper.  Pop into a 375 degree oven for 50 minutes or so, keeping an eye on it.  You want the veggies to be cooked, but not mushy, and to have the tomato sauce bubbling around your veggies.  Pull from the oven when done and let it cool.  This dish freezes beautifully.

The gratin is even easier.  Once again it’s all about my mandolin.  In a pan coated with a bit of olive oil, layer of potatoes, salt, pepper, and herbs of your choice.  Then add a layer of squash, also mandolin cut.  Top with cheese (I use mozzarella and sharp cheddar) Then repeat until the pan is full.  Mash the layers down semi tightly, and add a splash of cream or milk to keep things moist.  Cover tightly with foil and pop into that same 375 degree oven for about an hour.  I keep my gratin covered because I do not want the thinly sliced squash on the top to burn.

Once these dishes are cool, they freeze beautifully.  Just slice the gratin into single servings, and either wrap in plastic wrap or seal in the FoodSaver.  The ratatouille takes a little bit gentler handling, but it too can be divided into single servings and frozen for later.

I also used my microwave to blanch whole corn in the husk (4 minutes per ear!) and put up half a dozen ears in individual FoodSaver packages.  To reheat, Stretch can just drop the ear (bag and all!) into gently boiling water for a couple of minutes.  This will warm the corn without it getting soggy.  I may have to grab some more tomorrow and finish them up for her and the roomie before corn season is COMPLETELY over. 

In any event, the ratatouille is a delicious side dish to any protein, or if a vegetarian meal is preferred, it can be served over rice or couscous, with maybe a dollop of soft goat cheese on the top.  The gratin is homey and hearty and for us, even more comforting than macaroni and cheese.  The corn will taste like summertime no matter when it’s eaten.

More importantly, I know my daughter will be eating quality food that is GOOD for her instead of the standard typical college diet of pizza and Subway.  

I’m also in the process of moving MG into the bedroom with Stretch (since college girl isn’t here full time any longer) and turning MG’s old room into a creative space for ME!  With any luck, tomorrow’s blog post may contain pictures of my new space.  

Unless of course, I find a new recipe to cook… 

It’s good to be Queen

The last 24 hours can count as my coronation.

Firstly, my apologies for no blog post yesterday, I was tied up most of the evening helping Stretch overcome an issue with her DirecTV installation. She’s in college, in her first apartment, having to deal with setting up utilities and such… and of course some yay-hoo installer decides he’s going to make her life difficult. Well, 2.5 hours on the telephone later, by utilizing a MacGyver approach at conference calling, and after speaking to nearly everyone at DirecTV, we got her a NEW installer, a NEW installation date, and a free premium channel package for a year.

I went from “Mom” to “Duchess” after making THAT happen.

Then today, knowing the weekend would take me up to college delivering furniture to Stretch, I decided to do the marketing for my eldest and my little buddy Jake. The eldest is trying her hand at the Paleo Diet in order to not only lose weight, but to finally get on the road to health. She called me a few weeks back and said “I’M SPENDING SO MUCH MONEY! HOW DO YOU DO THIS?”

I’ve done posts before about shopping for high quality food while saving money. I even did one this week, asking for reader participation. (It’s not too late, by the way… feel free to chime in anytime!) My favorite farmer’s market has weekday hours during the summer, so I took my lunch and headed over there with $50 of her dollars in my pocket. She still had a few things left from my last marketing trip – smart girl cooked up dishes and then put them in the freezer – and had done her own supplemental grocery run at the local supermarket. Apparently the grandson eats celery and carrot sticks like they’re going out of style. Atta boy!

So here’s what I got at the farmer’s market:
1 dozen of the good eggs
2 beautiful, huge globe eggplant
1/2 peck of fresh green beans
1/2 peck of peaches
1/4 peck of pears
1 large cantaloupe
1 container yellow cherry tomatoes
1 container red grape tomatoes
Slicing tomatoes
1/2 watermelon (I bought one whole and will split it with her)
3 or 4 cucumbers (again, I bought some for us and will split them)

I still had over half her money left, so I went to the local grocery store to see if I could score any good deals on meat. It’s better to be lucky than good, because they had JUST marked down the meat that had a sell by date of tomorrow. So, I then purchased:
3 packs of chicken drumsticks (the organic ones! Five drumsticks to a pack, and I spent no more than 1.34 for each pack)
4.5 pounds of ground pork
1 pack of sweet italian turkey sausages
4 pounds of ground turkey
1 pack chicken thighs

Total spent on produce and meat for my daughter and grandson: $47.92.

So she has onions, squash, zucchini, celery, carrots, (all fresh) and some frozen broccoli in addition to the things she has cooked up and frozen. She will be able to make all kinds of things from this haul. She will certainly have enough meat for at least two weeks, and I will go back to the market on my normal Saturday run next week. For now, I’ve been able to take $100 (I spent $50 on my last market run for her) and buy enough good quality food for more than 4 weeks. GO MOM!

That moves me from Duchess to Queen. I’m just saying.

As my children get older, my influence over them lessens – and that’s a good thing – I want to have strong, smart, independent children who grow into productive adults. The opportunities to be their hero also lessen, so when it happens, I definitely try to step up. But two times in less than 24 hours? I’ll take it. I’m very proud of my two oldest girls, but I’m also very proud to still be the one they call for help.

It is good to be Queen.

By request

I got a request via a Facebook friend who has recently been diagnosed with both corn and soy allergies (YIKES!) to list where I shop and get my vegetables and meats. You may be surprised to find out that Whole Foods isn’t even on my top ten … no offense to Whole Foods, I’m sure they’re lovely people, but I’d rather shop locally from farmers I have built a relationship with. I feel they are far more likely to give me the straight scoop on the food they grow and sell. With allergies being such a concern, that type of relationship and honesty really can be a matter of life and death for some!

My Saturday morning “go to” place is the Home Grown Farm Market in Lexington Park Maryland. Do yourselves a favor and “like” them on Facebook here. They post when they are open, and when new products are available. I get my eggs from Farrah and Brandon (They’re the first produce vendor on the left as you walk in), and whatever is fresh produce-wise from Even’Star Organic (across from Farrah and Brian) Trossbach’s produce (next to Even’Star) and Shlagel Farms. I also shop from WAG meats (all the way in the back, just past Shlagel Farms). I know these vendors, they know me and I enjoy spending my Saturday mornings saying hello to them.

WAG meats DOES grain finish their meats, meaning the cattle are pasture (grass) -fed for the majority of their lives, and then given grain for a short time at the very end. What this does is add a little fat to the beef (purely grass-fed animals are VERY lean). This is a good thing when it comes to hamburger since you need some fat to make luscious burgers. If corn is a problem for you, this amount of grain finishing shouldn’t be an issue since the cow processes the grain… but in the interest of full disclosure, I wanted to make sure to mention it. I also get bacon here, since it’s uncured (no nitrites!) and deliciously thick cut. This bacon tastes more like MEAT without the artificial sweet/salty flavors you can get from the stuff bought in the store. Seasonally, I can also get dairy products (cheese, yogurt, butter) from the Home Grown Market too. Yum.

I shop ALL the vendors at the market, in fact there’s a cupcake lady at the back who is working on a gluten-free cupcake. When she perfects it, and decides to sell it, I will DEFINITELY be purchasing from her.

I usually then head to the farmer’s market in the BAE parking lot on Rt 235 across from Wal-Mart. There, I always purchase from David and Jennifer at Sassafras Creek Organic Farm. Be sure to sign up for their weekly newsletter! Every week, they send out an email letting us know what’s for sale at the market (I am addicted to their arugula) and usually giving a recipe on how to use them. YAY! Trossbach’s also has another stand here and if I’ve missed out on peaches at my first stop, I’ll get them here.

If I have time, I then head north to Charlotte Hall, to the Amish Farmer’s Market on the southbound side of Rt 5 (corner of Rt 5 and Rt 6 in front of the library). The Amish and Mennonite farmers always have not only fresh produce, but baked goods, noodles, canned preserves, eggs, flowers, herbs, etc. Or I’ll stop at Russell’s in Clements or Rt. 4 across from Fairgrounds road.

PLENTY of places to get produce in St. Mary’s County. Let’s talk about meat though shall we? This year, the spouse and I have decided to go all in and order half a pasture raised cow, and a half of pasture raised pig. The beef is going to cost us about 4.50 a pound, and we’ve ordered it from Glen Mary Farm, in Park Hall, MD. Our pig is going to cost only slightly more a pound and is coming from It’s Only Natural Farm in Nanjemoy, MD. You can find information about both of these wonderful farms at Eat Wild. We will get our meat in late October or early November from each of these farms. Chickens are a different matter, since chickens are a lot of work for not a tremendous amount of return, especially free range chickens! Luckily for me, while on my visit to the Loveville Produce Auction I met David from Zekiah Farms and he has the best prices on free range, antibiotic free chickens. David is a great guy, he was VERY helpful, and I’ve owed him this shout out for a couple of weeks now. PLEASE visit his website, and go visit HIM at the farm store.

When I’m in beautiful Calvert County, my go-to place is Chesapeake’s Bounty off of Rt. 4 in St. Leonard. I swear my car automatically knows when we are in Calvert and it leads me to their door. I ALWAYS find something delicious here. Produce, seafood, locally produced meats, and dairy… this shop is enough to make me want to move to St. Leonard so they can be my grocery store. All of the produce is grown organically, the meats sold are all raised humanely without antibiotics, and the dairy animals do not receive hormones! All great things.

For those pantry staples that I want to be gluten-free, I USUALLY order online due to price, but I’m finding that my grocery stores in the area are doing really great things expanding their gluten-free and other special diet departments. Plus there’s always the wonderful folks at The Good Earth Natural Food Company in Leonardtown. Be sure to stop there on the weekends when they are trying out new recipes in the kitchen!

So there’s my list of where I do my shopping. Some weeks (like this week) I don’t get to go to the market on Saturday mornings, so I’ll shop during the week. If I’m up in the big city, I HAVE to go to Trader Joe’s, since I love their Persian cucumbers. I’ll go to Whole Foods or Wegman’s on a special occasion, and I haven’t found enough time to make my own detergents and cleansers, so I still hit up Target, or Giant, or Shoppers, or whatever store I happen to be close to in order to do those supplemental grocery runs.

Hope this helps out, for those of you who are wondering WHERE to purchase. Here’s the secret…whenever possible, buy what is LOCAL and in season. You get a ton of food at wonderful prices. I (and my family) eat BETTER for LESS money by purchasing seasonally.

Hope you all had a delicious weekend… here’s to a very produce-tive (see what I did there?) week!