Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Maple Sugarin'

You might not think that February is the season for any sort of local food.

Sure, no plants are growing right now, especially with the remains of the recent Mid-Atlantic blizzard still covering the ground. But there actually is a local source of food that is perfect at this time of year. Maple Syrup!

Maple sugaring is at its prime when the days are warm but the nights drop below freezing temperatures. Although Maryland isn't a prime maple syrup region, it is still possible in our state!

After reading about a very exciting urban foraging experience tapping a maple tree in Brooklyn, I found out that the Oregon Ridge Nature Center was hosting maple syrup harvesting activities right at this time of year.

Events are still going on next weekend on the 27th & 28th. There is also a pancake breakfast event (with maple syrup!) March 6th & 7th. For more details: http://www.oregonridge.org/

I've posted a series of photos on the Flickr site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/whistlesfarandwee/sets/72157623491360536/

I had no idea that the tree sap was so clear and watery. It's actually only about 1% sugar when it comes right out of the tree. We got to taste a little cup and the sap tasted mostly like slightly sweet, very pure water.

The sap is then boiled and boiled down until it turns brown and syrupy. It will be about 66% at that point. The photo below is a sample of syrup made from box elder.

Check out the Flickr photo series to see the amazing demonstrations that Oregon Ridge set up of various methods to concentrate the sap.

The method is very simple actually, but you might not necessarily find a tree that contains a lot of syrup, or the temperature might not be quite right.

We learned how to spot a maple tree in winter when you can't see the typical maple leaves (think of the Canadian flag leaf). Maple trees send out opposite branches: Look at the ends, they will make a V.

Also, remember those helicopter seed pods you've seen? Those are maple seeds!

I bought a few bottles of maple syrup to support Oregon Ridge. It's nice to have a sweetener that ensures that we will protect our local forests!

The syrup is really great on steel cut oats and yogurt from Trickling Springs.

For more photos, check out these from my Flickr friend Chiot's Run: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chiotsrun/4376048098/in/photostream/

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Party at the Windup Tonight: Support Velocipede!

Going stir crazy? Looking for some fun tonight?

Help support an awesome community bike shop with a dance party fundraiser!

Here's Baltimore City Paper's event description:

The cycling gurus of Velocipede invite you to throw on a nice suit and cocktail dress and join them for music by Rebecca Nagle, DJ Jason Willet, and the soulful stylings of Claire Hux with Data Frogs. You'll get a chance to win some pretty nifty prizes with raffles from local businesses like Light Street Cycles, Joe's Bike Shop, and Atomic Books, and you can feel good knowing your $5-$10 sliding-scale donation will help Velocipede teach folks how to repair and build their own bikes.

The event starts at 10 p.m. at the Windup Space.

I'm planning on being there. Not only because it sounds like a great time, but also because Velocipede has really taught me a lot about DIY in the past year or so.

By going to their Womens/Trans night every other Tuesday, I've gone from not knowing what an allen wrench is to owning a personal wrench set. When something is wobbly while I'm riding, I feel a lot more comfortable figuring out what's wrong.

Messing around with bikes has really taught me that you don't necessarily have to be an engineering expert to work with tools. Sometimes you just need patience, some basic knowledge, and the desire to look in-depth at an object. And having a community of friends who are willing to help teach you skills is a definite benefit.

Not to mention the fact that Velocipede is keeping tons of metal trash from going to the dumpsters by re-using old parts!

For more information about Velocipede:


Maryland Home & Garden Show

Well, there may be three feet of snow on the ground outside, but that just means we have a little more time to plan our spring gardens.

If you'd like a place to get inspiration and do a little shopping, the Maryland Home & Garden Show might be a good bet. There are going to be tons of exhibitors for everything from fencing to Boordy vineyards, seminars, and even 19 live gardens.

Plus the show is in conjunction with the Maryland Spring Craft Show, so its all about all things handmade & local.

The show is at the Timonium Fairgrounds on March 6-7 & 12-14.


I can't think of a better way to kick off the springtime and all of the great fairs and warm weather celebrations to come.

Would you like to attend the show? Better yet, would you like to go for FREE?

BaltimoreDIY is hosting a giveaway of a pair of tickets for each weekend!

This is my first ticket giveaway, and I have to be honest that I'm a little overwhelmed about how to organize it. Also, I'm kind of nervous that no one will respond.

But at the same time, this seems like the perfect opportunity to spread the word about BaltimoreDIY. So how should I organize this thing? Here's what I've come up with, and I hope it works.

To enter to win:

1. Write one favorite tip or comment about BaltimoreDIY on your twitter feed, faceboook, blog, or other preferred internet medium.

2. Leave a comment on this blog post with a link to your post about BaltimoreDIY.

3. The contest will be open for one week (ending midnight 12/19).

Any advice from other bloggers about how to hold a contest is much appreciated.

Enjoy, and I hope to see you at the Home & Garden Show!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

More Blizzard Comfort Food

When you have to dress like this to go outside, it's time for some comfort food.

I already posted earlier today about what the Baltimore Foodmaker's have been making for blizzard snacks. But since I just finished packing up some chicken soup and my first ever no-knead bread for lunch tomorrow (back at the office!) I thought I would post a few update photos.

First of all, here's where I've pretty much been camped out, when I haven't been in the kitchen or outside in the snow. Thanks, internet! And I finally am getting caught up on The Wire (I know, I'm late to the party).

Snuggling up on the couch is no reason not to cook though!

There are a lot of wonderful, classic recipes that require very little attention and work. All you need is patience and time. Perfect for a snow day!

So what are these easy, practically work-free recipes?

Chicken Stock

I froze about two quarts and am definitely bringing a bunch to work to fuel me through the long weekend of overtime (all these snow days have to be made up somehow!)

Admittedly, there is a little work at the end when you have to strain the stock. I strained it twice, according to Thomas Keller's opinion that all stocks should be very well strained.

All you need is about four hours of time to keep an eye on the stove.

And actually, I only simmered this stock for about two and a half hours, since the carcass was from an almost 7 lb. chicken so there was already a lot of flavor.

But otherwise, all you have to do is simmer a few vegetables, spices, and soup bones, and you've got a very special treat. Plus it's a great way to use up inedible meat scraps.

I'm even going to simmer the bones with fresh vegetables for a second time. It gets even more use out of one chicken, and maybe I could try my hand at a classic french sauce like a velouté perhaps?

And the last part of this photo series of low-labor, long-wait snow day recipes?

No Knead Bread!

Oh Wow. Talk about classy!

Most artisan breads, which are basically more like European bakery style breads instead of the sandwich-style bread more common here, strive for a very crispy crust and a chewy interior that's not gummy, with lots of air pockets.

This bread had that going on.

The way this bread works is that you mix up the dough like a batter, then let it sit for about 20 hours. Instead of kneading the dough to stretch out the wheat gluten, it gets nice and bubbly all by itself due to the slow rising process.

I practically gasped when I cut these breads open, the crumb of this bread was so stretchy and transparent. Check out the photo below from my sourdough post to see the difference in bread crumb.

Actually, this crust was almost a little too crispy, and there wasn't quite enough actual bread to eat with all those air holes! I think I'll experiment with the recipe to reach a happy medium.

This would definitely make a great bread for dipping, and I'd like to try making smaller rolls with the dough for sandwiches.

For all you food nerds, I did an experiment to see if it really mattered whether or not you bake the bread in a pre-heated dutch oven like the recipe calls for.

I experimented with one loaf inside of the dutch oven, and one loaf in a tinfoil lined baking pan without a lid.

The main difference I would say is that the dutch oven loaf got a little bit more of a golden sheen, whereas the pan baked loaf was more of a dull brown. The loaf in the pan had larger air pockets as well (it's the loaf on the right in the photo above.)

But there wasn't a completely huge difference, in case you are curious like I was.

Anyway, I hope you all have enjoyed the snow day recipes post, hopefully I won't be too swamped with work tomorrow to announce my very first BaltimoreDIY ticket giveaway!

Stay tuned to hear about the upcoming Maryland Home & Garden Show in March!

What Are You Cooking This Snow Day?

One of the foodmakers sent out an interesting question to the google group:

So what is everybody cooking while house bound?

There were a ton of delicious sounding responses, from creamy rice pudding to lemon snow ice to 13 bean soups. A list of responses can be found at the bottom of this blog post. Snow Cream, anyone?

I personally took the opportunity to roast my very first chicken and make stock out of the carcass.

You can see Thomas Keller's Bouchon cookbook in the photo above. That guy has talent! And an amazing attention to detail. One of the most interesting tips of his is to simply salt and pepper the chicken. Nothing else.

And make sure the skin is completely dry to ensure a crispy skin. Any added ingredients like lemon slices or other sauce actually steams the bird and prevents the skin from getting crispy.

Basic Procedure:

1. Soak chicken in a brine (salt-water) for about 6 hours.

2. Rinse chicken and pat very dry. Leave it to sit in room temperature for 30 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 475. Put light coating of oil in the bottom of a skillet or roasting pan in oven to pre-heat.

4. Roast chicken for about 40 minutes. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature (check between the leg and thigh). Temp should be 155.

5. Allow the chicken to sit for about 15 minutes. Add thyme (I used oregano) to pan juices and pour over the chicken every few minutes to baste as the chicken cools.

Yum! The chicken was great, the skin was crispy, and the chicken broth I made from the carcass, onions, carrots, salt, pepper, and garlic was almost better than the chicken meat!

Now that I'm all full of protein, hibernation mode is pushing me to bake bread. It's the perfect opportunity to experiment with the famous New York Times No-Knead Bread. Can't wait to see how it turns out.

So what are other Baltimore Foodmakers cooking up during the great 2010 Blizzard?

Carrot Cake Pancakes

french bread dough rising,vietnamese pork chops marinating and spicy celery salad

Blueberry muffins for breakfast // Ginger Fried Rice // Miso Soup (from Moosewood New Classics) for lunch

polenta pancakes covered with some local strawberries from the freezer heated with maple syrup

I've been using the time to experiment with some ingredients like almond flour to see what they do to recipes

cranberry scones for breakfast -- we're tired of pancakes & muffins! ..then baked an apple pie.. chicken soup for lunch, left over from yesterday.. smoothie popsicles for a snack. ..right now we're going to make another batch of play-doh

i thought nobody would ask! today i plan on using a hand-crank pasta machine for linguine, while last night w/ fellow Food Maker, Scout, and I made spinach/feta and buffalo/mozzerella ravioli for 4. We also
experimented w/ ginger beer flavors lavender, fennel, cayenne, honey

I made pan-fried flounder with a honey ginger glaze last night... I've actually wasted quite a lot of time staring out the window at the snow. It's kind of been like staring at a campfire...

I've been baking a lot, since Friday we've gone through challah, coffee cake, chocolate cake, pancakes, brownies, waffles, and today
was cupcakes and bread. Glad I stocked up on eggs. Lots of soup and fried rice, and of course popcorn and hot chocolate! Comfort food.

Buttermilk drop biscuits with homemade blackberry-lavender jam for breakfast.

Just finished putting together a pot of bison chili -- New Mex, ancho, cayenne, pasilla, and smoked paprika powders, cumin and mexican oregano.

So much fun cleaning out the pantry!

This morning I started tonight's soup, 13 bean soup mix (soaked last night) with carrots, potatoes, celery, squash and beef from the freezer. Breakfast was scrambled eggs with red, yellow and orange peppers, buckwheat pancakes with blueberries, cinnamon and nutmeg, scrapple and bacon! Lunch was just raw juiced beets, carrots and apples. Just finishing some chocolate chip muffins to eat while I watch American Idol with my 16 year old!

What a fun question to pose! We had venison chili for lunch and now we've got to choose between catfish and tuna tonight. Last night, chicken quarters in onion, sage and cream sauce. Awesome!

..lemon ice made with the snow. About a cup of light, fluffy snow, juice of 1/2 a lemon and a good amount of sugar till it's sweet. Enjoy!

Check out www.foodmake.org to join in!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Blizzard 2010

It's been a pretty relaxing blizzard over here at 2010 headquarters.

Mostly I've been doing the usual stuff, cleaning, internet, etc. although in between it's been a lot of fun just walking around enjoying the snowy view.

The main street in Hampden hasn't even been paved yet, so everyone is going around on foot. Kids playing snow football in the middle of the street, dragging each other on sleds, everyone kind of giddy with the strangeness of it all.

Friday night I really wanted to do something to experience this one of a kind event. So I took a quick walk around the block, just to be in the snow as it was falling. I stopped for a minute to say hi to some folks outside of the bar next door, and there was a snowball fight with the bar across the street.

Saturday morning view of my fire escape:

I went on a walk with my brother and friends. Old Falls Road was particularly pretty with all of the trees covered in snow.

There were some branches weighted down with snow hanging on the power lines along the road. But so far the power hasn't gone out, so yay!

All you can see are the rearview mirrors poking out of humps of snow!

I also decided to use the time to reinvigorate my winter skin. This exfoliating scrub is made out of salt and jojoba oil.

You could probably use any light oil (grapeseed would be a good one, and I believe you can get it at the grocery store).

I wish I had sea salt but had to use table salt instead. My skin felt super smooth and lovely!

And to top it all off, no work tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bmore Black-Eyed Pea Salad

Sunday night was my first night cooking beans that I grew, harvested, and dried myself.

This post has a photo of the beans in their pods.

Well, not exactly completely myself, since these black-eyed peas were from the collective toil of the Remington garden, but I did plant these little babies in the ground myself, pick, and dry them. There was just some nice, neighborly help weeding and watering.

I am sure other gardeners got some of these beans, but since the crop peaked mid-summer and everyone was tired or on vacation, had too much other produce, or didn't feel like doing the labor of shelling all of the beans, I got to reap the benefit of a huge harvest!

These beans dried don't look like much. The quart jar was about 1/3 full. I thought I might make enough to have a few bowls of bean salad for myself.

But when I soaked the beans for a few hours, they swelled up and filled the jar!

If I had been diligent and remembered beforehand what I learned on "America's Test Kitchen," I would have soaked the dried beans in a brine instead of plain water to add more flavor. Next time!

After looking through a Moosewood cookbook, I was inspired by a feijoada recipe and added onions and crushed fennel and coriander to the boiling pot of water and beans.

After the beans were done cooking, I also added a few other CSA veggies into the mix, like a frozen jar of corn & some pickled red and green bell peppers.

The jar of peppers was canned over the summer after I had way too much bounty in my CSA pickup and I didn't want the peppers to go to waste. I added a few cloves of garlic to the jar as well, which didn't add a whole lot of flavor but it did look nice.

If you look at the left side of the cupboard on the middle shelf, you can also see the pretty red and green jar. I'm not a huge fan of peppers, but if I do eat them I prefer them roasted or pickled.

In addition to the cooked beans, corn, spices, and pickled peppers, I also added some chopped onion (also from last summer's CSA, the onions have kept very well in the fridge) and some steamed kale.

I had to get the kale from the grocery store, and it's about the most-local produce you can get at the grocery store this time of year. I wandered around trying to find food that didn't arrive on an airplane or get trucked hundreds of miles in a refrigerated vehicle.

So when I bought some greens last Tuesday night, I chose kale instead of the plastic clamshell of spinach since the kale was grown in South Carolina, and the spinach came from Mexico.

Also, Huffington post recently brought up this great argument for why you should know the farm where your produce comes from: http://bit.ly/a0C5LJ

Lettuce, radishes, and other greens are being grown in greenhouses at this time of year in our area, but unfortunately for now that produce is only available on the weekends at the farmers markets.

But enough food politics and back to the recipe!

To spark the whole dish off, I also poured on a lot of spice mix with smoky paprika, oregano, and cumin from the Whiskey Island stand in Mill Valley.

A delicious, filling-but-not-too-heavy, local, and beautiful dish that's hearty enough for winter, but also kind of reminds me of the barbeques yet to come this summer.

Yummy office lunch too.

And don't worry, I saved the flavorful liquid the beans were cooked in to make a delicious soup. Maybe I'll fry up some tortillas or make some cornbread to round out the meal. I've still got a jar of pickled tomatillos in the pantry, so who knows?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Baltimore Fusion

Hoop Houses at Lake Clifton High School

When it comes to community organizations in Baltimore, it's all about the FUSION.


Since 2003, Fusion provides fiscal sponsorship for emerging, grassroots programs and projects to nuture their development. We provide financial management, human resources, and other administrative assistance so projects can focus on their mission and goals for social change.

Saturday at 2640 was the Fusion Open House. It was a really inspiring event, and I found out a lot about the great variety of community groups that are supported under the Fusion umbrella.

Plus it was pretty cozy in the 2640 church that day, eating a bagel, drinking some Irish breakfast tea, watching the snow fall through the windows, and hearing good words from so many active folks in Baltimore City.

The above video was taken from the Safe Healing Foundation website. This organization within the Fusion community helps give a healthy alternative to city youth who are often lacking in job training, self-empowerment, and positive support networks.

If you have an internship opportunity, let Safe Healing know!

I don't mean to just single out this one Fusion group, but I thought I would focus on them for this post because of their involvement with CivicWorks' exciting new hoop houses project.

Power Inside is another organization that I've written about in the past (see the post about the film Precious.)

Youth involvement in urban agriculture, Velocipede, ex-offender employment assistance, the Baltimore Free Store, transgender support projects, fellow parents helping each other navigate the juvenile justice system, and various other cultural and social projects all came together to talk about their projects.

For a more complete list:

It's all about empowerment!

Originally I planned on combining this post with comments on my newly ordered seeds and garden plans. It seems like Fusion in a way is also planting seeds in Baltimore for beautiful organizations to bloom and flourish!

A more literal post about seeds and garden plans is coming soon.

If you are interested in applying to Fusion, please see the Incubation Criteria and Program Application
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