buy fresh, buy local, cook deliciously

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Sundays invariably become a cooking day for me. I often get things lined up for the week ahead. Today I made another batch of fresh Gazpacho and put a small beef roast and chicken breasts into marinades for cooking over the next couple of days.

I toss the meat and chicken into their own (as in individual) ziplock bags with either a homemade or semi-homemade marinade which includes fresh herbs out of my garden, garlic cloves peeled and sliced.

Marinades are easy. There are tons of recipes out there, or you can use a prepared one and tweak it. I like Stubb’s marinades and Pete’s Produce has their own line of marinades too which are very good, and KC Masterpiece has a couple which aren’t bad. I seem unable to use these marinades on their own, I tweak them to what I want. I never add more salt, but I might add herbs, spices, lemon juice, lime juice, fresh ginger, and so on.

We buy our meat and poultry from a local Chester County butcher who in turn buys from a lot of local farms. We use Worrell’s Butcher Shop on King Street in Malvern (Borough). You can’t beat the quality, and truthfully their prices are competitive with supermarket chains. If you have never tried them, you should. They will prepare custom freezer orders for customers too.

Since I have moved to Chester County I have made an effort to source our food locally. I love the East Goshen Farmers Market and West Chester Growers Market, but am becoming increasingly fond of Pete’s Produce on 926 because they pull in from a bunch of local farms, including for dairy products. Also on my list is Sugartown Strawberries and Strattons’ Wynnorr Farm. Also to be included in the rave category is the Phoenixville Farmers Market.

The locavore movement is continuing to grow in this country and there is more than a little truth in local food is better on so many levels. In Chester County we are lucky to have so many farms and farmers markets, so why not support the local farm economy?

Buy fresh, buy local, cook deliciously.

Thanks for stopping by!

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the death of traditions in chester county

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One of the things I have always loved about Chester County are the traditions. Things like the horse shows and horses, the farms, the carriaging, the crafters and artists, barn sales, flea markets and church sales, ballooning, and the independent spirits.

But today I mourn the loss of those things. They haven’t all disappeared over night, but if we as residents don’t start standing up in our communities and telling municipal governments to pay attention to us and not just the developers, we will lose what helps make Chester County so special.

I am going to re-visit the case of Upper Uwchlan and the Smithfield Barn. I will note in case Upper Uwchlan’s manager is feeling vindictive after this post that I have NOT spoken to the Smith family about this situation in a while, it is merely that people are TALKING.

I have been told that the manager (who came from Coatesville and why do I point that out? Well Coatesville always ends up in the news for not so nice things, don’t they?), met with the Smith family finally after the media picked up on the story at the start of the new year? I had heard that and was hopeful, and well what did I hear recently? That the manager had not seemed to follow through on what they had discussed? What do kids still call someone like that? A welcher? Do I have that right? Or is this just a rumor and he really likes the Smithfiled Barn and acknowledges how much his township folks go there and to places like that Carmine’s , right? Maybe they will have a new rule against pizza and wings down the road too?

So what does this manager named Cary Vargos, get out of this? Is he doing this doing this for the developer coming back to his township which shall remain nameless? The developer who will share borders with the Smithfield Barn Farm? How are those bog turtles and percing stuff going?

Of course then there are the rumors bandying about concerning municipalities that want to tell people how, when, and what time they can hold the humble garage sale and isn’t that just crazy here in the land of the free?

So I have to ask who would be hurt by allowing Smithfield Barn to have a set number of barn sales a year? Is it possible that this township manager doesn’t know barn sales are rural America’s garage sale and a deep rooted tradition? Is Upper Uwchlan going to morph into one of those individual freedoms stomping municipalities that next puts a million rules on garage sales? Auctions?

I mean obviously Upper Uwchlan government has some sort of identity crisis because they allowed the crossroads village of Eagle to grow up to be Barbie’s Lego dream village didn’t they? This is their jurisdiction right? I mean it is good to know CVS can do other architecture, but still.

When you go through there you are also reminded of the development when you look at Upper Uwchlan’s shiny newish township building. It is not as grandiose as some I have seen, but it is a testament to the present and all that developments have built isn’t it?

I hate to pick on this township manager, but I just don’t get why he wants to be the squasher of local traditions do you?

The reality is Smithfield Barn is beloved by locals and those farther afield. Barn sales are a real part of country history and tradition. That makes them a positive ambassador for their municipality. Townships can’t buy the good publicity and PR generated by happy people and goodwill towards neighbors, can they?

But the country isn’t so country any longer is it? The country has been taken over by developers who don’t plant crops in the beautiful farm fields of Chester County, just plastic mushroom houses that give off the smell of hot plastic in the summer.

Take for example another sad thing: has anyone been by what was that huge empty former working farm on White Horse Road in Charlestown Township I guess it is?

I was a passenger in a car going past that last Saturday and it made me want to cry. It is slated to be a new development and it looked like a battlefield. Demolition equipment on site and they had just basically raped the landscape and all you saw were felled trees lined up like dead soldiers from a Civil War battlefield reenactment. It was shocking and sad.

The pace of development in Chester County is somewhat terrifying at times. Nothing ever seems to be a restrained size or scope. These projects are huge and homes squished so city close together that you know residents will live crammed in like lemmings. And the crime of it is, these people don’t seem to know any better.

Then there are the things that amuse me. Like for example when people in developments in Upper Uwchlan refer to themselves as living “on the Main Line” or being from the Main Line. Uhhh no, I actually grew up on the Main Line and these people are actually living in Downingtown. And it is o.k. to say you live in Downingtown. These are like the people who say they live in Chester Springs because that is how the developer marketed certain developments, only are they Chester Springs? Not so much.

Developments change the landscape and the attitudes. Do any of these people really know the satisfaction and joy of planting their own gardens? Or do they in fact live in Stepford where all geraniums must match and grass must be “just so”? Do these people know the joy of standing outside and watching the hawks circle and cry out to one and other? And they all say they love horses, but then they don’t want to live near barns, stables, and local horse show grounds do they? And don’t get me started on traditions like skeet shooting, trap shooting, and sporting clays shooting. And hunting and fox hunting is best kept to those countrified wallpapers, right?

I love what makes Chester County just what she is. I am sad that traditions seem as if they are disappearing one by one.

I really hope people wake up before it is too late. Once the woods and fields and farms are gone, they aren’t coming back. Same with barn sales, country auctions, and honor stands at the edge of your local farm.

As good weather seems to finally be here, I encourage all of you to let people know about fun things happening in Chester County. Traditional things.

One thing I will not be encouraging people to be part of or attend is Upper Uwchlan’s “block party” on June 14th. Why support their efforts when all they do is kowtow to developers and sanitize communities against country traditions like barn picking and barn sales? Sounds mean to some, but I think they are being mean spirited to tradition.

But please if you have something fun you want to tell people about, let this blog know. Things I love are farm events, art shows, flea markets, First Fridays, barn sales, even swap meets and garage sales. Other things like strawberry and similar festivals, farmers markets, small businesses celebrating something.

Enjoy the day. It is simply beautiful out. Find your magic in everyday life.

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farmer’s road drive thru, chadds ford: try it!

Courtney Rozsas, Owner of Farmer's Drive Thru (center)

Courtney Rozsas, Owner of Farmer’s Drive Thru (center)

Today we were invited to the grand opening celebration of Farmer’s Road Drive Thru.  It is located in the Painter’s Crossing Shopping Center at 210 Wilmington Pike in Chadds Ford. It used to be a KFC there.

5Anyway, this is the brain child of Courtney Rozsas and Executive Chef Ryan Sulikowski the fine people behind Lotus Farm to Table in Media.

It was a beautiful afternoon to take a ride down to Chadds Ford and well worth the trip.

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The decor is total reclaimed chic. Old barn wood and other recycled materials. Simple, open and pretty.  Terrain at Styers provided the landscaping – which is also eco-friendly including carbon reducing plants in the outside cafe area.  There is also a drive thru.

21The staff was pleasant, knowledgable and well spoken.  Inside on the wall was a giant chalkboard listing the farmers and purveyors (and all farms are ones you know or wish to patronize and we’ll leave it at that! I like them ALL). All the meat is locally produced, and 80% or everything else will be locally sourced as well.

Farmer’s Road takes the locavore movement and marries it to a healthy alternative to fast food.  There will be traditional fun burgers and hot dogs as well as heart healthy, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options, along with seasonal offerings to highlight what is available depending upon the time of year.

Chef Ryan Sulikowski

Chef Ryan Sulikowski

I admit it, I am a carnivore so I loved the little slider version of their grass-fed beef burger they served at the grand opening – their grand opening featured mini sizes of their menu items – more than an amuse bouche, so I can’t say that.

They also have sodas from New Hope Soda Fountain. They will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner six days a week.  Sundays they will be open for breakfast and lunch only. Breakfast will include an oatmeal bar and fun things like french toast sticks.

Their menu is one of clean and fresh flavors – nothing overly complicated 10and a fresh taste we crave when dining out.  This is fresh food served fast, a far cry from fast food as we know it now.  I mean think about it, ever known a McDonald’s or KFC that had fresh flowers? Sells local honey? Uses fresh herbs? Uses non-toxic cleaning products and has a recycling station?

They open tomorrow for a regular day at 7 a.m. They are open until 9 p.m.

I think they will be a welcome addition to the local food scene, and I wish them much success as that could mean expansion into other areas.  It’s a great idea – and their food tastes as good as it looks! Kids and adults alike will love this place!

You can like them on Facebook too!

 

 

american pie

In last September’s New York Times Magazine Mark Bittman wrote an article called Bye,Bye, American Pie. No it wasn’t the impetus for this post, but it is a good read.  This post takes inspiration from the farmers where I have been vacationing until a few hours ago: the farmers of Eastern Long Island, NY.  One farm in particular called Balsam Farms in Amagansett.

I feel like I have been cheating on my favorite Chester County Farmers, but I have to tell you the produce I bought while on vacation is truly amazing.   I think there is something with the fertile yet sandy soil that makes a difference.

Seriously, and it sounds like sacrilege, but the tomatoes I have had kick the rear of Jersey tomatoes.

And another interesting thing to note is in a lot of cases this organic produce I have been purchasing is less money than some of what I buy locally in Chester County.  I figure that is well worth mentioning since everything having to do with the Hamptons is equated with super expensive.

So this pie is all mine oh me oh my.  The recipe is not an exact science, and I am trying to get better with that.

Peach Apricot Pie

Crust:

1 1/4 cups flour

1/4 cup oatmeal (Quaker quick oats will do – but PLAIN – no flavored stuff!!)

1 stick of butter (8 tablespoons)

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons sugar (white)

3 tablespoons of ice water

dash of cinnamon

dash of ginger

Mix all dry ingredients.  Cut in butter after cutting butter into teeny pieces.  Incorporate butter into dry ingredients until little crumbs are formed.  Add the water.  Bring it all together into a ball of dough that is not over-mixed, wrap well in plastic wrap so it is air-tight and refrigerate for  2 hours.

As you are getting ready to bring your dough out, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

After the crust is sufficiently chill, roll out between sheets of plastic wrap lightly dusted with flour.  Place crust carefully in a pie plate – I guess mine is a 9 inch – I have vintage glass pie plates and this was one that was shallow as opposed to deep crust.  Fix your edge of the crust by gently crimping with a fork and put crust in pan back in refrigerator to stay cool while you assemble the filling and streusel topping.

Filling:

2 tablespoons corn starch

1 tablespoon flour

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/4 cup of brown sugar

Peach Apricot or peach preserves

5 or 6 regular sized peaches

5-8 small apricots

lemon juice

Slice up the fruit into thin slices.  Sprinkle a little lemon juice over them to keep them from turning brown and toss gently with sugar, corn starch, flour, spices. Set aside.

Streusel Topping:

1/3 cup flour

1/3 cup oatmeal (same kind as above)

3 tablespoons of butter diced up

1/3 cup sugar (white and brown mixed together)

cinnamon and ginger to taste

Mix all the stuff together for the streusel topping in a small bowl until uniform crumbs are formed.  Set aside.

Remove crust from fridge and pour fruit gently and evenly into crust.   Dot fruit filling with dabs of preserves. You aren’t completely covering the top with preserves, you are dotting.   Evenly distribute streusel topping over this and bake for approximately 35 to 45 minutes at 350 degrees depending upon your oven.  You may wish to create foil “hood” to cover crust edge so it doesn’t burn.

Cool pie before serving on a counter or table or wherever it can cool off unmolested by pets or humans.   Serve with whipped cream sweetened with honey and ginger or vanilla ice cream.  Refrigerate leftovers.

things are starting to happen down on the farms in chester county!

Two farms I think are awesome are Yellow Springs Farm and Stratton’s Wynnorr Farm.

At Yellow Spring’s Farm they have just announced their 2012 Goat Cheese CSA, open farm days on Sat/Sun, May 5-6; May 12-13; Sat, May 19; 10 am to 4 pm.  They also have the most amazing plants they raise.  I have actually purchased plant material from them in the past and can honestly say their plants are amazing and healthy.

Yellow Springs’s Farm is located at 1165 Yellow Springs Road in Chester Springs.  Their phone number is 610-827-2014 and they have a website. They are by appointment only if you care to visit the farm, and it is a little slice of heaven.

Moving over to Westtown, Stratton’s Wynorr Farm has announced their 2012 CSA .  In addition, did you know they offer small farm consulting services?

Much like Yellow Springs, Stratton’s is a beautiful working farm.  I love visiting there.  They have in the fall, pretty much my favorite corn maze.  Their phone number is 610-399-9080.  They have a website. They are on Route 926, East of Rte. 352.

Another fun thing here is the yarn they sell out of their own sheep.  So if you are a knitter, check out their yarns. I am not a knitter, can’t crochet, but am perfectly happy to receive…..