The cooler days and nights are making us real homebodies, but we will be especially so this weekend, what with Pope Francis coming to visit an estimated 1.5 million people and lots of closed roads around the city. In our little corner of the world, there's nothing better than hunkering down with a meal made from Lansdowne Farmers Market offerings. That means our thoughts have started turning to soups, stews, casseroles, roasted everything, and we're even getting organized by prepping a few meals in advance. In short, we make like a squirrel and start stashing for the winter.
Our favorite treat when we were growing up, we hesitate to admit, was frozen dinners, which we called airplane dinners. That's when we kids became pseudo-chefs: we would preheat the oven, open a package, tear the foil off every section (except over the cinnamony apple pie dessert), and set the timer in anticipation of a hot meal. Today, we're not as enamored of the idea because we did learn to cook...but sometimes, it's really nice to be able to pop a frozen entrée into the oven. That's why this Julia Child recipe for zucchini and rice gratin, revived by Deb of Smitten Kitchen, is so intriguing. Make, freeze, bake sometime in the future, and voila, you have a tasty and hearty dish for when you just don't feel like cooking from scratch. That's just the start: her list of freezer friendly meals is on our to-do list now. For a primer about preparing freezer meals, visit the Happy Money Saver blog, with instructions for beginners as well as overachievers who want to prep 50 meals in one day.
Oh, and while you're at it, why not get together with a few of your friends to start a frozen meal exchange club? Each person makes enough meals to share with others and you get to take one home from everyone else. It's best if you have fewer than six people because making six meals is a time-consuming task. Our group has shared many amazing dishes, such as Moroccan chickpea soup, grilled cheese and tomato soup casserole, uncooked chicken or pork in a marinade ready for thawing and baking/grilling, Carolina slow-cooked pulled pork, and several kinds of macaroni and cheese (Welsh rarebit style and butternut squash mac and cheese). If it fits in a freezer bag or an aluminum pan with a lid, we have made and shared it.
If you want more immediate freezer gratification, stock up on frozen soups and chilis from Wilson's Curiously Good Food, meats and charcuterie from Freeland Market (and also from Livengood Family Farm when they return next week), and tamales and guacamole (yes, it freezes well) from Taste of Puebla.
We do wonder, though, just how long veggies, meats, and poultry can stay "good" in the freezer. Their nutrition lasts a while but, alas, the quality degrades over time. Your best bet is to use uncooked meat and poultry within 4 to 12 months, depending on the item; cooked portions retain their quality for 2 to 4 months. This handy guide for meat and poultry has more details, as does this article about freezing fruits and vegetables and these six hot tips for avoiding freezer burn. You can, interestingly, use the freezer's hazards to your own advantage. No time to process ripe stone fruits or tomatoes? Throw them in the freezer, whole, and then when you thaw them, they will release lots of liquid and the skins will slip right off, which is a pretty neat trick if you plan to make an easy, skin-free purée.
Going to the Dogs...
This Saturday is our annual celebration of the lovable canines in our lives and the ones that we might want to be in our lives. Organized by the Animal Friends of Lansdowne (AFL), Dog Day will be chock full of vendors such as pet artist Galleria Mona, Lovable Pet Delights (treats), Your Mannerly Mutt dog training, and Glenolden Animal Hospital, AFL's official vet. The rescue and support organizations will include the Radnor-based rescue Francisvale Home for Smaller Animals, the Essington-based rescue Peace, Love and Doggie Paws, the Delco no-kill shelter called Rags 2 Riches Animal Rescue, and the nonprofit PACT for Animals, which offers temporary foster homes for the pets of hospital patients and military personnel. The rescue groups have promised to make every effort to bring dogs for you to adopt but that will depend on whether they have any appropriate candidates by the time Saturday rolls around. In any event, stop by their tables to find out who might be available to be your new best friend. The kids can also meet Sparky, courtesy of the Lansdowne police and fire departments.
If you plan on bringing your pooch(es) to the Market (and you should!), why not enter him/her/them in the Dog Parade? The $2 per pooch entry fee benefits Animal Friends of Lansdowne. Register by 11:15 at the Market Manager's Tent (to the left of the Music Tent); the parade will commence at 11:30. Print out and fill in the form in advance, if you can. Costumes and tricks are welcome and appreciated by the peanut gallery but not required.
This Week's Lineup
Nonweekly vendors: Amazing Acres Goat Dairy, Kia's Cakes, Paradocx Vineyards, and Taste of Puebla. Visiting vendors: Love Naturally Soaps and Neil's Sharpening Service.
Note that this week Buy the Dozen, Vera Pasta, Livengood Family Farm and The Avenue Deli will be taking off (Popemageddon is affecting travel from the city, as we noted earlier), but you can get your sweet tooth satisfied with Kia's Cakes. And, as the days grow shorter and the summer plants start fading away, so will some of the farmers' offerings. That means Mitch at Green Zebra Farms will be playing it by ear this week. If he has tomatoes and such, he'll be in his regular spot. If not, well... we will miss his farm's bounty.
Oh, and if you didn't catch it already, Neil's Sharpening Service will be here on Saturday. Be sure to bring your scissors, knives, axes, gardening implements, and other things that need to go against the grindstone.
Since it's the last Saturday of the month, we'll be collecting nonperishables or cash donations for the community food bank at the Market Manager tent. Here's a handy list of what such organizations need the most (and what they get too much of). You will get a Market Buck in exchange for your donation as a token of the community's appreciation.
This Saturday, the additional Dog Day vendors and organizations will be occupying the row of parking spaces to the north of the regular vendors. That means parking will be more limited than usual. While double parking is always illegal and can inconvenience your fellow community members, this week we will not be debating with violators; the police will be called immediately. To get a close-to-the-Market space, be sure to arrive early (we open at 9 am) to get a parking space or use the free parking in the Highland Avenue lot -- just walk between The Avenue Delicatessen and the Lansdowne Theater building to get back and forth. There is also free parking on Lansdowne and Owen Avenues and their side streets. By exercising one of these options and walking a little, you'll get a peaceful parking experience along with some extra exercise. And if you need help getting your purchases back to your car, ask at the Market Manager tent and we'll try to help you.
And Then There Were...
It's no surprise to many who know this newsletter writer that mysteries are her favorite cup of tea -- especially the cozy mysteries written by Agatha Christie. If you're also a fan or want a taste of the Queen of Crime's macabre sense of small-town suspense, the Lansdowne Public Library is hosting an intriguing event at the Twentieth Century Club on Wednesday, October 14th at 7 pm. Actors from the Walnut Street Theater will be performing selections from Christie's play "And Then There Were None." Admission is free with an RSVP before October 7th and a donation of canned food.
New Corporate Sponsor: Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital
Mercy Fitzgerald has joined up with the LEDC as our newest corporate sponsor and a Healthy Community partner. Learn about Mercy Fitzgerald in this month's Turning the Corner Business Blog