The Dark Days are really upon us in earnest, despite the extended mild weather in parts of our region (with apologies to the Plains, still digging out of the pre-holiday storm. The real Upper Midwest seems to have gotten hit, but here in the central midwest the mild weather extended into the new year. It can’t last though; now that the holidays are done we’re digging into the larder to stay on course!
A lot of our Upper Midwesterners have had it fairly easy–in many parts of the region we’re experiencing the warmest early winter in decades. I (Xan) am still harvesting fresh, new chard from the protected corners of my garden, and my asparagus actually sprouted. I picked spinach 3 days after Christmas and the parsley is going strong under its plastic “greenhouse” (an upended storage box).
I loved that my group included some non-recipe posts about shopping, books, gifts, family, and wine!
Backyard Farms (whom I missed in the earlier round up) started out by discovering that while spaghetti squash stores well, she’s not crazy about the taste. Like many, she moved on to beef with better success. She’s got some tips for Ontarians in this entry. Aagaard Farms went all out and made cheese from local goat’s milk (and looks like there’s a home-grown goat in the offing!). Squashblossom Farm did a “Solstmas” feast ( I LOVE that), and like many of us was harvesting kale in January. Rubus-Raspberry has short ribs, roast chicken, and a fantastic and eclectic list of recommended books!
Sanborn Sanctuary learned how to make veggie stock. In Week 3 the recipe was chicken, but her big score was an amazing list of groceries, including lots of local, humane meat, for a hundred bucks. In Week 4, her opener says it all “Geez, what else could I put in the meatloaf? BACON!!!”. (And bison. Of course. What ELSE would you make meatloaf with?) Week 6 featured elk sausage. I’m guessing they’ve got a lot of game around there.) I’ll be right over. WooHoo Tofu was making leftovers and memories, including a luscious-looking chicken pot pie, something I’ve been wanting to try since I seem to have figured out pastry crust. She also has a thoughtful piece on “kid’s food, “ a fraught and brave topic to take on within our poisonous food culture, where kids are somehow expected to eat differently than adults.
Our Happy Acres made a gorgeous pizza from oven-roasted tomatoes and homemade sourdough pita (protip–never buy pita, it’s dead easy to make), and also a “non-traditional” chicken minestrone and whole wheat focaccia (hey, we’re making our own traditions). Taking on another fraught subject, MN Locavore has a great no-guilt step by step about dealing with dairy. She’s also got a list of Upper Midwest wineries (what about distilleries?), then finished off the old year with a scheduling panic, props to good friends, and a nice soothing carrot soup.
It’s finally feeling like Winter up here in the Pacific Northwest. My Houstonian husband is getting his first taste of ‘real’ Oregon rain, and he hasn’t moved back to Texas yet, so we’re in good shape! I’m still struggling trying to find any local produce during the ‘farmer’s market free zone,’ and am looking forward to the 14th when our Winter market will open up. In the meantime I’ll be using more local beef, frozen veggies and fruits i put up in Summer and our dog is getting acclimated to all raw with a diet sourced from local farms and butchers. My blogging neighbors have…
Nico and her Tiny Kitchen continue to amaze me with their stunning photos and creatively delicious meals. This week she cooked up some beans and wheat – and no, it does not look bland. I want to be invited over for this meal! Don’t miss her Christmas Eve post, either. Her recipe reminded her of “Baked Potato Soup” which just absolutely sounds amazing to me.
The Reluctant Blogger mixed up some holiday waffles, sampled assorted local ciders, and even “dug up” some oysters from a local seafood company! If her holidays weren’t full enough, she also managed to set aside some time to make some homemade tortellini with homegrown nettles and homemade ricotta cheese. Wowee! The Luscious Domestic worked on warming her belly and soul with some panade that looks very interesting. These Dark Days aren’t just for cooking: Bee Creative is spending her recent dark days with some mending along with making some homemade cereal bars.
Over here in Midwest group, the meals are looking as gorgeous as ever. I covered some of these recipes on a post last week at my blog, Unearthing this Life, but they’re so good that they’re worth mentioning here as well.
Dog Hill Kitchen has me wowed with not just one weekly SOLE meal, but an entire day’s worth! She shares her super simple recipe of Pumpkin Hash with Chorizo. It doesn’t take much to impress me with chorizo – and it seems my group love it as much as I do as I’ve had a recipe including the spicy sausage almost every week! The beautiful pumpkin for the hash was actually leftover from a previous detox soup – a savory juniper berry flavored Pumpkin Soup. The Local Cook baked up a tasty meatloaf made with venison, beef, and pork and served it with delicata squash and collard greens. I think my own husband would agree with hers: that bacon makes everything better!
Emily, from Tanglewood Farms, made a recipe right out of one of my own books. She used up the last of her 2011 carrots to make my favorite soup: Potato Leek with Bacon and Carrots. Even better is that her husband attended the soup, diligently stirring it every 20 minutes while she worked with the horses all afternoon. I was floored when I found out Kirsten, from Small Wonder Farm, made a completely local Christmas meal. Roast leg of lamb, carrots glazed with cider molasses (boiled cider) and her own potatoes made for a full holiday meal. To feed her gluten-free household this past week, she prepared a meal right of the Organic Gardening magazine: Butternut, Apple, and Cranberry Gratin. Another fellow Michigander, Cynthia of Mother’s Kitchen, brewed up a tasty cocktail made with cherries, sugar and brandy – The Wolverine. Like me, she’s using up some of her canned items to supplement her meals. Doesn’t this cranberry mustard sound amazing?
We’ve been having some gloriously beautiful days here in my part of the Southwest (Sage), but I’ve been laid out flat with a head cold since Christmas Eve! This means that Farmer Rick has been doing most of the cooking, and an admirable job at that. We discovered a lot of our lettuce reseeded itself and enjoyed a fresh homegrown salad last night.
Lynda, over at Cortina Creek Farms, made a pork roast dinner from pork raised by her grandson as his 4-H project, corn purchased at the farmers market in October that she canned, Italian parsley which is still growing like crazy in her garden along with some freshly dug fingerling potatoes and carrots. She also grew the garlic and used Himalayan Pink salt and some fresh ground pepper.
Teresa at Not From a Box decided to try her hand at cooking from her German roots by making spinach latkes with applesauce and cabbage stuffed with mushrooms. She was able to buy nearly all the ingredients at the farmers’ market. She says the Challenge has made her think a lot about local foods. “For the challenges, I know why we have to do that: to get us to understand how to get by with what we have within our foodshed. It brings both an appreciation for the local food we have, as well as foods that we must get from further away.” She also made a monochomatic Christmas dinner, and to balance it out came up with a lovely dandelion salad. She got the idea from Saveur which said the dressing had been used by Germans on dandelion greens.
Becky from My Kitchen Solo had the opportunity to bring a braised lamb with curry and cardamom over to a friend’s birthday party. Way to go, sharing the SOLE! Following a French recipe, she was surprised to see the addition of honey, apples and figs to a stew like this, but admits the pairing made the meal–in fact, she got rave reviews from people in the Napa wine industry, so you know it was delicious.
The days soon after the holidays always seem extra dark for me, even though they’re getting longer. The light and love of gathered family may have left our homes for a while, but we can continue to light up our dinner tables and kitchens with nourishing and beautiful meals that are good for our bodies,
souls and the environment in which we inhabit.
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