Archive for the ‘Challenge’ Category

This week we have our third mini-challenge for the Dark Days Challenge. Vegetarian Theme.  For some of the carnivores participants this is a big challenge, for other carnivores it isn’t. And it will be interesting to see what the vegetarian and vegan participants cook up as well. Did they challenge themselves to try something new and different?


West Region (CA, CO, TX, UT, Mexico) with Emily from Sincerely, Emily

Lynda (CA) from Cortina Creek made some wonderful looking sourdough pancakes this week. Lynda grows and grinds her own wheat and the sourdough starter has been growing for 3 generations originating with her grandparents (what a treat!) She used cherries that she had preserved from a farmer’s market last summer, she used eggs from her chickens and she made the cheese using local milk & cream. The oil came from her son who grew and pressed the sunflowers himself. I would say, not only was this a local and vegetarian meal, but it was mostly from family grown and raised ingredients.

This wasn’t much of a challenge for the vegetarians over at d.i. wine & dine.  Instead of just another “normal” meal for them they decided to challenge themselves and make blue corn tortillas using local blue corn meal. The local ingredients go on and on with anasazi bean, spinach and potatoes. They also added another layer of flavor using a mostly local homemade peach salsa.  Head over to their blog to see more photos and read more about their challenge.

Teresa (CA) from Not from a Box wasn’t super challenged by the vegetarian meal this week, in fact eating vegetarian meals is a normal occurrence around her place. Coinciding with the DDC was lent and as she had done in years past, she gave up meat again this year. She prepared a flavorful parsnip and apple soup and paired it with a nice looking grilled cheese sandwich. Her list of local ingredient is long and impressive. Visit her blog to read more.


Amusingly, the first post I opened for our vegetarian challenge, from the entertaining WoohooTofu (ironic name there)  boldy proclaimed “Crazy for Chicken.” She gets them by the boatload, something I may try for the summer when my freezer isn’t full of frozen veggies. She made a lovely family heirloom chicken soup. Oh course it wasn’t Woohoo that I was worried about. After her gorgeous celeriac a gratin two weeks ago, I’m fully confident that she can whip up vegetarian with one hand tied behind her back. I was a little concerned with game-loving Sanborn Sanctuary, but they came through, although not without editorializing meat. ;) We’ll have to award flying colors here, for sweet potato latkes with garlic aioli. I am making this for dinner tonight. My other meat eater, at Backyard Farms, also stepped up to the challenge, with that vegetarian staple food, pizza.

Dave at Happy Acres checked in at the last minute. Another inveterate meat eater, they made some lovely meals nonetheless. He caught this season of bookends perfectly with spinach (new and fresh and grown in spring) and a lovely roasted sweet potato (preserved from last year’s harvest). I won’t spoil it by mentioning that they served it with steak. (oops) And vegetarian theme notwithstanding, I have to bring up their amazing “southwest chicken pot pie” made with tortillas and green tomato salsa.

UPDATE: Thank goodness I went looking for the wonderful, thoughtful MNLocavore.com this morning. I wanted to see why she had dropped out of the Challenge. Turns out no such thing. She’s in it and as thoughtful as ever. Her post reminded me of my daughter confessing that she’d made breakfast for a vegetarian friend, but had first made some bacon for herself before cooking eggs. She didn’t think to clean the bacon grease out of the pan. “Wow,” her friend said, “why are these eggs so delicious?!” Yeah, bacon. Here also is her post from February 8, another vegetarian option.


Northwest Region  with Miranda from Pocket Pause

Up here in the blustery Northwest my blogging neighbors have been cooking up some yummies. It seems crustless quiche were popular for our veggie challenge. Along with my fritatta, Farming Mom got back into blogging action to tell us about her yummy “egg cake” for the veggie challenge, a chocolate mousse for the dessert challenge and a bunch of other local fare. If you’re in the NW, check out her post for some great local resources of SOLE foods. Be Creative snuggled up with some delicious looking tomato soup after a chilly walk in the rain, and it may not be long until she shows up with a quiche or fritatta as well: her chickens are laying!

Read Full Post »

We are now 3 months into the Dark Days Challenge. As I read different blog posts from different participants across the country I am starting to see come common challenges  for some of the participants out there. In certain areas, some people are very low or running out of stored fall vegetables like squash and potatoes, and at the same time, they do not have farmer’s markets open in their area at all. Many areas have very active year-round farmer’s markets and that really makes things easy for them in terms of finding local foods. With those open markets it also helps keep with a seasonal eating theme.


South Region (MD, VA, NC, SC, GA) with Emily from Sincerely, Emily

Annie (MD) from AnnieRie Unplugged shared her Valentine’s Day meal with us this week. Annie made marinated local rockfish (also know as striped bass), a beautiful sweet potato and a side of collard greens sautéed with bacon, onion and garlic. She also made an all-local, nice side salad using fresh bib lettuce, baby beets, bleu cheese with peach vinaigrette. Head over to her blog to read more about her meal and see her local resources.

Liz (VA) from Family Foodie Survival Guide stopped at a small farmers market near her house this past weekend and found some ingredients for to use in her meal this week. She cooked up some sausage and onions and added a side of carrots and a nice helping of red quinoa too. She says that “Sometimes, the SOLE dinner is the easiest one in the fridge.” Visit her blog to see additional photos and read about the small market she stopped at.

Monika (NC) from Windy City Vegan made a beautiful Korean bibimbap for her meal this week claiming that it is not only a fun word to say, but it is another great way to get a variety of vegetables into her family without a replying on a sauce or a soup. She used kale, mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, sweet peppers and rice for her local ingredients. She also added sprouted tofu for her protein. Presentation is everything with this dish. Stop by her blog to read more about this fun dish, its presentation, and see her recipe.

Jessica (SC) from Eat.Drink.Nourish. ate out and ate local! While on a weekend trip to Charleston, SC they ate at great restaurant that prides itself on using fresh, local ingredients to create low-country cuisine — they even list their local farmer resources on the menu! Although she doesn’t have a photo of her meal, it does sound delicious – roasted beet salad with house-cured duck and entree of shrimp and grits. YUM.  Visit her blog to read about the restaurant they went to.

Rebecca (VA) from Eating Floyd is starting to run low on some of the vegetables she had cellared from last fall. She is also having to make more frequent trips to a place called Green’s Garage (no car maintenance there – just local foods) more often, but the pickin’s are getting more and more slim, especially for fresh local greens. This week she cooked a beautiful roasted fall vegetable tart. Head over to her blog to read more about her challenges and see this beautiful tart.

Victoria (MD) from The Soffritto made a spicy salsa soup this week using a jar of homemade salsa, homemade chicken stock, home-grown & canned roasted red peppers and a splash of local cream. How’s that for local! The soup was served topped with a bit of local cheese. I have been drooling over the photos of her canned items, dreaming that one day I could also have such beautiful canned items in my pantry. Stop by her blog to see more photos and her recipe too.

Jes (VA) from Eating Appalachia had the sun shining with 65F one day and 7” of snow the next. She didn’t let that stop her from making a nice kale & arugula salad with roasted acorn squash that was both eye catching and filling. With flavor combinations from herbs and spices along with some extra busts of flavor from the raisins and cashews, her salad looks great for spring, summer, winter or fall. Visit her blog to see her recipe and some photos from her winter wonderland.

Susan (VA) from Backyard Grocery had a few hectic, yet exciting weeks. It was time to slow down and have a nice local home-cooked meal. She made venison tenderloin and an omelet for breakfast. This high protein meal was all local. The venison tenderloin was pan friend in butter and the omelet was made up of a local duck egg and local chicken eggs and a bit of local cheese.  Stop by her blog to see more photos and a great step-by-step of her cooking process.


What is challenging you in your area? Are you starting to get low on some of your homegrown preserved & stored foods? Are your farmers markets all closed or still going strong?

Read Full Post »

Welcome to our new recapper DeeDee, who has taken over the Midwest Group for Jenn. DeeDee joined us as a contributor at Not Dabbling in Normal this past November introducing herself in a post called “Baby Step.” We have been able to follow along in her journey as she gets back to the basics in the kitchen and in her life. Her family is on this journey with her and they are very supportive of each other. She will now be doing the detailed recaps for the Midwest Region. Welcome DeeDee!


Mild weather continues; everyone I (Xan) know feels like we ought to be able to PLANT something already. The larder’s getting bare, and we all want to eat something fresh. On the plus side, local and seasonal is becoming routine for a lot of our contributors. WoohooTofu made Cheddar Apple frittata (oh yum), and a wonderfully creative Celeriac Gratin. Sanborn Sanctuary described their meal (pork chops, sweet potato mash and spinach salad) better than I ever could: “We were having a good time with locally grown, excellent food and fun, wonderful friends, what more could anyone ask for?” There’s also pictures of chickens. I’m a sucker for pictures of chickens.

Dave at Our Happy Acres took both “local” and “west” to a whole new level, and ate fresh, seasonal and local in Hawaii, where our “exotic” is their “everyday.” (Literally, with a year-round growing season. One can only dream). Although he’s not doing too badly in the harvest department, even at home. He sent us some backlog Dark Days from January as well, a pot roast and a paean to the northern locavore’s friend, the freezer.


The West Region (CA, CO, TX, UT  Mexico) with Emily from Sincerely, Emily

This is my first shot at the recap for the West Region and it is fun to see what resources this group has. I did not hear from some of the participants from the West Region and I certainly don’t want to leave you out of the recaps if you are still cooking away out there during this Dark Days Challenge. If you did not get my email, please please leave a comment here so I can get in touch with you and be sure to include you in the next recap.

They are now out of their homegrown potatoes and the challenge has entered another layer of challenge for Rick (UT) at Stoney Acres. Rick went super simple and all local for their DDC lunch this past week. A turkey sandwich with a nice fresh side salad. His turkey sandwich looks very good. Why don’t you head over to his blog to read more about his lunch and local ingredients.

Rick (UT) from Stoney Acres also has a meal that missed a past recap, but is worth mentioning. He calls it his “almost local” meal made up of barbecue chicken with home grown mashed potatoes and local corn on the cob.  As I mentioned above, they are now out of their homegrown potatoes, but it sure looked like they enjoyed them in this meal. Stop by his blog to see his local resources.

Teresa (CA) from Not from a Box packed a great lunch for a long hike. She made bacon sandwiches with arugula and slow-roasted tomatoes. This lunch was enjoyed in the great outdoors. The slow-roasted tomatoes where from last fall, slowly roasted and tucked away in the freezer for times just like these. Go check out her post about her hike and her mountain-top meal. Food always seems to taste better outside, especially when enjoyed on a mountain top! After all, you have worked for it.

Teresa (CA) from Not from a Box also cooked up a meal to celebrate the return of more evening light and the inevitable approach of spring. She made sun-kissed carrots baked in foil and chicken legs in a creamed herb sauce and a nice ciabatta. Stop by her blog to see her recipes for both the chicken with herb cream sauce and her sun-kissed carrots. You will also be able to see where she has locally sourced her ingredients for both of her meals.


Hello from the midwest!  Maggie from Dog Hill Kitchen was the one loyal Dark Days participant I heard from this week.  I’m hoping I didn’t miss anyone transitioning from the experienced Jennifer to the newby me (DeeDee).  If I did, I apologize, and please comment below so I can be sure to include you next time!  Maggie made a delicious looking soup featuring home grown mung bean sprouts, among other local ingredients.  Head on over to her blog for more details about this beautiful dish!


Read Full Post »

It is really amazing to think we are 3 months into this challenge. That also means that this challenge is soon going to be coming to an end. There are still two meal challenges coming up – the Vegetarian Meal and a Breakfast Meal. We all look forward to seeing what the participants will come up with as we get closer to those mini-challenges.


My meal (Emily from Sincerely, Emily) this week was, yet again, very simple. Not only was it meal YUMMY, but my mom would say it is “colorful” too! Eating colors are important! Normally, I would have put these three ingredients on the plate individually, but that day I decided to turn them into a tower – Tower of Yum! This tower started with a base of sweet potatoes topped with ground beef then another topping of slightly cooked chard (it still had some nice crunch in it) and I finished off with a sprinkling of green onions.

The flavors all tied together with balsamic vinegar (my only non-local ingredient) were amazing.

I will make this “Tower of Yum” again.

Here at Chiot’s Run things have been a bit busy these last few weeks because of sugaring season (yep we tap our maple trees and make syrup, how’s that for local sweetness?).

As a result our meals have been of the kind that can be thrown together quickly, though not in the way most people think. For us that usually means some kind of roast with root vegetables. Everything can be thrown into a big dutch oven and then into the stove it goes for the afternoon. For my recipe on how I make it visit Eat Outside the Bag, my food blog.

Another tasty treat we’ve been enjoying is sourdough pancakes and homemade savory sausage. I make the sausage myself with pork from a local farm and the pancakes are made from freshly ground local wheat soaked overnight for improved digestion. It’s the perfect way to enjoy little of that sweet maple syrup we’re getting.
Here’s the recipe for my savory breakfast sausage.

Around here busy never means quick food that comes from a box only simple nourishing food that takes moments to throw together and yet is so much better than anything you could ever buy at a store or a restaurant.

What delicious goodness are you cooking up for the Dark Days Challenge?

Read Full Post »

Last week we were able to read (and drool over) what the WEST prepared for the sweet challenge.  You can read about their adventures last week here.

On Guard…  step aside… it is now time for the EAST to show off their creativity.


SOUTH Region (MD, VA, NC, SC, GA) with Emily from Sincerely, Emily

Attempting to reduce the clutter in her refrigerator, Annie (MD) from AnnieRie Unplugged challenged herself to cook as many local meals as she could and if she didn’t have local, then she used items from small local businesses or organic – and she made it through the entire week with impress meals. Grilled sausages and potatoes. Omelets. Pasta and salad. Chicken noodle soup. There was also a sweet treat of local seasonal ice cream for her husband. Her official sweet treat was peanut brittle. What a nice sweet treat it looks like. Visit Annie’s blog to see her posts throughout this self-imposed challenge with her refrigerator, but also for her beautiful peanut brittle.

Susan (VA) from Backyard Grocery was up for the challenge this week. She made two versions of a sweet treat. She poached some local pears in ginger syrup and created a type of ginger poached pear parfait using apple butter and freshly whipped creams in her layers with the poached pears. The other version was beautifully presented poached pears with freshly whipped cream. Those would brighten up the day for anyone. Head over to her blog to see her method and links to her resources.

The Valentine’s Sweets week was a challenge for Jessica (SC) from Eat.Drink.Nourish. Fruit is what usually comes to mind when she thinks of anything sweet and she found just what she was looking for when she was at the market; blackberries. Locally grown, flash frozen blackberries that were so big and juicy she was amazed.  She made buttermilk cornmeal biscuits, filled with blackberries, walnuts, goat cheese and honey.  I can hardly finish typing that description without drooling. Visit her blog to see her local sources and read her recipe.

Victoria (MD) from The Soffritto made some nice looking cornmeal cookies for this sweet treat challenge. She used local cornmeal and flour (and other local ingredients) to make this treat. Using a cookie cutter, some of them were shaped like dinosaurs (special for her little kitchen helpers 4th birthday) and some where shaped like hearts especially for this challenge. Stop by her blog to read more and check out her local resource on the right side of her blog.

Rebecca (VA) at Eating Floyd made a beautiful fountainbleu cheese topped with homemade whole raspberry preserves. Rebecca has made this dessert for many years because it the perfect way to showcase in season fruits. There is some time involved, you need to start this dessert a minimum of 24 hours in advance. Starting 48 hours in advance is even better and I can see why. Even with the time involved, there is very little effort and very few ingredients.  (Don’t tell anyone that though) Visit her blog to see her tried and true recipe.

Jes (VA) from Eating Appalachia made a strawberry chocolate raw cheesecake. The other 2 challenge she is up against is gluten-free right now and she has been under the weather, so finding local ingredients in general, let alone when you are sick, is a challenge. Finding the local strawberries was a sweet treat in itself and she kept everything else sustainable, fair-trade and organic. This was her first attempt at preparing anything raw also so visit her blog for more information about her cheesecake and the recipe. It was a success!


Ohio Valley
leader: Susy Morris from Chiot’s Run

For my own Dark Days Sweet I made some hand pies for Mr Chiots. I used soft white wheat from a local farm that I ground and sifted the bran out of. I filled them with some caramelized apple marmalade with thyme that I made last summer. Since Mr Chiots is a huge fan of apple pie he LOVED them.

Everyone else had some tasty looking sweets they whipped up the DD Sweet Challenge, though our numbers are dwindling down to a few hardy folks. I’m guessing a lot of folks didn’t realize how Challenging Dark Days were going to be.

Jenelle from Delicious Potager made Hillbilly Blondies since they contained black walnuts and bourbon (luckily it’s within range for her DD meals). For her other DD meals Jenelle whipped up Italian Sausage with red onion gravy and a side of potatoes. She came in with breakfast and dinner as well on another Dark Day with tomato gravy, which she declares as something we should wait no longer in making if we haven’t already. She also made Fettucini Alfredo, something I must add to my menu as it’s been way too long since I’ve had a serving of this on my plate!

Gabe from life, from the ground up. made Honey Shortbread (one of my favorite sweets since it’s not so sweet). You can’t go wrong with such a simple recipe, only 3 ingredients needed all of which should be fairly easy to source locally. For his other DD meal Gabe made Mushroom and Goat Cheese bread pudding, being a bread pudding fan I found myself wanting to make up a batch of this myself. Braised Short Ribs with root vegetables were also on Gabe’s DD menu this past month, something that is just perfect on a dark cold winter day. It seems our bodies really crave earthy root vegetables, fatty meat and long slow cooking.

Margo from Thrift at Home made a cherry pie for her sweet but didn’t get it posted in time. So her DD meals were Leg of Lamb (can we all say MMMMMM to that one?) served with spinach and mint jelly. For her second meal she used a meaty lamb bone and some dried beans. Add a salad and some flat bread on the side and you’ve got yourself quite a delicious meal. Looks like her kids enjoyed it as well!


with The Other Emily, from Tanglewood Farms

Well, the pickins were super thin this week in my region, but that’s just fine by me because Karen from Prospect: The Pantry made up for it by posting some gorgeous sweets on her blog that I just can’t get over! Her first post was a Pumpkin Flan that I can’t wait to try (I still have two winter pumpkins in my pantry, too!)

Her second sweet was just a gorgeous as it sounds: Lemon Verbena Sorbet, Cranberry Sorbet and maple candied cranberries. Mmm! I wish our house were warm enough to justify making frozen treats to eat (alas, it is currently 48º in my living room – we were late lighting the wood stove today!) She has recipes for each of her sweets on her blog, so definitely check them out; The photos here link to the individual posts so you can find the recipes easily.

Read Full Post »

We are onto our second challenge within the Dark Days Challenge. Valentine’s Day Sweets.  The objective is to try to use ingredients as local as possible to make some sweet treats leading up to Valentine’s Day.

Be sure to check out the companion post today to see what the WEST participants came up with for this challenge.


Sweet… right! Well, sweets are just not high up on my list of things to make. With that said, I (Sincerely, Emily) am well aware that sweets do not have to be of the sugary, ooey-gooey type. For some people, that means stepping back and thinking outside the box because there are ways to make sweets that aren’t in the form of cakes and cookies, pies and pudding.

So, what do I do when I am challenged to make something sweet? Even if I did decided on a sweet treat, I would be challenged again. Flour – nope, haven’t found it locally yet. Sugar – nope, haven’t found it locally yet. Organic; no problem. Local is my problem (or maybe I should say “issue”)

The big reveal (I say as I pull the sheet off my masterpiece) taaaa daaa…. Candied Sweet Potatoes! Sweet – Yes! Local… YES!

I was quite pleased to be able to come up with something sweet using local ingredients. I should have served this for dessert.


Sweets are kind of my “thing”  here at Tanglewood. I have set out to start a small bakery, selling from markets for now, specializing in dainty sweets made from whole, SOLE ingredients. The thought is that if folks realize they can be satisfied by a tiny bite of something incredibly high quality, maybe I can get it across to a couple of customers that it’s not the quantity that counts at all! (This is, of course, a secret agenda of mine… shhhh)

Usually my goal is to find ingredients that meet at least one of the SOLE guidelines (Sustainable, Organic, Local and Ethical) but for this challenge I tried, HARD, to go total SOLE for all ingredients except those I can never get (Damn you, salt) (and damn you cinnamon, too).

What did I end up with?

Heart-shaped miniature apple maple hand pies!

Usually when I make my recipe for butter crust (Pâte Brisée) I use a equal mixture of my very special flour (a hard red wheat) and a locally grown, but conventionally farmed and milled soft red wheat flour. The reason behind this is that the hard red wheat is very high in protein and gluten, but not terribly high in starch. The lack of starch in the hard red wheat means it has a hard time holding things together, and the texture can be a little chewy, or bready.

Still, for this recipe I decided to go all out on the crust and I used only my SOLE hard red wheat flour, which meant it was wonderful and flaky (due to the loads of butter I use) but kind of crumbly too. It would’ve been fine as a regular pie, but using it in a hand pie was sort of tedious as it felt like your pie was going to fall into pieces any second. Ah well. The butter is from our local dairy and the crust was sweetened just a tad with honey.

The  interior of my hand pies was really easy. I simply peeled and sliced some Winesap apple seconds that I picked up at the market a few weeks ago (they keep forever) and soaked them in the last of our maple syrup from 2011. I then tossed that in a Tablespoon of flour mixed with a bit of cinnamon. I know, I know… cinnamon doesn’t grow here, but I did buy it from a local itty bitty spice merchant, and I only used a little bit! Please don’t turn me in to the SOLE police!

I wonder what folks could come up with as alternatives to cinnamon. I had thought maybe ground sumac, as we have lots of that here, but experimenting with that is for another day I think.

I also admit that for the hand pies that I made for market I dusted organic, fair trade large-grain turbinado sugar on top to sweeten the crust just a bit beyond the honey I had used. It wasn’t local, but I did buy it from our local market which is run by a small family and specializes in healthful, organic foods… so that counts for something, right? :)

When I pulled them out of the oven they were simply steaming (yes, my house is that cold. Come to think of it, I think that was the morning you could see my breath in the kitchen.) This was early in the week when we still had a scattering of snow on the ground. Now it’s almost as warm outside as it was that morning inside!

I enjoyed one of these for breakfast and then packed the rest of them up for market where they sold out within the first few hours, despite their crumbliness! I had lots of people comment on them, too.


Read Full Post »

It’s supposed to be winter here in the States, but it seems that Ma Nature is a bit confused as of late. While some of us are getting snow, others are flooding and getting sunburns. Stews, soups, and one-pot meals go right along with winter weather – when it happens properly! Here’s what our “Western” Not Dabblers have been busy preparing for our first Challenge challenge.


Even though the weather continues mild, I’ve been enjoying doing those wintertime stick-to-your-ribs one pot meals (Okay, 4 pots, a jar and two bags). Soup, chili, lasagna, casserole. You can see from the lasagna link that I didn’t do quite as well two years ago at making it through the Dark Days from preserved foods, but this year I’ve managed, with a little help from my year-round CSA, to stay local, even with the vegetables, and at that I’ve only needed to resort to spinach, chard, and frozen peas. I made a wonderful vegetable soup in homemade chicken broth (recipe: see what you have, throw it in a pot. Simmer until yummy. I did manage to stick to just one pot for this one.) Ate it while watching the State of the Union, and I thought it appropriate that the First Lady just happened to flash on the screen as I shot this!

Meanwhile, The USDA has now officially declared Chicago to be Zone 6A– that’s a movement of four half-zones since I started gardening in the early 90s. But there’s no such thing as climate change. Or something. Just ask a gardener.


I write this post on one of those unusually sunny Winter days in the Willamette valley. I cooked my ‘challenge’ dish on a cold and sultry day, however so i made one of those slow cooked, bubbly, warm dishes: chilly! I usually make one pot/pan meals, though the kitchen still looks like a tornado went through it when i’m done. Not sure why that happens…. Oh right, i’m a terrible house keeper and tend to be lazy AND messy. Dang. This week i got some tasty local ingredients to play with and even got out my new-to-me cast iron to make a new chicken recipe. The goat chilly/stew turned out awesome and featured local (10 minutes up the road) goat meat, homegrown/preserved tomatoes and local dried chillies (plus regular grocery store onions, dried beans and salt/seasoning). Pocket had a no-bowl meal of the same goat meat, gnawing on two neck bones for 3 days, tapping into her carnal predator and nourishing her whole body from gut to silky-soft fur.


Here at Unearthing this Life we’ve been using up the remnants of a couple of duck that we prepared. I like to try to eat nose to tail, but can’t always get over the taste of organ meat. So when I was faced with two duck liver I thought using them in a beef stew would be a wonderful way to disguise their potential iron-y flavor.

I used up the last of the garlic I’d brought up with me from Tennessee and sautéed them with some other traditional stew veggies: carrots, potatoes, and a few leeks I’d stashed at the end of the Farmers Market in fall. The only thing that wasn’t local was the organic celery and the salt.  I got both the beef and duck from the butcher down the road who purchases all of his meat from regional farmers. Toward the end of “stewing” I added the chopped liver, hoping it would stay tender and wouldn’t fall apart. Okay, so it didn’t help the liver from tasting like iron, but it was tender.

The broth was great, the vegetables cooked perfectly, and the beef was wonderful. I think we all decided the stew was fabulous … once we each took the liver out of our bowls.


Don’t forget to check out the One-pot meals from our Eastern participants. If you’re joining us for the Valentine’s Day sweets challenge, be sure to check out the dates for your entries!

Read Full Post »

Our first challenge with the Dark Days Challenge. Soup and One Pot Meals.  We had a look last week to see what the WEST came up with for this challenge. This week the EAST gets to show off their stuff. I see a lot of very creative One Pot meals out there. Enjoy!


The SOUTH Region (MD, VA, NC, SC, GA) with Emily from Sincerely, Emily

Annie (MD) from AnnieRie Unplugged found herself with many eggs in the refrigerator and a one-pot meal challenge. She met this challenge head on with a beautiful frittata using all local and organic ingredients. Her frittata is loaded with onion, collard and beet greens. She also added baby swiss and topped off the whole thing with hydroponic tomatoes. She also used a unique ingredient to add a little bacon flavor – Bacon Jam! That sounds super interesting. Head over to her blog to find out about bacon jam and read more about her meal.

Susan (VA) from Backyard Grocery found herself uninspired for the one-pot meal challenge. She really wanted to challenge herself with something other than soup.  Between fighting a back that was in spasm and trying to figure out what to make she was about to just give up. Then it snowed! Suddenly she found herself in the mood for stew! Using venison along with other ingredients, including a walk out back into their “backyard grocery”  for turnips she came up with a beautiful stew. Susan also prepared a 2nd DDC meal this week - stuffed venison with mashed turnips. It looks delicious! Visit her blog for great photo spread and recipe for both of her meals!

Rebecca (VA) from Eating Floyd had already planned a mid-winter party and soup was on the menu, so it fit in perfectly with this challenge. While the rest of us were cooking up a soup or one-pot dish, Rebecca made 4 soups (count them…4) plus relish trays, pickles & relishes, condiments and other tasty treats for the party and I was very impressed at the LARGE percentage of local ingredient used! Tuscan White Bean and Kale Soup, Easy Cassoulet, Spiced Butternut-Pumpkin Soup, Chicken Noodle Soup. This is truly inspiring. Head over to her blog to see all the recipes and locally source ingredients. This is truly an impressive post.

With winter-like weather finally making its way to the DC area, Victoria (MD) from The Soffritto figured that her favorite way to warm up was perfect for this one-pot meal challenge. Italians call it pappa al pomodoro, but she calls it Heaven on a Spoon. Tomato Bread Soup. She worked hard this past summer to preserve many things and time to use some of those wonderful things; canned tomatoes, frozen pesto cubs and frozen chicken stock. Now there is room in the freezer (prime real estate she calls it) for some of the soup she just made. Click on the link to see her recipe and information.

Jessica (SC) from Eat.Drink.Nourish. made Pigs in a Blanket for her one-pot challenge. Don’t let the name fool you, this is not what you are thinking. This is the first time she has made this recipe in her own kitchen. She used a recipe of polish/Slovakian decent that has been passed down in her family through more generations that she can count. Now that is history. She visited a farmer’s market that she had never been to before and brought home some nice stuff. Go to her blog to read the details and find out where her ingredients came from.

Jackie (NC) From Southern Fried Goodness challenged herself within this one-pot challenge. She said, “No shopping for ingredients” and she made a successful meal. A wonderful chicken and cabbage stew.  Her stew looks both feeling and tasty. She really came through using things from her pantry and refrigerator. Everyone went back for second helpings, including the friends they had over for dinner. Head over to her blog for her 100% made up receipt.


Ohio Valley
leader: Susy Morris from Chiot’s Run

Here in the Ohio Valley winter has finally arrived, we’ve had snow, freezing rain, temperatures down in the single digits – perfect for a one pot meal.

Margo from Thrift at Home wasn’t super excited about the one pot meal challenge because she likes a little more color and variety in her meals. Nevertheless she managed to make something called Bounty Rice in a big cast iron dutch oven. It seems like the perfect winter meal chocked full of things like: organic cabbage, bell peppers, home-canned tomatoes, organic garlic, ground beef, homemade yogurt, organic raw milk cheese, organic beets, organic cucumber dills, sour cherries, organic ww pastry flour, milk, organic eggs.

For her second DD meal she went vegetarian (which may or may not be one of our future challenges). With Vegetarian Crab Cakes make from zucchini from the freezer and a host of other healthy ingredients. Add a salad and baked sweet corn on the side and you’re got yourself a great Dark Days meal!

Cristina from C & J Homemade missed a few weeks because she realized the Dark Days Challenge was a little harder than she expected. That’s OK though, she back strong this week with Cabbage, Chicken and Bacon Saute – she had me at bacon. I can only imagine how wonderful this tasted, I love cabbage, I love bacon and I love them together! She certainly came back to the DD challenge with a bang!

Jenelle from Delicious Potager (don’t you love that blog name?) made Asian Fusion for week 7 of the challenge. I must admit, a good stir-fry makes my stomach happy and hers looked fantastic, especially since it was made with venison.

For her second DD meal she almost ate it before remember to take a photo – now that’s some good Roasted Chicken with Shallots. Roasted chicken is probably one of the best Dark Days meal, you should be able to find local chicken easily in any part of the country. Side it with whatever vegetables you have at the moment whether fresh from the garden or from the freezer and you’re ready to eat. For Jenelle, this simple meal brought back lots of good memories – funny how food and flavors can do that.

For her one pot meal, Jenelle came in with Borscht made with venison stock. She’s getting so SOLE that she’s roasting up venison bones for stock. There’s something so beautiful about the ruby color of the borscht, something I’m definitely going to have to make soon, despite a funny childhood memory about it.


with The Other Emily, from Tanglewood Farms

This is the first week I have been so inspired to try a bunch of the recipes and meals posted by our Dark Days Dabblers! Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, elegant or simple, I know that as soon as I finish recapping our participants I’m going to be adding to my grocery/market list!

Angela (DC) from Bumblelush used the One Pot Meal as a chance to practice her lamb skills for Easter. She made a beautiful Crown Roast of Lamb with Root Vegetables, and I can’t believe how simple such an elegant meal sounds to make! After reading her post I feel prepared to try some of the more difficult cuts of meat, especially this one!

Because I have a lot of Appalachian roots, and I enjoy a challenge, I couldn’t help but want to follow Stacey (NY) from Fessenden Farm‘s lead. She posted a great recap of her experience with some particularly fussy grits. Despite the grits’ finicky directions that she was able to dig up on the farm’s website, she was able to complete them and they paired nicely with the rest of her breakfast meal.

Karen (NJ) from Prospect: The Pantry found a fantastic way to use the One Pot Challenge to her advantage in planning future meals throughout the week. She made a beautiful Sunday Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables and Cider, and from this one meal she was able to keep leftovers for other meals, including making stock from the chicken bones. I love the thrifty inspiration behind this, and as always her photos have made me seriously hungry!

I’ve been meaning to delve into frittatas, and Monica (NJ) over at Monica Tries to Cook has reminded me that I need to do so! Her frittata this week was full of swiss chard and smoked gouda (who can go wrong with smoked gouda?) and apart from the usual salt, pepper, and olive oil, everything she used was local!

Arlene (Eastern Canada) from Living my Dreamlife on the Farm has gotten off to a great start with the Dark Days Challenge. Her One Pot Meal was a delicious sounding Lamb Soup in broth. Her blog has a very detailed recipe that I think would cure anyone with the chilly winter blues.

Read Full Post »

As the weeks go on in the Dark Days Challenge, we are all going to be challenging ourselves. This week is the first  or a series of challenges; Soup or One-Pot Meal. Be sure to read the companion post today where the WEST Group is doing a detailed recap for the first week in this challenge. I am excited to see what creative dishes the participants have prepared.


I  (Emily S) have been fighting a nasty cold so I decided to go with a soup this week (actually a few soups.)  I used some frozen pumpkin and I still had some butternut squash that I had picked up at Boggy Creek Farm to use and I figured that would go well with the frozen pumpkin. I roasted up the butternut squash and some homegrown garlic and added it to the thawed pumpkin. I added coconut cream concentrate from Tropical Traditions, some homemade yogurt and milk. I topped each bowl of soup off with caramelized onions from the freezer. I love caramelized onions, heck I love onions. I love the flavor they add and the health benefits from them. Not being able to taste much of anything, I could taste the garlic and the coconut in the soup and it was very comforting.

The challenge for me this week was being too sick to put a lot of effort into meals. While the frozen pumpkin I used wasn’t local, it was from my parents garden and it was local to me when I was visiting them (I’m sure that counts for something). Basically I used what I had in the house. I also made a wonderful healing chicken soup and added loads of immune boosting dark leafy greens from the garden, ginger, turmeric and peppers. Everything was organic, and most of it was local. Both of these soups are what I needed this past week. I am feeling a lot better. Another soup is already in the refrigerator and it is full of more greens. I am going to make sure that I am completely over this nasty bug! Hand me another cup of garlic tea please!


Here at Chiot’s Run it’s been a busy few weeks. With the launch of my new cooking/food blog Eat Outside the Bag and the possibility of a move in my future our lives have been full throttle trying to get things done. Food never gets put on the back burner no matter how busy we are. My main strategy for keeping our plates filled with nourishing goodness by cooking up bigs pots of one dish meals and lots of soup. This challenge within a challenge was perfect for me! For my one-pot soup meal it simple was the theme. I had a ham bone that I simmered in a pot for a few days, then I removed the bone, returned all the meat back to the pan and added cubed homegrown potatoes from the basement. Then I ran out to the garden to harvest some frosty leeks and kale, into the pot they went along with some homegrown dried sage and a good dose of salt & pepper. About a half hour later we were enjoying steaming bowls of soup on a single digit Ohio winter evening!

My other go-to quick meal is eggs. We enjoy eggs often when we’re busy. Earlier this week we got home late after a long day of work and running errands and I needed something quick. Fried bacon, eggs, atop a bed of local arugula and other bitter winter greens made for a super quick healthy meal. To read more about this recipe and the ingredients head over and read My Plate: January 16, 2012.


This week’s one-pot Dark Days meal started with a craving. I woke one morning and thought “I must have curry”… Of course, curry isn’t grown particularly  locally, but I made due. I had quite a few organic varieties of curry in my pantry, as well as a can of organic coconut milk, so I figured I’d bend a couple of Dark Days Rules and use them in a quick curried root vegetable stew.

I was lucky enough that I had picked up some parsnips and a beautiful mix of orange and purple carrots from Tantre Farm in Ann Arbor the week before, and even luckier still that I had a couple remaining winesap apples in the closet, just past their peak. This was a super easy meal. Holy Cow.

I finely chopped a few cloves of garlic and sautéed them in the bottom of a large stewpot. I then chopped the carrots, parsnips and apples and tossed them in a pot, along with the can of coconut milk and two hefty tablespoons of curry.

Beyond that? I let it sit. When the root veggies were softened to my liking, I added some sea salt to taste (also not local, wah wah) and dinner was ready! This was almost shamefully simple, guys, but what’s not to love about something simple AND tasty? My only complaint is that I didn’t have anything to brighten up the taste much. It was very muted and perfect for a cold winter evening, but it was lacking the *KA-POW* that some chilis or a kaffir lime leaf would’ve offered. Ah well!

What’s even better about this stew is that all of the left over tidbits like apple cores, parsnip butts and carrot snibbles make excellently tasty treats for the sheep! Everybody was happy, and they enjoyed their Dark Days meal as well.

Read Full Post »

It’s the first of our Challenge in a Challenge weeks! This week and next we (mostly) learned about one-pot meals. Soups, stews, cassoulet, and casseroles! One pot meals may or may not be created in only one pot, but they seem to all be warm and comforting, perfect for this time of year.


MNLocavore has a very important post to read, all thoughts of actual recipes aside. She brings up the theme that comes up again and again–local food is still an urban, and largely middle class, phenomenon. Even highly motivated, educated rural, small town, and suburban eaters will struggle with this. Even farm families will struggle with this. The larger food system simply does not support locally sourced food, and the barriers to small merchants providing this sort of food are enormous. Read it. Then think about what you can do to help make a change.  Her one-pot post (pea soup) is here as well, and again, well worth the read.

Sanborn Sanctuary, which actually does appear to be a farm that has managed to meet our criteria made a scrumptious looking “overcooked ham” and some split pea soup. I’d love to hear more about local food issues among farms in their area! The internet-wide conspiracy to get me to make noodles is afoot, with Rubus Raspberry (note the new URL and the stylish new look!) making chicken alfredo with, yes, homemade pasta. Our Happy Acres made a one pot meal (chili) and some sweet potato gnocchi, which look amazing. (Also– is it my imagination, or did you grind your own flour?).

Lotta folks missing in action! As soon as you dig out, send us some recipes!


This week’s ‘one pot meal’ challenge didn’t stop Methylgrace from using just about every pot in her house, it seems! I love how she turns a simple soup into a day long affair with an arsenal of pots, pans, cookie sheets, cooking methods and culinary magic. I’m also jealous that she had chicken feet in her stock. Some might cringe at the idea of boiling up chicken feet for consumption, but they have some of the most concentrated gelatin and tons of other healthful properties.  Farming mom made one of my favorite one pot meals: fritatta. She used her yard eggs and a bunch of other delicious homegrown and/or locally sourced ingredients. Her hubs may have coined the meal ‘egg pizza’ but she and i know fritatta is much better for you than most any pizza could be. She baked her fritatta in a cast iron pan and made a ‘crust’ of sorts of potatoes: a technique i usually use too! I just got some cast iron for Christmas, so i’ll try my next ‘egg pizza’ in cast iron! Bee Creative had a nice wander in some enchanting snow and supped on some tasty garden-soup for lunch. Snow definitely makes soup taste that much better!



Not From a Box’s Teresa is detoxing for the next couple weeks so her entry in the challenge is a very austere beet and roasted garlic soup from Whole Living. It sounds so good and I have all the ingredients on hand, I’m making this as I type!

Julie from D.I. Wine and Dine made something I could also relish–a vegan curried vegetable pot pie–yum! She loves the ability to pan fry or bake in her cast iron skillet and decided for the challenge to do both. Most of her ingredients were local, except of course the coconut milk that makes the dish vegan. She wonders–does anyone know if coconut milk or dairy has more of an environmental impact?

Over at Stoney Acres, Rick has been exploring potato recipes, with a Baked Potato Soup and Baked Potatoes Stromboli, for which he graciously shares the family dough recipe. He says in general they are having trouble sourcing local pasta and meat. But for this meal was able to use 100% local ingredients. These sound like satisfying meals for winter days!

Toni from Itsjusttoni’s decided to make a family favorite—Potatoes and Cheese—using many homegrown SOLE ingredients instead of a box mix they have used in the past. She’s amazed at the selection of local cheeses she can find in Mexico, which sound mouth-watering. You know the resulting dish was a triumph when someone asks “is there leftovers?”

Lynda over at Cortina Creek Farms made a wonderful Chicken and Failed Dumplings A’ La Lynda Lou out of an “ornery old bastard that wouldn’t quit bothering the hens.” Although I’m a vegetarian, I (Sage) may be sending Lynda a couple of my roosters to re-educate! And in my opinion having too many dumplings is not a failure Lynda!


Jennifer here, bringing lots of news from the “Midwest” group. I’ve got a few one-potters to share that sound super nourishing, and some meals that just look darn good. This week I’m starting with Dog Hill Kitchen who ladled a gorgeous bowl of Sausage and Greens Soup. She even included her homemade apple and anise sausage! If you have the chance, you should check out her walk-through of making sausages. Small Wonder Farm keeps on impressing me that she can pull off so many local meals considering the number of allergies she has to work around. Her one-dish meal was a beef pot roast with carrots, potatoes, and garlic (mmm, garlic!), and served with peaches straight of the canning jar. Not to be outdone, the previous day she served up another local meal with one of my favorite dishes: German Potato Salad. If any of you are familiar with Shapiro’s Deli in Indianapolis and the recipe they use, head over to Small Wonder Farm and give her some advice. 20-Something Allergies also has a lot to contend with but she still manages to pull it off with a well-rounded meal. Roasted chicken was prepared to optimal crispy skin deliciousness. But it gets better: brussel sprouts, green beans, and potatoes each prepared with duck fat were served as sides.

The Local Cook has been working on a Back to Basics series on her blog, but she still has time to cook up a really great looking dish. Lamb steaks were plated with collards cooked in garlic and served with a baked potato and herbed butter. She makes a good point about cooking locally, “start where you are” and use what local ingredients you have access to. Lastly is Mother’s Kitchen – serving up her week 7 meal. Not only did Cynthia get my attention with her lemon-y whitefish, but she served it with pickled brussel sprouts (say what?!) and Potatoes Anna. Now I know my goal for this week: to find local fish!


Next week the “East” Contributors will be sharing the results of their One-Dish Meal. To stay current with other challenges be sure to visit the Dark Days tab at the top of the blog.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 367 other followers

%d bloggers like this: