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Archive for the ‘Challenge’ Category

We are all experiencing more light with longer days and the “Dark Days” seem, almost, like a distant memory. Winter truly isn’t over, although for many of us it sure seems that way. The participants who live in the northern parts know all too well that even though Spring is in the air and days are warming, that it can be a a false sense of security. Snow can make an appearance at anytime, even in May! (Sorry about that) The “dark” from the Dark Days is fading fast, and technically it is Spring now, it is nice to see some participants are still finding local foods in their areas and supporting local farmers.

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

Susan (VA) from Backyard Grocery celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with a classic – venison con queso and chips. Ok, maybe not! Susan did a cooking demonstration this week based on foods found at the market where she did the demonstration. The challenge was coming up with a dish that she could make in one pot. The store carries a lot of local foods and she tweaked hrer recipe based on what was in stock at the store, along with locally made tortilla chips. This recipe can be found in Susan’s published cooked book. You can find out details on her demo along with other information on her blog.

AnnieRei (MD) from AnnieRei Unplugged went hiking at the Conservancy trails near her home and guided a group. She planned ahead and started her meal in the crockpot before she left home. She used center cut pork chops in the crockpot with collard greens, sweet potatoes and a sauce made from local ingredients. She used homemade turkey broth in the crockpot also. All local. All good. Head over to Annie’s blog to see all the great places she found her local ingredients.

Victoria (MD) from The Soffritto was inspired by an Epicurious recipe she saw. She had all the local ingredients on hand and made a beautiful egg noodle torte.  She used oyster mushrooms, chard, basil egg noodles, eggs, milk and dill cheddar cheese all from local resources and her torte is beautiful.  This recipe is perfect, because you can switch out many ingredients and make it your own, using what ever is in season in your backyard or at the farmers market. Stop by Victoria’s blog to see the recipes and her resources.

Rebecca (VA) from Eating Floyd is in the same situation as many of us with warm weather and the itch to plant. She is busy working outside and looked to her preserved items from last year to make up a quick meal. She used a jar of home-canned asparagus soup and also made up a bed of spinach to hold scoops of roasted red pepper hummus and chicken salad. To finish the meal with a nice sweet treat, she opened a jar of canned peach halves in earl grey tea syrup. Visit her blog for recipes and local ingredient information.

Jessica (SC) from Eat.Drink.Nourish. has her spring garden already planted and is looking forward to what it will bring. This week she talks about her experiences with the challenge and how it has changed their family (in a good way.) They fired up the grill this week and made grilled fillets over natural (wood) charcoal and served it with a kale salad. Jessica has eaten kale many times, but this is her first raw kale experience and she loved it. Head over to her blog to read more about her DDC experience and her local ingredients.

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LOWER NEW ENGLAND/MID-ADLANTIC (NY, CT, DC, NJ and Eastern Canada)
with The Other Emily, from Tanglewood Farms

Once again, I find myself incredibly inspired by the beautifully written posts from Karen (NJ) over at Prospect: The Pantry . I also find myself jealous that she can get local saltwater fish over on the coast. Her first post was a birthday dinner of Monkfish on Braised Cabbage that looks delicious; I love the way she garnishes things!

Her second post, Oxtail stock with Borscht, is a great account of her exploration of oxtail stocks and oxtail stew! She has been a fantastic Dark Days participant and I fully intend to keep an eye on her blog from this point on, as it always stirs me with it’s beautiful photos and unique recipes.

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We are on the home stretch for the Dark Days Challenge with just a few weeks to go. March seems to signify Spring with longer days and the weather warming. Be sure to take a look at the meals from the WEST in our companion post today.

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I (Emily from Sincerely, Emily) decided to dig into the freezer and pull out some the Southern-type peas (zipper peas, cow peas, crowder peas) that I have from the garden last summer. Those peas grew really well considering how dry and hot it was last summer. I will plant more this spring!

This is the first time I have eaten these Southern peas as a side dish. Up until now, I have always thrown them in a soup or a stew and they have been great that way. Even though I froze them fresh, raw and uncooked, they were still quite firm after I sauteed them. Next time I will cook them in some water or steam them to see if they will soften up prior to sauteing them. The sausage came from a local heritage pork ranch and they called it a Mexican-style sausage. It have lots of flavor and I will buy it again. My neighbor has so many bunching onions growing right now. They are lush and full and beautiful this year and a great addition to almost any meal we have. Many of his bunching onions will be kept to dry and plant next year.

We are eating a lot of salads this time of year. I planted more lettuce than we needed, but it is nice to be able to give some to neighbors and friends as well as enjoy it too. My carrots aren’t ready yet, so I used some carrots from another local farm that I got at the farmers market. They are so sweet and incredible and added so much flavor to the salad.

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Here at Chiot’s Run things are a bit busy with planning for a possible move, fixing up the house to put in on the market, trying to find a nice little farm 4-5 states away, getting the spring/summer garden going. Add to that two weeks on the road traveling for work and you’ve got a recipe for not much time and needing quick & easy meals. When I get busy like I am I have a tendency to make up a big batch of something which we eat on for a few nights, then another big pot of something gets made up. This past week we enjoyed nachos in the evenings made with venison that Mr Chiot’s got for the freezer, topped with local cabbage braised in butter, home canned tomatoes and jalapeños mixed up into a salsa, local raw milk cheese melted on top, and enjoyed with some local tortilla chip (which are even fried in local sunflower oil).

I’m really happy that there are farmer’s around here that have been getting into winter harvesting. I was able to score a few bags of sweet overwintered carrots (since mine are long gone from the pantry). There were cooked up with a venison roast, homegrown potatoes, onions, and garlic. We invited some friends over to enjoy this meal with us, which always makes a meal taste even better!

How are your homestretch Dark Days meals coming along?

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Spring fever is spreading fast across much of the country. Many places have been teased by some warm spring temperatures. New vegetables, like asparagus, are starting to show up in some of the farmers markets. A sure sign of spring. Many participants are itching to get outside and start planting their spring gardens, but there is snow in some parts of the country. The days aren’t as dark as they used to be.

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

Teresa (CA) from Not from a Box made beautiful French “peasant” beets with bucherondin cheese and a big hunk of ciabatta. This meal was both delicious and filling. Beets are winding down for the season in her area, but they still have greens and root veggies available. New things are starting to pop up at the farmers markets, like asparagus and plenty of citrus (she’s in CA after all!) Stop by her blog to learn about her local resources.

Teresa (CA) from Not from a Box also made what she called “dinner in a flash.” It is a challenge getting home late in the evening and coming up with a quick and good dinner. Teresa found a quick and easy meal when she made Welsh rarebit with spinach, creamy butternut squash soup and a side of roasted asparagus using mostly local ingredients around her area. She is right, rarebit is insanely easy. Head over to her blog to learn about her local resources and more.

Julie (CO) from d.i.wine and dine made a nice dilly bean potato salad with garlic miso aioli this week. Not being a big fan of mayo, (that’s putting it mildy) she decided to tweak a recipe she found and make a miso aioli and use it in place of mayo helping to rank this the best potato salad she has ever had. She also used their own canned dilly beans and some locally grown potatoes. Visit her blog to see the receipt and more.

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I think the Upper Midwesterners are all outside enjoying this strange summer weather I think! Hard to take “Dark Days’ at face value with all this bright warm sunshine around! If you pop in here, put your recipe links in the comments!

Did you cook a Dark Days meal this week?

We would love to hear about what you made.

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As the lower and central Midwest non-winter continues, we’re seeing daffodils and robins; people are jumping the gun and planting peas, 2 weeks early. It’s hard to remember that it’s still “dark days”–you have to put on your pioneer cap and remember that even during a warm winter you would have been relying on what you were able to preserve at home or trade locally. The larder is thinning as the sun climbs the sky. Just a month left before the new harvest starts with the early mushrooms and asparagus. Are we ready for the home stretch?

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For me, (Xan), it’s been a strange month. Work schedules for Bill and me have been at odds, so that we’ve rarely been home for dinner together. It’s been a month of cooking once a week and then eating that meal as leftovers for days, of big meals at noon and a few handfuls of peanuts for dinner (no, not local–I’ve yet to find a local source for any nuts except chestnuts). The Mahlzeit blog has languished.  My daughter challenged herself to eat vegetarian for the month of March; it’s been eggs and pizza all the way for her as she struggles with the difficulties of altering a diet. And yes, we ate probably 60% to 70% vegetarian meals her whole life, which she didn’t eat–that one’s a carnivore through and through. So, ironically, I made meatloaf. It’s bona fide Dark Days– all local. Quick recipe: 1 pound ground beef, 1 Italian sausage, 2 cups roasted eggplant, 2 roasted and peeled bell peppers, 1/2 cup steel-cut oats (soaked in 2 cups water for 1 hour). Bake for 50 minutes at 350.

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It’s been gorgeous the last few days up here in Philomath, Oregon as well. Daffies and croci are coming up in droves and the trees are showing buds already! That didn’t stop a random snow squall from presenting itself, or one of those lovely Oregon days of snow-sun-hail-sun-cloudy-pouring-sunny-hailing weather. I’ve been enjoying the weather from inside or out, and i’m most happy that the local organic farm, Gathering Together, has reopened their farm stand. I finally have access to plenty of fresh veggies! And there’s news on my eating: I went on a diet starting last weekend.

As far as i know, i’ve never actually ‘been on a diet.’ When i was younger, i disallowed most breads after lunch, any sugars ever, and had more self control than i have had since marriage. That honeymoon complete with dinner rolls seems to have messed with my eating habits. For the past 3 years. In Austin, i was an avid gym-aholic, going 6 plus days a week, sometimes several times a day to the point that i considered becoming a BodyStep instructor. Here in Oregon, i get some great 5 mile walks, but that’s about it. So, i’ve gone on a diet. Nothing fad. Nothing extreme: just a re-thinking of portion sizes and carb intake/time of day. That and significantly reducing our wine intake. So far so good! I’m feeling better and think i already lost a bit of weight. I’m not doing this for vanity, but rather health. I’m sure my body index is a bit high, and i have a bit more belly fat than i’d like: as most of us now is the ‘bad’ fat… anyway. A diet for health, and this week we’ve been eating tons of fresh salad and homemade soups. I didn’t snap a picture of last night’s dinner, but it was delicious and definitely SOLE. My version of The Splendid Table’s “Green Soup” it was light, fresh, and chock full of vitamins and minerals:

Green Soup from Pocket Pause

  • 1 leek (Gathering Together Farm – GTF)
  • 1 bunch kale (GTF)
  • 3 cloves garlic (Denison Farms – local/organic)
  • 1 pint condensed homemade chicken stock
  • salt/pepper/basil/rosemary (basil and rosemary grown in my garden)
  • 1 rutabega or turnip (GTF)
  • 1/2 a head of cauliflower (not local, but in season)
  • 3 hot peppers of your choice (not local or in season)

Coursely chop the veg and cover with the stock plus about 1 1/2 quarts water, bring to a boil, cover and simmer until cauli and turnip are soft. Blend well with immersion blender and serve with some homemade or live cultured yogurt. Warm and light: perfect for a chilly early Spring evening!

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Last week we had a chance to see what the WEST cooked up for the Vegetarian Challenge. This week the EAST will show us what they are made of as they take their turn going vegetarian. Many of the participant are vegetarian or vegan and it is still fun to see how both the meat-lovers and the vegetarians challenged themselves this week.

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

Annie (MD) from AnnieRie Unplugged is recovering from some surgery so her husband stepped in for this challenge. For part of Annie’s meal he heated up some local applesauce, then whole wheat pasta & topped it off with both local tomato sauce & mushrooms! For his meal he also made a nice salad made up of veggies from their CSA – spinach, radishes, Chevre, drizzled w/Catoctin Mountain Orchards Blackberry Splash Vinaigrette. He also cooked up some sweet potatoes (Annie was able to have those too). After a wonderful meal like that I am sure Annie is on her way to recovery. Stop by her blog to read more about this meal & her local resources & send her some get-well wishes!

Susan (VA) from Backyard Grocery (meat-lover) had fun with this vegetarian challenge. Lettuce from the garden inspired her to made a peanut salad with an apple peanut dressing.  She found peanuts for her protein and added garden greens, carrot, celery root, & radish to her salad. The dressing was made w/apples, hot sauce, peanuts with the help of a food processor. Head over to her blog to see her recipe.

Jessica (SC) over at Eat.Drink.Nourish. made a delicious looking creamy baby potato and leek soup this week. Most of her time was spent cleaning the sand out of the leeks, but it was worth it. Once the potatoes & leeks were in the pot, she added some thyme from their garden & let everything simmer away. She then pureed it with the an immersion blender, added some cream and topped each bowl with some shredded local cheese. What a meal. Visit her blog to read more!

Victoria (MD) at The Soffritto two-thirds of the household was able to stick with the veg challenge this week. With all hands on deck they set out to make feta & roasted pepper pizza using home-grown, roasted & canned peppers, homemade tomato sauce & local feta.  Dad, however, couldn’t resist the temptation of sausage, so he made his own pizza and added the sausage. With their little helper on board, it looks like they had a lot of fun. Head over to her blog to read their recipes and see their local resources too.

Rebecca (VA) from Eating Floyd cooked some amazing dishes for the veg. challenge, & I have no idea where to start. She made savory baked garbanzo beans (one of her favorite ways to eat chickpeas!) She also made gujerati-style hot sweet & sour potatoes (those are calling out to me) & then she braised some baby bok choy. OH wait, how could I forget – she made black bean walnut brownies….yes, you read the correctly! To that she added a scoop of ice cream & a drizzle of black forest cherry preserves. Why are you still reading this… head over to her blog to see it all!

Jes (VA) from Eating Appalachia is a bit bogged down getting ready to leave on a trip to Europe for over 2 weeks. She (being vegan) had to laugh since this is the week for the Vegetarian Challenge and she almost missed out on it! Not much is happening in her kitchen right now, but she did eat out at a local restaurant that caters to vegetarians and vegan with a focus on locally sourced food. She loved their falafel and the “Incan Bowl” with black beans, sweet potatoes, corn & quinoa were wonderful. The sweet potato & coconut soup was wonderful also. Stop by her blog to read more and find out where this great restaurant is.

Liz (VA) from Family Foodie Survival Guide had a successful trip to the farmers market and found many things to go into her meal this week. Liz made potato-leek soup with the potatoes and leeks found at the farmers market. To go along with the soup, she made some nice looking sweet potato biscuits and had a nice salad too.  Visit her blog for all the details of her local finds and her soup recipe.

Monika (NC) from Windy City Vegan has been traveling for work this past week and she was still able to come up with several DDC meals in Chapel Hill, NC where she was staying. There is a café she frequents that is complete with its own kitchen garden and Monika even sees the owner at the local farmer’s market purchasing food for the café from local farmers. Monika brought salad fixings from her garden at home & combined those throughout the week with meals from the Curryblosson Café. She had Seasonal Bhaji with some of the salad she brought from home. Another notable meal was Vimale’s Original Uttapam which is a large onion & cilantro pancake made with rice & bean sourdough batter. Head over to Monika’s blog to read more about this café with a community feeling and more on Monika’s traveling meals.

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Today kicks off the Vegetarian Challenge for the Dark Days Challenge. This is not much of a challenge for those participants that are vegetarian or vegan, but it will be interesting to see what all the carnivores out there come up with. Be sure to check out the companion post today where the WEST will showing what this did this week.

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Preparing and eating vegetarian meals is not really a challenge for me (Sincerely, Emily.) We eat many vegetarian meals using where our protein comes from chickpeas, bulgar wheat, quinoa, as well as different beans, but none of those things are local to me. I also do not think that a meal without protein is a terrible thing as long as I am getting enough protein in other meals throughout the day. I could have added some cheese to this meal, but I did not. I also could have gone an easier route and just made something with eggs, but I did not. Instead I had local eggs for breakfast (protein) with some local cheese shredded on top (more protein) and some toast (homemade but not local flour.)

In general, this challenge has gotten me my to step out of my backyard and see what local foods are out there past the local meat and milk/dairy products I have found and  challenged me to meet some farmers in my area. I have also found that all farmers markets are not created equally. I guess I already knew that, but it still surprised me when I come across it.  We have many farmers markets in our area, but not all are selling local foods. While the sellers may be from the local area, some of the produce (and other products) are not and have traveled many miles to get there. When I decided to look past my backyard and freezer for the Vegetarian Challenge, I decided to go to farmers market that is a “producers only” market. I have been there before, but it was time to go back for more mushroom! I only stepped out back for one item on my plate, the broccoli and while it would been easy to just step out back for other vegetarian items out of the garden, I am glad I headed down to the farmers market. The butternut squash and the mushrooms are both locally grown and wonderful! This past Friday I posted about this vegetarian meal. You can read more about it here, including where everything came from.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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!

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