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This week the “WEST” is doing a detailed recap for their Dark Days Challenge participants. Be sure to go and check out the companion post today and see what exciting meals they have all cooked up.

Here you will be able to get a glimpse into the meals that the “EAST” recappers have prepared.

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So far, I (Emily from Sincerely, Emily) have been doing fairly well during the Dark Days Challenge. From my week 1 pork roast I saved the bones and the drippings and froze them so they could be stretched into another meal by making broth and turning it into a nice healthy soup. I have been trying to grow as much of our food as I can, so you will see me using a lot of the same things over and over again. We had a very hard spring and fall for growing. No rain at all for months and months left me with very few things growing. We ate a lot of what grew fresh out of the garden, but there were a few things that produced well. The few things that did well I decided to water. I was able to freeze southern-type peas and a variety of peppers, so those will be the “stars” of many of my meals. Right now I have a great winter garden growing. Only a few things are mature out there right now (chard, bunching onions and kale) so you will be seeing a lot of those things in my meals until more things start to mature and are ready to eat. I could go to a farmer’s market and get other things, but I prefer to live with what we have and make the most of it. At least for right now.

Over the past 2 years I was really struggled to find local meat and milk. I would ask everyone… people in line at the grocery store. Guys at the gas station filling their big truck with gas. The lady at the post office. Anyone sitting in the lobby at the shop where I have my oil changed. Nothing. Couldn’t find any leads or contacts. I hit upon the right person (eventually) while at one of the herbs groups I was with. RealFood SA was the answer. It is a co-op organized through a yahoo group. People share information, they have set up links and organize group purchase for a better price mainly buying in bulk for a better price. I happened to join up when there was a post from a local rancher about meat. Not only is the ranch within 100 miles (65 miles from me) but she does a delivery about 15 miles from my house.

In preparing our soup, I searched through the freezer and decided to add Anaheim peppers and green and red bell pepper that I had frozen from the garden. I also used some of the frozen southern-type peas from the garden. I cubed some beef. This is from the local rancher I mentioned above. At the last minute, before we ate, I tossed in some chopped chard fresh from the garden. Sole, Organic, Local and Ethical – it was a great meal.

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Here at Chiot’s Run we’ve been eating Dark Days Meals for almost every meal, breakfast and dinner (we only eat 2 meals a day here). We follow the Nourishing Traditions way of eating so I’m very thankful to have great local sources for raw milk, cheese, and meat. Earlier this fall I ordered a half a hog and we picked it up last week. As a result, I have pork as a meat choice now instead of just venison as usual. I made some of my own bacon from the pork belly and we’ve been enjoying that with some eggs from the local farm for delicious breakfasts.

This past week for dinner a few nights we had pastured beef liver. I don’t know why liver gets such a bad rap, it’s quite tasty and it’s super healthy. We enjoyed ours smothered with caramelized homegrown onions over mashed potatoes. The mashed potatoes were made with homegrown potatoes, local butter, homegrown garlic, local raw milk cheese and a little raw milk. I find a salad goes well with liver, it helps balance it out. We had some delicious mini butter head lettuces grown by a local farmer. The lettuce was topped with a homemade yogurt herb salad dressing to add some probiotics to the meal.

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Emily from Tanglewood here. We’ve been pretty lame as far as the Dark Days meals go so far. We’ve managed some simple meals like nachos and omelettes, but beyond that… well… I’ve been slacking. Between my funky teaching schedule and my husbands increasingly compounding deadlines (both professional and personal) we’ve been eating out a lot this past week or so.

Still, there is an underlying Dark Days theme, behind our slacking. We’ve been trying out a number of local mom-and-pop restaurants that focus on whole, real foods, many of which are seasonal! We live in a great place for it, too. We’re just 15 minutes from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and 40 minutes from Detroit, Michigan. Both cities have tremendous slow food movements, so it’s not hard to find seasonal food.

Our latest discovery?

Frita Batidos in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Mmm.

Their menu is small and influenced heavily by Cuban and Honduran cuisine, though it’s not really specifically one or the other. Their Fritos are sandwiches with a patty of meat or other protein (mmm, chorizo), with sweet chili sauce and any number of other toppings (gosh I love the cilantro lime salsa) and then topped with fresh fritos – french fries! The whole thing is served on a brioche roll. They also offer sandwiches on an authentic cuban bread made with local, pasture raised lard. You may not think this sounds amazing, but it is truly fantastic. They get all of their meat from small, local farms and much of their produce as well. I strongly suggest that, if you feel like a local, ethically sound place to eat in Ann Arbor, you check them out!

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Have you been cooking along with the Dark Days challenge? How challenging have you found it?

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