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Archive for January, 2012

These cold winter days make it hard for me to keep warm. Just yesterday I recalled that January day 16 years ago when I decided to move south. It was these darn northern winters that convinced me! You see I’m fortunate to have low blood pressure, but it makes it extremely hard to stay warm – especially if I’m inactive like when I’m writing blog posts….

As I sit here huddled over my computer, I can’t help but long for my Tennessee winters, when it wasn’t unusual to be digging new garden beds in January; or getting ready to start indoor seedlings no later than the end of February. Admittedly, I just miss my gardens period. I’ve already committed myself to a patio garden for the spring and summer but I do wish I was outdoors getting different kales and carrots out of my own hoop houses this season. I’m envious of those of you that have the ability to do that.

Surely those of you that have garden beds and are eating locally are growing some of your own seasonal winter veggies. Right? Right?!

If you don’t know much about winter gardening I’m giving you the opportunity to learn from one of the masters. This week I’m giving away a copy of The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses. This fantastic tool will teach you how to use organic and sustainable techniques to grow your own food in the winter and how to extend harvests – and do it organically. You really can’t get any more local than your own yard!

But here’s the deal: I want to know that you’ll use this resource. I really dislike giveaways that don’t serve a purpose other than to get more readers and give away “stuff”. I blog to educate and learn (and sometimes make people laugh) and I’d love to know that someone somewhere is gleaning some helpful information from what I have to offer.

Instead of the typical “leave a comment” here, here, and here, I’m going to ask one simple, thoughtful thing. When you reply to this post to enter the drawing, I want you to tell me either what kind of winter crops you’d like to be growing or what kind of crops you’d like to extend using the techniques you could learn about in this book.

That’s it. As simple and easy as cake. I’ll announce the winner in my weekly post next Monday when I randomly pick a number. You’ve got until Sunday, January 29th at midnight Eastern to enter!

Now to go get a third layer of clothing on and reminisce about the gardens I left in warmer climes.

You can also find me at Unearthing this Life where I blarg about food, gardening, homeschooling, and parenthood.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

        

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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!

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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!

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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.

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I was knocked down by yet another cold this season. This is hard for me to wrap my brain around (especially in the cold-induced foggy state.) I have been healthy and cold free for about 2 years and this year is completely different.

I have learned a lot over the past few years about herbs and foods and characteristics that are helpful, but I have also found that my best intentions haven’t prepared me to fight these colds.

I want to grow elderberry bushes so I can make immune boosting syrups and tinctures and even wine. I want to grow calendula and chamomile, horehound and stinging nettles. I want to grow sumac and dandelions and ginger. I know I can grow these things. I have a few growing now. It just takes time and I have to realize that I can’t do it all overnight!

Even though I can and will grow these things, it isn’t practical to think I can grow and make my own “everything” all at once. I need to step back and realize that I can (and should) buy some of these wonderful dried herbs and fruits and just start making the tinctures and syrups and throat lozenges so when I am hit with a cold I am prepared. When my bushes and trees and herbs mature I will then know what to do with them and be thrilled I can use my own.

Drying some horehound to make throat lozenges

There are a few things I did during this last cold that helped me to fight it off faster. I drank hibiscus tea and I also drank garlic tea. Garlic is chuck-full of great antimicrobial and antiseptic properties. I cook with garlic a lot, but drinking the garlic tea is another way to get it into your system and help fight off the effects of the cold or flu. You can read about garlic tea right here at Not Dabbling in Normal.

Along with losing my appetite I also lost my sense of taste and smell. To help get me through this cold I made a healing chicken soup that I know helped nourish me and get me through this much quicker. I made a bone based chicken broth and threw in ginger, onion, hot peppers, dark leafy greens (kale and chard and spinach), turmeric, and garlic along with basil, oregano, thyme and parsley. I wasn’t really thinking about taking photos while I was sick, so the photo you see below is the second batch of soup I made when I started to feel better.

This past week I got together with a culinary group I belong to. The theme this month was “soup.” One of the ladies brought an “Immunity-Boosting Winter Soup” and it was the first soup I ate that night. It was so much like the one I make, but hers included freshly harvest dandelion greens.   We talked about her soup along with the ingredients and the properties that each ingredient has. I was thrilled to know I was on the right track with my soup.

What went into my healing soup?

  • Ginger – works on congestion & great for nausea
  • Spinach/Kale/Chard – full of vitamin C, and A, folate and potassium
  • Hot peppers – help to relieve pain and stimulate endorphins
  • Turmeric – antibiotic properties
  • Garlic – an expectorant, natural antibiotic
  • Red Bell Pepper – high in Vitamin C & A

The immunity-boosting soup that my friend made also had a pinch of cinnamon (infection fighter), calendula flowers (immune stimulator), dried thyme (antibiotic & expectorant), astragalus root (help to strengthen the immune system) and dandelion greens (high in vitamin C & A and many trace minerals and is especially high in potassium)

I am back on my feet and the fog has cleared. I attribute that to the things I ate and drank. Now I better start making a list of things I would like to order so I can get some syrups and tinctures made up to help keep my immune system in tip-top shape.

Do you have any herbal or home remedies that work for you?

disclaimer

Sincerely, Emily

You can also read what I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily

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Repetitive

A lot of the Dark Days participants are finding themselves repeating, not just ingredients, but meals.

I read somewhere recently that the typical family uses just about 10 different recipes; when I look at the label cloud on Mahlzeit I see that, indeed, there are 11 recipes here tagged “family favorites.” It would be interesting to take, say, 50 families and see how many common recipes they have among themselves– you could instantly grow your repertoire by just making someone else’s family favorite.

It sounds a little depressing, to know that you’re repeating a meal every ten days. But are you really? Or are you taking the basics and adapting, changing, reinventing?

There are some basic concepts, starting with meat or vegetarian. Subdivide those into different types of meat and vegetables. Further divide that by cooking method. Start changing up the additional ingredients. Pretty soon you’ve got not 10 basic recipes, but a hundred.

When you cook seasonally, this activity completes itself. I can’t cook with fresh peas or string beans right now, because there aren’t any, so I’m using swiss chard and brussels sprouts as the green in all my dishes. What I was making with eggplant in July I am now making with squash. It’s a little scary the first time you look in the fridge to pull out something for, say, biryani, and discover that it isn’t there. So you take a deep breath and substitute.

Now, the good news is, you’ve been eating for years and probably have a decent sense of what substitutions you can make. The other good news is, if it doesn’t work there’s always carry out. Oh, oops.

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Education at Home

Reading

For the past year and a half, I’ve been homeschooling my daughter. She’s now eight and in “second” grade. Most days we don’t follow a strict routine, and that works well for us. We manage to fit in all that we need to and I try not to stress about missing something that will impede her scholarly growth for the rest of her life. For example, last year we studied Martin Luther King Jr. for the entire week leading up to MLK Jr. Day. We went on virtual tours, watched him speak, and talked about the things that have and haven’t changed since his famous speech. But when I asked her this morning if she remembered who he was, she couldn’t recall. I know she knows – that the moment I pull up a photograph of him or play “I Have a Dream” that it will all come back to her. Maybe not in detail, but the important concepts.

The amount of information that children absorb is amazing. There have been those days that I feel are a complete failure; that I’m positive she hasn’t heard a thing I’ve said, but then she’ll do something like recite a poem we’ve read word for word. At this point in her education I’m not so concerned if she can’t remember the word “adjective”, but that she understands how they are used in a sentence.  The things I do worry about have more to do with the fundamentals: can she write her numbers in the correct direction, or can she tell the difference between a “B” and a “D”. I worry if she understands the concepts of basic math like addition and subtraction, or that she can pick up on the main ideas of a story. I love that she wants to know everything about a skunk (and will gladly teach most people many things they don’t know all about them) or that she’s passionate about science and art. And while I don’t necessarily worry that she’s 100% on track with what the common core, I still make sure she’s learning what she can, at her own pace, about all those subjects.

stopwatch

Using a stopwatch app for a race to write properly

To me, that’s what homeschooling is about: finding a way to teach your children at a pace that’s comfortable for them while trying to make it enjoyable. I like to think of education less like a checklist or a puzzle and more like a montage that can be put together from different angles. I want her to have a love for searching for information. I hope that teaching her in a more creative manner compared to a linear approach will give her a better chance to find answers to the world’s problems. I want to help her become a thinker.

While public education can be effective and wonderful (both Hubby and I went to public school and I think we turned out just fine), it’s just not for us right now. I want to be more involved with and in control of my daughter’s education to be able to tailor it to her needs. How do you help your children achieve a love for learning within or outside of public or private school systems? What educational styles and techniques do you embrace?

I can also be found at Unearthing this Life, Twitter, Pinterest, and a smattering of other places around the interweb.

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We’re still going strong on our Dark Days Challenge, but things get even more interesting next week when we begin posting about the Dark Days Challenge Challenges! Here’s what we’ve been up to this past week:

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Well! I, Miranda, finally came up with something fitting for this challenge! This Saturday marked the first day of the return of our local farmer’s market. Thank God! I had the best intentions of stocking up on some local produce, meat and some goat cheese from a favorite cheesemaker, but instead left empty handed. The Winter market hasn’t gotten an EBT/Debit Card to token system set up, and all we brought with us was our Oregon Trail card. So, no stocking up for us, the “poor” and unemployed, and a change in plans for my Dark Days contribution for this week. I really just can’t get it together for this challenge!

Also on Saturday, I happened to have some art and a Nude Soap pop up shop in the InSight Gallery in the offices of the Arc of Benton County. Yep: i make soap, i blog, i cook and i used to paint. I’m a children’s book illustrator, but still occasionally dabble in the finer arts and am happy to hang my (mostly very old) work on whatever wall will  grace it.

Art receptions are often known for their snicky snack, cheese and crackers and wine. I decided to make my own crackers and serve it with this delicious local cheese. SINCE i wasn’t able to get the cheese, i went with homemade cheese crackers instead. They’re uber addicting, and this batch was even better by one special dried cayenne left from our Austin garden. The other cracker ingredients weren’t locally sourced, but hey: they’re homemade crackers, and that’s pretty cool, right?? We also served some locally made cookies, so at least we supported a local business. Sigh, i’ve failed again, haven’t i? One of these weeks i’ll be able to keep up with the challenge!

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While most people are finished with the holidays, in my family (Xan) we’re just at the start of the marathon. In the space of about 7 weeks, we have Christmas, New Year, wedding anniversary (number 29, or 34 depending where you start counting), my birthday, DH birtday, BIL birthday, MIL birthday, Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day.  Then we get a month’s break before my sister-in-law’s and my son’s birthday (2 days apart), hard up against Easter.

What all these celebrations mean is that it’s hard to hold the line on eating well. People want their favorite foods, which aren’t always compatible with SLOW and SOLE. People want to eat out. People want cake. People want turtle cupcakes for my, um their, birthdays, but local chocolate doesn’t exist, and while I’m sure there must be local walnuts and even pecans, I’m damned if I can find them. I made traditional New Year’s bread with local flour and butter (and managed to gift it to my kids and the New Year’s Day party we went to, so it didn’t go to my hips).  I made a wonderful pie with local ingredients–apricots frozen last summer (freeze them raw and whole), lard from a local ethical pig farm, local flour from Great River Milling, but I blew it by putting in pineapple. The recipe is here.

I did manage to make a wonderful vegan chili, not only from local ingredients, but 100% from my garden (okay okay, except for the chili powder), with SOLE cornbread (and my friend Julia from Snarky Vegan gave me some tips on vegan cornbread). I wanted to make Dog Hill Kitchen’s pumpkin-chorizo hash, but my chorizo source failed me. I need to go to the mercado and start reading labels. Suzy Morris is campaigning for me to make my own noodles and pasta. Alright already. I bought some lasagna noodles, but maybe I’ll try making my own.

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Since I (Jennifer) home school my daughter, I find it best to keep lunchtime simple. It can be hard to find time to cook and serve up a “real” meal and then clean up messes before getting back to school work. Most days my daughter prefers sandwiches for her midday meal, although occasionally she’ll request eggs and toast. And she adores cheese.

cheese press
We stopped purchasing American “cheese” years ago and try to stick to aged cheese. It’s not always easy to find local hard cheeses, so I count myself lucky that our dairy also makes raw milk cheeses. Last year I began making hard cheese myself, starting with this yummy cow’s milk Manchego. It makes the BEST grilled cheese sandwiches ever and my mom even requested some for her Christmas present this year. The combination of a rustic loaf of bread, cultured butter, and this cheese is phenomenal and would even please the pickiest grownups. I’d even go so far as to add sprouts, tomatoes, or roasted red peppers!

Manchego grilled cheese

It can’t get much easier or comforting than a toasty, melty grilled cheese sandwich with a side of soup on cold winter days!

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Don’t forget to see what our “East” side contributors have been up to in the previous post!

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