Posts Tagged ‘challenge’

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.


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.


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.


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.


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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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.


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.


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?


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!

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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?

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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!


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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?

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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.

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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.


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