What is a Dark Days Challenge?

The Dark Days Challenge was started by Laura McCrea at the Urban Hennery.
Unfortunately I couldn't get into her challenge, so I started my own blog.
The challenge is to try to eat one meal per week consisting of 100% locally produced food. I'm choosing to define "locally produced" as Washington State.
In my recipes I tell you the origin of the ingredients I use.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Week Twelve and 1/2 of Dark Days Challenge

Here are two recipes I just made up based on ingredients at hand. They both turned out so fantastic I have to record them so I remember and can repeat.

Blue Cheese, Portabello Mushroom, Kale and Shallot Stuffed Baked Potatoes

1 cup finely chopped kale, with stem cut out (from our garden)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/3 to 1/2 cup sliced shallots (from Klesick Family Farms CSA)
1 cup portabello mushroom, cut in 1/2 inch dice (from Klesick Family Farms CSA)
1-4 cloves garlic, chopped (from our garden)
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
Salt & freshly ground pepper
2 baked potatoes, sliced in half (from Klesick Family Farms CSA)

While potatoes are baking (oven or microwave), cook kale in large cast iron skillet with about 1/2 cup of water about 5-8 minutes over medium heat, uncovered, stirring frequently. By this time the water should be mostly evaporated. Move kale to edges of pan, and heat the olive oil in the middle. Add shallots, mushroom and garlic and cook about 5 more minutes, stirring frequently. Don't let the shallots and garlic brown (but it's not a disaster if you do). You can add more water if it seems dry. Add salt & pepper and stir in the blue cheese.
Place the potatoes on an oven proof flat dish close together. Pile the filling on top of the potatoes and place under a hot broiler for a few minutes until the cheese is melted.
Now, I figured this would be about two servings - two potatoes and some vegetables, right? But we could only eat 1/2 potato each. So the leftovers came out for breakfast the next morning. They were chopped and heated in a cast iron frying pan, and then 4 beaten eggs were added. Wow! Fantastic breakfast also! There is something about the flavors of shallots and kale together that is complimentary!

Not local: blue cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper

Carrots and Pears with Rosemary

The flavor combinations in this are amazing!
Serves 4 or 2 with big appetites!
Scrub and trim carrots and slice into quarters lengthwise, enough to make about 4 cups, about 5 carrots, (freshly dug in February from our garden)
1-4 Tablespoons butter (local dairy)
1-4 cloves garlic, chopped (from our garden)
1/3-1/2 cup sliced shallots (from Klesic Family Farms CSA)
1-2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped (from a neighbor's yard)
2 bosc pears, peeled, cored, and sliced into pieces about the same size as the carrots (from Klesick Family Farms CSA)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Cook the carrots with about 1/3 cup water in microwave until barely tender. Or steam them on the stove. Retain the cooking water. Meanwhile, heat a cast iron skillet over medium low heat, add butter. When the butter is melted, add the shallots, garlic and rosemary. You don't want these to brown, so keep the heat low. Cook about 7 minutes until soft, stirring frequently.
Add the carrots and turn the heat up to medium high. Cook, stirring often. Cook about 6 more minutes. Move the carrots to the edges of the pan and add the pears in the middle. Gradually stir together while heating up the pears. Add the carrot cooking water if the mixture looks dry. Season with salt and pepper.
Amazingly good!
Don't skimp on the rosemary, it pulls this all together.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Week Twelve of Dark Days Challenge

It's a sunny but cold day. Threats of snow in the mountains. We're picking brussels sprouts from the garden, and boy are they delicious! The spinach is starting to come up in the greenhouse, but it will be a while before it's big enough to eat. Today we helped a friend dig up an asparagus bed, transplant rhubarb and put three posts in concrete for kiwi vines. The fuel for this hard work was local food: Breakfast burritos. Lunch was potluck, so I brought an apple crisp that was about 90% local: local apples, pears, butter, flour (from Bluebird Farms in Eastern Washington), and local honey. Some oatmeal and the cinnamon were not local. You don't need a recipe for that - just google apple crisp and you'll get many recipes.

Breakfast Burritos
Makes two burritos

1/2-3/4 cup kale, trim the stem and chop fine (from our garden)
1 large shallot, sliced (Klesick Family Farms CSA box)
1 Tablespoon oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten (local, organic)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
grated cheese (Greenbank Farms, organic cheddar)
1 whole wheat tortillas, see note

Heat oil in a medium cast iron frying pan over medium heat. Saute the kale about 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until it is starting to wilt. Add the shallots and cook about 2-3 more minutes. Pour in the eggs and stir gently but constantly until eggs are done. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Sprinkle cheese over each tortilla, and heat in microwave or under broiler until melted. Divide the eggs between the tortilla, and roll up around the filling. The combination of the kale and shallots is a very good flavor compliment.
You could top with salsa and or sour cream if you wish. Especially if you have homemade salsa. Yum!

Note: I found "Guerrero" brand whole wheat tortilla. The package says they are "baked in your local bakery." Now, I don't really believe that, but at least they are trying. Being strictly local would probably mean putting the eggs between two slices of local toasted bread. Unless someone knows of a local tortilla factory?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Week Eleven of Dark Days Challenge

Creamy Root Vegetable Stew
And homemade soup stock

I made this for the Transition Port Gardner Potlucks With A Purpose, today at Everett United Church of Christ. We had a great movie called "Garbage: the Revolution Starts At Home." It was part of a mini film festival developed by Gary Sell. Gary does a great job of entertaining people while getting the message across that we are creating too much garbage in our country! We try to make our Potlucks With A Purpose a Zero Waste Event, so I think we're at least moving in the right direction.
The stew turned out to be popular, with hardly any left. It is an unfortunate gray-brown color, but the flavor is really good. I would attribute that to the Jerusalem Artichokes, or Sunchokes. I think they give it the earthy, nutty flavor.
Because this was served at a potluck, it's not technically a totally local meal. However, it embodies the values of sharing local food together, and talking about how we can change our behavior to better treat our planet.

Serves a crowd!
About 1 gallon of prepared (washed, peeled, chopped into cubes) root vegetables. I'm giving you what I used but take this as a guideline, not an absolute. Turnips and rutabagas would be good in here as well.
4 potatoes (organic, local from Klesick Family Farms)
3 parships (organic, local from Klesick Family Farms)
Jerusalem Artichokes about 2 cups chopped (also called sunchokes, organic, local from Klesick Family Farms)
3 carrots (organic, from our garden dug up yesterday)
1 onion, chopped (organic from Klesick Family Farms)
1 cup chopped leeks (from our garden, dug up yesterday; if you slice leeks lengthwise they are easier to clean the dirt out of, then slice into 1/2 circles)
2-6 garlic cloves, chopped (from our garden, dug up last fall)
Olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground corriander
2 teaspoons dried thyme (maybe next year I'll have it together enough to have my own home dried herbs for flavoring; this year I rely on Sno Isle Food Coop)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable stock to barely cover (see note below)
4 cups whole milk (local dairy)

Heat the olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat, add the onions and garlic and cook slowly about 6 minutes. Add the leeks and cook another 6-10 minutes (you don't want any of this to brown).
While these are cooking, prepare all the root vegetables you are going to use and place into a slow cooker. Add the onion/garlic/leek mixture and all the spices. Barely cover with vegetable stock and put on high 4-6 hours or until vegetables are soft. Using an immersion blender or a blender, blend about 1/3 until smooth. You want to leave chunks but have a thick broth.
Add the milk and heat until it's all hot (if you're in a hurry, you can heat the milk in the microwave. Adding hot milk to the slow cooker of hot food will make it all ready to serve immediately.

Not local: olive oil (you could substitute butter), salt, pepper & spices

Something For Nothing
Homemade Soup Stock

The one thing I remember from my UW Economics class (too many years ago to remember) is that you can not get something for nothing. It's true that your labor is not nothing, but other than your labor, homemade vegetable stock is virtually something for nothing. And you don't end up with empty cartons that have to go into the land fill!
The only trick to this is planning and organizing your cooking.
Dump all the vegetables you are going to use into the sink and scrub them thoroughly. While you are doing this, get the biggest soup pot you have and start heating water (buy a big one if you don't have one, and get the best quality you can afford. You'll never regret it).
As you are trimming and peeling the vegetables, trim out the dirt and the really bad spots, but everything else can go into your soup pot of water. For instance, the green tops you trimmed from the leeks, the onion peeling, carrot fronds, the ends you chopped off the parsnips, the core of a cabbage, potato peelings, (potato water from other dishes), the carrot that is too puny to chop up, the misshapen vegetables that are too tedious to peel, the vegetables in the refrigerator that are too old to eat but not moldy, leftover vegetables from last nights dinner etc. You can toss these into the pot as you prepare them - timing is not critical. Don't put in potato vines or rhubarb leaves, they're poisonous. You can add flavorings if you wish and if you are inspired, for instance dried herbs, whole garlic cloves (crushed) pepper corns, etc. Recipes for vegetable stock will have you tossing in whole quartered onions and carrots, but if you're like me and buying organic onions you don't want to spend that much money on just stock. If you have a garden you'll have plenty of ingredients for stock. You can add salt if you wish, but its probably better to salt your final dish, not the stock.
By now your pot is probably boiling, turn the temperature down to a simmer, put the lid on and let it simmer away 1-3 hours, adding water if needed. It's not too picky!
Strain this into a large bowl, and toss the cooked vegetables into your compost or chicken pen. You were going to do that anyway, weren't you? So why not squeeze a little more flavor out of those vegies before you toss them? Use this right way if you can, or freeze into blocks amounts that you are likely to use.
You can also do this with fish bones, but that's another recipe.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Potluck Black Bean Soup

Our all day planning meeting for Transition Port Gardner called for some hearty soup for lunch. The black beans and spices aren't local, sorry, but everything else is. I got requests for the recipe, so here it is TPGers!

Potluck Black Bean & Corn Soup

2 cups dried black beans, rinsed, picked over and soaked overnight
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped (Washington)
2-4 cloves garlic, chopped (our garden), unless you've got someone in the crowd who is allergic to garlic (you know who you are, Mimi!), in which case you can omit this
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1 large can (28 ounces) Muir Glen tomato puree (Sedro Woolley)
2 cups corn (frozen, local)

Drain the beans from the soaking water, put into a large pot and add fresh water to cover, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook about 1 hour or until done. (Or put into a slow cooker and cook overnight; refrigerate until you are ready to finish the soup.) In a large cast iron skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic (if you are using it) and spices, and cook until the onions are soft, about 6 minutes.
Add the onion mixture, tomatoes and corn to the cooked beans, cook about 8 hours in a slow cooker, or 1 hour on the stove. Take out about 1/3 of the soup and blend in a blender until smooth and return to the pot; or use your immersion blender for a short couple bursts. This will thicken the soup.
Put into bowls for people to top off their soup: salsa, sour cream, grated cheddar (all local, of course!)
Note: I like to grind my cumin and coriander fresh each time from seed. I have a small mortar & pestle, and it doesn't really take that long to grind up a teaspoon of each. There is so much more flavor this way than in that very old bottle of ground cumin you have in the back of your cupboard!

Week Ten of Dark Days Challenge

So, what happened to week nine? A head cold, that's what. I didn't have any energy, and instead relied on Sno Isle Food Coop deli for our food. Yum. What delicious salads and enchiladas (black bean-sweet potato).

So tonight I had a little more energy finally. I hope you're not getting bored with my corn recipes. It's been 3 weeks since we had a corn casserole, so I'm ready to try out another version of one. Below is one I found on-line, from Women's Day. It's in the oven right now, so I'll let you know how it turns out.

The corn (3 cups frozen instead of 2 cans) and leeks are from our garden. I substituted Greenbank Farms cheddar for the Guyere called for. The spices and corn starch aren't local but I substituted local honey (1 Tablespoon) for the sugar. The butter, eggs and milk (I used whole milk, not cream) are local.

With this, we're having some Snohomish Bakery Artisan bread (and more Golden Glen Creamery butter, of course!), and steamed cauliflower (local, from the Klesick Family Farm CSA.

By the way, this recipe is definitely a keeper. It is the winner of the Which Recipe Will We Use For Our Local Dinner contest. Seriously, the flavors are an excellent combination - nutmeg, vanilla and a little honey - a perfect marriage with the corn.

Oh, and I almost forgot dessert. I don't often make it (because I eat too much!) but I had Washington apples and walnuts, and the Eastern Washington grown Emmer flour.

Corn and Leek Pudding Recipe
From Woman's Day | December 6, 2005

* Active Time: 15 minutes
* Total Time: 1 hour

Recipe Ingredients

o 2 Tbsp stick butter
o 2 leeks, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise (about 1 cup), rinsed well and drained
o 4 large eggs (local)
o ½ cup heavy (whipping) cream (I used local whole milk)
o 3 Tbsp cornstarch
o 2 Tbsp sugar (or 1 tablespoon honey)
o 1 tsp vanilla extract
o ½ tsp salt
o ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
o ⅛ tsp ground red pepper (cayenne)
o 1 can (15.25 oz) whole kernel corn, drained
o 1 can (14.75 oz) cream-style corn (or substitute 3 cups thawed frozen corn)
o ¼ cup (1 oz) shredded Gruyère cheese (I used Greenbank Farms cheddar)

Recipe Preparation

1. Heat oven to 350ºF. Coat a shallow 1½-qt baking dish with nonstick spray.

2. Melt butter in a medium skillet on medium-high heat. Add leeks; sauté 3 minutes, or until soft.

3. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, cream, cornstarch, sugar, vanilla, salt, nutmeg and red pepper until blended. Stir in leeks, whole and cream-style corn. Pour into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with shredded cheese.

4. Bake, uncovered, 45 minutes, or until top is golden and a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Planning Tip: Can be baked up to 1 day ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before reheating in microwave or a 350°F oven.

I like to make Apple Pie Cake - it's not as much work as making a pie crust, and has more apples than a typical cake. It's really a lot of apples with a little batter surrounding them.

I used Washington apples (Gala) and didn't peel them; I used local honey and egg and butter. It's shown here with a dollop of Grace Harbor Farms yogurt.

Apple Pie Cake

* 1/2 cup margarine (I used Golden Glen Creamery butter)
* 3/4 cup sugar (I used 1/2 cup local honey)
* 1 egg -- slightly beaten
* 1 cup flour (I used Eastern Washington Emmer flour)
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1/8 teaspoon vanilla
* 2 cups apples, peeled -- chopped
* 1/2 cup pecans -- chopped (I used walnuts)

Thoroughly grease a 9-inch pie pan. Melt margarine, remove from heat, and blend with sugar and egg. Mix in flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla, apples, and pecans. Spread into pan.
Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 40 to 45 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream.
Serves 8 Recipe from "The Lymes' Heritage Cookbook"

Not local: the usual baking powder, olive oil, salt, pepper, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves -no wonder the spice trade was so important!