Archive for the ‘Dark Days’ Category

Whew, I have a new appreciation for what Laura does every week! Please let me know in the comments if I overlooked your Week 7 post. And thanks for your patience.

(Note: Some Dark Days participants have added Week 8 posts since I started recapping; This roundup includes “Dark Days Week 7” posts published 11/25 to 12/1.)

Back East:
Kim at Yankee Food channels every cook’s fantasy of someone else making dinner. Alas, the supper genie never materialized, but Kim did just fine on her own with chicken sausage and potatoes, with baked delicata squash and a salad on the side.

The first of many pots of leftovers-into-soup was simmered by Christy at Farm Dreams. She made turkey-noodle soup out her Thanksgiving carcass, and served it up with golden slices of homemade sweet-potato bread. Almost everything was from less than 50 miles away.

More leftovers make it to the table courtesy of Ed at The Slow Cook. That giant bird they roasted last week (you remember? the one that they helped butcher themselves!) shows up in a gorgeously messy hot-turkey sandwich, with a homegrown-lettuce salad on the side.

Over at Touch the Earth Farm, Danielle served up two local dinners: A luxurious blue-cheese-topped steak with greens, potatoes, and salad… in addition to the obligatory pot of post-holiday turkey soup; hers was served with panini on homemade bread.

Nicole at Farm to Philly laments the end of her CSA deliveries, but spreads out the word on a different way to find local food through the dark days: the Winter Harvest buying club.

Another delicious take on Thanksgiving leftovers comes from The Purloined Letter, in the form of a belly-warming turkey pot pie. Meat and gravy from the holiday platter meet up with repurposed pumpkin soup and some fresh farmers market greens. (Note to self: Don’t recap when you’re hungry.)

Leda at Urban Homestead is rolling in dough, turning locally-grown and -milled flour into a plethora of breads: Sourdough, buttermilk, and crackers. She claims (uh-huh!) that she wants to share the recipes with us, but regrets her recipes are so dependent on on-the-fly adjustments. She relents at the end and links off to the recipes that inspired her.

Speaking candidly about something we all wrestle with, Sophie at Locavores gets honest about the difficulty of hitting her self-imposed locavore benchmarks. She outlines every thing she ate on a single day last week — a fairly typical mix, she owns — and finds it’s closer to 60% than 90% local.

Proving there’s balance in all things: Jasmine at 40 Shades of Green serves up a timely reminder that eating local isn’t about denying yourself non-local foods but celebrating the pleasures of “supporting small farmers [and] knowing where my food comes from”. She dished up a comforting meal of roasted Brussels sprouts and an onion-and-sundried-tomato stir-fry.

In the Middle:
Maybe Local serves up a recap of a “pretty dang local” Thanksgiving — just about everything on the menu was from within her foodshed. Martha’s pie-crust recipe had Chessa cussing up a storm (what went wrong? I love that recipe like a puppy!) but the resulting pies — blueberry-buttermilk and real pumpkin — looked amazing.

Yay, more leftovers! FarmMom at Children in the Corn whips her turkey trimmings into an adaptation of Joy of Cooking’s pot pie. Nearly everything — including the crust ingredients (I’m so jealous!) — hails from within 40 miles of the farm… much of it from her own garden.

Penny at Penelopedia finds time for a local meal despite a hectic work-week and a dog-sitting commitment that keeps her away from home: A simple supper of eggs and home-fried potatoes. (No argument from me: “breakfast served all day” is one of my favorite phrases.)

Inspired by a recipe from Lucullian Delights, Daniela the Culinary Student whips up a set of gluten-free Lemon and Fennel Tarts. A dead camera-battery followed by a slippery plate leaves her without her own photo to share, but… she improvises, like any good culinary student would.

Valereee at Cincinnati Locavore simmers up a variation on that old cookbook classic, Cock-a-Leekie Soup… with turkey, of course. She shares the recipe and a step-by-step rundown of how she put it all together. My favorite step: sauteeing veggies in homemade butter.

Out West:
Having mastered her goal of finding one new local food each month, Donna at Chocolate Crayons ponders dropping out of the challenge. But she takes stock of her pantry, she finds she’s got plenty of local food on hand — she’s sticking with us! Her official meal this week: pork chops, potatoes, leftover cranberry sauce, and frozen summer CSA veggies.

Laura at Hello, Sunshine says what all of us are thinking: This is getting harder. Even out here in the relatively temperate coastal areas, the farmers markets are getting sparse. Her favorite meal — steamed kale with dressing and some avocado — gets a big boost from the “off the charts” deliciousness of the greens.

Ellen at The Daily Grind muses about all the places she’s seeing locavore topics pop up, and all of the local-eating challenges on her radar this autumn. Later, she turns to Barbara Kingsolver’s eggs in a nest recipe for an easy weeknight meal.

Eric Scholsser (of Fast Food Nation fame) is the (virtual) dinner guest over at Kale for Sale, where no less than four Dark Days meals are served. Katrina opts for a romantic meal of roasted roots, a supper of eggs and rice topped with homegrown peppers, and a grab-and-go chicken with broccoli. Oh, and turkey soup, of course!

Saara at Skagit Foodshed hits the road for a trip to Portland, but doesn’t intend to leave her locavore ways behind. She’s planning plenty of Dark Days dining-out — she’ll have it easy in the Emerald City — plus a pit stop at the Northwest’s favorite SOLE fast-food chain, Burgerville. (I’m jealous again!)

Jennye at Wool Fairy ponders the possibilities of potatoes by the bushel for next week’s Hannukah latkes, while taking her turn with the honey baked lentils and roasted delicata squash that everyone’s talking about. Surprise, surprise: The kids love it, too!

KMBerrien at Feeding the Boogie has another week of ‘eat-down’ meals, once again tapping into the winter larder to keep the freezer from bursting at the seams. A pair of slow-cooker meals included a sweet-meets-savory pork chop and cranberries stew, and a pot of chicken-sausage and peppers.

And back home at Married… with Dinner, yours truly belatedly outlines our 100-mile Thanksgiving feast (complete with geeky spreadsheet!), offering a recipe for everything-from-scratch pumpkin pie as an apology for slothful posting behavior. Our visiting family also scarfed down locavore versions of lasagna and salad, pork chops and risotto, and our traditional “(Not)-Spam” holiday brunch.


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Mystery eggs

There are a couple side effects of having a heat lamp with a red bulb in the girls’ roost box for warmth.

1. They’re party girls – up until all hours of the night

2. When they get really brave they even venture out into the run in the strange reddish light

3. We’re starting to get eggs again, and will get one or two a day until spring

Of course, I can’t figure out who’s laying the eggs as they’re not a color or shell finish that I recognize. They don’t belong to Maisie as she’s still a couple weeks away from starting to lay. They’re not Lucy’s even though they’re almost the right color. They don’t belong to Agnes or Penny. And I’m pretty sure that they’re too big to be Danny’s even though I expect her to start laying any day now.

So that leaves Pru. But they’re pinker than the eggs she layed last spring and early summer. Hmmm. Mystery eggs. I hope that they are in fact hers as it would be nice to have her start paying rent again. Oh well, I get they’ll taste good anyway.

I know that some people disagree with giving hens a light during the winter as it can potentially shorten their lives. But I feel that it’s okay as long as I make sure they have plenty of calories and calcium to support them in their efforts.


I’m headed out early tomorrow morning to go see my family. My grandmother is still holding her own, although mentally she’s not quite there. Her children are respecting her longstanding aversion to Western medicine and wishes for no medical intervention, so it’s hard to know what’s really happening or what the future holds. Thank you again to all of you for your prayers and well wishes.

As I’ll be traveling home on Sunday, Anita (Married with Dinner) has graciously offered to help me out by posting the recap. So stay tuned for her guest appearance – I can’t wait to read about what everyone’s been up to!

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I hope that everyone had a great holiday! As I mentioned, we had a delicious dinner and have really enjoyed the long weekend. We also had many local breakfasts, lunches and dinners this week that I won’t bore you with. And of course, we finally opened our first jars of dill pickles – mmmm mmmm good.

I’m going to keep this brief as we’re going to get a Christmas tree shortly and I need to find the decorations!


The Middle:

With 21 squash in her garage, Anne (Green Leanings) is set for at least part of the winter. After cooking an unexpected local Thanksgiving last Sunday she froze 1/2 the turkey and made stock and soup with the rest. She spent her actual Thanksgiving at her mom’s house with another local turkey and all the sides. And then yesterday she finished off the week by sleeping in and then making a local brunch and dinner.

Continuing her run of local meals in bowls, FarmMom (Children in the Corn) served up ham, bean and vegetable soup this week with a side of biscuits. This week they also enjoyed a casual Thanksgiving with family, ordered chicks and ducklings for spring and offered a tour of her root cellar.

With her daughter home from college, Penny (Penelopedia) ate out more than usual this week. But she still managed a mostly local Thanksgiving. No apologizing for the things you didn’t have time or budget to find! This is a challenge and as such we do what we can, and make up the rest!

Turk-a-leekie soup graced the stove at Valeree’s house this week (Cincinnati Locavore). If you’ve got leftover bird this looks like a delicious and straightforward way to use it up. I might even have to make it myself tonight – although mine won’t be so local as celery doesn’t grow here and I don’t have any leeks on hand. Oh well…


The East:

Kim (Yankee Food) mad a fabulously local Thanksgiving using a wide range of ingredients, she even found New Hampshire wine! They’ve managed to finish off most of the leftovers, with the remainders going into soup yesterday. She included ground cherries on her cheese board – we had these in Florence but no one could tell us what they were in English. So cool to see them pop up on her blog! Now to find somewhere to get them around here.

While most of her meal might not have been as fresh or local as she’d have liked, Peg (Orchards Forever) made sure her contributions were. The pumpkin cheesecake and apple crisp both sound delightful!.

Adding to the local holiday trend, Christy (Farm Dreams) made not only a local Thanksgiving feast, but a lunch as well. The butternut squash soup looks great, as does her herb rubbed turkey.

Ed (The Slow Cook) wins the prize for Turkey dinner I most wish I’d been invited to! His local feast started with a 31 lb. turkey he killed himself and went from there. It included enough dishes to feed an army and it all looked amazing.

Starting with eggs and steak for breakfast, to a full Thanksgiving menu to dessert of apple bread pudding, Wendy (Happily Home) had quite the busy day. Just goes to show that eating a meal that’s 100% Maine is possibly even in the dark days of winter.

With her farm in full swing this year, Danielle (Touch the Earth) managed an almost 0 mile Thanksgiving Feast. From a 17 lb. turkey she raised herself, to stuffing, squash and ciabatta bread, it was an impressive spread. She’s also got a great post up about starting small when it comes to farming.

Nicole (Farm to Philly) offers a great pumpkin creme brulee recipe which sounds like something I should try with the small pumpkin on my counter. Her turkey was a bit dry, but everything else was wonderful. And yes, I agree that while I love the holiday, I’m glad it’s only once a year.

The Purloined letter enjoyed two Thanksgivings. One with friends, and a second local one on Friday. They started the feast with pumpkin soup cooked in the shell for lunch. Then followed it up with a full blown turkey dinner and a crustless sweet potato pie.

Sophie (Locavores) hosted a Thanksgiving that was a mix of local and “worldly” foods. For being only 3 months into her efforts as a locavore, I think she did a pretty good job of finding local fixings in CT.


The West:

In lieu of a Thanksgiving recap, Anita (Married with Dinner) posted a review of local shopping options in her area. She discusses who’s doing what and who isn’t doing anything as far as sourcing and signing local foods.

While still battling a cold, Donna (Chocolate Crayons) still managed to work a variety of local foods into her Thanksgiving menu. Her efforts included making her own sparkling grape juice to rave reviews.

With slimmer pickings and fewer farmers, winter has come to Seattle and Laura (Hello, Sunshine) is feeling just as much as I am. Her meals this week were mostly local salads for dinner and home made juices in the morning.

Making the most of her CSA bounty, Ellen (The Daily Grind) shared a mostly local Thanksgiving with friends and family. She also enjoyed some no knead bread both for turkey day and after. I actually found the recipe through a link on her blog earlier this week – thanks Ellen!

Remember the 38 lbs. of tomatoes that Melinda (Elements in Time) harvested? Frost a couple days later at least means she won’t have any more. While her Thanksgiving wasn’t local, at least she had pumpkin pie from her own garden for her birthday – Happy Birthday Melinda!

While the timing didn’t fall into place exactly as she hoped, Katrina’s (Kale for Sale) local Thanksgiving met with rave reviews. She even managed to convert more than one Brussels sprout virgin to the love.

Jennye at Wool Fairy celebrated local with a potato sorrel soup this week. The recipe actually calls for leeks, but since none were at hand she used the sorrel instead, to cheers from her kids. I haven’t been brave enough to try sorrel yet, but maybe I should.

Marcia in Wyoming sent in two meals this week:

Stuffed chicken breasts: Homegrown chicken breasts stuffed with chopped apples (from that zucchini trade again!) shredded cheddar cheese and Italian flavored bread crumbs, cooked in a butter/white wine sauce.

Calibacitas: Homegrown frozen sliced zucchini and yellow summer squash, homegrown frozen chopped green bell and chili peppers, chopped onion from  the root cellar, homegrown frozen corn, homegrown minced garlic all cooked in a little olive oil/butter mix and then topped with shredded cheddar cheese.

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I won’t bore you with a long list of where our ingredients came from or how far they traveled. But suffice it to say that we had a mostly local, very delicious Thanksgiving dinner. Things that weren’t local that made it to the table? Black olives, organic chicken broth, dried sour cherries, sugar, salt, pepper, Montana flour, Oregon wine, an extra California turkey and some other odds and ends. Everything else came from within 100 miles and it was all fabulously in season.

Our menu?

– cheese, salami and crackers
– dill pickles (homemade) & black olives
– 11 lb. free range organic Heritage turkey  (local)
– 13 lb. free range organic broad breasted white turkey (California)
– traditional bread stuffing
– sausage, apple, sage and caramelized onion stuffing
– mashed yukon gold potatoes
– cheese broccoli souffle
– arugula / spinach salad with hazelnuts
– cranberry / sour cherry chutney
– wheat “no knead bread” (1/2 local, 1/2 Montana)
– the best homemade gravy I’ve ever had
– cherry pie
– apple pie
– homemade vanilla ice cream

The most interesting parts of the menu were the turkeys, the cranberries and the no knead bread, so those are the only parts that I’ll expound on.


Turkey | Leggy vs. The Traveler:


For reasons that we don’t really need to go into, and that I’m tired of explaining, we ended up with two fresh turkeys and decided to cook them both. “Leggy”, shown on the right above, came from Stokesberry Sustainable Farm and was local, organic, free-range and a heritage breed. “The Traveler”, shown on the left, was an organic, free-range broad breasted white from Diestel Farms in California. I didn’t think to ask whether they were toms or hens.

Since we cooked them both, we prepared them slightly differently, so the side by side taste test wasn’t exact. We rubbed Leggy with salt, pepper and olive oil and let him rest for 4 hours before roasting. The Traveler was brined for 4 hours the night before. The two were roasted side by side in the oven until done – about 5 hours – basted with butter at regular intervals.

And wow, they were both good! Mike and I both preferred Leggy, my sister in law (hi Kris!) preferred The Traveler, and everyone else was undecided. Things that were obviously different? Leggy has a more prominent breast bone and less breast meat. He also was less compact even though they both weighed about the same amount. Finally, the muscle fibers in Leggy’s breast meat were longer, more tender, and tasted more like “Turkey” to me.

In the interest of full disclosure, Leggy cost me $5 per lb. and The Traveler was $3 per lb. To me the extra money was worth it to help preserve heritage turkeys and to support a local farmer that believes in sustainably raising poultry. But if you can’t get your hands on one I’d say that the Diestel was almost as good.


Not a lot to say here, except that I used a new recipe for these that combined dried sour cherries with the cranberries. The recipe also added a hint of rosemary and substituted brown sugar for the traditional white.

Recipe at Roux Seattle


No Knead Bread


This was the first time that I’d tried this. But I have to say that it really is as easy as it sounds. I made my loaves with 1/2 whole wheat pastry flour and 1/2 unbleached all purpose white flour. The bread turned out light and airy with a crispy crust. Definitely worth the minimal effort. I plan to keep practicing my bread and make this again soon!

Recipe at The Steamy Kitchen


A parting photo from the day – the hens enjoying the scraps from my prep work. Once nice thing about all the rain we’ve been having? The grass is finally green again. Note the missing feathers on Lucy (black) and Agnes (white) – they, plus Pru, are all wishing the weather would warm back up or their feathers grow faster!


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I’m a bad blogger. Or at least I played one this past week. I cooked a number of local meals, including an informal Sunday dinner for friends, but wrote about none of them. On Sunday we had meatloaf, mashers, broccoli and salad – all of it made from local ingredients. I used my favorite meatloaf recipe again – man is that good! Monday night was steak from our local cow with sauteed Brussels sprouts. Wednesday night was breakfast for dinner – bacon from Herbert, fried eggs and toast with jam. Thursday night we made mediocre penne with pesto. The pesto was great (Thanks Mia!), it was the penne that was poor. As much as I think whole wheat pasta is good for us, I just can’t make myself like it…

Then I spent the weekend doing some sourcing for Thanksgiving. I spent 90 minutes at the U District farmer’s market on Saturday in the pouring rain. There was a pretty good turnout of vendors and shoppers, considering the shitty weather conditions. I was able to get broccoli, spinach, arugula, potatoes, apples, onions, radishes, rosemary, carrots, roasted hazelnuts and cauliflower for Thanksgiving.

I also scored a heritage breed local organic turkey for our holiday meal. Unfortunately it’s only 10 lbs. So we’ll be cooking a second bird from California to get us up to 20 lbs. Oh well – just means we can have two kinds of stuffing and season them slightly different. It’ll be a side-by-side taste test!

And Saara, thanks for the info on what to do with the Sunchokes. I’m hoping to find time to do them justice this coming weekend…


The Middle:

Anne started her week with a trip to the winter market for greens, eggs, squash and onions. She cooked local that day, having breakfast for lunch, and pork chops, scalloped potatoes and spaghetti squash for dinner. She followed it up with a lovely local meal on Wednesday, doctoring up some frozen pumpkin soup and serving with the last lettuce salad of the season and fresh bread. Hope you’re feeling better Anne!

Chessa (Maybe Local) continues to impress me with her vegan vegetarian cooking. Her meal this week, while including a lot of well traveled spices, was built on a foundation of local ingredients. The first meal included cumin-lime tofu, dumpling squash and coconut creamed spinach. The second was black bean cutlets, broccoli and delicata squash. Finally, she wrapped up with a homemade vegetarian black bean sausage.

FarmMom (Children in the Corn) served a local meal of beef stew and homemade whole wheat bread. Wow, did that look good! She also posted two recipes for sweet potato bread and for her whole wheat bread.

My mom joins us with her first recap. After all the wonderful food we ate in Italy, she came home and made a truly American comfort food dinner of pot roast made with chuck roast from 1000 Hills Ranch, grass fed beef, roasted with local potatoes, carrots and onions from the farmer’s market. We added organic bread from the local bakery with organic local butter. Dessert was apple crisp with local apples but I must admit the brown sugar, cinammon and oats were not local.  Later in the week, she made my (apparently) famous Smothered Pork Chops with Cider and Apples.  Alas the herb folks at the farmer’s market have given up so her herbs were fresh from the grocery store but from a local source.  Flour, oil, pepper and bay leaves were not local.  She topped it off with mashed potatoes, yukon gold from market and slices of fireside apples from a local orchard. Wine was from Italy because she couldn’t resist a good chianti classico for a cold autumn nite.

Penny (Penelopedia) has a new blender and made good use of it this week making smoothies for breakfast. Her “official” meal was a squash, carrot and ginger soup (also using the blender). She served it with cheese sandwiches made with local bread, Wisconsin cheddar and local butter. To make it even better, she shared it with two dear friends.

To prove she’s not a vegan, Daniela (Culinary Student) made a simple roast chicken this week. She made it my favorite way – stuffed with a lemon and rubbed with rosemary. She served it with roast Brussels sprouts and fingerling potatoes. Yum!


The East:

In the midst of planning her mostly local Thanksgiving, and visiting the winter holiday market, Kim (Yankee Food) managed to make cheese and then use it in an eggplant bake. She used her own canned tomatoes in a garlicky, oniony sauce. Then she baked the white eggplants, place them on her sauce and topped them with fresh basil and cheese. With a side of carrots, it looks amazingly good!

Christy (Farm Dreams) served barbecued chicken breast with salad and roasted winter veggies. Makes me dream of summer…

Ed (The Slow Cook) treated his friends and in-laws to a wonderful dinner of braised pork shoulder, salad from the garden, braised kale with onions. He also made sweet potato and swiss chard mash as well as pumpkin brulee. For hor d’oeuvres there were radishes and  bruschetta with caramelized mushrooms. Also, if you want to see a turkey from start to finish, check out his post on Where Turkeys Come From.

Even with her 100% Maine restriction raising it’s head again, Wendy pulled off  two all Maine lunches. The first was a happy hodgepodge of grilled cheese, homemade potato chips (recipe please?), sloppy joes and pickled Brussels sprouts.  The second was individual pizzas. Happily she’s also added 1/4 of a local Maine cow to her freezer. Also be sure to check out her anthology of pictures matching hens and eggs, and her almost all Maine meal.

Celeriac soup and celeriac apple slaw were Beth’s (Sustainable Food Blog) dinner of choice this week. She’s got my respect as celeriac is one thing I haven’t been brave enough to try. She added apples to the soup to give it some extra sweetness and complexity. I may have to try it.

Making use of the plentiful mushrooms, Nicole (Farm to Philly) hatched a plan for a delicious gnocchi with mixed mushrooms. It looks so good I can almost smell it. Hmmmm. Good luck with your hunt for local mushrooms secrets, Nicole!

Despite her internet troubles, Jasmine (40 Shades of Green) shared her experience and recipe with squash bake. Her recipe uses both spaghetti and butternut squash and looks like a pan of bubbly delicious goodness. Look here for the recipe.

 Over at The Purloined Letter, dinner was a turnip n’tater n’tbeetroot pie at the request of her son. This is my kind of recipe as there’s no measuring required. Served with a side of okra, it sounds like just the thing to use up some winter veggies.


The West:

Anita (Married with Dinner) continues to impress me with her meals and photos. Of course I’m just generally impressed with her blog, so that’s no surprise… Last weeks meals included zuni chicken & bread salad, pasta alla gianni, chili and carolina coleslaw.

Trying to recreate a long-loved soup recipe from Africa, Donna (Chocolate Crayons) made a “doctored up” leek soup. Her experience again proved that bacon makes everything better. She served it with buffalo grapes and honey dinner rolls. Yum.

Cameo apples have stolen Laura’s heart (Hello, Sunshine) and her ode to them reminds me of how I feel about Honey Crisp apples. “…the perfect apple: tart, sweet and extremely crisp”.

In between enjoying adventures with Grandpa, Ellen (Daily Grind) made two local meals. The first was mashed potatoes with punk rock chickpea gravy, garlicky kale and black bean loaf. The chocolate pudding with tofu wasn’t as great. The second, a roasted acorn squash soup and homemade rolls, even impressed G’pa!

 Melinda (Elements in Time) had a busy week exploring bread, missing carrots and her fears of domesticity. They continue to eat 85 – 100% local for every meal, 7 days a week. I’m so jealous. The pictures are fewer this week due to a camera snafu – but the menus are just as impressive!

Saara (Skagit Foodshed) thought she was holding up my recap, and while I would definitely wait for her if asked, really I was just having a hard time finding the 3 hours that this takes. She decided to show off by cooking on her woodstove this week. Now that takes skill! She made burgers on bagels with sides of sauteed parsnips and ranch beans. She even made the ketchup!

Wishing she knew which farm it was from, Katrina (Kale for Sale) enjoyed the sweetest delicata squash of her life last week. It was so good it needed nothing beyond a touch of salt. Even the cute guy enjoyed it – summing it all up with a “wow”.

Trying to outrace two hungry kids for a photo, Jennye (Wool Fairy) enjoyed a dinner of hardboiled eggs, pugliese bread with goat cheese, and a trio of roasted root veggies (potatoes, turnips and parsnips).

Marcia in Wyoming dropped a note about her chicken pot pie made with home grown carrots, frozen green beans, and onion from the root cellar cooked in butter until soft, then home grown grilled chicken breast cut into small pieces added and homemade chicken stock and cream and some flour to thicken along with seasonings, topped with a crust made with Montana Wheat flour and baked for about 1 hour.  On the side was an apple and cabbage slaw made with shredded homegrown cabbage from the root cellar, diced apples (from the zucchini trade) mixed with non-local mayo, buttermilk, vinegar and sugar. As a side note, she’s anxiously awaiting “butcher day” for the pigs – they are getting huge.  They’re down to just a couple of roasts in the freezer. She notes that she has home-butchered lambs and deer with great success, but pigs are way more work – she did it once and won’t again if she can help it!

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This week was a slow return to normalcy for me. I’d forgotten just how much worse jet lag is coming back West than it is going East. It’s only since yesterday that I finally feel like I’m back in the land of the living.

We ate wildly local at the beginning of the week, enjoying chicken and pork from our freezer. Thursday brought one of my first failures in a while. The pasta sauce and fresh noodles were local and should have been delicious. Unfortunately I was way too heavy handed with the spices I brought back from Italy and the end result was so spicy and garlicky that it was almost inedible. And I love garlic!

Hopefully my skills have returned as I get ready to make dinner tonight. My photos from Italy are slowly uploading to Flickr now, so hopefully later tonight I’ll be able to start sharing them with everyone…

Now to see what everyone else has been up to… I’ve rotated the regions so that we’re starting with the Middle this week. Sorry this is a day late…


The Middle:

Anne (Green Leanings) cooked local porkchops with onions and apples braised in cider. She served them with fried potatoes and broccoli. It all sounds delicious! Saturday’s dinner included local pasta with marinara sauce and garlic bread.

With a “sweet, tart and mysterious” curried butternut squash soup, Chessa (Maybe Local), started  off her local week with a bang. She followed it up with way-too-sweet maple baked beans, a fabulous chickpea noodle soup and a so-so gingerbread apple pie. She’s looking forward to homemade bread this week.

Fresh, local perch took the place of more exotic fish as FarmMom (Children in the Corn) searches for a source she’s comfortable with. She paired her fried fish with baked potatoes, steamed carrots and a fresh garden salad. Mmmm, perch is a fondly remembered taste from my childhood.

Penny (Penelopedia) enjoyed local eggs and toast for dinner one night. But her “official” meal was a beef and potato curry made with grass-fed beef, potatoes, onions and frozen peas. With pita bread on the side, the meal made the house smell wonderful and filled her with warmth.

As winter descends on the Windy City, Daniela (Culinary Student) craved a thick hearty soup and a slice of homemade bread. So she made just that. Her thai spiced acorn squash soup with focaccia bread and a spinach salad sound like just the thing to take the chill out.


The East:

Kim (Yankee Food) featured a spicy Italian sausage and bean soup this week. Using the slow cooker to do the work while she was gone, the soup sounds divine. She even managed to work some squash into it. Finishing it off with warm bread and a local apple pie, she’s making me hungry right now!

Oven fried chicken, sauteed swiss chard and steamed broccoli made up the local meal for Christy (Farm Dreams). She like the chard, but husband Mark wasn’t so sure.

Ed’s (The Slow Cook) meal this week just about made me start drooling as I sit here. His braised short ribs, served after a butternut squash and apple soup, and with a sweet potato and swiss chard mash and curry roasted cauliflower. For dessert there was creme brulee. All this with local wines hand chosen by brother-in-law Tim. Wow, that’s the spirit! Also check out his recipes for Apple Brown Betty and Cheesy Cauliflower Casserole.

Wendy (Happily Home) had two local meals this week and has signed up for another challenge, the Maine November Eat Local Challenge. Her meals, which both sound wonderful, were rutabaga apple scallop with boiled eggs and pumpkin bread, and Cincinnati chili – one of my favorites.

With four almost zero miles meals to share, and beautiful photos as well, Danielle (Touch the Earth Farm) is on a role. Her menus included butternut squash soup, herb focaccia bread, salad, stuffed chicken, roasted acorn squash, taco salad, chicken soup and cheese sandwiches. Wow!

Meatloaf, cabbage gremolata and cranberry glazed sweet potatoes – a meal after my own heart. Nicole (Farm to Philly) made a meal fit for winter. She share’s recipes and more in her post. And the sweet potatoes fill double duty as they were also her recipe for Farm to Philly’s Turkey Day Challenge.

In a week of leftovers, Jasmine (Knitting 40 shades of Green) welcomed the opportunity for something new. Her ham and cheese crepes look delicious, and the accompanying roasted sweet potato and onion and apple feta salad sound great as well. It was all topped off with a local Chardonnay.

The Purloined Letter made a sausage strata for the challenge and took it to a local-foods dinner organized by friends. The recipe includes peppers, chard, tomatoe and sausage – and sounds like something I’ll have to try.


The West:

The week was full of local meals over at Anita’s house (Married with Dinner), but the star of the show was Sunday lunch for friends. Leek & Potato Soup, braised lamb, bean-and-rice salad and spice cake – these are the foods that we all hope to be served when we show up for dinner. Other menus included beef stroganoff, pasta fazool, chile verde enchiladas and ricotta raviolini.

Donna (Chocolate Crayons & More) managed to make four meals from one fabulous local chicken. First she roasted it, then she used some for chicken curry, then she made tuna cheddar chowder (but with chicken of course), and she still has enough meat and broth left over for one more meal. Way to go Donna! And yes, a good fresh happy chicken is a little sweet.

Roasted delicata squash has earned a special place in Laura’s (Hello, Sunshine) heart. A new discovery for her, she’s decided that she likes them best plain. Good luck with midterms!

Black bean pumpkin soup, boy does that sound/look good! Ellen (Daily Grind) is pulling out all the stops for stews and soups this winter. She deems it one of the most terrific soups she’s ever had, and with more pumpkins to go, she’s planning to make it again.

Melinda (Elements in Time) harvested 85 lbs of produce this week. 85 lbs!!!! At the same time they managed to eat locally six days this week. There’s too much for me to begin to cover – so please go check out her menus and the photos. Oh my, the photos…

As her quest to save the planet one small change at a time takes over her home, Katrina (Kale for Sale) is pretty sure that the rocoto peppers she added to her pumpkin seeds can keep her warm from the inside out all winter. They made her salad so hot that dinner was accompanied by wheezing and yelping.

Saara (Skagit Foodshed) once again featured a vegetable throughout her menus this week. Her yellow Red Kuri squash found it’s way into waffles, soup, curried soup and muffins. She and Keith also enjoyed emmer with local honey for breakfast and root vegetable gratin. Finally her squash found it’s way into a modified cuban black bean soup. And Saara? Thanks for the sunchokes. Now I just have to figure out what to do with them – suggestions?

Chicken pot pie became dinner and lunch for Jennye (Wool Fairy) and her family. Jennye also has a great discussion about how and why people no longer really cook at home. Turns out that using pre-packaged foods doesn’t really save time, just thought.

Marcia sent in her recap for chili and cornbread. The chili included home-grown chopped onion and green chilies, home cured bacon, local hamburger, home-grown /canned tomatoes, pinto beans traded for eggs from a friend who’s family farms 100 miles north, home-grown, smoked & dried chipotle pepper and a bit of local honey.  She let it simmer all day on the wood stove and the wonderful aroma filled the house!  The cornbread included home-grown, home-ground cornmeal, home-ground wheat flour from Wheat Montana, home grown frozen corn, and green chilies and home grown eggs.  She topped it off with homemade honey butter made with local honey.

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Still no progress on the Italy recap front – I finally decided to go ahead and upgrade my Flikr account and figured out how to add a slide show here, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten. I’m targeting Saturday as the day to deal with photos. So look for my recap of Milan and Genova on Sunday.

In the meantime, it’s been  nice to get back to doing some cooking. While I was gone, we got our 1/2 pig from the butcher. Now our freezer is really full with veggies, fruits, chickens, beef and pork. Wow – good thing we’re omnivores! Our dinners this week are almost all around 90% local. We’re not as committed for breakfasts and lunches as we both like our coffee and not much else in the mornings. And for the moment we’re taking local fruits, cheeses and breads in our lunches, but eating other non-local favorites to round things out. Oh well, we both have our biggest meal at dinner time so we’re continuing to focus there…


On Sunday night I roasted one of our nice big roasting chickens, a 3.5 pounder. I brushed it with olive oil, salt and pepper (not local) and roasted it in the oven. On the side we had smashed potatoes and steamed carrots (local) with butter. Everything but the olive oil, salt & pepper were from within 100 miles.

Monday morning, I took the rest of the chicken, carcass and all, and put it in the crockpot to make stock. I added carrots, onion, turnip greens and water and cooked it on low all day long. When I got home, we pulled out the bits and picked out the chicken meat. We made a nice chicken noodle soup by sauteeing leeks, carrots and turnips in a bit of the stock. Then adding back the chicken, fresh stock, some fresh herbs and salt and pepper. We finished off with some egg noodles (non-local but from the pantry). On the side we had a salad of local greens, cucumber (green house) and radish. Yum! The soup also became Tuesday dinner and lunches, and I’ll freeze the rest of it tomorrow. Everything but the salt, pepper and noodles came from within 100 miles.


Finally, tonight we had our first bites of our pig, from now on known as Herbert. We had pork chops rubbed with fresh rosemary and thyme and cooked on the grill. On the side we had braised Brussels sprouts tossed with bacon, garlic, thyme, cider vinegar (non-local) and honey. So good. I can only continue to look forward to eating more of Herbert with glee! All the ingredients, including Herbert, came from within 100 miles except the salt, pepper and cider vinegar.


In other news, I’ve now set up my own grow operation in my kitchen. Mike is concerned that the neighbors may report us for growing pot, but I’m not sure that we really need to worry. A few months ago, my mom (hi mom!) sent me an Aero Garden. But since it was still prime growing season it’s been hanging out under my desk ever since.

Now that the dark is upon us, my herb pots are struggling. And I’m not good at having indoor plants seeing as I tend to kill them off quickly. So tonight after work I set it up and plugged it in. It included the sets for the herb plants and apparently we’ll be ready to start cooking with them in about 6 weeks.

Hmmm. I’m torn as on the one hand it seems slightly off to grow herbs under a light for the winter. On the other, it’s only taking two CFLs to work. And it’s got to be better for us and the environment than using dried herbs trucked in from 2,000 miles away. Right? Anyway, I’m really looking forward to having fresh herbs to cook with all winter long. And when the herbs are done, it seems that we can order replacement plugs and grow either salad greens or tomatoes instead. What fun!

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I’m in the middle of downloading the approximately 1400 photos that I took in Italy – thank goodness for digital, I can’t imagine what it would cost me to process that much 35mm film… I don’t have a specific meal to report, but suffice it to say that we ate some of the most fabulous in season pastas, fruits and meats that I’ve had in a long time. Oranges with the leaves still on the stem, fish caught that morning, tomatoes fresh off the vine and pasta made with local chestnut flour.

It was an amazing culinary journey. Of course we also saw beautiful countryside, historic chapels and cathedrals, medieval alleys and rugged coastlines. But what really struck me was the food and the wine. And more on that later.

Now for a look at what everyone else has been cooking up around here for the challenge.


The West

 Anita (Married with Dinner) explored the locavore dining scene in San Francisco with specific reviews of three options and links to many more. In addition to two dinners out, they managed three dinners at home including pan chicken with mushroom sauce, steak and potatoes and pasta. Can I come eat at your house Anita?

Taking flattery to the highest level, Donna (Chocolate Crayons & More) copied Kim’s week 1 menu of burgers and fries. It all sounds so good that I may have to follow suit and make my own version next week. Her adorable son Andrew made his own local meal to share with the family. 

Eating local sounds like a great idea, but how can the average American family possibly make it work? Katherine (Dirt to Dish) explores these questions and more, along with inviting comments on your key challenges and ideas.

Laura (Hello, Sunshine) had a busy week, but local meals included squash, zucchini, apples, pears and more. She also mentions that she feels better when she’s eating mostly fresh local ingredients, and that the connection between food and health becomes even more obvious when she’s eating out more – good point, Laura.

Honey baked lentils with a side of tutsoi were a delicious local meal for Ellen (Daily Grind) and her family. She also found a source for local popcorn kernels during a visit to the pumpkin patch. Now she’s battling the flu – hope you feel better soon, Ellen!

Melinda (Elements in Time) continues to impress me with her commitment to home grown foods. Her photos from this week are amazing, as are the details of where the food is coming from and the sheer variety of things they’ve been growing. Although Melinda, if you get yourself a couple of backyard hens, you can add fresh eggs to your 0 mile ingredients. They’re funny, friendly and pay they’re rent in eggy goodness…

With a busy week, Halloween and a new magazine to devour, Katrina (Kale for Sale) counted a simple potato dinner as her local meal of the week. As a die hard potato lover, I see absolutely nothing wrong with that. She also posted a reminder to contact your state representatives about the still not so impressive farm bill before it comes up for vote – thanks Katrina, I sent off another round of emails this morning.

Sarah (Skagit Foodshed) inspires me with her lunches and dinners full of local ingredients and links to their sources. I think I just found 3 or 4 new sources that I wasn’t aware of before – so glad that she’s so close by. And for the record, I’m pretty sure that your Kirkland ham isn’t the worst thing ever – after all, you put it to such good use that it went further than they ever expected.

Thanks to her husband and son’s fishing adventure, Jennye’s (Wool Fairy) fish stew is a SoCal feature. And the beautiful handmade bowls? So jealous. Sorry to hear about the tomatoes. I had to throw out a jar of apples just before I left because I kept hearing this metallic ping every five minutes or so – turns out it was the jar lid popping…

Marcia in Wyoming made Grilled Chicken Pizza, noting that it has become a “staple” in their household. Toppings include – homegrown/homemade pesto, homegrown red onions, re-hydrated dried homegrown green peppers, solar dried homegrown tomatoes, homegrown grilled chicken breast,  mozzarella and Parmesan cheese (darn – not homegrown).  She tried a new crust this time using mostly home-ground wheat. She used her new grain mill attachment for the Kitchenaid mixer and bought some Prairie Gold hard white winter wheat from Wheat Montana – at Walmart of all places!  She’s also planning to grind corn from the “excess” sweet corn she dried.


The Middle:

Chessa (Maybe Local) made portabello stroganoff with a side of roasted roots. And doesn’t it look divine? The week also included ratatouille and apple crisp. Glad to hear that the end of your CSA hasn’t created too much of a crisis.

With brunch, fresh pasta with marinara, roasted chicken breasts, chicken and noodles, cottage ham and butternut squash soup, Anne (Green Leanings) had a busy week of eating local! I look forward to hearing what squash soup version you like best – I’m partial to my recipe for curried butternut myself. And yes, the broccoli worms are creepy!

It’s one of the biggest carrots I’ve ever seen, and yellow to boot! Farm Mom (Children in the Corn) cleaned out the last of her garden and made an amazing veggie stew using the carrots and the last of the summer squashes. She added skillet corn bread on the side to round it out.

Penny (Penelopedia) made Butternut Tostadas for her meal this week. They sound, and look, amazing. Definitely something to try if you’re hoarding squash in every spare corner right now…

Culinary students – they just make me jealous because they’re meals are so much prettier than mine (and I’m sure better tasting!). Daniela (Culinary Student) made an impressive Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup this week using all ingredients from the local Farmer’s Market. With the start of her weekly produce delivery, she’s looking forward to making “real” meals in the coming weeks. I’m looking forward to more drooling.

Taco potatoes with a side of steamed broccoli brought a smile to Valeree’s (Cincinnati Locavore) face this week. It was apparently so good that it disappeared before the camera could be found.


The East:

Though she’s out of onions, Kim (Yankee Food) isn’t panicking yet. She’s got plans for finding more on her trip to Concord this week. She’s found a local source for brick oven bread, and put her first loaf to good use. Her raisin bread french toast sounds so good that I’m trying to figure out if there’s a morning I can make it this week!

Caroline (A Rowhouse Kitchen) shared her local meal with friends this week. Their menu included roast chicken, beets, acorn squash and local cupcakes. The friendship that started with a common interest in local foods, continues to grow. She also froze pumpkin, making me certain that I need to get on this so we can have pumpkin pie for turkey day!

Christy (Farm Dreams) made pork and fiesta cabbage en escabeche wraps for her meal this week, they look delicious. She also shared her thoughts on the summer and fall CSA that they participated in.

While his plans for a fall menu of spit roasted chicken were thwarted, Ed (The Slow Cook) found everything he needed for a final summer menu. Roasted poussin, sweet potato salad, fresh okra… the sweet tastes of summer somehow visiting him in October. May every fall meal be so sweet. Also be sure to check out his stories of Butternut Squash Soup and homemade ketchup.

With the morning darkness upon her, Sarah (Cucina Bella) joins the challenge with two local meals this week. A quesadilla with caprese salad for dinner and a breakfast of scrambled eggs, local sausage and toast. Welcome Sarah!

With two whole days to spare, Wendy (Happily Home) made a 100% Maine meal of broccoli quiche, potato latkes and applesauce. She also made bread the day before, and comments that the Maine flour she used is probably from farther away than the Vermont flour that she usually uses. As she notes, sometimes it’s about regional local, not artificial border local.

Danielle (Touch the Earth Farm) had another crazy week, but even so managed to make an almost 0 miles dinner of spinach and herb frittata and salad. She also made mini pumpkin muffins (with her own pumpkins) and deviled eggs for a home school group Halloween Harvest Farm Day. She even managed to find time to make green tomato salsa, pickles and chutney with the last of her tomatoes.

Steak and hookers – now that’s a menu that grabs your attention. Nicole (Farm to Philly) discovered Hakurei turnips during her CSA shift this week and decided to try them out. She enjoyed her new discovery (reportedly quite good) with a rare steak and sauteed mushrooms.

After finally finding a local source of flour, Jasmine (40 Shades of Green) made a butternut squash and camelized onion galette this week. Not only does it sound good, it looks fantastic – I can certainly understand why it was hard to wait for it to cool.

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