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Posts Tagged ‘winter’

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…

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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!

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Wow – 33 of us are participating in this! Not sure what the Dark Days Challenge is? Find out more here.

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I just realized that I never posted my own personal rules for this challenge, so before I update you on what everyone else is doing, I’ll tell you what our goals are.

  • We have to cook 2 meals per week that are at least 90% local.
  • Any other meals we prepare at home need to be at least 50% local.
  • Local for us is 100 miles for everything but apples, wine, wheat and cheese for which we’re allowing 200 miles.
  • We need to include friends and family whenever possible.
  • Our exceptions are sugar, olive oil, coffee and chocolate.

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This week was a marathon for me at work, but before the week got brutal we had the pleasure of entertaining 20 of our closest friends for an Oktoberfest party here at the house. Almost 100% of what we served was local including German brats boiled in porter that we brought back from MN, German style potato salad, veggie platter with homemade blue cheese dressing, cheese and crackers, Washington wines, local beer  and apples with caramel dip. Our none-local exceptions were olive oil, red wine vinegar, mayo (from the fridge), and caramel squares. I attempted to make my own caramel sauce from scratch but burned it twice and gave up for Kraft squares in the interest of time and sanity.

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The West:

Anita at Married with Dinner exposed herself as a locavore on her blog and wrote a great post about what it means to her to commit to the challenge. She’s clarified her own rules and is ready to get started. I can’t wait to see what they come up with as the challenge goes on.

With an early commitment, Donna at Chocolate Crayons & More has got two meals under her belt so far. Their first meal was a wonderfully simple menu of spaghetti and salad. For her second meal she intended to make a chicken soup (and bought some spendy noodles for it!) and then realized that her Monday dinner of pork chops, potatoes and beets was so local that her son had even fed the pig! They finished out the week with that chicken soup with a few exemptions thrown in for flavor.

Laura at Hello, Sunshine has outshone me by far. She posted her rules for the challenge, some fabulous photos of the produce for the week and a recap of it all. Laura is planning to eat 95% local for as many meals as possible – earning my undying respect. While she’s been eating 90% local and is feeling great about the challenge, a sore mouth has left her with much produce to work her way through in the coming days.

Over at The Daily Grind, Ellen is looking forward to the challenge and a winter filled with local eggs and veggies from her CSA. I’m looking forward to seeing what she makes from her new vegan cookbook.

Melinda at Elements in Time has got her rules established and is looking forward to eating local six days a week. I envy her garden and ability to grow veggies all winter. She’s got a great link to recipes for all that squash and pumpkin available right now.

With help from her super cute son, LeeAnn at Apostle to Suburbia is off to a fine start. She made a wonderful sounding recipe of yukon potato roesti and vichy carrots with produce from one of my favorite farm stands.

Katrina at Kale for Sale has her rules up and continues to impress me with her fabulous market finds. This week she wrote about herbed honey, and resisting the siren call of more squash. She found some excellent dry ingredients instead. Wonder what she’ll end up doing with those poppy seeds?

Over at the Skagit Foodshed, Saara has an impressive harvest of home grown potatoes to see her through the winter, as well as a list of local sources if you didn’t grow your own. In an impressive show of skill she also made juice from 25 lbs. of blue elderberries using her steam juicer – Wow!

Marcia in Wyoming emailed me her update, but my email is currently down. I’ll update to add her meal as soon as I can get back into my mailbox.

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The Middle:

Anne at Green Leanings enjoyed managed a local lunch, dinner and breakfast this week. Everything sounds just wonderful, from the bacon to the ham, the eggs to the raspberries, the potatoes to the pancakes. What will she come up with next week?

Over at Maybe Local, Chessa worked up an impressive dinner. She event posted recipes and distances for everything. I’m going to have to give her brussel sprout recipe a try, and perhaps even the honey baked lentils.

FarmMom at Children in the Corn made a deepdish pizza that I’d have given my eye teeth for this week. Her array of toppings including peppers, tomatoes, spinach, morels and sausage made my mouth water when I saw the pictures go up yesterday.

Penelopedia’s Penny is gearing up for the challenge by pondering what to do with the butternut squash squatting on her counter. Personally, I’d make a curry ginger soup with it, but I’m sure she’s got plenty of great ideas!

Valerie at Cincinnati Locavore is getting everything in order to start her local meals. She’s joined a herdshare for milk and freezing onions. I didn’t even know you could freeze onions… I’m looking forward to hearing more about the local sources that she finds.

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The East:

A hearty dinner of burgers, oven fries and broccoli over at Yankee Food have my mouth watering. Kim has her rules up and is looking forward to finding new sources as some of her favorites shut down for the winter. Look for Kim’s guest recap here next week while I’m out of country.

Caroline at A Rowhouse Kitchen wrote about two wonderful meals this week. The first was a meal after my own heart, roast chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and local wine. Her son objected to photos of the second, but the lamb chops with sides of cauliflower and salad sounded equally good.

Orchards Forever’s Peg made my stomach growl with her dreams of potato-leek soup, apple crisp and roasted winter vegetables. I’m anxiously awaiting her first meal (hopefully she’ll post recipes…).

A well rounded meal of salad, pasta, sourdough and apple-cranberry crisp from Christy at Farm Dreams sounds divine. She’s already thinking ahead to what they’ll do when their CSA ends at Thanksgiving.

Wendy at Happily Home at first regretted her decision to limit herself to Maine for the challenge. But then realized that she had everything she needed already in her kitchen for her first meal of minute steak, creamed corn, mashed potatoes and pickled beets.

With the bonus of running her own exclusive CSA, Jenny at Touch the Earth Farm is planning to wow us with 0 mile meals supplemented by other ingredients from within 100 miles. I’m really looking forward to seeing what she comes up with as she cooks from scratch this fall and winter.

Beth at Sustainable Food Blog is kicking us off with a recipe for a simple all local potato soup. I bet it’s a recipe that we can all find local ingredients for, wherever we are this winter.

Knitting 40 Shades of Green’s Jasmine made a delicious ratatouille with the last of the summer vegetables. She posted ingredients and mileage as well. I’ve never made a ratatouille, but if there are any summer veggies left when I get back I may have to try now.

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Did I miss you? If so, please drop a note in comments with a note about your meal and a link back to your post.

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With 9 of us now participating, I’ve created a new page just for the Dark Days Eat Local Challenge. I’ve also fixed the apparently bad code for the squash button. You can get it on the original Dark Days post or the new page.

The new page lists all of the participants, and I’ll link to other updates from there as well.

If you want to join the challenge, you can add your name, location and blog in either spot and I’ll get you added to the participant list. Or drop me an email at urbanhennery at comcast dot net.

 Thanks!

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Hmmm, so before I decided to announce a personal eat local challenge and hold myself accountable, we had our first all local meal of the fall season. The search for ingredients was pretty painless, between the steer in the freezer, my trip to the Edmond’s market and a stop at the grocery store, we had everything we needed.

Our friend Kevin was up for the evening, so we fed him too. He even kept my wine glass full while I cooked – now that’s a true friend!

The menu included meatloaf – possibly the quintessential American comfort food. Of course I think I was in college when I had it for the first time. I’m not sure why, but my mother never made meatloaf for us. Why mom, why? Anyway, I’ve been on a quest for the past few years for the perfect meatloaf recipe and I think that I’ve finally come up with it after much trial and error.

Our menu for the evening was meatloaf, mashed spuds, roasted acorn squash and salad. I had a bottle of local Washington wine to go with it, and the guys had some sort of local Canadian whiskey. All of the ingredients were from within 200 miles except for the following: ground pork (pastured, organic, Wisconsin), salad dressing (organic, California), beef gravy (non-organic, jarred) and the condiments (salt, pepper, oil, ketchum, vinegar – all of which were already in our cupboards).

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40 Minute Meatloaf
Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 lb. ground beef  (Whidbey Island)
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1/2 medium onion – chopped  (market)
  • 3 cloves garlic – minced  (market)
  • 1/3 cup milk  (Bow)
  • 1 extra large egg yolk  (backyard)
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs  (stale bread, Everett)
  • 1/3 cup parsley – chopped  (front step)
  • 2 tbs oil  (used butter, Bow)
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbs brown sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees, heat oil in non-stick skillet until shimmering.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the beef, pork, onions and garlic. In a small bowl, whisk together milk, yolk, bread crumbs and parsley;
  3. Combine milk mixture with meat mixture, mix well. Form meatloaf mix into 6 small loaves, about 4″x2″x2″.
  4. Put the loaves into the skillet and brown on top and bottom.
  5. While the loaves are browning, whisk together ketchup, vinegar and sugar. Place browned loaves on broiler pan, top each with 1/6 ketchup sauce and put into oven.
  6. Cook at 500 for 8 minutes, adjust heat to 450 and cook an additional 10-20 minutes until thermometer inserted into center of loaf reads 170.
  7. Let rest 5 minutes and then serve.

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Of course today, the only day I had to work in the garden before leaving for Italy, it’s raining. And it rained its hardest while I was working in the yard / garden. Oh well – at some point I was so wet that it no longer mattered that it was raining.

Luckily I got a lot done even with the rain. I weeded most of the front flower beds. I pruned the roses. I trimmed back the lavender and I put an end to the sad looking tomato and cucumber plants on the front steps. All that’s left for winter is one last trim of the bushes and hedges. And the roses will need a hard pruning after the first hard frost – I usually do that in January.

Also in January we’ll be putting in 6-12″ of new compost and mulch on all the beds. We didn’t get it done this year because we waited too long and all the flowers and plants were up. But this year I’ve already got it on the calendar to happen in January while everything is sleeping and we can put it in with minimal effort.

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Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Walt of Walt’s Organic Fertilizer in Ballard. Someone I know turned me on to the fac that he sells whole grain poultry feed. I called Tuesday and they were kind enough to hold the last bag for me until I could get there. The girls are now eating a 1:1 mix of his beautiful layer feed and the organic crumble they had been eating. They’ll eat this until we run out of crumble and then eat the good stuff 100%.

Walt was very helpful and has a fabulous little store. He even had diatomaceous earth by the pound, so I got enough to dust the girls and their roost box. Much better than using the Sevin powder.

I also chatted with him briefly about gardening and he reminded me that we can grow lettuce, carrots, green onions and kale year round here due to the mild climate. Of course that’s only true until it freezes around Christmas. Nevertheless, I’m going to sow seeds for each in the pots I just emptied. Maybe we’ll get enough to eat it for Thanksgiving if nothing else.

If we ever get the garage finished (this requires that we start…), Mike is going to help me build some raised vegetable beds along the south wall. He even offered to help me build a cold frame for one or two of them. Guess then I’ll have NO EXCUSE not to raise some of my own produce.

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Late fall seems to have come early to the PNW this year. It’s been cold and rainy for more than a week, with today topping out at 50 degrees and the forecast not promising anything better for at least the next five days. We may get lucky and be graced with a bout of indian summer, but I’m not holding my breath. Usually when the rain shows up it just settles in for a while.

One of the questions I’m asked most by people considering keeping city chickens is “what about winter?”. Well, it’s a mixed bag here in the PNW, at least in my opinion. For the most part it doesn’t get cold enough to really worry about the hens. They need somewhere to get out of the wind, rain and cold to sleep, but they don’t need heat or a lot of insulation. On the other hand, we get a lot of cold wet rain, and rain means mud and wet straw/shavings and damp birds. Which can lead to illness if you’re not careful.

Last year we tried a few different things before we really hit our stride for how to help our birds through the damp days of winter. This year, I’ve put the plastic (details below) up early as the heavy rains of the past few days have made things really damp and wet in the coop. So, if you’re curious, keep reading for what we do to keep our hens healthy and happy all winter.

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We put plastic panels up about 3.5 feet on the sides of the main coop to keep out the rain and snow. This is less for warmth and more to keep them dry but the side benefit is that it gives the girls a wind break and keeps them a bit warmer. The coop is open completely on the south side to give them access to rain, snow, sun and fresh air. The plastic panels are made of clear PVC corrugated roofing panels. We just cut them with a fine skill saw blade and screw them up. During the summer we store them in our shed.

We also change the straw more often during the winter to keep it drier. We have a door flap made of a vinyl floor scrap that we put over the roost box door anytime it’s below 40 or so at night. And since I’m a softie (and we’ve got a couple of banties) I turn on a heat lamp in the roost box on nights that drop down into the 20s or lower. The heat lamp isn’t strictly needed, but we had a round of the sneezes last year and the extra warmth was a factor in getting rid of them.

The girls eat a fairly standard diet of organic layer crumble and huge amounts of table scraps and weeds / grass / bugs that they scavenge in the yard. We always treat with cracked corn year round but much more heavily in the winter, giving them corn both in the morning and at night. The extra calories help them keep their weight when the temperatures drop.

Finally, I’ll be dusting with either diatomaceous (sp?) earth (if I can find some) or Sevin powder this weekend to get rid of any mites or lice before cold really sets in. And as soon as they stop laying, we’ll do a round of worming as there’s a good chance they’ve picked some up this summer. Both of these are somewhat preventative measures to be sure that the girls go into the cold months in good health.

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