Dark Days Challenge

In an effort to increase our awareness of where our food comes from, and to find more local sources for our food, my wife and I are joining the Dark Days Challenge this winter. In a nutshell, the Challenge is to cook one meal each week featuring SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) ingredients, and then write about it on your blog.

Mind you, we do a lot of that already. Over 90% of the meat we eat comes from one of two local sources: Stonewall Farms, or Fischer Farms. And over 90% of the vegetables and about 50% of the fruit we eat is organically grown right in our own backyard. So we are certainly off to a good start with eating SOLE food all the time, not just in the dark days of winter, when it can certainly be more challenging to find local goodies.

Sourcing for the rest of the food we eat is a little trickier though. We don’t have a good source for local fish, for instance. And we can get some locally grown organic grains, but our choices are limited. Since we really don’t have the room to grow our own grains, we do the best we can to get quality grains. The same goes for seeds and beans. By next year we should be getting honey from our own bees, but until then we enjoy honey from Kentucky Honey Farms, just across the Ohio River from us about 20 miles or so (as the bee flies). I will talk more about ingredients as I post about our meals.

For the purposes of this challenge, we will consider ‘local’ to be anything coming from within a 150 mile radius of here. We will allow ourselves a few ‘exceptions’ to the local rule for things like oils, vinegars and spices. And it is possible we will have to use other ingredients occasionally. When we do, it will be noted. But for one meal a week, we will do our best.

roast chicken (click on any image to enlarge)

For our first challenge meal, I tried to make it easy – at least for us! We had a lovely baked chicken from Stonewall Farms, tasty enough all by itself without any added ingredients other than a bit of salt at the table. That chicken actually was enough for a couple of meals, plus we made stock from the bones and froze it along with a little leftover meat. That will resurface later on as the basis for some sort of soup, which are a winter staple here for sure.

roasted sweet potatoes with rosemary

For side dishes, I roasted some of our Hernandez sweet potatoes, tossed with a little olive oil and some fresh rosemary from the garden. And I stir-fried some Komatsuna greens that were growing in the greenhouse, seasoned with some of our own sliced garlic. It made for a simple and tasty meal, and other than the oils and salt, all of the ingredients came from within 25 miles away. The veggies and herbs came from mere feet away!

Baked chicken, sweet potatoes and komatsuna

The Challenge runs until next March. At the very least, I want to try and make better and more informed choices about the foods I eat. And I hope you will enjoy reading about our efforts during the weeks and months to come.

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9 Responses to Dark Days Challenge

  1. Norma Chang says:

    Hello Dave,
    You can make your own oil by rendering the fat from the chicken. Have you tried stir-frying with broth?

    • Nell Jean says:

      Chicken, sweet potatoes and the greens all look tasty.

      We eat a lot of local foods, not a novelty here.

      • Dave says:

        Nell Jean, eating local isn’t a novelty here either. But it is harder than you might think to eat 100% local. Perhaps you have better access to the ingredients than we do.

    • Dave says:

      Ooh, using the chicken fat is a good idea Norma. I do use broth for stir frying sometimes. I usually use a bit of sesame oil for seasoning the greens.

  2. Lynda says:

    Good job Dave! We’re a family of local eaters, too. I’m enjoying the Dark Days Challenge.

  3. Robin says:

    Boy, that looks yummy! Most of our food is local too. Our exceptions are flour, sugar, rice, oil, vinegar and just a few spices. It’s defintiely a challenge to only use local ingredients. Participating in the DD Challenge really makes you aware of what comes from where!

  4. mandy says:

    very cool. i look forward to your posts as i am loving getting to know where more and more of my food comes from. fats, grains, seeds, nuts, and dry beans come from the co-op, schnucks, or the buying club; i would love to find local sources eventually.

  5. Pingback: Dark Days Challenge recap: Week 5 (EAST Group) « Not Dabbling In Normal

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