The Dark Days Challenge has 120+ participants from all over the U.S. doing the best we can to eat local during the winter months. Our challenge is to prepare at least one meal a week using only Sustainable, Organic, Local and Ethical (SOLE) ingredients, and then blog about it. Weekly recaps of the participant’s meals will be hosted by the fine folks at Not Dabbling In Normal every Sunday.
We do rely a lot on the freezer to get us through the winter here at HA. In spring and summer we try and fill it full of fruits and vegetables from the garden, then the rest of the year we do our best to empty it out! It has served us well this busy week, as we get back into the swing of things after our vacation in Hawaii.
Since the weather forecast was calling for snow and bone-chilling cold, we decided soup was in order last night for dinner. I had some lovely soup bones from Fischer Farms that I used to make beef stock. I used the pressure cooker to cook them for about an hour with some aromatic herbs and veggies, and I got enough stock for the soup plus some for the freezer. Homemade stock is so much better than canned. I don’t always take the time, but when I do I am always pleased with the results. And now we have some ready to use in the freezer.
My wife makes a great vegetable beef soup. Once I got done with the stock, she went to work on the soup. She started with some Fischer Farms stew meat. We freeze bags of mixed vegetables from the garden especially for soup. Add some of our own frozen tomatoes and tomato sauce, and a few of 2011’s slightly shriveled but still tasty potato crop, and it made for a great soup. She even used bay leaves from our potted bay plant, and a dried herb mix from our herb garden to season the soup.
After she got the soup on to simmer, I went to work on making some corn bread. Note to self: remember to push the output hopper FULLY into the grain mill before grinding next time. Can you picture ground corn meal all over the kitchen counter and floor? Fortunately I am trained in cleanup duties!
I made the corn bread with half ground popcorn, and half ground whole wheat flour. I’m calling this bread 50% local, since the wheat, eggs and honey were local, while the popcorn, buttermilk and baking powder was not. I could have used local coarse ground corn meal for the bread, but we like using ground popcorn. It has more fiber, less starch and a great flavor. I am still looking for a local source for popcorn. And I decided I wasn’t sacrificing nutrition for the sake of Dark Days. Fiber is our friend too! The recipe here is from the King Arthur Whole Grain Baking book, modified to use 100% whole grains. It has become our favorite cornbread recipe.
That wasn’t the only Dark Days meal for the week, however. Monday night I baked one of our CSA chickens for dinner. And while the oven was hot, I slipped in a couple of our 2011 Beauregard sweet potatoes. I briefly cooked a little of our Lacinato kale for another side dish, and we had a lovely meal.
Actually we’ll have at least 4 Dark Days meals this week. We got two meals from the chicken dinner, plus we made and froze chicken stock for later use. And we’ll get two meals from the vegetable soup and corn bread. We’ll have it again for dinner tonight after we get home from church. That will be something to look forward to on a cold night!