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.
Though it’s still winter, I saw one of our first signs of spring this week. A few clumps of daffodils are blooming, planted by previous owners. I can see them outside my window this very moment, as I’m sitting here typing. We haven’t had much of a cold winter, but we’ve had plenty of cold gray days, and I’m happy to see a bit of color outside. The little yellow daffodils brighten up the otherwise drab landscape, as they signal the march towards spring.
We’re more than halfway through the Dark Days Challenge by now. I have to say we haven’t really changed our eating habits too much. My wife and I still eat mostly vegetables and fruits we have grown and preserved ourselves, along with meat and eggs we buy from two different local sources. I have made efforts to find locally sourced grains, but with little success. We are in the Corn Belt, with soybeans being the second most widely planted crop. Wheat and other cereal grains don’t exactly thrive here, so not many farmers grow them. I have bought some great local polenta/corn meal and hard red wheat. But other items have proven hard to find.
We ate a Dark Days meal this week that featured another harbinger of spring: spinach. As a kid I used to hate spinach, probably because back then it always came from a can. I still don’t like canned greens, but here at Happy Acres we usually have fresh or frozen greens year round. And right now we are blessed with a lot of fresh, tender, green spinach. The heirloom varieties Giant Winter and Viroflay are doing great for us. I gave this spinach a quick wilting in a pan, with a dab of butter added.
Along with the spinach I served up some Rosemary Roasted Sweet Potatoes. I peeled some of our 2011 Beauregard and Hernandez sweet potatoes, tossed them in some olive oil, then added a little onion and some fresh rosemary from the herb garden. Sadly, all our onion crop is gone, and I had to resort to using some organic onions from Far, Far Away. I have decided to make 2012 a better year for growing both onions and carrots. I’ve got fall planted onions growing along nicely, and I hope to plant a few more in a couple of weeks.
For some protein I cooked some minute steaks we sourced locally. I pan fried them in a little coconut oil. The lovely smell of the virgin coconut oil went all over the house, bringing my wife out of her Woman Cave to find the source. It made for some tasty minute steaks, and a great Dark Days meal. I should say meals, because I fixed enough food we could eat the leftovers the next day. Planned leftovers are one of my favorite meal strategies. It keeps me from spending too much time in the kitchen, and keeps us supplied with healthy, home cooked food.
To see more Dark Days meals from other challenge participants, visit Not Dabbling In Normal, where a recap of meals is posted each Sunday. It is always interesting to see how others are meeting the challenge, and to see what creative meals they are preparing.