Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dark Days Week 2

Last week was finals and I admit I didn't do much cooking. . . or laundry or cleaning or sleeping or eating for that matter. I threw things together for dinner every night for the kids, but didn't even take the time to sit down and eat with them. It was a rough week, but my quarter is over now and I got 2 A's and a B. Not bad for a single mom with two monsters just coming back to school after a nice long (six year) hiatus. I had been waiting for the quarter to end to get in my kitchen and get a few things done besides the usual cooking. I have bones waiting to be made into broth, squash waiting to get dealt with, apples (previous batch pictured here) and lemons to dehydrate. . .but now Christmas baking has taken over and none of that has happened yet. I also haven't made the ribs my kids have been dying for or cooked the chicken I got. I hope the chicken will be my Dark Days meal this weekend and I know last year in the google group I asked about making a chicken and then never ended up getting one. I will be going back to those suggestions again and if there are any others feel free to share! This will be my first chicken, so wish me luck! I can't mess up because I have not eaten chicken in almost a year, when I pledged to not buy meat from the store anymore. I thought that would be easy, but I didn't realize meat has seasons too and you better be in line for certain things. Sign up for the chicken CSA begins soon and I will not miss it!
On to the meal I did pull out of last week, it was obviously a weekend dinner after finals were over, but I did forget to take pictures! I remembered as we were eating away, but thought you'd rather not see bones and scraps all over. I cooked some Pork loin chops (TLC Ranch) in a skillet with some again not local olive oil, rosemary from my garden and salt and pepper. The salt actually is local, which was a great find here in Northern California. Farmhouse Culture which makes some delicious sauerkraut also sells a sea salt at the market. Oh and let me not forget their Kraut shots! For $1 you get a "shot" of kraut juice. The Smoked Jalapeno one is great and though it kinda burns going down, it's worth it and Delicious! So with the pork chops we had "fries", roasted parsnips with sea salt and the kids dipped in ketchup (not local). I said as I served, "Here's your pork chops and fries" and my son said "these are potatoes?" as he bit into one and I responded, "Well, parsnip potatoes"...I know it's wrong, but sometimes just the words can ruin it. Because he ate them up and said I loved those"fries"! I too love parsnips and this was a nice hearty meal after days of barely eating!


Dark Days Meal #1!! It was so long ago, I had to study the picture and remember what I made! I don't know how I'm going to find time to blog once school's back in session! But I am determined!! At least this year we only post twice a month for the recaps, which should make it a little easier to keep up! So onto the meal...We had hamburgers with roasted veggies for dinner! Normally for a Dark Days Meal I try to leave out condiments or sauces that don't fit the bill but I had to have mustard and ketchup on my burger this time! It was just too good to not have just how I wanted it. Those things along with the buns and cheese were not local but organic yes. The meat....the hamburger and the BACON are local coming from TLC Ranch and Morris Grassfed Beef. The bacon is delicious and I'm sad to only have four more packages in the freezer, but we'll use it wisely. All the veggies including the onion and garlic are from local farms at the farmers market. The rosemary is dried from my garden and the pickles are home made! Canning is one thing I finally tried my hand at this summer and I had a blast and have lots of yummy stuff in my cupboards. The pickles were a huge success and next year I know to make plenty more because these are the last of the sliced dills!Back to the meal...the roasted veggies consisted of carrots, garlic, purple and red potatoes, and beets which are not pictured because they weren't done yet. The kids left all the beets for me but enjoyed the carrots and potatoes. My daughter even partook in the meat eating that night. Oh yes, bacon is not considered one of those Meats that she doesn't eat....she still LOVES bacon, but it's rare we eat it since we have to make it last! Under the peppers next to the cheese is not another burger, but sauteed onions and garlic, I like it kind of burnt and crispy...It's also on my veggies. I'm a huge onion and garlic Girl and happy to be living back up here by the Garlic Capital of the World, Gilroy! Every time you drive through town, the garlic aroma sits passenger for a good ten minutes and it's Heaven! The other thing not local was the olive oil I used for the roasting and sauteing...I ran out of my San Diego oil and although I have now found a local source in Santa Cruz I haven't bought any yet. I had already bought some at the store and I have been budgeting tight for the last few months, but in January it is in the budget! This meal was delicious and home made hamburgers are always the best because you can make them exactly how you want and cook them to the doneness you want and nothing gets better!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I'm Back...

Well I haven't caught up on here yet, so here it goes...I am still a single mother of two kids, 4 and 6. One eats almost anything...plain, and the other eats anything as long as it's not meat. My four year old was the BEST eater, sauerkraut was her favorite food and she loved meat, cheese, etc. Lately she asks, "is that meat"? I think about telling her no, but eventually say yes and she states, "I don't like meat" and won't eat it! This is the same child that could eat three hot dogs in one sitting! My worry for this Dark Days is I have a lot of meat in my freezer and I plan to use it! Sometimes she gives in and eats it and loves it, but most of the time she stands firm. Anyways...besides the change in her eating habits, many other things have changed. We now live in Northern California, which we are loving! I lived here years ago without kids and always wanted to come back and raise kids here. Now that is what is happening! It is easier to eat local here but one thing I am having a hard time with is meat. I had a great pork farm that also sold beef from a local family farm, but they unfortunately had to throw their hands up for the business and walk away. Instead they will be traveling the United States in their motor home for the next few years, helping on family farms and writing all about it. The woman in charge is Rebecca and she has a great blog over at HonestMeat. There is one place to get chicken, but the season was full before I got here, we got lucky and got one chicken that will definitely be used during this challenge. One other big change before we move on to the challenge, I am now a full time student with no time! I still get good food on the table for dinner, which is the only meal I now make for my kids with us all in school, but it is usually not extravagant. So just like last year, there really won't be anything fancy here for this challenge! The challenge....the 4th annual Dark Days Challenge! I participated last year, which is what began this blog and it definitely helped me find new resources for local foods in my area. The challenge is to cook one meal a week made from SOLE ingredients...Sustainable, Organic, Local, Ethical. Not all of my ingredients will fit the organic categorization as I have learned more about that and as long as fits the other three guidelines, I'm usually okay with it. My other exceptions will be butter and spices, and anything else that comes up I will note in my write ups. On to the new Dark Days...and being in Santa Cruz, CA instead of San Diego I might actually experience some Dark Days!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Heirloom Tomato Soup

Well I said in my last post I wasn't sure if I'd continue to blog after the challenge was over....or at least thats what I think I said! Now Dark Day Challenge #4 is about to begin and I will dedicate myself to blogging again. The challenge doesn't begin until December and I have some filling in/updating to do before then, but I was eating my dinner and it was so FABULOUS that I had to share. There's been many times throughout the year, I have wanted to update as well, but it has been a crazy round of months since the last challenge ended. So, dinner? Dinner was an ode to summer leaving and fall beginning. I've been making tons of soups lately, hearty fulfilling, thick soups to fill my freezer and tummy, but this one was different. I made this unfortunately only once over the summer but to rave reviews and followed the recipe completely. The soup is Bryant Terry's Chilled Heirloom Tomato Soup. By the way his book, Vegan Soul Kitchen, was a staple in my kitchen this summer. Delicious recipes with good, natural ingredients and easy to make. At the farmers market you can tell its the last of the tomatoes and they won't there be there much longer so last week I grabbed about 8 heirlooms and threw them in my basket knowing I'd make this soup one more time while I had the chance. I won't miss the heirloom tomatoes flavor, because I oven dried jars and jars full to keep me through winter and they are delicious! But I had to have this soup again. slice the tomatoes in 1 inch slices and combine with a lil salt and let sit for 30 minutes. Then you cut up stuff for a salsa....this is where you can improvise really all you want. This time I cut up cucumber, hot peppers,and radishes with the necessary lemon juice, salt, paprika, onions and garlic. I mean you could leave those out too, but what kind of salsa would that be. Last time I made it with basil too, this time with mint, but lots o herbs could work....Make this with whatever you have and need to use up. The part that for me is indispensable is the roasted raw peanuts you put on top. They make this soup! SO you blend the tomatoes and put thru a sieve, top your serving with a spoon of salsa and a toss of peanuts and this time....I added cut up bacon!! So delicious and pretty fulfilling too! And the ingredients all local. The peanuts were spouted peanuts from the local micro/sprout farm here in SantaCruz, New Native and the bacon was from TLC Ranch, a local pig farm that unfortunately is going out of business here in Northern California. But I stocked up on a freezer full of goodies for winter! The other veggies and herbs were from a combination of different farms at the market. Well that's it for now, just wanted to share this Tomato Soup for you to try if you have any fresh tomatoes still available...

Monday, March 29, 2010

The End of Dark Days- Dark Days Week # 19

I am amazed it has been 19 weeks since we started this challenge and I feel as though it flew by. I'm sure for some of the participants the dark days seemed much longer than here in sunny San Diego, for which I do feel thankful and lucky! This will be my last dark days spent in this beautiful city, for in July I will be moving to Northern California and experiencing a little more rain and weather change than in San Diego. But don't get me wrong, I LOVE northern California and have been waiting to return for years...I am pretty excited to get up there! One thing that the Dark Days Challenge did help me notice about San Diego is that we actually do have seasons! We always have such a bounty of food at the markets and the weather doesn't change too drastically and it can be hard to pinpoint changes around here, but this year I noticed Spring. I went to the market this weekend and found asparagus at the Sage Mt. Farm stand and was ecstatic! They also had potatoes and across the walk at Suncoast Farms there was baskets bursting with baby purple artichokes! Spring! I had planned a completely different meal for this write up and planned on purchasing a few different items at the market, but there was no way I was passing up any of those offerings. I wanted to finally purchase a chicken from Womach Ranch and roast a chicken and use all the parts and go out with a bang, but I think my Spring meal was a better ending for the end of Dark Days!
I had some alone time that afternoon when we returned home from the market and I took a walk to the coffee shop across the street and almost finished reading "This Organic Life" until it got too cold. Of course while reading I was feeling inspired to cook and when I got home I went straight to the kitchen, I had perfect, fresh, local ingredients that would go well together. I put on the potatoes and an egg ( from the market as well) to boil while I chopped up baby artichokes, baby bell peppers, green garlic, and green onion. I threw those in a skillet with some olive oil and then used the last of it to drizzle the asparagus and threw those in to roast. Last minute I decided to sliver some fresh almonds I got that day from Lone Oak Ranch and tossed them in the saute. Everything was done at the same time and I was overjoyed...probably considered weird to some, but I'm sure you guys understand! I had all sole ingredients except the sour cream, I couldn't resist! The sour cream was Organic Valley and purchased from my local co-op that I do not get to enough, but not local itself! Oh and I also indulged in my salt that I sprinkled atop it all, it was the X Roads salt (from the Philippines) from our local business at one of the farmers markets. The picture may not be pretty, but I was lucky I took a picture at all, I just wanted to eat! Everything was so delicious and I was sad my kids had missed out on the meal, but we have more spring goodies that I can cook for them another day. For dessert I had an Aloha Latte Cookie! I love Aloha Lattes, let me tell you about them. There is an Orange coffee truck in San Diego named Joes On the Nose and they make the most delicious drinks, of which my favorite is the Aloha Latte! It is espresso, soy milk (my preference), mocha, macadamia nut and coconut topped with coconut whip cream! I can not go to one of the weekend markets and not pick up a drink and many days I wish they delivered! They have other drinks that are just as interesting/delicious (check out the menu), a great staff and the orange all around you just exudes happiness. Twice now I have been lucky enough to have Joes pair with another local vendor and offer flavors of their own intertwined with other products. First Viva Pops, a wonderful local popsicle shop and now 410 degree cookies, the company with the best cookies you could probably ever taste! They ship orders too, so if you like cookies at all, even if you're not in San Diego check them out. The cookie they created had all the ingredients of an Aloha Latte and I don't know how I withstood from eating it all day but I did and I was so glad, because it was the perfect ending for a perfect San Diego, end of Dark Days Meal and I was one satisfied SOLE eater!
I am happy for the coming foods and warmer weather, but I am sad that the challenge is ending. I have been so inspired by others posts, recipes, and experiences and I am so grateful to have been able to be a part of this community. I know I will continue to follow many of the blogs and stay up to date on what's cooking in your houses over the months of hopeful abundance to come. I will surely be sticking with a more Sole way of eating and am very much closer to my goals than I was when I started this challenge. I realize when I do have to go to the store lately, it's basically for beverages, pasta and rice and I feel great about that. Thank you to all who have commented, given me tips or advice, and held my hand through this journey! The Dark Days were not only bearable, but fun!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dark Days Meal #18

This week I am not posting about a complete meal, even though that is the challenge! I did have lots of simple, SOLE meals this week but all of them were things I've made before and not very interesting. The best meal I had this week was a bowl of re heated Lundberg brown rice with leftover Christmas Lima beans and topped with home made pickled carrots and radishes. That was delicious, but not worthy of a whole write up. What I do think is worthy this week is the strides I've been making in making my own food. I joined the Real Food Challenge over at Not Dabbling in Normal and the timing has been great. I have learned so much during this Dark Days Challenge and have been getting comfortable in my kitchen and now for the last month I have taken on a second challenge that challenges me to put even more real food in our diets. I think at the end of this month, I will be thriving in my new way of eating and I will be comfortable to go on without a challenge to hold me up (even though I'll gladly join another if it comes around). I finally found a great bread recipe that I had the ingredients for and was simple enough for me to make and it came out great!! I used the other half of the dough and made a cinnamon/raisin/walnut loaf! I also made crackers plain and with three different seasonings: cinnamon/sugar, onion/garlic, and ginger/pepper/poppyseed. I loved the crackers and so did my kids! My son asked if I could make some for his class and if he could take them in his lunch! That was a success for me, if I can replace chips or store bought snacks with home made ones that is awesome! I also finally got the sauerkraut going and my daughter can't wait for it to finish fermenting, it's been sitting about a week now so maybe today we'll try some on some home made crackers. My other big accomplishment this week was using my canning pot for the first time and preserving some food! I don't grow my own food, but I do support local, organic growers and feel preserving their food is almost as good as preserving my own when I can't grow it. I followed a Food In Jars recipe and made delicious carrot/daikon pickles! The brine was so good, I could've drank it! This was my first attempt and I have no kitchen common sense so I didn't do a perfect job, but they are still edible. What I did wrong was I poured the brine and veggies in the jar together instead of packing it and got jars only half full of veggies. Next time I'll know better. The ones that went in the water bath are still sitting on the shelf for a few more days, but there was one jar that was only half full that we were going to didn't make it that far. Those were the pickles we ate on our beans and rice for dinner the other night. They of course weren't all pickly yet, but they were delicious and I can't wait to pop open a can of them soon! So all in all I think I had a very successful week of Dark Days and Real Food and I can't wait to see what happens next week!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dark Day Meal #17

I started reading a new book a few weeks ago, even though I am still reading two others..."This Organic Life, Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader" was calling from my bookshelves. I love the book and am very much enjoying reading it. It is a story of Joan Gussow and her journey into local eating, and producing what she could on her property in New York. Not only does it tell a story, but you learn along the way and she also includes a few recipes throughout. I decided to make one of the recipes for our Dark Days meal last week, Joan's Kale and Potato Soup.

Christmas Limas (instead of pintos) - Sun Coast Farms
Kale- Suzie's Farm
Olive Oil - unfortunately the last of my Petrou
Red Onion- Sage Mt. Farm
Garlic- the f.m.
Bean stock from the cooking of the limas
Chili flakes, Bay leaves from the store
...and last but not least the potatoes were form the store! I know that was bad, I thought about leaving them out but it just wouldn't have been the same without them and I couldn't find any at the market.

This soup was quick cooking and very easy for a weeknight meal as long as you have your beans ready! To wash down the soup I had a nice glass of green juice made from the stems, leaves and greens from the veggies we picked up at Suzie's Farm. Once I juice the veggies and an apple, I pour it in the blender and add wheat germ, a few almonds and a drop of honey. I wish I could have this juice all the time, it works as a great replacement for coffee in the morning and anytime I need a little extra nourishment and the kids like it too!