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!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Visiting Suzie's Farm

Catt White, a wonderful Farmers Market manager in San Diego posted a great question on face book a few weeks ago "Do your kids think vegetables come from the farmers market? Do you?". I had to laugh, of course my kids and I know that vegetables don't come from there!!! But it did bring up a very good point and that was although we shop at the farmers markets and know the farmers, we have not seen the farms, we don't see the food in the ground and the kids probably don't know as much about their food as I think. So I decided to sign up for Suzie's Farm tour, that they hold every second saturday of the month and go see where exactly our food DOES come from. There has been lots of events that go on at the farms that we regularly purchase from, but those farms are all in North County which is a significant drive for our unreliable vehicle that we have. Suzie's Farm is a SAN DIEGO farm, that is closer to us than any others and is actually in town. Suzie's is newer on the radar for us than the others, but that has made no difference, from the first time we purchased from them at the farmers market I was impressed with the quality and selection of their produce.
The tour is open to all and lasts about 2 hours, you pay $10 and you can harvest whatever you'd like while you're there. So Saturday morning we woke up and drove about 15 minutes down to the farm. Lucila (the owner) and two off her farm hands, Ellie and Misha were there to lead us through the forty acres we were visiting called "Kiki Town". Lucila gave us a brief introduction of how the farm came to be, how it got its name and where exactly we were in regards to the Mexico border and San Diego land marks. Then we grabbed our bags and started walking. She talked at different points about what the organic certification process is, how they have grown in the past year, what their future plans are for being Bio Dynamic and of course she spoke a lot about their crops and what the different foods were, etc. Lucila, Misha and Ellie would cut you something you wanted or pull it up for you, but I think most people got in there and got dirty for themselves....isn't that the point?

The kids had a blast running all around and pulling up their own food. When we first arrived my son said he didn't care about the vegetables, he just wanted to look for bugs and by the end I think he could've cared less about the bugs! They had a great time pulling up beets on their own and eating peas. They also tried hard at digging up carrots, it took three little sets of hands to get one carrot out of the ground! My daughter loves carrots and at one point I turned around and she was eating them straight out of the dirt. They sampled everything there was to sample and felt what it was like to get stung by stinging nettles! I didn't bring any home to cook up, but maybe one day because Lucila told us all about how good they are for you. They are a weed and there are PLENTY all over (especially in the pea vines where the kids were shielding their eyes) but they are 40% protein and chock full of vitamins. What we did bring home was a bag full of goodies: cabbage, lettuce, kale, chard, spinach, chois, broccoli, carrots, beets, radishes, peas, celery, dill, cilantro, and my new favorite fennel. I had never had fennel and did not know what I was missing, it tastes like black licorice and is crunchy like celery! I am in heaven! At the end of the day, after two tours, the farm had welcomed 100 visitors!! Hopefully good business for the farm and a great opportunity for our local community to learn about their food. I will not only continue to shop from Suzie's at the market, but we will definitely be returning to the farm again soon...and now I can say without a doubt that my kids know vegetables don't come from farmers market. Do your kids know where vegetables come from?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

English Muffins...just the beginning

I've joined a new challenge! The Real Food Challenge over at Not Dabbling in Normal. The challenge is to get more real foods into your life and is going on for the month of March. A lot of challengers are attempting all "Real" food for the month, but I am not yet ready for that leap. My commitment is to learn to make a lot of bread/grain products myself. I can bake a loaf of bread in my bread maker that is decent, but I want to really master a loaf of bread for my family. I also want to learn to make tortillas, which we eat a lot of in this house. I added to my list English muffins, bagels and crackers because those are other things that we sometimes buy and I would like to cross off my shopping list forever.

I started last week with a decent loaf of bread in my bread maker just to get me biggest problem with my homemade bread is cutting it. When I slice the bread, it crumbles and is all different sizes and doesn't work too well for sandwiches that aren't eaten at home on the plate ( school lunches =( ). Does anyone know what I'm doing wrong? So onto the first real trial in my challenge, I made English muffins. My mom had been talking about wanting some for a few weeks and I didn't think she had bought any yet, so off to work I went. I found a recipe that seemed so simple that I figured something had to be wrong, but hey what the heck it had so little ingredients I figured if I messed up I wouldn't be wasting too much. Here it is:

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tsp yeast
2 cups bread flour
1 tsp sugar

Mix well, cover and set aside for 2 -12 hours (the longer the better) - I sat mine aside overnight for about 14 hours

Next add:
1 cup flour
2 1/2 tsp salt

Mix well and set aside for 30 minutes

Heat griddle over med. heat for several minutes (add a smidge of butter if non stick)

Place muffin rings on hot griddle and fill 2/3 with batter

Cook on the first side for 5 minutes until bubbles come through and bottom is slightly browned

Flip and cook about 2 minutes, then remove the ring and finish cooking until browned.

Doesn't this sound simple? It was! I will not say I made a perfect batch, but they were tasty.

The problems I did have:
1. I had no muffin rings or cookie cutters to use to shape the muffins, so.....before I let the final dough rise, I used a sprouting jar lid and shaped the batter into circles and let rise that way.

2. I didn't have corn meal to use when shaping up the muffins, so they had a little flour on the outside as opposed to a corn meal dusting

3. I am crazy about things not cooking enough or being well done so I pushed down my english muffins while they were cooking and made them too flat ( I do the same thing with pancakes, I have to stop!)

But despite these issues, they had great holes and crannies, they had that English Muffiny taste and they were a big hit with my family. My sister came over to try one ( she only lives a block away so she can travel easily for food) and ate hers on the way home with no butter, jam, etc and said it was great! I know this isn't a recipe chock full of health, but it's definitely still better for you than the ones bought from the store and it really is that easy!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Dark Days Week #16

This week our dark days meal was not picture worthy, but I figured it was post worthy because I made my own refried beans and attempted to make my own tortillas. We've all been sick in my household and nobody is really hungry for much. My son must have asked every day if he could just have fruit for his meals and my daughter who could usually eat us out of house and home hasn't been to keen on meals this week. So we've been eating a lot of plain rice and pasta with raw fruits or veggies on the side, a lot of leftover soups from the freezer and yes even the last Campbell's we had in the cupboard. I think I only have about 5 cans of food left in there to eat one day and then it will all be gone!! I haven't bought any canned food, sauce, etc since we started this challenge and don't plan to.
On to the meal of the week that is post worthy, which was burritos we had for dinner Sunday night. I have started cooking beans A LOT since we gave up most non local meat but usually we eat them as is or in a soup. When we have burritos I just scoop the beans in whole and roll them up but my son usually says that's not a burrito and deconstructs his. So this time I decided to try my hand at refried beans and used a recipe from Rick Bayless: Mexico One Plate At a Time. Eventhough it is really just mashed up beans with some onion and garlic I am still pretty proud of myself that they came out good and my son ate his burrito whole! For some reason I always thought they would be hard to make but now I'm not scared anymore. The beans were from SunCoast Farms, the onion and garlic were from the farmers market and the avocado oil was from Bella Vado. I think what made them extra delicious to me was that I usually don't salt or season my beans at all and this time of course I did. I think I'm going to start experimenting with my beans now and adding a little something more than water when I cook them. I also attempted to make whole wheat tortillas, but that did not turn out as well as the beans. I found an EASY recipe in a hand me down old Whole Earth Cookbook that simply said mix flour, salt and water, knead till elastic, roll into balls, flatten into tortillas and heat on the griddle. LOL, not so easy for me. I have just started to actually knead a few products and I think maybe I just don't have that down. I mixed the ingredients, kneaded until I thought it was elastic and then wondered where I went wrong. As I split them into balls, they were slightly sticky and when I attempted to roll them into tortillas they stuck like glue. I was able to pull a few off the board and get them on the griddle, but they looked terrible and tasted not so yummy. Thankfully we had a few tortillas left over from the last trip to the market and my refried beans didn't go to waste. I piled the beans into the tortillas with Lundberg brown rice and topped mine with the last of my FireHouse Jack cheese and cilantro from the market. I just joined a new challenge over at Not Dabbling in Normal and my goal is to get good at tortillas, bread, crackers, bagels and english muffins this I guess attempt number 1 at tortillas failed, but I will be trying them again.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Dark Days Meal #15

This week for the Dark Days Meal I made a meatless chili with wheat berries and black beans. I picked up some wheat berries last week at the market and wanted to experiment with them this week so I was looking all over for recipes and found this great one from Eating Well. I had the beans and berries, but was short on the veggies needed so I took a rare Friday trip to the FM near my house. This was a perfect trip made for chili, one of the stands was selling baskets of overly ready tomatoes for $2 which I picked up so I didn't have to use canned tomatoes and the tortilla lady had HUGE bags of jalapenos in liquid for only $2 and I picked up those so I didn't need a can of chipotle peppers. I also got the garlic, onion, bell peppers, avocado and cilantro I needed. So Friday night I cleaned and soaked the beans and berries and saturday morning I cooked them both. This is only the second time I've cooked black beans, but there has to be a secret that I don't know. Both times they have come out hard, I taste them at 1 hr and they seem pretty good, but a little hard so I keep them in about 1/2 more and it seems they only get harder!? Being in the chili it didn't really matter, but this is something I'm going to have to figure out!
On to the wheat berries, they were great! I took half of them and made a great wheat berry pudding (like rice pudding). In place of the maple syrup I used one of my new favorite things, Brown Rice Syrup. I had seen this online and wanted to order some, but the s&h was more than the product itself! Then a month or so back my local Henry's started carrying it and now I use it for everything. I put it on my pancakes, in my tea and coffee, to bake with and to sweeten anything else that needs it. I love it!
So into the pot went all the yummy ingredients from the market, along with some of our special salt, and other seasonings. About 1/2 hour later dinner was done, well at least my dinner was done. I took a bite and it was much hotter than I expected, both kids still tried it but my son wanted nothing to do with it. My daughter kept her bowl with a few bites to sample, but didn't want more. It was even hot for me, though I admit I am a sissy with hot stuff. What made it bearable and extra delicious was the fresh avocado and cilantro on top, each cool bite followed by the rush of heat! I'm definitely glad I have enough for the leftovers! Also on top I grated a little bit of Spring Hills FireHouse Jack which is my favorite, but added even more heat! Now I have to figure out what to do with the rest of those jalapenos...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Dark Days Meal #14

Things have not gone as planned the past two weeks and I have also really not felt like sitting down at the computer and typing, but I also don't want to miss another week! I did eat dark days meals last week but none were photo or post worthy. I made another soup of squash, beans and greens which I think is one of my new favorite things! I also made other go to favorites: stir fry, salads and simple bean/rice burritos with veggies on the side. The kids were sick, I was busy researching blood orange marmalade recipes and rounding up the stuff I needed for my recent purchase of 20 lbs of oranges, and I didn't do anything elaborate in the kitchen. I will be posting soon about my canning mission that ultimately didn't work out...I never thought I'd have such a hard time before I could even get in the kitchen to make something.
This week, Week 14, I did make something post worthy I made a quiche. I love quiche and have made quite a few from my aunt's recipe but I always use a store bought crust and ricotta cheese. This time I switched things up, I decided to make my crust. I remembered seeing a fail proof crust recipe on Sustainable Eats ( I know I get a lot of help from here, but I gotta start somewhere and this is a great place to start) so I went and dug it up. I was advised to leave out the sugar for a savory dish, but I usually buy the graham cracker crust for my quiches anyways, so I figured I'd leave it all in. The eggs and lemon juice were local, the butter was Earth Balance, the flour was Bob's Red Mill and the salt, sugar and vanilla were what was in the cupboard (2/3 were organic/natural). The crust came out perfectly and it was wonderful for my quiche, sweet but not overwhelming like the graham cracker crust. I will definitely be using this next Thanksgiving and hopefully a lot over the summer when fruits come into season...there is a bounty of pies in my future! On to the filling, I chopped up an onion and couple cloves of garlic which I added to a skillet with some Earth Balance butter, I added to that some broccoli, carrots, spinach, and green bell peppers. After this cooked a few minutes I poured it into the crust, sprinkled some Tillamook cheddar cheese over it and then added my wet mixture of eggs from the FM, milk, salt and pepper and a dash of nutmeg. Although the seasonings were not local or organic the salt was special. My son tastes salt from Xroads at the FM every time we go and always asks if we can get some, a couple weeks ago I indulged him and bought some. It's a white sea salt, but soooo delicious especially sprinkled on top of cooked veggies, pasta, etc. They are a couple who reside in San Diego and have started this business of selling Philippine Sea Salts, and although the salt isn't local the couple is and they use sustainable practices and offer a delicious product at my favorite Farmers Market, Little Italy. So into the oven the quiche went and it came out screaming to be eaten. I love quiche!! I ate my quiche that night with nothing else on the plate, though my kids had rice and fruit on the side. The next day for lunch I made a wonderful salad to go aside the quiche. I used up the rest of the spinach and topped it with roasted beets, blood oranges and fresh walnuts from Terra Bella Ranch. Next week I plan to do something with the rest of all these blood oranges, besides juice and figure out something to do with the wheat berries one of my local farmers gave me. I had got wheat berries from Sage Mt. Farm some time back, but hadn't seen any since and hadn't asked since I have yet to purchase a grinder. Then lately I'd been reading up on sprouting wheat berries and all else you can do with them and to my suprise last weekend at the market there was a bag by the scale. I said are those wheat berries and she said "Yes, take them". I will find something to do with them this time and now that I know they will continue to have them a grinder might have to be my next investment.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dark Days Meal #12

Did I use meat for my Dark Days Main Course? No, it's a black bean burger courtesy of a recipe from SustainableEats. I had been waiting to try this for quite some time and when I finally did I realized it was pretty easy. My only problem was that when I was done mixing my ingredients in the food processor they were not quite solid enough to form a burger. I don't know if I did something wrong or didn't have enough of something, but it worked anyway. I simply poured the mixture in the skillet like a pancake mix and made patties that way. The beans, cilantro, onions and eggs in the burger were local from the market. The bread crumbs I used were from home made bread, but not local ingredients and the spices were not local. Because I ended up with a dry socket from my wisdom teeth extraction, I have had a really hard time eating bread so I attempted to eat the burger on some beautiful red lettuce I got from Sage Mt. Farm and it was delicious that way, but I couldn't stand all the juices running down and my arms and it was hard to bite a burger like that so I ended up eating this with a fork!! Next time I will definitely eat this on a bun!!
The burger toppings were sliced red onions, onion sprouts, green onions (we love onions and garlic in this house), avocado, and yellow tomato from the market and sliced house made pickles from The Linkery, a great farm to table restaurant that sells some good cured meats and other treats to take home. I had got some bacon from there as well that I was going to put on top, but we ate all the bacon before the burgers got made. My kids had these burgers with a side of Alexia fries, and some fruit...I just had the burger!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Dark Days Meal #11

I sat down to my dark days meal early this week, Monday to be exact. I went in to have my wisdom teeth out on Wednesday and I assumed nobody wanted to see pictures of smoothies and vegetable juice which would sustain me for the rest of the week. So on Monday, while my kids were both in school (new for me) I sat down to a great lunch while I caught up on some other Dark Day Challengers blogs. Over at Hippychick's Adventure she wrote a wonderful little post while describing her meal that almost matched what I had in front of me. It was beautiful to read and made my lunch that much better. I cooked some red onion and garlic in olive oil and a bit of balsamic vinegar (not local). After it cooked for 6-7 minutes I poured it over a salad of sliced cabbage, kale, snap peas, radishes, green garlic and garbanzo beans (all local and from the market). To make it a complete meal I then poured the salad on top of a bed of reheated Lundberg Brown rice and chopped up some hard boiled eggs to go on top. I'm still not back to 100% from having my teeth out, but I am ready for this salad again!

Dark Days Meal #10

WEEK 10!! This week we are back to a meatless Dark Days Meal, like usual. Well actually my kids did eat some grilled chicken with the potatoes and beans and I had the chard instead. The chicken was the last of our frozen supply of non local meat and I now refuse to buy any meat that does not meet my standards. We don't eat meat very often, so I don't think it will be a problem. I do have local pork, fish and chicken available at the market now and one of my favorite vegetable farmers, Phil from Sage Mt. Farms is going to have beef to purchase starting in March!! I am beyond excited for this! It has taken me longer to adjust to eating the local meat, simply because of the prices and my lack of money but I can no longer turn a blind eye to the animal industry and the disgustingness...I have been using up what we had and I can't even bring myself to eat it after I cook it and I have figured out a way to make it work for us. We don't eat much meat, so I figure I can buy one or two sources at the market every two weeks and make into a couple meals each week. I did that with ground pork we got last time and it worked well and wow was it yummy!! To supplement (which I should have been doing all along) we will eat more beans, which I will also buy 2 bags of every two weeks and use for the meals on the other days of the week. The soaking and planning had always put me off of purchasing more beans, but they are so easy and I realize I can just store them cooked in the fridge and then plug them into the equation when dinner rolls around. Annette over at SustainableEats also just mentioned that she freezes hers and that would make it even easier!

On to dinner...Dinner was just a collection of different things, but was very filling and delicious! I still had fresh potatoes that I quartered and roasted with carrots, rosemary, garlic and Olive oil. I also slightly sauteed a bunch of chard with green garlic and olive oil and to round out the meal heated up some pinto beans from my fridge and topped them with some shredded Tillamook cheese. Everything was local, except the cheese and the salt & pepper.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dark Days Meal #9

Is this week 9? It seems like it's been much longer than the number 9, but maybe that's because it's been 63 days!! Although I haven't produced any difficult, amazing culinary dishes I've realized that is not what it's about. I was worried coming into this challenge that my cooking skills weren't very advanced and I would be embarrassed posting my meals, but I have realized that this is not at all about what you create in the kitchen but what you use to create it. Reading the recaps and visiting the fellow challengers blogs has brought to me the realization that alot of the meals created by SOLE ingredients are simple, yet some of the most delicious meals we've ever had! This is because the ingredients are the best available to us and they taste best when you let their own flavors shine! I hadn't been to the Farmers Market in a few weeks and I was very excited to get down there again this past weekend, even if I was only going to find greens, winter squash, beets, apples and oranges...boy was I wrong. I came home with green garlic, green onions,garlic and onions, celery, sprouts, radishes,tomatoes, zucchini, wheatgrass, the BEST tangerines, limes, avocados, apples, oranges, grapefruits, lemons, purple broccoli, chard, kale, orange cauliflower, cabbage, carrots of all colors, of course squash and beets and POTATOES pulled form the ground the day before! The bounty I have access to living in San Diego is amazing! I do plan on growing a few things in containers again this year, but I have accepted that at this point I can only do so much myself. It doesn't bother me anymore that I can't have a full fledged garden and farm, I am happy to support my friends (the farmers) at the markets. They work hard at what they do and what I can do to support them makes me feel good and when I've taken some time away and return to smiling faces to see that they are just as happy to see me and the kids and be providing us with great food, as I am to see them and get some great food it makes it even that much better. My kids were just as excited as I was we were going to be taking a trip to the market, they were jumping up and down the night before talking about what we could get: eggs, honey, apples, almonds. My kids don't have a perfect diet of no processed foods or no junk, but at the same time they are learning for themselves what they like and alot of the time making great decisions. They ask more for fruits and vegetables than for chips and snacks, more for pasta, beans and rice than chicken nuggets or corn dogs. And they love knowing where their food comes from, they love to ask if that's the fruit from Matt (Lone Oak Ranch) and if I say yes they are even more excited to eat it! When we came home from the market, they sat down and simply ate a bowl of veggies: broccoli, tomatoes, celery, carrots and cauliflower with a little sour cream and peanut butter on the side. Knowing that feeding them good and making the right decisions is so easy, is very empowering and I am proud to be a growing member of this local food community! I am excited for the next steps I will take in becoming more involved with local programs and trying my hand at new practices of food preservation and I am excited for the strides that the local food community in San Diego is making. People are recognizing the need and the benefit of SOLE eating, cooking, and purchasing and the boundaries are expanding and I am happy to be a part of it. Just as I am happy to be a part of this challenge! The fellow challengers give me so much motivation and encouragement even if they are not directly talking to me and they are all a wealth of information (the google group is invaluable)! Thank you!!

Okay, now on to my Dark Days meal! When we got home from the market we ate tons of fruit and veggies, then my aunt came over and delivered enchiladas and tamales she had made. That made lunch and dinner. The next morning I decided breakfast would be my Dark Days Meal for the week, I had bought some potatoes from Sage Mt. Farm the day before that looked amazing and Justin had told me that they were just pulled out the day before and had never seen storage so I wanted to cook them up as soon as possible. I decide to shred the potatoes and try my hand at hash browns, I also rolled out some sausage patties from local ground pork I had purchsed at the market. To round out the breakfast I scrambled some eggs with green onion and green garlic and topped them with cilantro. Breakfast was delicious, the only thing I would change is how I cooked the hash browns. I cooked them in avocado oil which my kids love and actually drink on occasion, but they did not like the taste it gave the hash browns so next time I will simply use olive oil (eventhough I thought the flavored hash browns were good).

Ground Pork from Da Le Ranch
ginger and garlic salt....not local
Onion from Sage Mt. Farm

Potatoes from Sage Mt. Farm
Avocado Oil from Bella Vado

Eggs from Hilliker's
Milk from Organic Valley
Green onions from Sage Mt. Farm
Green garlic and cilantro from Schaner Farms
salt and pepper....not local

Tomatoes from Suzie's Farm

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Dark Days Meal #8

This week I needed some comfort food and my dark days meal came in handy for that. Not only did it work for a comfort meal, but my mac n cheese also was good enough that my kids enjoyed it and now they won't ask for the boxed version any more. Well they might ask for it, but I can come back with "I'll make some". The mac n cheese was not as local as I'd like, I'm still searching for the best milk and cheese for me and have yet to find any very close. The milk is Organic Pastures 350 miles away and the cheese was Tillamook. The noodles were organic, but not local and the salt, pepper, and paprika were not local. On the side we simply had steamed broccoli and raw carrots. Usually we steam both, but the kids have been asking for the carrots to be crunchy. It was a yummy, kid friendly dinner that was easy to make. I had a hard week and wasn't up for spending too much time in the kitchen. On to the next week...

Monday, January 4, 2010

Dark Days Meal #7

Week #7 already....and already I had a hard week. This week really opened up my eyes to what I should try to work on this year. I am a die hard farmers market shopper, who goes every weekend, gets my food for the week (with a few extras that'll keep longer) and cooks it. Besides that my involvment is limited. I had tomatoes and herbs growing last year, but no other garden. I live in an apartment and have very little space that gets good sun and being that most of my life I despised getting dirty, I didn't know much and messed up the other things I tried to grow. I don't preserve food in any kind of way and this week that is why I got into trouble. I hadn't gotten to the market during the holidays and couldn't again this weekend and had used up ALL of my food...Thankfully I had some Lundberg rice still in the cupboard and I had made another batch of bean/squash soup from last week, so I simply poured the soup over the cooked rice and added some local sun dried heirloom tomatoes from Schaner Farms. It was a delicious meal, but all week I felt dragged down about the food choices I had in my house. I realized I needed to try again at a garden this year, so I've been combing the catalogs looking for the best container seeds *If you know of any, please let me know*, and I realized I needed to start learning to preserve! I'm not sure all that that will entail, but I'm ready to learn and take the next step in my local food journey. I definitely will not have a harvest '0 plenty to put up myself, but I can definitely buy extra from my farmers and work with that. Again any tips, suggestions, advice you have, please share...because just like gardening last year I don't know anything and am starting from scratch. I will definitely keep you updated on my journey, and I feel wonderful going in to my next phase!