Not only is it already March, but the month is nearly half over. Yikes! I got sucked into a black hole of sick household members and even less sleep than before that led me to not be able to type anything coherent but instead simply stare at the computer screen and try not to drool whenever I’ve had a couple of free moments to myself. I’ll try to do better.
What have you missed? I took the lazy man’s path and stopped doing the Dark Days Challenge when the host became unable to keep up with the round-ups due to circumstances in her own life. We continue to eat locally, I just am not making any effort to be creative or branch out from our regular recipes. I did plan to post about the soup I made in the summer that we recently ate from the freezer, and the recipe is this: make leek and potato soup, dilute with a bit more water, add pre-cooked chopped kale and a can of white beans at the end (and probably more salt; I use the mushroom seasoned salt that we get from our farmer). It’s good, and makes for more of a meal than regular leek and potato soup. I also made macaroons, since I was craving the ones I’d had in Portland with dried apricots, pecans, and a dark chocolate bottom. The macaroons were delicious, and I managed to make them last a whole week (!) by putting them in the freezer. I need to remember that option for future cookie cravings, because I love to make them but really don’t need to eat quite so many at a time.
What else? I managed to get outside and clean out the garden beds in the front of the house, so now the daffodil sprouts can actually see the sun. The crocuses are up, and I’m looking forward to seeing which daffodils bloom; you never know which ones will survive both the replanting and the hungry squirrels. I’ve been working on my garden plans for this year, but they really deserve their own post. (Stay tuned!)
Finally, politics are driving me a little nuts these days. On the local level, I was heartened by the way our surrounding neighborhoods embraced a rally in opposition to the Westboro Baptist Church (my favorite sign said, “Thanks for bringing the community together!). On the national and state level things are pretty sucktastic, as I don’t need to tell you because you’re an educated person who reads the news, right? Local delegates tried to play politics and sank Maryland’s equal marriage bill: I hope no one votes for anything those two people support for at least a decade (because I’m sleep-deprived, and that makes me surprisingly petty). All the money we have left after donating to NPR, Planned Parenthood, and the unions is being squirreled away so that we can live during the impending (Freudian slip: I nearly typed “impeding”) government shut-down. After using my energy taking care of the sprout, I have absolutely none left for filtering or using polite language: it’s gotten a little sailor-ish around these parts. Thank mother nature for oxytocin, I cannot imagine how much crabbier I would be about all of this without the mama hormones. (Of course, I’d have orders of magnitude more uninterrupted sleep, so maybe it would balance.)
And now: back to thinking about spring and daydreaming about the garden!
I’m not sure who else is still cooking in the Dark Days Challenge, but I am sticking with it and hoping to be more creative again in the second half. My Week 10 meal was another one from the freezer: we had bhindi masala that I made in the summer with the okra from our CSA. I am not a big fan of okra; this is the only thing I make with it and it barely makes the “not so slimy” cut. We had it with brown rice and roasted sweet potatoes. The pictures in the linked post are old (they show our old plates!) but it does (sort of) include the recipe for a change. And yes, it’s another thing I made in my dutch oven, although nowadays I just make it in my second favorite pan (the 4-quart sauté pan) because it really is not that voluminous.
Lately, we have everything with roasted sweet potatoes because we have a cupboard (still) full of sweet potatoes. I’m thinking that pretty soon here I’m going to cook and purée some for the freezer, which will allow us to have sweet potato pie in the future. I’m sure there are other things I could make with sweet potatoes, and once I find out what they are you’ll be the first to know.
This challenge is getting challenging! Having used up my go-to recipes, I am now having to get creative and I just didn’t have it in me last week. So, I went to the freezer for our Week 9 meal. We had red lentil coconut curry, which sounds like it has nothing local in it at all, right? Wrong! It is the best recipe I’ve found for using the end-of-season CSA vegetables, and another favorite from Simply In Season: it’s chock full of onions, garlic, cauliflower, cabbage, and sweet potato. Throw in some frozen peas at the end and you’re done; preferably ones you set aside in spring, but fresh peas never make it to the freezer in our house so commercial organic ones will do. The tomato paste and coconut milk are clearly non-local, but I give them a pass since the recipe uses up such a whopping pile of veg as a whole. Since this was the from the freezer, there was little to document but I dug out some photos that I never posted (because of the poor quality, as you can see) of a batch in 2007. Good enough for freezer cooking!
The cabbage and sweet potato for the stew.
Pile o’ cauliflower.
Everything in the pot.
All cooked up and about to get peas.
I have to admit, I am struggling with the Dark Days Challenge at the moment. Things would be a lot easier (I tell myself) if I were eating dairy: I’m imagining turnip gratins and all kinds of quiches. However, dairy is not to be until sometime next year, so we’re making do. The Week 8 meal is not that creative, but it’s entirely representative of many of our winter meals: a favorite recipe for spiced chicken breasts, the cornbread recipe from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant (adapted to use white whole wheat flour, whole grain corn meal, and rice milk), and roasted turnips and radishes (a white and green kind that is new to our CSA this year). The only new thing about this meal is that I actually ate some radishes this year, instead of just letting them wither in the crisper until they were ready to become compost!
Roasted turnips and radishes.
Spiced chicken breasts.
For Week 7 of the Dark Days Challenge, I relied once again on the venison in our freezer. I made chili for our meal, which was a first for me. I used: tomatoes from the freezer (grown by the wife of the person who provided the venison and processed and frozen by my mother on her early autumn visit); the sweet Italian peppers from our CSA that I packed in oil and stored in the fridge during the first week of this challenge; and some of the Garlic Fire Sauce that comes in our CSA every winter (we have an open bottle in the fridge and two in the cupboard as we are not big hot sauce people). I supplemented that local foundation with organic onions and garlic from the store, Frontier chili powder, some local honey, and two cans of Eden organic black beans. (I drooled over the beans article in the most recent issue of Organic Gardening, and am definitely going to seek out sources for local dried beans this year. In the meantime, I rely on the Michigan company that uses BPA-free cans.)
The tomatoes and peppers.
The chili was really tasty: we had it for dinner and I froze a couple of containers for later. Just pretend (again) that I made cornbread to go with it.