Category Archives: Eat Local Challenge

Dark Days, Week 20: the last dinner!

This meal was a long time in the making.  Months!

I was a studio art major in college, and I stuck basically with two dimensions because the priest who taught the ceramics and sculpture department was terribly intimidating.  Ever since then, I have been a frustrated potter!  I finally tapped the urge last summer and took my first ceramics class at the local museum.  It’s been a blast, most especially because I AM AWFUL.  Truly.  Being absolutely bad at something yet still being able to enjoy myself immensely…all new territory for me.  No perfectionism, no fear of failure:  embrace the suck!  It is so liberating!

My first teacher asked us what we were expecting to achieve in her class.  “Making a cassole,” I said, when it was my turn.

I never did accomplish that, so I bribed my second teacher into making one for me.  Although he didn’t completely follow my exacting instructions, it’s a beautiful pot.  And tonight’s meal?  Cassoulet, bien sur.

Precooking the big beans:  big limas, small limas and runner beans


  • Four-bean, three-meat Cassoulet:  King of the Garden Limas, Henderson’s Bush Limas, Scarlet Runner beans, and flageolets precooked with a smoked ham hock from Providence Farms, a Lancelot leek, garlic, and bouquet garni (even the  bay leaves were local).  Seared, smoked duck legs and breast from our farm.  Potato sausage from my friend’s farm smoked with the Easter ham in our smoker (his potatoes, pig, salt/pepper)
  • Sorrel Soup (sorrel, homemade chicken stock, carrots, potato onions, a potato, a bit of garlic, finished with goat milk)
  • Leek galette (galette dough:  home-ground flour from Ferris Organics wheat berries, Creswick Farms lard; one monster Bleu de Solaize leek sauteed first in bacon grease)
  • Greenhouse salad (mache, spinach, kale, lettuces, green onions, shallots and garlic croutons from Friday’s bread; homemade buttermilk dressing
  • Apple galette (our apples, the above galette dough, nonlocal spices, Michigan sugar)
  • Local wine, a lot of it!

Ready for the oven

Notice the Most Excellent chicken pot holder my mother-in-law whipped up for me (atop the soup pot)

Served on my own dishes and bowls and wineglasses.  How’s that for homemade??

Dark days, Week 19

I am a bit confused:  it appears the Challenge ends on 31 March.  I thought it was a by-the-week thing, therefore ending at week 20.  I had big plans (BIG!) for the last week’s meal…the last of the Dark Days Challenge of eating sustainably, organically, locally and/or ethically for one meal per week all winter long.  Maybe I will post the meal next week anyway:  it has a lot of wacky goodness in it.

So I thought for this week’s Week 19 I would simply feature a meal sourced from home ingredients grown JUST this year (2010) but…inspiration hit me.  Literally!  My bag of saved corn husks from our home-grown popcorn dropped on my head from the top shelf when I was adjusting things in the pantry.  Luckily, corn husks aren’t heavy.

Brown paper packages tied up with string:  not pretty, not numerous, but…tasty and mostly home-grown

When I was in college, one of my best friends was a first-generation Mexican American whose people hailed from Oaxaca.  Homesickness for his mother’s Phoenix kitchen had us trolling for chow in the local Mexican restaurants…but he assured me the comida plated up in our Midwestern college town was but a simulacrum of honest food.  Well, I visited him, often, and he was so right!  And once, just once, I was fortunate enough to sample the tamales lovingly (painstakingly) made by his Mama and Abuelita.  “Labor of love” barely describes the ordeal undertaken by these women, both tiny things, in Mama Maria’s small un-airconditioned kitchen.  They would make 250 in a day, some for family, but most for their church…and they did this twice a month!

I can’t begin to scale up to that level, but with home-grown and local ingredients I can make an attempt at making at least a few.  I did have some cinnamon-laced Mexican chocolate brought back from a friend; why not make mole as well?


  • Tamales (our homegrown, home-milled Calico popcorn, with Creswick Farms lard, homegrown chicken stock, meat fillings, and wrapped up in homegrown corn husk wrappers) with either
  • Chicken (our chicken breast, poached and dressed with a garlic/Mexican oregano mash) and served with our canned Tomatillo Salsa (tomatoes, tomatillos, green bell and jalapeno peppers, vinegar, garlic, onions) with greenhouse cilantro and green onions or
  • Pork (shoulder roast from Providence Farm, braised in a bit of the above salsa and tomatoes; pulled, chopped) with Mole Sauce (mine didn’t have the usual 25 ingredients, more like 10:  the cinnamon/chocolate, ground/roasted local walnuts, bread crumbs from Wednesday’s bread, onion, garlic, more of our tomatillo salsa, dried homegrown paprika and jalapeno peppers, greenhouse thyme, oregano, and nonlocal cloves, salt, and pepper)
  • Greenhouse salad (of course)
  • Vanilla souffle (our eggs, someone else’s milk 😦 with Michigan sugar and nonlocal vanilla…no pics because my camera battery ran out

Okay.  That WAS a bit of a labor of love.  But:  I made the mole last weekend, the pork was leftovers from Wednesday night, and the chicken is terribly easy to cook.  With able small hands to help stuff and wrap, this was a fun meal to make and eat.


Dark days, Week 18

With a nip in the air but a Spring jig in my steps, I prepared a rib-sticking meal for St. Patrick’s Day on Wednesday.  Slainte!

The greenhouse side of the meal:  clockwise from bottom, thyme, parsley, turnips, leek, carrot, and some gorgeous chives


  • Irish Beef Stew with Parsley/Chive Dumplings: Stew meat (Providence Farms), our Purple Top and Gilfeather turnips, Mokum carrots, russet potatoes, Bleu de Solaize leek, wine vinegar and herbs; dumplings of Ferris Organics wheat berries, Creswick Farms lard, our milk, our parsley/chives
  • Colcannon: our potatoes, Des Vertus savoy cabbage, lacinato kale, fresh onion greens, garlic and goose fat
  • Greenhouse salad (mache/spinach/Brune d’Hiver lettuce) with buttermilk/herb dressing, Mokum carrots and Golden Self-Blanching celery
  • Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout beer for me!

Dark days, week 17

All that’s left is soup for today

Two more weeks in the Challenge!  And I am beginning to see the end of the Dark Days, myself; harbingers of spring are everywhere around me now.  There’s no denying it (and Daylight Savings helps).

This week’s meal was fairly boring, but:  if my husband and daughter had their way, we would have this every. single. day. and not just every week.  And excepting the flour in the bread, everything else was grown and raised on this little piece of land of ours.  We had a friend over and there was much wine involved so no photos were taken of the spread itself; luckily, dinner tonight is soup from last night’s carcass…all the better to cure the hangover I truly have right now.  Ay.


  • Butternut squash soup (one squash, one onion, our herbs)
  • Garlic-roasted chicken (our bird, garlic, and herbs)
  • Roasted root vegetables (carrots, turnips, beets, leeks from the greenhouses)
  • Mashed potatoes with chives and pan gravy (Burbank potatoes, garlic and regular chives, our milk(!); our cider vinegar to deglaze the pan; flour from Ferris Organics)
  • Whole-wheat sourdough bread (Ferris Organics hard red spring flour, my starter)

Dark Days, Week 16

Monster leek, lacinato kale, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme…

Busy life tending busy lifeforms:  one still needs to eat!


  • Savory Bread Pudding (ends of two homemade loaves from berries ground from Ferris Organics wheat; our eggs, the last of the milk share milk (hooray!); Bleu de Solaize leeks, garlic, thyme, sage, parsley, salt and pepper)
  • Herb-encrusted roast chicken pieces (our bird, our herbs) with pan gravy
  • Crunchy Kale Salad based loosely on this recipe (greenhouse Toscano/lacinato kale, mashed garlic, toasted bread crumbs from the above loaves; nonlocal EVOO and lemon from our lemon binge)
  • Vanilla pouring custards (milk share milk, Michigan sugar, our eggs, nonlocal vanilla bean)

Forgot to take a pic of the custards!  So quickly eaten…

Dark Days, Week 15

Five more weeks to go in this challenge! I am wondering if the Dark Days will truly end then…and is spring truly around the corner?  With new snow falling daily here, I am highly dubious.

To fit with the stereotype that all that can be eaten in winter are dull root veggies and cabbage, this week’s meal features…cabbage!

Slug-tattered but highly edible

In my quest to end root-cellaring certain items, I planted cabbage seedlings into one 3’x6′ greenhouse bed in early September.  I had just cleared it of its blooming lettuces, so I figured I would transplant about 12 and see if they made it through the winter.  (The twenty-odd other seedlings got transplanted outside and harvested while still small (3-4″ diameter) until the snow came and stayed in December.  This size, incidentally, is perfect for our small family:  not practical for kraut, maybe, but no waste.)  Well, the greenhouse cabbages did make it.  In fact, they continued to grow throughout the winter.  These were Des Vertus Savoy, a somewhat crinkly cabbage that can reach 5 lb. easily.  So, my root cellar this year houses ONLY potatoes!  No root veg, no cabbage.  Apples and pears on the back porch.  Whew, that was easy.


  • Bubble and Squeak (Mashed Burbank (russet) potatoes, Copra onion, Des Vertus Savoy cabbage, salt and pepper, fried up in homegrown goose fat)
  • Round Steak (Tenderized, marinated in salt/garlic/water/homemade red wine vinegar all day and then pan-seared; from Pekel Farm in Shelbyville)
  • Bitter greenhouse salad with roasted foraged walnuts (Giant Winter spinach, mache, mustard, Triple Purple orach, Italian Dandelion, arugula, red and green lettuces; chopped shallot and greens; buttermilk dressing from our milk share)
  • Pumpkin bread (Triamble squash, home-ground hard red spring berries, our eggs, buttermilk, Michigan butter, Michigan sugar, nonlocal baking spices and leavener)

Dark days, week 14

Tasty if not pretty

A bit of Michigan on the plate tonight!

Half of my family hails from the Lake Michigan coast of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  Both sides of my dad’s family had long history up there, mainly on islands of both Lake Michigan and Lake Huron as they were all fisherfolk if they weren’t lumberjacks. This is knowledge that comes to me, incidentally, from my own genealogical research and not family yore: Dad wanted nothing to do with his family and died when I was 13, so all tales and secrets and recipes died with him. Suffice it to say I have since filled in a lot of blanks, and I would hope that at least one or two of my ancestors had a recipe for pasty up their sleeves. If not they, then loads of other Yoopers know how to make them.

These are basically meat-and potato-filled turnovers. The typical recipe includes rutabagas, and so I did as well; carrots, celery, onion…no other spices other than salt/pepper is customary but, well, I adore my spices and so added a few. Supposedly these lunchbox pastries hail from the Cornwall-born coal- and copper miners who worked the U.P.’s northwestern mines in the late 19th century. Now you cannot drive 30 miles on any major road in the whole peninsula without hitting a tourist-y eatery that sells PASTIES (all caps always).


  • Pasties (crust:  home-ground hard red spring berries from Ferris Organics; lard and bacon grease from Creswick Farms; ground beef from the Pekel farm in Shelbyville; chopped side pork from Creswick Farms; Carola potatoes, Atomic Red carrots, Laurentian rutabaga, Clear Dawn onion, Golden Self-Blanching celery, sage/thyme/savory/parsley from greenhouses; salt, pepper.
  • Greenhouse salad with homemade buttermilk dressing (milk share milk, our shallot/garlic/parsley)