Category Archives: Eat Local Challenge

Dark Days week 13: we (heart) local

Blueberry waffles with blueberry syrup is a great way to start the day

I’m posting this before I even make the meal:  is that cheating?  No, it’s beating the posting deadline!


For Valentine’s Day, the girl and I got up early to harvest a Monster Carrot.  It’s been a gorgeously sunny weekend, so the greenhouses are quite warm:  warm enough to pull off the Reemay covers and let that sun shine in.  (I spent a lot of the weekend just puttering around in there:  who can blame me, working in a t-shirt in February?)  This carrot, a Long Keeper storage carrot, is the main ingredient in tonight’s carrot cake.

Don’t discount fresh herbs:  they add a substantial kick to what I consider The Good Life.  Par-cel cutting celery (a nice cross between parsley and celery) grows nicely year-round in the greenhouses

And while we were in there, I harvested a bunch of different herbs for the marinade for the evening’s main course.  Morning is often when I start making dinner. When the girl and I made the waffles, I also started a batch of no-knead whole wheat bread, thawed the roast, and started a new batch of buttermilk.  Then, with our carrot and herbs all cleaned up from the greenhouse, she peeled a head of garlic while I stripped the thyme and rosemary from their branches and pounded them, along with a large bunch of the par-cel cutting celery, salt, pepper, olive oil, and homegrown paprika, making a nice paste to coat the pork loin roast.  Fresh herbs are marvelous, and thyme, parsley, rosemary, sage, and savory keep green and ready all winter in the greenhouse.

Alice Waters has a wonderful method for braising those tougher cuts of meat like a shoulder or loin roast.  Including the long marinade, the roast is cooked in a low (350 degree) oven and flipped quite often in its half-bath of cut-vegetable filled broth.  It alternately caramelizes and tenderizes the meat that way, and the resultant pan juices make a wonderful gravy.

The greenhouse’s leeks are thickening rapidly and are quite sweet, so lots of them are finding their way into most savory dishes lately.  Tonight’s treatment was in a milk bath with radicchio.  The milk calms the bite of these chickory hearts, and sweetens the leeks.  Two leeks and one radicchio are halved, quick-seared in brown butter in a skillet, then baked in a casserole and bathed in an herbed cream.  A quick trip under the broiler at the end caramelizes their tops.


  • Blueberry waffles with blueberry syrup for breakfast (Ferris Organic flour, our eggs, homemade buttermilk from our milk share, nonlocal butter, and blueberries from a half mile away; syrup made from the same batch of blueberries with Michigan sugar)
  • Greenhouse salad with homemade buttermilk dressing (milk share milk, our shallots and herbs)
  • Braised loin of pork (Amish-raised piggy, above marinade from greenhouse herbs, Copra and red onions, Chantenay carrots, red potatoes in the broth)
  • Oven-braised Bleu de Solaize leeks and Treviso radicchio in cream
  • No-knead sourdough whole wheat bread (Ferris Organic flour, my sourdough starter)
  • Carrot cake (Ferris Organic flour, our eggs, our buttermilk, our carrot, Michigan sugar; nonlocal spices and cream cheese for the frosting)
Sue J. Smith / LeAnn Morales
Environmental Sciences Technology Program / Calhoun Area Career Center
475 E. Roosevelt Avenue
Battle Creek, Michigan 49017
(269) 968-2271 ext. 5254
(517) 712-8097 cell

Dark Days week 12

Serious child minding the crepe.  It’s a glorious, wonderful, spectacular day when your child becomes tall enough to reach the stove unassisted!  It also means she can turn on the kitchen faucet and load the dishwasher.

Illness has visited our house this week, so Saturday night it was just the girl and me eating solid foods.  And, as is typical, I revert to my vegetarian ways when I don’t need to feed my husband, so…the girl and I made crepes.  Crepes are wonderful.  They can be savory, they can be sweet, they can be in-between.   And they hide all manner of leftovers, should you have them.  Leftovers, or food failures, as was the case with the feta I made this week, which came out decidedly unset and lumpy (oh it tasted fantastic, the texture was off), so melted with a little butter and milk, it became the topping for the crepes.


  • Whole-wheat crepes (milk share milk, our eggs, Ferris Organics wheat berries, Michigan butter)
  • Choice of fillings: our leftover oven-roasted chicken with sauteed Bleu de Solaize leeks for the girl; Grex beet greens/Bleu de Solaize leeks/white onions for me
  • Feta/cream sauce topping (milk share milk)
  • Big greenhouse salad (carrots, turnips, lots of arugula and mache; homemade yogurt/shallot/parsley dressing)
  • Applesauce for dessert (our apples, Michigan sugar)

Cropped photo so you can’t see the unpretty feta sauce

Dark Days, Week 11

Bean carnage

Let’s just say our meal this week is terribly…beany.

Gosh, I think I have even posted about beans, what, twice before for this challenge?  Three times, maybe?  We do love our beans, it is true; probably one dinner a week is Beans.  That leaves six other meals per week that I could choose from that are Not Beans, pretty good odds!  I have a couple of things to say in my defense, though.

Mainly, it’s a bit of a crazy week.  Our daughter turns 6, and every day, it appears, there’s something else to be done to aid the celebration.  There are at least three meals that are directly birthday-related (food is love) and sadly not all of them will be Dark Days-worthy…or they would be if Michigan grew chocolate.  But!  My husband wanted to cook (is the sky falling?  was that just a pig I saw flying?  did hell freeze?) and he said he wanted to make some beans.

A LOT of beans, it turns out!  And:  I was so shocked I forgot to photograph it.


  • Cuban Black Beans: our Black Turtle beans, Turino red (sweet) pepper, Hungarian (hot) ground red pepper, Copra onions, garlic, nonlocal cumin/pepper/salt, and greenhouse thyme and my friend’s greenhouse bay leaves.
  • Baked Beans: our Navy beans, Copra onions, garlic, Golden Self-Blanching celery, smoked pork belly, local honey, and a friend’s maple syrup.
  • Biscuits: home-milled hard red spring wheat, butter, home-made yogurt from our milk share.
  • Greenhouse salad with homemade, homegrown yogurt dressing (yogurt, shallots, apple cider vinegar, parsley, applesauce with Michigan sugar).

Dark days, Week 10

I’m cheating this week by showing you something I made for dinner last week.

Oxtails:  The majority of Americans just have never eaten them, despite their high overall beef consumption. As a newly-returned carnivore, I was shocked by how much meat cost, even the “cheap” cuts of meat!  Sixteen years of not having a “meat tax” on my budget…let’s just say life as a veg was cheaper.  S0 as a carnivore I’m predisposed to be cheap, or, rather, thrifty. Well.  This means I’m not afraid to try new-to-me cuts, and oxtails were a revelation.  So much flavor!

Of course by cheap I don’t mean cuts from cruelly treated feedlot animals.  Nope.  We buy our beef and pork by the quarter and half, respectively, from small farmers who pasture their animals, raising only a few per season.  By ordering these quantities, you can usually have your say about how you want the meat processed (lots of chops, say, or more ground) AND if you are adventurous, you can request the odd bits that the butcher usually just takes as his, er, cut of the cuts.  Like oxtail, which is simply the tail of a steer.  In my last beef order, I asked for it: and got all 3!  It seems nobody else wanted it so the farmer sent all the tails to my order, gratis.

So maybe Americans don’t eat it much (hey: more for me at the butcher), but leave it to thrifty folks like the French (indeed) and Koreans (among others, of course) to really know how to use oxtail.  Pot-au-feu is a double dish:  a beef broth, then a meat dish; pho, likewise, often utilizes oxtail to give it its strength.  Many French recipes do suggest oxtail be used for two meals.  Gotta like THAT kind of meat thrift.

Singularly unattractive photo


  • Gnocchi in Oxtail Ragu: Russet potatoes, winter white flour in the gnocchi.  Roasted cut-up oxtail, braised in red wine then stewed in our tomato sauce with our celery, onion, garlic, and herbs.  Recipe very loosely based on this one.
  • Mokum Carrots, julienned and pan-roasted in brown butter and thyme
  • Greenhouse salad
  • And the rest of that red wine, a Meritage.


Dark days, week 9

Throughout this Dark Days challenge, I never go into each week thinking:  Tonight’s dinner is IT!  Time to post! Nope; it’s more like, what’s photogenic? I have, quite honestly, tried very hard not to show off for this challenge.  No real food pyrotechnics or frankly anything terribly difficult for someone with less-than-average kitchen skillz; what’s the point?  There’s enough to do just growing all this stuff, people!  AND:  that’s what I am trying to get you all to do:  get out and GROW IT!

bread and buttah

Tonight’s fare is, again, very simple.  This morning, I started the bread on a fast no-knead schedule (normally, 12-18 hours, I went with 6: just up the yeast!) so I could take advantage of the sprouting spelt berries I had growing on the counter.  Thinking, “what goes well with bread,” I retrieved a can of “bean starter” from my stash of canned goods and started some soup.

I’m always so happy when I can my dried beans for quick meals:  there are jars of black bean/carrot/onion, black bean/tomatoes/peppers, lentil*/kale/carrot/onion, and white bean/kale/onion, as well as just plain jars of beans downstairs.  I canned them in my pressure canner:  I would make the bases when I was making some other bean-y dish; I would chop a whole bunch of stuff and then, in a couple wine-besotted evenings with a friend, canned them all.  All I need to do now, then, is harvest something to augment one of those jars, or…open more of my own cans to create soup, chili or whatever.

Makes dinner really a no-brainer on those days I have no brain.


  • No-knead loaf: half winter red, half winter white wheat ground up in my brand-new mill (!!) with sprouted spelt berries
  • Stew-y soup:  Black bean/carrot/onion starter, canned from our produce last October; one Mokum Red carrot, one Chantenay carrot, Red Russian kale, Lacinato kale, Par-Cel cutting celery and one Bleu de Solaize leek, all from the greenhouses; garlic from storage; homemade red wine vinegar to finish, with butter.
  • Salad:  Lots of reds in this salad, mostly lettuce.  Vinaigrette made with our vinegar, herbs, shallot; nonlocal olive oil (duh!) and mustard.  Nonlocal but home-sprouted alfalfa.

*Lentils are the only thing not home-grown.  With only 2 beans per pod, good golly who has that kind of time to shell them!

Dark days, Week 8

Today we put our muscles into our dinner!  This dinner illustrates three things:  one, how to feed a family of 3 on one little chicken breast; two, how delicious a non-rice pilaf can be, and three, how sometimes it’s too cold to go outside to fetch a salad.  Thus, the pantry/freezer meal.

She’s wondering if she can make dimples with the end


  • Chicken breast prosciutto-free saltimbocca (thin-sliced chicken breast smashed into submission with rolling pin, dredged in flour and quick-sauted in butter; gravy from the drippings of garlic jelly, homemade white wine vinegar, hard white wheat flour and thyme)
  • Blue Coco green beans from the freezer
  • Spelt berry “pilaf” (butter, Copra onion, Golden Self-Blanching celery, Par-cel cutting celery/thyme/sage/oregano, in chicken stock)

Dark Days, Week 7

One thing you need to realize about dinner in this house, ANY dinner, is that it’s a bit of a process.

First, there’s the harvest, then the impromptu semaphore dance with the leeks.

Then, there’s the lengthy discussion about meat or no meat in this dish:  we went with meat.

Then, unseen, the kitchen fairies made pate brisee.  Salad.  Soup.  Galette, and pie.


  • Mache salad with Long Keeper carrot, toasted scavenged walnuts and non-local but homemade mustard vinaigrette (our herbs, shallots)
  • Chicken soup (our bird, Scarlet Nantes carrot, Golden Self-Blanching celery, Copra onion, our herbs)
  • Leek galette (2 Bleu de Solaize leeks, one cube smoked pork belly, thyme; spelt flour/butter crust)
  • Pumpkin pie (spelt flour/butter crust, Amish Pie pumpkin, our eggs, cream from our milk share, and nonlocal spices)