Friday, December 17, 2010

4th Annual Dark Days Challenge—Week 1

As in past 3 years, I will again participate in Urban Hennery’s Dark Days Challenge.

What is this Challenge? 4 meals a month focused on sustainable, organic, local, and ethical (SOLE) foods. For full details see this post. My definition varies from the posted standard in that I define local as 100 miles for food grown in the Chesapeake Bay region, up to 200 for the others. I plan to allow up to 10% to fall outside of that, with exceptions for certain things like salt, coffee, oil and a few spices as long as I can get them fair trade and organic. Also, organic doesn’t have to be certified, since most of the local farms are not, but it must represent the same or better in non-harmful and sustainable practices.

My first meal that met the challenge was a simple but tasty potato and beet hash with poached eggs from Cooking Light used up potatoes that I dug as part of the u-pick at the Great Country Farms CSA this fall as well as sweet potatoes that came in my box. Additionally I used beets, sage, onion, and brown eggs from the vendors at the Leesburg farmers market. I used non-local white vinegar even though I believe there may be a few local vinegar producers, because I have a large container of commercial vinegar that I got because I use it for cleaning and I the local apple cider and balsamic vinegar would provide too strong a taste to the delicate poached eggs. Additionally I used a little non-local oil and salt. This hash is so good that it has become my new standby for breakfast and diner and the leftovers go great as the centerpiece for my lunch at work. This picture doesn't do it justice.

My second meal was actually several variations of a smoothie using the frozen fruit which is how I preserved this summers extra CSA peaches, raspberries, cherries, blackberries, and strawberries. I used some local yogurt and apple cider from the farmers market and blended the heck out of it.  I know it seems funny to feature frozen smoothies in winter just as most of the country is getting hit with heavy snows and record lows, and I will admit that I had to stop drinking these on my way out to my car this week when it was in the 20s with wind chills in the single digits. But it is the perfect way to enjoy those summer flavors and have some fun with the food. I found I especially liked the peaches with the tart cherries…go figure.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Simple Woman’s Daybook

Outside my window...crickets chirp, albeit a bit slower than usual as the Hurricane has brought some welcome cool days and even cooler nights
I am thinking...that I wish I could find more time to sew and that I was better at it so that I could sew faster
I am thankful for...K eating her hot dog, even if she didn’t want it to begin with and threw a gigantic tantrum which ended up in a time out and a lecture before she calmed down and enjoyed the toasted wheat bread makeshift bun with, for the first time ever, absolutely no ketchup in sight and the by-her-request double servings of cinnamon drenched applesauce
From the kitchen...3 pints of creamed corn canned, 2.5 quarts grape juice strained and resting, 1 bag green beans roasted, 1 tray of roma tomatoes slow roasting in a 180 oven overnight
I am usual capri yoga pants and tank top, despite the chill temperature
I am creating...good smells from the kitchen
I am bed, hopefully soon
I am reading...The Core, chapter on math
I am hoping...the cool weather continues all week long
I am book on cd playing and occasionally skipping on the cd player, needs to be replaced soon and this time with something better than the cheapest thing on the shelf
Around the house...the floor is clean except for a cleverly designed Lego birds nest to mirror the one that k saw on our hike yesterday evening but was unable to replicate with colored pencil in her nature journal this morning which resulted in many tears and a stubborn insistence to see a real bird
One of my favorite things...a crispness to the air that makes me want to be crawling out of a tent in my pajamas with a  bad case of bed head to find that I need a jacket and mittens in order to open the hot chocolate packet to mix with my first cup o’joe fresh off the Coleman stove
A few plans for the rest of the week: Herndon Labor Day Wine (and now some beer!) Festival, School Orientation, First Day of School, a completely new routine to get used too
Here is picture for thought I am sharing...

Find more at The Simple Woman's Daybook. (

Sunday, August 29, 2010

1st canning of 2010

On a rainy Saturday I realized that with the garlic and sweet red peppers I had picked up at the farmers market and the tomatoes, peppers and onions I got in my CSA share I had the makings for some salsa. I had recently purchased the Ball Home Canning Discovery Kit, a pretty neon green plastic basket with handles meant to can small batches (3 jars) in regular old pots, so I set out to make the basic salsa recipes. I swapped out sweet red, red bell and a banana pepper for the spicier options in the recipes and used one roma that I had leftover from the store.  It went quite quick with the help of my electric hot water kettle to boil water to remove the skins of the tomatoes  and before I had imagined it I had 3 jars of salsa cooling on the counter. The measurements were precise, fitting in the three jars that came with the kit. I had forgotten to even taste how the salsa came out on canning day but I opened the first jar to serve with taco salad and it was perfect, sweet and mild like I like it.

While I was at it I diced up some of the over ripe peaches and mixed up 2 quarts of peach freezer jam that I intend to use as pie/tart filling in the fall.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Canning Citrus

I've challenged myself to take my canning to the next level by participating in the Tigress' can jam run by Tigress in a Jam (more info the challenge here). The theme for January was Citrus.

The obvious choice would be either a citrus marmalade or canning sections of citrus but since I don't really like either of those I was at a lose. After spending may rainy, drizzly, sleety weekend afternoons browsing my canning books I came across a couple of recipes in the Ball Complete book of Home Preserving that seemed worth a try: Cranberry-Oragne Vinegar (p277) and Honey-Orange Slices (p163). With the vinegar recipes was also a recipe for using the vinegar as a poultry marinade. I could use up the cranberries that I froze at thanksgiving and the last of my large jar of local honey that was starting to crystallize.

When I checked my supplies I found that I had used up most of my jars on a pantry full of stocks, jams and canned single ingredients but I had several dozen 4oz half jelly jars empty. Since I was likely going to be using the vinegar for dressings and marinades it was the perfect combo to make a bunch of single serving jars. I luckily also had just enough regular lids to match my needs.

The recipes calls for reducing 3.5 cups of cranberries to make 1 cup of juice and then simmering the juice with white wine vinegar, sugar and a cinnamon/clove spice bag. Once the sugar is dissolved you add in a reserved .5 cup of whole berries.

I found that I needed far more water than called for to make sufficient juice but that was at least partially due to the dehydration caused by freezing the berries. I also ran out of white wine vinegar so had to substitute about 1 cup of apple cider vineger which I actually rather like.

At the end, to jar up, you place an orange slice and a few of the whole berries in the jar with the vinegar and process in the water bath for 10 minutes.

For the honey orange slices you start with 2+ lbs of oranges and slice them thinly. This goes a lot faster if you get a seedless variety.

Cover them with water and boil for 10 minutes, or until the peel is soft, and then drain and set aside. Meanwhile, bring 1.25 cups of honey and the same of sugar to boil with 3 tbsp lemon juice and an allspice/cinnamon/clove spice bag until the sugar is dissolved and it makes a nice glaze.

Add the drained oranges back and simmer until the oranges are nice and glazed.  The smell is wonderful.

My only complaint is that the softened oranges started to fall apart if you stirred too strongly. I almost think the end product would be better without the pre-boiling but I don't know.

Anyway, you pack them up and if I had the time I might have actually arranged them nicely but as it is i just shoved them in, covered them with the syrup and processed them for 10 minutes.

Challenge months completed: 1 -- 2 recipes I would have never tried -- 14 jars (11 jars of vinegar and 3 jars of orange slices) on the shelf