The Dark Days have begun

It’s official. I am listed as a blogger participating in the Dark Days Challenge . I can’t decide if I’m more excited or nervous about it. The Dark Days Challenge involves cooking one meal each week using all local ingredients.  Local is normally defined as 100 miles, but 150 is allowed for winter.  I’m finding that living in Minnesota may mean I have to stretch that to up to 180 miles some weeks, but I’ll do my best.

I consider myself a rookie in both the blog writing and cooking local. I started my blog last March on a whim, just to see what it was like. In the past eight months it has been fun to write about what I cook, how my boys react, and a way to keep track of what we are up to. I’m a terrible mom in terms of baby books. I take a million photos, but I forget to write any details. I used to have a terrific memory, but four boys has zapped that out of me. I can track our lives through our meals and look back on how the boys are growing and changing. It’s been said a million times, but it all goes so quickly, and you don’t fully understand it until you are a parent.

As for the local food part, my journey has been gradual and each season I learn more. My first exposure came through shopping at the Farmer’s Market in my city. We lived six blocks from the market and it became our Saturday morning outing when Son #1 was a baby. We would shop at the market, play at the park and head home. It was casual and not intentional. About five years ago, I first starting hearing about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares.  I signed up for my first share four years ago, and although I liked it, I wasn’t very happy with the produce.  The next winter, after a lot of research, I chose a new farm and we’ve stuck with Hog’s Back Farm ever since.  If you are in the Twin Cities area and are looking for a CSA, check out Hog’s Back Farm.  They are wonderful!  Three years ago, I grew my first official garden (I had tried with little success at our previous house). Each year, I grow more and more.  This past year, I coordinated a community garden at our church, Bethany Covenant Church, and my sons’ Montessori school, Augsburg Park Montessori School.  The garden is called Bethany Gardens. It was a pretty successful inaugural season. It is a communal garden and we donated almost 300 pounds of food to our community and to local food shelves. This summer I also began buying meat from a local farm called Hilltop Pastures and I’ve had a hard time buying meat from a grocery store ever since. Most of my experience with local cooking has been strictly seasonal and I’ve found it easy to make meals with local food in the summer when produce is plentiful. I’ve never tried this in the winter and know it will truly be a challenge for me. I’m excited for the challenge and know I’ll learn a lot.  So, here it goes…

For the first week, I went straight to my nearest co-op because I wasn’t sure what to expect at this time of year. Meat and dairy will be a piece of cake. Veggies and fruit? I’m going to have to get creative. I decided for my first meal, I had to go with something familiar and was able to find all the ingredients for Pasta Carbonara, a family favorite.  It is Son #1’s most requested meal.  I was able to find locally made pasta, which was the one ingredient I wasn’t sure about until I saw the fettuccine that I often buy at the St. Paul Farmer’s Market.  The eggs, bacon, cream, parmesan, and garlic were easy bets for local items. I started feeling like I needed to branch out a bit and include some veggies.  Local veggies in Minnesota this time of year are most commonly root vegetables. I found some squash and some apples and searched for recipes while in the store (thanks to my Epicurious app).  I normally wouldn’t pair carbonara with squash, but I figured it was my first try, so I had to start somewhere.  The carbonara was delicious, but my boys did not eat well. The squash was barely touched by them. Son #1, my most adventurous eater has a long history of disliking any kind of squash. He once vomited at the table after eating it. I still make him taste one bite each time I make it, but this will be a battle for years to come.

I didn’t use a recipe for my carbonara. It is once of those things I just make, and it’s never quite the same, but always great. I do think the Cedar Summit Farm cream made it extra good this time around.  The squash recipe can be found at Epicurious, but I made substitutions. I did use curry as my spice exception. The recipe calls for apple juice and currants.  I left out the currants and instead of apple juice, I used local honey and some water and let that reduce.  The result was great (but don’t ask my boys about it).

Pasta Carbonara with Apple Filled Curried Squash

 

There it is. My first week. I’m feeling enthusiastic at this point, and promise to keep my future posts shorter. We’ll see what the next four months bring.

Cedar Summit Farm cream and local garlic

 

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3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Xan said,

    You journey is so similar to mine! What started with “hmmmm, what’s this all about” becomes a life style. Just a question–is your local pasta whole wheat, or semolina? I’m having a terrible time finding local semolina pasta (really don’t like the whole wheat stuff).

    • 2

      woohootofu said,

      The pasta I found is whole wheat, which is probably one of the reasons my boys didn’t eat it as well. I need to do more research on the flour available in our area. The next four months will certainly be an education.

  2. 3

    […] KittyCafe is foraging, and sending me tips on things to look for in the wild urban landscape! Woo Hoo Tofu! went bacon with a delicious looking carbonara. Preserved meats are an ancient solution to the Dark […]


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