Friday, December 31, 2010

Dark Days Challenge No. 4

It's a pot roast that was cooked in my crock pot. Usually it takes about eight hours. But we had a power failure on Sunday afternoon so the pot roast got its final cooking on Monday afternoon. Actually that turned out to be better. Lia, a puppy raiser for Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) who lives in Reno, was in the area to have her CCI breeding dog Darlan x-rayed. We invited Lia, Darlan and Lia's friend Frank over for dinner.

Darlan and Harleen had dog food. Darlan delivered 12 puppies on Dec. 29th, right on schedule. Each puppy weighed at least one pound. Darlan is a small Labrador retriever so this was quite a load for her to carry. Everyone is doing fine. In eight weeks the puppies will visit us on their way to being turned in to CCI in Santa Rosa, CA.

Back to the pot roast. The meat came from a local ranch. Potatoes and carrots from the farmers market in Auburn. The onions used were ones I dried last summer. Never dry onions in your house. The whole house smelled. I finally put my dehydrator out on the back deck. Much better. The sauce was local white wine mixed with local honey. The honey gave everything a nice glow.

I topped everything off with local shitake and oyster mushrooms that I sauteed in butter, which was not local. So that's my final dark days challenge meal of 2010. On to 2011. It's already in the crock pot.
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Friday, December 17, 2010

A Chicken With SOLE

This is meal three of Dark Day Challenge. It was pretty simple. A roasted chicken and a baked potato. But sometimes the simplest is the best. Kerry calls this comfort food.

We get our chickens from a local ranch so they are moist and tender. This one weighed 3.6 pounds.

I made a paste of unsalted butter with sage and chives from my garden and sea salt and ground pepper. Gently pulling away the chicken skin, I spread the butter and herbs underneath. It's a bit tricky and you have to go slowly or you tear the skin, but it can be done.

Baked potatoes were, well, baked until the skins were crispy. I love to eat the skin. This time Kerry did too. The sour cream was not local but it was Rbst-free.

I'm hoping to get one more meal in before we leave for Christmas next Tuesday.
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Sunday, December 12, 2010

DDC Meal Two

I didn't think that I would be able to do a second meal so soon; being on antibiotics has not exactly enhanced my appetite or my desire to cook. But tonight I took the last of the pills so felt invigorated. My sentence had been served.

Pork tenderloin is something I have never cooked. My parents used to take me to a place (actually a dive called Fred Grobe's Grill) in north Minneapolis where they served pork tenderloin sandwiches. I remember them as being delicious.

Bob at Coffee Pot Ranch had pork tenderloins so I gave it a whirl. First of all, they are incredibly tender. I coated them with a creole seasoning and then braised them in olive oil. Then into the oven for a bit and then I topped the meat with a sauce of honey (local from a mandarin orange grove), Dijon mustard and soy sauce.

While all this was happening, I was baking yams. So the final meal was pork tenderloin (Coffee Pot Ranch), yams from the farmer's market and a local chardonnay from Fawnridge. My absolute favorite chardonnay. Life just doesn't get much better.
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Friday, December 10, 2010

Field Trip To The Mushroom Farm

We went a little crazy buying mushrooms at the farm. From left: oyster, portabello, and shitakes.

Mushroom Adventures has been around for about 15 years. We discovered them when they appeared at the Auburn Farmers Market this year. Today we got a tour of the place and saw how each of these grow. It reminded me of field trips when I was in school.

They sell mushroom kits so you can try growing your own. Nina, our tour guide, said the shitakes are the hardest to grow. They grow from what looks like a large brick of compost that is made up of hay and chicken manure. Pretty disgusting looking bricks but from them grow these wonderful mushrooms. If you are interested, check out their web site: They ship kits via Fed Ex. But they don't ship mushrooms.

In addition to information on the kits, the web site also has recipes. Mushrooms keep well in the refrigerator as long as they are in paper bags. No plastic for these babies. No need to worry about contamination from the manure; the compost is heated to a high enough temperature to kill off the bad things before the mushroom spores are added.

These babies are going to be part of nearly every meal between now and when we leave for Christmas with Kerry's family in Washington.
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Dark Days Challenge: Meal One

Here's dinner before I cooked it: meatloaf and chard.

I don't think I've ever made meatloaf the same way twice. Yesterday I decided to try to spice it up a bit. (I'm originally from Minneapolis so didn't grow up with much spiciness.) We usually don't cook this much meat at once, but I love meatloaf sandwiches so made a big one.

The meatloaf consists of ground beef, ground pork and Basque lamb chorizo removed from the skin. All came from local ranches. I added the usual eggs, also from a local ranch, bread crumbs from local bread gone stale, and Annies organic ketchup. Seasonings included sea salt from France, smokey Spanish paprika and pepper. This was my first time using this type of paprika so I didn't add much. Will probably increase the amount next time.

The chard came from our farmers market. I sauteed it in local olive oil and apple cider vinegar (not local). The vinegar gives it just a hint of a bite.

I've been reading comments from Dark Day newbies. I commend you for your determination to stick to all things local. I am a bit more relaxed about the word "local." I apply it stringently to rice, bread, meat, eggs, fruits and vegetables. I live in Lincoln, CA so it's a lot easier here than in the upper peninsula of Michigan.

Condiments are another matter; I like to experiment with seasoning and much of the time that seasoning is not local. Also, I don't have much opportunity to use local butter but I make sure that it's free of a cow's worst enemy, Rbst. We are going to northern Washington for Christmas so I will stop by Golden Glen Creamery in the Skagit Valley and buy a bunch of their butter and cheese.

Not sure if I will get another meal in before next Wednesday; still fighting the antibiotic-induced nausea.
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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Oh, Canada, I am Pissed!

I thought I had discovered an economical way to order two of my asthma prescriptions for which there are no generics: Advair $311 per month and Singulair $200 per month. I'm in the Medicare "donut hole" so they are not covered right now. (It's a long story; don't ask). The first Advair order came without a hitch. It was $159 for a month's supply. Nice. said it would take 10-12 business days to arrive. That meant my last order should have been here on Dec. 6, last Monday.

It didn't arrive; when it didn't arrive the next day I called the 800-number. While the company says it's in Vancouver, Canada, that doesn't mean that's where they buy the drugs. My Advair comes from "the United Kingdom, said the person on the phone." He added that bad weather, higher security and the holidays had delayed my drug.

I pointed out that he represented a pharmacy that supplied medications to people who needed them; he did not work for Nordstroms. Actually Nordstroms would have cared more about a lost order than this guy.

Turns out when you call and place your order, they tell you where it's coming from, but when you place it online (as I did) you are not told this. So now it might arrive this week. Meanwhile I'm out of Advair. I finally hung up the phone and fumed. That's one thing about cell phones, you can't slam the receiver down and blast the listener's eardrum. Pushing "end call" is sort of anti-climactic.
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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

On Your Mark, Get Set, Go

It's the first day of the annual Dark Days Challenge, which is brought to you by Laura of The photo is from last year's challenge. I haven't made my first meal yet for this challenge. Even if you didn't sign up you can still play along for as much or as little as you want. Cook one meal each week where as many of the ingredients as possible are Sustainable, Organic, Local, and Ethical (SOLE). The challenge ends April 15, 2011. No prizes at the end, just the knowledge that you have cooked wholesome food for your family and friends.

The food pictured above was for a meatloaf and scalloped potato dinner. The cheese and ketchup were not local. I like to buy Tillamook cheese (comes from Oregon) because the company does not feed its cows the growth hormone Rbst. The ketchup is organic but not local. Everything else came from the farmer's market or the meat club we joined a couple of years ago. We get our pork, beef, chicken, lamb and eggs from local ranches and farms. Even the wine is local; Lucchesi is out of Grass Valley.

Tonight we are having London Broil that will be marinated and barbecued and oven-roasted broccoli. Pretty simple dinner, but it qualifies as my first of the new challenge. See, it doesn't have to be complicated just as much SOLE as possible. Hope you will give it a try over the next few months.
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