Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dark Days - Meal 2

Thanksgiving Dinner!

I was scheming for a totally local Thanksgiving before I even came across the Dark Days Challenge, but once I was signed up, my search for local ingredients to fill my menu became more serious. I managed to round out a pretty nice meal with only one giant cheat dish for the hubby.

The meal:
turkey (weighing in at 16.01 lbs)
candied butternut squash with bourbon (tweaked the sweet potato recipe I found over at eat make read)
purple mashed potatoes
apple cranberry relish
gravy made from turkey drippings and a bit of wine
cheat dish: green been casserole
my mom's stuffing (recipe to follow)
wine: Burnley Vineyards Chardonnay from Barboursville, VA

There were only three of us for dinner this year. Since our stay on the east coast began, we have been unable to afford the $800+ plane tickets (total for two) to Omaha for Thanksgiving with our families. One year my family came here for a visit, another year we made a meal for 20+ with our neighbors at the time. This year a good friend of ours, who just started his graduate degree at Emerson in Boston, made a similar discovery about airfare home. Thankfully, a train ticket from Boston to Baltimore does not break the bank.... so it's three for dinner.

The turkey was raised by Locust Point Farm in Cecil County, Maryland. Purchased through Mill Valley (we put down a deposit in October), our turkey was picked up on Wednesday, fresh and ready to go (never frozen!). Dave ended up taking charge of the bird so I don't know the details, but I do know he stuffed some cut-up apples and an herb bundle in the cavity, and roasted it in an oven-safe bag. Some herbs were ours, but most were from a bouquet gifted to me by the parent of a teen I supervised through work. It was such a sweet gesture, especially the week of Thanksgiving.

We didn't have any local sweet potatoes left, but did have squash, so I just made an even swap in the recipe linked above. I must say - the end result was rather bourbon-y! Even our vegetable-averse visitor thought it tasty enough to keep sneaking additional bites. Bonus: the bourbon I used was hand-carried home from Kentucky, one of our gifts to ourselves on our honeymoon a few years back.

The mashed potatoes were purple because that's what we got from the CSA. Rather comedic - and made me think of the crazy marketing idea awhile back to make ketchup crazy colors like purple and green. Like you need to make ketchup crazy colors to get kids to dip their fries in it!?! I always assume One Straw Farm grows an oddly large amount of purple varietals since we're in Raven's football territory... but it could also be to get kids to try new veggies.

The apple cranberry relish was made back in February(!), all ingredients from the Winter Buyer's Coop at Mill Valley. I must have frozen half the batch and forgot about it, but that came in handy when I saw it was going to be $8 for a tiny container of local cranberries fresh this past week. Thank goodness for forgotten freezer stores! All I had to do was thaw and serve.

I could have just not mentioned that I made a green-bean casserole completely from big-store pre-packaged products - but I'm only cheating myself if I try and pretend it wasn't there. I also offered to make a local version from scratch (completely doable in my book), but marriage is all about compromise, right? The hubby would have eaten the local from-scratch version, but he wouldn't have been happy. And so there it was. Recipe available on the label of the French's fried onion package.

My mom's stuffing recipe is a classic. Even when I was a vegetarian in high school I pretended the sausage in the stuffing wasn't there so I could still eat it. It's just that good. Here's the classic recipe (although I did adjust the scale - this is 1/4 what my mom usually makes which is enough for in & out of the bird stuffing) with my adjustments to fit the SOLE requirements:

Linda's classic Thanksgiving stuffing
(fills a 8x8 baking dish)

2 celery stocks, chopped
1 onion, chopped
(I added 1 cup finely chopped mushrooms)
1/2 loaf of bread, toasted and cubed (I used 3 leftover challah rolls from a local bakery)
4 oz. sausage (I used sage sausage from a farm in Mt. Airy, MD), crumbled & browned in a saute pan
2 oz. butter
4-6 oz. chicken broth
1/4 TBS black pepper
1/4 TBS garlic powder
1/4 tsp poultry seasoning (I use salt-free)

Melt butter in bowl in microwave.
Add celery, onion (and mushrooms) and microwave on 70% power for 5-8 minutes covered, until translucent.
Combine all ingredients in 8x8 pan and bake for 15-20 minutes.

After all this meal, with wine (also from our honeymoon), how could you possibly eat dessert? My answer - eat it the next day. My next post will talk about the cherry pie I made the day after Thanksgiving, when I had plenty of time and stomach room.

p.s. most of these photos were compliments of our guest, who was kind enough to take on the task of photographer whilst Dave and I were in the height of our dinner-preparing rush.

hello there!

A little late in greeting people since I've been busy hosting a guest for Thanksgiving.... but if you came here via (not so) Urban Hennery's first recap, I'm happy to welcome you!

My blog covers all the things I love, and some things I don't but are still of note. I use it to stay in touch with friends and family and to document my adventures in food, craftiness, travel, home-related none-such and saving the world.

Lately all I have had time for are quick thoughts and snapshots blogged directly from my phone (the posts of which still show up funky on the actual home page... if anyone knows how to fix this... let me know!).  But agreeing to participate in the Dark Days Challenge has given me good reason to have at least one good food-related post per week.

See you around!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Originally uploaded by daftly smitten
Even with an awesome friend in town, the gloomy skies make things less-than-awesome.  Tomorrow should be good though... Lots of tasty food to share.  Full report to follow, of course.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Last CSA of the season

Fancy cauliflower, purple potatoes, kale and cilantro.  I can't believe our season is over!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dark Days - Meal 1

Thursday night I made meal 1 for the Dark Days Challenge:
 Veal meatballs and spinach over spelt fettuchini with a creamy tomato sauce.

The word veal might be setting off alarm bells for some people, but let me first explain myself!  I purchased Free-raised veal, which according to wikipedia is from calves which "are born and raised in the pasture, have unlimited access to mother’s milk and pasture grasses, and are free to roam alongside their mothers and herd on open pastures. Free-raised veal calves are not reared in confinement or in feedlots, and are not administered hormones or antibiotics. The meat may be a richer pink color, indicative of an all-natural diet and healthy iron consumption. The free-raising method is environmentally friendly and sustainable."

I will be open and tell you that I am not a vegetarian (although I favor vegetables), but my husband who eats dinner with me is the opposite of vegetarian.  Therefore in order to move forward in this challenge I must have meals which more often than not, contain some sort of meat.  While my goal is for most of the meat in my meals to come from local farmers who if not met by myself, have been met by my trusted local market owner Cheryl, who is very knowledgable and transparent about where all her goods come from.... I was under a bit of a time crunch to make this dinner happen this week, and needed to find a meat which was ready to cook (i.e. not frozen), but which also fit my recipe and guidelines.  So I went to Whole Foods.  As much as I'd rather go to a local market - in a pinch when it's raining and I'm on my way home from work, I know that Whole Foods will label their meat and tell me how far it traveled to get to me.  So this veal was organic and sustainably raised in Virginia, within my 150 mile radius.  The only meat that fit into the challenge and would also allow itself to be made into a meatball.

The rest of the ingredients were either from our garden, our local green market (Mill Valley General Store) or from the One Straw Farm CSA we are a part of, which just ended this week!  Oh - except the spelt pasta, which was made on an Amish Farm in PA whose wonderful food I purchase through a somewhat secret collective of people who care about their food and how it was grown/raised.  Everything I get from this collective is totally 100% SOLE.  That is about all you need to know about the Amish Farm.

spelt pasta

First I made the meatballs with the veal, an egg (local), breadcrumbs made from my husband's home-made bread and some rosemary & oregano from our garden, and popped them in the oven.  Then I started the sauce with a little olive oil and an onion from our CSA.  I added a chopped yellow pepper and a whole carton of mushrooms (both conventionally purchased before the challenge) to saute, and then the last jar of home-canned tomatoes from last years CSA.  Sadly due to the blight, there were not enough tomatoes to can any this year!  I also ended up adding a bit of garlic paste and tomato paste from the pantry.  Oh yes, and some fresh tomatoes from the garden which have been ripening on our counter.  The cheese I added to make it creamy was 1/2 a brick of Philidelphia cream cheese which has been hiding in our refridgerator cheese drawer forever.  (I'd tell you the expiration date, but you might yell at me.)  On Friday I ordered several cheeses from the Amish farm to assure this will be the last use of such a non-local cheese.  More herbs from our garden finished off the sauce.

After the pasta was cooked I quickly blanched the CSA spinach in the pasta water and covered the pasta and spinach with meatballs and sauce.  Quite a tasty first meal!  (and also approved by the hubby).

(p.s. in the picture there is cauliflower I was planning on roasting to accompany this meal, but I forgot!  You may see it again, since I still haven't cooked it.)

(p.p.s the tulips were a last minute addition, but the sign at Whole Foods told me they were grown 114 miles away and I couldn't help adding them to the basket. we didn't eat them, but they made our dinner that much fancier.)

Dark Days Challenge - Introduction

Not sure how I came across this challenge, but I know that I did so right in time!  I stumbled upon the blog(not so) Urban Hennery just last week, and liked the overall premise of the challenge, but also the feasibility.  Other challenges which involve eating only food within a 100 mile radius for one year or even one month are just too much for my lovely husband (and myself, I guess) to handle.  But one meal a week?  That's reasonable!

The details:

The challenge runs Nov 15, 2009 – Mar 31, 2010, hence the name "Dark Days".

I have to cook one meal each week focused on SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) ingredients and write about it here on my blog. 

Local, as defined in this challenge, is anything within a 150 mile radius of home.  Typical exceptions are oils, coffee, chocolate and spices. I have also decided that any staple which is currently already in my home will be able to be used.  As I run out of things, I will replace them with SOLE staples.  I just can't validate going on a hunt for local flour, when we already have quite a supply under our ownership.  In addition, in the first couple weeks, I will even use produce that is already in my home - since I did not find out about this challenge ahead of time and again, refuse to throw out a non-local pepper because my husband bought it at the grocery earlier in the week.

That's it for now.  For more info on the challenge, check out this page.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Slithery Saturday

Slithery Saturday
Originally uploaded by daftly smitten

Came across this fellow on a hike today.  Absolutely beautiful weather!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Not-so-fresh Friday

Not-so-fresh Friday
Originally uploaded by daftly smitten

This was my lunch today. For work I went to a community awards luncheon, and since I was representing the Jewish community and all my other guests requested kosher meals - I too was served this lovely tv-dinner style meal.  Blech.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Crazy Bmore

Crazy Bmore
Originally uploaded by daftly smitten
Tonight I hung out with some new friends in an alley and learned about stilt walking.  Fun stuff!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cooking class

Cooking class
Originally uploaded by daftly smitten
Sunday the hubbie and I joined a couple friends of ours at an organic vegetarian kosher Indian cooking class.  We were there more for the organic Indian than the vegetarian kosher part, but overall we had a nice night. This is a shot of my favorite dish of the night - chana masala.  

Monday, November 16, 2009


Friday night, Dave suggested we go out to dinner, and then proceeded to add the most delicious stipulation: "You should pick something that you really want - something I would normally veto."

Oh my!  My head almost spin in circles trying to pick something he would never normally agree to.  There are not many cuisines in general that my husband does not like; it's mostly that he is a stickler for the cost of food.  I am trying to slowly bring him over to my side... where I have been happily brainwashed to believe that we should have to actually pay for good food.  Not that only elitest, rich folk should be able to enjoy quality food - people who feel this way aren't thinking creatively enough.  It's just that good quality food which is grown and delivered in the most sustainable way possible, is going to cost more - either in money or time.   End long tangent here.

So Friday night, I decided that we would try a place which has been on my list for SO LONG, but has always been vetoed or suggested for "another time" because it is approx. $3-5 more per menu item than my husband is normally willing to pay: Clementine.

Their website is darling, and describes themselves as a resturant which "does fancypants comfort food with a cross-cultural twist. We change our dinner menu daily, make our own charcuterie and, in general, offer fabulous food for not so much dinero."

I would agree... even with the "not so much dinero" part.

Since they make their own charcuterie, we were sure to order the Chicken Liver Pâté w/ Rye Whiskey, Barbados Molasses & House Smoked Duck as an appetizer. YUM. It was super tasty. And it came with Luceille's Bread & Butter Pickles... which were delicious!

I ordered Roasted Quail Stuffed with Chicken, Fennel, Red Pepper & Honey Sausage with Green Cardamom Ginger Cream Over Mashed Potatoes. When it came to the table I discovered that I also get asparagus - bonus! (even though it's terribly out of season...)  This was the first time I had Quail - and I think using a sausage stuffing was genius since the actual Quail has so very little meat.  The cream sauce paired so nicely with the bird & stuffing... and I love cardamom, so it's hard not to like such a dish!

Dave got Char, which was house-smoked and then seared, on top of mushroom stroganoff & noodles with peas (no awesome detailed description here, since Clementine changes their menu daily and apparently they're no longer serving the Char dish).  He thought it was extrememly tasty, but it was plated a lot differently than he expected, and he did wish it were a slightly larger piece of fish.
The desserts at Clementine are baked daily by chef Winston's Mother, Paige Zeigler.  Even though I am not usually a fan of home-made from scratch brownies (I know, I'm weird... but why put forth such effort when the box mix is just so moist and delicious!), I ordered one since it came with fresh whipped cream and I was craving a bit of chocolate (when am I not?).  It did not disappoint.

I thought portions were just right.  We split & finished the appetizer, Dave finished his whole plate, and I ate almost half mine before boxing the rest.  I also took home about 3/4 the brownie after having a little nibble.

Beyond the food, the service was great.  On a Friday night I called at 6 and got us a 7 pm reservation.  Once we were there we were seated right away.

I knew I wanted a glass of wine with my meal, but wasn't sure what kind would pair well.  I asked the waitress and although she wasn't sure, she went to the bartender and brought a bottle for me to try.  It was Budini Malbac... and it was a lovely choice!  We even ended up picking up a bottle in the wine store later that weekend.

The only real disappointment for the both of us was the bread.  We were served bread with butter as we were seated, and then the same bread came with the Pâté.  It wasn't bad as a vehicle for delivering liver-y deliciousness, but to eat with the un-salted butter, it was rather bland.  Thankfully, the disappointment prompted Dave to bake his ultra-awesome herby bread on Saturday, therefore saving us from a weekend without quality carbohydrates!

My advice to you: get yourself to Clementine, post haste!

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Originally uploaded by daftly smitten
Prepped the yard for a garden today... Layered compost, cardboard and then mulch over the sod, so it will be nice and ready for planting come spring. We're both excited to graduate from our container garden!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pound Puppy of the Week

This 7 month old dachshaud is named Precious... And isn't she just that?  Her tail was wagging so fast it doesn't show up.  She was so sweet... And of course was adopted by the end of the day.  I was glad I got myself over to the spca today... My volunteering there has been way too sporatic as of late.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fresh... Thursday?

Fresh... Thursday?
Originally uploaded by daftly smitten
I normally pick up our CSA on Fridays, but today I had an afternoon meeting downtown and had time to pick them up before the market closed. Kale, red cabbage, purple potatoes and radishes.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Originally uploaded by daftly smitten
It is cold and dreary... The type of day where you go from one hot drink to another and still can't shake the cold. Honestly, I prefer snow to rain when it's this chilly.  I'd really prefer snowy AND sunny, but that'd be asking too much... Wouldn't it?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Looking up

Looking up
Originally uploaded by daftly smitten
This is what I saw when in yoga/hooping class this evening, as we closed by lying on our backs and breathing deeply.  The class meets in an old church which has been re-purposed into a communal open space.  The insulation makes me think of a big comfy blanket.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Burger night

Burger night
Originally uploaded by daftly smitten
Tonight was burger night at Mick Osheas. Burger, fries and a beer for $7. AND they had Resurrection Ale on tap - which is my favorite local beer.  I swear we don't really eat out that much... It's just when we are home and I throw something together for dinner it doesn't always get photographed. But I'm working on that... Maybe a post on how to eat dark leaky greens for three meals a day... Or my favorite magic trio of fall lunches.  More to come...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

But we thought we'd move elsewhere eat our lunch. Even if it was just fried chicken.


Originally uploaded by daftly smitten

Today we grabbed lunch at a KFC where the employees were behind bulletproof glass and you got your food through a little turnstyle.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hello there

For those of you reading this blog off my actual home page - you are probably annoyed by how the text is only 2 letters wide around the photo (except this post - since there's no picture... duh).  I am too!  (For those of you with readers, I am pretty sure it shows up just fine - right?  Let me know if it doesn't.)

I haven't figured out how to fix it.  I post to my blog by emailing my photo and post through flickr, from my phone.  Any idea how to fix the text problem?  If so, I welcome your comments.

If you're just an annoyed reader looking at my blog - might I suggest adding me to your reader?  So much easier!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sleepy days

Sleepy days
Originally uploaded by daftly smitten
This time change has me dreaming of bedtime non-stop. If only I could get a little more sunlight!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

In motion

In motion
Originally uploaded by daftly smitten
Things have been hectic around here. On the commute home I saw a big red harvest moon. This is my pathetic attempt at capturing it on film. Oh well. Tough to do better in the dark while traveling at 60 mph.