Dark Days Challenge: Week 11 LASAGNA!

When I was a kid, I HATED lasagna. It’s funny how as you grow up your tastes change completely. I also hated onions and cottage cheese, and my favorite food was green beans. I don’t think there’s a food out there that I hate-won’t-touch-gag over like I used to do with lasagna, onions and cottage cheese. I do hate buffalo wings (weird, I know), but at least I can stand to watch my husband or brother eat them.

Anyway, so I’ve developed an adult-taste for lasagna, and actually enjoy trying new recipes for it. This dish was not a recipe, though. It was the best kind of dish–one that Italian cuisine often lends itself to–throwing a bunch of stuff together and baking it. The only thing I wish I’d done different was add more cheese. You can’t have too much cheese, as far as I’m concerned.

I made the pasta myself with eggs from Breezy Knoll Farm and flour from Reed’s Mill Flours (both from the Monroe Farm Market). The pasta sauce was canned by my mom last summer with mostly local ingredients, although I’m not totally sure what all she put in it. I know she used tomatoes given to her by a coworker and bell peppers, onion and garlic that I gave her from either my garden or the farmer’s market. The ricotta cheese was organic, but not local, and the parmesean was neither, sadly. The egg I added to the ricotta, was though, from Breezy Knoll Farm. Oh, and the meat was ground venison that Jeremy killed last fall. Not sure if the deer was killed in Clay County, where we’re from, or Marion County, since it all was mingled together in the freezer, but it’s all local. I also put a couple splashes of the syrah I opened to marinate the NY Strip Steaks in, with the meat and added 1/4 of a chopped onion from Spangler’s Greenhouse (Monroe Farm Market).


I’ve tried to make lasagna with ground venison before, and it’s not the best thing to use. This time, I cooked it with the syrah, onion, salt and pepper to compensate for the wild taste, but it still comes through a little bit. Also, because this lasagna used ground venison and very little cheese, it wasn’t greasy at all. To some that might be a good thing, but I kinda missed it.
When I was making the pasta Sunday evening, I was thinking about before I “really” started making an effort to eat local. I’d wanted the pasta maker attachment for my Kitchenaid mixer for a long time, but wasn’t sure how much I’d actually use it. I mean, c’mon. It’s hard to beat a box of fettucini for 99 cents at the store. It’s cheap and easy. I hadn’t really ever had GREAT homemade pasta. When I ordered it in restaurants a handful of times, something was always off: the texture or the taste. So, I figured all homemade pasta was just some way of being all fancy with food, that store-bought dry pasta was superior (and cheaper).
Last summer, the pasta making attachment was on sale on Kitchenaid’s website for 50% off, so I took the plunge. Then, Reed’s Mill Flours started selling flour at the farmer’s market right about the time I signed up for the Eat Local Challenge. I found that making my own pasta allowed me to expand the rotation of a month’s worth of totally local meals. And, you know what? Jeremy says he prefers homemade pasta to the store-bought stuff now. I do, too. All it took was finding a few tricks and getting the hang of working with the dough. I’ve come a long ways and learned a lot, mostly by trial and error. For instance, the dough freezes wonderfully. I make about 4 pounds at a time and freeze it into 1/2 pound portions. Frozen dough seems to be a little easier to work with, as it is a little drier. I saw someone (forgive me, I can’t remember who it was. Maybe Hippie Chick) on the Dark Days Challenge weekly wrap-up that suggested using an emtpy wrapping paper tube with a string through it to hang pasta to dry. That’s way better than laying it out on a clean dish towel like I was doing. And, there’s more to learn. I haven’t even attempted flavored pasta yet. Or any shape besides fettucini, lasagna or ravioli. I’ve been toying with an idea for a dessert-y pasta with coco powder and powdered sugar added into the dough. I might make chocolate raviolis stuffed with something rich and drizzeled with carmel. Hmmm. Maybe a future Dark Days submission is in the works!

Dark Days Challenge: Week 10

All week, I’ve been super busy. I hadn’t cooked at all except to make a squash casserole on Tuesday, which held us over for a couple days. Pair that with eating a couple meals out, and I didn’t have a Dark Days-worthy meal for this week. The weekend was coming around and I had no plans and a freezer full of local meats, so I decided to do it up right with a “Sunday dinner.” Sunday dinners are a little more fancy, you know. Often shared with family and made with a little extra effort. Well, it was just the two of us, but I had some NY Strip steaks thawing and and bottle or Syrah all lined up. Unfortunately, we ate before I realized I didn’t have a picture. I was so hungry and they smelled so good, I didn’t even think about it.

We had thawed the wings for Saturday night and didn’t eat them, so they got folded into our Dark Days meal for this week.

2 6-oz. NY Strip Steaks from Cedar Dawn Farm
3 kennebec potatoes from Spanglers Green House
9 chicken wings from Almost Heaven Farm
canola oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder from far away
Syrah from far away
Horizon organic low fat sour cream

So, I’ve been sucked into the tv show “The Worst Cooks in America” on the Food Network. For the most part, the contestants are cooking rookies, and are just learning the basics. I don’t consider myself an expert by any means in the kitchen, but I’ve been cooking for a few years and feel pretty comfortable trying more difficult recipes. But, I actually learned something last week on the show. A marinade is an oil, an acid and aromatics. I just always thought it was whatever liquid you wanted the meat to taste like. So, I gave it a try with the steaks: about 1/3 cup of the Syrah, about 2 Tb. extra virgin olive oil and pepper, salt and garlic powder. I’m now a convert! I never marinate steaks because I always thought it would mess up the natural “steak” flavor, but I did these since I’ve never made grass-fed steaks before. I always hear that they have a stronger flavor, so I was a bit wary. Daggone those steaks were good.

Here’s my favorite and SO EASY recipe for grilled potatoes:

potatoes (1 1/2 small to medium potatoes for each person. The recipe works best with new potatoes, but you can use any kind)
coarse salt/pepper
blue cheese crumbles (you can substitute any soft cheese crumbles)

Slice the potatoes in half longways. Boil them for about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and cool. Brush each potato with oil (I used canola last night and I think it’s better than olive oil) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill cut side down for about 15 minutes until golden. Remove from grill and top with blue cheese crumbles.

I got this recipe from Martha Stewart Living. It is ridiculous easy and really tasty. The cheese melts a little bit as the potatoes cool.

Tigress’ Can Jam: Oranges with Dessert Wine and Rosemary

This is an adaptation of a dessert I’ve made every year for the last few Christmas Eves. There’s something about the flavor combination of citrus and rosemary. I made some jam a couple years ago with white peaches and rosemary that was so delicious, so maybe when I first saw this recipe that’s what got my attention. When I found out the feature of January’s Can Jam would be citrus, I immediately thought of this.

The original recipe is from Martha Stewart Living, December 2007, but I adapted it for canning.

For 3 pints:
1 cup white wine (I used chardonnay)
3 sprigs rosemary
6 lbs. oranges (I used a mix of 2 different types of oranges and some clementines)
very light syrup

Place two-piece lids and rims in a sauce pan and cover with 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil for 1 minute. Turn off heat, leaving lids in the pan. Peel  and seperate citrus, removing as much pith as possible. Fill 3 pint jars to tops with citrus sections without packing down. Add a sprig of rosemary to each jar. Make the very light syrup (10% sugar, which is recommended for canning citrus) by adding 1/4 cup sugar to 3 cups of water in a sauce pan over medium high heat. Once sugar dissolves, add wine. Bring mixture to a boil for 1 minute. Turn off heat and quickly ladle syrup mixture over citrus leaving 1/2 inch head space. Screw on lids. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

Dark Days Challenge Week 9: Eat Local Challenge Meal Redeux

Back in October, when I did the Eat Local Challenge, I made one of my favorite meals, open-faced roast beef sandwiches. Well, open-faced roast venison sandwiches. They remind me of when I was little. It was one of my favorite recipes of my mom’s. Mostly, I don’t think it was the recipe, but how she placed them on the plate, just perfect. Last week, after making a deer roast in the crockpot for venison stroganoff (which was beyond fabulous, by the way, but not quite local enough for a dark days submission as I used store-bought egg noodles and regular sour cream) I had some leftover deer roast. Just enough for two sandwiches. And, I had some frozen hamburger buns that aren’t really good for making anything except these sandwiches, since freezing the buns gives them a weird texture. Voila! Quick comfort food.


We also had some leftover macaroni and cheese that my mother-in-law made. It wasn’t local, but it was made from scratch and sure was tasty.
Deer roast and gravy: The deer was killed by Jeremy last fall in Marion County and roasted with some local turkey broth (Thanksgiving turkey from White Oak Ridge Farm), a bay leaf, salt and pepper. I made the gravy out of the juices from the crockpot with some added cornstarch.
Mashed potatoes: potatoes from Spangler’s Greenhouse sold by the Monroe Farm Market, the milk and butter are from Homestead Creamery in Wirtz, Virginia
Buns: made by yours truly with flour from Reed’s Mill Flour sold by the Monroe Farm Market.

Dark Days Challenge: Week 8


This week, I was struggling to come up with a Dark Days meal. All the dinners I made this week turned out to be about 75% local, but there was always one major thing that wasn’t local, so that ruled out those meals as a submission for the week. Sunday afternoon, I had to work, so I made the most of a lazy Sunday morning with a delicious breakfast, coffee and the newspaper with the hubs. And, I stood back and realized this was my local meal for the week. Ha! It didn’t have to be dinner, silly Jennelle. It was breakfast!
This is actually the recipe that came with my Kitchenaid stand mixer. It makes 12 to 14 waffles, which is way to many for 2 people, and I used to cut the recipe down. But then I realized I could make the waffles and freeze them. They taste just like Eggo.
Kitchenaid Waffles
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, seperated
1 1/4 cup skim milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in mixer bowl. Add egg yolks, milk, butter. Attach bowl and a flat beater to mixer. Turn to medium speed and mix until ingredients are combined, about 30 seconds. Stop and scrape bowl. Continuing on medium speed, mix until smooth, about 15 seconds. Pour mixture into another bowl. Clean mixer bowl and dry completely.
Place egg whites in mixer bowl. Attach wire whip to mixer. Turn to high speed and whip until egg whites are stiff but not dry. Gently fold egg whites into flour mixture.
Spray waffle iron with non-stick cooking spray. Heat waffle iron. Pour about 1/3 cup batter for each waffle on the iron. Bake 3 to 5 minutes, or until golden brown.
Berry Syrup
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup cold water
3/4 cup crushed berries (blueberry, blackberry, rasberry or whatever you like)
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
Dissolve cornstarch in water. Mix in remaining ingredients except lemon juice. Boil over medium heat until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.
You don’t need a stand mixer to make these. In fact, it’s probably easier with a hand mixer. You would be able to skip the step of pouring the batter in another bowl and washing out the mixer bowl to beat the egg whites.

Sources: Flour – Reed’s Mill Flours in Monroe County; sugar – Mate Factor organic muscavo sugar (not local); eggs from Breezy Knoll Farm in Monroe County; milk and butter from Homestead Creamery in Wirtz, Virginia; blackberries picked by the hubs last summer on his lunch break in Prenter, West Virginia (I assure you, they are not contaminated–it’s just the water. I digress.); honey from Crihfeld Farms; baking powder, salt, cornstarch and lemon juice from Kroger’s–boo!

Dark Days Challenge: What week are we in??

I made a couple local meals this week, but, by far, the best one was this one:

Poulete Saute with Roasted Rosemary Potatoes

2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp oil
2 1/2 to 3 lbs. of cut up frying chicken
1 Tbsp minced shallot or green onion
3/4 to 1 c. chicken stock
1 Tbsp softened butter
salt and peper to taste
Optional: green herbs such as thyme, basil or tarragon
 and 1/2 c. dry white wine or 1/3 c. dry white vermouth

Rinse the chicken and dry each piece thouroughly with paper towels. Place a heavy skillet or casserole over medium heat and add the 2 Tbsp butter and oil. When the butter foam has almost subsided, add the chicken, skin-side down and brown for 2 to 3 mintues until the skin is a nice golden brown. Continue turning the chicken until the pieces are browned on all sides. Season with salt and pepper and optional herbs. If the browning fat becomes burnt, pour it out and add fresh butter. Cover and cook slowly for 8 to 9 minutes. Chicken is done when juices run clear. Remove the chicken to a hot serving platter and keep warm.
Remove all but 2 or 3 Tbsp of fat from the skillet. Add the shallots and onions and cooks slowly for 1 minute. Pour in the optional wine and stock. Raise heat, boiling rapidly, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Reduce to about 1/3 cup. Off heat and just before serving, swirl in the 1 Tbsp of softened butter. Pour over chicken pieces.

Roasted Rosemary Potatoes

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Dice 1 1/2 potatoes per person into 1 inch pieces. Toss with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and rosemary. Roast 25 to 30 minutes, turning once half-way through baking.

This recipe is from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. For the record, I had the cookbook before the movie came out. I’d recommend this cookbook to anyone because the directions are very thorough, most of the recipes take only a few ingredients (which most likely you already have on hand) and the food is simple and delicious. I love it. Everything I’ve made from it has ended up being ridiculously delicious–but, maybe it’s just all the butter.

My chicken is from Almost Heaven Farm and the rosemary was from Spangler’s Greenhouse, both sold by the Monroe Market. The potatoes were from my father-in-law’s garden. The butter was from Homestead Creamery in Wirtz, Virginia. The olive oil and spices were from far away. I didn’t have any shallots or green onions, so I used some organic pearl onions, which weren’t local, but I had in the fridge.

So excited to start the Can Jam!

So excited, in fact, that I had to scroll to the bottom of the post before reading it to see what the “secret ingredient” was for January…

photo by Tigress

I suspected it would be. There’s such an abundance of delicious citrus right now, pretty much anywhere in the United States (not locally, of course). I have a few recipes to consider for this month, but I’m sure it’ll be a tasty experiment, and I can’t wait to see what everyone else cooks up!