Sunday, November 13, 2011

Just in time for winter

Wow, it's dusty in here! I haven't posted in — what, almost a year? Which isn't to say I haven't been cooking. Quite the opposite, actually. In the spring, I cooked my way through The Sunset Cookbook. In the summer, I let the produce of the farmers' market be my guide. Lately, I've been cooking the featured recipes on Fine Cooking's Facebook page. Soon I want to start putting to use the fabulous Essential New York Times Cookbook (which is the kind of cookbook that demands a thorough read — so I'm not even halfway finished!). Also, I really got into canning, and it truly became an obsession. It was hard to look at fruits and veggies and not consider how I could can them! I made berry and stone fruit jams, different kinds of chutney, peach barbecue sauce, even watermelon rind pickles.

I've tried to do all sorts of things with this blog, all while writing about the food I'm eating. I've tried to find "challenges" and post about them. These never seemed to get further than one or two posts. I've tried to track how much my meals cost to make, in order to prove that one really can eat organic, local food and not spend buckets of money. This made writing about food less interesting. I think that in order to keep up this blog, I'm just going to go back to writing about what is exciting me in the kitchen these days — and hope that you find that exciting enough to read.

I am, though, going to be taking up a challenge after all. I've signed on to participate in the 5th Annual Dark Days Challenge, organized by the folks at (not so) Urban Hennery and Not Dabbling in Normal. Once a week, from the last weekend in November through the last weekend in March, I have to cook a meal using only sustainable, organic, local, and ethically raised (SOLE) ingredients. Admittedly, this might seem like not much of a challenge, in that I already try to eat that way all the time. I feel even more the cheater because I live in California, where great local produce is available even in the middle of January.

Even so, there are plenty of things I eat that aren't necessarily SOLE (dairy, meats, anything ready made from Trader Joe's) that I will be forced to turn elsewhere for. Perhaps I'll make ice cream in the dead of winter with berries from the freezer, milk from the raw milk guy at the farmers' market, and eggs from — wait, do chickens lay during the winter? Perhaps I'll find new and different ways to cook the kings of local winter produce: greens, root veggies, and mushrooms. Perhaps I will once again learn to love apples, pears, and citrus, which I often shun while waiting for the fruits of summer to reappear. Perhaps I'll even grow my own greens and herbs this winter, instead of ignoring my container garden until the spring returns.

There will be a few exceptions to the SOLE rules when I cook: salt, pepper, and brown rice. These are ingredients I use all the time that I don't think I could source locally. I was going to add olive oil to the list, but I know there's an olive oil vendor at the market and I ought to try them out.

All in all, I hope doing this challenge will help me to start blogging again. Stay tuned for recipes!

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