The Reluctant Blogger

Dark Days Challenge Week 1: Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes
December 8, 2010, 9:25 pm
Filed under: Dark Days

I have followed the Dark Days Challenge for the past three years, but have been a little scared to sign up. I’m not sure why – we garden, my husband hunts, my in-laws have a massive garden just up the street, we get a box of vegetables every week, I preserve, and we own two chest freezers (see: my husband hunts) – but nonetheless, I’ve been hesitant to participate. This year, I decided I needed a challenge that would encourage me to blog a little more, and something that would stretch me a more than saving my cookbooks and commemorating Gourmet has done. Seeing as I’ve barely managed to get one post up each month, a weekly post is going to be a challenge, but it should be good for me.  And being a stickler for rules, I love a challenge that forces me to follow well-defined rules.

I’ll be posting about our attempts at SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) meals once a week between now and April 15.  I’m defining local as 150 miles, more or less.  So, North to South I’m looking at roughly Vancouver to Portland and West to East, well, somewhere in the Pacific to somewhere between Quincy and Ephrata, WA (plus or minus a few miles – I have tomatoes and padron peppers from Tonnemaker Hill Farms in my freezer and pantry, which I’m counting as within my radius, though it may be a few miles beyond).  Standard exceptions I know I’ll be taking on a regular basis include olive oil, salt, and pepper.  My parents regularly bring me 50 lb. sacks of flour and honey from a neighbor in Montana, so in the interest of using what I have before spending money on similar things, I’ll be using Montana flour and honey.  I think it gets at the spirit of Dark Days, if not technically within the definition.  And I was thrilled to learn about a mill in Bellingham, when I do finally make my way through the flour I already have.

I mentioned my husband is a hunter.  I’m sure some people don’t think of hunting as an ethical activity, but that’s not a debate I’m getting into.  It’s a way of life for him, and we use anything he shoots.  He LOVES it, and spends some serious quality time with his dad each fall, and the meat we’re eating as a result is certainly better than anything you’d buy at a typical grocery store.  I didn’t grow up in a hunting family, so I’ve had to learn how to work with the leaner meat deer and elk produce, but I’ve learned to like it.  I’d still choose beef over venison most of the time, but elk is pretty incredible.  This is the first year we’ve had elk in the freezer, and I’m sold (which is good, since the elk necessitated the purchase of a second standing chest freezer.  I would never have thought I’d be the kind of girl to live in the country and have two chest freezers, but there you have it.  I’m not complaining!)

Which, finally, brings me to our first week.  We don’t eat as much meat as we used to.  My husband has been very supportive and has rarely complained about our many meat-free meals, but at heart he’s still a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy.  Meatloaf and mashed potatoes ranks very high in his book, so he was thrilled when I decided to try elk in my regular meatloaf recipe as our first Dark Days meal.  I managed to make the entire meal locally, and I’m not sure anyone was more surprised than I was.

I use the Cook’s Illustrated meatloaf recipe as my guide, though as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not particularly good about following recipes to the letter.  Usually when I make meatloaf I use about half of the mix to make and freeze meatballs, which I did this time as well and I’m quite sure those meatballs will be making an appearance in a future Dark Days post.  Rather than post a recipe this time (when I make meatloaf or meatballs now, I just dump everything in a big bowl and mix – I don’t measure anymore), I’m just going to list the ingredients and their sources.  I really like the way Anita at Married…With Dinner lists the farmers and food artisans who created the ingredients for her Dark Days meals.  So, borrowing her idea, the sources of this week’s ingredients are as follows:

Ground pork – grown for Full Circle Farm by Jerry Foster, Curtis, WA
Ground elk – shot near Forks, WA; butchered by my husband’s PeeWee football coach
Eggs – Mountain View Farm, Belfair, WA
Yogurt – Golden Guernsey Plain from Grace Harbor Farms, Custer, WA
Yellow Onions – Andersen Organics, Othello, WA (a few more than 150 miles, but…)
Garlic – grown by my father-in-law, just up the street
Parsley – from my garden, by way of my freezer
Breadcrumbs from homemade bread using MT flour, and non-local yeast, olive oil and salt
Exceptions: salt and pepper; olive oil I sauteed the onions and garlic in; some of the breadcrumb ingredients

Mashed potatoes:
Fingerling potatoes from our garden
Whipping cream from Fresh Breeze Organic Dairy, Lynden, WA
Exceptions: salt and pepper

I am excited about the coming weeks of the challenge, and am glad I was able to start things off successfully.  I know there are going to be weeks where I am really challenged, so it’s nice to start on a good note!


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[…] the Reluctant Blogger cooked up a very local meatloaf with elk and pork. On the side, she served a batch of mashed potatoes made from fingerlings grown in her own garden. […]

Pingback by Dark Days ’10/11 Recap #1 (Group 6) « (not so) Urban Hennery

[…] meal is an example of bending a bit.  Originally I’d intended to make pasta to go with the meatballs I froze when I made meatloaf at the beginning of the challenge, but the realities of a mid-week meal (and the fact that […]

Pingback by Week 6: Spaghetti and Meatballs « The Reluctant Blogger

[…] but there’s always room for improvement. I’m following largely the same guidelines as I set for myself last year, though I’ve found more local suppliers in the past year,  and we’re eating less dairy […]

Pingback by Dark Days ’11-12 Week 1: Borscht (or: Why I Am Thankful for My Freezer) « The Reluctant Blogger

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