I have not gone grocery shopping since before Christmas. At first this started out unintentionally, but now I’m pushing it to see just how far I can take it (likely not past this weekend – we’re nearing the end of our milk supply and my husband’s coffee habit is such that we don’t go a day without milk in the house). We’re still getting our weekly box of veggies from Full Circle, so it’s not like we’re not getting anything in (and I did pick up chocolate milk and kale on walk around Pike Place recently), but it’s still nice to have gone so long without intentional shopping. I wasn’t planning to eat down the cupboards/freezer, but it certainly doesn’t hurt (see: I am the owner of TWO chest freezers). And it has been nice to realize how well we can eat without adding to the larder.
One of the benefits of the Dark Days challenge has been the increase in local food in our diet generally. We’ve had quite a few meals in the past couple of weeks that have been almost completely local (save for one or two key ingredients that have kept them from qualifying for the challenge), and without a doubt the quantity of local food in our diets has increased. In making my Full Circle selections each week, I look first to what is available from Washington and I’m thinking even more about sources of food than I was prior to the challenge (and I was already thinking about it quite a bit). I’m discovering new-to-me producers, and have found some great sources for local ingredients. I’m also learning where to hold myself to strict rules and where I’m comfortable with bending a bit.
This week’s 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 I’m still out of eggs) meant that I pulled a box of pasta out of the cupboard instead of making fresh pasta. One of the things I’ve realized through this challenge is that there are non-local things that I’m going to continue to embrace – like dried pasta, some kinds of cheese, nuts, citrus, and avocados, to name a few. And I’m okay with that. I’m gone more than 12 hours every work day, and I can’t do everything. Boxed pasta certainly has a place in our lives and I don’t see that changing any time soon – though I absolutely love fresh pasta and do make it fairly often, but it’s not the most practical dinner item when I don’t get home until 6:30 and I want to be eating as soon as possible.
One of the things I do most weekends is spend a few hours in the kitchen prepping weeknight dinners. Especially in these dark months, it is so nice have dinner only minutes away when I walk in the door – and, as I’ve mentioned before, although my husband is certainly capable of cooking, it isn’t his passion. A weekend morning in the kitchen is part of my idea of a perfect day, so prepping weeknight dinners makes a lot of sense. I can leave a stack of containers in the fridge and he can put the finishing touches on, or I can throw it together when I get home, and either way we’re able to eat dinner within a short time of my arriving home.
This past weekend I simmered tomato sauce (Marcella Hazan’s simple sauce of tomatoes, onion, and butter is my go-to recipe), roasted the meatballs I’d frozen along with some mushrooms, and put together a loaf of garlic bread, then put all of it in the fridge to be ready for a weeknight dinner. When I got home from work, I put the bread in the oven to heat, put on a pot of water to boil, heated up the sauce with the meatballs and mushrooms (with the assistance of a very cute beggar – his idea of helping is to lay right where I’m planning to step in hopes of tripping me and scoring a snack), and chopped up some basil to stir into the sauce just before serving. Within 25 minutes of the time I walked in the door, we were sitting down to dinner. A glass of Syrah rounded out what may be my most favorite dinner of all.
Sources for this week’s dinner:
Wine: 2006 SYZYGY Syrah (Walla Walla, WA)
Meatballs from the freezer (same ingredients as the meatloaf):
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
Cremini mushrooms – Champs Mushrooms, Abbotsford, B.C. (by way of Full Circle box)
Canned Roma tomatoes from our garden
Yellow onion – Andersen Organics, Othello, WA
Basil from my windowsill
Flour and honey from Montana (gifts from my parents)
Garlic grown by my in-laws up the street
Exceptions: pasta; parmesan cheese; salt and pepper; yeast and sea salt in the bread
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