Tag Archives: challenge

Brined Pork Roast

So, I figured I have a half an hour to kill while the cake bakes.  I could go read Harry Potter, or I could try to get caught up on some of my posts.  I have goals after all.

Hubby has been laid off since Christmas.  While he’s been looking for jobs and applying for jobs, he’s probably going to be unemployed for a while.  Although the drop in income is going to be a struggle, it has been really wonderful having him home.  He’s been cooking and cleaning and doing laundry.  Ok, he always did the laundry, but sweeping the kitchen floor??

Last week I came home from work and was welcomed by a fragrant, savory aroma.  It was brine.  Hubby had been researching brines online all morning and finally came up with this:

  • 1/4 cup Champion Hill Honey
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 rosemary sprigs
  • 1 1/2 T. thyme
  • 1 1/2 T. parsley
  • 1 whole garlic bulb, skin and all (WHOLE garlic, not just a clove.)
  • 1 T. peppercorns
  • scant 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 4 cups water

Bring water to a boil in a 2 quart saucepan.  Mince the herbs and crush the garlic and spices with a rolling-pin or a mortar and pestle.  Add all ingredients into the boiling water, stirring the honey until dissolved.  Bring the entire mixture to a boil and then let cool to at least room temperature before proceeding.

Once the brine has cooled, transfer brine to a large, non-reactive bowl and add a 2-ish pound pork roast.  Ours was from the half hog we got from Olds Farm late last summer.

Pork in brine

Brined pork steeping overnight.


Cover with a plate or other weight to keep the pork submerged.  Allow the meat to soak in the brine overnight.

After the pork has soaked overnight, remove the meat from its brine and blot it dry.  Let the pork rest for thirty minute before cooking. 

brined pork

Pork brined overnight

 Cook at 350 degrees until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees.  (This took almost an hour, but I started checking every ten minutes after the first thirty.  Let the roast rest for ten minute before serving.

Fully cooked and ready to serve.

This brined pork was delicious!  It stayed very moist and the flavor was incredible.   We’ve already discussed trying other herb and spice combinations but have decided that if we try this particular recipe again we will cut the salt by about half.

Since the pork came from a local hog, it was a perfect Dark Days Dinner when served with my Homemade Gnocchi in cream sauce:

  • Wash about 2 lbs. of redskin potatoes (Westmaas Farms), stab each with a fork a few times and bake until fully cooked.
  • Scoop the insides from the potato skins and deposit them into a bowl. 
  • Run the potatoes through a ricer or food mill.
  • Mix the potatoes with 2 beaten egg yolks, 1 1/2 cups flour (spelt; Organic Bean and Grain) and a pinch of salt.
  • Stir until pliable and roll into 3/4″ tubes.
  • Cut the tubes into 1″ pieces.
  • Pinch each piece to create dimples and drop onto a plate. 
  • Freeze the gnocchi until firm.
  • Cook by dropping into salted, boiling water until the dumplings float or store individually frozen gnocchi in an air-tight container for several months.
Pork with homemade gnocchi

Roasted brined pork with homemade gnocchis in garlic cream sauce.

After the gnocchis were boiled I dropped them into a hot skillet with a Tablespoon of butter, sprinkled them with a Tablespoon of flour and slowly stirred in Shetler’s heavy cream until a thick “Alfredo” sauce was formed.  You could add whatever herbs and spices you like to the sauce but I just added salt, pepper and a little minced garlic.



Filed under 101 in 1001, Dark Days, food

January Spice Rack Challenge: Rosemary 3 Ways

I found several different recipes that I wanted to try for this month’s Spice Rack Challenge but in addition to the Spice Rack Challenge, I still have my 101 in 1001 to think about.  So, I opted for recipes that would allow me to do double duty.  Cheating?  Maybe.  Efficient?  Definitely.   Besides, is it cheating if I do three posts with three different rosemary recipes?

Buffalo Stroganoff with Rosemary and Morels over Homemade Pasta


All three recipes turned out great.  First I made homemade pasta with rosemary, garlic and cracked pepper.  Several days later I used the pasta as a base for a Dark Days dinner of Buffalo Stroganoff with Rosemary and Morel Mushrooms.

Finished Rosemary-Lemon Marmalade

 I also made Rosemary/Meyer Lemon Marmalade.  I can honestly say it was the best marmalade I have ever made.  It was part of Tigress’ Can Jam round up last year and originally came from Prospect the Pantry.  I should share this marmalade, but I think I will end up hoarding it.

I also made Rosemary Lemon Muffins.  I intended to make Rosemary Lemon cupcakes, but I toyed with the recipe and ended up with more of a muffin.  I found three different recipes for lemon cupcakes and married them.  The result is a light but sweet rosemary/lemon corn muffin.  The flavor is excellent and I think I will make them again, but I will go back to the original recipes and tinker a little more first.

Rosemary/Lemon Muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 stick real butter, melted
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups corn flour (flour, not the grittier meal)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • zest from 2 lemons, divided
  • juice from 2 lemons
  • 1 T. fresh minced rosemary, divided
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream melted butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time mixing thoroughly after each.  In a separate bowl combine flours, salt and baking soda.  Alternately add 1/3 of dry ingredients and 1/3 milk to wet ingredients mixing after each addition.  Add lemon juice, half the minced rosemary and half the zest; mix for one minute more.

Ready for the oven


Combine remaining zest, rosemary and 1/3 cup sugar.  Reserve.

Spoon batter into greased muffin tins.  Fill each tin half full. Sprinkle Rosemary-Lemon Sugar onto each muffin.  Bake 17-20 minutes.

Rosemary Lemon Muffin

I used jumbo muffin tins so mine needed to cook 23 minutes.

Feeling inspired?  Have a good rosemary recipe?  There’s still time for you to join the Spice Rack Challenge.  Hop on over to Mother’s Kitchen to sign up and post your recipe before Friday January 21st.


Filed under canning, food

Dark Days Dinner: Buffalo Stroganoff with Rosemary and Morels over Rosemary Pasta

Stroganoff is a classic dish.  I don’t think I have ever followed a recipe for it the way I was supposed to.  Some things require recipes.  Baking for example is science.  You can’t mess with chemistry and have it work out the same every time.  Sauces are different.  You can play with the seasonings, adjust the thickener or the cook time and it’s all good.  So, as usual my “recipe” is more of a set of guidelines to follow.

Buffalo Stroganoff with Rosemary and Morels over Homemade Pasta

Buffalo Stroganoff with Morels

  • Cube a buffalo sirloin steak (8-10 oz.) and place the chunks in a non-reactive dish.  Cover the steak chunks with plain yogurt (about a cup and a half, but enough to cover all the pieces)  Allow the meat to tenderize for 4-6 hours.
  • Heat a cup of stock (I used homemade chicken, but beef would probably be better.)  Add 8-10 dried morel mushrooms to the stock and allow to soak while meat tenderizes.
  • Sautee a small, diced onion and 2-3 cloves of minced garlic in hot oil.
  • Add sirloin to skillet (reserve yogurt) and sautee until browned.  Add salt and pepper to taste and about a teaspoon of minced fresh rosemary.
  • Roughly chop morels and add them to the pan (reserve stock).
  • Sautee until heated through and add enough flour to thoroughly coat meat and mushrooms. (Probably about a half cup.)
  • Turn heat to high and add stock reserved from mushrooms stirring continuously to avoid clumping.
  • Reduce heat and add reserved yogurt.
  • Add a cup of heavy cream and simmer until thickened.  Add another half cup or so of yogurt to tang up the sauce.
  • Serve over hot egg noodles or homemade pasta.  I served ours on homemade rosemary garlic pasta.


Filed under Dark Days, food

Dark Days: Chicken Noodle Soup

I know we’ve eaten more local meals than this, but I’ve somehow managed to avoid documenting them.  I guess I’ve been too busy working on my list

Chicken Noodle Soup

This dinner is basically chicken noodle soup.  Homemade stock with chicken from Olds Farm; homemade noodles; carrots from 9 Bean Rows; onions from my garden and thyme dug from the snow.  However, I added two links of homemade andouille sausage and as I was serving the soup I added chopped rainbow chard to this (my) bowl.  This is for two reasons.

1.  Nobody but me will eat chard.

2.  I have been working hard to finish #61 on my list; extra greens are helpful.

The soup was served with whole grain bread from Bay Bread Co.

I love soup in the winter.  Based on the weather today, we have plentyof soup days ahead of us.

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The 2011 Spice Rack Challenge

“Mom” at Mother’s Kitchen decided she needed some inspiration to try all those spices tumbling around her kitchen.  So, she created the Spice Rack Challenge.  I signed up, of course.  I tend to use the same few spices from my drawer over and over no matter what I’m making so this will be a good challenge to help get me out of my spice rut.  It might also be a good way to help me finish some of the cooking items on my 101 in 1001 list. 

So, how does it work?

  • Each month a dried herb or spice will be featured.  Each participant will use the herb/spice in a recipe and write a post about it.
  • On the last Wednesday of each month Mom will post a round-up and announce the next month’s spice/herb. 
Want to play along?
  • There’s still time to participate in the challenge!  Sign up before the deadline for the first post, January 21, 2011 by sending an email to: momskitchen(at)comcast(dot)net  Put Spice Rack Challenge as the subject and include your name and blog url.  Participants will be listed here.
  • You have to have a blog to participate but blogging is much easier than it looks!  If you can upload pictures to Facebook or Twitter, you can blog.  Really. 


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Dark Days #2

This year the posting guidlines for Dark Days are a little different.  Last year I had to make and post about a dinner each week throughout the challenge.   This year, to make it a little easier on the hostess (and her volunteer summarizers), the posts are only summarized twice a month.  So, even though I have been cooking a meal each week, I haven’t been good about posting weekly.  This post, like my lst Dark Days post, contains multiple dinners.

Pink Poatatoes!?!

First up, braised rabbit from Bunny Hop Ranch with pink mashed potatoes, rabbit gravy and 9 Bean Rows bread. 
I usually get my rabbit from Olds Farm, but I was at Oleson’s, a local gocer, and found this local rabbit in their meat case.  Hopefully soon we’ll have our own rabbit meat; our buck is just old enough to start breeding.  
The preparation was simple.  I seasoned the meat with salt, pepper and garlic, seared it on each side in a cast iron skillet, added a little water and threw it in the oven until it was finished.  Add the remaining liquid in the pan to some roux (equal parts flour and butter cooked together until they are golden) and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until a gravy forms.
The potatoes really are pink!  I don’t know what variety they are, but they came from Nic Welty at 9 Bean Rows.  Wash them, cut them into chunks and throw them into a pot of boiling salted water.  Cook until tender, drain and mash skins and all with some Shetler’s Dairy milk and butter.

Second on the docket, shepherd’s pie.


  1. Sautee some ground beef (I don’t remember which vendor at the market I got it from this time) with an onion from my garden.  Add some salt, pepper and garlic.
  2. Meanwhile, boil a pot of Westmaas farms red-skinned potatoes.  Mash the potatoes with milk and butter, season as you like.
  3. Spread the cooked ground beef in a cast-iron skillet, casserole or dutch oven.  Spread a layer of mashed potatoes on top of the beef.  Cover the whole pan with shredded Raclette cheese from Blackstar Farms and bake until the cheese melts.
  4. Serve hot.


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101 in 1001

Some of you may have noticed that I’ve added some nifty new tabs to my page.  There’s one with all the Can Jam recipes I used for last year’s challenge and one with all the Dark Days posts I did last year.  Yesterday, I added a new tab and started a new challenge: 101 in 1001.  This one is a little different.  This challenge doesn’t involve me cooking or canning anything to share with the world (unless I choose to).  This challenge is personal and I invite you to start a challenge of your own.

 With the New Year around the corner, many people stop to reflect on their lives.  What do you want for yourself?  Your family?  What would you like to change?  How can you make this world a better place?  101 in 1001 isn’t exactly a set of resolutions, but they are things I am committing to do or try.  Unlike resolutions, my 101 have measureable outcomes and I have more than a year to complete them; I have 1001 days.  Some of the items on my list will warrant posts; I will share those with you.  Others don’t really necessitate a whole post so I’ll clump them together into an update post, or cross them off the list as they are completed.  I could weigh in every week and tell you how I’m doing on #61,  but I’d rather spend the time exercising than talking about my progress or lack of it. 

So, check out the new tab.  Start a list of your own.  Or don’t.  It’s really up to you.  If you decide to make a list of your own, please share!  Send a comment.  Or, if you make your list public to the world, send a link; I’d love to see what you’re up to.  And always remember, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

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Dark Days

Dylan's Christmas program

Dylan's Christmas program

I hoped to start this Dark Days Challenge with a bang.  It’s more like a whimper.  Finishing report cards spent much of my “extra” time last week so I barely had time to cook let alone write about my cooking.  I also had to finish my Can Jam post early because of the holidays so that was a priority last week.  This week I’ve been working on another article for Edible Grand Traverse and it’s not coming along as smoothly as I’d hoped so I’ve been stuck on that all week.  Plus, Bubba’s School program was last night.

This post is due at midnight, so guess when it will be done?  Probably 11:59.

All three of my dinners feature dauphinoise potatoes.  Sounds fancy, no?

Not so fancy.  Souped-up scalloped potatoes.  Yummy though.


10 lbs. Wetmaas farms Redskin potatoes
1 quart Shetler Dairy heavy cream
more salt than you think reasonable
1 lb. Black Star Farms Raclette cheese
Go buy a new Kitchenaid mixer because you killed your old one.
Slice ten pounds of potatoes with the slicer attachment.
Shred a pound of Raclette with the shredder attachment.
Dump the potatoes in a large bowl and pour a quart of cream over them.  Add salt until the cream is WAY TOO SALTY.
Grease several baking dishes and rub them with minced garlic.

potatoes and toast

Dauphinoise potatoes and 9 Bean Rows bread

Squeeze all the salty cream out of the potatoes as you layer them into the dish.
Alternately add sliced potatoes, crushed garlic, thyme and cheese.
Continue to layer ingredients until the pans are full. 
Top each pan with more cheese.
Bake at 325 degrees until finished. (About an hour.)

Eat one pan by itself the night you make it.  (Yes, we ate a giant pan of cheesy potatoes for dinner; I’m not apologizing.)
Put one pan in the refrigerator.
Put two more pans in the freezer.

I reserved the super salty heavy cream to create both of my real dinners.

The first night I marinated a cornish hen from Olds Farm in salty cream and then roasted it in the oven and served it with the dauphinois from the refrigerator and 9 Bean Rows bread.  Yum.

It looks like the bird is sitting directly on the burner but I promise, it is in a pan.

The second night I made “slop”.  It’s a family favorite.  Similar to Shepherd’s Pie, slop can be made with whatever you have in the fridge.  Sometimes I top meat with mashed potatoes and cheese.  Other times I cover it with hash browns.  My mom used to make “slop” and it’s one of the things my dear hubby will actually eat.  In the old days I used a can of cream of mushroom soup.  Now I do it a little differently.  I sautéed one of the onions from my garden and added two pounds of ground beef that I got from my friend Richard at the indoor market.  I sprinkled local spelt flour over the meat, sautéed it for another minute and then dumped the rest of the salty cream into it to make a “gravy” of sorts.  Then I pulled one of the pans of dauphinoise out of the freezer, thawed it and topped the ground beef with it.  I put the whole thing into the oven and baked it until the potatoes were warmed through.  It was yummy.

ground beef topped with dauphinoise

ground beef topped with dauphinoise

 Minutes to spare.  11:54.

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December Can Jam ~ Pear/Dried Apple Chutney

When I went home for Thanksgiving, my father treated us to a pork tenderloin stuffed with a pear/dried pear filling.  Dad was pretty proud of the pork loin; it was delicious despite the inclusion of cilantro which I despise.  The timing was perfect.  This month’s Can Jam ingredient is dried fruit.  The real challenge however was converting the recipe into something can-able.  This recipe is my attempt to can the filling for future use (and possibly a Christmas gift or two.)  The original pork loin also featured a maple glaze; that recipe will be my next canning project.

Cilantro free.

Dried Apples and Chiles

Pear/Dried Apple Chutney

3 Cups green Bosc pears, sliced
2 Cups Mutsu apples, sliced
1 Cup chopped fennel
1 1/2 Cups Champion Hill Farms honey
1 Cup apple cider vinegar
1 quart dried apples (Maple Ridge Orchards Golden Delicious)
2 small red onions
4 cloves garlic
5 dried chiles chopped finely

Combine all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed pan.
Simmer over medium heat until all ingredients are well blended.  Keep chutney hot while preparing  jars and a boiling water bath.
Fill hot jars with chutney.
Remove air bubbles, add lids and rings and process in the boiling water bath 10 minutes.

I traded the fennel for the cilantro the original recipe called for.   Apple and fennel usually work well together; hopefully the flavors will bloom with time.  Use chutney to stuff cuts of meat or top fish.

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Dark Days Are on Their Way

Last year was the first year that I participated in the (not so) Urban Hennery’s Dark Days Challenge.

What is a Dark Days Challenge?

For the last four years, Laura at the (not so) Urban Hennery has been challenging her readers to join her in preparing and eating a SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) meal at least once a week during the most difficult time of the year; winter.  She’s trying to prove that eating well from your own watershed can be done year round.


Eating local foods that have been raised in a sustainable (and humane) manner is a lot easier than it sounds~ even in the winter.  If you haven’t canned or preserved produce from the summer, the challenge may be a little more difficult, but even without a larder full of canned goods, eating locally through the Dark Days of Winter is possible. 

Find a Farmers’ Market near you.  You’d be surprised how many winter markets are popping up all over the country. 

 Can’t find a market?  Find a farmer.  Many store produce through the winter even if they don’t have a venue to sell it. 

 Local bakeries are easy to find and many communities have small dairies that sell at least milk if not yogurt and cheese.

Even without connections to local markets or the farming community, you’d be surprised what you can find at your grocery store.  Check out the produce department.  Instead of buying December asparagus from South America, choose a winter vegetable like squash.  Many groceries are beginning to carry local produce when it is in season and announce that fact on signs and tags. 

Even if you can’t find everything you want from a local source you could try a recipe or two when you find a local product.  If you need inspiration, check my Dark Days ’09-’10 Page to find the archive of last years’ recipes.   This year’s challenge runs from December 1, 2010 – April 15, 2011.  Check back each week to see what’s cookin’!

Maybe you really aren’t in a position to play along; you can still follow the challenge and get some ideas.  There’s always next year!


Filed under Dark Days, food