March 2010 archive

Dark Days Challenge – Week 19 – Local Marmalade & Why Frying in Duck Drippings Is Tastier than Duck Droppings

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Into each life some rain must fall, some days must be dark and dreary. ~ Longfellow

March has been the dreariest month I've had in a long time, both in a figurative sense and literal.  Weather wise, it seems like the sun rarely obliges us by coming out.  And March has been filled with sadness and anxiety.  My husband and I have had to deal with his father's hospitalization and transition to hospice care.  My grandmother died and I had to attend a funeral that was sad on so many different levels that it felt surreal.  This month has been full of sad surprises & little frustrations that layered on top of one another have been enough to break all of our camels' backs.

As I've mentioned before, I'm an eternal optimist and living down in the trenches is not a good place for me.  I explained to my husband the other day that it's one thing to feel sad and depressed.  It's another to feel sad and depressed and at the same time be frustrated and irritated that you're sad and depressed.  But as my husband said "Well – it wouldn't be you if you didn't give yourself a hard time about it". He knows me too well.  When your life seems dark and dreary, it's easy to walk around looking at everything through those gray shaded glasses – it's easy to give into the temptation to think that since everything is dark and dreary now, it will continue to be dark and dreary.  But at the same time, this month has been full of tiny moments in time when the sun breaks through the clouds.

I've been to a bridal shower where I got to hang out with some of the coolest, most uplifting women I've ever met.  The other day, my tomato seedlings put out their first real leaves and I got to smell that tomato leaf smell that I've been waiting for all winter.  The day we buried my grandmother, we had to mop up splatters of grease off the dashboard and explain to my brother that after driving in a van that reeked of Prince's Hot Chicken, he no longer could consider himself a vegetarian.  He was a carnivore due to the contact high of the chickeney fumes permeating the air around him.  I've had cat kisses, Marcus kisses, hugs from friends who know how to hug and read a blog post by a friend that made me cry but in such a good way.  We harvested the first brussel sprouts that we've grown and no matter how hilariously tiny they were, my husband was able to say for the first time that he liked Brussels sprouts. Saturday, we ate a local bison hot dog while watching the Little River foam at our feet and caught our first whiff of that green Smokey Mountain smell that means it's spring. And this morning?  Well, I'm officially a yoga goddess because I did my first headstand.

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I've been saving a small jar of local sunshine for my last Dark Days meal.  One of my favorite local farmers gave it to me as a gift last year and the thought that we can have local marmalade here in East Tennessee still delights me.  Yes – local MARMALADE!  The thought of local citrus just captivates me to the point that I almost squealed out loud when I saw the trees in Anita's yard this past September.  And the thought that I might be able to grow my own local citrus in East Tennessee without a greenhouse?  The thought thrills me.

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What better way to use this than to combine it with one of my husband's favorite foods – duck.  We roasted a duck from Laurel Creek Meat and glazed it with the marmalade.  We also got an amazing amount of duck fat from it which is always welcome in our house.

We also steamed broccoli from our garden.  I over-wintered it and even though the main shoots froze out, we've gotten a healthy harvest of side shoots from it.

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This weekend I got a hold of what I've going to consider local flour(it's milled here in East Tennessee) and I wanted to do something special with it.  I've never made my own pasta so I figured this was as good of a time as any to try it.  I have no pasta roller so these noodles were hand rolled and cut.

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These were so good that I kept eating them raw.  I had no problems gilding the lily though so I sautéed them in some duck drippings.  After being Mrs. Malaprop and telling my husband I was going to fry them in duck droppings.

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No – the wine isn't local but everything else was except for the salt.  And wine was needed so we could make a toast to those tiny moments of sunshine.

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Dark Days Challenge – Week 15 – Adding Some Fire & Heat to a Chilly Day

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I tend to not cook much with ready made food items.  It's not that I'm completely morally opposed to them.  Yes – a lot of processed foods are made with far too much salt, fat and GMO ingredients for my taste.  And many of them are very pricey and not very tasty to boot.  But I'm a busy person and I do appreciate the convenience and time savings of a quality, well-made product.  

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There aren't many locally processed foods from our area so using them hasn't been an issue for the Dark Days challenge.  That changed this week.  One of my favorite local farms, Rushy Springs Farm, made some marinades and I picked some up this past fall.  These products have been a wonderful way for our friend to use up the produce he doesn't sell at our local market.  He and I have rhapsodized many hours away singing the praises of various hot peppers and the Aji Amarillo is one of our favorites.

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Last night, Marcus and I took chicken thighs from Laurel Creek Meats and grilled them.  When they were close to being done, we basted them with some Aji Amarillo sauce  We served these thighs with summer squash from our local farmers market that I blanched and froze this past summer.  I sauteed them with a fresh potato onion from our garden, a little bit of frozen, roasted ancho chili and frozen tomato from my garden and finished them with a tiny bit of frozen local cilantro I put away last summer.  In fact, I used a tiny bit of beef suet to fry the squash so everything except the salt & cumin was local in this meal.

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It was a wonderful, quick meal that tasted like summer.  And the Aji Amarillo sauce is a wonderful locally made product that made our day a little easier and tastier.