Roast Beast

Just like the Whos in Whoville, Our Christmas feast included roast beast, in this case–leg of lamb. We also had roasted carrots glazed with cider molasses (a thicker version of our cider syrup) and mashed potatoes. This meal came mostly from our own backyard with the addition of a beautiful grassed leg of lamb from Thistle Byre Farm. I marinated the lamb with olive oil, fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, white wine, garlic, salt, and pepper. The carrots are Napoli carrots from our high tunnel. These are Eliot Coleman’s much lauded “candy carrots” that are sweetened by some heavy frosts and freezes. I harvested them along with some beautiful Jerusalem artichokes on Christmas Eve. The artichokes are heaped with compost in their outdoor bed. Our mild winter made it quite easy to harvest them. The carrots were amazingly sweet and lovely. These holiday gifts from our own farm were a beautiful celebration of the day.

Here’s the official breakdown for the Dark Days Challenge:

Our own farm:
Chicken broth (for mashed potatoes)
Apple cider molasses (home canned from Markle Farm cider)

Thistle Byre Farm:

Leg of lamb

Non-local Ingredients:

White wine
Olive oil

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Upping My Game

I spend most of my “work time” growing, picking, acquiring, preserving, organizing, and storing food. I love it and I have gotten pretty good at it. This year is my 4th with a big garden. This year’s will be even bigger as we added the high tunnel. I’ve made lots of great contacts and friends and now know where and when to source grass-fed local meats and some of the fruits and veggies I do not grow as well as things like honey.

Where I often fail is in the end product. I do like to cook and am good at it, but I am most often disorganized and am throwing things together at the last-minute–often with lackluster results. It’s hard to use my carefully grown, produced, and sourced ingredients without a game plan. So, as I found myself grumpily staring blankly at Facebook one day, I got mad. Really mad. At me. Winter is hard and there are always points where I just become grumpy, lazy, and unmotivated. This cycle feeds on itself. I HATE being non-productive. That is just how I am wired. So if you are ever chatting with me and wondering why I have to shell beans or knit or clean or cook at the same time, that is why. I like a day where I can see the fruits of my labor. Even as a child, playing was not my favorite. I did not like dolls. I would much prefer to play with a real baby. My favorite presents as a child were my pottery wheel, art supplies, and easy bake oven because I could produce something with them.

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So what did I use this anger for, you ask? I cut most facebook ties, organized the house, and worked on making great, super-nutritious menus and meals using all this great food I have. I make menus 1-2 weeks in advance and, for the most part, stick to them. It has worked wonderfully. I have a plan for the day, I usually get it ready in the AM and that makes the post-school hours much happier around here. Lily gets more of my attention and I am in a better mood.

I have a binder where I put all the recipes we like and have tried as well as ones we are going to try. I even jot down notes of my popular standards so I won’t forget to put them in rotation. All this might sound humdrum and boringly domestic, but it is the final piece of my goal to feed my family the best, healthiest food I can. Planning ahead also lets me make efficient, cheap, and few grocery store trips. Many of our recently discovered new favorites have been taken from cooking blogs. There is a great cyber community out there of women who are growing and cooking food just like me and most of them are obsessed with photography also.

In the slideshow you will see a grated raw beet and carrot salad. It’s easy. Grate some peeled raw beets (you will get red hands, so suck it up), grate some carrots, and toss with a vinaigrette of choice. I used EVOO, cider vinegar, maple syrup (ours), celery seed, and some dry mustard. Toss. Eat. I tossed in sunflower seeds. ABSOLUTELY delicious. I have been using lots of beets and carrots. We also had cooked carrots that I glazed with my homemade apple cider molasses. YUM!!!

Here some of the recipes we have fallen in love with: