Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Holidays, however you celebrate them!

This was a week full of holidays for me- Chanukkah started on Tuesday, Winter Solstice was on Thursday, and of course, Christmas was this weekend! I am very lucky and blessed to have traditions to share with family for each of these holidays, and while I am not a practicing Jew and have never been a practicing Christian or Pagan, I am still able to derive a great deal of meaning from the traditions we have created, followed, and observed as a family. There are several themes that unite all the winter Holidays I celebrate: Family time, Fun, and Thankfulness. I made it my goal to intentially think about these things during my "vacation" time. I do things for a reason and I want to continue to make sure that I remember the message behind the holidays I am celebrating!

Yule Log- Whiteford Nursery, Sylvania, OH
 In what has become a great new tradition, two of our closest friends came over on Thursday evening to celebrate our 2nd annual Winter Solstice, and the beginning of lighter and longer days! We do this by exchanging small gifts, sharing a meal, enjoying a delicious sun cake from Dom Bakery. Then we make a fire in our fireplace, turn off all the lights in the house, and light the yule log.

We take turns sharing what we are thankful for in the past year and what we are looking forward to next year. Each of us lights a candle as we said our thanks, and the room grows lighter with each giving of Thanks and as the yule log burns down. It's a really nice way to celebrate the season, and add some careful thought back into a time otherwise overwhelemed with commercialism and rituals that can easily become stripped of their meaning.

Potato Latkes- always delish!
This year, my little family and I celebrated Chanukkah together by lighting the menorah, saying the prayers together, eating Potato and Leek Latkes, and exchanging presents. I also drove down to Toledo on Thursday, and went spent some quality time with my grandma, to celebrate. Several days later, Mike and I headed down to visit my parents, brother, and cousins, who continued the Chanukkah celebrations with more delicious food (traditional and not-so-traditional), as well as playing games and exhanging gag gifts.

Our holiday tree!
Since half of my family is Christian, every year we spend part of the holiday season celebrating Christmas with my Dad's side of the family in southern Ohio. While I don't see this side of the family as much, holidays are spent eating way too much, doting on the awesome little cousins, and spending quality time together. Mike and I also make sure we spend time with his side of the family, and on both sides gifts are exchanged; games are played, and many, many laughs are had. I don't have trouble deriving my own meaning from the holiday- I am really thankful for the kind, warm family that we have, and for the fun times we always have when we're together.

Happy Holidays! to you and yours this season.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dark Days Challenge Week 4- Potato and Leek Latkes (pancakes)

I'm not trying to make all of my Dark Days Challenge posts Potato themed, I promise! It's just that tonight is the first night of Chanukkah, and Potato Latkes are a MUST for celebrating Chanukkah. I'm a pretty non-practicing Jew, but I can still respect and appreciate my Jewish heritage, especially when it includes fried potatoes ;)

Historical perspective- 
Jews eat potato latkes on Chanukkah to remind us of the miracle of Chanukkah. The miracle entails the story of how the second temple was destroyed by the Assyrians in a fight for independence with the Maccabees (the Jewish "rebel" forces). The Jews searched the remains of the temple, and found only enough oil to light the menorah (candelabra that is never supposed to go out) for one day, but the oil lasted for 8 days, long enough to find more oil!  So Latkes are eaten (fried in oil) to commemorate the miracle that happened. Haha- now we will use so much oil!

Anyway, you can take that story to heart, or just make these little pancakes anyway: they're damn good.

Potato and Leek Latkes

6 medium potatoes
source: homegrown/Downtown Ypsilanti Farmers' Market- 50 mile radius
3 medium-large leeks
source: Valley Family Farms- 50 mile radius
6 tablespoons flour
source: Westwind Milling Co- 45 mile radius
1 large egg 
source: Carpenter Family Farms- 50 mile radius
2 cups oil
source: far away, but bought it from the local Co-op 
2 tbsp salt
source: also far
1.5 tbsp pepper
source: far!


  • Heat the 2 cups of Oil to medium-high in a large frying pan/ skillet
  • Wash and Peel the potatoes. Then grate them onto a clean towel
  • Press the moisture/liquid out of the Potatoes with the towel, then put the potatoes in a large bowl
  • Wash and slice the Leeks into small pieces, and add them to the bowl
  • Crack the Egg in a separate bowl and beat it, then add to large bowl 
  • Add Salt and Pepper to the bowl as well, and mix everything
  • Add Flour as needed, until the mixture thickens up
  • Scoop 2-3 spoonfuls of potato mixture onto hot skillet, and let them sizzle and brown on each side, then transfer to a plate covered in a towel. 
  • Let some of the oil drain off, then plate them with some sour cream and enjoy!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Dark Days Challenge: Week 1- Potato Soup

Potato Soup!
Here it is- my first Dark Days Challenge post! As a re-cap, as a participant in the Dark Days challenge, I am aiming to cook at least one meal each week featuring SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) ingredients. For this week, all of my ingredients are local and ethically sound. Can't completely vouch for sustainable but most of these ingredients can be grown at home or found on local farms, & I personally go for local/natural before I go for certified organic.

This recipe for potato soup is one of my go-to favorites in the winter. It's fairly quick, easy to prepare, and can be made using almost entirely season veggies. The only one that's not terribly seasonal is celery, and you could leave that out if you choose to!

Potato Soup

6 large potatoes, (or 12 medium/18 small)
source: homegrown/Downtown Ypsilanti Farmers' Market- 50 mile radius
3 large carrots
source: homegrown- my backyard
2 medium onions
source: Westside Farmers' Market- 50 mile radius
3 cloves garlic
source: Dyer Family Farms- 20 miles 
1 cup milk
source: Calder Dairy- 50 mile radius
2 tbsp butter
source: Calder Dairy- 50 mile radius
2 tbsp flour
source: Westwind Milling Company- 45 mile radius

  • Cut the potatoes into small, 1-2 inch pieces. Then slice carrots, onions and mince garlic.
  • Boil 6 cups water in a large stock pot. Once water is boiling, add potatoes, carrots
  • Place the butter in a small frying pan, once it starts to melt and bubble, add onions and garlic. Let onions brown a bit, then add the flour, and the milk to the pan. Stir all ingredients, then set aside.
  • Once potatoes and carrots are tender, drain all water out of pot, but save 1 cup and set aside.
  • Run the potatoes and carrots through a food processor, adding the water in with the veggies. Once veggies are nicely pureed, add them back to the large stock pot, and pour in milk/onion/garlic/butter/flour mixture.
  • Stir soup until all ingredients are mixed, and let the soup cook down for 10 more minutes. 
  • Add salt, pepper, rosemary to taste.
Serve soup and enjoy!