It’s Wednesday again, and time for me to make another Dark Days Challenge meal. To be honest, I’m in desperate need of a local meal today. I’ve had a “fallen off the wagon” start to this week and I’m starting to mistrust my determination and will-power when it comes to turning down non-local junk food. So I’m using my Dark Days meal this week as a confessional. Get it all out and get back on track.
Confession 1: I had McDonald’s for the first time in over 18 months on Monday. Â My stomach turns just thinking about it. I was in a bind out in the ‘burbs and needed to use the free Wi-fi. I typically stop in at the local library if I’m in desperate need, but because of MLK Day, that wasn’t an option. The kitchen partner said I should haveÂ just sat in a booth in the back and not purchased anything. They can afford for one person to bum the internet now and then. But somewhere deep down my Minnesota-niceness feels like that’s stealing. We should all have a chat about free Wi-fi etiquette sometime. I’d like to know whether he or I is in the right.
Confession 2: Â My second cringe moment came last night. Â I was
thrilledÂ jubilantÂ euphoric when a melted Kraft single came on my sandwich at the restaurant we went to. I haven’t had a processed cheese slice in years. When you grow up in Dairyland there’s no such thing as fake cheese. Â We always ate the real thing. Today I’m embarrassed to think I relished in what would make even a greenhorn foodie shudder. Cheese singles are about as non-local (are they even food?) as it gets.
Now…to climbing back on the wagon.
Getting on Track: Today the Dark Days Challenge folks are posting SOLE meals that can be made in one pot. Â Soups, stews, casseroles all with easy clean up. I decided to take out my least-favorite kitchen appliance for the task. You heard it. My detested, oversized slow-cooker is going to whip me back into shape.Â I’m not sure why we don’t use it very often–wait–that’s not true. Of course I know what I loathe about my slow-cooker:
It’s the broken lid that you now need two pot holders forÂ from when I dropped it the first week we owned it. Burning my hand now!!!
It’s the heebie-jeebies I get about food safety when it’s just sitting out on the counter. Is that really to temperature?
It’s the nasty steam cloud that scorchesÂ my eyelashes every time I forget to lift the lid away from my face. #*&$&! Â I can’t see! #*&$#! Why do I always do that!?!?Â
It’s that we hate scrubbing the baked on food so much that one time it landed back in the cupboard with the soaking water still in it. Neither the kitchen partner or I can remember (or admit) who put it away dirty.Â Guess what sauerkraut and dumplings look like after 6 weeks of brewing…yuck!Â
And it’s definitely how the smell of whatever I’m cooking in it seems to slow-roast into every corner of the house for the next few days. Hmm. When I opened my sock drawer this morning, I got a craving for that pot roast I made last Wednesday.Â
Anyway. The important thing to know is busting out the slow-cooker today to make split pea soup was a major commitment towards getting back on the locavore track.
Like most slow-cooker recipes, the split pea soup is a dump-it in, let it cook no-brainer recipe. The bulk dried split peas came from Whole Grain Milling in Welcome, MN and the ham hock was leftover from my in-laws’ Christmas dinner. Tossed in with some homemade stock and left to simmer, stew, and slow-roast all afternoon. Even though I could smell it from the garage when I came home from work tonight, I was grateful to have a warm, creamy bowl to cozy up with on our first sub-zero evening of the year. When I opened up the lid to finish the final blend, all those local ingredients staring back at me seem to say “Welcome back Amy. We knew you wouldn’t be gone for long.”
Slow-Cooker Split Pea SoupÂ
2 C. dried split peas, rinsed and sorted
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 large potatoes, roughly chopped with skins on
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 C. carrots, roughly chopped
4 C. vegetable stock
1 C. water
1 ham hock (may substitute 1 pound of bacon)
1. Place all ingredients in a slow-cooker lightly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Cover and turn on low for 6 hours. When finished, remove ham hock from slow-cooker and take any remaining meat off the bone. Using an immersion blender, pulse soup 2-3 times until soup reaches desired consistency. Depending on the heat of your slow-cooker, the carrots and potatoes may be soft enough to blend with a spoon. Return meat to the slow-cooker. Serve warm.