Cooking,  Local Products

Dark Days Challenge-Week #3

First weeks of Dark Days of Winter Local Eating Challenge were a cakewalk. I tried a new recipe, had some decent photos, cruised through the post. Week 2-3, less of a go. I started reviewing some of the recipes and posts from the EAST recap (each week there will be a recap of the recipes other bloggers are making on Not Dabbling in Normal) and became discouraged.

The “rules” of the Dark Days Challenge are to prepare and eat one entirely SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, and ethical) meal per week. Although Minnesota Locavore was born with the ‘L’ in mind, it seems adding the S-O and E is going to be a little more difficult. For the past 18 months, the kitchen partner and I have eaten between 75 and 100% of our meals locally, depending on the season. We’ve spent hours online and in grocery aisles scanning labels for Made in Minnesota. We did super high ninja kicks in the kitchen when we found a new partner in our food shed (major kicks for local sunflower oil…major kicks).

But now, the sustainable, organic and ethical piece of the challenge throws a good chunk of those ingredients out with the bath water. Although all the vegetables and meats we eat from the farmers’ market are local, many of the producers choose not to USDA certify organic. Most of these producers use sustainable and ethical practices because it makes economic sense to be good stewards of the land that supports their livelihood. But without some sort of “seal of approval” how am I to know?

Doesn’t seem like such a cakewalk anymore…

I’ve read the posts of other Dark Days Challengers and many share the same sentiments. Am I willing to eat eggs from my dad’s flock even though they aren’t certified organic? Yes, because they are local and raised ethically. Am I willing to choose Frontier spices because they are organic and sustainable, but shipped from Norway, Iowa, beyond the 150 mile “local” radius? Yes, because if adding in the fuller spices and flavors helps food taste better and pushes me to eat less highly processed, pre-packaged food, I’m still ahead in the long run.

Two and a half weeks in and I know again why I started this blog in the first place. What we eat is a series of choices. The structure of our food system makes it incredibly easy and convenient to choose some foods, but makes it harder to choose healthy, sustainable and ethical choices. Regardless though, what we eat is still a choice. I started Minnesota Locavore because I wanted more people to choose local food and to include the S, O and the E parts when possible. They’re the extra perks. So for the remainder of the Dark Days Challenge, “local” will continue to be my focus with highlights on the Minnesota companies that I’ve discovered also choose sustainable, organic and ethical. After all it’s what we do around here.
Here’s the scoop on this week’s dish, roasted butternut squash with spicy italian sausage. It’s inspired by a recent trip to Brasa on Grand Avenue in St. Paul. Famous for rotisserie-style local meats, Brasa also has seasonal/local sides that make me swoon. On our visit we had yams, roasted with thick slices of Andouille sausage. Perfect for a SOLE meal. For my version, I substituted the yams for an organic butternut squash from the St. Paul Farmer’s Market and the Andouille for a bulk spicy Italian sausage from Grass Run Farms in Dorchester, IA.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Spicy Italian Sausage 

Inspired by Brasa in St. Paul 


1 medium-large butternut squash
1 pound bulk spicy italian sausage
2 Tbsp. maple syrup

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray.

2. Cut squash in half lengthwise.  Scoop out seeds and any stringy pieces before placing cut-side down on the baking sheet. Roast in the oven 35-45 minutes or until a fork can be easily poked into the thickest part of the squash.  Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.  When squash can be easily handled, remove skin and place squash in a bowl. Gently mash squash until it reaches desired consistency (if you like mashed potatoes a little chunky, leave larger chunks. If you like them smooth, you may purée in a food processor). Set aside.

3. Cook sausage in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until browned about 8-10 minutes. When fully cooked, remove from pan leaving 1 Tbsp. of grease in bottom of pan. Pat excess grease from sausage with a paper towel.  Add squash to sauté pan, return  sausage and add in maple syrup for sweetener.  Gently heat on low until squash and sausage are warmed.  Serve immediately.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.