The Reason You Should Have Chickens of Your Own

Good egg. Bad egg.

Chickens molt. When they do, they do not lay eggs. For the last couple of weeks my hens have been shedding their summer feathers and putting on their winter coats. I hate when it happens as I am forced, usually, to buy eggs from the store or the farmer’s market. The other day I was down to my last farm egg and needed more. My only choice that day was the grocery store. I was sad. I had a right to be.

I used the first of the store bought brown orbs and the last egg laid by one of my hens before they started changing clothes when baking up my favorite six ingredient brownies. The difference in quality was apparent. The store bought egg, which was touted as natural and cage free, had the palest yolk and runny white. My hen’s egg had a very orange yolk and tight white. The chickens I keep eat organic food, get organic six grain scratch, vegetable scraps, fresh water, and they dig for worms everyday. They are happy, fat and lovely ladies who show their gratitude by giving me superior stuff.

When I looked down in the bowl at the one good egg and one not so good egg I realized just how lucky I am to have home grown ingredients to work with for most of the year. On my very small urban farm there have been fresh herbs, mints, tomatoes, peppers, lettuces, berries, and eggs. It all takes work, and the chickens take the most time and attention.

I complain about having to get up very early in the morning during the summer to feed them so they don’t wake the neighbors with all the noise they make if they have to wait for their scratch. I hate having to remove the debris from the run and hen house as it is a dirty, smelly job if I wait too long between cleanings, although the droppings make my compost even richer and will contribute to the success of the crops I will plant in the spring.

The day I cracked that horrid excuse for a cage free natural egg I realized how the work pays off. For my labor, and the labor of the hens, I get the most amazing eggs to bake with and to eat all by themselves. So, to Penny, Buffy, Laverne, and Bruiser Woods I say “thanks girls” for giving up what could have been your children. I appreciate it, especially when I have to buy sub-par eggs from the box store!

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All Better

Cooking always makes things seem better. On this morning’s menu: A quiche of sorts with potato slices weaved together to make a crust. The filling is made up of thin, seared asparagus spears, caramelized onions, country pork sausage cooked with a dollop of chopped garlic, wilted spinach, and whipped eggs to cover it all. There will be toast from the bread I made a couple of days ago and juice. Are you hungry yet? I can teach you how to do this, and so much more.

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Eat Your Brownies!

Ok, not every day…. but it won’t kill you to have a good one sometimes. I found an easy recipe in an old time cookbook. The name of the cookbook escapes me, but this simple recipe never did. It is a six ingredient masterpiece. All of the things you need should be in a simply stocked panty
1 stick salted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
6 Tbs. dutch processed cocoa
1 tsp. good vanilla extract
Melt butter, add sugar, then eggs and vanilla and combine all well. Add flour and cocoa powder and put it in a buttered 9×9 dish and for bake at 350 for exactly 25 minutes…. cool completely and then cut.
For a change of pace add different stuff after you put the batter in the pan. This time around I put white chips and some 60% dark chips on top before baking and it added another dimension of flavor and a bit of a chocolate crunch. Add your favorite nuts or even dried cranberries for a different twist.

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Use Your Fruit

When a house of two becomes a house of one, eating everything when it is in pristine condition is difficult. As I was cleaning out the fridge drawers the other day I found blueberries, nectarines, peaches, strawberries, and cherries wilting away. So, in order to save them all, I made two different syrups. Blueberry with lemon juice and cherry balsamic vinegar and a peach, nectarine, cherry and strawberry with lemon, brown sugar, and some sparkling blood orange juice. I put the cooked down fruit in a china cap and pushed all the juice and cooked down fruit back in the sauce pan. Back on the stove for 15 minutes and at the very end add a tbs. of butter to smooth it out and add richness. Keeps in the fridge, or can be frozen.
Pancakes this weekend are going to be very special. give your wrinkled fruit another chance and give yourself some serious goodness.

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Foods We Love

Yesterday I asked my Facebook friends the question, If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be? One person said, of all things, butter. Someone else said avocados, another said vegetables. Surprising what we want to eat if we can only have one thing. Good thing we don’t actually have to make that kind of decision, but it is good to know that if only given one choice, there is something that makes us so sated we could live without the rest.

 

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Go Slow….

When you work in a restaurant kitchen it is always a mad dash. Hurry up and prep…. work fast to get food to the diners… it’s like a bee hive. Everyone doing what is needed to make it a successful night.

I loved those days, but now, I am glad that I can cook at a slower pace. I can take my time. I can chop and prep with an intent of purpose, not with an intent to beat the clock. I can saute, and fry and bake at my pace, not hurrying unless I want to. I like this new way of cooking.

The other day I was chopping herbs and garlic for a chicken dish I have been working on. I started out chopping so fast, like I had five minutes left before the start of dinner service. I realized what I was doing, my little zen voice telling me that I could slow down, that I could chop and let myself think about the dish I was trying to create. I am working on the being more mindful in my cooking now. Trying be in that place where I can hear my thoughts and feel the love I am trying to put in the food I make. It is something new to an old dog like me who has hurried through too many nights in the belly of the beast known as a restaurant kitchen.

Some may say that good art comes from frenzied moments, and that may be true, but for me, right now, I am looking for that quiet happy place where my culinary creativity can shine. I don’t have to keep a busy restaurant kitchen pace anymore. I don’t have to rush, or stress, or chastise cooks who are going to slow. In the new, zen, incarnation of me I can sip wine and pluck leaves of thyme off the stem. I can chop with quiet contemplation. I can dance to music that is the background to the palate I am trying to create if I like.

Cooking and eating are meant to feed both body and soul. I am of the opinion that the soul can’t get fed if the cooking is frantic. The frantic goes into the food. I am teaching myself to cook now from only the soul… one… mindful… chop or stir… at a time.

Next time you get ready to throw down in the kitchen, take a step back and let the zen take over. Put on some music, pour yourself your favorite libation and let the muse carry you while you create a meal that will feed you and the people who share the food with you in a peaceful, rich, wonderful way.

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Making Culinary Dreams Come True

It’s official. I’m coming out with a cook/tech book titled “Food For Body and Soul”.
I am not waiting for a publisher to let me have my dream. I’m taking the reins and will self publish in time for all those fall holidays.
I hope to make this a pretty cool cookbook with as much tech as is necessary to complete all the dishes. A culinary school textbook of sorts for the home cook. Tons of photos. Videos for the web.
Can’t wait to show it to you….

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