Archive for chicken

The Miraculous and Delicious Egg

eggs

 

To the music of “These are a few of my favorite things” – and  with apologies to Maria! – let’s all sing together:

Soufflés & Quiches, Omelets & Crepes

Clafoutis, Flans, and Croque-Madames

Waffles & Cremes, Meringue & Mousse

Not to mention sunnyside up

Custard & Ice, and Devil & Neige

Angel Food Cake

Steamed  bread pudding and lemon pound cake

These are a few of my favorite things.


Somewhere along the line, eggs got a bad rap. Too much fat! Too much cholesterol! This from people who did not blink an eye about recommending margarine and other wholly unnatural man-made white fats. And then thanks to the horrors of factory farming where hundred of thousands of hens are crammed together, fed junk,  and forced to lay continuously, salmonella scares have  further discourage the eating of eggs. But of course! Anything produced in factory “farms” conditions is going to be less than wholesome.

But  a pastured flock has access to a varied diet of grass, weeds, bugs; enjoy sunshine & fresh air; range and do what chicken naturally do (scratch, run, take dust baths etc). Those eggs are truly an amazing food, a power house of protein, minerals, vitamin and oligo elements – delicious and nutritious.

In my area, eggs from pastured hens sell vary from $4.25 to $5.75 a dozen, generally depending on whether the grain rations are GMO-free or organic, or soy-free. At 2 oz per egg extra-large), that’s 24 oz or 1.5  lb per dozen – or $2.83 to$ 3.83 per pound – a pretty good deal!

Besides, consider that chicken lay unfertilized eggs while wild birds lay eggs only after mating. Does that give us an indication of how long the relationship between chicken and humankind is?

So… need some egg ideas?

IDEAS FOR BREAKFAST, LUNCH OR LIGHT DINNER

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Strata, aka savory bread pudding, here with roasted pepper, slow cooked onions & spinach

 

grits & manchego souffle

Souffles – here corn grits souffle

 

IDEAS FOR LUNCH OR DINNER

Everyone like deviled eggs! Here’s my recipe.

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Vegetable, buckwheat noodle  & egg stir-fry

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Sunnyside eggs anytime – that’s the ultimate fast food!

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Sunnyside eggs, chayote shoots, rice & spicy zucchini rougail

Sunnyside eggs with purslane, blue potato & cherry tomato salad

Sunnyside eggs with a summer salad of purslane, blue potatoes & cherry tomatoes

 

Spring omelette with asparagus & morellesmorels-2009-04-043

 

 

IDEAS FOR DESSERT

While many desserts include eggs, some rely almost exclusively on eggs, including these:

Baked custard. I vary the sweeteners, often using honey, as well as the flavoring: almond extract, fennel seeds, orange oil are flavors I often use (but vanilla bean is the most frequent)

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Fruit curd, including lemon curd are good on toast, mixed with plain yogurt, as cake filling,  or as a base in a fruit tart. Add whipped cream and/or whipped egg whites and you’ve got lemon mousse.

meyer lemon curd

Meringue & passion fruit curd… and also pavlovas

Meringues with passion fruit curd

Meringues with passion fruit curd (lemon curs or any kind of curd works too)

 

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Early Summer Pavlova with rhubarb curd

 

Chocolate mousse.

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Spicy Chocolate Custard. custard, spicy chocolate 005

 

 

 

Postcard from the Meadow

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On the Value of a Hoophouse

Cost: $100 (mostly recycled materials).Value? priceless.

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After a hard day of trampling paths up & down the hill or shoveling the 22″ of snow that have graced us since Friday (or plowing snow for Keith, including the road and the driveway of several neighbors), we have worked quite an appetite. Tonight dinner is homemade pizza (the dough was rising while I was – of course! – shoveling snow; canned tomato sauce from last summer) and a big mix green salad of lettuces, arugula, mache, parcel, frisee endive – freshly harvested at 4:00 pm today. Dessert? Quince fool (canned quince from last fall). We may even try the quince liqueur. That’s probably still too rough though, so we may have to settle for strawberry liqueur instead… sigh…

Like El at FastGrowTheWeeds, I see my pantry as the traditional dry pantry, the freezer and the fresh outdoor pantry that the hoophouse is. Not only do we eat fresh, but the chicken get to have something green too. Rather precious at the moment. And you know, chickweed grow really well in there, really really well…

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It’s a good thing we build the with metal arches – PVC would have collapsed – and we put the arches closer than suggested…

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I trudged up through the snow to clean it off the hoophouse before the thaw and freeze cycle started. I mostly had to clear by hand. For sure I got exercise today! The garden was blanketed by 20″+ of snow, but inside the hoophouse, it was as beautiful as ever… and smelling so good…

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Stuck!

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Can you guess which one is the river and which one is the road (and that’s less water running through than early this morning)

No matter, we are stuck here! And the rain’s not over yet.

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First order of the day was to move the chicken to higher – and drier – pasture, since the one where they were is under water.  While they did not like their coop moved (while they were inside), they certainly don’t seem the worse for it and are now joyfully attaching fresh grass. Lots of chicken butts to see.

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And one of the big advantage of an electronet is that you can move it fast and easily. Also it catches leaves and straw debris from the running water. At least I get to keep some of my organic materials.

Although I am sure the water will leave debris behind too.

Isn’t that how the Nile Valley used to be fertilized?

Chickens Are Not Vegetarian

They love insects, worms, caterpillars, maggots, larvae, meat if they can get it. They do need animal protein for a balanced and healthy diet – which means also chicken and eggs healthy to eat – and delicious.

If anybody ever doubted that chickens are not vegetarians, they should have been here a few mornings ago, when I broke through the frozen top layer of the small compost pile housed in the current chicken area. It has been so cold that the compost pile surface has frozen. The very heart of it was warm enough though… Of course, as always curious, they follow me to see what I am up to. Plus I had the fork, and they know it’s the tool I use to lift rocks or dig out perennial weeds (all of which bring up all kind of good food to the surface).

So, as soon as I started to turn the pile, the race was on! Get that worm, girl! and that one! here! another! quick!

Vigorous scratching that sends clumps 4 feet away, heated conversation (yes chicken do converse), diligent industrious pecking, excited chatting and calls about a tempting juicy plump cache of worms… that’s what happens. And worms and other bugs just get gobbled up, fast and methodically. I love watching the chicken being chicken and expressing their joie de vivre through being able to do what chicken evolved to do.

Bugs the hell out of me when I see “vegetarian feed only” on boxes of supermarket eggs.

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On Chicken

The chicken have moved to their winter quarters.

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We’ve taken the wire fence from the summer garden down; moved the electric net fence to enclose the new chicken area; relocated the coop inside the old summer garden, and built a little dome shelter – complete with perches – so the chicken can be outside the coop and dry on wet days – like today.

The idea is to harness “chicken power” in helping to prepare next year summer garden. We’ll give them the run of the area through late April, with the hope that they will eat the bugs, control weeds, aerate the soil and incorporate organic matter – including their droppings – in the top soil (since I am also piling leaves, old straw, and other organic debris in there). Besides providing us with tasty eggs, those girls (and one boy) are playing a big role in the cycle of the garden.

Come April, they’ll be moved to another area that I want them to help clear. We hope to rotate them every 6 months, with the idea that, at all time, one area will be under chicken patrol, one area will be fallow (with cover crop) and one area cultivated.

Meanwhile, this winter, we have work to do moving the stones around to change the perimeter of the summer garden. One can see on the picture low stone “walls” outlining the perimeter of the initial summer garden – about 28 feet square. We saw way too small when we first did it two years ago. Of course, at the time, it looked big, and picking and moving the stones from the to-be-planted area to the perimeter was no small task. Fields grow stones, around here! Prospectives have changed. Funny how that happen. I now have grand plans for extensive plantings of beans, corn & squash for next year, so the summer garden is likely to be 3 to 4 times bigger by the time we are done.

A girl can dream.

The stones will have to be moved.

Breakfast For The Girls

We are calling them girls (Gael, Gladys, Gwen, Gali, Gudule etc etc). There might be a boy in there – won’t know for sure for a few weeks. He’ll be Gaston, or Gus, or Gaspard – haven’t quite decided yet.

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The girls are still in the brooder and not out yet (too cold – got down to 19F/ -7C last night) but I want them to be exposed to the outside and to eat fresh and varied (beside their chicken starter ration). Eating fresh and varied… sounds familiar? So? so, every morning, we dig fresh clumps of succulent greens for them, and put the clumps in a big flat pot or large clay saucer. We bring it to them (replacing the day-old saucer which they have battred down quite vigorously). On the menu this morning: chickweed, grass, mache, dandelion etc sprinklered with granite grit – which they need for their digestion. Gael et al are now at the stage where they actually eat the greens. And they are expecting it! Woe to me if I don’t bring it. Read more

The Ides Of March

Something softly went through the hollow last night, dropping huge handfuls of wet snow all over. The snow on the ground was gone by mid-morning, but wads of sticky whiteness remained in shrubs and dry grasses – looking like cotton candy.

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Meanwhile, inside under the shop lights, seeds planted earlier this month have germinated, true leaves starting to show.Soon to be moved to the greenhouse, thinned and even up-potted.seedling-2009-03-065

and then… peep peep… arrived today, brought by a big stork…peep peep

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