Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas!

We had a wonderful Christmas here. There was plenty of family and good food, not to mention the Christmas day snow that made it actually feel like Christmas. I'd put up a picture of one of our two Christmas trees, but I've already dismantled them both. We even went out into the woods and cut our own this year. When I say "we", I really mean my husband. I was there to pick which ones I wanted, while he did the cutting, dragging, lifting, trimming, etc. It's the perfect partnership. Anyway, here's a picture of the chickens enjoying a leftover gingerbread man.
You can see the brown hen pecking at a gingerbread man, which kind of blends in with the leaves.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Experiments in the Kitchen Part II.

     My experimenting with Kale has taken a yummy turn. Unlike the failure that was Kale Chips, North African Chickpea and Kale Stew from the was a success. It has a delicious combination of flavors including cinnamon, allspice, and saffron. Saffron is expensive so get ready to shell out a pretty penny for this recipe. It is, however, totally worth the expense. The chickpeas and kale provide plenty of protein and substance to the soup, which can be eaten as a full meal with a nice hunk of bread. I only had three-ish cups of chopped kale left but the recipe calls for 8 cups. Personally, I think that would have been way too much. Either way, I'd definitely recommend this recipe. You'll also have plenty of left overs for at least a couple days. You can find the recipe here.
North African Chickpea and Kale Stew- Delicious and full of veggies.
     Since soup will be my lunch for the rest of the week, I made a BBQ Chicken Pizza for dinner. I got the recipe from Heather Van Vorous' Book Eating for IBS. It's so good, even my husband had several slices. Before I could even get a picture, half the pizza was gone. One thing I like about the recipe is that it calls for you to make your own BBQ sauce (easy and quick). It's sweet, spicy, and tangy all at once. I also cut down on cooking time by buying pre-made pizza dough and a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken. Then I just shredded two cups of the breast meat, instead of buying raw chicken breast and having to cook it. I'd definitely recommend buying her book or at least visiting her website for this recipe.
Half of the BBQ Chicken Pizza.
Moses really wanted some of that pizza.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Kale Chips-Experiments in the Kitchen

     Kale is one of those super-foods you should definitely be eating. It's a great source of calcium, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, protein, folate, and just about everything else. It's also a very fibrous vegetable and holds up better to heat than spinach, which seems to wilt the second it hits the pan. In an effort to eat more vegetables, particularly green vegetables, I decided to try making kale chips. I'd been hearing a lot about them and had seen recipes all over the web, so I finally picked up some kale this week and made a batch of chips. This was the first time I'd baked a leafy green vegetable as well as the first time I'd eaten kale. The verdict. . . .it could have been better, but it definitely could have been worse. You can find the recipe I used here.
Homemade kale chips. . .meh. . . 

     Part of the problem was me not reading the recipe correctly, while the other problem, I think, is that kale chips are just not that good. First, I read the recipe as calling for a tablespoon of seasoned salt, which I used, but it actually only called for a  teaspoon. My bad. Second, the recipe said to bake them for 10-15 minutes. I took them out at 10 minutes and they were still kind of mushy with a little bit of crispiness on the edges so I put them back in for another five minutes. They came out much crispier, albeit a little salty. Even after they were crispy to the touch though, the chips still had a chewy kale-ness to them once in my mouth. They were edible, however, so I put them in a container and will eat the rest. I wouldn't necessarily suggest making them unless you just want to get experimental in the kitchen. My next attempts at kale will definitely be in soup or smoothie form. In fact, the best thing to come out of this whole kale chip business is that the chickens will be munching on the kale scraps that didn't become chips.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Holidays Are Upon Us

     Halloween is long over and Thanksgiving is only a week away. I was so busy with garden clean-up, dogs, chickens, and going to a CSA workshop this Halloween that I didn't even decorate. I just blew right through the whole holiday, barely acknowledging it, other than buying a bag of candy. Now that things are slowing down, as much as they ever do, I'm actually getting into the holiday spirit.
     I love Thanksgiving for several reasons. One: I get to eat a ton of awesome food that I don't have to cook. Two: I get to take over a bunch of leftovers so I don't have to cook the next day either. Three: I get to spend some much needed time with the family. Four: After dinner is done, we get to turn on the Christmas music.
     We're trying to go more sustainable this holiday so since my mom is a great gardener, many of the vegetable sides will have come from her organic garden. Also, we're getting a free-range turkey from a friend who slaughters his own. We know that these animals have been raised in good, healthy, and humane conditions.
     In honor of this festive season, I've been baking bread, making chili, and even made some awesome pumpkin muffins for breakfast this morning. The chickens were happy because they got the leftover pumpkin puree. The girls have been getting plenty of autumnal food scraps (squash, pumpkin, apples, etc.), and are being kept warm by the deep litter method. This is where you let the litter build up over the winter so the heat from the decomposing litter keeps them warm.  It's a little more complicated than this, but that's the general idea. I'll clean the coop out in the spring and put it in the compost pile.
     Basically, I'm enjoying the lull in gardening and coop cleaning. My goal is to enjoy the spirit of the holiday season with family and food, rather than over doing it with presents and heinous trips to the mall.
Monster carrots from my garden!

Vegan spinach artichoke dip= awesomely good.

Turkey Chili.

I left this butternut squash out in the garden too long, so the chickens ate it, leaving the peel behind.

Making sure it's safe to exit. 

Vegan pumpkin muffins made the house smell divine.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Chickens Playing and Butternut Lasagna

     Fall is here and things are winding down. The only veggies still in the garden are carrots, one pumpkin, and maybe some turnips. I let the chickens, who are producing three eggs a day now, feast on some remaining tomatoes that I never got to before I go into the garden and clear out all of the dead plants. We've already had a few light frosts, so it's officially time to start cleaning up.

     I managed to harvest two butternut squashes from the garden before the frost hit. They were delicious in   a butternut squash lasagna. I got the recipe online from It involves way more effort than I usually like to put in, not to mention dirtying every pot, pan, and food processor in your house, but was delicious. Also, it makes a whole pan of lasagna so it's worth it since you won't have to cook for a few days.
I grew this!

I was tempted to eat the roasted squash before it made it to the lasagna.

The filling was mushrooms and spinach sauteed in garlic and white wine.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Using the Harvest and Eggs

   One of the highlights of the last couple weeks has been getting my first eggs! At first the hens started laying one every other day, but now they're laying two every day. Eventually, I expect to be getting around four eggs per day. Getting my own eggs is exciting not only because I like eggs, but because it means I'm producing my own vegetables and protein; add a grain and I'll have broken free of the grocery store's iron grip (OK,maybe an exaggeration). There's also the added benefit of having eggs that taste amazing. Store bought eggs are watery and flavorless. These eggs are fresh, they stay together when cracked into a pan, the yolks are a vibrant yellow (almost orange), and they actually have flavor. No need to smother them in ketchup. 

     While the garden has stopped growing, harvesting and preserving is in full swing. I've spent the past couple of weeks making curried apple and tomato chutney and batches of tomato basil soup with moskvitch tomatoes from just two plants. I've also been snacking on heirloom pear cherry tomatoes and finding uses for a few stray moskvitch tomatoes that ripened late but didn't amount to a full recipe (i.e. chopped tomato to top off chipotle chicken tacos). I'm also in the process of harvesting and drying Vermont cranberry beans, of which I have had quite a harvest. 
Tomato basil soup.

Vermont cranberry beans drying in their pods.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Roosters: Nature's Alarm Clocks

     If I was unsure before, I'm not now. I definitely have a rooster on my hands. He crows every morning at 6:30am and sporadically throughout the day. He's also fond of bullying the other Rhode Island Red hens. He doesn't give too much trouble to the Barred Plymouth Rock girls, but it's probably because when he tries, they kick his butt. I caught him doing something loud and inappropriate to a hen behind a log next to the house yesterday; it was awkward for all involved. I am thus faced with a decision. Find a way to separate him from the girls so we can breed him when we're ready, or eat him. I haven't quite made up my mind. I'll think I'm OK with eating him, but then I'll go outside and they'll all run over to me and follow me around the yard like we're the best of friends; then I feel bad about envisioning him crisping up nicely in the oven. I'll put off making the decision until I absolutely have to.
     Aside from this little bump in the chicken-raising road, everything is going smoothly on that front. Fall is starting bit by bit. The leaves are starting to turn and fall off the trees, and you can hear the chickens coming because the leaves make a crunching sound under their feet. They're are also enjoying the stray apples that fall off of our two apple trees. There's much squabbling over these treats, as well as attempts to jump up and peck at fruit on low hanging branches. Of course, all of this chicken activity and no sign of eggs yet.

Apples are a nice treat for the chickens.

This Barred Plymouth Rock Hen has no tolerance for Rooster antics
     The veggie garden is winding down. I pulled up the zucchini plants that stopped producing and the pumpkins and butternut squash should be ready to harvest in the next week or two (theoretically). I'm hoping the vine borers didn't actually get into the fruit. I picked a few carrots early because I just couldn't wait. Actually, I'm glad I didn't wait since they were deliciously sweet and fragrant. Some of the cranberry bean pods have already started to brown and dry up. I'm hoping it wont be long before the rest follow since I have a recipe for turkey and cranberry bean chili I want to try. Finally, I've picked a bunch of tomatoes that I'm ripening inside; the ones I've left on the vine too long split. 
Moskvitch Tomatoes and Red Pear Cherry Tomatoes
     I've done a bit of baking lately. I used the last zucchini to make two loaves of zucchini bread and still have two quart bags of frozen zucchini in the freezer. I also made no-bake cookies (I guess that doesn't really count as baking), which were awesome as usual. I will include the recipe for those in a separate post. I also made fresh bread today. Well, I say made, but I really just threw all of the ingredients in a bread machine and let the machine do all the work. I don't feel too bad about it though, because it's still more sustainable and economical to make your own bread in a bread machine than it is to buy it at the grocery store. It also makes the house smell great.
Zucchini Bread
     Overall, it's been pretty busy around here. The slower pace of fall and winter will be a welcome reprieve.