Archive | January, 2013

Breakfast Idea: Bacon Egg & Cheese Mix/Spread

28 Jan

I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – I LOVE BREAKFAST! I can’t help it. It’s the best meal of the day in my opinion, and breakfast for dinner is really a treat. But back to this spread. It’s cheesy, it’s got some zing from the mustard powder, smokiness from the bacon, and the mayo helps bind it all together and up the creamy quotient. Another plus is on it’s own it’s Gluten Free (obviously you’ll have to put it on GF bread or crackers to keep it that way)! It’s yummy, quick, and can be used in a variety of ways listed below.

egg spread broiled

Bacon Egg & Cheese Mix/Spread

adapted from The Pioneer Woman

12 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped

12 slices bacon, cooked and chopped

2 cups freshly grated cheese ( I used Colby Jack)

1/2 cup Hellman’s Light Olive Oil Mayo

1 heaping teaspoon mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

6 slices bread of choice

Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix until just combined. Refrigerate 1 hour to let flavors meld. (If freezing, skip this step)

egg spread premixeggspread mixed

I have used this recipe 4 different ways, all with great results:

1. Frozen – Top english muffins with mixture and freeze individually. Remove from freezer letting thaw overnight for use the following day. Place under broiler for roughly 5 minutes, until golden brown and warmed through.

2. Microwaved – for 30-60 seconds and topped on crackers.

3. Traditional – top a toasted piece of bread or english muffin with the mix, and place under broiler for about 5 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.

4. Appetizer – follow original directions, but chop the egg and bacon a bit finer. Heat is a small crock pot and serve with crackers, melba toast, or slices of baguette bread. Yum!

With breakfast being the most important meal of the day, I feel that you need variety! A cold bowl of cereal just won’t cut it to cover 7 days a week! I hope you guys enjoy this breakfast treat as much as we do!

Advertisements

English French Toast

14 Jan

I LOVE breakfast. LOVE IT! I would eat it for lunch, dinner, and well, breakfast. I especially love it for dinner though, because it’s like a sinful treat…it feels like I’m getting away with something eating a pancake or scrambled eggs for dinner. I’m a total rebel. And breakfast for dinner is a rather quick meal to prepare when you’re covering the basics. And it’s filling. And it’s breakfast, so it’s great!

On to french toast. I’ve made it will all types of bread. Sandwich bread, italian, whole wheat, whole grain, hot dog buns, kaiser rolls, french bread, sourdough, sausage rolls, baguette. Everything. Except english muffins. Then I saw a post over at thekitchn.com and was slack-jawed. HOW had I never made french toast out of english muffins???? The horror. I had to rectify this error. So, with english muffins as my bread, I got to mixing up my egg bath for those nook and cranny filled rounds and English French Toast was born. This recipe listed is the standard recipe I use for all french toast making, regardless of bread type. The version over at the kitchn.com is the runnier version, as there are fewer eggs and more milk/cream. I prefer and eggier version for myself, because it’s a more well-rounded breakfast for me. In my mind. Feel free to use either recipe, but be sure to try french toast out with english muffins.

The hubs confirms it’s a hit. The chewy texture of the english muffin elevates it to new levels, and those nooks and crannies help to keep parts of the muffin moist and custard like with those crisp direct contact with the pan parts.

This recipe can be adapted to fit your needs. I make a large enough batch that the hubs can have seconds, and I’ll still have a slice or two to eat for breakfast the next day. I just pop the slices in the toaster to reheat and crisp up and then slather in syrup. Bliss.

English French Toast

5 english muffins, split

8 eggs

1/4cup milk or cream

1tsp vanilla extract

Cinnamon for sprinkling

1-2tbsps butter for the pan

Directions

Pre-heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the butter.

While your skillet is pre-heating, add eggs, milk and vanilla to a baking dish and whisk to combine.

Pop in your english muffin halves, coating both sides in the egg mixture. Let them soak a bit to absorb as much egg as possible. I poke mine with a fork to help the egg penetrate the muffin better.

When all of your english muffins are coated in egg, place them in your skillet smooth side down. Sprinkle nook and cranny side with cinnamon. After about 3 minutes, flip the muffins. Cook for another 3 minutes.

If doing this in batches, I find it best to have the oven set to warm and will place the cooked french toasts in the oven to stay warm while I finish up the batch.

Serve with butter, good REAL maple syrup, or even some strawberry jam. Enjoy!

Note: These freeze really well too, so if you wanted to make a double batch and have them frozen for weekday breakfasts, go for it! Take them out the night before to thaw in the fridge and then just pop in the toaster until warm and crispy!

The DIY Life: Keeping Chickens – The Winter Months

8 Jan

December came in like a lamb but went out like a lion. We had mild temps and a whole lot of rain for the first couple weeks. The last couple weeks of December, the temps went down (you do get a little spoiled when you are having 50 degree days in December in Western Pa!) and the snow came right after Christmas. We got over 12 inches of snow. What that meant for me was diligence about keeping the birds with water and feed, as well as making sure their run stayed dry. AND let’s not forget shoveling a path AROUND the outside of their fenced in run. Partly for me to make it easy when caring for them, mostly for the birds so that they could venture out of the run and get a little more exercise. Did you know chickens are snow blind? They also don’t like how the snow feels on their feet. I can’t say I blame them.

Hmm....I guess the driveway ends here. I have no idea how to get back!

Hmm….I guess the driveway ends here. I have no idea how to get back!

I had preplanned what I was going to do to keep the birds comfortable, well fed, exercised and happy. The true test for me, I feel, was when we got that first 8 degree morning, with temps at zero with the wind chill. I got up and went out to check on the ladies. They were all alive, and came out of the coop to have their morning feeding. Yay! I felt like a super hero.

Now, what follows is how I prepped for the birds in the winter months. I’m no expert – I have read, researched, and tested out some things and this is what works for ME. Use it as a guideline. Find what works for you. Don’t take everything you read as law. You want to research and do what’s best for your flock. The main goal is to keep them well fed, watered, and able to go somewhere dry and draft free.

Late Fall – I did a  total coop/run cleansing

Run: I start by raking out any debris in the fenced in run. This gets the run cleared of all the poop, fallen litter, poop, old dropped feed, poop, corn cobs and random buildup – wait, did I say poop? – that comes from chickens. This all gets dumped straight onto our garden patch, where it can continue to break down. The chickens help me out working it in by scratching at it for bugs and tomato seeds left behind from that years garden. I then fill in any holes the birds made while they take dust baths. They’ll take a dust bath anywhere – we have trenches dug from them right up against the house in the front yard flower bed. They dug a hole alongside the shed ramp big enough to bury two of them. They dug holes in the run, right up against the foot deep chicken wire like they want to make it easier for a predator to get in and eat them. Those in the run holes need filled. Especially before the ground freezes. Once that is done, I toss in half a bale of hay and let the hens spread it around. I try not to have too much in the run since if it sits on the wood and gets wet, it will rot the wood. No good.

We don't want to come out!

We don’t want to come out!

Coop: This is a little more in-depth task. I start by removing all of the pine shavings – and poop – all while wearing a bandana over my mouth and nose since there can be a lot of dust created. Sometimes a quick spray with the hose helps keep the dust at a minimum.

Once all the litter is removed, I wipe down the flooring with a wet rag that is dipped in a bucket of warm water with a splash of apple cider vinegar. Once that is all wiped, I spray down the roosts, floor, walls and nesting boxes with a homemade citrus vinegar cleaner and wipe everything down again with a fresh rag. (Chickens respiratory systems are very sensitive, so I use vinegar instead of bleach or other household cleaners since it doesn’t leave behind any chemical smell) I leave the back of the coop open to let the breeze in and dry it out. Once the coop is completely dry, I sprinkle some Diatomaceous Earth (DE) on the flooring, in the nesting boxes and focus on the corners. This helps keep lice and mites out of the coop. On top of this goes 2 bags of fine pine shavings, and another sprinkling of the DE. It’s ready for the birds now!

I follow the deep litter method for my coop because it works for me. The deep litter method is 6 inches of shavings, stirred daily (I do every other day, sometimes every 2 days depending on how much poop is sitting on top of the litter). I add fresh pine shavings and a sprinkling of DE as well as some Sweet PDZ – a horse stall freshener that cuts down ammonia and keeps the coop smelling fresh(those sensitive chicken respiratory systems again!). Click the link for directions on using it for chickens. I chose the deep litter method because it’s essentially a working compost pile. When I clean out the litter, it’s broken down and I can either add it to the garden, or toss it on the big compost pile. In the winter, because it IS composting, it helps to create additional heat in the coop without hurting the birds.

Diet & Exercise: Once the snow hits, the birds are pretty much cut off from free ranging. The grass is dormant and covered in snow & the bugs are nowhere to be found. They have the fenced in run, which is spacious and roomy, but it’s not the same as having free run of a whole acre of land. To help substitute the greens, I fill a chicken treat toy with greens – lettuce, cabbage, cucumber, kale, spinach and carrot shavings. I will also give them a head of cabbage once per week where they basically play cabbage tether ball until nothing but a nub of the cabbage stem is left. To secure it I use a threaded eye hook, screwing it directly into the cabbage and hang it from a rope secured to the roof support. They love it. Sometimes it takes them a few days to finish it. Other times the cabbage is gone the same day.

For protein, I give them leftover roast chicken, fish, or beans (don’t cringe. they don’t know they are eating their kin!). There are chicken treats – dried mealworms – that I’ll toss around the coop for a special treat. On the cold mornings, which it seems that ALL of them are any more, I give them a bowl of hot oats, grains or plain cereal. This seems to get them going and active, and it’s amazing how quickly they’ve adapted to getting this morning time treat. All it is about 2 cups of quick cooking oatmeal, and enough hot tap water to cover it. I let it sit for a few minutes to soften and expand and then take it out to them to devour. The first time I gave it to them they stared at if for about 5 minutes before digging in. For water, I purchased a heated dog bowl to keep it from freezing. It kicks on only when temps reach a certain level, and I can set their waterer directly on it. It has worked wonderfully so far. Only had one day where there was a thin layer of ice, and that was the 8 degree day. The hens poked right through with no problem.

Enjoying some hot oats on a chilly morning

Enjoying some hot oats on a chilly morning

Additional light/heat lamps: I opted to go the first year of chicken keeping without adding any light to extend my ladies egg laying period. We get 1-3 eggs per day still, with a couple days of no eggs, and that is fine for me and the hubs. I have read too much information on how heat lamps are bad for birds because it causes too much of a temp change when they go away from it and could kill them. I have larger, cold hardy birds – Golden Laced Wyandotte & Barred Plymouth Rocks – so I’m not too worried about them being cold. The Barred Rocks are all in various stages of molt, so I know they are not currently laying because they are focusing their protein reserves on replacing those lost feathers.

Grazing on some scratch grains

Grazing on some scratch grains

The main things you want to remember for your back yard chicken keeping is that your birds should be able to access food, fresh unfrozen water, and have space to move around. They should have a dry coop to go to for warmth and to get out of the wind. Give them greens (lettuce, cabbage, kale, cucumbers) to supplement their diets from lack of free range availability. If you are an awesome pet parent like me, you’ll give them a cabbage tether ball. And you’ll give them some hot grains to get them moving in the mornings. I think we are doing

The DIY Life: an upcycle for canning rings

4 Jan

So, ya. Canning rings, or bands. Whatever you call them, I have a plethora of them. I have dented ones that get beat up from use. Rusty ones from old canning jars that people gifted me. Gold ones. Silver ones. Tarnished ones.  A LOT! When a canning ring gets rusty, or dented, you are supposed to stop using it for actual canning since it can cause issue with your jars sealing properly. Instead of tossing them, I string them onto a piece of ribbon and keep them separate from my good canning rings. The beat rings are the ones I use when I need to secure the lid on an open jar (I don’t give a rats ass if it’s dented for in fridge food storage!). I’ll use some of the rusty and tarnished ones as a craft jar option. But I STILL have a shit ton of these things. So, I decided to get crafty with them. But it had to be an easy craft. Otherwise I get bored and abandon the craft. With the front porch bench bare now that the holidays are over, I needed something to put on it. And my mason jar holding the lone candle just seemed, well, sad. All alone on that big old bench. It needed a buddy. Someone to snuggle up with.

This craft is so stinking simple it’s ridiculous. You could do this blindfolded, with one hand behind your back and it would still rock.

The “directions” are as follows: I strung together the rusted, dented, beat up canning lids onto a piece of ribbon. When putting them onto the ribbon, I made sure they were all facing the same direction. Once they were all on the ribbon, I pulled the ribbon tight- SUPER tight, double knotted it and cut off the excess. Once the excess ribbon was gone, I fixed up the canning rings making them all nice and orderly. Then I jammed my mason jar “candle holder” into the center and stuck it on the bench. TA-DA! When I told you I generally stick to easy crafts, I wasn’t lying to you. The only way a craft can get any easier is to not actually craft anything. Really.

canningring

I was tempted to put it on my kitchen table, but it looked out of place so I stuck with my original plan as an outdoor decoration. I think it looks lovely. And I am digging that rusty patina from the old rings. If you do this with new canning rings, it will still look nice. Want that weathered look? Hang the rings somewhere outside where they will be subjected to the elements. It will give them a nice weathered patina.

Supper Time: Chicken Meatball Soup with Spinach and Pasta

3 Jan

Holy balls it’s cold out today. 8 degrees when I woke up. The kind of cold that freezes the snot in your nose when you breathe in and makes your eyes water. Winter has landed. Happy New Year from Mother Nature. Yowza.

What warms the bones on a frigid cold day like today?  Homemade soup. MMM soup. Filling, hearty, and this one is quick and easy and fairly healthy with the pile of spinach and the chicken starring as the meat for this dish. Because it’s January of a new year and we know that everyone will be gung ho for the next month trying to stick to their resolution of dieting and losing weight. Me, I’m just glad the holiday binge eating is over and I can get back to eating like a normal person. (Normal meaning that cookies are not part of my daily meal plan, and I can eat meals AT HOME instead of running around all over creation visiting…and grazing…on other peoples food) This is kind of like a lazy version of wedding soup. But it’s still just as good. Add more spinach to the soup if you like to. Double the meatball recipe. Substitute collard greens or kale for the spinach. Whatever tickles your fancy. It’s adaptable. It’s dinner, from scratch and on the table in under an hour – that includes making the meatballs! How awesome is that??? It’s even better the next day, once the noodles and the meatballs have soaked up more of the broth. Make this. Your tummy will thank you. Seriously. It will say “mmm…thanks”.

Chicken Meatball Soup with Spinach and Pasta
1 lb package pasta – whatever shape you want
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, very finely chopped
2-3 32oz cartons chicken broth (depending on how brothy you want your soup. The orzo will soak up broth)
Chicken meatballs (1 pound ground chicken mixed with 1/4 cup bread crumbs, 1/4 cup ricotta cheese, 3tbsp chives, 1/2tsp garlic salt and then rolled into 1in balls)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
One 5-ounce bag baby spinach (I add 2 bags. we like a lot of spinach)
1-2 eggs, whisked to combine

In a large pot add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.
Add the chicken meatballs and cook in the simmering broth for 10 minutes. Add the garlic to the chicken broth, then add your pasta and cook to package directions. Right before the pasta is al dente, add the whisked eggs stirring with the whisk to create egg threads.
Turn off burner and remove pot from heat. Add the baby spinach and stir, until the spinach is wilted, about 1 minute. Season with kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Ladle the meatball-and-pasta soup into shallow bowls, top with shaved parmesan and serve.

*I add some more ricotta to the broth once the soup is done to give it a creamy flavor, about 1/2 cup. You don’t have to do this.