Chickens, Eggs and Breakfast Meats

This little girl just loves animals! Cats, chickens, what have you, her little hands go out and she “calls” them to her, in the chicken’s case a little grain brings them running.

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The boys are excitedly locating nests that the chickens have tucked away here and there. Finding an egg is like finding treasure! If you are lucky, you’ll find one of Sunbeam’s eggs (the only chicken who lays blueish green eggs). Then, you just might have to cook it up immediately (!) lest anyone else eats it first. Supposedly they tastes better.  We’re still in the enjoying stage of having “lots” of eggs. Scrambled, poached, hard boiled…you’d be amazed how many eggs these guys go through, and at how good Noah and Ezra have gotten at cooking eggs!  We even made up a new way to cook an egg in a nest with out bread: make a circle out of sausage and add the egg in the middle.

   

While we’re on the subject of chicken and breakfast meats, if you haven’t tried  bacon wrapped chicken you need to… tonight.  We prefer smaller pieces of chicken which need about a 1/2 of a slice of bacon wrapped around it. Place in an oven safe dish and roast till done. Don’t be afraid to chop up some veggies and cook them up in the rendered bacon fat. Just don’t count on leftovers.

 

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A Quick Knit and Bacon Experiment

Sometimes a quick knitting project is needed. Something you can finish in a day, maybe two. Molly needed another winter hat so it all worked out quite well. Molly is at the stage where hats are a fun game. I put the hat on her head, she swipes it off and waves it about. Sometimes she tries to put it on herself. Don’t think of helping her cause then she’ll pull it back off and it starts all over.

I had some leftover yarn from this BSJ and a pattern for a cute hat. I lost the pattern though (!), so I just made it up as I went along, ending up with an elvish hat. The older brothers just love all things elf related so they’re excited about the prospect of Molly outgrowing said hat and having their stuffies get to wear it. In fact, Molly’s hat went for a round of trying on and has disappeared. SO, no cute photos of Molly “in” her hat.

As not to leave you photo less I’ll share with you a recent experiment in our bacon curing. Normally I cure our sides or bacon in the fridge with just maple syrup, brown sugar and salt. No nitrates.  I think I’ve done several posts on how I make it previously if you look under recipes. It’s good but, not like store bacon. I thought it was possibly the nitrate factor. Celery is a natural source of nitrates and I had plenty of celery in the garden. I made one half with added juiced celery and one without.

DSCN8258Without (above)

With (below)

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We cooked up a couple of slices of each. They were tasty and pretty close in flavor. Although, we both thought that maybe, the one with celery was better; a little deeper in flavor. We would have cooked up a bit more for comparison’s sake but Sasquatch, that little puppy Megan had last year, snatch up the side of bacon and devoured it. So we’ll be trying that again and keeping a better eye on the dogs.

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It’s Autumn! Bring on the comfort food.

Foliage season is in full swing; mornings are a frosty 40 degrees. It’s time to cook up some comfort food. Finally we can start our day with hot cocoa and oatmeal and end it with a bowl of something warm, filling and delicious. For me, that list of possibilities is prioritized something like this: homemade mac ‘n cheese, clam chowder (potato corn chowder or potato leek soup for the non clam eaters in the family), chicken pot pie, butternut squash or carrot soup, beef stew, minestrone soup, shepard’s pie, chili…you get the idea.

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Umm chili…with some cornbread of course!

For some reason the majority of my family prefers boxed mac ‘n cheese (how can this be?!) so I’ve skipped right to the chowder, stews and chili.  The majority of these recipes are a super simple variation of onion, potato and chicken broth with perhaps some bacon, and some milk for creamed versions. A smattering of vegetables and a few seasonings are mainly what differentiates one dish from another, yet they always satisfy and somehow they don’t feel like the same old thing, well until spring that is.

I love creating from scratch. The closer I can come to producing each ingredient myself the happier I am. So I was especially pleased this year in cooking up a batch of potato leek soup. Homemade chicken broth, fresh from the garden leeks, and a few (for this year) store brought potatoes and we’re nearly there. Here’s basically how I make potato leek soup.

Fresh Off the Homestead Potato Leek Soup

Slice and rinse grit from 3-4 large leeks (more if yours are small). Saute leeks in butter, oil, or bacon drippings until soft. Add 8 peeled and chunked (about 2 inch pieces) potatoes, and 4 cups of chicken broth (homemade will give the most flavor but you can use store brought or water if needed). Simmer until potatoes are soft. Add 1 tsp salt. Mash potatoes with the back of the spoon till the soup is as thick or chunky as you like ( if you prefer a puree feel free to use a blender). Add about 1/2 cup cow, goat or even reconstituted powdered milk. If needed add up to 2 cups of boiled water to reach the right consistency. Serve with black pepper and top with some garden fresh minced chives, scallions or dill.

This is even better reheated, especially on a chilly day!

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Clam Chowder & Peasent Bread

Being this early in spring the days still carry a chill. What better way to warm up and enjoy some comfort food than with Clam Chowder? Ironically, after 5 years on the coast of Maine, the best clam chowder I’ve had was here in Vermont. It was a special and I don’t go out to eat very often so I enjoyed it thinking “I wish I could make this a home”. Then my Mom hooked me up with this recipe- wish granted!

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This recipe is from Grit magazine. My mother made a few adaptations that I think really add to an already excellent recipe. Here’s Grit’s recipe – reproduced for your convenience:

Alida’s Clam Chowder Recipe

A thick, creamy soup, this is my mother’s recipe, and she still makes it.

1 pound bacon, diced
3 large onions, chopped
4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cups water
3 small cans minced clams
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch thyme
¼ cup butter
¼ cup flour
4 cups milk
1 can evaporated milk

In skillet, fry bacon until crispy. Add onions and cook until browned.

Add potatoes and water, and cook until potatoes are tender. Stir in clams, pepper, sugar and thyme, and let simmer.

In separate pan, over low heat, melt butter. Whisk in flour. Add milk a little at a time while continuing to whisk until white sauce starts to bubble around edges. Pour white sauce into clam mixture and let cool.

Just before serving, stir in evaporated milk. Cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, or until heated through. Do not boil, as it will ruin the texture of the soup. Yields 3 quarts.

My mother’s suggestions: If the bacon is really fatty drain some of the grease off. Double the potatoes and cans of clams.
I think those are suggestions are spot on. I also sometimes replace the water with bone broth and I use corn starch so it’s gluten free. You can also use half and half instead of a can of evaporated milk or cook 2 1/4 cups milk down to 1 cup.

DSCN0341DSCN0492Now that you have a great chowder only some crusty bread will do it justice. I came across this recipe for a no knead bread called peasent bread, baked in a pyrex bowl. It’s super easy and adapts well to a gluten free version. I tried it with sweet white sorghum flour- delicious! I won’t reproduce the instructions here because it’s quite long with tips, photos and variations.

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DSCN0342Enjoy it with the clam chowder -or even just with jelly.

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Breakfast Bacon

I love pigs. They’re smart, friendly, and they can be a great resource to any homestead – turning unusable food scraps into food and they are great at turning up soil and removing tree stumps. Admittedly, they can also present a challenge. They can eat a lot, they’re smart, persistent, and strong (that can add up to escape). So what makes it all worth while?

Pork.

Or more specifically pork tenderloin, chops, roasts and….bacon.

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Bacon comes from the belly of the pig. I wish I had a decent photo of Mercedes. She is growing into such a bacon pig! Long and well-built. What makes bacon bacon is the curing process. The curing process adds flavor and can help preserve the meat too. Most store brought bacon is cured using sodium nitrates. The way I do it does not.

Here is the way I make it most often:

Place a side of bacon in a bag or dish large enough to hold the bacon. Mix together 1/3 cup maple syrup, 1/3 cup brown sugar and 1/3 cup kosher salt. Coat the side of bacon with this wet cure; seal bag or cover dish and refrigerate.

DSCN8387The next day flip the side of bacon and return to the fridge. My bacon is skin on. You can cure bacon with or without the skin. I prefer to leave the skin on until right before slicing.

DSCN8400Everyday, once a day, turn the bacon. You’ll notice the meat firming up.

DSCN8413After 7 days remove the bacon from the wet cure and allow to dry on a cooling rack in the fridge for a day. Now if you have a smoker I’d smoke it. However, I do not so I go the liquid smoke route.

DSCN8531First I brush on a thin coating of liquid smoke. A little goes a long ways. A quick once over starting at one end working towards the other as to not miss a spot does the trick. Then place in a low oven. My oven (a gas range) doesn’t actually have any markers under 260F so I have to guesstimate, with the help of an oven thermometer, to get 180F.  Leave the bacon in the low oven for several hours – until the bacon registers 150F.

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Cool and slice. A meat slicer will give the thinnest most even slices but with a little patience and practice hand slicing can do a fair job. Fry up a few slices and refrigerate or freeze the rest.

DSCN8562I have to admit that home made bacon is a bit different than store bacon. It looks a little different and it’s a bit chewier. Not using sodium nitrates mean the pork is a little less pink and tastes a tad more porky. I find it helps to fry the bacon over a little lower heat than you might normally fry up bacon as to avoid burning it. That said, it’s still delicious!

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Chèvre Stuffed, Bacon Wrapped Chicken

I’m been meaning share more from Nourishing Traditions but lately most of the recipes I’ve been using from Nourishing Traditions have been simple and basic: sauté in butter, season to taste with salt and pepper and maybe a splash of lemon juice. Simple, good but not really enough for a post. But this chicken, stuffed with herbed chèvre, wrapped in bacon is definitely post worthy. I saw a similar recipe on Pinterest and later when it was time to get dinner going and I had some freshly made goat cheese and chicken on hand…well one thing lead to another.

First I pounded the chicken to make it uniformly flat and just a little bigger so it would be easier to roll up. Then I mixed up some of the goat cheese I made earlier with some oregano and rosemary I have growing in the kitchen and some salt and pepper. This time I made a simple goat cheese from some yogurt I made from our goats’ milk and strained until it was thick. It was a tad more soft and spreadable than the somewhat chalky bars of goat cheese sold at the supermarket. Store brought goat cheese will work too- just cut a few slices and season (or buy pre-seasoned). Then roll it up and wrap two pieces of bacon around each piece of chicken and secure with toothpicks. The bacon not only lends flavor but helps keep the goat cheese inside.

The next step is to brown it on the stove top- and preheat your oven to 350F. I love my cast iron and it works well for the transfer to the oven. Otherwise brown the chicken and transfer to an oven-safe dish. Bake in the oven till done.

Then serve. I made wild rice and green beans. As you can see in the photo below the goat cheese and herb is absorbed and infuses the chicken with flavor but there isn’t a separate layer inside like when chicken is stuffed with ham and cheese. And if anyone doesn’t like goat cheese you can always skip the goat cheese and just wrap with bacon. Although, in my opinion, they’d be missing out.

Enjoy!

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In the Kitchen :: Favorite

I just love finding a new favorite recipe because, first and foremost, I get to enjoy a fresh new (and now favorite) dish but also because it justifies my huge “recipes to try” collection. I recently reorganized my “recipes to try” collection which began in elementary school as a few slips of paper in an old school folder  but it has grown and morphed into a bulging 13 pocket accordion folder monstrosity . But I really do try these recipes and, as I go, they either end up in my “keeping” binder or in the garbage; and lately I’ve been hearing a lot of “That’s my favorite!” and “That’s the best ever!” so I think I’m on to something.

Here’s a few things we keep coming back to as of late:

Cheesy popcorn- aka homemade smart food. I love cheesy popcorn and it’s as simple as sprinkling Parmesan cheese on your (buttered) popcorn. Who knew?!

Roasted Cumin Lime  Carrots – I found these through pinterest (imagine that!) I didn’t have the mint/green onion garnish so I left it out and I used maple syrup for the sweetener. I also used my preserved limes instead of fresh- worked great!

Quinoa- I know I’m like the last person to try it- can’t believe I’ve been missing out. It cooks so fast, it’s gluten free and reminds me of couscous.What’s not to love?!

Roasted Rabbit- from over at Real Food Freaks. This is my new favorite way to have rabbit! I used less oil and preserved lemons instead of white wine. Oh my did it smell good while baking and tasting it didn’t disappoint.

This was one of our meat rabbits. It was fresh; I soaked it in cold salted water for a few hours before baking.I recommend the salt water soak as it tastes better and the color is better too. And speaking of game we’ve been eating a lot of

Venison too. We got lucky with the tenderest deer ever. I’ve been coating venison tenderloins and butterfly chops with seasoned cornstarch and frying them in butter in my cast iron skillet. Then I transfer them to the oven till they’re done on the inside and they’re crispy and brown on the outside. I can’t keep up with demand!

And then there’s the

Rose hip Tart – I made this one up as I had several jars of rose hip jam I made from rose hips and apples I gathered at the beach. I hadn’t cooked the pectin quite down enough so it was more saucy than jammy. Somehow tarts came to mind as a way to use them up. I used pecan flour for the crust, blind baked it; and I threw in a piece of preserved meyer lemon into the rose hip filling. Oh so good, the lemon goes so well with the slightly herbal rose hips. I wish I had more jars of saucy jam!

And we made our favorite soap

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