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Archive for the ‘Eggs’ Category

Here I go with the coconut milk again. It’s just such a versatile ingredient; the more I use it in new and creative ways, the more I realize how many ideas I haven’t tried. Before the year is up, I definitely want to try it as the main ‘cream’ ingredient in a pumpkin pie as well – I’ll hopefully report back on that very soon.

But I digress. Today I want to report on a dish that is so simple and yet so scrumptious that I have been craving it nearly every day since making it at least a couple of weeks ago. It was devoured so quickly that there are no pictures to show this time – but I hope to recreate it soon (seeing as I can’t stop thinking about it) and then update this post accordingly. It’s a baked rice pudding made with a purple jasmine rice blend – gorgeous, white and purple-streaked grains of long sweet rice. I found a box of it in my pantry that had been patiently waiting for literally over a year for me to come up with some fancy-pants way of incorporating it into a trendy Thai or fusion-inspired dish – another one of many shi-shi ingredients that I cart home with me from Whole Paycheck in a moment of inspiration and then stash in the cupboard for months on end until true inspiration strikes (coupled with energy and an actual recipe, preferably) and I dig it out and use it. Just as often, I have to report that such ingredients languish even longer, and in some cases even go totally stale. I am not great at shopping for only the items I need for the coming week or month; something like purple jasmine rice pops out at me from a store shelf and I can’t just LEAVE it there. It’s way too gorgeous, and novel, and exciting. I simply must bring it home where I can look at it every time I open the cupboard door and feel that tingle of anticipation (ooh, right, I have purple rice! Maybe next week/month/year I’ll think of something to make with that…). This box of purple rice was part of my scenery for entirely too long. But THIS recipe has guaranteed that it will now be a regular staple in my home – complete with an actual recipe and the strong inclination to use it!

Inspiration struck at a potluck party I went to in honor of a Will Allen Growing Power weekend that I was volunteering with in Denver last month, put on by Feed Denver and hosted by The Urban Farm – two wonderful and innovative urban farming education and training organizations. The weekend was a creative and inspirational gathering of committed activists, educators, farmers, permaculturists and more. I met amazing people and took part in the construction of a hoophouse from scratch; it was an empowering experience to see it rise from bare dirt and mud on a snowy weekend, going from a pile of fencing and lumber materials to a finished structure in just a few short hours. Anyway… the potluck. One of our volunteers brought along two pie plates filled with a lusciously dark purple, dense, chewy, creamy confection topped off with slices of apple. It looked like rice, but I couldn’t be sure of anything with that crazy color going on. No idea if it was sweet or savory until I put it in my mouth. And what a sweet surprise it was! It was all I could do to keep from gobbling way more than my fair share of the dish; I had to settle for pointing and rolling my eyes and gushing about how fabulous it was. Clearly I was not the only one who felt this way about the dish; both pie plates full of purple rice surprise were vaporized in short order and we were left staring wistfully at the crumbs, wondering what it was we’d just eaten and loved so much.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago  when for some reason I came across a recipe for a savory coconut rice on 101 Cookbooks (which I will definitely have to try sometime soon) that used the same exact brand of purple jasmine rice blend that I have. As the lightbulb went off in my head, I started Googling more recipes for purple rice, and it hit me that THAT’S WHAT I HAD at that party! If I just add some eggs, and sugar, and bake it all in a pie dish… I scrambled to crank open my last two cans of coconut milk, mix up some eggs, and get this thing in the oven. And boy, was it worth it. Chewy, creamy, sweet, dense, sugary goodness. I CANNOT WAIT to make this again.

Now mind you, I did not have pure purple rice, and the photos and recipes you will find online are for real purple rice. I had this lovely blend. I don’t know how much that affected the outcome of my particular experiment – but I do know that the color was not quite the deep, rich purple-black that you may see featured in other recipes. Suffice it to say that this works great with this blend, and quite likely with all manner of other rice blends or varieties. The purple just makes it extra exotic, if you ask me. But it may well make a difference in taste, so one of these days I will try it with the REAL purple rice. This, however, is damn good.

Purple Coconut Rice Pudding

2/3 cups purple rice or purple Jasmine rice, soaked for 2 hours and drained

2 cans full-fat coconut milk

6 Tbsp butter, room temperature, cut into pieces

1/2 cup sugar (I found an organic, Fair Trade sugar at Costco that has made me feel SO much better about baking lately!)

3 eggs

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add the drained rice and 2 cans of coconut milk to a pot on the stovetop, and bring to a boil with a dash of salt. Simmer for 25 minutes, stirring to keep from sticking. Remove from heat. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, cream the white sugar and butter together and add the eggs one at a time, beating as you go. Run the beater for 5 minutes, then stir the egg/sugar mixture into the cooled rice/milk mixture and mix well to combine.

Coat a 9-inch deep dish pie plate (or other suitable baking dish) with cooking spray or butter and pour in the rice mixture. Sprinkle the top of the pudding evenly with the brown sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until done. For me, the pudding looked obviously done when the brown sugar on top had caramelized to a nice, sticky dark brown, and the pudding itself had set quite solidly.

This dish ages very nicely overnight and makes for an immensely tasty breakfast, snack, or dessert the next day. Try to save some for at least that long.

I did not in my case add any sliced apples, but it sounds like a perfectly lovely idea and I’ll try to think of it next time.

A final note on my own version of this dessert is that my backyard eggs, wth their super-orange yolks, have a tendency to turn things really weird colors. The brownish-purple hue that this pudding took on just after I mixed the coconut milk/rice mixture with the egg/sugar mixture was not, shall we say, appetizing or particularly photogenic. Never you mind about this, if it happens to happen to you. You won’t give a damn when you are shoving the end result in your face late at night in the privacy of your own home.  I imagine that using REAL purple rice, instead of a partially white blend, might also cover up this eggy color and make it a non-issue. This is the ultimate in comfort food though – not much to look at, but unforgettably delicious in that warm, filling, god-I-hope-there’s-more kind of way.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go out and buy more purple rice and coconut milk.

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P1150777Sesame’s unusually small egg this week.

This is one of the eggs that my one-year old Ameracauna, Sesame, laid for us this week. It could be a complete fluke of course; I think we may have gotten one miniature egg last year when the girls were just starting to lay. However, given the fact that we just brought two new chickens into our fold – a pair of one-year-old Brahma sisters – things have been a little unsettled for poor Sesame, who was already the last in the pecking order. I noticed her getting picked on a bit more severely than usual by the Buckeye, Tipsy (who was perhaps trying to establish herself as the boss to all other parties, since the newcomers probably pose a legitimate challenge – they’re not small chickens!), and I also noticed her avoiding the new girls almost in a panic, rushing out of their way whenever they came near her for any reason. And to top off her erratic new behavior, she started laying eggs under the coop and on the floor inside the coop instead of in the nest box she usually uses. And one of them looked like this. Tomas called it a “sample size egg;” that’s one of her regular ones next to it.

Sesame and her endlessly cute cheek muffs.

Sesame and her endlessly cute cheek muffs.

All things considered, though, the Brahma sisters are settling in well and everyone seems to be getting along splendidly; I haven’t heard a single altercation and only seen a little bit of posturing between Tipsy and Sesame. It will take me a while to figure out the new pecking order, but I think Tipsy has positioned herself near the top. And Sesame is laying normal eggs again, though still frequently far out of reach under the coop. I tried to get one out with a pitchfork the other day – not a good idea – but the girls enjoyed the surprise egg-yolk snack while I hastily removed any shells from their reach.

Finally, here are couple of photos of the new Brahma sisters, named Tandoori and Pot Pie. And their lovely eggs. Happy chicken-keeping!

Pot Pie scratching at something yummy. Note the feathered feet, characteristic of the Brahma breed.

Pot Pie scratching at something yummy. Note the feathered feet, characteristic of the Brahma breed.

The Brahma sisters, Tandoori and Pot Pie. Tandoori has more dark markings on her back, a really pretty girl. Pot Pie (right) is quite the little renegade; she refuses to go into the pen in the evening and always gives us a run for our money. Perhaps a better name would have been Houdini...

The Brahma sisters, Tandoori and Pot Pie. Tandoori has more dark markings on her back, a really pretty girl. Pot Pie (right) is quite the little renegade; she refuses to go into the pen in the evening and always gives us a run for our money. Perhaps a better name would have been Houdini...

New eggs in the collection. The speckled one and the pinkish colored one on the right are the new colors; interesting to me that two birds of the same breed can lay such different looking eggs, but it turns out we don't get speckles all the time! The large buff colored ones on the left are from Curry, our Australorp; still the most consistently large, beautiful eggs of the lot, but these new Brahma eggs are quite wonderful as well!

New eggs in the collection. The speckled one and the pinkish colored one on the right are the new colors; interesting that two birds of the same breed can lay such different looking eggs, but it turns out we don't get speckles all the time. The large buff colored ones on the left are from Curry, our Australorp; still the most consistently large, beautiful eggs of the lot, but these new Brahma eggs are quite wonderful as well.

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Here I go with the quiche again. It must have something to do with the spring vegetables, fresh eggs sitting on the kitchen counter, and occasions constantly arising where I need to feed a bunch of people easily (i.e. potlucks, people visiting for brunch, a busy week needing several meals prepped at once). Perhaps quiche is the spring garden version of the ever-utilitarian casserole: a vehicle for quickly tossing together a medley of fresh produce that’s easy but looks and tastes like it was a serious effort.

In any case, this is basically a variation on the theme that I started with the very popular Swiss Chard and Onion Quiche last year. It’s so easy to just substitute any other tasty pairing of vegetables and other garnishes, but this one came out well enough that it merited writing up.

Essentially, use the same recipe as for the Swiss Chard quiche (use this ratio of eggs, milk and cream for any quiche actually) but instead of the onions, chard, cheese and nutmeg, add instead:

  • two good-sized handfuls fresh-picked asparagus (washed, trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces and sauteed for several minutes in olive oil until bright green and just beginning to be tender with slightly browned edges)
  • several forkfuls of honey goat cheese (I found this beautifully flavored goat cheese at Costco, but you can also use regular goat cheese or, if you’re enterprising enough, mash in some honey with a fork before dropping it into the quiche in small clumps)
  • a handful (I’d say about 2 Tbsp) sliced almonds, lightly toasted

Prepare a single crust and chill for at least 30 minutes or more. Once you’ve taken it out, rolled it flat and arranged it in your pie plate, assemble your quiche. Pour the sauteed asparagus into the bottom of the crust and season liberally with salt, pepper, and a pinch of cayenne.  Sprinkle most of the almonds over the asparagus, reserving one small portion for the final garnish. Dot the honey goat cheese on top of this until well distributed. Pour the egg and cream mixture (explained here) over it all carefully. Dot a few more bits of goat cheese on top, sprinkle with the last few almonds, and bake as directed here.

This will, as all quiches do, keep very nicely in the fridge for quick lunches and snacks throughout the week. The honey goat cheese really makes it – it’s worth either tracking it down or improvising some of your own!

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Here begins my reporting on the successes of the various remedies for egg-eating in the henhouse. Things started promisingly…
On Wednesday, I let the girls free range all day while I was at work – more than 9 hours. They were so thrilled to be out that they didn’t touch the two eggs they’d laid. The next day was just as successful with 3 clean, untampered-with eggs waiting for me in the evening.
Today the backsliding began. Just as I was celebrating the possibility that I might be able to keep my favorite girl (and emerging egg connoisseur) Java, I came home after dark today and reached into the nest box to find 4 eggs… And a sticky mess next to (and on) them. I can only imagine that someone got into an egg just a little late in the day, and was discouraged from finishing by the oncoming darkness.
4 eggs is not a bad taking for one day, when you only have 5 birds to begin with. Still, I know that this is not a problem I’ll be able to live with. So the search for a solution (or magic combination of solutions) continues…

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Eggs from all 5 girls - I can even tell who lays which of the brown ones!

Eggs from all 5 girls - I can even tell who lays which of the brown ones!

We’ve been getting eggs for exactly two months now, and it sure is fun. Even though it’s winter and the laying is on the inconsistent side, we get 1-3 eggs a day regularly (all the brown eggers seem to be winter layers – Java the Barred Rock, Tipsy the Buckeye, and Curry the Australorp) – and sometimes we get all 5. I still can’t get over the lovely designer green eggs – I hate to eat them, and have since found that it’s more fun to keep 3-4 of them around to show off to visitors and give the rest away to people who will go positively berserk over them. Let them agonize over breaking that beautiful shell.

But alas, the title of this post is meant in irony… would that it weren’t so. To my great dismay, the most recent converts to the buttery taste of fresh, garden-grown chicken eggs just happen to be… the chickens. This is really bad news, as far as I can tell. Aside from the drop in egg rates over the last two weeks (I’m still getting eggs, but it’s been a long time since I got 5), the other bad sign is the sticky, filthy eggs I’m now finding, with bits of leftover eggwhite and tiny shell shards stuck to the outsides. It seems they quite methodically break and eat just one egg at a time, leaving the others intact but smearing eggy grossness all over them in the process. This compels me to soak the rescued eggs and scrub them clean, which reduces their shelf life considerably. This is the least of my problems of course – because most of the websites out there that offer advice on this sort of thing are quite unequivocal about the solution to the problem. The perpetrators must go. Other, less authoritative websites – such as the many chat boards out there on chicken issues of all kinds – offer a more colorful and varied assortment of ideas for how to handle the situation. Needless to say, I’ve decided to give those at least passing credibility, until I’ve proven all the wives’ tales useless in my own personal science experiment.

Here is a list of ALL the remedies offered by chicken people far and wide, and they are all easy enough to at least try before giving up and consigning the known culprits to Craig’s List and an uncertain fate (and I have caught Java and Curry in the act – who happen to be the two best, daily layers of big brown eggs. All the rest are really just here for entertainment and designer egg colors! Wouldn’t you know it).

I am determined to implement all the suggestions in the next week or so, and observe the results. I’ll report back here, and maybe this blog can become a trial site for country wisdom of the chicken-oriented kind – perhaps it will help someone else in the near future, though I don’t wish this little situation on anyone.

Remedies, here we go:

  • Clean out the nests to rid them of the sticky mess and smell.
  • Feed them liquid milk for a few days.
  • add oyster shell or other source of calcium to their diet.
  • break an egg in a bowl, mix with 1-2 tsp pepper, and feed to the chickens. Yum-o! More fanciful versions of this involved blowing out the contents of an egg through a tiny hole and then refilling it – using an eyedropper – with a mixture of mustard and hot pepper. Whew.
  • Put golf balls or plastic eggs in the nests. A few disappointing pecks at those supposedly will make them realize they’ve got better things to do with their time.
  • Give them more access to green grass and other variety in their diets.
  • Give them more time to free range (less chance of boredom).
  • Keep the nests in the dark and the girls on a consistent laying schedule by keeping lights off at night or using a timer only in the morning (e.g. at 3 a.m. every day instead of all night)
  • Hang a flap or cloth over the nest box to darken the nest; chickens will go in to lay eggs, but then scoot out again and can’t see to eat eggs in the dark.
  • Collect eggs more often. Wouldn’t I love to live where I could come home at lunch every day to whisk away the little treasures just as soon as they’ve been laid. But we’ll do our best to be more vigilant.
  • Keep the girls busy! Feed them leftover rice, bread crusts, keep their water supply full, and give them lots of activities. If they don’t see or smell the eggs, they’ll “forget.”

Really, the least I can do before I give away my two favorite hens is make a solid effort to vary their diets and exercise – goodness knows that in the dark days of winter, I’ve slacked off on all counts here and they’ve been rather bored and, well, cooped up. I can certainly also toss some golf balls into the nests, tack a black flap over the opening and bring them a pepper-doused egg for breakfast once or twice.

I’ll try everything on this list, evaluate the results, and post them here for the collective wisdom of all the suburban and urban homesteaders out there who might be wondering what in heck got into their kind, sweet hens to make them go after their own eggs. But if you’re finding this concept really gross, I have news for you: apparently it happens all the time. After all, chickens are true omnivores. They eat lizards, mice, frogs, bugs of all sizes, meat scraps, leftover dog food, broken egg shells from your compost bin. These ain’t no budgies.

Tune in for an update in a few days. Wish me luck, and clean (whole) eggs.

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We had a little party for our 5 new baby chicks last night – they are one month old and getting ready to move out to their new digs in the garden, so we called it a “coop-warming party” and invited all our friends. Everyone was quite entertained by the idea – one couple, who it turns out also has 3 chickens of their own, thought it was the coolest party they’d ever been to: proof that other “normal” people have chickens too. 

In addition to tours of the just completed chicken coop and plenty of time for everyone to pet and play with the chicks, we served up a buffet of summer patio fare: in addition to the obligatory brats and whole grain rolls, we had salad of watermelon, feta cheese and red onions, grilled tricolor bell peppers, zucchini and yellow squash, grilled polenta cakes, orange cream cheese frosted brownies, a white balsamic custard tart with fresh fruit that went over very well indeed, and cream cheese with fresh chives and garlic from the garden stirred in. The most popular item of the evening, though, appeared to be the chard and onion quiche (I’d made two in the hopes that we’d have generous leftovers to enjoy this week – both were polished off in their entirety, so we will have to cook again tonight – too bad).

1 pie crust

large bunch chard, stems trimmed off and chopped separately, leaves roughly chopped

red onions, sliced – I used several small ones, but I’d say 1-2 large ones would work

grated Pecorino-Romano cheese (again guesstimating, I grated about a saucer full)

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup milk (I used 1%)

1 cup cream (I used table cream that was left over in the fridge)

 a few toasted pine nuts

salt, fresh ground pepper, dash nutmeg and dash cayenne pepper

Directions:

preheat oven to 400 degrees

Saute chard stems in olive oil until softened; set aside

Saute chard leaves in olive oil, seasoning occasionally with salt and pepper, until wilted and tender; set aside

put onion slices in pan with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and a generous dash of sugar; over medium heat let them cook until well softened and beginning to caramelize; try not to stir much to allow the caramelization to begin to take effect

line a pie plate with pie crust and fold over edges

fill bottom of pie with onions

layer chard stems and leaves on top of onions

sprinkle most of the grated cheese over the chard

mix together cream, milk, eggs and season with salt, pepper, cayenne and nutmeg

pour egg mixture into pie crust

top with remaining cheese and sprinkle with pine nuts

bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes

lower heat to 325 and bake for 35 more minutes, until golden brown and slightly crusty

let sit for a while before serving – at least 30 minutes, but quiche will taste fabulous hours later or the next day

I was paid the highest compliment on this quiche when a native French woman had some and pronounced it truly excellent; she commented on people’s tendency to overbake theirs until the eggs turned runny, and on the excellent flavor of the vegetables. You might as well just call it “garden quiche,” because it could just as well have had any other combination of greens and veggies in it; this is just what was ready for the taking yesterday. I can see by my fast-growing vines that we will soon have the opportunity to try cherry tomato and zucchini quiche, for example. Any good cheese and any tasty combination of vegggies, sausage or other kinds of meat would surely be just as wonderful. Let your imagination run on this one – as long as you have the basic base down, you can’t mess up a quiche!

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