Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Take A Peek Wednesday: Dealing With Feather Pecking!


                  In the hen world: A fluffy bum is a healthy bum. You can tell alot about a hen and whats going on with her by how fluffy and clean it is. I suppose that works in both the human and animal world: if your bum isn't right then you better get it checked out..ha!  

               So this was Lily not that long ago..fluffy and doing just fine. 

            This is Eliza and she was fine just a few short weeks ago. This is what her poor back side looks like now.

         The poor thing is bald..Lily is the worst of the bunch though. I couldn't believe I had missed this. This has been going on for awhile and I honestly had no clue. I first thought we had mites in the coop..Oh how I wished it was mites! that is an easy fix..Feather pecking? not so much. I stood there in shock as each hen bent over and exposed their bare bums..all except for 3 of them..So I watched and waited..and then I saw it over and over again.

       Annie Oakley,my pretty brownish hen was walking along and pecking the feathers out of everyone's bum. She left the other brownish hen,Astrid alone as well as my all white hen,Belle. Everyone else is missing feathers. I quickly looked it up online and after we knew for sure it was this and not mites,we headed to the farm store. I walked in,told them the problem and they handed me a can. They said it was an all natural spray that smelled awful and tasted equally awful and was said to help stop the pecking..which by the way is very hard to get them out of once they have started. I went over their diet and determined that it wasn't from lack of protein which is sometimes the reason behind it. They get plenty of that and more extras on the side to make sure they aren't bored and get what they need. They told me it was also a behavioural thing and she may never work herself out of it. 

So..picture this: I've got a mask on and gloves. My husband has the can. We walk out into the chicken run and herd them inside the indoor chicken run. We close the little gate and they know something is up. I walk forward and it's on after that. They are running,and screaming,and taking flight..and this isn't a big area. They are hiding in every corner and inside the chicken coop. I pick one up,secure the wings and flip her over to get sprayed. I can not believe how calm they go once you pick them up. They never bite and just sit there as calm as can be. We sprayed the first one and thought we were going to die. It has such a foul odor..there is a weird vague familiarity to it. It almost reminds you of a massive cigar smoker who decided to neither wash themselves nor their clothes for the passed 10 years. There are scents in this spray that leave me confused because I can't place anything but the cigar part of it. Hen after hen after hen got sprayed..even the ones who hadn't been touched and even Annie was sprayed..I'm hoping she gets the picture and stops this awful habit before I have to get rid of her.

So after you chase them down and spray them,they hate you. They won't come near you and they decide that the best way to get back at me is to muster up diarrhea and to stop the egg laying for one whole day. I really appreciated the diarrhea bit. We've sprayed 3 times now and it has gotten a ton better. We can herd,catch,spray, and release all within 10 minutes now. They have amped up their egg laying and get over the ordeal almost instantly. I'm sure it helps that I toss in live meal worms and have been giving them extra protein to help with the growing of the feathers. Annie has stopped the pecking..but you would too if you went in for a bite and tasted this spray. I feel awful for them though. It's really cold here and I dumped a bunch of straw all over the place to make sure they have a soft warm spot for those bare bums.

I wonder what next week will bring?


Monday, January 27, 2014

The Best Cauliflower and Broccoli Cheese


              I am forever looking for new vegetarian recipes to try out on my family. We are working on eating meatless meals around 4 days a week and on the days we do eat meat, I am trying to make those more of a side dish and not the main meal. We are big meat eaters in the family and always will be..but wow has the price of beef and poultry gone up! I don't see them going down any time soon either!

This recipe comes from Jamie Oliver's new cookbook called,Save with Jamie. He has a show to go along with it and as soon as I saw him make this,I went straight online to find the recipe. It's amazing. There is no cream of anything in here and what you end up doing is making a wonderful broccoli soup to go on top of the cauliflower that is then baked in the oven with an amazing topping of homemade breadcrumbs,almonds and thyme. It's cheap to make,healthy,tastes fantastic,and can be made either as a side dish or as a main meal. We had it like that with fresh bread to go along the side. This will be showing up again and again in our house. If you want to add in some meat,go ahead. I think it would be great with some diced up ham or shredded chicken..but trust me on this. It's fantastic on its own.

Cauliflower and Broccoli Cheese

2 Cloves of Garlic,minced or sliced thin
50g ( 4 TBS) Unsalted Butter
50g (4 TBS) All-purpose Flour
500ml ( 2 cups) Low-fat Milk
500g ( 1 lb.) Frozen Broccoli Florets
75g ( 3 oz) Shredded Sharp Cheddar or cheese of choice
1 Kilo ( 2 pounds) Frozen Cauliflower Florets..or cut into florets
2 Slices of Stale Bread
2 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme or 1 tsp. of dried
25 g ( 2 TBS) Flaked Almonds
Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 350 or 180 celsius. Grease a 13x9 inch baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside.

In a medium pan over medium heat,add the butter and garlic. Once the butter has melted,whisk in the flour and continue to whisk for one minute. Slowly add in the milk and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens and becomes smooth. Add the broccoli and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the broccoli is cooked through and begins to break down. At this point you need to make the mixture smooth,so either use a heat proof blender or a stick blender and process until smooth. Add in half of the shredded cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Arrange the cauliflower florets in prepared dish and pour the broccoli sauce evenly over the top. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.

In a food processor,blitz the bread into breadcrumbs,then pulse in the thyme and almonds. Add in around 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt,pulse until everything is covered ( you don't need a bunch of oil,just enough to coat the crumbs so that they get nice and crispy while baking.) Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the broccoli sauce.

Bake for 1 hour or until the cauliflower is soft and cooked through.

** To make things easier when baking this,I suggest you allow the frozen cauliflower to semi defrost while you get everything else made. I cut everything up evenly to insure it would all bake up in one hour**

Yield: 8 as a side dish or 4 with leftover as a main meal
Source: Jamie Oliver           

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Take A Peek Wednesday: It's The Little Things


                    Sometimes it's the little things that make you finally being able to fill up a carton full of free range eggs. I was able to do this awhile ago..but we kept eating them before I could fill it up. Now with 5 hens laying it happens more quickly now. 

It's the little things sometimes that bring the most amount of joy to ones life.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Cake Slice Bakers January Cake: Old Fashioned Pound Cake

            So here we are's the 20th and that means I need to share the latest cake we at, The Cake Slice Bakers,have whipped up.  We are baking from,Great Cakes by  Carole Walter. I had high hopes for this one..way high.

I am frustrated with this cookbook in a sense. I have yet to create something from this book that I have enjoyed. This is the third cake from this book that I found to be tasteless and rather,dare I say? boring. I am hoping as we go along that we are able to sink out teeth into an actual cake recipe that blows us all away because I am really due for such an occasion. 

This was the first pound cake recipe I have ever made and decided to go with a nut version. I also added in lemon to make it a lemon walnut pound cake but the end result was dry and underwhelming. I made sure to tent the top and didn't over bake it. Perhaps I need to try another recipe that uses cream cheese. I have heard those are very moist or maybe even a sour cream pound cake.

So here's hoping that next month I am blown away enough to share the recipe :)


Friday, January 17, 2014

No-knead Golden Semolina Bread


                 Are you a morning or a night person? I am a total morning person. It's just a little after 11 am and I have already cleaned the chicken coop and run,mopped and cleaned the entire house,I've got crock pot pulled pork cooking,the buns have already been baked up for later on,and I've prepped the rest of tonight's meal.The down side to being a morning person is that I am totally ready for bed by 8 pm. I am up every morning at 6 and I am pretty much unable to sleep in on weekends and I never nap during the day. I suppose it pays off in various ways because I am able to bake bread in the morning and have the rest of the day free for whatever needs doing..And there is always something that needs doing.
             If you've got a few hours to kill while you get things done around the house then I encourage you to bake this bread. It's soft,flavorful, and goes well with soup and makes a great sandwich.It's super easy to make and requires very little hands on time. The dough does require a bit of kneading,but it's done in a mixer for about 3 to 4 minutes and that is all that's required!

No-knead Semolina Bread

1 cup Lukewarm Water
2 tsp. Pizza Dough Flavor,or dried herbs of choice
1 tsp. Salt
2 tsp. Instant Yeast
1-1/2 cups All-purpose Flour
1 cup Semolina
Additional seasonings for the topping;optional
Olive Oil for drizzling

Combine all ingredients in a stand mixer and beat on medium speed for 3-4 minutes ( I also used the dough hook).

 Place dough ball in a greased bowl,cover, and allow to rise for 1-1/2 to 2 hours,until dough is very puffy.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and shape into a ball. Grease a 9 inch round cake pan with nonstick spray or olive oil and place dough ball into the prepared pan. Cover the pan and allow the dough to rise for 1 hour,until it becomes puffy. 

While the dough rises,preheat the oven to 375 or 190 celsius.

Gently poke the dough all over with your index finger. Drizzle lightly with olive oil or even garlic oil. You can either sprinkle the dough with additional seasoning before you bake it or wait until after it has come out of the oven.

Bake the bread till it's golden brown,35-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with herbs or seasoning of choice if you didn't do it before it went into the oven. Allow it to rest in the pan for 5 minutes,then turn it out onto a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temp.

Yield: 1 round Loaf
Source: King Arthur Flour


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Take A Peak Wednesday: It's All About The Eggs and The Hens


               I'm afraid this post is yet another hen update. I'm also not sorry about that. I've been busy with the ladies over the course of the week and I'm excited to share a few things with you.  

When it comes to the weather here, I can count on two things: Wind and rain. We may not get them together but you can pretty much count on those two during the winter months (who am I kidding? we get this kind of weather all year long!). I have wanted some kind of cover for the hens for awhile now. I wanted to give them some shelter inside the run area where they eat,drink,hang out and take a dust bath. When it rains the whole area inside there becomes crazy wet and muddy and I was just over it. So we found fine mesh that they use on construction sites. It's durable,breathable, and gives them shelter from the rain and wind and will hopefully also work during the warm summer days. It's not the prettiest thing to look at but it's worked wonders!

Last week I posted about the two eggs that were laid. I was so happy about that! Well..the next day this is what I found
        THREE whole eggs!! you can tell the newer one by the lighter color. I was so happy to see that egg.
              The newest egg layer,is Mabel Ann. She is the pushiest,most in your face hen,ever! she is the first one to wait at the door for me,to actually jump up towards me like a dog when she notices I have brought food, and follows me all over the chicken run. A few days later,I start noticing that all but one is heading inside the coop to sit in a box. They go in,sit down, and then come back out. This goes on and on for hours. A few nights later I head out to lock them in for the night and by then I had collected three eggs..I start to leave and something catches my eye inside the chicken run..
             Egg number four!!!! She laid it outside in the chicken run. I guess she feels safe with that option. She's done it twice now..and I know who it belongs to. Here is what she first looked like when we brought her home..
              I fell in love with her from the get go. It's Miss Eliza Doolittle.  She won't come near me to this day but she chats with me often now. Here is what she looks like now..

        Isn't she beautiful? She's a double laced Barnevelder and I will hopefully be getting dark brown large eggs from her. So that's four down: Daisy,Annie,Mabel, and Eliza. I'm still waiting on Belle,Astrid and Lily to start. Exciting times I tell you..


Monday, January 13, 2014

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Coconut Cookies


                    Cookies are something I don't make often enough and I have no clue as to why. I will pick up the odd pack at the store here and there and I'm just never happy with my purchase. For the most part,Dutch cookies are crispy and only come in a few flavors. I can vividly remember all of the cookie choices from home and I miss those. If it wasn't for the pure embarrassment factor I would do a post about looking for someone who will send me a box filled with nutter butters, fig newtons, iced animal cookies,a variety of Mother's brand cookies, and every other soft cakey cookie you can find. I suppose it's a good thing that I have the embarrassment factor going on or I would be one sick girl from eating all of those. Happy,but sick.

I know that making cookies yourself is always the safest bet when it comes to knowing exactly whats going in there and being able to skip on the additives and what not so here is a great cookie recipe that we recently inhaled.

They are thick and chewy and loaded with good things like, oatmeal,coconut, and chocolate chips. Large amounts of butter and brown sugar never hurt so whip these babies up and enjoy!

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Coconut Cookies

1 cup Old Fashioned Oats
2-1/4 cups All-purpose Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Salt
1 cup Unsalted Butter,softened
1-1/4 cups Light Brown Sugar
1/2 cups Dark Brown Sugar
2 Large Eggs..from your own hens if possible :)
1 TBS Vanilla
1 cup Shredded Coconut
12 oz Semi sweet Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350 or 180 celsius. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Place the oats,flour,baking soda, and salt into a food processor or blender and blend for 30 seconds, or until coarse. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer until light in color,about 1 minute. Add the sugars,eggs, and vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined. Add the dry ingredients and coconut and mix just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips with a wooden spoon.

Shape cookies into balls and place prepared pan. I used a 2 inch cookie scoop for my size and could have gone larger. Basically make whatever size you want and adjust the cooking time based on that. 

Bake 12-13 minutes. Allow to cool on pan for a minute or so and then transfer to a wire rack. 

Yield:2-3 dozen..depending on size
Source: Mel's Kitchen Cafe         

Friday, January 10, 2014

Sausage-Cheddar Balls


               I sometimes think moving a bazillion miles from everything I have ever known was the best decision besides marrying my husband I have ever made. In the time I have been away from the U.S. I have lost over 140 pounds, taught myself to bake bread, gotten off the prepackaged food wagon, grown my own food, am now raising my own hens for their eggs, and have learned to cook and bake from scratch. I can sometimes lose sight of everything I have done to change myself for the better. I honestly don't know if I would have done this had I not moved. I now realize that I was mentally and physically trapped before I came here. And now I'm not.

I'm pretty sure it's funny to read these words when you find out it all came about with this recipe. These sausage-cheddar balls won't solve any major crisis,but it's just one more thing I can now make from scratch for my family. All of the recipes I have found for these include Bisquick. I never realized how much I relied on that dang box until I moved here and discovered they didn't have it. So I just stupidly assumed I would never have those cheddar balls. Right before christmas I decided to finally hunt down a recipe for these once and for all so that I could make them christmas morning. I found it,made it,and it was epic. For us anyway. 

Our favorite way to eat these are when they are cold and not warm. The outside becomes crispy and they are perfect for dunking in your favorite sauce or eat them plain as they are fantastic either way. A word of warning: I caught my oven on fire when I baked these up on christmas morning! I didn't realize they would be so greasy, and it spilled over because I used a cookie sheet with no sides. Now I don't know if this will happen to anyone who uses breakfast sausage but I can't get that here so I used regular sausage that I took out of the casing. To be on the safe side, use a rimed baking pan with foil on the bottom and then place a wrack inside,coat it with nonstick spray and place the cheddar balls on that to cook ( I did this the second time I made these and it worked a treat). The fat drips down and you'll have non-greasy balls ( oh man, the jokes we can make with that sentence..reminds me of the SNL skit about sweaty balls!!)

Sausage-Cheddar Balls

1-1/4 cups All-purpose Flour
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Ground Pepper
1/2 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1-1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
2 cups (8 ounces) Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 lb. Breakfast Sausage or sausage of choice
1/2 Large Onion,Grated
3 TBS Butter, Melted

Preheat oven to 400 or 200 celsius. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place a wire rack inside the pan and coat with nonstick spray. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour,salt,pepper,cayenne pepper, and baking powder. Add cheese and toss to coat.

Crumble the sausage over the flour mixture and add in the onion and butter. Get your hands in there and mix until everything is thoroughly combined. Roll mixture into 1-inch balls and place 1/2 inch apart onto prepared rack.

Bake until balls are golden brown and cooked through,about 20-25 minutes. Serve warm,room temp,or cold

Yield: 45 Balls
Source: Martha Stewart

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Take A Peek Wednesday: Hen Update!


               We're having a crazy winter over here..a few days ago it was 54 degrees! We've had sun,blue skies and warmish temps. It's crazy. I'm not complaining mind you,especially since next week there will be a severe dip and possibly even some snow. The hens have been equally wacky. All of their instincts have kicked in..That means,digging..and a hell of alot of it.

        Oh they like to pretend like nothing is going on..but I'm convinced they are organized. They know exactly what's going on and I'm pretty sure it includes digging up every last worm known to man,getting to the extra bit of grass that is right out of their reach,and then reaching my back door where they know I keep all the treats. I was warned that they like to dig..but wow, even this surprised me. I covered up the large trench they dug this morning and they are already busy undoing what I just did.

         I've been putting in a variety of cabbages to keep them busy. Chickens get all weirded out when you put something new into their run..they actually inspect the entire thing before running around it 500 times before making the small step to finally touch it and then peck it to death in record time after that. They are like sharks.

      They are all growing up like crazy now though..and they are all finally showing signs of wanting to lay eggs.

      They are all bowing and squatting down right in front of me now and that is the classic sign of getting ready to lay. It's cute and annoying all at the same time. I am trying to feed,water, and clean up after them and they are all bowing in front of me and it can take 5 minutes to reach the run when this is going on.

         Another new thing is,they have all found their voices.All 7 of them. All 7 hens have a different voice and they range from soft and sweet to a sound that resembles a goose being smacked around. It's loud and they are proud. If they spot me walking outside they all run to the to end of the chicken run and call me in 7 different voices. I'm surprised no one has complained yet.

Since I keep a close eye on things, I am able to tell you who decided to grace me with a brand new egg..and that would be the one right above me..Annie. She laid her first egg a few days ago and I was able to snap a pic of the one she and Daisy left for me.

   Here they are! they are both in the medium egg sized range and that makes me happy. The first few eggs are really teenie tiny, but as time goes on, they get bigger. It only took Annie two days to reach the medium sized point which leads me to believe she may be a large egg layer at some point. It took Daisy a whole month to reach the medium size and I think that is her final size.

All the hens are wanting to lay, they are all acting funny with their running it and out of the coop,making nests in the boxes, and then sitting there. Hopefully by next week I will have all 7 of them laying!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Power Granola


                Happy New Year!!! I can not BELIEVE it's 2014! Did everyone survive their holiday season? we barely made it out alive :) We ate,we laughed,we ate some more,laughed some more and ate again. The family and I are on a 3 month long cleanse so to speak. We all made a little bit to much merry during December and decided we all needed a change. I know my boys had to much sugar when they both said they were craving savory foods and didn't want to see another bar of chocolate or cookie for awhile. We aren't going crazy with our food or fact tonight we are eating roasted turkey legs with cranberry rice pilaf,sage rolls, and green body is giving up bread around here..just a little less of the sugar for a little while.

Granola is an old friend in our house. We keep him tucked away in the freezer and pull handfuls of him out when we need him..usually on top of yogurt for breakfast. I am always trying new granola recipes and this one was a winner!

The original recipe states to use two cups of quick cooking oats but I decided to add one cup of the old fashioned. I like a little crunch with my granola. Feel free to use all quick,old fashioned, or a mix of both.

Power Granola

1 cup Old fashioned Oats
1 cup Quick Cooking Oats
1/3 cup Ground Flaxseed
1/4 cup Chopped Walnuts
1/4 cup Slivered Almonds
2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1/3 cup Honey..try to buy local!
1/3 cup Orange Juice
1/4 cup Packed Brown Sugar
2 tsp. Canola Oil
1 tsp. Vanilla or Almond Extract
1/3 cup Dried Cranberries

Preheat oven to 300 or 150 celsius. Spray a cookie sheet with non stick spray.

In a large bowl,combine the first 6 ingredients.

In a saucepan,combine the honey,orange juice,and brown sugar. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves,stirring frequently. Remove from heat,stir in oil and vanilla.

Pour mixture over oat mixture and stir to thoroughly combine. Spread out onto prepared pan.

Bake 10 minutes,stir. Bake 10-15 minutes longer or until golden brown. Add cranberries and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. 

Store in airtight container.

1/2 cup has around 196 calories

Source: My Recipes