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Monday, September 15, 2014

What to Expect When You're Expecting...Your First Eggs, That Is.

I can remember when we first got chickens. It seemed like we waited forever to get our first egg. Twenty weeks sure seemed like a long time! Then when we got that first egg as exciting as it was it was still a little surprising to see how tiny it was. So if you are about to get chickens or already have chickens and are waiting on your first egg, this post is for you.

When I walked into the chicken coop to find that first little egg, I was so excited. Then I realized just how little it was and began to wonder if I had the wrong kind of chicken. I wanted those big brown eggs, I had seen so often. Then I took that little egg into the kitchen and cracked it. Well let me tell you, it would have taken a dozen of those eggs to make a meal. And cracking it was a whole other story. The membrane was tough and hard to pull apart. But finally there was a little tiny yolk surrounded by a fair amount of white.

Since that time we have had many first eggs and our newest batch of chicks started laying last week. We have had about 2 dozen of those little tiny eggs so I thought you might like to see what they look like.

Tiny Eggs
 As you can see from the picture above they barely are taller than the dividers of the egg carton. And this is a carton for large eggs.

What you can expect from your fist eggs.

1. They will tiny.
2. The shells will be a little harder than what you may be used to.
3. The membranes will be tough.
4. They yolks will be hard to break.

Scrambled eggs

I scrambled 12 of the eggs for 3 adults (2 hungry men) and it was just the right amount. As you can see from the picture above, they scrambled up nicely. It's really about all you can use them for. But please use them. They are a little harder to scramble because the yolks take a lot of beating before they break.

You should still get excited when that first egg appears, because it just means there are bigger and better ones to come. But enjoy the little ones, also.

Have a great day!

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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Under Pressure!

Have you tried pressure cooking? Let me tell you, it's my latest craze! Someone at my work ordered a pressure cooker from an infomercial. I am not a fan of infomercials by any means. But, she brought this thing into the office and we cooked a chicken dish from frozen boneless skinless chicken breast in less than 30 minutes, start to finish! So, I had a stove top pressure cooker at home that I got from my mother's house after she died. It sat in a cabinet for 11 years. But seeing how well the one at work worked I decided to try it. Since it had not been used for at least 11 years, I put it on the stove with some water in to see if it would seal. It did! I was so excited! The first thing I cooked in it was smothered pork chops, then I tried the same recipe with steak. Then I made BBQ chicken thighs and legs in it. They all turned out delicious! And quick. I have the Maitre's 4 Quart. But I would definitely recommend a larger one such as the Rochedo Maitre's 8 Qts Pressure Cooker 

I was allowed to take the electric one from work home and give it a try. A 3 pound pot roast with potatoes and carrots was done in less than 30 minutes from start to finish! I broke down and ordered an electric one like the one from work and can't wait til it gets here. I am still considering ordering a new stove top one that is bigger in case I ever need to cook in it on the camp stove if the electricity is out.

One thing I noticed about using a pressure cooker instead of a slow cooker is the food retains it color and flavors. In a slow cooker it seems like everything taste the same. The potatoes taste just like the roast. Textures are different but the flavors are all the same. In the pressure cooker a potato still taste like a potato and carrots still taste like carrots. They pick up some flavor from the roast but they still retain their own flavors and everything isn't mush. I still love my slow cooker, I don't think I could live without one but the pressure cooker may be winning me over.

Smothered Pork Chops
6-8 bone in pork chops
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can beef broth
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp. corn starch
2 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. olive oil

Heat olive oil in bottom of pressure cooker, brown pork chops. Remove pork chops from pressure cooker. Add onion and garlic to pressure cooker and saute' until translucent.  Add cream of mushroom soup, beef broth and pork chops. Place lid on pressure cooker and heat until the pressure regulator starts to rock back and forth. Adjust heat to maintain pressure. Cook for 10 minutes. Allow pressure to release naturally. Remove lid. Remove pork chops. Mix the corn starch and water together and add to pressure cooker. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Add the sour cream and heat until warm. Serve with mashed potatoes or noodles.

These were quick and delicious. I also used this same recipe with round steak. Both were fork tender.

Have a great day!

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I Can Because I Can

I saw an apron at Meijer's the other day with the title of this post on it, it got me thinking. There are many reasons to can: to enjoy garden fresh produce all winter long, to provide healthy nutritious food for your family, to stockpile for lean times, because you enjoy it, to be able to stand back and look at what you've accomplished, or because you can.

All of those reasons apply to me. It is very satisfying to look back and actually see what you've accomplished, to eat fresh peas in the dead of winter, and to know that you have some healthy food stored up when you need it. But part of the reason I can is because, I can. At this time in my life I am able to pick green beans, pull some weeds, stand over a hot stove while making jams or jellies, and keep an eye on a pressure canner while it does its thing. There may come a day when I can't do those things, but it isn't today. The good Lord has given me the opportunity, the ability, and the knowledge to can. So, to be a good steward of all that he has given me, including the produce, I can. My back may be hurting and me feet swollen at the end of the day, but I really believe when you quit doing what you can do, life just will not be as good.

There are many people out there who can can for various reasons. Some are not physically able. Some don't have the equipment, the knowledge, the space, etc.  Some just don't care enough to try they are like the Grasshopper in the old story "The Ant & The Grasshopper". But if you have what it takes to can, I encourage you to can. At the end of the day you will see your accomplishments!

Canning Cupboard

Some of this year's bounty

I Can Because I Can

Have a great day!
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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Canning Peas

Since we are finally getting peas I am canning everyone of them I can get. My favorite are Zipper Cream and we aren't getting as many of them as we are the Purple Hull peas. I keep forgetting to take pictures of the Zipper Creams before I can them. But here is a picture of them and some Purple Hulls that I did can.

Zipper Creams & Purple Hulls

You can tell the difference because the Zipper Creams stay green. The Purple Hulls turn a brownish color.  They have the texture of a bean.

To can them you shell them, then wash them. They tend to have a lot of ugly black blossoms stuck to them and they need to be washed and picked through. Then you pack them into clean, hot jars. You don't need to tamp them down or pack them too tightly. Put a 1/2 teaspoon of canning salt in each pint or 1 teaspoon for quarts. Fill the jar With boiling water leaving 1 inch of head space. Wipe rims of jars and place lid and ring on jar. Place in your pressure canner and process for 30 minutes at 10 lbs of pressure for pints or 40 minutes for quarts. Allow the pressure to release then use a jar lifter to remove jars from canner. See complete instructions here

This is the first year that I have been brave enough to actually start using a pressure canner. I love being able to preserve our produce so that we will be able to enjoy our garden all year. It's a lot of work during the summer, but it's so worth it. Especially since you can't buy Zipper Cream peas in the grocery stores here.

If you would like to learn to can you might want to check with your local extension office. They may offer a class. Of course, there are all sorts of websites that are willing to teach you.

This post contains affiliate links.

Have a great day!

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Peppers, Sunflowers & Elderberries

This week's post is all about plants. Peter Piper could have picked his peck of peppers this week in my garden. I planted 8 pepper plants, 4 Jalapeno and 4 mystery peppers (they were supposed to be bell peppers).  You can tell from the pictures these are not bell peppers. I think they are banana peppers. Whatever they are they are really productive.
I picked 34 off of one plant. I still have plenty of pickled Jalapeno's from last year so I researched how to dry them on strings and this is the result.

I thought they look really pretty. They should dry within just a few weeks and then can be ground into powder.

We had a 3 volunteer sunflowers come up in the garden this year from some we planted last year. They were all 3 different. One had a lot flowers on it, one is just 1 smaller flower, and the other one was huge.
That is my 6 foot 2 inch son holding it and as you can tell it covers quite a bit of him. It has to be at least 1 1/2 feet across. I haven't measured it yet but I am going to. I think it must weight a couple of pounds. I am drying it now so that we can toast the seeds. The seeds are really large.

We have also been picking elderberries. I am making a tincture from them for the cold & flu season. This is the first time I have done this so I am not comfortable telling anyone how to do it and how it works. If you Google Elderberry tincture there are a lot of people who are willing to tell you how and how it works. I will have to test it out to see, but for now mine is brewing and I am shaking it everyday. The basics are to soak some elderberries in Vodka. Some people say only use 100 proof some say 80 proof will do. I am trying 80 proof.

I have also used the juicer attachment on my Kitchen Aid to juice enough to make elderberry jelly. And still have a whole bag to do something else with. I am thinking about elderberry syrup. I just have to buy some ginger to get this done. It sounds like it may taste better than the tincture.

Have you ever made anything with elderberries? I would love to hear how you liked it and if it worked as well as you thought it would.

Have a great day!
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