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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Squash Casserole

I know you've been wanting to hear about something beside chickens so here you go. Our garden is starting to "come in" as we say in the south. And of course the first things that starts producing are the squash and zucchini. I am not a big squash fan myself, but Greg likes it and so does Daniel. Greg picked 6 squash the night before last so I went on a mission to find a new recipe for yellow squash. I found a squash casserole recipe that I didn't even mind eating. Hey, if you add enough cheese to something, anyone will eat it. Well most anyone. There were a couple of people in the house that still wouldn't try it.

Photo from: Food Network Paula Deen's Cheesy Squash Casserole

I found this recipe on Food Network for Paula Deen's Cheesy Squash Casserole:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 medium yellow summer squash, thinly sliced
1 large Vidalia onion, thinly sliced (I used just a regular yellow onion)
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar
1/2 cup sour cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 sleeve crackers, crushed medium to fine (recommended: Ritz)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 2-quart casserole dish.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the squash, onion, and butter (I didn't add the butter here) until soft. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the Parmesan, Cheddar, and sour cream. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Place in the prepared casserole dish and sprinkle the cracker crumbs evenly over the top (this is where I put the butter, in pats on top of the crackers). Bake for 20 minutes or until the top is golden and bubbly.
This stuff was so good it'd make you want to slap your grandma. Of course, you know better, though.
Enjoy, and have a great day!

Sharing on The Homestead Barn Hop

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Cooking Whole Chickens

I realize a lot of people these days just don't know what to do with a whole chicken. When I was growing up that's pretty much all you got in the grocery store. Then they started selling them whole cut-up chickens and since they were about the same price it was easier and less time consuming to buy the cut-up bird. Now most people just buy the parts they want to eat. While I get that a lot of people think that is the most economical way to purchase chicken, because they may only want to eat the breast, or legs, it's not. You can still purchase a whole chicken at a price per pound that is a lot less than boneless-skinless breast.  My goal today is to help you with cooking a whole chicken.

If you are purchasing a whole chicken from the grocery, I recommend washing it. Remove any feathers, or yellow outer skin. One of my favorite ways to cook it is in the slow cooker. You will need:

1 onion, quartered
1 carrot, cut in half the short way
1 stalk celery, cut in half
1 stem of fresh sage, (optional)
Salt & Pepper
Poultry seasoning

Place the cleaned chicken in the slow cooker breast side down. Salt & Pepper the back side then sprinkle with poultry seasoning. Flip the bird over so the breast side is up. Stuff the cavity with the onion, carrot & celery. Then push the fresh sage as far inside as you can. If the sage is sticking outside the cavity that is okay. Salt & Pepper the breast side of the bird then sprinkle with sage. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4 hours.

I usually serve this with mashed potatoes and gravy (made from the drippings in the slow cooker), and a green vegetable.

You should have plenty of broth in the slow cooker to use for the next meal. Once you have finished you meal, pick any remaining meat off the bones and store in the fridge. Also, save the broth because you are going to need it to make a chicken casserole for another night. You can still boil the bones and make more broth. Just put the whole carcass, onions and all, in a pot full of water. Add more onions, carrots & celery (sometimes I use the tops of carrots and the ends of onions and celery, you know, the stuff you usually throw away) bring to a boil then simmer for an hour or so. Strain and freeze in 1 cup portions.

Chicken Casserole
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can chicken broth (use the can from the chicken soup)
1 bag stuffing mix (I use Pepperidge Farms cornbread)
1/2 stick butter, melted

Spread the chicken in the bottom of a 9X13 casserole dish. Mix the cream of chicken soup and 1 can of chicken broth together and pour over chicken.

Mix the butter, stuffing mix and enough broth together to give it a nice, moist consistency (usually about 2 cups). Bake at 350° until browned and bubbly making sure it is hot all the way through.

We usually have leftovers of this for lunches for a couple of days.

Sorry I don't have pictures yet, but will work on that this weekend.

Here is a link to another recipe for whole chickens:Rosemary Chicken & Potatoes

There is just so much you can do with a whole chicken that makes it so much more economical than parts. And, trust me, your family will not even know they are eating the parts they don't like when you put them in a casserole.

Have a great day!

Linking with the Homestead Barn Hop

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Freezing the Birds

After getting the chickens processed they were given back to us packed in ice chest with ice water on them. Ice water gets into the cavity of the bird and cools them down faster than just covering them with ice would. It took us about 3 hours to get them all in the freezer. We ordered poultry shrink bags from Nayda's Poultry. I ordered them on a Friday night and received them on the next Monday. That was very fast!  We looked at the tutorial on this site: to get an idea of how to use the bags.  The bags came with a straw that you put into the cavity of the bird and then twisted the bag around the straw. That worked better for us than cutting a slit in the bag.

It was very easy to do and the finished product looks really good. I haven't printed my labels yet. I ordered blank labels from Growers Discount Labels and they arrived within three days of ordering them.

Here are pictures of our packaging process:
Washing and cutting off the necks

Drying the birds before putting in bags

Bird in a Bag

Dipping in 180-200° water

Shrink wrapped

The necks were left really long on the chickens so we cut them off down below the breast. I will use them to make broth. They had a lot of meat on them for necks. It is our goal to not waste any of the chicken. We haven't eaten one yet but will be cooking one this weekend.

Have a great day!

Linking with the Homestead Barn Hop 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Butchering Day

Okay, so we did take the easy way out and had our chickens processed at a processing facility. But, the processor did all 42 birds in less than 1 hour, start to finish.

Last ride     

This is what they looked like on their way out this morning. I found myself feeling a little sorry for them. But then I realize that their lives would only get worse if we allowed them to live any longer. Fortunately, we didn't see any broken legs or heart failure in the 7 weeks we had them. Their lives were the best we could give them, lots of food, fresh grass every day, and clean water. Cornish X are different than any chicks I had ever seen. Not that we had a bad experience with them and we will raise them again in the fall.

On the way home
They look beautiful. Clean. Better than any chicken I have seen in the store in forever. I hope they taste as good as they look. I will let you know how they turn out, and will be posting pictures of the packaging process.

Have a great day!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Chickens & Cherries

The meat chicks are finally ready for butchering. We have decided not to do the processing ourselves. There is a local company here that will do it for us. We will get them processed on Thursday. The processor will do everything in about 40 minutes. We will get them back in an ice water bath. Then they will hang out in the fridge for no more than 24 hours.

While trying to figure out what we would package them in I came across this website: which is great for instructions. Then I did a search for poultry shrink bags and found them cheaper here: I ordered them over the weekend and am hoping they will be here by Friday evening when will package them for the freezer.

Our cherry tree has done well this year. And I was proactive and got to them before the birds did. I made a cherry pie and still had quite a few left over. So I made cherry jelly. I used the juicer attachment for my Kitchenaid mixer and it worked outstandingly. With the jelly I made cherry danishes for breakfast yesterday,

Cherry Danish recipe:
2 pkg. crescent rolls
Cherry jelly

Spread out the crescent rolls and separate as you normally would. Put about 1 teaspoon jelly on the wide end of the roll.

Fold over the skinny end as shown in picture above.
Then fold the other end as shown. Crimp the edges together and fold under the pointy ends.

Your packets should look like the ones above. Bake according to crescent roll directions. When brown, remove from oven and glaze.

I used powdered sugar & just enough milk to make a thin glaze.

The finished product. Yummy.

Have a great day!

Linking to: The Homestead Barn Hop