Tag Archives: Backyard Chickens

Green Eggs and Ham

“That’s not how my school made green eggs and ham,” Little Bird was quick to point out. No, probably not.

We had ham leftover from Thanksgiving. And the basil she planted from seeds from a Mother’s Day fundraiser at Green Acre is still going strong, so we made a hand-chopped pesto and served it over fresh eggs and the leftover ham.

green eggs and ham

Little Bird was happy to cut some of her basil.

cutting the basil she planted from seed

Our youngest hens have just started laying.

backyard eggs

I wanted to try hand-chopping the pesto. I saw someone in Italy do that once on a show several years ago. I used a curved knife and chopped the dry ingredients first and then stirred in the olive oil. The ingredients were the same as from my pesto recipe here.

hand-chopped pesto

To make a more complete dinner, we ended up eating all of this over spaghetti. And we added avocado, because, well, we eat avocado at almost every meal!

Simple, Easy Recipes for Summer Dinners

I love summer. I love having extra daylight in the evening. Best of all, our garden is at it’s peak. I often slack on grocery shopping. Driving home from work, I will approach panic and then realize, between the garden and the chickens, I can pull together a simple, easy dinner recipe without having to stop and buy any extra ingredients.

Easy, simple recipes: spaghetti squash pesto and zucchini frittata

The other night was a classic example. Our refrigerator was extremely bare. But I had recently made fresh goat cheese, our chickens are laying eggs, and we had giant zucchinis, cherry tomatoes, a spaghetti squash, garlic and plenty of herbs all from the garden.

Easy, simple recipes: spaghetti squash pesto

As soon as I got home from work, I threw the spaghetti squash whole into the toaster oven. (The regular oven works fine, but the smaller squash fit in the toaster oven, which saves energy and keeps the kitchen from getting as hot.) After about 45 minutes at 350°, it was soft. I cut it in half, pulled out the flesh, discarding the seeds and shredded it with a fork. Click here for the pesto recipe. This time I experimented by throwing in an avocado from a friend’s tree. It made it extra creamy.

Easy, simple recipes: zucchini frittata

Next up was a frittata. I sautéed the zucchini and garlic in some ghee a friend made, had Little Bird stir, stir the eggs, and then mixed in tomatoes and thyme. After baking, we topped it with our fresh chèvre rolled in truffle salt. For the full frittata recipe, click here.

Victory Gardens for the win!


Baby Birds No Longer

Today is the 17th and my Baby Bird is 17 months old. She has been a toddler for quite some time. Running, coloring, eating PB&J and saying “no!” (All at the same time.) I suppose it is past due that she get a promotion. From this point on she will now be called “Little Bird.”

She is not our only baby bird growing up. With the passing of Steve, “Bebe,” the chick in our banner and Facebook profile picture, who we watched hatch from an egg, is now our senior hen. She is a proficient layer, laying a large, light brown egg daily.

Bebe, all grown up

Although we don’t have any roosters, we were lucky to watch Bebe and her sibling hatch and grow. A few years ago my husband noticed that one of our hens, Butters, a sweet and social Buff Orpington, was broody. “Broody” hens sit on the eggs all day trying to hatch them. In the wild this is obviously a necessary characteristic in order for the eggs to survive. However, most laying hens have the trait of broodiness bred out of them as it can disincline them to lay more eggs. For the purposes of egg production they simply need to lay the egg and move on.

When picking up our organic, soy-free, Modesto Milling poultry feed and scratch from White Mountains Ranch, Papa Bird chatted with the owner about how to get Butters to stop being so broody. She surprised us by suggesting that we let her! She graciously gave us four fertilized eggs to take home and let her sit on. Butters was a wonderful foster mom. She sat and sat and sat and sat…

And finally, one day in the spring, we had babies!! Two of the eggs hatched. Give me the meanest, grouchiest person, put newborn chicks in front of them and I guarantee they will just melt. There is nothing cuter.

Token and Bebe

One chick was strong and healthy. Since the baby bird had black feathers, well black fuzz, Papa Bird kept the South Park references going and named the chick “Token.” The little one we called “Bebe.” Unfortunately, little Bebe was born with a club foot. Her foot curled in and didn’t open up properly. She couldn’t put weight on it or walk properly. I imagine that back in the old days, on a large farm, such a deformed chicken wouldn’t get the chance to survive. Then again, in modern, large scale egg production the chickens live in cages and aren’t really allowed to walk around. So who knows what they do.

Papa Bird did a little research and decided to try to splint her foot. I was so proud of him and his All Creatures Great and Small skills. As I played nurse and lent extra hands, he experimented with various splints for Bebe. First he tried a little piece of cardboard and some medical tape. Unfortunately, Butters kept pecking at the white cardboard. We were worried she would hurt the poor baby’s foot. Eventually we found that what worked best was just a bandaid or two. Fortunately, after about a week her foot worked well, if a little smaller at first. Now you can’t even tell!

Bebe's BandAid Foot

Token, on the other hand, had a different problem. You see, he ended up being a “he” which is illegal in the City of San Diego! We took him to White Mountains Ranch later that year so he could enjoy the spoils of country life.

Click on any photo in the gallery to enlarge.

 

Dedicated to the Memory of our Hen Steve

This week our oldest surviving hen passed away, we believe of old age. Her name was Steve.

steve1

Steve was an Easter Egger Chicken and laid large, light blue eggs. She was a survivor and an escape artist. Steve was our only chicken to survive the Coyote Massacre of 2011 that decimated our flock and claimed the life of my 12-year-old kitty. Previously, she had been given to us by our neighbors in 2010 and they had no idea how old she was. They had also lost every single chicken to coyotes, except her, and were giving up. They called her “damn chicken”, but we renamed her after a good friend who requested the honor.

steve2

Out of our first flock, and the second flock after the Coyote Massacre, Steve was the hen most likely to break out of the enclosure and into the vegetable garden. Once, after we thought that she had stopped laying for a couple of weeks, my husband stumbled upon a hidden catch of eggs that she was laying in secret.

steve3

Rest in peace Steve. We will miss you!

Zucchini Bread Pudding: “When Life Gives You Dry Bread…”

So, things didn’t work out as smoothly in my kitchen this past weekend as I would’ve liked. I have to remind myself that the description of this blog includes “Recipes and Experiments…” I nearly started a grease fire in the dutch oven and had to get creative with cookware in order to finish beef short-ribs. And then my zucchini bread turned out dry.

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I was literally drafting a blog entitled “The Best Zucchini Bread Ever,” bragging about how moist it is. Ever since Papa Bird has grown summer squash, I have made many, many loaves. I even asked my husband if it would be cocky to reference Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 Hour Rule” from his book Outliers which is the theory that merely practicing for at least 10,000 hours, such as the Beatles performing 8 hours/day in Hamburg or Bill Gates playing around with programming as a teen, contributes to genius. My husband said yes, it would sound cocky.

Serves me right that the zucchini bread turned out dry. I still don’t know why. But I will certainly be revamping the recipe before I share it here. What I can share is my practice of seeing opportunity in failure. Dry bread is in fact the best for making bread pudding. A simple pudding, served with Cinnamon and Vanilla Bean Cajeta syrup, alongside super sweet, ripe, organic strawberries made a delicious brunch. (Cajeta is a traditional Mexican caramel syrup, made from goat’s milk. Think of dulce de leche crossed with sweetened condensed milk.)

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Zucchini Bread Pudding Recipe

  • 2-3 thick slices of zucchini bread, at least a day old is great
  • 4-5 eggs
  • approx. half a cup of milk

Preheat the oven to 350°. Toast the zucchini bread, unless it is already very stale. Roughly chop it. Place in an oven safe baking dish. (It might be nice to grease it, but I didn’t.) In a medium sized mixing bowl, beat the eggs. Add roughly the same volume of milk. Pour the egg/milk mixture over the bread. Bake until set, approximately 25 minutes.

Since the bread is sweet and spiced, and the cajeta is made with cinnamon stick and vanilla bean, I left the batter plain. But you could certainly add a little sugar, vanilla extract and cinnamon to the batter. If you have individual sized ramekins, that could be classy, too.