Monday, May 3, 2021

Ways to use up eggs

The hens are laying like crazy so I’ve got to really work to keep ahead of production. So now we’re eating eggs two meals a day rather than just for breakfast. This could get boring fast.

Breakfast is now cold custard and toast. Four ramekins use one egg each but we only eat one ramekin per meal (we split one). I may need to start making egg rich breads to help this out.

Lunch is an egg scramble with veggies. This solves the added issue of what to do with garden produce and is a quick to prepare meal while we’re doing all the chores this time of year brings. It also adds variety since you can change up the flavors based on which vegetables or meats you add. I’m also thinking of doing some Asian inspired dishes like cabbage pancakes and tempuras. 

Dessert, ah dessert, that’s where you can really shine. And use eggs. Lots of eggs.

Chocolate pecan pie 

Baked banana pudding 

The pecan pie uses four eggs and tastes wonderful. Unfortunately it’s also so rich that one piece is enough so it lasts a while.

The banana pudding is that Chef John recipe I mentioned earlier and has the added advantage that you can eat it for breakfast. 

That’s still not enough to use up all the eggs but combined with some sharing I can just keep ahead of the hens.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Not your typical spring

We’ve had terrible weather this spring. Mainly because it’s been so nice. That’s right, I’m complaining about sunny days. I mean, there was that one freak snowfall that gave us over an inch of heavy wet snow, but otherwise it’s been incredibly dry.  

This is all kinds of wrong

Where are my April showers to bring May flowers? How is my beautiful garden supposed to fill with healthy veggies if we don’t get rain?

All kidding aside, the yard and garden are bone dry. And although the chickens enjoy the dust baths this is not good for anyone.

When we built the tractor shed in 2008 it rained for 8 weeks straight. We were soggy messes every single day. The creeks ran full and the mosquitoes were fierce. And every year since then we’ve had a little less rain. Dry April, dry May, and finally some rain in June. Not sure if this year will be a repeat but we’re already planning. We have two large rain containers set up to collect as much as possible. And we have another barrel that we may set up soon.

The forecast calls for rain for the next three days. Here’s hoping.

Monday, March 22, 2021

We made syrup!

We have plenty of maple trees on the property but we’ve never tried to make maple syrup before. Well, apparently this was the year to give it a go!

The main reason we decided to try it was that Chris scored both a food grade barrel and a whole bunch of bricks. The barrel would let us accumulate the sap (we only had 5 sap taps/buckets and we had to borrow those) and the bricks would provide material for a quick and dirty wood-fired evaporator. 

The barrel and the evaporator 

We had good collecting weather for about a week and managed to accumulate about 22 gallons of sap. 

Beginning the boil

The weather was perfect: sunny, warmish, and barely breezy. I even brought Cooper’s bed outside so she could enjoy the sunshine with us.

You’ll note there is no dog...

We boiled outside for nine hours the first day, five hours the second, and three the third.

Turning golden
It did get warmer as the day progressed
Eventually she joined us

The chickens were loving being able to roam around at last. They’ve been confined to their coop and run because they hate to walk on the snow. The nice weather means they finally have a grass path to freedom.

Now we’re getting closer
Once enough had evaporated we moved into the house to finish it off. 
It took about 2.5 hours to turn into syrup 

A good production run
We ended up with a generous two quarts. That was our goal and I can’t believe we actually hit it! It’s not like we were carefully measuring anything. But I’d estimate we collected 22 gallons of sap so we at least have a target for next year.
I partially filled the jars because I’m going to freeze them. Well, some of them. We’ll be dipping into the first jar tonight. Waffles for dinner!

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Putting up beans

I spent a chunk of Saturday pressure canning dried beans.

I had six bags, each containing a pound of beans. I did three bags of pinto, two of black, and one navy. It was quite colorful.

Soaking the navy and black beans

Lots of pinto beans

After soaking them overnight I boiled the beans for 30 minutes. That gave me time to get my canner and supplies ready.

No photos of the filling process as I was wicked busy filling jars, getting them sealed, and loading the canner. 
Steadily streaming steam

The beans were processed for 75 minutes. I needed to stay in the kitchen to keep a close eye on the pressure gauge so I had time to make pizza dough and banana bread too. Time management for the win!

Gorgeous beans
I yielded 20 pints plus enough for a side dish from those six bags. Not bad.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Snugging in on a cold winter night

Cooper passed out in my chair 

The cats melted in their chair

The reason everyone is so relaxed 

There is nothing more pleasant than snuggling in with the woodstove going full bore. The critters have it right.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Dessert—Banana Pudding

I had three bananas that needed to be used up. Three is too many for my banana bread recipe and I already had bananas in the freezer so didn’t want to just chuck these in there too. Then inspiration struck—pudding! And not just any pudding. Southern style baked banana pudding with Nilla Wafers and meringue. 

Except I didn’t have any Wafers and sure didn’t feel like going out. So I found a recipe online and away we go!

The cookie recipe came from The first batch out of the oven hadn’t taken on any color at the end of the suggested bake time and additional time in the oven was just drying them out. So I increased the oven temp to 375 and baked 15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. This gave me a bit of browning on the bottom and edges which I think helps with flavor. 

A bit misshapen but very good

Do they taste exactly like the store-bought version? Of course not. Were they simple to bake and taste good? Yup! I’m counting this a keeper.

The banana pudding recipe is from my favorite online chef, Chef John at A wonderful recipe and it uses four eggs—an important consideration in this household since the hens are laying so well.

Beautiful meringue 

Worthy of a second shot

An excellent way to use up bananas and eggs. What’s not to love?

Friday, February 12, 2021

Not quite right


I found a recipe on YouTube for a vegetable pancake presented by Maangchi. It looked good and seemed simple. Unfortunately it didn’t come out quite right; it was sort of gummy in fact. Basically it’s 3 cups of veggies mixed with a flour/water batter to form a pancake. There aren’t any leaveners in it which may have contributed to the textural heaviness. 

I fully intend to keep trying this because I find it wonderfully appealing as an idea—vegetables lightly bound and served with dipping sauce. I mean, I can easily see making something like this all summer as vegetables ripen in the garden. Quick, easy, good.

Well, we have some refining to do before it achieves “good”. But it’s close. I’m going to lighten the batter. Maybe add a bit of leavening. Shoot, maybe add an egg.

But I’ll be keeping the basic structure of simple, fresh, and quick.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Sourdough Discard Crackers

I got into sourdough baking just before Covid hit so I got to practice before flour became a scarce commodity. I made lots of stuff without worrying too much about whether it would be a waste of flour or not. If nothing else, it’d be chicken food. Fortunately most things worked well, but I confess I never really enjoyed the bread. I have other rustic bread recipes that I prefer more so I started looking for ways to use my sourdough starter straight from the fridge rather than worrying about its activity level. This meant I was going for flavor more than rise. 

Basically I now use only “discard” in my recipes. It’s quite freeing.

One of my favorite recipes is sourdough discard crackers (you knew I’d get there eventually). They’re easy, taste great, and store way longer than you’d think possible. I’ve adapted this recipe from several I’ve found online, so if this doesn’t appeal to you there are many out there to try.

  • 248g discard (I use mine straight from the fridge; don’t even bother to let it warm up)
  • 113g flour (wheat flour gives a stronger sour flavor, white is more neutral)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt 
  • 57g soft butter (I use a combo of butter and extra virgin olive oil)
  • 2 Tbl of seeds or herbs (I prefer poppy and sesame seeds)
  • Additional EVOO and salt for topping 
Plop everything in a mixing bowl. Use your hand to thoroughly combine ingredients.

Form dough into a ball. It’ll be soft and tacky.

Divide the dough in half, shape into discs, and wrap in plastic. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F. 

Roll one dough ball very thin to fit a half-sheet pan. I do this on a floured parchment sheet with the plastic wrap on top to help prevent sticking.

Dock with a fork, brush with EVOO, sprinkle with crunchy salt, and cut into strips using a knife, pizza wheel, or ravioli wheel to get those cool wavy edges. Transfer to pan then repeat with other dough ball.

Place pans in oven, bake for 10 minutes then rotate pans (top to bottom and front to back) and bake for 10 minutes more. Turn off oven and crack door to let crackers cool naturally; this helps them dry out more.

Transfer to a cracker jar and enjoy. They keep very well though I’m sure household conditions will impact that. It’s February in upstate NY and we heat with wood so our house is very dry right now. My last batch of crackers was still crisp 4 weeks later. This summer? Probably not going to last that long.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Sunny day and apple pie

February is typically our dreariest month, full of sub-zero temperatures and cloudy, gray skies. But not today!

Today was not only sunny it was warm (warm being relative in upstate New York). We hit 42 degrees today and there was virtually no wind. 

It was a perfect day to clean the chicken coop. Wait, what? Not snowshoe, or ski, or goof off? Nope, you gotta grab these opportunities when they appear. I use the deep litter method on my coop so by this time of winter it’s getting pretty deep in there. It’s great to have a chance to pull a few layers out and get them into the compost pile. Fresh wood shavings and hay make the coop much more pleasant for everyone.

Once the coop was cleaned (and I’d had a shower) I spent some pleasant time in the kitchen. Last fall my Dad had given me a few bags of orchard apples and I seasoned and froze some for pies. I had one bag left and decided to experiment a bit. I made a bottom crust, par-baked it, filled it with the raw, thawed apples, and topped it with my Grandma’s apple crisp topping. 

 I gotta admit that turned out to be one fantastic pie. I doubt I’ll go back to double crust apple pie ever again.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Lazy Days

Well, for some members of the household anyway. With the snow and cold neither cat likes spending time outside. This is their second winter and they’re handling it with a combination of deep sleep and aggressive wrestling. I’m never sure if I’ll find them curled up somewhere or running through the house like a herd of elephants. Not quiet kitties when it’s time to play.