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Three swingin' chicks

tales of three (plus one) urban hens and the recipes they inspire

Strawberry-Rhubarb Baked Custard French Toast

May 07, 2011

Special Mother’s Day wishes to all the mother hens and chicks out there. I couldn’t resist posting this sweet video of a mother hen and her baby chicks.

The chicks in the video are not mine.  Someone did ask me this week, however, if I felt bad that my hens will never be mothers. It’s something I hadn’t actually thought about, but upon reflection I really don’t feel too bad. Frankly, I think my girls are happy being carefree and  worrying only about themselves. In fact, I suspect that many mothers wish they could have that – at least for one day.  I rather think the hen in this video is at that point by the end of the clip!

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Dandelion Greens – A Recipe

May 03, 2011

I recently came home from a photo shoot with a huge bunch of dandelion greens. Yes, I know, I have plenty of dandelion greens popping up in my yard–don’t remind me–but these were so nice I hated to turn them down.

I had planned to give them to the chicks, but as I chopped a big bowlful I decided these greens were much too nice to give all of them to the girls. So I set about creating a recipe to feature these spring treats using leftover Easter ham and some Yukon gold potatoes. read more »

The Secret to Selling Your Home

April 27, 2011

Trying to sell your home in this down market? Wondering what the secret to a quick sale might be? Recently, a friend of mine found the answer: a chicken coop in the backyard.

She and her husband sold their suburban home a few weeks ago after less than one week on the market. Turns out that the deal clincher was their chicken coop out back.  It seems that the prospective buyers and their children love chickens (as we all do), and inquired whether the chicken coop would stay with the property.  When told yes, then to sweeten the deal the buyers asked that the chickens be left with the coop. Sold!

Who Could Resist?

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Disaster-Proof Raspberry-Chocolate Meringues

April 23, 2011

I’ve been working in kitchens for so long that I have to admit disasters don’t often happen any more. That doesn’t mean things always turn out perfectly, but usually I can rescue things or at least make them better.  Yesterday, however, disaster struck.

It’s what can happen even to an experienced cook when you allow yourself to become distracted.  I was making the Paska for this weekend.  Paska is an egg-rich Ukrainian Easter bread decorated with crosses, flowers and braids made out of bread dough.  I make it every Easter and intended to blog about it this year, although not in the way I’m now doing.  Because I make Paska only once a year I have to concentrate when I make it.  This year I was multi-tasking, what with cleaning, editing and answering phone calls, such that my baking concentration got lost. read more »

Greens, Strawberries and Perfectly-Cooked Eggs

April 18, 2011

I started hoarding eggs for Easter last week. With hard-cooked eggs, whether dyed or au naturel, older is better. I’ve learned the hard way that even week-old homestead eggs can be too fresh for easy peeling. So I’ve found that eggs need to be about two weeks old to peel most easily.

I can gather eggs from my girls, of course, but if you’re buying them from the store, I recommend that you get your eggs as soon as possible.

While everyone longs for every hard-boiled egg to peel perfectly, it doesn’t always happen. Don’t despair of those less-than-perfect eggs. Here’s a wonderful salad recipe from my book that I recently taught in a class (recipe below) that includes eggs, and imperfections will not lessen the fabulous mix of flavors and colors. Plus, I’ve included tips for perfect hard-cooked eggs.

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New Beginnings

March 24, 2011

Welcome to my newly designed blog and website! I’m very excited about it and glad it’s finally up and running as it’s been several months in the making.  I’m anxious for feedback, so please let me know how you like it. I have to give credit to my fabulous designer, Lisa Hazan. After stumbling on my own for so many years, it’s great to work with someone who actually knows what they’re doing!

While all of this has been going on, I’ve also been busy promoting my book. I’ve done several book signings here in town and if you look at the Events tab above, you’ll see some of my upcoming appearances. I’m also being interviewed on radio shows across the country. It’s a first for me, but I’m really starting to enjoy it. The radio hosts are great fun and very enthusiastic. I’ll be posting some of the taped interviews on my Facebook page, so please join in as a fan of Chicken and Egg to hear them. As a result of the great reception the book has received, I just found out today that it’s gone into a second printing, so I’m very excited!

Ruby and Cleo splashing in the puddles

The chickens are continuing to do well. Last week’s 50ºF. weather had them dancing in the melting snow. They’ve been a little frumpy after Tuesday’s snowstorm, however, and haven’t ventured out since. To read more about them, please wander over to the Chronicle Books Food Blog where I wrote a guest column and posted one of my favorite recipes: Extra-Creamy Scrambled Eggs with Buttermilk-Chive Biscuits. If you leave a comment on their website this week you could win a free copy of the book!

Now that things are settling down, I’ll plan to be in touch more often. Thanks for hanging in there with me!

Making Me Laugh

February 16, 2011

I saw two news items today confirming the continued popularity of chickens across the world. The first came from Sunset Magazine proclaiming backyard chicken coops as one of the Top 100 Cultural Trends in the West. It’s part of “The ideas, people, places, and things that are making life out here better right now.”

The second news item came from Dorset, England, where they’re experiencing a rise in chicken thefts. The reason? The price of a purebred chicken has risen because of the popularity of raising chickens. “The Domestic Fowl Trust says chicken thefts, driven by rising prices, are happening more regularly across the country. When you could get a bird for £5, no-one cared. But now that keeping poultry is more popular and prices are higher, we are seeing these thefts increase. It is a really popular hobby – it is the fastest growing pet market there is at the moment.” Shouldn’t we have a “Domestic Fowl Trust” in this country too?

I think that one under-appreciated reason for the chicken craze is because chickens brighten your day and make you laugh. Take this morning for instance. My day started out with six knobby chicken knees peering through the window at me. I was late with the girls’ warm breakfast mash and as I entered the run I looked up to find a line of scaly legs as the only thing visible through the coop window. Kinda’ looked like the Rockettes – if the Rockettes were made up of chickens.

Everyday it’s something new. Yesterday Roxanne didn’t want to touch the snow but she was also tired of being held by me. So, off she flew from my arms, bounced twice on the snow-covered path like a deflated basketball and finally landed up to her neck in the snowbank. She haughtily scrambled out of the snow attempting to keep her matronly dignity intact.

Then there’s Ruby, who wears as much food as she eats. As her beak gets coated with a mustache of yogurt she swings her head causing it all to land on her head. Yesterday she wandered about with a cape of arugula perched on her back.

Chickens are pets that provide many diverse dividends. Yes, they give us eggs, but they’ll also give you something to smile and laugh at. In spite of yourself.

Smoked Wings with Cilantro Dip

February 03, 2011

It’s been a fun week. Everyday something new comes out about the book (Chicken and Egg) and I hear from people who’ve bought it, such as this lovely note I received from reader Lisa H:

“I purchased your book “Chicken and Egg” at Crate and Barrel. Every aspect shines-writing photographs and recipes. I read it cover-to-cover. As a fellow Suburban Homesteader, and flock owner of 12 hens, I was drawn to your personal story of poultry ownership, and we are always looking for new egg recipes. Thank you for sharing your story and recipes.”

The chicks appear to be totally unfazed by their emerging publicity. Their attitude seems to be that fame is probably fleeting, and what’s really important in life is that the food bowl is full and treats come often. But, if there are fans out there with time of their hands, I’m sure the girls would each love a pair of hand-knit leg warmers, as our cold weather continues!

I’m excited to share one of my favorite recipes from the book, I hope you like it! It’s a great recipe for Super Bowl week because it’s perfect to serve during the game. The recipe calls for the wings to be grilled, but if you’re one of the many readers who have suffered through the storm of the century this week, I’ve also adapted it so that you can cook the chicken in the oven. I think you’ll like it either way. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Smoked Wings with Cilantro Dip
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Chicken and Egg Released

January 30, 2011

My book Chicken and Egg; A Memoir of Suburban Homesteading with 125 Recipes is officially out! I kept hearing reports from friends and family across the country from Boston to Bethesda to Kansas City that they’d seen it at their local Crate & Barrel store and they’d send me photos as proof. But it still didn’t seem real to me until I made the journey this week to our local C&B to see it on the shelves.

You’ll have to excuse the photography as I did my best with the less than perfect lighting available in the store, but there it was, beautifully displayed! The excited sales staff I talked with told me that, “It’s our favorite cookbook right now!” and “We all want to get one.” They all loved the photography and artwork. I agree, it really makes the book!

If you’re still waiting for the book to come to your area or your favorite store, don’t worry. The official release date was 1/26, which means the books should have left the warehouse on that date but it may take weeks before they’re actually on the shelves. You’ll have plenty of choices from Crate & Barrel, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Williams Sonoma, and Anthropologie and possibly more. Let me know when and where you see the book in your area and send me a photo if you’d like. I’ll do a shout out on Facebook and Twitter for you!

In honor of the book’s official release, next time I’ll share one of my favorite recipes from the Late Winter chapter in the book.

Protecting Chickens Against Frostbite

January 21, 2011

The chickens were not happy with me yesterday. Roxanne was particularly vocal with her complaints. It’s because I decided to put Vaseline on their combs and wattles to protect against frostbite. This “little dab’ll do ya” business has put us all in a bad mood.

The girls didn’t see the point. What they did see was me being mean and nasty as I smeared sticky goo over their crowns while they flapped and squirmed. Have you ever tried putting Vaseline on a chicken? It gets everywhere. I now have Vaseline on my coat and my gloves as well as their entire heads not just the intended parts. Of course the girls immediately tried to rub it off and I saw Ruby eating a glob off Roxanne. They’ll eat anything once.

If you’re wondering why I was doing this, it’s a matter of guilt. With the overnight temperatures predicted to be -15ºF to -20ºF I knew that even with additional heat the coop temperature would drop below freezing and I wanted to add as much extra protection as I could. Gail Damerow, the nation’s foremost chicken expert, advises “Coat combs and wattles with petroleum jelly as insulation against frozen moisture in the air.” Who am I to disagree?

Well, the chickens weren’t buying it and just looked at me accusingly with their sticky heads covered in bits of straw and food.  I could almost hear them thinking “If you’re so worried about us, why can’t we spend the night in your warm cozy house?” I didn’t let them guilt me quite that much. I just put another layer of Vaseline on each one when I put them to bed last night.

As of this morning, the girls seemed to have survived the night frostbite-free. Thank goodness. However, they’re filthy dirty. Everything sticks to their heads and their feathers are black. I now have four grease balls bobbing around still looking at me accusingly.

This weekend? I’ll probably have to bring them inside for a shampoo, blow dry, and “comb out”. Life with chickens is never dull.