Archive for the ‘three swingin’ chicks’ Category

Lulu: March 10, 2007 – May 28, 2010

May 30, 2010

It’s been a difficult week. We arrived home from our youngest son’s graduation to find Lulu very sick. She appeared fine while we were away, but began showing signs of sickness the day we arrived home. I knew something was wrong when I went into the coop and Lulu didn’t run away. Her flighty feistiness has been her defining trademark. After several calls and a visit to The Camden Pet Hospital, with chicken specialist Dr. Cynthia Fetzer, she was diagnosed with coccidiosis, a protozoan parasite that affects many animals. It’s often not serious, but Lulu already had a compromised intestinal tract, which made it a serious condition for her. She became so weak I resorted to hand feeding her for three days with a special bird nutrient and gave her electrolytes to boost her fluids, but her system was failing rapidly. After 24 hours of medication her body temperature was 108.5ºF, far above a chicken’s normal 103ºF.

Late in the day on Friday I reconciled myself to the fact that she wasn’t getting any better and drove her to the vet for the final time. She laid her head on my chest as the sedative began taking effect and we said our goodbyes.

I like to think of her at her best: high-strung, chattering, and in charge. She’d mellowed a little over the three years from the frenetic chick that I named Crazy Lulu, but she still had attitude. I feel fortunate she shared her life with me.

A Touch of Green

March 15, 2010

The girls are celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with a touch of green—grass that is!

Yes, the snow has finally melted enough that the chicks are able to leave the pathway and explore the yard. They are so excited! They rush out first thing in the morning, tripping over their morning treat bowl without a backwards glance. Leftover bits of food have no interest for them anymore when there are blades of grass, moist dirt and bugs to devour. Spring is in the air.

I’m celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with a loaf of warm-from-the-oven Irish Soda Bread. You must try it, it’s the best soda bread you’ll ever taste. Filled with currants plumped in tea for sweetness, a touch of whole wheat flour for nuttiness and buttermilk for tenderness, the best part is, it’s quick to make. Simply stir and bake and it’s ready to slather with Irish butter in less than an hour.

Irish Soda Bread
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This recipe is by my friend Patsy Jamieson, the former food editor of Eating Well.  It was originally published in Cooking Pleasures magazine and has become a tradition at our house this time of the year.

½ cup dried currants or raisins
½ cup hot black tea
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Heat the oven to 425ºF. Spray a pie pan with cooking spray. Place the currants in a small bowl and pour enough hot tea over them to cover.

Let stand 15 minutes to plump. Drain currants, pressing out excess moisture; discard tea. Crush the caraway seeds with a mortar and pestle or heavy saucepan to release their anise-like fragrance.

Whisk the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the currants and caraway seeds. Whisk the buttermilk, brown sugar and butter together in a glass measuring cup. Pour into the flour mixture and stir with a fork until all the ingredients are moistened.

Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface several times, form into a ball and place in the pie pan. Press the dough slightly to a height of 1 1/2 inches. Dust the top lightly with flour. Make a small 1/2-inch deep crisscross slash in the dough with a serrated knife.

Although the slash helps the bread expand and bake evenly, legend has it that the slash allows the fairies, or according to some sources the devil, to escape.

Bake 30 minutes or until the loaf is golden brown, sounds hollow when tapped and a skewer inserted in the bottom comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Makes 1 loaf, about 12 slices

I Can See Clearly Now

February 28, 2010

Have you ever wondered what it is chickens see that you don’t as they constantly peck at invisible bits? Well, I came across a fascinating new study this week. It turns out that the eyesight of chickens and their ability to see color is far more advanced than our human eyes or most mammals.

They can see a large range of color that we cannot, therefore allowing them to see things that we cannot discern.

The scientists at Washington University Medical School in St. Louis were amazed at how advanced chickens eyesight is. It enables them to distinguish and pick up minute bits of food and also plays a role in courtship, hence the exotic plumage and coloring of chickens. The scientists are hopeful the information they’ve found will help them in their search for new techniques to help with blindness and other visual disorders. Read the article for more information.

In the meantime, my chicks are complaining that they’ll lose their great eyesight because they are going snow blind from all the whiteness. I agree, the sunlight bouncing off the snow is beautiful, but it is blinding.

The girls are venturing out of their coop and run more each day. It’s been over 32ºF. this week—a virtual heat wave in this Northern land. But the chicks rarely travel much beyond the straw covered 2-foot path outside their door before quickly heading back in.

They’re like stodgy gentlemen who go out for their brisk morning constitutional. They strut to the edge of the straw, stomp their feet, shake their feathers, then flap their wings as if testing to see whether they’re still in possession of the entire wingspan or maybe to see if the wings have thawed enough for them to unfurl.

After a few puffs of fresh morning air, it’s back into the plastic-covered run where they bask draft-free in the filtered sunlight as if in a solarium or greenhouse. Yes, they are the ultimate in spoiled chicks, and they love it.

If you’re still experiencing cold weather, perhaps you’ll enjoy this soup I made last week. I always crave a bouillabaisse-style fish soup this time of the year. It warms me up and also brings memories of the sunny Mediterranean as I combine shellfish, tomatoes, saltwater fish and herbs. The fragrance reminds me of the sea.

Winter Bouillabaisse
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I never make the same recipe twice because it’s based on what I find at the fish counter that day. The base of the soup is very easy to make and can be made ahead of time. Choose the freshest shellfish and fish possible and add it to the broth right before serving. Enjoy!

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (1½ cups)
3 large garlic cloves, minced
3 cups seafood stock or 2 cups clam juice and 1 cup water
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
¾ teaspoon coarse sea salt
½ teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
pinch cayenne
12 ounces halibut, skin removed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound peeled deveined uncooked large shrimp (21 to 30 count)
12 ounces mussels (in the shell)

Croutons and Aioli
12 thin diagonal slices French baguette
extra-virgin olive oil for brushing
⅓ cup mayonnaise
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon broth from fish soup

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat until hot. Add the onions and saute for 3 to 5 minutes or until starting to soften. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the halibut, shrimp and mussels. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low or low and simmer for 20 minutes or until flavorful.

Soup Base

Meanwhile, make the croutons and the aioli. Heat the oven to 400ºF.  Lightly brush both sides of the baguette with olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Bake 5 to 8 minutes or until lightly browned, turning once. Stir together the mayonnaise, garlic and 1 tablespoon broth from the fish soup until blended and set aside.


Add the halibut to the soup and cook for 2 minutes. Add the mussels and shrimp and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink, the mussels open and the halibut just begins to flake. Remove and discard any mussels that don’t open. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of the aioli.

Serve the bouillabaisse garnished with croutons topped with aioli and pass the remaining aioli to stir into the soup as desired.

Serves 6