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Love the articles on Houzz this week on urban chicken-ing! Check them out!

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The Two Week Difference

Organic, Non-GMO Egg on Left, Processed Feed Egg on Right

Organic, Non-GMO Egg on Left, Processed Feed Egg on Right

I normally do not “adopt” hens that are offered to us, but because I wanted a full sized, laying hen to have at an upcoming Home and Garden Show, when I was offered 2 Buff Orpington (or mostly Buff Orpington hens, as they turned out to be) I jumped at the chance to have them. The girls, named Flossie and Arletta, turned out to be not just full sized, but also very gentle hens having spent their lives in a small yard with a calm surrounding and doting family. Because I needed 2 hens for a special family, I knew I would be re-homing Arletta and Flossie after the show where they could live out their lives being well loved.

Arletta, photo by Jean Campbell, All Deluxe, All the Time

Arletta, photo by Jean Campbell, All Deluxe, All the Time

As luck would have it, the 2 hens had been on a commercial grain feed diet all of their life. Because I so believe in our grains and the importance of a milled, organic, non GMO grain vs. a processed product, I decided to do a comparison on their eggs over a 2 week period of time.
The two hens both laid eggs the day they arrived at our home, one a dark brown egg and one a light brown egg. We cracked and ate the darker egg (which held a pale yoked egg) and saved the other for our comparison. Because hens lay the same color egg all of their life, and because the 2 eggs were so different in color, I knew I could compare the same hen’s egg 2 weeks later. The following morning, Flossie and Arletta had a change of diet to our non-GMO grain. The first thing I noticed with the hens was a noticeable change in their “poo” which had been a little gooey, for lack of a better description. Their poo very quickly changed to a tighter consistency, making their “poo” no longer “goo” on our milled grain vs. their former diet of processed pellets.
Two weeks quickly passed and before we knew it, it was the week of the show and I knew I would have to time my egg consumption carefully in order to get a comparable egg for our experiment. For several days I had no light colored egg laid, only a single darker one and I thought may have missed my opportunity to compare; but the girls had another plan.
The day of the show, exactly 2 weeks after I had “adopted” our 2 lovely hens, we left for the show. As if the girls knew I needed a going away gift that morning, they both laid for me an egg in their coop, one dark and the other light. I quickly placed the lighter egg in the frig to compare to the egg saved prior to their diet change and we left for the show. When I had returned home that night after a full day at the Home and Garden Show, I cracked open both the egg from the processed grain and the new egg on our grain and placed them in the same bowl. The results were remarkable as shown in the photo below. The yolk of the egg from an organic, Non-GMO feed vs. the other was markedly richer and deeper.

Organic, Non-GMO Egg on Left, Processed Feed Egg on Right

Organic, Non-GMO Egg on Left, Processed Feed Egg on Right

So if you think what you feed your hens does not make a difference…think again.

Happy Henning,

Melissa

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Coop and Caboodle’s 2013 Flock

Limited Quantity: 20 weeks by Late March

buff_orpington_B_I_S__103212211Buff Orpingtons , 3-4 eggs per hen per week. These are the main stock of our rental flock. Orpingtons are big, friendly dual-purpose birds originally developed in the UK. They’re friendly and cold-hardy due to their fluffy plumage. They are so family friendly and are great foragers; meaning they love to look for food in your yard. We know you will love these girls!

In very limited quantities: First come, First Serve, 16 weeks of age by Late March and not raised the first few weeks on Non-GMO feed but are on this feed at time of purchase.

astralorpBlack Australorps, 5 eggs per week Australorps are the Australian take on the Orpington breed. They are calm and friendly, and excellent layers of light brown eggs. The Australorp’s exceptionally soft, shiny black plumage has hints of green and purple in the sunlight. They are both peaceful and dignified.

Rhode Island RedRhode Island Reds, 5 eggs per week per hen. Rhode Island Reds are the official Rhode Island state bird. They were once hugely popular in America, though they declined right along with the small farmer. Today they’re making a comeback due to small flock owners (like us!). They’re the do-everything bird: they lay exceptionally well, they’re valued for their meat, they’re extremely cold hardy, and hardy in general. They are a bit more skittish but are dependable, great layers and are used in the development of many other breeds of chickens.

Easter EggerEaster Eggers, 4 eggs per hen per week. Easter Eggers are not a breed, but a variety of chicken that does not conform to any breed standard. They lay large to extra-large eggs that vary in shade from blue to green to olive to aqua and sometimes even pink. Easter Eggers vary widely in color and conformation, and are hardy. They are usually quite friendly to children and humans in general but remember, the key word is “usually”. They are not the same as Ameraucanas or Araucanas which are very flighty, but do have the same blue gene that creates the blue tint to the eggs.

Plymouth RockPlymouth Rocks, 4-5 eggs per hen per week. Plymouth Rocks are one of the most popular dual-purpose chickens. Their heritage is unclear with reports of different crosses, but what is clear is that they’re very friendly, great layers of large brown eggs and able to withstand cold weather. Though they tolerate confinement, they’re most happy when they get to range freely and we love their black and white plumage!

Leghorn_henWhite Leghorns, 4 eggs per hen per week. (Pronounced “Leggern”) Remember Foghorn Leghorn the cartoon? Yep, this bird one and the same. The White is separate from the rest because they lay large, white eggs practically every day! Other varieties aren’t nearly so prolific. Whites are said to be nervous, but can be quite tame at times.

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Fresh Chicken Stock

Fresh Chicken Stock

Chicken stock is always better made while you are cooking a whole chicken to remove the meat for another dish. However you make it, you must use the bones. That’s where the flavor is!

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken, cut up, skin removed
  • 4 cups water or more, depending on the size of the chicken, enough to cover
  • 1 Medium onion, outer skin removed, root trimmed but in tact
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 whole carrot, peeled and cut in two
  • 2 stalks celery, cleaned and cut in two
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • Cheesecloth-Optional

Resist the urge to add salt. As the stock cooks, the flavors concentrate. You can add salt as you cook your other dishes using this stock resulting in just the flavor you wish!

To Prepare:

  1. Place chicken into a stock pot
  2. Cover with water
  3. Push cloves into onion and add to stock pot
  4. Add carrot, celery, peppercorns and bay leaf
  5. Place on high heat and bring to a simmer. Lower heat, cover and continue to simmer for an hour or until chicken is falling away from the bone. Check often to skim off any discolored foam from stock
  6. Remove the meat and vegetables from the liquid, reserving any meat from another dish and discarding vegetables and bone
  7. Allow stock to settle and remove fat from top of liquid by skimming or other method
  8. Strain chicken stock through dampened cheesecloth that has been folded over several times into a large clean container to clarify. Repeat as needed (optional)
  9. Use immediately or freeze at this point for later use

Yield: Approx. 4 cups fresh chicken stock

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Tarragon Chicken Pot Pie

Tarragon Chicken Pot Pie

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRsSqbPtmOE

Ingredients:

  • 1 Recipe for pie crust (see recipe for Best Pie Crust)
  • 2 lb. cooked chopped chicken in bowl, set aside (approx. 4 chicken breasts or *1, 3lb chicken, bone in, cooked and meat removed)
  • 2 cups boiling, salted water
  • 1 ½ cup Carrots sliced ¼ inch thickness (approx. 4)
  • 2 cup zucchini, sliced ¼ inch thickness (approx. 2 small)
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 oz. (approx. 1 cup) chopped, yellow onion
  • 5 tablespoons unbleached flour
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) canned chicken broth or 1 ¾ cups fresh chicken broth
  • 1 cup whole cream -*can be substituted for lower fat milk if desired
  • ¼ cup white wine or additional chicken broth
  • 1 TBL dried tarragon
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

*I purchase a whole, bone in 3 lb. chicken and cook in water to yield 2 lb. chicken meat as well as fresh chicken stock/broth-see recipe for chicken stock

To prepare:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Spray 2 quart casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray; set aside
  3. Bring salted water to boil in 2 quart pot and add carrots to blanch 3 min. Add Zucchini to carrots and continue cooking 1 minute more. Drain and set aside
  4. Place butter in Dutch oven or large sauce pan and melt on med-high heat.
  5. Add onion and sauté until onion is translucent.
  6. Add flour to onion and butter, stirring constantly until flour cooks. About 2-3 minutes.
  7. Whisk in chicken broth, cream and white wine and cook until thickened.
  8. Remove from heat.
  9. Carefully stir in chicken, carrots, zucchini, tarragon, salt, and pepper to creamed mixture.  Adjust seasoning if desired.
  10. Pour chicken pie filling into prepared pan
  11. *Top with pie crust (can be refrigerated at this point and baked later)
  12. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes until crust is browned slightly and filling hot and bubbly.

Yield: 6 servings

Serve with a fresh green or fruit salad on a cold winter night. Delicious!

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Best Pie Crust

Best Pie Crust

Why purchase a pie crust when this flaky crust can be made in a few moments at home, using ingredients that are readily available?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15931CohnUo

Ingredients:

  • 1¼ cup flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 egg yolk-(save white for later use)
  • 3-4 tablespoons ice water
  • Flour for surface and rolling pin

To Prepare:

  1. Combine flour and salt into a *mixing bowl
  2.  Cut butter into flour mixture to make a fine crumb using pastry cutter or 2 knives
  3. Add yolk and toss to mix. Add just enough ice water until dough just holds together (will be very loose ball)
  4. Lightly flour a surface and turn pie crust onto the surface
  5. Press dough together to form a ball. May refrigerate at this point or roll out crust into desired shape, adding flour to surface or pin as needed

Yield: 1-10 inch pie crust

Egg white, diluted with small amount of water, can be brushed onto pie crust if desired.

*Can also be made in a food processor.

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Fresh Fig Tart with Homemade Almond Paste

Fresh Fig Tart with Homemade Almond Paste

Fig Pie

In a few minutes you can have a beautiful fig tart ready for the oven that will knock even the pickiest of fig eaters off their feet!

  • Ingredients:
    1 recipe Best Pie Crust, rolled out to 10 inch circle
    Filling quartered (also called Frangipane)
    ½ cup whole almonds, toasted
    ½ cup unsalted butter
    1/3 cup granulated sugar
    1 large egg
    12 fresh figs, more if small, gently washed, trimmed and quartered
    Egg wash (egg white with 1 tablespoon water, mixed)
    Sugar to finish

To Prepare:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2. Prepare baking sheet by coating with cooking spray or covering with parchment paper
3. Place pie crust on prepared baking sheet and set aside
4. In food processor, grind almonds with sugar until fine. Add butter and egg and pulse several times to mix well
5. Divide paste into 4 equal parts, saving 1 part for fig tart. Freeze remaining 3 parts to use in any fruit pie recipe and use within 1 month
6. Spread saved portion of almond paste onto unbaked pie crust, leaving ¼ inch rim around the outside edge of crust

almond paste
7. Arrange fresh figs onto crust to edge of almond paste
8. Fold edges of crust inward onto figs to free form a lip on the tart. Brush crust with egg wash and sprinkle entire tart with sugar

And Figs
9. Place in hot oven and bake 35-45 minutes on until crust is browned and figs softened and bubbly

Yield: 1-10 inch tart to serve 6-8 people, or 1 greedy one!

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