Saturday, November 26, 2011

Dutch Pancakes

When you start raising chickens for their eggs, eventually you start to look for recipes that make good use of your eggy abundance.  This past week I made a recipe that was both delicious and helped use the eggs that I've been stockpiling -- Dutch Pancakes (a.k.a. German pancake or Souffled pancake).

There are a variety of recipes available on-line, but I took my recipe from a book that I've been adoring lately.  I've omitted the fruit topping recipe that is in the book -- although it looks amazing, I just stuck with maple syrup for the topping.  I also omitted orange zest from the batter because I didn't have any.  I'm going to list the recipe as I made it, then encourage you to buy the book to get the real thing.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Beat together 4 eggs, 2 Tbsp sugar, and 1 tsp vanilla extract with an electric mixer on medium speed.  On low speed, beat in 3/4 cup milk then 3/4 cup bread flour and a few good shakes of cinnamon (who needs measuring spoons?).  The batter is ready -- it is just that simple.

I used a nice sturdy skillet that my Grandmother gave me -- one that she used for years.  You'll want something that can go in the oven and is non-stick.  Heat the pan on the stove top and melt 2 Tbsp butter.  After the butter stops sizzling, pour in the batter and put the pan in the hot oven.  Bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees.  Then lower the heat to 400 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes.

The pancake puffs up because of the eggs and also the gluten in the bread flour.  When you pull it out of the oven, the pancake deflates in the middle, but the edges stay crispy and raised.  Add whichever toppings you prefer and serve (up to 6 servings, but Charlie and I split one for a filling breakfast).  It tastes a lot like french toast -- yum!

Now, as I stated before, this recipe was adapted from a book that I absolutely love!  When I first got my chicks this past Spring, my mother bought this book for me as a gift.  It has lovely photographs (the author is a chef and food stylist) and 125 recipes that use either eggs or chickens as key ingredients.  It is also a memoir about raising chickens on a small scale -- like I am doing.

The book is arranged seasonally -- which is a unique approach that I really like.  For instance, it starts in early Spring -- with the arrival of young chicks in the memoir, and seasonal recipes like "Herb-Buttered Chicken with Spring Vegetables".  It moves through the seasons making good use of fresh fruit and vegetables.  As a vegetarian (not vegan, obviously) I really like the egg recipes.  My husband eats meat though so I will make use of the chicken recipes as well.  I'm looking forward to trying "Baked Eggs with Basil-Mint Pesto", "Cinnamon Breakfast Popovers", and "Rhubarb Ginger Custard Bars".

I highly recommend this book and think it would make a great gift for the chicken lover in your life.  Even if you don't have chickens, the recipes are great -- and not too complicated.  This is one that you will return to over and over.  Lovely!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope you and your loved ones have had a pleasant Thanksgiving Day -- I know I did.  I have so much to be thankful for in my life!
Yesterday was spent with my family a couple of hours away.  We went out for pizza to celebrate my Dad's upcoming birthday.  Today we spent with Charlie's side of the family having a more traditional Thanksgiving meal.  I brought the green bean casserole -- my favorite food on this holiday (besides pumpkin pie).
We are so blessed -- with freedom, plentiful food and clean water, work with decent wages, etc compared to the rest of the world.  Still, I find myself most thankful for my husband and our families and friends.  It is so nice to share the holiday with them and give thanks together.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Watch Me Pull a Rabbit Out of My Hat

Last week, Charlie and I went to a nearby farmer to buy a couple large bags of corn.  My husband used to work at the local grain elevator (before I ever knew him) so he knows most of the farmers -- that can come in handy sometimes.  Anyway, the farmer was working on getting his harvest into his grain dryers when we showed up.  He said he would have the corn ready within a couple of hours and to stop back and pick it up.  We went off to see "The Rum Diary" (I LOVE both Johnny Depp and Hunter Thompson!  I've been waiting for this movie for years!!!) then returned to get the corn.  I grinned when I saw the bags he packed it into.  Simple things make me smile -- including rabbits on the front of a 100 lb. sack of Michigan navy beans.

Anyway, on Monday of this week, I got a phone call from a dear friend of mine who was trying to help another friend find a home for a pet rabbit.  I had been considering raising angora rabbits for their fur -- even got a book on the subject last year.  I hadn't been considering a pet though.  Well, the rabbit needed a good home and the gal was also giving away everything I would need to take care of it (cage, hutch, water bottle, a bag of food, etc.) so I decided to adopt the rabbit.  He is a cutie pie -- don't you agree?

So, I have another animal that I can spoil rotten.  Here he is helping me dispose of some lettuce -- he also gets carrots to gnaw on.  He is a mini-rex and as soft as can be.  Oh, and he is litter trained.  Bonus!
His name is "Kee kee" (the gal tells me she got it from a school teacher -- I'm wondering if the class room kids named him?).  I've started to call him "Kinker" since it sounds like his real name but it has more meaning to me.  You see, whenever we play cards with my friends, Charlie calls a pair of kings "a pair of kinkers".  
I'm looking for advice from those of you who have experience raising rabbits.  What should I feed him?  What should I avoid?  Any advice about any aspect of rabbit ownership is welcome.

To wrap things up, I just had to throw this video in-- since Bullwinkle always tried so hard to pull a rabbit out of his hat (but never succeeded).  You might enjoy this -- depending on your age.  : )  Have a great remainder of your week and an amazing weekend!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The New Coop and the Quiche Factory

This is the new 4'X6' chicken coop that the chickens are going to call home this winter.  In the photo above, you can see that it has a row of nesting boxes that are accessible from the outside.  On one end there is a window and a door for the chickens to enter and exit (with a ramp).  On the opposite sides are the door that I can enter through and as you can see in the photo below (left), a vent for warm weather.
I've placed their water on a crate and hung their food from one of the rafters to keep the bedding from getting kicked into them.  I may get a heated water dispenser for the cold -- but I'm not sure.  Does anyone have any experience with those?

The interior has a couple of roosts and plenty of room for the chickens to run around.  It has 6 nesting boxes -- many more than 7 chickens actually need.  Here, the chickens are excited about the pile of treats I gave them this weekend (apple slices and the last of the garden squash).  I call the chickens a "Quiche Factory".  They are putting out a couple of eggs a day -- brown, fresh, and so tasty!

This is Ruby.  She is my most aggressive chicken at this point.  She comes right up to me to try to grab any treats I might have in my hands -- and she often ends up chomping on my fingers instead.  She is at the top of the pecking order from what I can tell.  She is a pretty chicken though and as long as she lays eggs and doesn't hurt the other ladies she can stick around.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Michigan International Alpaca Fest

Alpacas!!!  Lots and lots of alpacas!!!  Last weekend my mother and I went to the Michigan International Alpaca Fest in Grand Rapids and had the chance to learn more about them.  I knew I loved the feel of their fur and... well... they are just so dang cute!  

Being able to get up close to the alpacas was a really neat experience.  Did you know they hum?  They don't kick and are pretty mellow, but not exactly tame.  The only one we saw that really craved his owner's attention had been bottle-fed after it's mother refused to take care of it.  They do need to be around other alpacas but they don't really cuddle.

We watched the alpacas compete for ribbons.  Well, their owners competed -- the alpacas just tolerated it.  The judge would check them all over and pull out tufts of their coats and lay them on his sleeve.  It was fun to watch.
The owners proudly displayed various ribbons from prior shows in their stalls -- along with information about breeding or buying their alpacas.

A gal I work with raises alpacas and was there with three of her own (shown above).  They won several ribbons the day after this photo was taken.  Way to go!

There were also numerous booths with socks, mittens, yarn, etc. for sale.  The only thing I really wanted was a drop spindle and some fiber to try making my own yarn.  I've been messing around with the one I ended up getting, but I can see this is going to take a little practice.  Once I get the hang of it, I'll have to post a bit of a how-to on this blog.
What a fun experience we had at the Alpaca Fest!  Can you believe it was a free event?  Oh, and I was invited to a farm open-house in December by one of the breeders at the show.  I'm not looking at owning alpacas at this point -- but I definitely enjoyed learning more about them and being able to start crafting yarn with their fluffy coats.