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Life is too short to eat bad food! Sharing great recipes, farm life, stories and photography from our Northern California dairy farm.

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March 31, 2010

Are Easter Eggs Safe?

I love everything about Easter. The religious/spiritual meaning behind it. The beginning of spring. The Easter Bunny. Coloring Easter eggs. The beautiful weather and green grass. New signs of life. We'll be coloring our Easter eggs within the next few days. Always a good time to remind myself of egg eating safety. Sometimes eggs are decorated, used as decorations, and hunted at Easter. Here are some safety tips for Easter eggs. Dyeing eggs: After hard cooking eggs, dye them and return them to the refrigerator within 2 hours. If eggs are to be eaten, use a food-safe coloring. As with all foods, persons dyeing the eggs should wash their hands before handling the eggs. Decorations: An Easter bread recipe that is decorated with dyed, cooked eggs in the braided bread, after baking, should be served within 2 hours or refrigerate and use within 3 to 4 days. Blowing out eggshells: Because some raw eggs may contain Salmonella, you must use caution when blowing out the contents to hollow out the shell for decorating, such as for Ukrainian Easter eggs. Use only eggs that have been kept refrigerated and are uncracked. To destroy bacteria that may be present on the surface of the egg, wash the egg in hot water and then rinse in a solution of 1 teaspoon liquid chlorine bleach per half cup of water. After blowing out the egg, refrigerate the contents and use within 2 to 4 days. Hunting Eggs: Hard-cooked eggs for an egg hunt must be prepared with care to prevent cracking the shells. If the shells crack, bacteria could contaminate the inside. Eggs should be hidden in places that are protected from dirt, pets, and other sources of bacteria. The total time for hiding and hunting eggs should not exceed 2 hours. The "found" eggs must be re-refrigerated and eaten within 7 days of cooking. Unfortuneately, I can not use my EggGenie to hard cook my Easter eggs because with the EggGenie, a pinpoint hole must be poked into the end of each egg (the dye would bleed into the shell). Well I guess once a year I can boil eggs the traditional way.

This is how I'll do it.........
1. PLACE eggs in saucepan large enough to hold them in single layer. ADD cold water to cover eggs by 1 inch. HEAT over high heat just to boiling.
2. REMOVE fromburner. COVER pan. LET EGGS STAND in hot water about 15 minutes for large eggs (12 minutes for medium eggs; 18 minutes for extra large). 3. DRAIN immediately and serve. OR, cool completely under cold running water or in bowl of ice water, then REFRIGERATE.
  • Hard-cooked, not hard-boiled. Although the cooking water must come to a full boil in this method, the pan is immediately removed from the heat so that the eggs cook gently in the hot water. This produces tender, not rubbery, eggs and minimizes cracking.
  • Banish the greenish ring. This harmless but unsightly discoloration that sometimes forms around hard-cooked yolks results from a reaction between sulfur in the egg white and iron in the yolk. It occurs when eggs have been cooked for too long or at too high a temperature. Our method – cooking eggs in hot, not boiling, water, then cooling immediately – minimizes this.
What Makes Hard-Cooked Eggs Hard to Peel? The fresher the egg, the more difficult it is to peel after hard cooking. That's because the air cell, found at the large end of the shell between the shell membranes, increases in size the longer the raw egg is stored. As the contents of the egg contracts and the air cell enlarges, the shell becomes easier to peel. For this reason, older eggs make better candidates for hard cooking. Is a Rooster needed for chickens to lay eggs? No. Roosters are only needed if you want fertilized eggs. Most eggs sold today are infertile; roosters are not housed with the laying hens. Let me introduce you to my sister's family chickens~ Snowball, Rosa, Diamond & Stripey waiting at the front door for their daily a.m. treat.... My sister, Lisa, my brother in law, Joe and my niece and nephew, Morgan & Jack thought it would be a fun idea to raise a few laying hens to have access to their own fresh eggs. Joe's brother raises free range chickens and offered Morgan & Jack a chance to come over and pick out their own baby chicks. They picked them from here....... The chickens are now about 5 months old. They thought they had chosen four chickens but one turned out to be a rooster.... Meet Stripey......
This is Rosa. She's a bit nervous...... This is Diamond. She will let anyone pick her up. She's very friendly and curious...... And Snowball. Lucky, lucky Snowball.
When Snowball was a mere few weeks old, she was out in the yard pecking away at the ground with her other chick friends and Joe, who also happened to be out there. Out of nowhere, a hawk swoops down and lands right next to Snowball. Not Good. Joe runs for Snowball while at the same time yelling at the hawk. The hawk then proceeds to pick Snowball up and fly into the sky. Joe continues to yell at the hawk, takes his slipper off in the process and hurls it at the hawk. The big bird is too far away for the slipper to reach. The hawk, who by this time, is so close to tasting the 'snack' he's caught, drops Snowball to the ground. Phew!! Snowball was a little dazed, but survived.
Snowball is healthy and doing just fine today. Joe says he couldn't havc asked for a more fitting name for Snowball......because "she didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of surviving" if it weren't for him.
Joe and Snowball share a special bond.
The three laying hens are about 6 months old now, and are about ready to begin laying eggs any day now.
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March 30, 2010

KillDeer & My very own Egg Hunt

Part of what I LOVE about living in the country is being so close to wildlife. If I'm lucky, I can actually photograph some interesting things. Just recently, I noticed two birds hanging out on the gravel near our lawn. They seemed a bit out of place because, one, I had NEVER seen this species of bird before and two, they spent more time hopping around on the ground than they did flying and lastly, when Chloe (puppy) was outside running around or on potty time, the birds would act as though they were trying to get her attention. Almost taunting her. I didn't know what to think. Hawks and at night, owls have hovered over Chloe but not usually small birds. The birds have distinctive black and white stripes at their neck. Before I tried to find the species on-line, I thought I should ask Dominic first, this might save me some time. After describing the bird to Dominic, he thought they were named 'KillDeer'. He also told me that he's only seen them in 'Joey's' (horse) pasture. I googled 'KillDeer' and sure enough, there they were. This is what they look like. I snapped these photos from my car as I was driving out.

Through my research on-line, I found out some very interesting facts about this species of bird. Both male and female take part in all the nesting activities. The nest is on the ground at a site that provides a good view from all sides. Fields, barren open spots, gravel bars, and closely grazed pastures (sometimes near or on dried-out cow or horse manure) are common sites. The nest is a shallow scrape sometimes lined with pebbles, broken grass stems, and limestone or wood chips. The female lays four or, very rarely, five pear-shaped eggs, which are large and blunt at one end and pointed at the other and average 36.5 by 26.5 mm in size. The eggs are irregularly spotted, blotched, or scrawled with blackish-brown or black, and always neatly arranged in a circle with the pointed ends turned inwards. Since the eggs can be damaged by excessive heat or cold, they are rarely left unattended. Both the male and female take turns incubating them, or keeping them warm. On very hot days the attending bird may stand over the nest, shading the eggs with its body, at the same time allowing cooling breezes to circulate over them. Since the KillDeer has a view in all directions from the nest, it spots intruders right Chloe and tries to distract her right away.

Ah Ha! This explains it!

When Chloe is outside, one of the birds flies and sings in the air trying to taunt the her. If this doesn't distract Chloe, the other bird acts as though it has a broken wing on the ground and is unable to fly. Once Chloe gets close to the bird, it flies away. This is amazing to me. The bird is luring Chloe away from the nest. This is a characteristic of the species.

Here, the KillDeer is faking her broken wing for Chloe (I had Chloe on leash to see how this all worked)....... Flapping one wing while the other lays on the ground..... After reading all of this information, I was on a mission to find that nest and those eggs! My very own Egg Hunt. I watched from my window to see where the birds hung out when nobody was outside. I searched. I found. I took photos.

Look how camouflaged these are........

I have not shown the eggs to the kids for fear of later finding them in the house in their bedrooms, tucked away in a box or worse....under their pillows. I hope the eggs survive. Incubation is around 24 days. I'll keep you posted. Chloe is going to require being kept on a leash when I take her out to go potty when and if the babies hatch.

Have you ever seen this species of bird? If so, have you seen their nest and or babies?

Happy Tuesday!

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March 29, 2010

Calves out to pasture~

Directly in front of our house, there is a small pasture sectioned off where the grass grows very tall by spring time. We've found this to be the perfect area to let some of the baby calves out to pasture. Natural lawn (grass) mowers. A few days ago, we put 16 of our calves out there. They are all around 4-5 months old. I just love it when they're so close to the house. Chloe is not sure what to think of the calves being so near in proximity to our house.

She continues to bark at them. Even as I'm writing this. The first two calves peek out to survey the situation before walking out of the trailer.... They like what they see...... Come on girls! It's party time! They all stick together....... Beginning to feel more comfortable in their new environment......... The grass is taller than they are............ The next morning the heifers in the adjacent hillside pasture, come over to visit. You can see two of the bigger girls in the bottom left corner of the photo below.... Everyone is happy.......

Happy Monday!

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March 28, 2010

It's All Good, Served Up on a Hamburger Bun

Blackened Salmon Sandwich

Photo by Eating Well
My kids usually love to eat anything that is served on a hamburger bun, so at my house, we serve up many dinners in this fashion. This recipe is a family favorite. On the kids's fillets, I leave off the cajun seasoning and stick to a little lemon pepper instead.

Blackened salmon is great in a sandwich with a spread of mashed avocado and low-fat mayonnaise plus peppery arugula or spinach leaves, cool tomato slices and zesty red onion. This salmon is grilled cajun style so there is no need for any added cooking oil. Catfish makes an excellent stand-in for the salmon but you'll want to use a grill basket if you have one to keep the fish from breaking apart.

1 pound salmon fillet, skinned (see Tip) and cut into 4 portions
2 teaspoons blackening or Cajun seasoning
1 small avocado, pitted
2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
4 crusty whole-wheat rolls, split and toasted
1 cup arugula or spinach
2 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

Oil grill rack (see Tip); preheat grill to high.
Rub salmon on both sides with blackening (or Cajun) seasoning. Grill until cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side.
Mash avocado and mayonnaise in a small bowl.
To assemble sandwiches, spread some of the avocado mixture on each roll and top with salmon, arugula or spinach, tomato and onion.

Tips & Notes
Tips: To skin a salmon fillet, place salmon on a clean cutting board, skin side down. Starting at the tail end, slip the blade of a long, sharp knife between the fish flesh and the skin, holding the skin down firmly with your other hand. Gently push the blade along at a 30° angle, separating the fillet from the skin without cutting through either.

To oil a grill rack, oil a folded paper towel, hold it with tongs and rub it over the rack. (Do not use cooking spray on a hot grill.) When grilling delicate foods like tofu and fish, it is helpful to spray the food with cooking spray.

Per serving: 414 calories; 14 g fat (2 g sat, 6 g mono); 65 mg cholesterol; 43 g carbohydrates; 33 g protein; 6 g fiber; 775 mg sodium; 756 mg potassium.

Happy Sunday! Pin It

March 27, 2010

Easy Monkey Bread

If you've never had Monkey bread, you are in for a treat. This is a great treat to serve when you have company over for brunch. It's a hit with everyone. Monkey bread, also called Hungarian coffee cake, golden crown, pinch-me cake and bubbleloaf, is a sticky, gooey pastry served as a breakfast treat. Recipes for the towering bread first appeared in American women's magazines and community cookbooks in the 1950s. It is made with pieces of sweet yeast dough which are baked in a cake pan at high heat after first being individually covered in melted butter, cinnamon, sugar and chopped pecans. It is traditionally served hot so that the baked segments can be easily torn away with the fingers and eaten by hand. INGREDIENTS 3/4 cup granulated sugar 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 4 cans (7.5 oz each) Pillsbury refrigerated biscuits 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted 3/4 cup packed brown sugar 1/2 cup chopped nuts if desired (I like pecans) DIRECTIONS Grease or spray 12-cup Bundt cake pan. Mix granulated sugar and cinnamon in 1-gallon bag. Separate dough into 10 biscuits; cut each in quarters. Shake quarters in bag to coat; place in pan. Sprinkle chopped nuts over dough in pan. Melt and Mix butter and brown sugar; pour over biscuit pieces. Bake at 350°F for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 5 minutes. Turn upside down; pull apart to serve. Serve warm. Eat with your fingers and have lots of napkins or wipes'll need them! Enjoy! Happy Saturday! Pin It

March 26, 2010

How a Calf is Born~

A few weeks ago, I asked Dominic to come up to the house to let me know when a cow was in the process of calving because I wanted to video tape it. We have babies born here on the ranch everyday but it seems 95% of them are born in the middle of the night. I didn't want to camp out in the Calving Barn overnight. Yesterday, Bryce had a friend come over after school for a play date. We were home for no more than 10 minutes when Dominic came up to tell me that a cow was just beginning to calve. Great! I loaded all three kids, Bryce, his friend Wes and Paige into the truck and drove down to the Calving Barn to watch, take photos and video tape the birth. What a fantastic play date! It was this heifer's first time calving.....a very new experience for her.......soon to make the transition from heifer to cow..... I tried to get a little closer with my ipod nano but it made Mama cow nervous. She got up and walked further away from me............ Front calf hooves coming out..........a good sign..... Dominic was able to help her along. Here he is pulling the calf out, gently by her legs.... (the orange spot you see in almost all of the photos is the reflection of my orange ipod nano that I am also holding to take video at the same time.....sorry!) The head and front legs of the calf are now out......... The calf has been born and Dominic is making sure both the nasal passage and mouth are clear and the calf is breathing. The bedding that you see in the barn is rice hulls. More cleaning........ Mama and baby are left alone...... First time Mama stands up after giving birth to catch her breath. The afterbirth should clear out on it's own..... A different Mama cow comes over to clean the new born calf. (She had her calf the day prior) And here she is.....all clean and cozy in the corner. When I walked over to this calf to take her photo, her mama, who was still cleaning the other cow's baby, was keeping a very close eye on me. I didn't want to get charged so I moved away. Some cows are extremely protective of their calves. Another Mama with her new born calf...... This is the video I took with my ipod nano, which doesn't have a zoom. It was dark in the barn and I couldn't get too close to the cow otherwise she would stand up and move away. She put her trust in Dominic though! Happy Friday! Cheers! Pin It

March 25, 2010

Healthier Fried Chicken ~ Perfect for a Picnic

Photo by Eating Well
4 Secrets to Healthier Fried ChickenLike any fried chicken, this healthier oven fried chicken tastes as good cold as it does hot, so it’s perfect to pack in a cooler and take along on a picnic. In fact, it smells so great when it’s baking that you may not be able to wait until it’s cold to dig in.

4 secrets to make “fried” chicken that’s delicious and healthy:

* Start out by marinating the chicken in buttermilk, along with mustard and hot sauce—this keeps it juicy and moist. Plus it adds flavor.

* Remove and discard the chicken skin, which is high in saturated fat. Typical fried chicken has 7 grams of saturated fat per serving. Our recipe has only 2 grams.

* To maintain a crispy “fried chicken-like” coating, dredge the chicken in a blend of whole-wheat flour, paprika, thyme and sesame seeds. This gives it great full flavor with less fat and calories. (We dredge with whole-wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour to add fiber and nutrients.)

* Instead of frying, spray the coated chicken with cooking spray and bake it on a wire rack until the coating is crispy.

These easy steps give the chicken a delicious, crispy outer crust that is significantly lower in total fat, saturated fat and calories. Plus you can use this same technique in other healthy “fried” recipes for foods like zucchini and fish.

1 large egg white
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted (see Tip)
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken pieces, skin and fat removed
1 tablespoon canola oil

Preheat oven to 425°F. Set a rack over a baking sheet and coat with cooking spray.

Whisk together egg white, buttermilk and hot pepper sauce in a medium bowl. Put flour, baking powder, sesame seeds, paprika, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper in a large paper bag. Shake the bag to mix well.

Dip chicken pieces, one at a time, into the buttermilk mixture, then dredge in the flour mixture by shaking the bag. Place the chicken on the prepared rack. Brush oil lightly over the chicken. Bake until browned on the outside and no longer pink inside, 35 to 40 minutes.

Tips & NotesTip: To toast sesame seeds: Place in a small dry skillet and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes.

Per serving: 280 calories; 9 g fat (2 g sat, 4 g mono); 113 mg cholesterol; 5 g carbohydrates; 43 g protein; 0 g fiber; 389 mg sodium; 387 mg potassium.

Picnics & Picnic ListMy kids LOVE to go on picnics. There's just something about them that just makes the food taste better, isn't there?

This is one of our favorite places to go. Marin French Cheese Co. Green grass, pond, picnic tables, and beautiful scenery.

Photos were taken close to sundown...

The List

Folding table / chairs / cloth / (waterproof) blanket / rugs / cushions
Hamper / basket / cool box(es) / bottle bag
Ice packs
Sunshade / umbrella / sunscreen / hats
Insect repellent / first-aid kit
Bottle opener / can opener
Bin (trash) bags / wipes / hand sanitizer
Napkins / paper towels
Plates / dishes / mugs
Wine glasses or flutes
Cutlery / utensils
Salt / pepper / mustard / ketchup / mayonnaise / sauces
Flowers / ribbons / flags / fireworks (for 4th of July..maybe)/ candles / torch
A kite / frisbee / bubble liquids & wands
Sports equipment /games / towels / bikes
Bucket and shovel / beach ball / fishing net
Camera / binoculars / a good book
Change of clothes and shoes – especially for children
Water / wine / champagne / soft drinks / ice bucket
Portable barbecue / barbecue utensils / fuel
Water spray / oven mitts / matches or lighter
Aluminium foil / food storage bags

Don't forget the food

Happy Thursday! Pin It