The difference between homegrown and store-bought eggs is amazing. This week, Antoinette layer her first egg! The yolk is such a deep yellow, and the taste is amazingly rich and flavorful. Here, see for yourself: Continue reading Homegrown vs. Store-Bought Eggs→
If you can believe it, November 12 was the final basil harvest of the season from my Texas garden. This was a great year for basil – the summer was hot, and the basil loved its place near the tomatoes and bell peppers (yep, companion planting does work!).
This harvest yielded about 20 cups of basil leaves. Isn’t it gorgeous? The smell in the kitchen was so fresh and liquorish-y. There’s nothing like fresh herbs.
Here’s how to maximize your basil harvest (or, anytime you have some extra basil on hand:
Here’s what you can do with a big basil harvest:
• You can make basil cubes, two ways. Chop up the basil and freeze the basil in water OR freeze the basil in olive oil.
• You can do something slightly more complicated but only requires five ingredients. You can make a dairy-free pesto!
How to make basil cubes
For basil ice, you need the following equipment:
• Food processor (or a good, sharp knife)
• Two ice cube trays
• One measuring cup
And, it only requires three ingredients:
1. Basil (of course)
2. 1/2 cup water
3. 1/2 cup olive oil
Here’s how to do it:
• Chop your basil in the food processor (or with your knife).
• Spoon a teaspoon of chopped basil into each ice cube well.
• Fill your measuring cup with water.
• For the first ice cube tray, pour water over the basil in each ice cube well, making sure the basil is submerged.
• Then, empty your measuring cup and fill it with ½ cup of olive oil.
• For the second ice cube tray, fill each well with oil, again ensuring that the basil is covered by the oil.
• Pop trays in the freezer until hardened.
These can be stored over the winter and used in sauces, soups, or even in omelets! Just pop a cube out of your tray and its ready to use. I add the water-based basil in stews and steamed veggies. The olive oil basil cubes I melt as a base for eggs, marinara sauce, or even as a dip for crusty, whole grain bread.
How to make dairy-free pesto
Why dairy-free pesto? It’s delicious, for one. And, it is creamy with an amazing depth of flavor, even without the cheese. It’s helpful to have a dairy-free pesto on hand in case you (or anyone you know) is sensitive to dairy. You can first mix this dairy-free pesto sauce with pasta, rice, or any other grain. Then, if you’d like to add Parmesan to your dish, you can sprinkle your meal with the cheese after you’ve served the dairy sensitive folks. Also, if you are vegan or have vegan friends, this recipe is perfect!
For the dairy-free pesto, you need the following equipment:
• Food processor
• Hand juicer
• Two measuring cups
And, it only requires five ingredients:
• 5 cups of washed basil leaves
• 1 cup olive oil
• Lemon zest from ½ lemon
• Lemon juice from ½ lemon
• ½ cup pine nuts
Here’s how to do it:
• Lightly toast your pine nuts at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for 5-7 minutes. You’ll know when the nuts are done when they have turned a very light golden color.
• While the nuts are toasting, zest your lemon and set aside.
• Next, juice the lemon into a measuring cup.
• Then, add ½ cup of olive oil into your other measuring cup.
• By this time, the pine nuts should be toasted. Take them out and set aside to cool.
• Put half your basil (about 2½ cups) in the bottom of the food processor, and add your lemon zest on top.
• Begin pulsing your basil, and add lemon juice while the leaves are being chopped.
• Add ¼ cup of pine nuts to your mix.
• Add ½ cup olive oil.
• Next, add the rest of your basil (by now, there should be room in the processor).
• Finish by adding the rest of your pine nuts and olive oil.
• Then, taste your pesto. Add salt and pepper to taste, as you like (I don’t salt mine at all, actually).
Troubleshooting tip: Pesto should be a spreadable consistency and have a balance of flavor with the tang from the lemon, the creaminess from the nuts and olive oil, and fresh flavor from the basil. If the pesto is too thick, add oil or lemon juice. If it’s too watery, add pine nuts and basil leaves. If it tastes like it has too much lemon, add some basil leaves and olive oil. If it’s too creamy, add a bit more lemon juice. And, if it’s not fresh enough, add more leaves. Pesto is an art rather than a science. Play with the ratio of ingredients to fit your taste.
I store my pesto in a quart size freezer bag. This way, when I want to make pesto pasta, a pesto rice casserole, or if I want to have a pesto dip for bread, I can simply break off a bit of the pesto in the bag and save the rest. The good news is that a little pesto goes a long way – it is so flavorful and rich!
…and an observation (just for fun). I’ve found that lemon juice really brightens the color and flavor of pesto. You can see the differences in the batches when lemon wasn’t used as much. Just look at the difference in the color!
How do you like to use basil in your cooking? Let me know in the comments.
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, ‘tis the season for feeling grateful. When the days feel shorter, and the holiday craze hasn’t quite set in (yet), you may feel as though you have a bit more time for reflection. This is a great time to practice gratitude. Continue reading How to practice gratitude in five steps→
This time of year in Texas, okra is in abundance. Okra is an early fall/end-of-summer veggie, and I love it. The texture is my favorite – those lovely little seeds in okra are like little pearls! So, I felt incredibly lucky the other the other weekend when my mom gave me some farm-fresh okra from her CSA.
The funny thing was, I had been craving Bhindi Do Pyaza (okra with onion and spices) from my local Indian restaurant. Instead of placing an order, I decided to cook a dish like it myself. So, I found a recipe for bhindi masala. After reading it, I decided to go for it! However, I did change up the ingredients a bit. I love lots of spices, especially if yogurt is in the dish to cool it down. So, in my recipe, I added cashew milk yogurt. And, I wanted my dinner to make a complete protein, so I also added garbanzo beans. The results were delicious, and I was able to bring the leftovers to lunch the next day.
Here’s the recipe for Indian Okra:
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp mustard seed
2 small onions, chopped (I enjoy a mix of purple and white)
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon ginger
2 cups chopped okra
1 cup chopped fresh tomato
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans
1/4 cup yogurt
5 things I add to their feed, and 10 treats I give them
One of the first things people ask me about backyard chickens is about what they eat. Chickens are omnivores. When left to their own devices in the back yard, my royal flock scratches and pecks for seeds, eats blades of grass, and finds insects and little critters. In fact, Antoinette (the leader of the flock) has even caught a baby snake!
But, I don’t just leave them to their own devices. I feed them a mixture of grains every day. And also feed them “treats” (scraps from the garden or the kitchen). Here’s the breakdown of what my backyard chickens eat.
What backyard chickens eat every day
My base feed mixture comes from Scratch and Peck Feeds. I like this company because they offer organic, whole grain feed without a lot of additives. Because the chickens are still young, I choose their organic grower feed. Once the girls begin laying eggs, I’ll begin feeding them the “layer” feed. The base feed includes the following:
• Flaxseed Meal
• Fish Meal
• Ground Limestone
• Flaxseed Oil
• Vitamin and Mineral Pre-Mix
To enhance the feed, I add the following to a 25-pound bag of base feed:
1. 1 cylander of old fashioned oats
2. 6 oz of sliced almonds (for vitamin E)
3. 1.5 cups of sunflower seeds
4. 1 cup food-grade diatomaceous earth (prevents parasites and keeps bugs out of the feed)
5. 1 cup of an herb mix, which includes garlic, ginger, parsley, thyme, basil, oregano, nettle, calendula
In addition to their every day feed, chickens need probiotics and garlic to keep their immune system healthy. So, a few times a week, I mix a probiotic solution with oatmeal and crushed garlic. This combination makes my stomach turn, but my royal flock loves it! It enhances their immunity and keeps them happy. Alternatively, I have also fermented their grains and given them probiotics this way (I’ll have to tell you more about that in another post).
I also leave out oyster shells (for calcium) and grit (for digestion). They eat those two items as needed.
What backyard chickens eat as a treat
When I feed the chickens treats, I whistle at them. This teaches them to come when they are called. Training chickens to come when called helps me a lot when they are roaming around the backyard and I need to gather them (or, I can’t find them).
Treats pretty much consist of kitchen scraps, not-so-perfect veggies from the garden, or fruit/veggies in the fridge that are a little too old to eat (but aren’t moldy). Chickens don’t care if their fruits and veggies are old or aren’t quite perfect.
Some of their favorite treats include:
Figs. Oh the figs. They love to eat the skin, the flesh, and the seeds. Since figs turn quickly, older figs get served to my chickens often. Because Antoinette is the leader, if I feed the chickens figs, she tends to eat all the treats. So, I cut the figs into smaller bits so that Wilhelmina and Tikal can enjoy some figgy treats too.
Watermelon. They love both the seeds and the flesh of watermelon! It is a welcome treat on a hot, dry afternoon.
Carrot shreds. I buy a broccoli and carrot shred mixture to put on top of my salads for the week. By the end of the week, whatever is left in the bag is old, but isn’t moldy. The chickens don’t love the broccoli, but will pick through the shreds to get to the carrots!
Cantaloupe. I feed the chickens the seeds and pulp from any melon or squash. They enjoy both the juicy pulp and the nutty seeds.
Pumpkin. Now that it’s getting to be fall, I eat a lot of canned pumpkin. This afternoon, I scooped a spoonful in with some oatmeal and gave it to the chickens. They went nuts over the orange stuff.
Tomatoes. The seeds are their favorite. I give the chickens both ripe and unripe tomatoes from the garden if a bug has gotten to them. As long as there is some flesh and seeds left, the chickens don’t mind.
Shrimp tails. Reminder: chickens are omnivores! So, the tails from grilled shrimp are a real treat. I have never seem these chickens squabble so much over a treat, especially when there is a little bit of shrimp left in the tail – watch out!
Berries. Any type of berry that is turning south is a treat for these backyard chickens. Even frozen berries are welcome.
Cucumber. While the chickens tend not to eat the skin, they love cucumber seeds. It’s funny to watch them peck the seeds out of a cucumber.
Eggplant. I had some leftover roast eggplant this evening, and I wanted to see if the chickens would enjoy. Boy, did they! Skin and all. Special note: I tend not to roast my veggies with salt (if I need salt, I add it at the table). Salt is not good for chickens, so I don’t give them cooked foods where salt has been added.
Well, there you have it! That’s what my chickens eat. Did you find anything on the list surprising?