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Friday, August 13, 2010

Lavender and Peaches

Lavender. Don't you just love that word? It's right up there with "violin." Something about the "v" and "n" combination is soothing to me. Speaking of soothing, lavender is known for its calming effect, and has been used as a natural remedy for insomnia, anxiety, and depression. Interestingly, in this amazing recipe I found online, lavender is paired with lemon, which is known for its energizing scent and bright flavor. I gave these Lavender Raisin Buns a try, and I must say, the recipe is a keeper. They are bright and refreshing and not too heavy. The only change I made was to use 1 cup of whole wheat flour in place of some of the all-purpose flour. The other thing I might change is the name...Lavender Lemon Rolls? Lovely Lavender Sweetbread? La La Lemony Lavender...

The other recipe I feel compelled to share with you was a random creation I came up with in the kitchen at my office earlier this week: Cottage Peaches. Or, Peaches and Cottage Cheese. Peaches and Cheese. You can pick the title. I was grabbing food from my refrigerator in the morning, not having anything in particular in mind, and I found myself at work with a peach and cottage cheese (for a snack -- don't think I only each a peach and cottage cheese in an 8 hour time frame!). I don't prefer cottage cheese on its own (see my previous post about my recent search for tasty cottage cheese recipes). So, to avoid plain cottage cheese, I halved the peach, scooped some cottage cheese on top, drizzled some honey (which was already at work for tea), and sprinkled it with cinnamon (I have no idea why we had cinnamon at work). The results? Very pleasant. I thought I only liked cottage cheese in savory recipes, but this was the first sweet recipe I enjoyed. And so easy too.

So easy, you probably don't need a recipe, but here it is anyways:

Peaches and Cottage Cheese
Serves 2

1 peach, halved and pitted
1/4 cup cottage cheese
1 tablespoon honey
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Place peach halves in bowls and layer with cottage cheese, honey, and cinnamon.

I gave you two recipes with potential name changes. What would you name them? What's the strangest-named recipe you've come across? (I think anything with "Delight" in the title is kind of a red flag. Like, "Veggie Delight" or "Lemon Delight Trifle"... Funny, I used to live in a neighborhood called "Ridgely's Delight", and I thought it was rather silly.)

Friday, August 6, 2010

We Got Chickens! (Plus Eggs & Toast)

Yes, that's right, on July 31st we brought home three new chickens. Where do I begin? Over the past year or so, Justin and I have been going through a sort of "food renaissance." We're more into buying local, growing our food (or attempting to, at least), and buying sustainable eggs, seafood, meat, etc. "Sustainable" is a big buzz word these days, so it's easy to skip over the true meaning of the word. It basically just means a way of raising food (whether it be meat, produce, or seafood) that does not have harmful impacts on the environment or other people. There is a whole world of unknowns out there, and I encourage you to find out where your eggs come from, how the cattle are raised, whether your apple has pesticides all over it that may harm you...as well as harm the people who live near the orchard where pesticides are used and now may have contaminated drinking water.

Ok, I'll get off my soap box -- I can get carried away. So anyways, Justin and I decided that you can't get more local than fetching eggs from your back yard. We're sharing these lovely hens with two other couples, and they are just as delighted as us to know these chickens. Earlier this week we had a chicken party, ate good food, and tried the very first egg! When we bought the hens, the seller told us only one was laying, and she probably wouldn't lay for at least a week due to the stress of moving. Well, we got an egg the very next day! We thought we were such good chicken owners, and then she dried up for a couple of days. Apparently it's normal for hens to be sporadic in their early egg-laying careers.

Just so you know, we don't have a huge backyard, and we live right in Baltimore City. We're allowed up to four chickens, as long as their coop is at least 25 feet from the house. Luckily, with these Baltimore rowhomes and narrow yards, our neighbors don't seem to mind. Our favorite neighbor even shows the chickens off to her visitors. If you're thinking about getting chickens, make sure your city or town allows them. And if they do, go for it!

I love to go to the backyard in the morning and let the hens out of the coop. It's funny to see them trip down the ramp, clucking and flapping. As I sit there eating my breakfast, it's fun to watch them scratch, scratch, scratch, then stick their butts up in the air and peer very intently at the dirt, looking for bugs and worms. Did you know -- if a hen grabs a too-large worm with its beak, it instinctively starts running? The other hens see the commotion and start running after it, grabbing at the prey with their beaks. In this way, the worm gets broken up into manageable sizes for the hens to swallow. Kind of strange, I know, to be talking about worms being torn apart, but it's a great example of collaboration. I've held the chickens a few times and their feathers are surprisingly soft. It can be a bit challenging to pick up a chicken. You swoop it up from its ankles, keep it upright, and immediately hold it close to prevent it from flapping its wings. It makes soft, slightly annoyed cooing noises.

Enough talk about chickens. It's time for a recipe. One of my favorite meals to make as a grad student was eggs. I would hurry home from my morning class, fire up the skillet, toast some bread and cheese, and fry up an egg to place over top. A little salt and pepper, and you got a good, cheap, tasty meal. (Then I would flop on the couch and watch Food Network - oh, how I miss Barefoot Contessa). I have to say, a fresh laid egg really is wonderful. I made this recipe for dinner last night, and it was just so good. Use high quality whole-grain bread. I used whole grain sunflower seed bread, sharp white cheddar, and a fresh egg. You could probably figure this recipe out on your own, but I'll give it to you anyway.

Eggs and Toast
Serves 1

1 slice high-quality whole grain bread
A few slices sharp cheddar cheese
1-2 eggs
olive oil
salt and pepper

1) Slice the cheese and arrange on top of the bread. You don't want to cover every centimeter with cheese, since it will melt and ooze. Leave a few gaps. Toast the bread in a toaster oven for a few minutes. If you don't have a toaster oven, you can use a regular toaster, then top with cheese and microwave.

2) Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add enough olive oil to cover the pan. Once it's hot, add the egg(s). Let them sizzle for 30 seconds to a minute, then flip over to make eggs over easy (you can prepare the eggs however you like, but this is my favorite way to eat them with toast). Sizzle a bit longer, then scoop the egg(s) onto the toast, and sprinkle with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Enjoy the savory goodness.

What do you think about backyard poultry? What's your favorite way to eat eggs?