Chickens. It seems there is a lot to say on the subject these days:
Because we eat a lot of chicken in this country. It's a cheap source of protein.
Because I happen to really like chicken. It's easy to cook, it freezes well and it takes on flavors well.
There appears to be a lot of confusion on what types of chickens & eggs we should be purchasing. Do you definitively know the difference between a Cage-Free and Free-Range bird? I thought I did.
Are we treating the animal ethically? And does that treatment effect the food we ingest?
Let me start by saying, I don't really want to get on a soap box and give you a new religion disguised as responsible food or organics or whatever the latest catch-phrases are. I'm just talking... common sense here. I'm a consumer, I cook chicken, I want to be an eater armed with knowledge. I don't presume to have all the answers but a little research and a little experience has taught me a few things.
I had the good fortune to be raised on a fruit farm, smack in the middle of an orchard where we (at least for my earliest years) raised chickens. My mom and I got up every morning in our cotton night gowns (that she sewed. It was very Little House On The Prairie) and walked barefoot behind our house to feed the chickens and collect eggs. Only the rooster was a little cranky, the hens were friendly as can be. Our chickens had their own "coop" although I don't know why we called it a coop because it was more like the chicken-strip-mall. The sucker was huge.
Those birdies had all the shelter they needed in the coop, and they needed it badly because coyotes are also free-range out where I come from. But the chickens were also free to come and go outside the coop searching for seeds, bugs, worms and whatever else caught their eye. Which meant they wandered into the orchards, the road, my Grandma's flower gardens and Mom's flower beds. The latter reasons may be why one day all the chickens disappeared. But our chickens lived the life they were meant to live: sheltered, well fed and free as a... bird.
So when I watched Food Inc. and saw how the larger modern day chicken processors are caring for their birds I, like the rest of you, was horrified. And some of the backlash of this film was people started demanding that the chicken they purchased in stores be raised "cage-free". Then the buzz word became "free-range." But what do those words really mean when I'm standing in front of the meat counter picking out a roaster? Turns out, not much. If you want to get a quick and painless education on it please watch this video I stumbled on today from "The Lexicon of Sustainability."
[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/30716968 w=400&h=300]
Now, I will tell you that buying your chicken (to eat) from a smaller farmer, pasture-raised will cost more. But how about starting smaller: try buying your eggs from a local chicken farmer. Today, all sorts of people are raising small flocks of chickens and will sell you their extra eggs for a reasonable price. I'm betting if you pay close attention next time you drive to your local grocery store, you'll see signs for fresh eggs somewhere along the way.
Or maybe you have some outdoor space and would like to raise a couple chickens of our own. It just so happens that my Wonder Twin (aka: Serena) owns a great site called Uptown Coops that can give you tons of information on raising chickens in your own backyard. She knows because she has a small flock of her own in her front yard in the Pacific Northwest. I met them all (the chickens) recently, and they are lovely gals. Two of them are pictured above with Audrey & Esther.
Uptown Coops specializes in affordable, eco-friendly coop kits that are also completely non-toxic. And they're cute! Uptown Coops can help supply you with what you need to set up a happy, healthy home for your own chickens and soon you'll have delicious, fresh eggs of your own.
Whether you start a brood of your own, or you continue to by your chicken/eggs at a store, just be mindful of where it's coming from and how it was raised. It really does make a difference.
I don’t know if it’s all the pastries and sweets being passed around right now, but I’m craving good-for-me food lately. Now, as some of you may remember, in general I do not eat eggs. That is until I started craving hard boiled eggs a few months ago when I saw Bobby Flay making them on TV. Now I eat hard boiled eggs on a semi-regular basis, go figure.
Well, this recipe from Daphne Oz on The Chew now has me craving poached eggs, something I have NEVER eaten before and have always been repulsed by. OK, maybe it’s the hollandaise that I’m really attracted to, but the point is I want to make and eat this Eggs Florentine recipe. I even want to eat it over the whole grain bread that is recommended by Dr. Oz.
And don’t be intimidated by hollandaise sauce, that golden, velvety sauce of the gods. It’s as simple as dumping some eggs yolks and lemon juice in a blender and drizzling in some (actually, a lot) of melted butter and as sprinkle of cayenne. You can do it, I promise.
I have a confession to make. I don't eat eggs. I wish I liked eggs, I really do! They are cheap, they are full of protein and vitamins, they are quite possible the perfect food. I used to eat scrambled eggs when I was young. But the truth is, the last time I tried to eat a fried egg I was about 6 years old and my dad made me eat one, fully believing that if I would just try it I would like it. Yep, it came right back up. Daddy never tried that again. And then in high school I developed a "pre-ulcer" stomach and eggs were on the culprit list. So I lost the taste for them and I haven't really eaten eggs since then.
I will eat an egg if it is IN something else like a cake or pasta carbonara or even a raw egg yolk is salad dressing is OK. I just won't eat plain 'ole eggs.
Until yesterday, that is. I do not know what got into me. I was watching an episode of Brunch @ Bobby's and he was making hard boiled eggs and all of a sudden... I just HAD to have one! Fortunately, even though I don't eat eggs regularly anymore, I do remember how to make them. So some boiling water and and about 9 minutes later:
I had the perfectly boiled hard-boiled egg. And you know what? I didn't hate it. I didn't love it exactly but I was able to eat it and it didn't make my stomach too acidic, a little, but not too much. Strangely, I wasn't a fan of the egg with salt on it. A little black pepper was OK. Plain was my favorite way.
So I guess the moral of the story is: you're never to old to try something new... or old. Not that I'm old... oh never mind!