Sunday, March 25, 2012

a visit from Nelly

When I came downstairs this morning, this is what I saw...

Maybe she came in to make my breakfast?


Guess not. Looks more like Nelly wants me to serve her breakfast.


Here she’s trying to get the attention of the other hens (still in the yard). Show off!


You can get away with a lot when you’re cute and sweet.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012



golden-laced wyandotte hen

barred rock hen



We’re starting to see small, subtle changes in the yard. Pairs of birds hanging out together. Singing birds wake me in the mornings. Daffodils are blooming. Our hens seem to be arguing less with each other, and laying more eggs.

And it snowed last night! Whaaaaa???

border collie in the snow

We’re all confuzzled.

What’s happening in your neck of the woods?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

my favorite (non) Irish St Patrick’s Day dinner


In Ireland, corned beef and cabbage is about as Irish as spaghetti and meatballs. I guess this peasant meal is just an American way to celebrate Irish heritage. So, if you’re planning to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a traditional non-Irish dinner this weekend, I have a couple recipes you should try.

First, you need to buy the best piece of corned beef you can find. This is of utmost importance to the entire meal, so splurge on a roast that’s the real thing. We’re fortunate to have several stores nearby that sell local beef. Beef from cattle raised without growth hormones or antibiotics on farms where they graze on natural native grasslands, pastures and forests. My favorite local store is New Seasons Market, and this is where I buy corned beef. Their corned beef is a beef brisket that is not overly salted or seasoned.

I’ve often wondered why some meats sold as corned beef are red and others gray, so I emailed the friendly people at New Seasons to find out. Within 24-hours, I received an email from Daniel Menashe, a customer advocate at the market, who took me to beef school.

According to Daniel, “Red corned beef is a more modern invention. It’s the result of adding potassium nitrate or sodium nitrite to the meat in order to preserve the red color. It may look prettier, but some folks take issue with the safety of these compounds, and most chefs and gourmands feel that they can rob the subtlety from a cured meat.” “Our corned beef is classic gray and proud of it.”

At New Seasons they use beef brisket because it’s the most tender and well-marbled.

He also explained where the term corn comes in. “The corn in ‘corned beef,’ doesn’t refer to the New World grain, but rather an Old English term for salt — a corn of salt used to mean the same thing as a grain of salt.”

To sum it up — “Brisket is best. Go for the gray. It has nothing to do with corn.”

Now that you know everything you need to know about corned beef, pick up a three pound piece of gray beef, perfectly cured with herbs and spices at your favorite local store, the best way to cook it is very slowly in a Dutch oven.


Corned Beef and Cabbage Stew

3 lbs corned beef
24 oz Guinness (or other stout beer)
12 small red potatoes
4 carrots, peeled and cut into quarters
1 green cabbage, sliced into 8 wedges
4 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Horseradish for serving

Place beef into a large (7 quart) oven-proof dish and add enough beer to cover the meat. You may need to add some water to fully cover the meat. Place a lid over the dish and place into a 325°F oven for about 3 1/2 hours.

Layer all the vegetables into the pot and bake for another 35 minutes or until the potatoes are fully cooked.

Lay out the vegetables onto a serving platter. Slice the corned beef, against the grain into thin slices and top with any cooking liquid that you desire. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve warm.

This soda bread is an absolute must served alongside the corned beef stew...


It’s only slightly sweet, but still feels and tastes like a treat with its super moist crumb and prominent flavors of orange and caraway.


The following recipe is the original Irish soda bread from Grand Central Baking Company, a fabulous local bakery here in Portland.

Grand Central’s Irish Soda Bread
Makes 8 pieces, or two large rounds

4 cups + 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 Tablespoons orange zest
2-1/4 teaspoons caraway seeds
3/4 cup currants
14 Tablespoons (1-3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons buttermilk, divided
Egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 Tablespoon water and a pinch of salt)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a high-sided mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir in orange zest, caraway seeds and currants.

Dice butter in 1/2-inch cubes. Use your hands or the paddle attachment to mix butter into dry ingredients until the texture becomes mealy. Cover mixing bowl with plastic wrap and chill overnight, or proceed with the recipe.

Add 3/4 cup buttermilk all at once, mixing just until the dough comes together, 30-35 seconds. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to incorporate any dry ingredients and add remaining buttermilk.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 2 chunks. Gently shape the pieces into dome-like disks and score each one into quarters.

Place disks on the baking sheet and brush liberally with egg wash. Put the baking sheet in the center of the preheated oven and bake 30-35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until disks are shiny and golden brown.

You know what else is good with this dinner? Guinness. Yum!




Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit! 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

happy Pi Day

It seems as though I was in hibernation mode back on January 23, 2012 (Pie Day). Or maybe I was recovering from post holiday stresses. Whatever the reason for my failure to acknowledge Pie Day, today I’m celebrating Pi Day.

Maybe your Mom made these when she baked pies, maybe you make them for your kids, grandkids. If you’ve never had pie crust sticks, I’m really truly sorry. You must.


Although my Mom never made her pie crust from blending flour, salt, shortening, and water, she made us pie crusts sticks whenever she baked a pie. It wasn’t until I was an adult that she admitted to me that she used pre-made dough all those years. For this pie obsessed daughter, I was more than disappointed by her confession.

A couple weeks ago I used the fresh/frozen blueberries sitting in my freezer to make a pie for dinner at my in-laws. I used the new rolling pin and Silpat mat I received for Christmas last year.


The rolling pin makes rolling out dough a dream. I miss my pastry cloth though. In spite of the generously floured surface I made for it, the dough was determined to stick to the Silpat mat.

I’m seeing these mini pies in mason jars lately, and I so want to make some. 

Megan at Not Martha blogged about these back in 2008...

Where, oh where have you been all my life, tiny pies?

If, like my Mom, you’re using a store bought or other non-homemade crust, do me a favor and just try this once and tell me it’s not as easy as... well you know... pie.

Pie Crust Recipe
Makes two 9-inch crusts

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Crisco shortening
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup very cold water

1. Combine flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor.

2. Add shortening and butter.

3. Blend together until you have small grains. About 5-10 seconds is all it will take.

4. Prepare a container with some ice water. From that, measure about 1/4 cup.

5. Sprinkle the cold water through the tube of your food processor and mix until dough forms.

6. Divide the dough into two balls, place each onto a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten into a disk.

7. Refrigerate the dough for about an hour before you roll it out.

8. Roll out dough on a well floured surface using a well floured rolling pin. 

9. Once you’ve created a circle that’s 2-3 inches wider than the pie pan you intend to bake in, roll the dough around the floured rolling pin and carefully transfer it to the pan. Press it into place and remove any access dough (so you’ll have dough for pie crust sticks). 

Keeping all the ingredients cold is key to a successful crust. Another tip: preheat the oven to 400°F and bake the pie (with filling) for 15 minutes to set the crust. Then turn the oven down to 325° and bake your pie for an additional 45 minutes to an hour, depending on what filling you’re using. This will keep the bottom crust from being soggy.

To make pie crust sticks, simply roll out whatever dough you have leftover, place it in a pie pan, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, and bake for about 10 minutes at 400°F.

Happy Pi Day, and happy pie baking!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


It’s official! Ms. Wynonna, our golden-laced wyandotte, is an international model. This morning I sold this image of her to an ad agency in London who is creating promotional materials for a small boutique hotel in Marseille, France.


How will a chicken represent a hotel? That’s what I was wondering. A bit of online Googling, and I found Mama Shelter in Paris.

They’re opening a second location next month in Marseille. Apparently, that’s where our girl comes in.

It’s about time Wynonna started contributing in some way around here. While our other hens are busy laying eggs, Wynonna appears to be oblivious to the fact that she’s a hen. As far as I can tell, she has never laid an egg. It’s okay, she’s found her niche in life. Along with modeling for a photography workshop, posing for various local photographers, she can now add another line to her resume... French Supermodel.