Cinco de Mayo Rhubarb Mojitos

I am like… oh, 95% positive that I made the first purchase of the season at Carmel’s Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning.

I had been in Indianapolis Friday night for dinner with friends who were running the next morning in the 500 Festival’s 5k and Mini Marathon.

Hey, girls, heyyy!

Hey, girls, heyyy!

I, however, was not.

I can power through an intense spin class like a champ but am pretty sure that I have not run more than two miles since last summer.

I blame the winter.

So, the girls all rose early to get to the race and I began the drive home. On the way, I stopped in downtown Carmel to check out their Farmer’s Market.

It was opening day of the market for 2014, but I had never been to the market period. I had always heard great things so I was eager to see what they had to offer.

I got there about forty minutes before the market opened thanks to the early race start so I grabbed a Starbucks and brainstormed a few blog ideas in my car while I waited. Ten minutes to open I decided to hop out of my car and see what was going on.

I took a lap around the market and was beyond impressed.

There was so much available, despite the cold, late spring. I even saw tomatoes. Obviously, green house tomatoes. But still… tomatoes!

By the time the mayor began her opening day speech and rang a bell to signal the commence of the market, I was standing underneath a vendor’s tent that was selling vibrant rhubarb and big, green spears of asparagus handing over some cash.

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Note: There’s no prize or celebration for the first purchase of the season. Dang!

They were the two things I was looking for and I couldn’t wait to get them home.

Rhubarb is a perennial vegetable and is typically cooked in sugar to be added to desserts. Rhubarb is typically harvested in mid to late spring. The color of rhubarb is the best. It can be from deep reds to pinks with a little green.

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I had never had rhubarb until I started dating Adam. Rhubarb crisp is one of his families most loved desserts.

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I thought about making the crisp but then remembered that Cinco de Mayo was just around the corner and decided to use the rhubarb to add subtle flavor to one my favorite Mexican vacation cocktails, the mojito.

Mojitos are incredibly refreshing and are not as sweet as a margarita. And, with all the mint left over from the Derby’s Juleps it seemed perfect for Cinco de Mayo!

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Rhubarb Mojito

Rhubarb Syrup:
3 large stalks rhubarb, thinly sliced
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ cups water

Place all ingredients in a medium pot, stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about five minutes or until rhubarb is tender.
Strain rhubarb collecting the liquid mixture in a bowl. Clean pot and pour liquid mixture back into pot. Boil over medium heat until liquid becomes a syrup. About fifteen minutes.
Let cool completely before using.

Rhubarb Mojito

6-7 mint leaves, torn
3 tablespoons rhubarb syrup
1 ounce white rum
Club Soda
Fresh lime juice

Add the mint, syrup and rum to tall glass. Stir to combine. Add ice and top with club soda and juice from a lime wedge. Garnish with mint and lime wedge.

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Midwestern Rasied, Southern fed.

After a semi-traumatic (see also: dramatic) experience with innards from a chicken I bought at the Farmer’s Market last summer, I was relieved when we were told that we could have everything removed from our fifty birds at the place we took them late last fall to get butchered.

Adam grew up with a great friend, Andy, who still lives just down the street. Andy is over often and when he heard we were going to have the butcher just pitch the innards, he spoke up and told us that we had to save the livers.

… Livers?

He explained that his family, who hails from eastern Tennessee, loves fried chicken livers. We had to keep them and the next time they were in town they would cook them for us.

So, we had the butcher bag up all the livers and we froze them until early last week when Andy’s grandparents and aunt came to town.

At lunch, the day of our fried chicken liver dinner, Adam’s mom asked me if I had ever had liver in tone that made me wonder what I was getting into. Truth of the matter was no. But, I convinced myself that if it’s fried, it’s probably not going to be too bad.

I am also not a picky eater and will try almost anything, but it still didn’t stop me from Googling “Fried Chicken Livers” in the afternoon just to see what to expect.

Within the first five posts there were recipes from Saveur and Food and Wine. Turns out fried chicken livers are a southern classic and even the snazziest southern inspired restaurants were serving them. The sites even listed beers and wines that pair well with the fried livers.

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That evening, Adam and I headed over to Andy’s where we found his grandmother and dad cooking up a storm. The stove top was full of cast iron where livers were frying as well as potatoes and cornbread patties.

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Andy and his grandmother both commended us on how great the livers from our birds looked and that they were a great size. They had soaked them in salt water and then milk, much like I do with duck, to help dull the game-y flavor.

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The liver’s were dredged through flour with a bit of spices and then placed in a skillet of oil and melted butter.

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Andy’s grandmother told me to try one that she had pulled out of the skillet a few minutes earlier that were sitting on a plate lined with a paper towel.

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I understood why they had soaked the livers in milk; they had a very similar taste and texture to venison or duck. Andy said the gaminess is likely because they contain so much iron.

Chicken liver is a great source of iron and zinc, but contains quite a bit of cholesterol so they are not something that you would want to eat all the time. (Don’t worry, Doc. I balanced this meal out with a glass of red wine.)

The spread that evening was great. In addition to the livers, there was homemade cole slaw, deviled eggs, fried potatoes, corn bread, and a killer peanut butter pie.

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Adam and I so appreciated the experience because it was something we would have never done ourselves. But, we will now. What I really loved was getting a taste of an authentic southern meal and seeing another family’s traditions come to life.

Yesterday, I saw liver’s at the Farmer’s Market. Give them a try! There are tons of recipes out there and when I try them at home I think I will use this recipe from Food and Wine. The author says the soy sauce will balance the gamey taste if that’s not something your into.

Chocolate Zucchini Brownies and Vanilla Ice Cream

At Purdue we had to take cooking labs as part of the Hospitality major. In the labs we worked in a mock restaurant where everyone was assigned roles that lasted the whole semester. I don’t know how they assigned us to the roles because we didn’t answer any questions about what we liked or where we had experience, but there always seemed to be a system to it.

Students with restaurant backgrounds were put on the line, cooking the entrees. People with strong, bossy personalities were expediters, inspecting every plate before it went out to a customer. Pretty girls, who wanted to be wedding planners or in sales, were servers and would spend the lab learning new napkin folds. People who didn’t want anything to do with restaurants and the food industry were put on the dish washing machine… and they hated the lab.

It wasn’t a hard system to crack.

And, for some reason, I was always put in charge of desserts.

I think the reasoning there was: She’s in a sorority and has a cute face but a little chub. She must like to bake.

Okay. Sure.

Guilty as charged.

I did.

At eighteen only real kitchen experience I had was baking with my mom at home.

So the system hit the nail on the head.

And, I did pick up quite a bit about making great desserts from the labs at the university and in the classes I took in Europe. (Yes. I was, somehow, assigned to desserts there as well. Sizing me up translated the same way all the way on another continent.)

Too this day I still like to make desserts, I just try not to do it often as I have this problem where everything sweet and wonderful tends to go to my behind. Does any one else suffer from this crazy phenomenon?

But, if I had to pick a favorite dessert to make it is hands down ice cream. We got an ice cream maker for our wedding and I love it. It is such a neat tool and makes ice cream making super easy. I have made sherbets, herb infused ice creams and more.

I decided that I wanted to make ice cream this weekend because I wanted to try the ginger syrup from the trip to Atlanta. The grower at the farmer’s market mentioned it is great drizzled over vanilla ice cream.

Vanilla ice cream is ridiculously easy to make. There are a whopping four ingredients in it versus the, like, forty in the ice cream at the store. Best of all, it has this great, creamy, authentic flavor.

As I dug through my pantry to find the vanilla extract, I thought about what also goes great with cold vanilla ice cream: Warm, fresh baked brownies.

Get ready for dessert overload because in this post I have my super easy vanilla ice cream recipe and a great chocolate zucchini brownie recipe using some of last summer’s frozen zucchini.

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And in the spirit of full disclosure, the ginger syrup was excellent on the fresh made ice cream. The gingery bite of the syrup on the cool, creamy vanilla ice cream elevated my basic vanilla ice cream to a ten.

Gingery drizzle.

Gingery drizzle.

Vanilla Ice Cream
1 ½ cups whole milk (… it’s temping to try to save calories and use skim or a lower fat milk. Don’t do it. The texture isn’t right.)
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
3 cups heavy cream
1 ½ tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Use a hand or stand mixer to combine milk and sugar in a medium sized bowl. Mix until sugar is dissolved, about three minutes.
Mix in heavy cream and vanilla.
Pour mixture into the ice cream maker’s chilled freezer bowl. Mix for about 25 minutes.
Transfer to a container and freeze for at least two hours before serving.

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Chocolate Zucchini Brownies
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ melted butter
1 cup flour
Pinch of salt
¼ cup unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
1 cup chocolate chips and a handful for topping

Pre-heat oven to 350.
Spray an 8×8 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, zucchini, vanilla, sugar, butter and salt until combined. Stir in flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and allspice. Just combine.
Add chocolate chips and mix until incorporated.
Pour batter into baking pan. Top with a handful of chocolate chips. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the center is cooked through.

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… In defense of my super decadant afternoon snack, I also planted a whole flat of lettuce today. It’s all about balance, right?!

Uh, yeah.  If you need me, you can find me at the gym.

Uh, yeah. If you need me, you can find me at the gym.

Say “Kim-chi!”

This weekend Adam and I went to the Indiana Artisans Marketplace in Indianapolis.

We got tickets through one of Adam’s best friends, Andy. Andy designs and makes beautiful custom furniture. Andy is in business with his dad and they have been a part of Indiana Artisan for a couple years. Their work is often used by designers at show home events and he even has been featured in some log cabin magazines.

You can learn more about their company, Cole and Sons, Inc, and see their work at their website. Like their Facebook page, too!

Adam and I had fun checking out his featured pieces and seeing Andy drumming up new business.

We also had fun seeing all the other artisans creations. There was jewelry, paintings, pottery, wood working and more. Everyone was incredibly talented.

However, one group of artisans really stuck out to Adam and me… the Foodists!

There were wine makers and craft beer brew masters. Lots of honey and candy makers. BBQ sauces and rubs.

And…

And it gets even better…!

THERE WERE SAMPLES.

We had a ball.

And ended up buying quite a bit. I blame the wine samples…

Adam took this picture of our artisan damage.

Ignore the Lowe's receipts in the background.  We are testing back splash ideas...

Ignore the Lowe’s receipts in the background. We are testing back splash ideas…

I am pretty sure that we now have enough barbecue sauce to get us through the summer.

One thing I was particularly excited about was the jar of Kim-chi from Fermenti Artisan. Kim-chi is traditionally a Korean side dish that is made up of different vegetables and seasonings that ferment together in a jar for some time.

I read a lot about Kim-chi last summer when I read Michael Pollen’s Cooked. In Cooked, Michael studies cooking through the four classis elements of the world: Fire, water, air and earth. In the “Earth” chapter he dives into fermentation with sauerkraut and Kim-chi.

Much of it was super scientific and well over my head. And, in the spirit of being honest, to me, that chapter dragged. However, it did make me realize that I needed to try Kim-chi.

My opportunity arrived a few weeks ago when out to eat with girl friends and I spotted it on a menu. It was served with tuna and I was surprised how spicy and tasty it was.

I knew Adam would love it as he is a big fan of all things spicy. I had been looking up recipes to try to make my own, but then I saw it at the artisan marketplace. I knew we had to get some.

We also got some curtido, which the reps at the marketplace said works great in Mexican dishes.

We also got some curtido, which the reps at the marketplace said works great in Mexican dishes.

We used it on Monday night for a take on fried rice using quinoa and shrimp.

Adam and I both had big bites of the Kim-chi right out of the jar before we began cooking. It was spicy just like the Kim-chi I had a few weeks ago, but it didn’t have the typical “pepper” spiciness. It was a fresher spicy… which is ironic considering it is literally rotting vegetables.

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What might be even more ironic is that these rotting vegetables are actually good for you.

Really good for you.

In fact, Kim-chi is considered a “Super Food.” It’s full of vitamins like many other super foods such as kale, but what makes it different is it has a healthy bacteria culture that helps with digestion and, some studies show, prevents the growth of cancer.

And, as if Kim-chi could get any cooler, Korean’s actually say “Kim-chi!” like American’s say “Cheese!” for a picture!

Kim-chi and Shrimp Fried Quinoa

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1 cup quinoa, uncooked
2 tablespoons oil (I used Olive… vegetable works.)
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (We had large ones in the freezer. I should have cut them into pieces; it was a big bite!)
1 cup heaping Kim-chi
1 tablespoon Chili Garlic Sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
½ lime, squeezed
Salt and Pepper
Minced green onions and lime wedge for garnish

Cook cup of quinoa according to package. Set aside.

Add oil to a large skillet or wok pan. Add shrimp to skillet once oil is hot. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until pink, about three minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside.

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Add Kim-chi and chili garlic paste to skillet. Stir-fry until they are combined and fragrant. Add in cooked quinoa, fish sauce, and soy sauce. Stir constantly about three minutes.

Push the quinoa mixture to one side of the skillet. Add the eggs and cook, stirring occasionally with a spatula about two minutes.

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Remove from heat and fold eggs into quinoa mixture. Add the shrimp, lime juice and rice vinegar. Stir to combine.
Season with salt and pepper if desired.

Garnish and serve right away.

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Cleaning Out the Freezer: Sweet Corn Tart

We get about four eggs a day from the hens.  Which is very nice.  I love having fresh eggs.

But, four eggs a day adds up pretty quickly.

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I have to get a little creative to try to make sure these fresh eggy’s don’t go to waste.

Hardboiled eggs are a staple in the fridge.  They are great for Adam to grab on his way out the door in the morning.  He never had been much of a breakfast eater so the nutrition guru in me is glad he is finally eating something in the morning.

When I am not traveling, I work at home so I am typically able to take a little more time in the morning. I like to make an omelet or fry a couple eggs to make a little breakfast sandwich.

Thanks to my home office, I also get to eat lunch at home.  I love this because it’s another meal that I am able to be in control of what I eat in terms of portions and ingredients.  It also saves me some cash.  And, some “ZZZ’s” since I don’t have to pack a lunch in the morning. 🙂

When I started my Lent resolution of getting through the veggie’s in the freezer I knew the hardest thing for us to get through would be the sweet corn.  We froze tons of it and I try to avoid starchy vegetables. They don’t bring as much to the table in terms of nutrients and health.

The corn freezing adventures of Summer 2013!

The corn freezing adventures of Summer 2013!

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Trust me, if taste were the only factor I had to worry about, I would be saying, “Bring on the starchy veg!”

I have been a potato kinda girl my whole life.   Baked, fried, tot, mashed… whatever!

But, I also have had thunder thighs my whole life.  (Literally.)

I can’t help but think that there might be a connection…

So, I decided to focus the sweet corn towards a lunch entrée versus dinner. This way, I have more of the day to burn off the natural sugars found in starchy vegetables like corn.

This tart became a great solution.  It used my plentiful eggs and sweet corn.  I made the crust using this recipe. And just used other odds and ends from the fridge so it cost me nearly nothing.

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And, it didn’t cost me too many calories either.

Thanks to my tools and knowledge from a couple years of calorie reporting in K-12 nutrition, I would say a 1/4 slice of this tart is about 400 calories.  Not too bad for lunch when you balance it out with a glass of water and piece of fruit.  And, it gets you nearly a week’s worth of lunches!

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Sweet Corn Tart:

Ingredients

2 slices bacon, chopped

2 cups corn kernels (Frozen works well.  If using ears of corn it will take about four)

½ cup chopped green onions

1 cup 2% milk

¼ cup grated Parmesan Cheese

Pinch of both salt and pepper

2 large egg whites, lightly beaten

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Cooking Spray

Pizza Dough (You could use a mix too.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cook bacon in a skillet until lightly browned.  Add corn and green onions and sauté mixture for about three minutes.

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Place the bacon, corn and green onion mixture in a large bowl.  Add milk, two tablespoons of Parmesan, S&P, egg whites and egg.  Stir until the mixture is well blended.

Spray a tart or pie pan (10 inch diameter or so is best). Pat dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan to cover the surface.

Pour bacon mixture into the dough and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan Cheese. Place pie or tart pan on a large baking sheet.

DO put a baking sheet under the pie or tart pan.  You will have a mess otherwise.

DO put a baking sheet under the pie or tart pan. You will have a mess otherwise.

Bake for about 35-45 minutes, or until well set.

Let cool for ten minutes on a wire rack.  Serve right away or refrigerate for up to a week.

I just would zap a piece for about 45 seconds on days that I had the tart for lunch.

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It also could make a great entrée for a brunch!

Cleaning Out The Freezer: Zucchini Sandwich Cookies

This past week Ree Drummand, The Pioneer Women, posted this photo of her Mason jar collection.

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It made me laugh. Here is mine…

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I see you, Ree.

PS- Who wants pickles?!

Digging through my glass jar collection inspired me to do some major spring cleaning and the timing also coincided very well with Lent. A great time for making changes, simplifying and setting goals… among other things. So I decided that, from now until Easter, Adam and I will deep clean and/or declutter a different area of the house each day.

It’s surprisingly going really well! Today we even took on our closet and were able to take three department store bags of old clothes to Goodwill.

One area of the house that isn’t assigned a specific day but we are focusing on this Lenten season is the freezer.

Now, I understand the typical thing to do during Lent is to fast, eat less of something or totally give up some kind of food, like dessert or carbs or whatever. But, we still have quite a bit of frozen garden vegetables that we need to go through.

We have some sweet corn, a little bit of sliced poblano peppers, cherry tomatoes, sliced zucchini and grated zucchini in the freezer and it’s only a matter of time before there is more. So, opposed to basically everyone else during Lent, we are going to make an effort to eat.

And in the spirit of continuing to be totally weird and different, I figured why not kick off this abnormal Lenten goal with a dessert.

It’s rare for me to bake. And, if I do bake, it’s even more rarely a sweet treat.

But, grated zucchini is great for baked desserts. One of Adam’s favorite desserts is Chocolate Zucchini Cake and I made it for his birthday in December. It also works really well in chocolate chip cookies.

In July I froze a bunch of zucchini's in 1/2 cup portions to make for easy baking.

In July I froze a bunch of zucchini’s in 1/2 cup portions to make for easy baking.

This cookie was kind of inspired by the chocolate chip cookie recipe and also by a Martha Stewart recipe where she makes it super decadent and turns it into a sandwich cookie.

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What is nice about baking cookies is that I typically have all the ingredients in the pantry so I can bake them on a whim. Although, yesterday I was missing chocolate chips. But, with the cream cheese icing filling they didn’t need them… unless you really want them.

They were sweet and had a great balance of spice with the cinnamon, which compliments zucchini really well.

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Couple good baking tips for the newbie’s and/or novice:

– It takes a little planning, but makes sure ingredients like eggs, butter, and cream cheese are room temperature. It’s easier to incorporate into the dough, makes more even cooking and a lighter texture.
– More planning. Make sure your oven is completely preheated before putting in baked goods. This also helps ensure more even and thorough cooking.
– The icing recipe below is also great for red velvet cakes!

Zucchini Sandwich Cookies

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Cookies:
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon Baking Powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 ½ sticks of butter, divided and room temperature
½ cup sugar
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup grated zucchini
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup walnuts or chocolate chips (if desired)

Sandwich Filling:
8 ounces of cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350.
Mix together flour, cinnamon, baking soda and powder, and salt in bowl.
Beat one stick of butter and sugars until combined and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
Beat in dry mixture into the sugars. Mix in the grated zucchini, oats and nuts and/or chocolate chips.
Refrigerate for one hour.
If making sandwiches you want the cookies to be similar in size, so use an ice cream scoop to place on a greased or parchment paper lined cookie sheet at least one inch apart.
Bake twenty minutes, until edges are golden brown.
Cool completely on a wire rack.
To make sandwich filling, mix cream cheese and powdered sugar together. Spread on cool cookies to create sandwiches.

Check back often the next few weeks for many more recipes as we make our way through the freezer!

One Bird, Two Ways

This past fall, Adam and I raised fifty free range chickens for their meat, in addition to the egg laying hens.

If you knew me any time before 2011, go ahead and say it.

I know your thinking it.

Trust me. I thought it plenty of times too.

What. The. Hell.

What the hell am I doing with over fifty chickens in my backyard?

The only “chicken” in my backyard growing up was when we would play it in the pool.

Things that were in the backyard of my youth? A Jack Nicholas golf course and a large swing set… that was painted one of three colors permitted by the Home Owners Association.

I never looked into it, but chickens probably didn’t make that “permitted” list.

… Just a guess.

As insane as it does seem, it’s my reality. And, now with a freezer full of great, pasture raised chickens it all makes sense and it’s all worth it.

Don’t worry, friends… I have not totally converted. We took the birds somewhere else to get processed. They took care of everything, so our birds look just like a whole chicken I would get at the grocery store. Phew.

Adam and I have been experimenting with all sorts of recipes with these birds. This week, using one bird, we made two great and very different meals.

Because it’s only the two of us, we don’t need a whole bird for a meal so halving the chicken is a great way to insure there aren’t any left over’s. Here are the steps for dividing a whole chicken in half:

Note: I now understand why magazines, like Real Simple, walk readers through tips like these with illustrations. Photos of raw meat just don’t look that pretty. But, today, I am scraping vanity because I do think it helps seeing how it really works.

Put the chicken breast on a cutting board breast side down with the neck pointing away from you.

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First, starting from the front of the chicken, insert the knife and work it from the neck to the tail of the bird, cutting right along one side of the backbone. It is important to cut as close to the bone as you can.

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Make the same cut on the other side of the back bone and remove the spine.

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Keep the chicken breast side down and make a small slice in the skin and cartilige by the neck. Fold the chicken back and forth in order to snap the breastbone.

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Remove the “Keel” bone. This is the bone located inbetween the rib bones.

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Cut off any cartilige on the breastbone. Once removed, cut the bird in two down the middle of the breast.

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Make a small slice in the skin to tuck in the leg.

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Ta-Da... Done!

Ta-Da… Done!

With the first chicken half, we made Jerk Chicken.

We were in Jamaica the last week of Janaury and were welcomed back to the midwest by major snow storms and bitter cold. So, a couple nights ago, I picked up a six pack of Red Stripes and decided to make the quintessential Jamaican entrée.

Soaking up the sun!

Soaking up the sun!

My goal was to pretend like we were on the island, but once I put the chicken in the skillet, I didn’t have to pretend. My whole kitchen smelled like Jamaica. Yah, mon!

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1 habanero pepper, stem cut off
1 bunch scallions, but into pieces
2 cloves garlic smashed and peeled
1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon allspice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Juice of one lime
2 tablespoons of vegetbale oil
3 ½-4 pounds chicken pieces

In a food processor, puree peppers, scallions, garlic, thyme, brown sugar, allspice, soy sauce, lime juice and oil.

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Put mixture into a large zip lock bag with the chicken pieces.

Let marinate in the refridgerator for at least one hour or up to twenty four hours.

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Grill until cooked through or sear on the stove in a skillet that can go in the oven and move into the oven for thiry minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Use oil or spray to prevent sticking before cooking.

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If your going to have Jerk Chicken, you've gotta have some Red Stripes's to wash it down!

If your going to have Jerk Chicken, you’ve gotta have some Red Stripe’s to wash it down!

And with the other half of the bird I made a soup using some of our frozen garden vegetables. This super simple, spicy soup was easy to make and, excluding the spices, came straight from the backyard!

Frozen garden poblano peppers and sweet corn

Frozen garden poblano peppers and sweet corn

2 cups diced poblano peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 diced large onion
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 minced cloves of garlic
32 ounces chicken broth
5 cups cooked and shredded chicken (Adam cooked the chicken the day before and seasoned it with a handful of spices from the pantry. Salt and pepper works great. You also could use a rotisserie chicken.)
4 cups of fresh or frozen corn
Black pepper to taste
Crumbled Queso Fresco or Moterary Jack Cheese for topping (If desired)

In a large pot, saute olive oil and onions over medium heat about 5-8 minutes. Add the spices and garlic and saute for a minute.

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Add chicken broth, shredded chicken, corn and poblanos and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook for thirty minutes.

Diced Poblanos

Diced Poblanos

Shredded Chicken.

Shredded Chicken.

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Serve right away. (… But, the left over’s make a great lunch!)

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Egg Series Day 5: Colorful Eggs and Baked Eggs in an Avocado

The first thing I noticed about our backyard eggs after the chickens started laying last October was how different the yolks were in comparison to the commercial eggs I grew up with.

The yolk in our hen’s eggs is an incredibly vibrant golden yellow.

Our egg is on the left.  An egg from the grocery store is on the right.

Our egg is on the left.

Our fresh egg, holding it's shape.

Our fresh egg, holding it’s shape.

A grocery store egg.  The color is faint and the yolk's shape is weak.

A grocery store egg. The color is faint and the yolk’s shape is weak.

They also hold their shape much better than grocery store egg’s yolks.

The color in the yolks is based on the chicken’s diet. Some plants have stronger natural pigments creating the bright orange colors in our pasture raised eggs.

Hens that produce eggs for commercial use do not have access to plants with these color creating pigments, but producers sometimes will add things like marigold petals to their feed to enhance the yolks colors.

Our hens produce brown eggs. The color of the eggs is based on the breed of the chicken. There are actually hundreds of chicken breeds all over the world and they create eggs with a wide, wide range of colors. Blue, green, grey, pink… and more!

There is no change in the taste of the egg based on the color of the shell. However, I have found that there is a taste difference between fresh eggs and commercial eggs. It’s a hard taste to explain, but there is much more flavor, texture and chew to a fresh egg making it incredibly tasty!

In November, I started a new job where I travel to college campuses often, but when I am not traveling I work out of my home.

I love that I have been able to ditch my daily sixty mile commute and don’t have to wear makeup everyday, but I think my favorite thing about working from home is being at home for lunch. It lets me make smart food choices… and save a couple bucks!

This is one of my favorite quick lunches to make at home, but it could be a great breakfast or even a big snack.

Baked Egg in an Avocado

Preheat oven to 425.

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Slice avocado in half, scoop out the pit and a bit of the meat to make room for the egg. This bit of avocado can top the eggs after it’s all cooked.

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Place avocado halves into a baking dish so they are level and secure.

Pour an egg into each avocado.

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Add salt and pepper.

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Cook for twenty five minutes.

I topped on avocado with paprika and the other with srrachia, experimenting with different flavors. I liked the paprika best. Parmesan cheese has been a topping I have tried and liked in the past.

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Okay, okay.

I’ll address it. I get it. Your thinking, “Hey Claire, late blog today. What’s up with that, huh?” (I know you couldn’t possibly have anything more important than Bloom… insert sarcasm here.)

Yes, I have been posting all the other Egg Series posts around the middle of the day. This is because I have proofread my writing from the night before as I eat lunch.

But, today was one of those days where I was traveling for work and got to spend much of the day at my alma mater.

I have done work on the campus for years, which I do love because I love the university and the people affiliated with it… but, because I am there so often I sometimes wonder about what it would be like to drive up to campus and have it feel different or special.

The feeling I am envious that my girlfriends, who make it back once every other year, feel.

Today it was.

Today, campus was different.

My home, my favorite place in the world, saw evil this week.

It has been bruised and its people have been exposed to the cruelty that is in this world.

But also today, as I drove the streets I could drive in my sleep, I saw what makes my university special.

Pride.

Community.

Greatness.

Love.

Despite everything that happened on Tuesday, Purdue University is strong.

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And in that sense, nothing has changed.

Egg Series Day 4: Storing Fresh Eggs and a Spicy Frittata

A few of my friends have reached out to me recently and commented about how “pretty” the brown eggs are in the pictures from this week’s Egg Series.

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This made me smile. They are pretty with their shades of brown. Some have little spots that look like freckles.

They are so fun.

And I am kind of proud of them.

I would love to show them off on the counter. They would look totally cute in my Tuscan, farmhouse inspired, Pottery Barn-ish kitchen. (… Technical interior design terms. Trust me.)

But, to make sure eggs stay fresh and safe I keep them in the refrigerator. It best this way. Plus, if eggs are in the fridge they can keep up to five weeks.

It is also best to keep eggs stored in egg cartons with the pointed side down to ensure they maintain their natural moisture and keep their yolks centered. Smells from other food items in your fridge could potentially enter the eggs due to their pourous shells. Egg cartons also protect the eggs from these smells. In addition to the cartons, freshly laid eggs have a protective coating on the outside of the shell, called the cuticle or bloom. (I didn’t know this when I started this blog. Ironic, right!?)

We have asked friends and family to help us out and save their egg cartons to store all the eggs.

We have asked friends and family to help us out and save their egg cartons to store all the eggs.

The bloom helps to seal the pores, keeping odors and bacteria out. To protect the bloom on our hen’s eggs we do not wash our eggs until we are about to use them. Commercial eggs from the grocery store are washed and then coated with an oil to reseal the pores.

Eggs are most typically thought of as a breakfast food, but Adam and I gave it a try for dinner last night and made a frittata. It was easy, cheap and did not disappoint. It even had Adam asking, “Where has this been all my life?!”

Paleo/Low Carb/Gluten Free friends? This is great for you!

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Spicy Frittata

13 ounces sausage, chopped (We used turkey sausage… I am going for lean meats these days and it was in the fridge. Chorizo would be really good.)
½ Yellow Onion, finely diced
2 jalapenos, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
About two cups sliced plum or roma tomatoes (I used a 14 ounce can of plum tomatoes… because it’s January. Womp. Womp.)
Two cups eggs, whisked together (Took us eleven eggs to get two cups; Egg beaters or just egg whites would work fine.)
4 ounce package of crumbled feta
Chopped Parsley for toppings

Heat olive oil in cast iron skillet or other oven proof skillet. Add chopped sausage and cook until lightly browned over medium heat.

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Add the peppers, garlic, and onions and saute for about three minutes. Stir in spices and salt, cook for one more minute.

Spread sausage and veggie mixture around the bottom of the pan. This will serve as a “crust” for the frittata.

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Add sliced tomatoes to the top of the meat and veggies. It can look as pretty as you want it to.

Pour in whisked eggs. Let cook for thirty seconds then lower heat to low. The warm thirty seconds will set the bottom of the frittata. Then you want it to cook slowly.

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Continue to cook on low for ten minutes. While cooking, turn on broiler to high.

Add feta to the top and cook for another three minutes. The sides should be set, but the top should still be a little runny.

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Carefully place skillet into the broiler. Cook for three minutes. The frittata will puff up and become lightly brown.

Cover with chopped parsley.

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Cut like a pizza and enjoy!

Egg Series Day 3: Eggs for Breakfast

Eggs are great to add to your diet when you are trying to lose weight, especially at breakfast. There are studies that show eating eggs at breakfast can reduce your calorie intake by 400 calories per day. This is because the protein in eggs makes you feel fuller longer and you likely eat less than normal at your next meal.

The protein in eggs also gives you tons on energy in comparison to a carb-ladden breakfast so you are able to take on your day. In the 1960’s there was a campaign by the Egg Marketing Board saying, “Go to work on a egg.” The old adage is true and is something Adam and I have adapted thanks to our continuous supply of eggs.

I love to make omelets for breakfast because they are quick, easy and a great way to get some veggies in the morning as well. (Or, use up left overs from the night before.)

Below is one of my favorite omelette recipes that is super easy to create at home.

Spinach and Feta Omelette

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When I was twenty my family went on a Mediterranean cruise to celebrate my parent’s twenty-fifth anniversary. Everyday was jam packed with sightseeing and beach-ing so this was my go-to at the make your own omelette station on the boat. It was light, yet gave me tons of energy for our busy days. Feta and spinach are often in our fridge (Or garden, if it’s summer!) so not a lot of thought goes into recreating this one.

Omelettes can be intimidating and a little tricky. The way I see it is, if it looses it’s shape and becomes more of a egg scamble, who cares? It all taste the same in the end!

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Crack three eggs in a bowl, add a little S&P, a tablespoon of water and whisk with a fork.

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Melt a tablespoon of butter (Olive or grapseed oil works great too) in a skillet. Add Onions to cook, add spinach after onions begin to become golden. Stir to combine as spinach begins to slightly wilt.

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Add egg mixture to coat bottom of skillet.

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Cook together, peal back sides with a spatula. Once nearly all the egg is cooked and pulls from sides of skillet add cheese.

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Fold over and serve!

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There are so many great combinations of flavors that are great in omelettes. A close second favorite for me? Mexican style with lots of pepper, spice and salsa!

Breakfast of Champions!

Breakfast of Champions!