Thank goodness God made the "Hen" and the "Cow"! What would we have ever used without milk or eggs in our little food world? Most Americans here throughout the "Bible Belt" eat a couple eggs almost every morning of their lives, I know I do, with a slice of toast slathered with butter or a biscuit for sure. If there were a way to have a chicken coop in this small back yard of mine, you would see me naming and petting them critters. It's also my understanding if you talk to your chickens and feed them well; you get more eggs, but that petting part can prove to be nearly impossible. There is absolutely nothing better to me then daily fresh eggs fried up for breakfast or that perfect omelet and thick sliced bacon or sausage.
I have had my ears open lately when folks talk chicken, I'm in learning mode I reckon, and around here there seems to be more chickens on farms then people. Thank you Tyson Foods! Here in the area most are raised for meat, but a few are laying hens. My wonderful neighbors have been bringing over a dozen fresh laid eggs on occasion, and they are incredibly a treat. Everyone should have egg sharing neighbors; it sure makes life a little better to share the love!
The eggs that my neighbors bring must be young hens with hormones tweaking, because there sure are a lot of double yokes in the mix. Younger chickens seem to have more breeding hormones, thus the reason for the doubles. In turn fresh double yolk eggs make moister, richer, cakes and smoother sauces because of the added fats and richness of the yolks. However, boiling fresh eggs for deviled eggs or egg salad etc., can be a nightmare. Fresh eggs are almost impossible to peel; it takes a little age on them to help separate the shell from the inner shell membrane itself. Because the shell is actually porous, age gives time for air to penetrate the shell creating more of an air pocket. So, basically, those store bought eggs usually have a couple weeks on them and would be a lot easier to peel then your eggs straight from the hen house.
I've recently learned if you feed a chicken things like a few orange peels or vegetables loaded with "Lutein" like kale, collards, broccoli, spinach, zucchini or alfalfa, you get a wonderful, deeper orange, and healthier yolk packed with omega 3, especially if sea kelp or flax seed is fed to them. "Xanthophylls" (a class of carotenoid that is natural plant pigments found in many fruits and vegetables) are found in darker greens and that is what causes the healthier darker orange of the yolk. Yes, carrots are orange and filled with beta carotene, but they contribute more to nutrition then color. Most people if asked, what color a yolk is, will say yellow. If you feed those chickens corn like some factory raised chickens are, you get a deeper golden yellow yolk, but corn fed chickens will have less of a nutritional value and if you ask me, much less of a taste.
Chickens are also omnivores and are meant to eat meat, so worms, crickets, grubs, and bugs should also be part of their diet. If you have a few chickens running around your backyard, let them roam through your garden for a few greens and a pasture if you have one, so they can eat a few bugs. A healthy chicken is a happy chicken and a happy chicken will give you the best eggs. Of course, I prefer those farm fresh, straight from the coop. chicken eggs, but the pasteurized eggs you get at the grocery store are normally fed a consistent healthy diet and are fully packed with nutrition and vitamins, most of the time. Some store eggs have more nutrition then the eggs we get from those pet chickens we raise, but I have found you can't beat the flavor you have in fresh eggs from a few local healthy chickens.
I cook a lot of eggs in various ways and add them into batters and such, but I'm not that educated on the actual chicken except as a protein for cooking. Maybe a short course on "Chicken Psychology" might be in order for the near future. I wouldn't mind knowing how they think, and why they cross roads if nothing else. I've been told I do a pretty good impression of the "Chicken Dance". Don't ask me to show you though, at this age someone might get hurt, namely me!
If you have a hen for eggs and cook a lot, you'll need a cow for milk, cream, and butter. Eventually a pig or two maybe, but pigs you can't milk (and I wouldn't give it a try) and they don't lay many eggs either. Cow's milk however, is very useful in the food world and even more so sometimes when it ages or sours. Please know though that soured milk is notably different then spoiled milk. Spoiled from being in the wrong temperature too long and building a high bacteria count enough to make one sick is a whole lot different, than say a controlled refrigerated souring of milk which can be very useful for many things in a kitchen environment. From buttermilk, cheeses, clotted cream, cake batters, crème fraiche, to a huge list of many food related uses, soured milk with that delicious tang can be quite tasty. Actually, one of my dad's favorite meals has to be a tall glass of buttermilk with some good cornbread crumbled up in it. As a matter of fact, the use of milk and milk related items would be the longest list you could make when talking food lists and the oldest form of food intake known as far as us humans or mammals are concerned.
To sum it all up, the hen and the cow are the greatest gifts to all of us for use in the culinary end of living. Without them, foods would be so limited. They are used and combined in so many ways, with so many other items, for texture or palatability alone, that their many uses are endless. The scientific structure of both eggs and milk cause many possibilities in various ways. For example, the proteins found in the yolk of an egg can be emulsified or mixed with the fats found in an oil to form mayonnaise. Thin it back down with a little acid like lemon juice or vinegar to stabilize it and add a few herbs for flavor and you have salad dressing for your mixed greens or a binder for great chicken salad.
Milk on the other hand is not only drinkable but helps to provide calcium and vitamin D for strong bones and teeth. The earliest I remember even noticing milk was a glass of fresh milk straight from the cow. I was given that glass of cold milk and was told the subtle taste of onion was from the cows eating the wild onions out in the field. It was absolutely wonderful and I've never forgotten that flavor. Nowadays, the fresher and colder the milk, the more likely I'm willing to drink a glass. But put a few days on it and for me, it's only good for cooking or coffee. But hey, that's me, I'm sure there are several folks that can't get enough and drink the stuff at most their meals.
There are so many recipes that include both eggs and milk or a product of them, that it could be endless trying to list them all. Cornbread is a perfect example that we all can relate too. So here are a few including my fancied up version of my favorite cornbread. Of course nothing goes better with fresh buttered up, crispy crusted, and cast-iron cooked, cornbread here in the south then a pot of seasoned pinto beans.
After writing this blog today you can bet all your best chickens I'll be having some beans and cornbread for supper now that I've mentioned it!
My Favorite Southern Cornbread w/ Bacon, Scallion, and Cheddar Cheese
This is definitely my favorite cornbread. I also make "Ho-Cakes" (fried pancake style cakes) out of this batter and top with pulled pork BBQ. They are so good together!
6 slices thick sliced bacon, (Oscar Mayer)
2 large eggs
2-3 ounces sour cream, more or less depending on taste
1 1/4 cups buttermilk, more or less depending on dryness
1 can of creamed corn
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 cups self rising cornmeal mix, (Martha White® Self-Rising Enriched White Corn Meal Mix)
1 cup self-rising flour
1 good pinch of salt
1 good pinch of sugar
dash of white pepper, (a must if you ask me)
1/4 cup mild cheddar cheese, shredded
1/3 cup scallions, (green onions, whites included), thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 425ºF.
Meanwhile in a large cast-iron skillet cook bacon until crisp, transfer to paper towels to drain, reserving bacon grease in pan. Remove skillet off heat leaving oil in pan, set aside. When bacon has cooled crumble into larger pieces, set aside.
In a large bowl add eggs, sour cream, buttermilk, cream corn, vegetable oil and stir to combine until eggs are incorporated. Add cornmeal mix, flour, salt, sugar, and white pepper, folding easily until dry ingredients are thoroughly moistened but not over-worked; (note: use extra buttermilk if too dry, at 2 tablespoons at a time. Mix should resemble a thicker chunky cake batter.), set aside to rise a little stirring back down on occasion.
Place skillet with oil in oven to heat for 8-10 minutes. Remove and pour batter into oil being careful not to let oil over sides of skillet, but full. Top with crumbled bacon, cheddar cheese, and scallions, pushing down a little with the back of a spoon if needed.
Bake until golden brown (about 35-40 minutes or longer), until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean but not wet. Remove and allow to slightly cool. Then invert onto a serving plate and serve or cut and serve right from the skillet.
Coke Cola Pot Roast
That cornbread goes well with this twist of a pot roast, I figured these cooler nights we are having lately might call for a heartier meal, but seriously, pot roast is good anytime of the year.
1 can Coke Cola
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
6 large garlic cloves, minced
1 navel orange, thinly sliced
1 cup low sodium soy sauce, or just a smaller bottle of it works fine
3 tablespoons good olive oil, divided
1 boneless chuck roast, (about 4 pounds), fat trimmed
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced on the bias
1 1/2 bags mini Yukon gold potatoes, (almost 2 pounds) washed, cut in half
2 large onions, largely cut in about 8 pieces
1 pound baby portabella mushrooms, a package, brushed clean with a paper towel
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup water
Combine Coke Cola, 1st onion, garlic, orange, soy sauce, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large zip-top plastic freezer baggy. Add the chuck roast, tossing and turning to coat. Place in a large bowl to prevent spills and chill 6 hours (up to 24 hours).
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Remove roast from baggy, reserving marinade.
Sprinkle both sides of the roast with fresh ground pepper.
In a large heavy skillet or Dutch oven heated to hot, with the last tablespoon of olive oil (more if needed) sear the roast on all sides (browning with the hot skillet is okay and even better).
Add reserved marinade, releasing tidbits from bottom of pan. Bring to a boil, cover with heavy aluminum foil or lid of Dutch oven.
Bake for 3 hours. Flip the roast over, and add carrots, potatoes, onions and mushrooms. Continue to bake 2 more hours or until roast and vegetables are tender.
Transfer roast and vegetables to a serving dish.
Skim fat from juices in pan.
Whisk cornstarch and 1/2 cup water in a small bowl until smooth. Whisk cornstarch mixture into juices in pan; cook over medium heat until thickened, scraping bottom to loosen tidbits.
Pour a little gravy over the roast. Serve the rest of the gravy with the meal.
Quick Light and Tangy Low-Cal No-Bake Lemony Pie (diabetic friendly)
This dessert is simple but great, there are so many variations to concocting your own special flavor. I'd have to give Kraft Foods the credit for this base flavor, but the variations alone that I have made like using the new Margarita flavor drink mix are my creations along with fresh fruit for an added touch. Of course it can be made without the fat-free, sugar-free ingredients but I am diabetic so it tremendously helps my sweet tooth.
1 package fat free cream cheese, (8 oz.), Philadelphia, softened
1 teaspoon Crystal Light Lemonade Flavor Drink Mix, do not use the "Crystal Light on the Go", it's not strong enough
1/4 cup cold fat-free milk
2 tubs Cool Whip Free whipped topping, (8 oz.), thawed
1 ready-to-use reduced-fat graham cracker crumb crust, (6 oz.)
Beat the cream cheese and drink mix in large bowl with mixer until well blended. Gradually beat in milk.
Whisk in Cool Whip and spoon into crust, refrigerate 4 hours or until firm. Top with more Cool Whip to garnish and add a few lemon slices for decoration if you like.
You can use any flavor drink mix for different flavors of pie.
If a stronger tanginess is desired, an additional 1/2 teaspoon of drink mix should work well.