Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Eggsperiment in the Kitchen

Meet our ladies...and gentleman! We've have had a flock of chickens of one size or another for about 14 years or so. I always wanted to live on a farm but I grew up in a small-ish town in a typcial, middle-class neighborhood. We had a backyard garden and a neighbor accross the street who raised rabbits, but that was as close as I got. So when I met my husband and moved onto his 20 acres in the foothill, it was a dream come true as well as an education. Over the years we've raised cows and pigs for meat, we've had rabbits and a horse to add to our list of pets, and, of course, chickens.

Our current flock is pretty small, but even so we get often get as many as 5 or 6 eggs each day. It's really wonderful to wake up and hear the rooster crowing... To visit the "ladies" for their daily care and have them run up to the fence to greet me. They have a surprising amount of personality and it's really fun to see which kitchen scraps they enjoy. They really love popcorn, bread and pasta.

So this post is actually about eggs - specifically a comparison of store-bought eggs versus eggs from our little flock of ladies. I can remember a time when folks made a big deal about brown eggs versus white ones. The truth is, the color has absolutely nothing to do with it. It just happens that lots of folks who raise chickens happen to raise the breeds that lay brown eggs - so back then, if you saw a brown egg, there was a really good chance that it came from a small farm. The real difference in eggs raised on a small farm is what they are fed. I've noticed our eggs are at their best when the chickens get plenty of veggie scraps added to their diet. When they don't, they really start to resemble the eggs that come from the local grocery chain.

For the purposes of today's post, I traded a neighbor a dozen of our eggs for 4 of their store-bought eggs. There's actually a lot of information about this on the web - lots of it includes nutritional studies, so I won't go into that. But for those of you who ever asked "Is there really a difference" here's a chance to see the differences for yourself and I hope you'll feel encouraged to get ahold of some eggs from your local farmer's market, chicken-raising neighbor, or to simply pull into that farmhouse that you've been driving past for ages with the "eggs for sale" sign on their fence.

Which ones in the photo below do you think are the farm-fresh eggs?

How did you do?

So, for starters, you can see the not only are the yolks of the farm-fresh eggs much darker and brighter in color, but the whites are much clearer too. What you can't tell from the photo is that the whites and yolks also hold together much better - they don't spread out as much - in fact, the yolks are quite thick, as you'll see shortly.

Let's see what happens when I poke the store-bought eggs with a whisk...

Now our farm-fresh eggs:

It may be hard to tell from the photos, but the yolks in the eggs from our own chickens are quite thick and when you poke them, they tend to hold together where the store-bought eggs spread out very readily and have fairly runny yolks. It's like the difference between heavy cream and 2% milk.

Here they are beaten up, can you tell which is which?

Look how thick the farm-fresh eggs are as I pour them into the pan to cook them - they cling to the whisk and dish:

I think scrambled eggs are the best for comparison sake...

And finally, the finished scrambled eggs...

...just in case it isn't clear which is which:

It's hard to describe the difference in flavor, but the certainly is one - you'll just have to test that out for yourself! When you're baking with farm raised eggs, just keep in mind that you may need to adjust flour quantities a bit if the eggs are extra-large.

I hope you've enjoyed this little eggsperiment! I'll be publishing a separate post to share what I did with the farm-fresh scrambled eggs as soon as I can get it put together!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Hi everyone - I'm finally back, I'm sorry for the long absence - I've had a lot going on in my household lately - the kids moved back in with their mom (so the house is suddenly very empty), my parents and in-laws have been having lots of health issues and I recently left a job situation that was becoming very toxic. Time for new beginnings!

You would think with all this time on my hands that I'd be posting left and right, but honestly, realistically, I do need to find another "day" job so that has been consuming a fair amount of time and there was the holiday. My parents and sister joined us for the 4th - it was the first 4th I wasn't working in 4 years! I hope you all had a lovely, safe holiday. I neglected to take much in the way of photos - which is a shame because we had some lovely copper river salmon, grilled asparagus, roasted potatoes and watermelon margaritas...Can I just say - YUM!

This is some trail mix my husband made. It's loaded with apples and plums from our own trees that he dehydrated last fall.

We have a close, personal friend who has been supporting my cookie-baking habit by purchasing a dozen cookies from me every couple of weeks. I send him a container of cookies and when he's ready for more, he sends the container back. I'd been itching to make Snowcaps - a tasty, oreo-like variation of the Chocolate cookie recipe I used for Chocolate Salted Caramel Thumbprints which you can find here, so when his empty container was delivered to me last night, I knew just what to make him.

These are wonderfully dark chocolate cookies. In this case, I simply frost them with cream cheese frosting. Just look how dark the dough is...

...and the cookies fresh from the oven, before I hit 'em with the cream cheese frosting...

Oh no! I ran out of frosting!!! Hmmmm...Did I tell you these also make wonderful ice cream sandwiches? Well, they do! They are good...really good... Oh Darn! I guess I'll just have to get to the store and pick up some ice cream...

The cream cheese frosting recipe I use is my Grandma Marion's - both of my Grandma's were talented cooks and Grandma Marion's Carrot Cake is the best I've ever had. I'll post it here some time in the future, but I use her frosting recipe more than I make the cake since I like it on these cookies as well as on sugar cookies. The recipe makes a lot, enough for 2 cakes, and it freezes well, in fact, the frosting I used for the cookies came from the freezer from the last time I made her Carrot Cake. It comes together pretty quickly and you can go ahead and frost your cookies with it as soon as it's well blended, but if you beat it in your mixer a bit longer - you'll get a frosting that has a whipped-cream consistency - that is how I like it best.

Grandma Marion's Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 Cup Butter
8 oz Cream Cheese, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla (do not reduce vanilla, even if you halve the recipe)
1 lb powdered sugar
Milk, as needed

Cream butter, cream cheese and vanilla. Beat in one pound of powdered sugar (the recipe says to sift, but I never bother). Add milk if necessary to get the spreading consistency you prefer.

One thing about this frosting, it takes awhile to set up so be sure to allow plenty of time for the frosted cookies to dry before attempting to stack them on platters or adding them to cookie jars.