Monday, September 19, 2011

chicken family

Chicken Family is what my aunt Jeanie calls her neighbors. Because… they have chickens! In the middle of suburban Maryland! It’s quite adorable, looking out their window and spying a row of chickens just chilling on a post.

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The chickens pretty much have free rein to wander around the backyard, consuming bugs as they like, enjoying the fresh air. I would like to believe that this is the life of the chickens whose eggs I buy at the farmer’s market.

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There are actual multiple generations of chickens- the chicks, those shorter ones, are only six weeks old. Don’t they grow FAST?!

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This chicken got stuck under their patio (somehow… it practically touches the ground) and my aunt was chicken-sitting at the time. She thought her neighbors would return to a house with a decomposing chicken corpse beneath it. She felt bad for both the chicken and the family. But behold! Ironically enough on Easter morning, the chicken somehow emerged from her grave, with only a bloody head to show for it.

She’s still kinda bald.

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My aunt Jeanie is an expert chicken handler by this point, so she showed us all how she held Buttercup. (Buttercup is actually the “daughter” of Sunny, one of the other chickens. Kind of the alpha chicken, actually). Because since she was a chick she had humans around, including the daughters of Chicken Family, she is very calm and friendly and okay with being held.

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I held her and was astonished to realize how soft and warm and almost pet-like a chicken feels like. Didn’t know what to expect, exactly. You do have to hold down their wings, though, not in a restraining way but in a reassuring them you won’t drop them way. I got a little loose and Buttercup got a little nervous and flappy.

Steve did great, too!

Then it was back to Jeanie’s to raid the fig tree. This tree was a birthday present from Tim, Jeanie’s husband, three years ago, and it is now PROLIFIC! Which means lots of figs for Lele :D

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There are few things in this life that I find more delicious than the sweet, earthy, juice bite into a fresh fig.

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We idly mused about cooking and then decided to get Thai takeout instead. Works for me!

Apps- chicken satay and spring rolls. Classic.

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Pad thai, pad see ew, eggplant in garlic sauce…

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… rice, green curry (pad thai closeup. Though I’m sure most of you have seen pad thai before.)

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I love eating at Jeanie’s cause she has these GORGEOUS huge, architectural-looking Crate+Barrel bowls. They make everything look so glamorous!

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My meal was heavy on the plants.

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Then Chicken Man (father of Chicken Family. I mean, not the biological father of the chickens, obviously) arrived with HOMEMADE RAVIOLI SAMPLES.

The bomb dot com!

There was tomato ravioli with shallot-ricotta-herb filling

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And (to DIE for), spinach ravioli with VENISON FILLING! Chicken Family is seriously legit about the food they eat. They see the chickens every day, they collect the eggs.. and sometimes they head out to deer country to get themselves some venison.

I had definitely never had venison before and oh. em. gee. It is FANTASTIC! So tender, so flavorful. And lean and healthy! I am totally craving more Bambi meat!

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Jeanie had an odd new product and said her friend had claimed wild health benefits from it. And said I should take a picture.

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So I did, and she went, “Eh. Tastes like apple cider vinegar.”

So an unofficial product review, if you will.

Went to Jeanie’s again the other weekend for a porchwarming party. (She and Tim just got a sweet new porch. It’s super beautiful and screened in and I kind of want to live there). The party was fantastic, because Tim and his two friends had a JAM SESSION! Tim plays guitar and mandoline, and his friends play cello and standing bass and it was an awesome mix with everything from Crosby, Stills and Nash to Poison (!!! How I love evvvvvvvvvvvery rose has its thooooooooorn).

Wanting to contribute, I brought recycling cookies.

To explain, when my sister leaves town (as she did at the end of August to return to school) she inevitably leaves a bunch of her food around. Her food, while certainly nothing to be judgmental about, is the kind of food I prefer not to eat.

I though, however, that the various candies and things would make awesome mix-ins for a sort of compost cookie experiment.

The goods:

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My Southwest Airlines Lorna Doones and my sister’s white chocolate Reese’s, trail mix, and white chocolate chips.

I made myself a basic cookie batter, inspired by the Momofuku compost cookie recipe that you can find on The Google (though I tried to health it up a bit with whole what flour and less sugar- since I added only candy-type stuff and none of the savory mix-ins)…

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Then mixed in my junky stuff.

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Didn’t get a picture of the final product, wouldn’t you know it (I actually just failed to trust my own self control around the junky food, which is part of the reason I baked it into cookies. So when I baked junky food cookies, I then FROZE them until immediately before the party. Because to be frank, I am a sugar crack addict).

But I sure ate them at the party :D And they got RAVES. My cousin Ashley kind of stared at me with wide eyes and said, “I didn’t know you could bake cookies like this!”. And all the boys kind of just kept grabbing handfuls. Aww.

I Have Too Much Junk Food Cookies

2 oz. butter
½ a cup canola oil
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups baking ingredients candy/trail mix/junky food. You could do potato chips or pretzels or something savory- if you do, you may want to up the

In a mixer, cream together butter, sugar, and oil until smooth. Scrape down the sides of your bowl. Then add egg and vanilla, mixing slowly until incorporated.

Mix together dry ingredients (flour through salt) and slowly add to batter with mixer going slowly. Dough will still be sticky. Fold baking ingredients (junk food) into the batter with a spatula until just incorporated. It is a good idea to chill it- you could chill it for a long time in the fridge, or as I did, just chuck it in the freezer for 15 minutes or so.

Bake at a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes or so, or until done. My cookies were soft and tender!

Now, I had actually divided the leftover junk food in the cupboard into chocolate and non-chocolate catergories. My plan for all this chocolate (much of it mint-infused)? Brownies, naturally.

I had Jello Mousse Sensations, a product with one of the most alarmingly unpronouncable ingredient lists I’d seen in a long time; Trader Joe’s chocolate mint creams which actually seemed to be made of real food but neither my mom nor I go for creams, and Hershey’s air, which I guess is designed for people who eat air.

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Creams and Hershey’s went into a microwave-safe Pyrex measuring cup with enough milk to cover them and got melted down.

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Meanwhile, I’d whipped up the “mousse” with an egg to make a smoothish fluffyish mixture. I added the chocolate to that.

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Then I added a teaspoon of baking powder and enough flour to make it look like brownie batter? This was entirely memory-based, intuitive cooking of what it should look like. I added a little cocoa powder, too, both for thickening and a little more bitter chocolateness, since all the chocolate I was adding was pretty heavily sweetened.

I put it in a brownie pan and baked it in a 400 degree oven for half an hour or so—til it passed the toothpick test.

And then?

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Holy crap! I made delicious, fudgy, minty brownies out of a desire to recycle junky food! They were SO GOOD and had the PERFECT TEXTURE!

I’d planned to bring them to potluck, something Steve has sort of tried to revive with this year’s Americorps group, but… didn’t happen. No one showed. So Steve enjoyed some, and then I tried to leave them at his house and he was all “No! No!” so I said, “Fine, give them to Katie”, my old supervisor whom I adore who he planned to see at work the next day.

So food was recycled and good chocolate went to a good person. A highly successful endeavor.

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2 comments:

Steven Alexander Heathcliff Basil Bert said...

The Easter chicken makes my heart sing. It's absolutely gnarly with style. And those cookies were gut bustin' glorious. In fact they've earned a wonder ballad:

I’ve tasted nothing butter,
You make my lips equipped,
To sing your praises, after fits and crazes
Of schnarfing your chunks and chips

I’ll miss your glory pockets
Your flavor and your zing
So inherently sweet you’re such a treat
To me you’re everything

Nice work Chef Lele

All Things Yummy said...

I'm trying to convince my sister to get chickens. She has the perfect yard for it. just too cute.