Eggs Benedict isn't nearly as difficult to prepare as you may think. The hardest part is getting all the components finished at the same time. This classic breakfast egg dish is a favorite at our house, especially when we have overnight guests. I like to prepare it simply, with just an English muffin, a poached egg and Hollandaise sauce - to allow our fresh eggs to really shine and take center stage. The key to perfect Eggs Benedict is using fresh eggs and fresh lemon juice.
Easy Eggs Benedict Recipe (serves two)
Four whole eggs plus 3 egg yolks
2 split English muffins
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
1 stick cold salted butter, cut into small pieces
Salt & white pepper to taste
Grated nutmeg for garnish (optional)
Poach the four whole eggs in barely simmering water until soft set. Toast the English muffins and keep warm.
Meanwhile prepare the sauce: Whisk the three egg yolks, fresh lemon juice and water in a heatproof glass (not metal) bowl set over a pot of boiling water. Slowly add the butter, a few pieces at a time , whisking continuously until the butter is incorporated.
Continue to whisk and cook the sauce for another minute or two until it thickens. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Immediately remove from heat. Place an egg on each muffin half, cover with sauce, and grate fresh nutmeg on top if desired. Serve immediately.
I love making homemade eggnog for the holidays. Since all the eggs I cook and bake with are fresh, laid by our own backyard flock, and have been handled properly, I feel confident making recipes that include partially cooked eggs.
This eggnog is a holiday tradition at our house. Our fresh eggs, along with scraped vanilla bean and freshly ground nutmeg, make it truly a guilty pleasure guaranteed to deliver plenty of holiday cheer. My recipe is pretty basic - adapted from a combination of Martha Stewart's Classic Eggnog recipe and Emeril's Eggnog recipe - and I always get compliments when I serve it to friends and family. It is a little more involved than some recipes, but so worth the extra effort!
(My recipe does contain alcohol, but please feel free to just omit the liquor if you want to make a family-friendly version.)
(makes approximately 3 quarts)
8 fresh eggs, plus 4 additional eggs separated
1-3/4 cups sugar
2 cups heavy cream, plus 1/2 cup
6 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup bourbon
1/4 cup sherry
1/4 cup brandy
Whisk the eight eggs plus the four additional yolks with the sugar in a medium bowl until pale yellow and thick. Heat the 2 cups heavy cream (reserving the 1/2 cup for later), the milk and the scraped vanilla bean in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, whisking just until tiny bubbles start to form around the edges.
Add about a cup of the milk mixture into the whisked egg and whisk to blend, then pour the egg/milk mixture into the hot milk in the saucepan and continue to cook (this prevents the egg from cooking before it is incorporated), whisking, for about 3-5 minutes, or until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl and allow to cool.
Once cooled, add the vanilla bean paste, nutmeg and liquors to the eggnog and stir well. In a small bowl, beat the 4 egg whites until soft peaks form and then gently fold into the eggnog. In a clean chilled bowl, beat the remaining 1/2 cup heavy cream to soft peaks and fold it into the eggnog. Refrigerate until chilled, then garnish with additional fresh grated nutmeg and serve.
When a pullet nears laying age, anywhere after 18 weeks old or so, she will most likely start to squat down when you approach. She will bend her legs, crouch, and sort of flatten her wings and back. So what does that all mean in her chicken world?
Squatting is a sign of submission – so she is shifting into the mating position for a rooster. If you don't have a rooster in your flock, she will often see YOU as the rooster.
The squat also signals that she will soon begin to lay eggs. Many fans on my Facebook page report collecting their first egg within days of noticing their young hen squatting.
Squatting is also a defensive position against a predator attack. By lowering her body to the ground, she is protecting her vulnerable underbelly, making herself a smaller target and holding still to hope to avoid detection by a motion-savvy aerial predator.
Pullets lower in the pecking order will also often squat for a higher-ranking older hen to show submission.
Regardless of the reason for the squat, it comes in very handy when you need to catch or pick up your hens or catch them!
So now you know. The next time you're outside with your flock, make it a point to notice among your young pullets who's squatting and who's not and you'll have a pretty good idea who your soon-to-be-layers are!
For more on what to expect when you're EGG-SPECTING, read HERE.
Fresh Eggs Daily
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Cold weather means a shortage of weeds and bugs for your chickens to scratch for. Bored chickens can be prone to pecking and bullying each other. This easy to make Seed Treat Block will keep your chickens happy and busy, as well as provide them with some warming grains and other ingredients to help them through the cold weather.
Here's what you need:
2 cups scratch grains (a mix of cracked corn, oats, barley & other mixed grains)
1 cup layer feed
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup Blackstrap molasses
1/2 cup coconut oil, liquified
Preheat oven to 325 F. In large mixing bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients and mix well. Pat into several small baking dishes or casseroles, so your blocks are approximately 2 inches thick. Three 6-inch round cake pans work perfectly. (Optional, use a chopstick to make a hole in each block so you can hang them in the run.)
Bake for 30 minutes, then cool completely. Run a knife around the inside rim of each pan and invert to remove the block. Serve to a flock of very happy girls. Leftovers can be refrigerated or frozen and then defrosted as needed. Serve in limited amounts as a treat.
If you enjoyed this recipe, you might also be interested in making your chickens Homemade Suet Blocks, a Scratch Treat Wreath or Edible Garlands to help them through the cold weather.
Fresh Eggs Daily
Doing farm chores in the winter is a bit more pleasant when your hands are warm. Mitten and gloves and be cumbersome when you need your fingers free. These cute felt hand warmers couldn't be easier to sew up and they not only make for toasty warm hands in the cold weather, but also are wonderful holiday gifts or stocking stuffers.
Here's what you will need:
100% wool felt in assorted colors (don't use polyester felt, it can melt when you heat it up)
Coordinating sewing thread
Red embroidery floss/embroidery needle
Filler (corn, rice, beans, etc)
Here's what you do:
Cut two 5" squares from each color felt then cut each square into a heart shape. Hand stitch your words with the embroidery floss (I just free-handed it) and then with the right sides together, sew along the outer edge, leaving a 1" opening. Carefully trim along the seams with sharp scissors, as close to the stitching as you can. Turn each heart right side out and machine stitch along the edge, stopping at your opening. Fill each heart with your filler and then neatly hand stitch the openings shut.
When you are ready to use your hand warmers, microwave them for 40-60 seconds or toss them in the dryer for a minute or two. Then tuck one into each coat pocket. They should stay warm for about half an hour.
Visit my Fresh Eggs Daily Blog and Facebook page for tips, tricks and advice to raising happy, healthy chickens naturally.
One of the main reasons I started raising chickens was to provide a healthy, economical food source for our family that I knew wasn't full of antibiotics or hormones, provides by animals that were loved and cared for in a humane way. So why would I raise a backyard flock and then pump them full of chemical-laden medications, wormers and antibiotics? Instead I have taken the natural route - with great success.
Until recently, I only had my own reading, 'research' and personal results to let me know that I was on to something. But in the last year or so, more and more is coming out in the news about the dangers of overusing antibiotics, in humans and animals, and studies are being done into natural alternatives for chickens.
The New York Times ran a story last year called In Hopes of Healthier Chickens, Farms Turn To Oregano about one chicken farmer using oregano oil and cinnamon as an antibiotic substitute to treat chickens. Sage is being studied to combat Salmonella, as evidenced by this article called Sage Could Protect Young Chickens against Salmonella.
I read these studies with great interest because they prove the things that I believe to be true. Herbs tend to work in the bodies of chickens the same way they do in humans and nearly every herbs and edible flower has great health benefits. I dry homegrown herbs, then crush them and add them to our layer feed for added nutrition and immune system benefits. I add fresh herbs and flowers to my coop and nesting boxes to provide some added protection from parasites, insects, rodents and snakes.
Growing herbs is inexpensive, easy and not only useful for cooking for your family, but simple to incorporate into your chicken keeping. Here are some of my favorites to use with our flock:
Lavender - stress reliever, insecticide, increases blood circulation (photo: iStockphoto.com/VeraDo)
Mint - insecticide and rodent repellent
Nasturtium - insecticide, natural wormer, laying stimulant
Oregano - contains antibiotic properties thought to combat coccidia, E.coli, avian flu and infectious bronchitis
Sage - antioxidant, thought to combat salmonella
Thyme - aids respiratory health, antibaterical and antioxidant
For a more comprehensive list of herbs, their benefits and how I use them in my chicken keeping, please visit The Ultimate Chicken Care Guide on my blog or purchase my new book, Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens...Naturally, newly released by St. Lynn's Press and available online or at your local bookstore.
Using natural cleaning products is so important to me for my family's health. It became even more important after we brought a corgi into our home this past spring because he literally walks around the house licking the floor (don't ask, I guess it's a corgi thing!) I can't risk using chemicals, so I switched to using natural (mostly homemade) cleaning products.
One area I was stuck on was a grout cleaner that actually worked. We have white tile and grout in our bathroom and the tile was fast becoming black. Between our two dogs, our cat and ourselves, we manage to track in a fair amount of dirt.
I tried several different concoctions I found on the internet with varying degrees of success. It wasn't until I tried mixing some things on my own that I stumbled upon a recipe that really does work.
ALL NATURAL TILE AND GROUT CLEANER
(makes enough to do one large kitchen or bathroom floor or two small ones)
3 cups warm water
1/2 cup baking soda
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup white vinegar
Whisk the ingredients in a large bowl. Using a funnel, pour some into a squirt bottle to use full strength on dingy grout. Spray grout liberally.
Add some water to the rest of the cleaner in the bowl and use a mop to clean the entire floor. Let it all sit for 10-15 minutes. Using an old toothbrush, scrub the grout, then mop the entire floor again with clean water. Your grout and tile will be sparkling. Discard any remaining cleaner.
You will be able to sleep better knowing that your grout is clean and no harmful chemicals were used. Winston, our corgi, was actually drinking out of the bowl while I was cleaning - with no ill effects. Again, it's a corgi thing....
Visit my blog Fresh Eggs Daily and Facebook page for tips and tricks to help you raise happy healthy chickens naturally.