Smart Training

Harley my  personal pacesetter.

Harley my personal pacesetter.

Once again this year I plan to walk a half marathon or two.   The first one is early in the season and it is time to get serious about my training schedule.   One of the hardest parts of getting ready is training smart.   Not only do you need to find the right training schedule to prepare you for race day.   On the other side of training smart involves safety.   I always think of a woman who was nabbed when running  in Northeastern Montana.   There is nothing you can do to prevent a nut who wants to nab a woman, but there are lots of things you can do to put yourself at the least amount of risk.  Some of the things I do to help my odds:

  • Don’t walk before the sun is fully up.   
  • Wear your reflective safety vest
  • If you must wear headphones, don’t wear them blasting.
  • Walking with a dog, even an ankle biter will can alert you to things you might miss before they are upon you.
  • Let someone know when you leave and should be back.
  • Don’t walk the same time and place every time.

Don’t let fear be your excuse not to get out there, but be smart.

Cooking Around what You Have

veg-webEach Saturday night or Sunday morning we do menu planning for the upcoming week.    We plan our menu around what we have, and what we think we might want to have for our dinners.   This week I got the Mexican Vegetables option with my Bountiful Basket. It was a gorgeous collection of food that inspires so much food south of the border.  This selection requires a much more adventuresome menu than Taco night. The package has more than you can incorporate in a single meal or two.  Here are some of what we have planned.

We had an assortment of Anaheim, Hatch and jalapeno peppers.   Can you say Chili Rellenos?

The avocados are calling to be made into some guacamole.  I will use some of the garlic, peppers, onion, lime juice  and cilantro.

The grey squash is going to be made up into Calabacitas con Queso.  If you don’t know what this is you are missing something great.

My Mexican collection included a Chayote.   I have never have had one of these,and I have picked a recipe called Garlic-Chili Roasted Chayotes to try this new veggie.

My chickens have started to lay again so Huevos Rancheros are on the menu for next weekends as brunch again.

Not only will we cook Mexican, but we have some andouille sausage so Jambalaya is on the menu, as well as Cuban Black Soup.

I am sharing this with you because we generally always buy and cook the same things.   It is hard to justify buying things you have never worked with, but  occasionally buy a single item you are unsure of.  Challenge yourself when you get home to find a way to cook it on the net.   You aren’t going to love them all, but you are going to try something new.  You will likely find more things that you like than you don’t.   Your menus will be a little less of the same old same old.  Life will be a little less routine, a little less boring.

Being Satisfied

E_PlayingCardQueen_DBDesignsSometimes life deals you cards that you think sucks.   Maybe they do, but how you choose to play those cards is what counts.   You can choose to flail yourself about and bemoan the cards you have been dealt.     I think that we so often forget that much of what happens in life we have no control over except how we react to it.   We go on and on about what happened to us.   Instead we should be putting on our big girl panties and pulling our boot straps up and deciding how we are going to play those cards.     Many folks have been dealt worse cards.   Lots of folks don’t have the skills to play their hand good or bad.   I am not advocating a Pollyanna attitude, but I am suggesting that we look for ways that we can put ourselves back in the driver seat of our life and drive on.    So take a good look at what you have been dealt and decide how you want to play your hand.   You can play your hand better than anyone else can.

Spring Thaw

snowMy chickens are going crazy as the days are getting longer, and the snow is  melting.   The snow piles are receding and starting to reveal the grasses hidden below.     The ladies  are now making tracks and traveling afar to find the tasty morsels of green grass and whatever else the snow has hidden away.

Today I came home from town and found them on the other side of the house picking through my rock wall. Yesterday they  traveled over to the neighbor’s place to find any goodies left by the horses.

Chickens are like Cowboys – most of what you think isn’t true

Chickens are sort of like cowboys.  There is a lot urban beliefs on what is based on TV shows and Hollywood movies.  If you live in true cowboy country you know many westerns are just plain crazy with things that are preposterous.    I am a transplant to Montana, and though I grew up in rural Illinois, my cowboy IQ before moving west was shameful.   After living here for a number of years I  have friends who own ranches, are married to true cowboys,  help out during branding, love to help bring  herds down in the fall, lady friends who have barrel raced for years, and  neighbors who have arenas on their property so they can practice their team roping skills.   I know so much more, but my cowboy IQ is still pretty low.    Some of favorite urban legends about the west are: horses whinny and talk all the time,  you can get off your horse and if you don’t tie it up it will be there when you come back twenty minutes later, all cowboys are sexy except the old chuck wagon cook, and none of them chew.

On the other hand I have had my own flock chickens for quite awhile and my chicken IQ is pretty high.      Here are some of my favorite chicken fallacies.

Rooster Farm_CottageArts

You need a rooster.  A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle, and a chicken needs a rooster about as much.   Unless you planning hatching chicks, there is no need for a rooster.   A rooster like a man is need to make babies, without it the female gender will produce eggs and slough them off.

Brown eggs are better, more nutritious, better flavor, you pick.   Brown eggs are a genetic egg shell color period.  Nothing more exotic than that.

Chickens scratch and wander around the “barnyard.”  Some chickens are great forager, meaning the scratch around looking for good food..   Others have no interest in moving around beyond going to the feeder. I pick my birds for their forage quality and I can tell you some are rock stars going out and finding the first green grass of the spring and others well they will get there, but if they miss out on a tasty morsel or grasshopper they don’t care.

Chickens are fed hormones or steroids to make them big faster.   The poultry industry doesn’t need to do this.   After years of selective breeding they have developed a bird that will “naturally” grow from egg to maturity in just about 6 weeks.   This breed is extremely efficient turning everything they eat into body weight.  They sit in cages and have food available to them non-stop.  They grow so big so fast, their legs often can’t hold them, and can get congestive heart failure.

sdrum_kitschykitchen_eggBASKETCage free or Free-range means something when buying eggs.

  • Technically yes cage free means exactly that the chicken that laid your egg was not in a cage.   It doesn’t mean it had a lot of space or could wander around the chicken coop, it just means it wasn’t in a pen. I am not sure if that is any better, chickens have a pecking order and can be quite mean to one another when allowed to be free, and in crowded conditions things always get worse.  Cage free generally  is just a bunch of free chickens crowded in a coop.
  • Free-range is a term that means the chickens had the opportunity to go outside.   It doesn’t mean they have a wonderful green lawn with bugs, slugs and seeds for them to eat.   It just means there is a door in case they want to use it.   There is no standard that says each free range bird must have at least two square inches of outdoor space.   It doesn’t mean they ever have to be so uncrowded in the coop that they could make their way to the sunshine.   Keeping chickens myself I can tell you it takes no time for them to denude green space, so odds are this free-range space has long since been picked free of any green material they might eat.

Organic or vegetarian eggs are better.   Organic just means they at organic food, it does not speak to how they were treated or raised.    The only advantage of organic in my mind is they are not fed food that was not raise with pesticides, but probably more importantly to me no vaccines or antibiotics.   Vegetarian eggs on the other hand is plain insanity.   Chickens are omnivores, like us they eat meat and veggies.   Vegetarian and free range are mutually exclusive.   You can’t let them egg bugs like they naturally do and call them vegetarian.

There are many more, but these are some of my favorites fallacies about chickens and cowboys.

Too Much of a Good Thing

We have way too many oranges in our refrigerator.   A couple weeks ago we bought a citrus mix box from Bountiful Baskets.    I am not sure why I did it other than I was fascinated with all the different kinds of  citrus that were possible.   They were offering three different kinds of mandarin types, several types of standard oranges including blood oranges, lemons and pomelos.  How could a girl refuse??   The foodie in me wanted to see and taste all the differences.

Now I have a refrigerator full of citrus and only two of us to eat it all.   What’s a girl to do?   Yesterday I made orange curd.   Good lemon curd is a mouth orgy  Orange curd seemed like a first step to using up all this citrus.   Besides my girls were now laying eggs again, I did not have to any longer be stingy with my pricey locally grown eggs.

Once I finished it my husband tasted and said interesting…what are we going to do with it.   Now I had moved a problem from one place to another, from the produce drawer to a shelf in the refrigerator.     It took a little thinking, but I did come up with a solution.   I pulled frozen lady fingers and strawberries from the deep freeze in the basement.   I frosted the lady fingers with orange curd, and layered them up.   Then  topped with with a smashed strawberry sauce.   Then my husband found a little left over huckleberry compote and tried that for his second serving.   Either way you served it yummy!

Here is the recipe I used from Southern Living Magazine December 2002

Fresh Orange Curd

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch 
  • 2 cups fresh orange juice ( I used juice from 3 kinds of mandarins & two kinds of regular oranges)
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange rind
    • Combine sugar and cornstarch in a 3-quart saucepan; gradually whisk in fresh orange juice. Whisk in lightly beaten eggs. Bring to a boil (5 to 6 minutes) over medium heat, whisking constantly.
    • Cook, whisking constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until mixture reaches a pudding-like thickness. Remove from heat, and whisk in butter and grated orange rind. Cover, placing plastic wrap directly on curd, and chill 8 hours.


The Incredible Edible Egg

eggsOur chickens, at least some of our chickens,  are back in the egg business again.   All I can say is Yahoo!  We have been paying dearly for locally laid eggs.

We do not supplement our chickens with light all year-long like many do.   They are given an egg laying holiday.  Winter is a chickens natural time to molt and stop laying eggs.   Normally hens need 10-12 hours of daylight to lay an egg.  The short days of winter cause this egg hiatus.     We let our hens go through at least part of the natural cycle of things.  Our hens stop laying sometime between October 1st and December 1st.   During that time there is lots of feathers flying as they take care of their seasonal molt.      As soon as we go into the new year and the days start to get longer  the holiday is over.    We start turning on the coop light when my husband leaves for work at 7am.     Instantly the days become longer.   It takes several weeks sometimes more for them to start laying again.   This year they have started at a new early record, the second week of February.   And as the keeper of chickens we could not be more thrilled.