Tag Archives: eggs

The Chickens Are Molting!

January was an especially bad month around here – not because of the pandemic or because of drought or fires or power shut-offs – or even because of the lingering political malaise.

It’s because we didn’t have eggs from Sandy and Stacey’s backyard hens.

Being in a pandemic-induced foul (fowl?) mood, I was inclined to march over to these normally-sweet hens and reprimand them. How could they possibly do this to us?! Don’t they know that everyone is feeling pretty grumpy at the moment – and we don’t need unexpected food shortages? Don’t they know that we don’t like to buy eggs at the grocery store? Don’t they know that we can barely get through breakfast without an egg – or two?

I guess creatures are behaving more normally than we humans are at the moment. Molting is a natural yearly occurrence for hens. And – in Andy’s Corner today – you’ll learn that hens aren’t the only ones enduring this yucky “clucky” experience. And, just so you know, I’m pretty sure my beloved Pecker never molted.

When the days grow shorter and chillier, chickens need to replace their old, scruffy feathers with new, tight, shiny ones to protect them from winter’s cold and rain and snow. Doing this requires lots of protein from their body; producing eggs also requires lots of protein. During a molt the hen’s body directs all the protein toward feather production, so egg production ceases. Interesting, huh?


Learning about that made me wonder why we can buy eggs in the grocery store all year long. Do commercially-raised hens not molt? The answer is a little complex and not all that appetizing. Here’s a good article from the University of Kentucky about it. Suffice it to say that commercial egg producers carefully regulate the light and temperature and food to control and shorten their hens’ molting.

According to the blog found on Nature.org, bird owners know that the “mood” or “personality” of their bird — whether it be a chicken, parrot or darling starling — can change dramatically during molt. The birds often retreat to quiet spaces, reduce their activity and just want to be left alone.

Maybe the pandemic is bringing out a molt in us!

The pandemic – and vaccines – also have an interesting tie-in to eggs. Apparently 82% of flu vaccines are egg based – and are produced from hens kept in highly secure – even secret – locations. According to CNN, every day hundreds of thousands of eggs are transported to vaccine-makers where the virus is then grown in the eggs.

Rest assured, COVID vaccines are not egg-based. At least a shortage of eggs due to molting is not something that will interrupt our COVID vaccinations! Thank goodness for little things.

Just as I was immersed in my research about molting, my friend Susan sent me a favorite recipe which came from her Granny. Susan promised me that everyone she’d ever served this cake to loved it. Now Susan and I go way WAY back, having grown up together on little South Shields Street acreages in Fort Collins, Colorado, back when South Shields Street was still country. I know she raised Jersey cows (Susan reports she milked four cows twice a day!) but maybe Susan and her mom and Granny didn’t raise chickens, because her cake recipe has no eggs. I was sure Susan had just left out that seemingly-crucial cake ingredient, but when I did some checking I found those egg-less cakes used to be called “Depression” or “War” cakes, since they were baked a lot during times when eggs were either expensive or hard to find (or maybe it was November in Colorado and – like all smart hens – they were molting!).

The cake is delicious as is – and also perfect for anyone who is vegan, but it’s February and Sandy and Stacey’s hens are back on my good side. I may even try Granny’s cake with an egg added and do a taste test.

If your local hens are molting and breakfast is looking grim, we suggest Overnight Steel Cut Oats, Ginger Scones, Andy’s Biscuits, and Deb’s Granola. But if you’re craving dessert – and have no eggs – well, Granny’s Applesauce Cake will be your go-to.

Granny’s Applesauce Cake

Granny's Applesauce Cake

The recipe can easily be doubled.  If doubling, use a greased and floured bundt pan and bake for about 1 hour +  or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  If you want to be fancier, put whole pecans in the bottom of the bundt pan so that when the cake is removed from the pan, the top is decorated with pecans.  And, yes, there are no eggs in it.

  • 1/3 c butter, softened (I used 1/2 c to keep it simple) (to make this vegan, simply substitute oil for the butter)
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 c sweetened (or unsweetened) applesauce; use unsweetened if you’re keeping sugar at a minimum
  • 1 tsp vanilla (optional)
  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cloves (I used 1/4 tsp, since I’m not a big fan of cloves)
  • 1/4 tsp salt (optional)
  • 2 c chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts work well)
  • 1 c raisins
  • whipped cream or ice cream for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Butter and flour an 8″ cake pan.

Beat the butter and sugar together with a hand mixer.  Stir in the applesauce and vanilla.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt.  Stir that into the applesauce mix and then stir in the nuts and raisins.

Bake for 30 – 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Recipe brought to you by Susan in Fort Collins, BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

Lagniappe: Shakshuka for Mother’s Day

“I’m probably just as good a mother as the next repressed, obsessive-compulsive paranoiac” (from Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott).

Two days ago we announced the Raggedy Awards – our favorite blogs and recipes from the last year.  Well, this is my current favorite recipe, hands down.  I’ll have it for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or a light dinner.  And I’d like it for Mother’s Day, Andy – and thanks for your role in my celebrating Mother’s Day.

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Shakshuka, according to one of my favorite cookbook authors, Yotam Ottolenghi, probably originated in Tunisia but is also popular all over Israel.  I love the harissa paste and the red pepper in this version, but there are lots of ways you can vary the recipe, according to your taste.  Ottolenghi says that potatoes and eggplant can be used, but I haven’t tried that yet.


Double the recipe for serving 6-8.  When we make this recipe for just the two of us, we use 2 eggs, dish up about only about half of the sauce when serving and then a few days later reheat the leftover – and refrigerated – sauce, add 2 eggs, cook 7 minutes, and we’ve got another quick and easy meal.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp harissa paste (optional – but adds great flavor.  Sriracha is a good substitute)
  • 1 tsp tomato paste (optional)
  • 1/2 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 14 oz can crushed tomatoes (about 1 1/2 c)
  • 1 c spinach, chopped (optional); you can also use baby arugula
  • 2-4 eggs
  • pinch of additional salt and pepper for the eggs
  • 1/4 c Greek yogurt – for topping (optional)
  • Toasted rustic bread to sop up the yummy sauce and egg yolks

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and add the onion, harissa, tomato paste, bell pepper, garlic, cumin, paprika, and salt. Stir and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes to allow the peppers and onion to soften. Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes longer – until the sauce thickens slightly and the flavors blend.  Then add the chopped spinach, stir well, and cook and stir until the spinach is wilted – just a few minutes.  Taste for seasoning.

Make 4 little indentations in the sauce. Gently break the eggs into the indentations.  Sprinkle the eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cover the pan and simmer gently for about 7-9 minutes – or until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still runny. Remove from the heat, let sit for a couple of minutes and then spoon into individual bowls and serve with the yogurt and the toast.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.


Dogs, Dinner Parties, and Echinacea

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Before delving into Hippocrates’ command,  which, of course, I think is great, and before you delve into Andy’s blog about un oeuf, I want to discuss Apollo.

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Apollo Guards the Herds (or Flocks) of King Admetus, 1780–1800 by Felice Giani

The Greek god Apollo is associated with medicine and healing.  So it’s not surprising that Apollo, the name of the dog in my current hands-down favorite novel, The Friend, by Sigrid Nunez, helps his new owner in her dealing with grief.  I think we animal lovers would not even question how much the love and companionship of an animal (shall we omit cats from this blanket statement? At least OUR cats!) contribute to the quality of our daily lives and mental – and even physical – health (I’m not the dog-walker in the family, but I acknowledge that walking a dog is a healthy exercise).

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Let a Dog be your Healer and your Healer (maybe a Blue Heeler?) be a Dog.  Not as eloquent as the quote attributed to Hippocrates, but not bad.

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A Blue Heeler aka Australian Cattle Dog.  I want one.  But do I need one?

If dogs are healers, I think flowers and plants and gardens are also healers in many ways.  To be In the Garden (a song, which was sung with great enthusiasm by the musical side of my family when gathered around the piano/organ) is to find solace in nature – assuming your garden is not overrun with gophers, moles, voles, fruit flies, and hornworms.  According to this relevant article on gardening as therapy, Colorado State University offers a degree with a focus on Horticultural Therapy.  Kind of a cool idea.  Maybe I’ll suggest it to our college-bound grandson.

Echinaceas are a favorite perennial in our garden – and echinacea is also my go-to if I think I’ve been exposed to someone who has a cold or the flu.  The research supporting echinacea’s medicinal properties is still TBD, but I’m a believer….but only if you take it before your fledgling-symptoms have turned into a full-fledged sickness.

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Echinacea is lovely in so many ways

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Our natural plant and bee-based armament for colds, coughs, wounds…you name it.

Now about food (I occasionally forget that this is supposed to be a food blog):  Ceres may have been Roman, not Greek, but she was a goddess of “agriculture, grain crops, fertility and motherly relationships” and a Northern California group has named their organization after her.  And that organization is preparing and delivering food to cancer patients, hoping to show that good food can, indeed, work as medicine.

A NYTimes article elaborates even more on new research being done into food as medicine.  Not only have UCSF and Stanford joined up to explore the link, but the Times reports that the U.S. House of Representatives Hunger Caucus recently launched a Food Is Medicine Working Group to look at how “research into medically tailored meals might inform national policy” (with the goal being to keep medical costs down!).  Will wonders never cease.

But good food can contribute to our mental health, as well as our physical health.  We wholeheartedly agreed when our friend Lynne recently suggested that getting friends together around a dinner table may be a great way to help our psyches – which may need lots of help given this day and age (perhaps with the caveat that hugely-controversial subjects are best left for other times and places).

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The fascinating and somewhat controversial Judy Chicago’s “Dinner Party” – at The Brooklyn Museum, just across the street from our son’s place

Six years ago the NYTimes posted an essay bemoaning the death of the dinner party, “Guess Who Isn’t Coming to Dinner,” the gist of it being that increasing food sensitivities, hand-held devices, and inability to converse are contributing to the demise.  A relevant quote from the article states that dinner parties had “a sense of fun and community and gathering people together for good simple food.”

We think it would be great if the old-fashioned dinner parties were reactivated.   Call them a “Pot” luck?  Mmmmm.  How about a “Dining In?”  Andy has memories of Dining Ins in Vietnam… defined as dinner and drinks – and lots of toasts – for officers in a military company, intended to foster camaraderie.  That’s also what the NYTimes new food writer, Alison Roman, calls her “easy, impressive dinner” ideas column.  Our Dining Ins can be defined as Easy, Impressive Dinners Intended to Foster Camaraderie.

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When we were in the LSU Newcomers’ Dinner Club years ago, a hostess would put together a menu with recipes and then each person would make and bring their assigned dish.  That was a nice touch because it kept the dinner from being too mish-mash – which could happen if everyone just brought something they wanted to cook.

Since Apollo is a Greek god, why don’t you start with a Greek-themed dinner party; I’ve made sure that every recipe can be made a day ahead of time so no one has a last minute rush and everyone arrives relaxed and ready for stimulating conversation and delicious food and wine (or beer or milk, if you insist). Continue reading

The Egg & I

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Yes, our eggs from our neighbors Sandy and Stacey are multi-colored, just like these.

While Andy is over-emoting about the cute “chicks” in the wire-fenced yard of our friends, Sandy and Stacey, telling me about how soft and sweet the hens “talk,” about how beautiful they are, about how funny they are, I can only think about my childhood pet rooster, Pecker.  Maybe I’m thinking about him because of all the news headlines of the last month.  Or maybe I just like roosters more than hens.

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Me, Pecker, and our old Chevy pickup

I suppose you’re wondering why I named him Pecker.  In the mind of a 10-year-old, if a chicken goes around pecking at things, Pecker seems pretty logical.  In the eyes of that 10-year-old’s mother, the perspective is different.   Suffice it to say, my mother – in a 1950’s parental approach –  could never bring herself to explain to me why that name might not be appropriate.  And the only inkling I ever had that it had something off about it was the night Pecker didn’t appear for his feeding and I loudly called – all over the only-slightly-rural neighborhood – “Pecker, Pecker, Pecker,” at which point my mother hushed me but still didn’t explain why.

But we’re talking about eggs here.

It’s 11:30 a.m.; Andy is bicycling; I am hungry.  We have no leftovers left.  Super Chicken Hen to the rescue.Screen Shot 2017-11-10 at 8.10.43 AM

A 6″ frying pan, a little butter, one egg, a tortilla or some kind of bread, one or two add-ons, and you’ve got lunch – or brunch – or even dinner for one.  Add another egg and you can serve two.

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Scrambled Egg Tacos with Salsa Verde


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Scrambled Eggs with Spinach, Goat Cheese and Pita (and Fuyu persimmons, if you’ve got them)


Egg prosciutto sandwish

Scrambled Egg Muffin Sandwich with Prosciutto, Cheese, and Arugula

Super Simple: The Egg & I

  • Servings: 1
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Scrambled Egg Tacos with Salsa Verde

  • 1 T butter
  • 1 large egg
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 or 2 small tortillas
  • 2 tsp salsa verde (we like to make our own – but use jars of Herdez Salsa Verde as a back-up)
  • chopped cilantro to garnish (optional)

Heat a small frying pan over medium heat; add the butter; when the butter is almost melted – but not browned – add the egg and gently scramble, adding salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from the heat.  Heat the tortillas directly over the flame of a gas range – or on a hot cast iron (un-oiled) pan, turning several times, until they start to brown at the edges.  Place the eggs on the tortillas and add the salsa.  Eat and enjoy.

Scrambled Eggs with Spinach, Goat Cheese, and Pita Bread

  • 1 T butter
  • handful of chopped, fresh spinach (or frozen, quickly defrosted in the microwave)
  • 1 large egg
  • about 1 T of goat or feta cheese, cut or crumbled into small pieces
  • 1/2 of a large pita bread or one mini pita, toasted
  • a sprinkling of hot paprika
  • slices of peeled fuyu persimmon in the winter or tomato in the summer (optional)

Heat a small frying pan over medium heat; add the butter; when the butter is almost melted – but not browned – add the spinach and cook and stir until it’s wilted, then add the egg and goat cheese and gently scramble, adding salt and pepper to taste.  Add a sprinkling of hot paprika to the eggs and then serve them with or in the pita bread.

Scrambled Egg Muffin Sandwich with Prosciutto, Cheese, and Arugula

  • 1 English muffin
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 slice of prosciutto, diced
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 T of grated cheese (Parmesan, Cheddar, Swiss, or Gruyere)
  • a bit of arugula and a slice of tomato, if tomatoes are in season
  • a few dashes of Tabasco Sauce (optional – but not for me)

Put the English muffin in the toaster to toast.  Heat a small frying pan to medium heat; add the butter and prosciutto and cook until the prosciutto is slightly browned and getting crispy.   Add the egg and gently scramble, adding salt and pepper to taste (remember that the prosciutto is salty).  Add the cheese just before the egg is totally scrambled and carefully mix it in. Butter the English muffin, both top and bottom;  put the egg and arugula on the bottom half of the muffin, add the top – and sit down, relax, and enjoy. [/recipe-ingredients]

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals and Andy and Ann



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