Egg-in-a-Nest Eggsperiment

egg-in-a-nest

Have you ever wondered what the big deal is about the “free range” eggs? Sure their momma’s have a better life and I love knowing that, but are the eggs really any different? Can you see and taste the difference?

Sophia Oliver and Clare


I had the chance to eggsperiment this week when my daughter-in-law, Kara and her three little ones were staying with us. While they were here, they visited a family friend’s farm. The girls chased the free roaming chickens, collected just laid eggs and then brought me the eggs. What a wonderful gift!

eggs collected by Sohpia and Clare - marked with s and c


One of my favorite breakfasts is Egg-in-a-nest so I got out both boxes of eggs – farm fresh and store bought – to compare.
I had heard that eggs from a farm: 1) have darker yolks, 2) have larger yolks, and 3) taste better. I understand they also are better nutritionally, but I had no way to compare that, so I set out to test the first three assumptions.

butter whole wheat bread


Ingredients
Whole wheat bread – we used two per person
Eggs – one for each piece of bread
Butter – softened – about 1 tsp per slice
salt and pepper to taste

butter side down on frying pan

free range egg

store bought egg


Directions
Butter each slice of bread.
Cut a hole in the middle about the size of a quarter.
Warm a frying pan and place the bread butter side down onto the pan.
Crack one egg into each hole in the bread right away.
Salt and pepper as desired.
When the bottom sides are golden brown, flip the bread over.
Cook another minute or so until desired doneness.

Note: somw folks like they yolks really runny, others like them firm, so adjust your heat and timing to accomodate.

Did you notice how much biggier the yolks were on the right side? Those are from the family farm.

Did you notice the color difference? Yes, the darker yolks are from the happy hens. These photos weren’t altered – I don’t have the photographic skills to do that!:)

OK, you can’t taste the difference, but we did. We each took one piece from each side of the pan and the range free eggs had an eggier taste. It was subtle, but very nice.

There you have it – happy hens produce eggs that have larger, darker yolks and a denser flavor. Very interesting!
Let me know if you try a similar experiment and what your results are.

yolks on right are from friend's farm

very tasty

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Walnut Bars with Butter Rum Frosting

Sneaking nuts and seeds into baking and other dishes adds texture and interest, in addition to nutrition. Even a sticky dessert has more redeeming characteristics when you add nuts. You know, pecans or almonds on top of a sundae or walnuts in a chocolate chip cookie. Makes it more of a grown up dessert, to be taken seriously.

walnut bars


Walnut Squares are serious dessert contenders – even tho there is no chocolate in them. (Although that could easily be remedied!) They are made in two short layers with a delicious frosting added to sweeten the deal. The crunch of the walnuts against the buttery shortbread bottom will have your tastebuds doing a tango.

a walnut bar


This is an offering adapted from Esther Brody’s cookbook, “500 Best Cookies, Bars and Squares.” Wouldn’t you love to part of her taste testers? http://www.cookstr.com/users/esther-brody/profile. Ester has written or contributed to nine cookbooks! Yikes. Now there’s a serious baker.

base is crumbly


Note about flours: Many of us are trying to add more whole grain flours to our baking. I’ve tried the white whole wheat and it’s not as fine a texture as the whole wheat pastry flour. For that reason I prefer the ww pastry flour for desserts and the white whole wheat for a country bread.

Ingredients for the Shortbread base
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour – or whole wheat pastry flour
1 TBS packed brown sugar
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

Ingredients for Topping
1 1/4 cups chopped walnuts, divided
2 eggs
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 TBS all purpose flour
1/8 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp rum flavoring

press evenly into pan


Directions for Base
Preheat oven to 325 F
Use a 9″ x 13″ cake pan, ungreased
In a bowl, (or food processor) mix together the flour, sugar and baking powder.
Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Press evenly into the pan.
Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until golden brown.
Remove from oven and cool slightly.

top layer baked to golden


Directions for the Topping
Set aside 1/2 cup of the chopped walnuts.
In a bowl, beat the eggs and brown sugar until blended.
Beat in flour, baking powder, vanilla and rum flavoring just until well mixed.
Stir in remaining 3/4 cup walnuts.
Spread evenly over warm base.
Return to oven and bake another 15 – 20 minutes until top is golden brown.
Place pan on a wire rack to cool completely.
When cool, frost with Butter Rum Frosting (Recipe below.)
Sprinkle the remaining walnuts on top and cut into squares or diamonds.
Makes 30 squares…or 24 if you like them bigger.

frost cooled bars

press walnuts into frosting

a delicious bar

Butter Rum Frosting
Ingredients
1/3 cup butter, softened
4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp rum flavoring
2 TBS cream or milk
dash of salt

Directions
In a large bowl, cream the butter.
Slowly add the sugar in stages, blending well.
Add the flavorings and the cream and the remaining sugar.
Spread onto the cooled bars.

Walnut Bars are a great dessert to serve your family or company. The blend of flavors and textures will dance on your tongue.

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Smothered Chicken with Bacon

Many years ago, when telephones were still attached to walls, and our kids were young, we went to a restaurant that offered something called “Smothered Chicken” which my kids all loved. It is a rare thing when three kids agree on anything. (At least I think they did…really who can remember much from THAT long ago.)

smothered chicken


We didn’t eat out much then (or now) so I developed my own version of smothered chicken.
Recently I found my notes for this baked chicken and made it again with a few changes and discovered it’s still a fabulous and easy dish.

serve with a green veggie


The biggest change is that I used to make this with the 3 pound bag of frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts. But we now know they add lots of “filler” to those birds, so I look for “natural chicken” that has no antibiotics and no extra gunk to plumped up the breasts. (I’m still talking about birds here – not silicone implants. That’s a different blog address.)

a thick sauce


And just for fun, this time I added bacon because everything’s better with bacon. I understand one of the major fast food chains has added a bacon hot fudge sundae to its menu. HMMM. Food for thought.

spoon sauce over chicken


Note: if your chicken breasts are really thick, like mine were, try cutting them into two – lengthwise to create two skinny breasts out of each one. This will decrease your cooking time, so watch to be certain they don’t get dry.

Ingredients for four servings
4 chicken breast halves – boneless and skinless
2 dashes Mrs. Dash – like a lemon pepper or one of your choosing
2 dashes white or black pepper
1/2 onion, cut into chunky slices
1 clove garlic. minced
2 TBS butter or olive oil
1 TBS Dijon mustard
2 chicken bouillon cubes (or 2 tsp bouillon crystals)
2 TBS water
4 slices cooked bacon
4 slices Provolone cheese – (or Swiss, Mozzarella, Gouda, Cheddar, Havarti)

add bacon

add cheese on top

all done

Directions
Preheat the oven to 425.
Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil or spray with cooking spray.
Place the chicken breasts on the cooking sheet and run with the pepper and Mrs. Dash seasonings.
Pop in the oven for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan melt the butter and add the onion and garlic. Sautee for a few minutes to wilt the onions.
Add mustard, bouillon and water to create a thick sauce. Remove from heat.
When chicken has cooked for 10 minutes, pull it out of the oven and turn it over. Sprinkle with pepper and herbs.
Spoon the onion mixture over the chicken breasts and return to the oven for about 10 minutes more.
(Time will vary depending on the thickness of your chicken breasts.)
When chicken is nearly done, place a slice of bacon on each piece and a slice of cheese.
Return to oven for two or three minutes until cheese is bubbly. You can also switch the oven to broil for the last minute, but watch carefully so it doesn’t burn.

It’s that simple!
This is an easy recipe to expand for company or to make just for one or two. It’s versatile, delicious and it won’t leave you chained to the oven.

Chocolate Custard Cheesecake – crustless

I’ve been in Nana heaven for more than a week, traveling with my entire family.

Liam, Maddy in back. Sophia, Oliver and Clare with Nana Clare


We finished the week with a frenetic weekend traveling back to our home in Ames. Our little family now has 13 humans and three dogs. With temps reaching into the upper 90′s and children and dogs dashing in and out, it was challenging to keep the house comfy. But we are now a family that lives in four different states and time together is precious – even when it’s hot.
When the week started, we wanted to celebrate one of our son’s birthdays with his favorite dessert – Cowboy Cake.

http://www.nanaclareskitchen.com/2011/12/27/cowboy-cake/

chocolate custard cheesecake


This is an old fashioned “dump” cake with a few flavorful additions.
But over the past year, our other son has become gluten intolerant. I had planned to make an almond torte for him, but I couldn’t find my recipe. Then I decided just to swap out the regular flour for the almond flour in the Cowboy Cake recipe. Brilliant right? I thought so too until smoke started pouring out of the oven after 25 minutes. I opened the door and pulled out this gelatinous mess!

smokey mess


potential?


I set it on the counter and quickly whipped up another cake with the correct flour this time, feeling very frustrated that I had wasted about $10.00 worth of almond flour. I say quickly, because I was trying NOT to heat up the kitchen too much.

My ten year old granddaughter, Maddy had helped me make the first cake and as the burned goopey mess was cooling she got a spoon and tasted the result.
“Nana, this tastes like hot fudge sauce,” she said.
“I’m just going to throw it all out,” I pouted.
In her quiet way, she kept encouraging me. “With all these cookbooks, why don’t you look in one to see if there’s anything you can do?”

eggs, ricotta cheese and sour cream


“You’re right,” I said and grabbed my gluten free cookbook. There I found a recipe for an almond cake that used only almond flour – and four eggs. It hit me then. My cowboy cake uses no eggs, so the cake had no binders because almond flour is really just ground up almonds and not a flour.
I grabbed my mixer and cracked in four eggs and added ricotta cheese and sour cream. Then I poured the syrupy mess back into the mixer. Turns out, only the sides of the pan were burned – along with the bottom of the oven.
After pouring it all into a clean cake pan, I baked it for another 30 minutes.
Result? A rich chocolatey dessert that looked like a brownie, but was soft like a cheesecake or custard. No crust, but it was delicious. After it got the thumbs up from Maddy – and a few others, we took it to a family party where it was devoured – by those who need gluten free and those who don’t.
Here are the steps – without the smoke in the middle.

nice creamy batter

baked results

taste test

she likes it

second bite

Ingredients
4 eggs
8 oz ricotta cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
2 1/2 cups almond flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened baking chocolate
2 tsp soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp vinegar
¾ cup canola oil
2 cups cold coffee
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Grease a 9 x 13″ cake pan
Beat the eggs, ricotta cheese and sour cream until smooth.
Whisk the dry ingredients together.
Add the oil, vinegar and vanilla to the egg mixture.
Add the flour mixture in three batches alternating with the cold coffee.
Stir in the chocolate chips.
Bake 35 – 45 minutes or until done.
This will be soft like a cheesecake, but should be set and firm.