Sunday, January 25, 2009

Backcounter Chicken Project Day 1

Reflections from the Backcounter

Thanks to Polly and Alisa for commenting on the chicken post. It is so great to hear from you! Polly wants me to repost the no knead bread recipe

No Knead Bread

4 cups of flour
1 teaspoon salt
¼ tsp of dry yeast
½-3/4 cup coarsely chopped olives
1 clove sliced thin garlic (roasted in olive oil)

Mix dry ingredients

Add 2 cups cold water

Mix with hands for 30 seconds. Let rise covered for 12-24 hours. The slower the better

Knead for 30 seconds on floured board add flour to keep from sticking.
Put in greased bowl, cover and let sit for 2 hours

Drop into preheated dutch oven (450 degrees) Bake for 30 minutes with lid on and 15 minutes with lid off.

Chicken project

My family and friends think that I have taken leave of my senses but truly the chicks are darling and no trouble at this point. We had a few dramatic moments yesterday while we were trying to sort out the height at which to place the heat lamp. The chicks were alternately huddling for warmth and panting for mercy as they were being slowly roasted by our overly zealous efforts to warm them up! Pictures to follow, slight technical difficulty today as I cannot find the cable for my camera to transfer the pics to the computer. (Kids!)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Chick chick chicken?? Backcounter chicken project

Reflections from the Backcounter

Many of you have realized through my postings that I am a frustrated homesteader. We make homemade yogurt, no knead bread, yogurt cheese and grow our own lemons, figs and tomatoes. But is it really enough? Those of you who know me, know that last year I received a set up for raising my own chickens but before the little darlings were delivered, I chickened out (no pun intended) and cancelled my order. Well, I have taken the plunge. Later today I will pick up my redstar chicks and begin my chicken adventure. Of course, this project is on the "down low" as I am concerned about neighborhood issues but....the little darlings will be carefully housed in the garage until they can brave the elements and hopefully by then we will have designed and built an appropriately camouflaged coop! I have connected with my personal chicken mentor Laura and look forward to meeting her today

Here is her information on the chicken project

LOL I hear you...thanks for inquiring. Red Star chicks get their name because it's a guarantee they are all females. When they are hatched, the white chicks are
roosters and the red ones are females. They are the brown egg layers and very hardy. How many chicks you want as laying hens is up to you :). When they start laying you will have eggs everyday. Maybe some will skip a day, but will make it up either in the early morning orafternoon. So if you get 5 chicks, you will have five eggs a day. I will be getting White Leghorn chicks this next week and they will be a couple days old. (So cute) They're still cute even when they grow older. They follow you everywhere. You are like their mom. They are the white egg layers. They are a smaller bird and very hardy as well. They aremostlyused for commercial eggs. Anyway if you are interested I do have starter kids that include: heat lamp, water dispenser, feeder, 10 lbs of chick starter feed and wood shavings for $60. I keep all my chicks in the garage or laundry room in a dog kennel of some sort until they get around 3-4 weeks of age. Put the wood shavings on the bottom inside the kennel for absorbing their messes. Very easy and fun. Feed is usually free for all and make sure they have clean water at all times. If they are in the garage, the heat lamp will be either on top of kennel or near the door entryofwarmth. They will start getting their feathers in a couple of weeks. I will send a pic of my set up.
When they get older, they will be fed chicken scratch or chick starter and grower feed. It's bigger granuals for them to fill up faster on. They need to protein in their young systems. As they become adults which is within a few months, they will love to eat anything. We usually feed them are bread scraps, fruit scraps, any grass they you grow they will love, noodles, anything that's not meat. Layer feed pellet form is a must when they are laying age. This helps them produce and it has the vitamins they need. They need calcium also. What ever you need to do to get calcium in their diet is up to you. They are very quiet except when they lay an egg. Which usually last like 20 seconds. They start cackling (bragging) that they have laid an egg.
Anyway, let me know :) what ever you decide.
So I look forward to the project....we will see how it goes and will keep you updated. We are probably twenty weeks away from home grown eggs

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Light rail system: Phoenix

Reflections from the Backcounter
We actually had a fun adventure on Sunday.. Two of my children decided to brave the crowds and run in the P.F. Changs 1/2 marathon. This was a feat of varsity organizational magnitude for parents who desired a return of their children ( or what was left of them after 13.1 miles) Multiple roads were closed and crowds were unbelievable. I wasn't sure how or if I would find my children or get within three miles of the event that ended at Arizona State University. Anyway...we decided to try to ride the recently opened light rail system. What a fabulous option and what a surreal experience. For a girl who remembers cruising Central avenue as a teenager it was nearly an out of body experience to glide through downtown Phoenix on a train! We arrived in Tempe no worse for wear and enjoyed the experience immensely. Our children were easily located in the well marked family reunion field dutifully sitting under their designated letter. We collected them, returned to the light rail and smoothly rode back to our car in North Central Phoenix. A good time was had by all. and of course Ceres the wonder CCI puppy rode the train without a complaint and entertained the fellow passengers with her butterscotch coat and mild mannered pleasant personality.
Progress made for a perfectly wonderful afternoon

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Better days ahead

Reflections from the Backcounter

We are all waiting in hopeful anticipation for the coming of change and improvement in our economic conditions. Today begins the new administration and many of us in the US are hopeful that there will be an upswing. The downswing has been painful and has touched everyone that I know.

Survival strategies that many of my friends are using:

House parties instead of restaurants
Gifts of food
Gifts of time and service
Cutting down on drycleaning
Cutting down on recreation
Eating much less meat
Few excursions to fast food restaurants and if we do...the dollar menu at McDonalds is awesome
Turning off all the lights ( I have become my mother)
Library books
Shopping for gas prices ( I have definitely become my grandfather with this one)
Shorter showers
Brown lawns

Some say we are at the bottom...others disagree. I have to look forward and hope for change. Barack may pull it off.



Monday, January 12, 2009

...Go Cardinals!!!

Reflections from the Backcounter

Monday morning quarterbacks in the US are analyzing and reliving each minute of the Arizona cardinals game this weekend while I am still analyzing the facts and trying to make sense of my weekend. It is Monday and my Christmas tree is still standing in my living room, my canine companions are gracing our presence with their uniquely nauseating odor of dirty dog and laudry remains piled in my laundry room. This in spite of a non stop frenzy of constant motion, errands and cleaning beginning Saturday morning and ending at 11 pm last night when I collapsed into a heap of fatigue. Maybe I should consider leaving the tree as a decorative element in my living room. Where is it written that an artificial evergreen cannot moonlight as a houseplant? I am definitely seeing the potential and the dog odor is becoming familiar...soon I will be crawling around my house through tunnels carved in the papers that are piled to the ceiling. I can actually see how it can happen. In a house with three dogs, two cats and three children (the fish thank heavens are history), I imagine the refuse could pile up in record time. We would not need thirty years to look like hoarders. In fact, as I look at all of the tree ornaments...maybe I do have a hoarding tendency...Is this the beginning of becoming an old woman with cats, quilts and paper bags stored in my dishwasher? Food for thought. Looking forward to Tuesday...never look may be a frightening glance over the shoulder


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Holiday shakedown and limoncello

Reflections from the Backcounter

The twelve days of Christmas formally ended on Jan 6. The end of the holidays also heralds the beginning of spring cleaning and clutter removal. There is something smothering about holiday decorations that remain after the holiday is over....unfortunately, if you are like me, the takedown and storage is a massive project that is always somewhat overwhelming. Every year I pledge to be more organized and to put everything away in a manner that is better than last year. With the number of pledges I have made, one would think that my holiday decor would catalogued in a system worthy of the Dewey decimal system with a card catalogue and index. I can only dream. So, as in years past, I take on the mountain of ribbon, ornaments and trees and will attempt to survive victorious in my battle to stuff the every growing number of items into the same number of rubbermaid bins.

On a positive winter citrus note, our lemon tree has produced a bountiful harvest this year. We are looking forward to trying to make a homemade batch of limoncello


Makes about 3 1/4 quarts. Those who are lucky enough to receive this homemade lemon liqueur should keep it in the freezer, where it turns a milky white after 8 to 9 hours. It can be sipped straight-up, mixed with tonic or dashed into champagne.

17 large lemons, preferably organic
Two 750-milliliter bottles grain alcohol
5 1/2 cups water
6 cups sugar
Wash and dry the lemons. With a paring knife, remove the ends. With a vegetable peeler, remove only the yellow rind, leaving the pith intact. (Squeeze juice from the lemons and reserve for another use.)
Place the lemon peel in a 4-quart Mason jar with a rubber-seal lid. Add the grain alcohol, making sure the lemon peel is completely covered. Store in a cool, dark place, shaking the jar once each day to agitate the lemon peel.
On the 13th day, bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the sugar and remove from the heat, stirring until it is dissolved. Cover and let cool to room temperature.
Place a colander on top of the saucepan and strain in the contents of the Mason jar. Discard the lemon peel. Stir to combine the liquids, about 1 minute. Transfer back to the Mason jar. Store for 3 weeks in a cool, dark place, shaking to agitate the liquid twice a day.
After 3 weeks, transfer the limoncello to smaller bottles that can be sealed with rubber stoppers. Store bottles in freezer. Serve directly from the freezer.



Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Scarlet Muffin

This one is for all of you sisters in the bond of post holiday fat toxicity. Place your hand on the muffin top oozing above the waistband of your dress pants, take a deep breath and be thankful that you were not my sister today.

To set the stage. My sister, who has been mentioned before in this blog, works as a property manager of a large high rise in downtown Phoenix. A high rise building, heretofore referred to as "the village," is a true microcosm of society at large... Her stories are legend but today was perhaps the funniest and most painful for all of us middle aged muffin -topped moms......

Here is her email.....

If this doesn’t make my day – I just went over to our little restaurant to get a muffin and diet coke – the owner - a woman (from another country) yelled from behind the counter when I walked in…………………”OH Laura – YOU GOT FAT OVER HOLIDAY”....


Is it possible to raise her rent?

Raise her rent? Are you kidding me? The woman should be run out of town on a MUFFIN TRUCK !!!! At the very least, an unannounced visit from the restaurant health inspector is in order. My sister has now been publicly branded with a Scarlet M in the middle of her forehead (waistline) No longer can she anonymously stand in line for the morning caffeine hit and pastry. Her morning routine is forever changed as the villagers are now watching and weighing the caloric impact of every morsel that passes her lips.

I can't make this stuff up! This could be a Seinfeld episode, remember the soup Nazi?

So, the next time you are standing in line for your morning muffin and favorite caffeinated beverage beware of the person behind the counter. You may just get a public commentary on the "state of your weight"....beware of the Muffin nazi and feel free to voice your concerns at . Please voice your support and shared sisterly outrage (or your favorite muffin recipe) by posting a comment of support for our kindred spirit and muffin topped mom, Laura. She has assured me that she will respond to all comments once she has completed her Muffin recovery program, Muffins Anonymous. (MA).

Peace and poppy seeds (my favorite muffin),


Monday, January 5, 2009

North Carolina Barbecue

Menu: Pinto Beans

Reflections from the Backcounter

Small events can make large memories. I remember one of the few times that I went out to lunch with my father when I was around five years old. We sat at the counter of a traditional diner and ate BBQ sandwiches. The tender and juicy pulled pork was covered with a mayonnaise based coleslaw and served on a bun. This was a sentinel event in my culinary formation! Every so often, I get a hankering for the real deal and it is frequently on New Year's Day. This year we slathered our Pork Butt roast with a dry rub and slowly smoked it on the grill using cedar wood. The wood smoke slowly infused the meat with a delicate flavor and after 6 hours of olfactory torture we took it off the grill and pulled it into tiny shreds. Topped with North Carolina BBQ sauce and coleslaw it was heaven on a bun. Beans, salad and soft drinks rounded out the menu. It was a great kick off to the New Year. As a bonus, I have the left over bones slowly cooking in a pot of pinto beans for tonight's quick weekday meal. A crock pot is a life saver

Sunday, January 4, 2009

New Year ..New Resolutions?

Thought I would take a moment from the hectic countdown to Monday morning end of Christmas break drama and reflect on my New Year's Resolutions.

It appears that I and about countless other middle aged resolvers are resolved in our solidarity (not to be mistaken for the solid fat attached to my thighs) to shrink our collective waistlines. My spinning class today was packed as we huffed and puffed our way to a thinner, healthier 2009. Unfortunately, the pounding beat of the music (and my heart) could not drown out the hundreds of worries streaming through my brain as I tried (unsuccessfully) to clear my mind and focus on revving up my metabolism so that the fat would melt off my mid section.

I suppose that the only meaningful resolution in 2009 is to eschew worry. Worry does nothing but make us anxious, raise our blood pressure, destroy our recreational time and shorten our lives. It accomplishes nothing but I believe that I must be an addict because I cannot stop. I know that in this time of economic challenge that I am not alone. We are all feeling financial insecurity and worry about the future. The fragility of the system and the roller coaster ride has been unprecedented. I also suppose that there is comfort in commonality and knowing that we are not alone in this worry offers some comfort.

So with that said, Iwill publicly post my New Year's Resolution for 2009. I will cut down my worrying..mind you I am not naive enough to promise a worry free year. But if I can at least recognize it ...maybe I can cut it down.

And as a second thought...I will continue to pursue my efforts at posting my menus and recipes. Who knows maybe one day I will compile a cookbook for my children!

Happy New Year!