Saturday, February 25, 2012


A friend of ours from Texas is currently an instructor of the culinary arts at a college in Texas. 
She recently posted a blog on Hollandaise (found here -

I love this sauce but the packaged and canned stuff is just not great. The great stuff has always been enjoyed homemade at our bed and breakfast stays.
One thing I really admire Chef Shavandy for is her sauces! Boy can she whip up some amazing sauces, dressing and condiments! Don't get me wrong... It seems to me anything edible she touches turns to gold. But, her sauces are magical. 
I, on the contrary, am a serial killer of the sauces. 

I think a great sauce can really bring out a dish. In some cases it is what makes the dish. A fab vanilla dressing transforms a plain spinach salad into a delight. Likewise, a great hollandaise can transform a plain breakfast muffin with egg and ham into a fine dining experience in your mouth!
So, when I came across her post with 4 fresh eggs in my basket, I was inspired!

Here is my "killer" culinary adventure...
mise en place
1) Read the blog like the Bible.

2) Assemble the troops.

3) Read directions again...

4) Attack!

The eggs were farm fresh organic and small at about 45-50 grams weight each where a large is about 65g. The yolks were thick and deep mustard yellow. I questioned the instructions at this point because they were supposed to get thick and custard-like but they are already like that. I will have to go on color change. 

Yolks lightened up but not to a soft yellow. They turned more like where they were supposed to start out like. Hmm... keep advancing.

The whisk and drizzle stage...
I found that the sauce was thinning out - very fluid like orange juice. 
Ended up not using whole cup of butter - maybe egg size is problem. I know egg size makes a huge difference in my chocolate chip cookie mixes. Possibly same here.

End product began to separate. 
Taste is very metallic! Possibly chemical reaction of lemon juice and the metal bowl and whisk. Tangy taste as well - just like I like it but, metallic was overwhelming. Could it be a glass or ceramic bowl would be better?

For the Benedict, I used soft boiled eggs directions from the classic Betty Crocker's Cookbook.
No, I mean CLASSIC! Check out the intro!

Copyright 1969 by General Mills, Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota

 (Reproduced under copyright exception granted in publication. I take copyright seriously. Give credit where credit is due.)

I was behooved. Ha! 
(BTW... he likes them fried sunny side down and cooks them himself!) 
The eggs turned out a little harder than I like my soft boiled to be but were ok.

As sauce on sandwich...
The combination of flavors made the sauce edible and masked the metallic flavor to a degree. 

Finished Product.
Looks like sick on my Benedict. :-( 

The sauce quickly hardened to a spread consistency during the meal. Our home temperature was 63 degrees F after all.

Tips and experience is encouraged in the comments!
...Help me stop killing sauces.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Eggshells and Calcium for Chickens

If you have chickens & if you eat eggs then why buy calcium supplements for your flock?

You can reduce the carbon footprint by reducing your personal waste, manufacturing waste, and reduce the amount of money you spend on buying calcium supplements by feeding your hen's eggshells back to them.

This is what I do.

I bake my eggshells in the toaster oven for about 10 minutes (or oven if it is already in use) till they are dry (usually at about 350 degrees). This is done to kill any pathogens and dry them out to help prevent pathogens from forming on them in storage. I don't rinse my shells before baking. I personally see it as a waste of time and water since the baking process dries out what little is left of the egg whites.
Be careful not to bake too long or hot. If they start to brown and burn, the smell is horrible.

I store as many baked shells as I can in an egg carton until I have a full case.

  Then, I crunch them and put them in the food processor.

Grind them up into teeny tiny pieces.
This helps break them down into a powdery grit.
This, along with the baking will keep your hens from associating this part of their feed with  their own eggs.

I mix them in with the feed. They wont eat it if they don't want to. Some days there are more eggshell bits left in their feeder than other days.
Others folks give them separate as free choice.

This page (as with all my other postings) are not meant for medical or veterinary advise! These are just to share my experiences. Hope it helps.


I am limited on counter space so...
When some parm cheese and truvia containers became empty I was struck with a re-use idea.
 I toaster bake the shells immediately. Let cool. Lightly crush with hand and put in the parm container. when that one is full, I process and store in the truvua container. Neater and less space used.

Happy Egg Day!

Our pullets are a little over 24 weeks old. I had been expecting our Zebra to be the first to lay since she is: 1) the largest at 4 lbs 2) has the largest and reddest comb and wattles 3) has the biggest and puffiest butt :-)
This photo is of her a month ago. Her wattles are much larger now. I will have to try and get a recent pic.

This morning she was pacing (which she usually does when she sees me) at the fence and door a bit more enthusiastically than usual. She was also being louder than usual (usually they are not loud at all). 

Zebra's 1st @ 44g (1.5oz)  2/19/2012
I went in to check on them and She was acting peculiar ... agitated, voraciously hungry, pacing, circling. The first thought that crossed my mind was egg time. So, I put her in the nesting box and she immediately began to nest. She also sang the "egg song" a few times but no egg. We decided to leave her be and check in on her later. I sent my daughter out to go see if they were OK and she came back in with a big glow and her hands cupping a little brown egg. Zebra had layed it right in front of the door.
Zebra now.

OK. Here is a recent pic. Notice face color is redder, wattles bigger.
Good job Zebra. Now just try for the box next time.

Update: Feb 24th - A photo from a few days ago.  She has layed 4 eggs in 6 days each getting a little bigger (up to 51 g).
She also has learned to deposit in the nest box.
I had to place her in there the 1st 2 times with the dummy egg. The 3rd time she hopped in herself but would jump out when I left the coop. The 4th egg was all on her own! Now she can teach the other girls how to do it.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Automatic Dishwasher Detergent - Homestyle!

Ran out of "Finish Quantum" (my favorite dishwasher detergent). I am trying to squeeze every penny. So, why not try to squeeze here too? Why not try making my own?

There are so many recipes out there for homemade detergent. I had to be extra careful because I have a septic and well. I want to be extra careful what I return to my soil and groundwater! The earth is my "water treatment plant"! We also want to protect our watersheds and rivers - I loves me some salmons!

My detergent
Most recipes I found had salt. Not mine. Salt is not good for the soil or ground water. Not much will thrive in salty soil - just look at a beach line and the salt flats.
The citric acid was the most costly component of my recipe - but it is supposed to really help with the hard water and the cleaning so I am giving it a go. I could have bought it way cheaper online but, I kinda needed it and that's all they had.


I came up with the following recipe:
2 cups Borax
2 cups Washing Soda
1 can (5oz)(also comes out to be a cup) of citric acid - I used Ball Produce Protector"5 Oz. Fruit-Fresh Produce Protector" since I couldn't find plain-ole citric acid. It has added dextrose (aka. simple sugar) and silicon dioxide (aka. rock that soaks up water- maybe that will help prevent the clumps that folks get when adding the acid)
I also added one of those silicon gel pack things you get in vitamins, shoes etc. to help prevent caking.

one of those packet thingies
I re-purposed a nut container and a coffee scoop for my mix
Use 1-2 tbsp in wash (1 for pre-wash cycle & the other in the closed regular wash cup.)
rinse aid

Ohh.... don't forget a part of the homemade stuff is you have to use the white vinegar as a rinse aid - about 1/4-1/2 cup or you will get cloudy glass. (this is also WAY cheaper than that blue gel rinse aid)

Here is a comparison of cost
Finish - 25cents per load
Homemade -  7 cents per load or up to 14 cents per load if i use a scoop for pre-wash. (I don't like to hand wash my dishes before I dish wash them).
Cost savings of up to $65.70 per year

pre and main wash
Ok. I put in a load. We had a little bit of everything in there. I noticed that the inside of the washer is getting stained a yellowish color - maybe it's mildew?
I ran it on the full wash cycle.
When it reached the rinse cycle I opted to put in 1/4 cup vinegar.
Load completed.
I opened up the washer and everything was just as clean as the commercial stuff.
The inside of the machine was a tad less stained.
To me, who has a very sensitive nose, it did have a vinegar smell. It was not much and may not have been noticeable to others. It was not overwhelming by any means. Usually I get nauseous when my hubby cleans the coffee machine with vinegar. I did not get that at all with the dishes - just a faint trace when I opened it up. Next time I will not open it up so soon.

before - spaghetti on corelle
after - nice

before - mucky
after - sparkly

after - the handle is stained cause its old!

before - cheesy soup on plastic

after - those are water drops

 Ta Da!

After - yes, that IS a chicken water fountain in there
 Note - I used to wash my fountain by hand. It gets that yellow orange mildew in there and even though adding apple cider vinegar to their water has helped tremendously, I still couldn't get it out of the spout. I took it out of the dishwasher and spout is like new! No mildew!
 Note - vinegar also helps with disinfecting.
Now all I have to do is find a cheaper citric acid.
By the way... my mix has not clumped at all in over 48 hours. I guess the rock (silicon dioxide) in the Ball brand really helps!

UPDATE: March 16, 2012

Here we are about  a month later.
Still have not run out of detergent (from original mix).

It DID harden up around the end of week 2. I am not sure if it is from the mixture or the container as it is not airtight.

I use the mix in the pre-wash and the regular cycle.
I think it works almost as good as the quantum Finish.

Some drawbacks I have is that:
~ does not seem to work as well on fatty deposits as the Quantum Finish.
~ MUST use vinegar rinse EVERY Time to get dishes sparkly. Means you have to wait for the rinse cycle to put it in. No more starting and leaving the house. And, I can still smell faint traces of vinegar over-time. Not my favorite smell.

I read on other blogs about using a product called  Lemishine. I picked some up at the Walmart and did a clean cycle. Boy did my machine need it! To be truly honest... I think it needs more of a cleaning than just a Lemishine cycle! The Lemishine DID make a huge difference in the looks of the interior of my machine! And, I have noticed my dishes came out cleaner after the cleaning.
Side note... I also used it as a scrub on my metal sink and WOW! Shiny. Next I will try it on my Tub - ewe. I might blog that if it works well.
When I run out of my mix I will try a new recipe with the Lemishine instead of the citric acid. - I will Update about that one when the time comes.

For the hard mix... I just took a strong butter knife and stabbed it like a crazed killer and use the chunks.

UPDATE: April 11. 2012

Still have detergent! It got SO HARD I could not break it up with a knife! - Remedy - added water to soften it up and it has stayed soft for about 3 weeks so-far.

Lemishine - worked OK on the shower - still had to use more "elbow grease" than I like.

FINAL UPDATE: April 30, 2012

Finally ran out the other day. Now I can try a new formula! Thanks to all the comments below! I didn't expect to have so many views on this all at once - thanks folks!
Currently, I am using Method brand  (It was on super clearance at my store for 2 bucks a package! Had to try it especially since my home-made was running low). Used it for 4 loads and works better than my formula here but not quite as well as my Finish Quantum standby. Downside- to get Method regularly would be less frugal although (hopefully) better for the environment than the Finish. I use Method by popping it in the washer tub before starting (not in the main compartment).

Note: my washer instructions advise against using vinegar regularly as it will break down some of the components. Which is ok because I would forget to add it most of the time. ;-P
Anyway... I will have to try a new formula and write a 2.0 post about it when I am done experimenting.

BTW: the formula you use matters on the kind of water you have. Mine is from a well and super mineral heavy especially IRON!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fresh Start

We spent the whole summer cleaning up the property (see past posts). 
Dumpsters and truck beds full of debris were carted away. 
A garden was forged out of a rocky field overgrown with invasive English Ivy and Wisteria.
Paths for hiking and relaxation were carefully and painstakingly carved through the hills and forest.
Yeah, we still had some ways to go but, at least the bulk was behind us.
Until the storm came.
The paths are no longer recognizable and blend in with the surrounding land covered in tree branches.
The garden deer fence is demolished.
The orchard looks like a war trauma unit.

Amidst all that... Our home is intact, the poultry are still alive, and there is only minimal damage to the outbuildings. ... Praise God! It was a bit scary and stressful to go through it without my husband here. The 4 days without electricity, the falling trees everywhere, the being "treed and snowed in" on our hill for 3 days.

Let me tell you something about living here. Our "neighborhood is on the top of a 1000 ft elevation hill with a view of Mt. Rainer's cone 30 miles to the east. We make a 3 mile loop of gravel/dirt road with one road in/out. The smallest lots are an acre. Most of us are on a patch of about 6 acres. This is the 1st place where I have felt that this is where we belong. The loop is so big, we have not near met everyone yet but, the folks we have met are (to put it in Texan terms) "Just Peachy"! We all pretty much keep our peace and keep to ourselves. but, when it comes down to it... you won't find more helpful, kind, genuine folks than these up here on our hill!
That being said... Let me update y'all on the post storm happenings.

It was a bit rainy and cold for a while there. But the weather rewarded us for her temper tantrum and gave us a good 5 days of BEAUTIFUL sunny AND warm (if you want to call 50's warm) weather. When you are working  it sure does feel nice! 

I can get to the shed now
We started by clearing the path to the brush pile on the east hill. I cleared most of the garden and the compost area, and the path to the garden shed. Then we tackled the orchard. We got a lot done in the weekend.

I am trying to salvage the good apple tree. Pruned about hald of it off - I still have a little more to go. We  hoisted it back up with the truck and are trying to support it while the east side root structure tries to re-develop - fingers crossed. 
apple tree physical therapy

I found an apple/pear/ fruit of some sort tree felled in the woods up near the shed and re-located it to the orchard to see what happens. I had to prune the heck out of it! When examining its' roots - looks like it had been planted in a burlap sack (roots were circled up) and about 8 inches too deep (whats new?! - right MG's?)! It will be interesting to see if it takes and if so, what it will be. 

My hubby (bless his heart) cut down the only tree that was in the right spot. My little plum. :'-(. 
Oh well, whats' done is done. Now I just went out and had to buy a new one - at least i know the variety this time (an Italian, freestone, prune/fresh variety).

cranberry & Wintermint
apricot, & 2 cherries

The nursery order came in a month ahead of time and so I put them in pots till I can get them in the ground and protected from the deer :-{ - errrrrr!
toro and hardiblue blueberrys

bushes gone - kinnikinnik in
I took out the 6'x8' bushes they planted as a foundation planting in the front (another eye-roll for the MG's). Replaced them with a little native plant called Kinnikinnik (bear berry). And will put annual color in there till it fills in. Re-located the bushes to the front - to help with road dust.

future home of strawberries

Started on adding a strawberry bed to the garden. The birds helped out with that. I let them out with me and they loved to help (waiting for me to flip over the pavers so they could get to the good stuff and scratching in the freshly weeded dirt piles).

It was really nice while it lasted. 
Back to the rain.
the "new" orchard - plum tree in back in "chickenwire cage"

I also have been working on a start-up business to help out with the bills and repairs to the property.

The past few months of research and preparation are finally over and now on to dividing my time between family, farm and business. 
I have my licence and a web-based venue for my photos and other items for sale.

 I am always adding new things - so check the shop regularly to see what's new!