De-Boned Baked Trout Stuffed with Spinach and Cream Cheese

Contains:  Seafood, dairy.  Is:  Gluten-free, grain-free, Primal. 

stuffed trout, gluten free, grain free, spinach, recipe

As I’ve noted before, I’m having difficulties finding quality seafood up here in western Massachusetts, and when I do find it, it seems to come with Whole Food type of pricing.  So, often when I make my way back down to Connecticut, I carry along a small cooler and a few freezer packs, and check out either Stew Leonard’s or Shop-Rite in the Danbury CT area, to see what jumps out of the icy display case at me.  Then, they come back home with me, to make their way into my fridge (or, sometimes, the freezer).

This time, it was de-boned trout, and fresh sardines.  I’ll be posting both of these, although the sardines may be delayed so I don’t have too many fishy items blogged about in a row.

stuffed trout, gluten free, grain free, spinach, recipe

A whole trout. I clipped off those belly fins. Other than the fins and head, this had been de-boned prior to purchase.

The fish I buy is fresh, the eyes are clear, and the flesh is aesthetically perfect.  Yes, the heads are on (nothing says you can’t remove them prior to cooking), the tail fin and the dorsal (top) and belly fins are on.  You can clip those off, although I find that the tail fin is crispy upon baking, and I don’t mind that extra boost of calcium.  That fin is NOT going to stick in your throat like a bad fish bone, if you allow it to crisp.  I do remove the belly fins.

Personally, I do leave the head on, but depending on if I had guests, I’d check my internal barometer (as it were) to decide whether or not to keep them on for said guests.  For me, I do appreciate a taste of the tender jaw and cheek meat.  Mileages will differ, remove as needed!  I removed after cooking for photography.  Yes, I ate cheek and jaw meat, there are bones there, nothing you can do about that but eat carefully!

stuffed trout, gluten free, grain free, spinach, recipe

The trout has been cooked. I removed the head for the photo, and cut it in half. Definitely, this serves two people (or one person, twice). but I could see a light soup to the side.

For a full frozen package of spinach, at 10 ounces / 280 grams, you can stuff two trout.  For my own needs (one person), I simply bought one cleaned trout, and used half a pack.   Double the recipe to use up the whole spinach package, or simply (as I did) reserve the balance of the spinach for another meal.

Prep Time:  5 – 8 minutes.
Cook Time for the fish: 15 minutes.
Rest Time: 3-5 minutes.
Serves:  2.
Leftovers?:   Yes.

De-boned Baked Trout Stuffed with Spinach and Cream Cheese

  • 1 deboned trout, head on or off.  Clip off any interfering fins.  
  • 1/2 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed.  (5 ounces / 140 grams)
  • 2 tablespoons full fat cream cheese.  I am partial to Philadelphia brand, but I haven’t tried them all.
  • 1 scallion/green onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon packed dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • A dab of oil
  • Optional lemon juice

Pre-heat your oven to 350 F / 177 C.

Set up the trout in your baking pan, rubbing a little oil against the side that will be laying on the pan proper.  (Or, use parchment paper under for under the trout.  The fish will not stick to the parchment paper.)  Open up the trout.

Warm up the spinach in a little water, on the range top.  Remove, drain, pressing excess water out.

Put the spinach in a bowl, and add the cream cheese, scallion, dill, cumin, salt, and pepper.  Mix.  The warmness of the spinach will help the cream cheese melt in.

Cover the trout with the stuffing, and then fold up.  It will be thick.

Squeeze the juice of about half a lemon over the trout.. you can do this before or after cooking your trout.

Bake for 15 minutes, remove, cut in half, and serve.  Enjoy!!!

We are celebrating a fiesta at Fiesta Friday,






Posted in Cooking, Seafood | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Preventing Insect Infestations in Food

With my semi-Paleo life, I don’t eat a lot of grains or pseudo-grains (although I do have my serious rice or quinoa or oats moments, and a few other things may be on hand anyway), which means if I’m not tracking them, suddenly I go to use one or the other, and there’s, ahem – weird larvae worming around in there.  While weird larvae and insects stay out of whole lentils, they will indeed show up in ground chickpeas.  Time to adopt a cure!

Winter, front yard

Snowfall, late January. My front yard, with a wonderfully flat driveway and a traffic circle. House and barn to the left dates from Colonial times and it still has a cistern, house on the right is a grandfathered-in quarter acre – zoning here now requires minimum 2 acres.

I remove bagged or boxed grains, quinoa, potato starch, tapioca or arrowroot flour, ground legumes and similar things from their original packaging, and put them in tightly-seal-able containers.  I prefer to use glass but that’s pricey, and so I’m usually using solid reusable plastic containers that are also stack-able for storage.

Come winter, outside they go!  If we drop down to the teens or less, they only stay out there a couple nights.  If it’s in the 20s, three or four nights are ideal.  I put the containers on the porch – anything covered from precipitation or direct sun is good.

freeze grains 1

Actually, a second batch out on the porch. There were a LOT more containers for the first batch, and they were stashed in boxes for ease of transport.  I simply wasn’t thinking about a blog post then…

Bring them back in and return to pantry or wherever else you usually store them.

Come summer, you should not be seeing uninvited guests wriggling or roaming in these containers.

Oh, if you live in southern regions where temps don’t get this low, or if this is summertime that you’ve stumbled over this post:  use your freezer.  Unfortunately this may mean you can only get a few containers done at a time, as they probably won’t all fit, but just be patient, and cycle yours through.

If a container isn’t finished after a year – I repeat the cycle outside (or in the freezer).  Certain ground flours do have a shelf life, so you may want to dispatch those to the compost, but more whole grains that haven’t been ground into flours (most rices, for instance) can often last longer.

During the rest of the year, you can extend the actual freshness of grains and legumes by storing them in a cool, dark place.  Back when I was living in Connecticut, dark wasn’t an issue, but since I lacked A/C, “cool” was a word that never applied to July, and certainly not to August!  Life is different now, with a root cellar.  (And central A/C will be instated here in the next few months.  I want to invite friends in the summer!!!)







Posted in Cooking | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Valentine’s Day: Pear Upside Down Cake with Buttermilk

Contains:  Gluten, dairy, sugar.   Is:  Vegetarian

I went surfing to find a good use for leftover buttermilk, that I’d purchased to make a recipe you’ll be seeing in (yes) March.  (I also used some for buckwheat pancakes.)

pear, upside down cake, buttermilk, egg, recipe

I came up with this one:  Makeover Peach Upside Down Cake.   Make over because it has less fat (as it uses that buttermilk), but it still looked mighty sugary to me, so I’m afraid I reduced the sugar so that I would personally enjoy it.  I also switched to canned pears instead of canned peaches (the latter always taste metallic to me).

recipe, pears, upside down cake, recipe, dessert, buttermilk, egg

The first layer in the pie pan — brown sugar, spices, pear slivers.

Back in the day, Mom used to make a pineapple upside down cake, but alas I don’t have her recipe.  As I recall, the cake part of hers wasn’t too sweet, either.

recipe, pears, upside down cake, recipe, buttermilk, egg, dessert

The final layer in the pie pan – flour, egg, buttermilk and so forth. Ready for the oven.

I don’t have an actual cake pan, so I used one of the pans I picked up specifically for making quiches.  So, it’s not going to have that “straight sided” effect that would be normal – use whatever you choose or have.  I could have also used one of my square cooking pans of the appropriate size, but I opted to remain with the quiche pan.  (You guessed it, I don’t really feel the need to make desserts often.  I know there will be at least two more desserts made here this year — and  I like trying something new for each.  If they pass muster, I’ll post…  and I doubt any will be standard cakes, since I’m not very much interested in them.)

recipe, pears, upside down cake, recipe, buttermilk, egg, dessert

Resting on a rack.

Basically, this one came about in part because of the need to use the buttermilk.  But, hey, finally… I want to make a dessert for a Valentine’s Day post.  There’s a “squidge” left; I think it will end up in scrambled eggs…

recipe, pears, upside down cake, recipe, buttermilk, egg, dessert

Moist and luscious interior. I did share this.

Prep Time:  20 minutes.
Cook Time: 30-40 minutes.
Rest Time:  10 minutes.
Serves:  How hungry are you?  Easily 8 people.
Cuisine: Dessert.
Leftovers?:  Cover and refrigerate.


Pear Upside Down Cake with Buttermilk

  • 1 can (15 ounces) sliced pears in juice.  Mine came as halves, but just slice ’em.
  • 1/3 cup / 80 mL packed brown sugar  I used brown coconut sugar.
  • 4 tablespoons butter.  Melt and divide (1 tablespoon and 3 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1.5 cups / 355 mL all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup / 120 mL sugar (I went ahead and used more brown coconut sugar, but feel free to use plain white)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1 cup / 240 mL buttermilk

Preheat your oven to 350 F° / 177 C°.

Drain pears, but set aside 2 tablespoons of their juice.  Rinse off excess sweetness using tap water.

Cut pear slices lengthwise in half, and then use a paper towel to dry them.

Mix brown sugar, 1 tablespoon melted butter, the cinnamon and nutmeg, as well as  those 2 tablespoons of juice together.

Place the above mixture into a 9-in. round lightly-oiled baking pan. Layer the pear slices over the top, artistically if so inspired.

In another suitable bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In yet another bowl, mix the whole egg, vanilla, buttermilk, and the rest of the butter.

Add the contents of this last bowl to the dry ingredients and stir just until lightly combined.

Using a large spoon, layer the immediately-above over the pears in their pan.

Bake 30-35 minutes.  Test for done-ness by using a toothpick, if it comes out clean, you’re ready.

Cool 10 minutes before inverting onto a serving platter, and serve immediately as this is best dived into whilst warm.

Pear, recipe, dessert, upside down cake, buttermilk, egg

Dessert goals for this year or so: 

  • Cheesecake, possibly two overall different styles.
  • Pumpkin pie, from scratch (I am hoping from a home-grown pumpkin this fall).
  • Something gluten-free and dairy-free (and tree-nut free) for a large party to be thrown late April, where there will be individuals who have allergies/sensitivities.

This recipe is making the rounds at:




Posted in Baked Goods, Cooking, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Vietnamese Bò Trộn Cải Xoong – Pan-Seared Beef & Watercress Salad, with Fish Dressing Sauce

Contains: Seafood in the dressing, with option to opt out.  Soy, with option to opt out.  Is:  gluten-free with the proper soy sauce, tamari, or coconut aminos.  

The recipe I’d originally planned to make for the Asian New Year (of which celebration starts this year on February 5th, my late Dad’s birthday), was an epic fail.  Oh, it tasted fine, and I’d copied the critical part (the dumpling skin part) exactly, but it didn’t hold together.   At All.  Slimy mush.

So, back to the drawing board for another time.  But… as I love cuisine hailing from that vast continent, I wanted to have a post up in time for this festive Chinese and east Asian/southeast Asian holiday.

Bò Trộn Cải Xoong, Vietnamese, recipe, beef and watercress salad, beef, watercress

I figured I’d stick with something Vietnamese (the failed recipe was Vietnamese), but time to go simpler.  And there was already watercress in the fridge.

This one comes from my cookbook, Lemongrass, Ginger and Mint:  Vietnamese Cookbook, by Linh Nguyen.  The book aims to provide “classic Vietnamese restaurant favorites at home”.  I’ve only been to three Vietnamese restaurants in my life, so I can’t really answer that.  The watercress ended up in the Vietnamese diet during the years of French colonization.

Changes I made:  Sirloin tip steak instead of ribeye.  The former was already thawed, and needed to be eaten.  Sure, I could also thaw out the ribeye, too, but that would mean too much beef to eat in under a week’s time.  Beef should be parsed out slowly in the diet for a variety of reasons.

Bò Trộn Cải Xoong,recipe, Vietnamese, salad, beef, watercress

Here, we just need the dressing (and, to toss the greens and meat).

And, they call for “one bunch watercress” – I don’t know about you, but I’ve yet to see a standard measurement for a unit of weight called a “bunch”.  I do know it means be flexible, and my recipe below reflects on that, but… I do provide an approximate weight here.

Bò Trộn Cải Xoong, Vietnamese, recipe, watercress

Watercress adds a nice peppery crispness to this dish.  To let this last longer in the fridge, place any rooted watercress you may have, into a shallow bowl of water.

Finally, I cut the recipe in half, to serve just me.

VIetnamese, recipe, Nước Mắm Trộn Gỏi/Nộm, fish sauce, dressing

The salad dressing, a serving. Add when done.

Prep Time:  10 minutes (dressing) + 25 minutes (salad)
Cook Time:  3 minutes
Rest Time:  No.
Serves: 1
Cuisine:  Vietnamese with French Influences
Leftovers:  Sure, but to keep the greens from wilting, I wouldn’t re-heat, or add the final salad dressing until needed.
Serve with: rice, white or brown.

Bò Trộn Cải Xoong – Pan-Seared Beef & Watercress Salad

Part I:  The Fish Sauce Dressing (Nước Mắm Trộn Gỏi/Nộm):  (which you can use on anything you like…)

  • 1.25 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1.25 tablespoons sugar
  • 0.5 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3/4 teaspoons minced hot chile (red or green, de-seeded or not, to preference)

Combine lime juice, fish sauce and sugar, until sugar dissolves.  Add the garlic and hot chili.

Use, or store.  (Up the concentrations of these if you want to reserve some for future recipes, not just to make a one-shot of the salad below).

For those who cannot eat fish, use a quality tamari or use coconut aminos instead.  Coconut aminos are sweet, so cut down on the sugar in the recipe, perhaps by half (taste).

The author of the recipe recommends that for saving the dressing for a lengthy period (which can be up to a month), simply to make a batch of the first three ingredients, adding in the garlic and hot chile when about to use, in appropriate concentrations, as the garlic and chili may lose flavor over time.  

Part II:  The Salad Itself:

  • Four ounces / 115 grams cleaned up sirloin tip steak (or boneless ribeye steak), thin-sliced against the grain.
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced.
  • 1 1-inch / 2.54 cm piece of ginger, minced.
  • 1.5 tablespoons lemongrass stalk, finely minced (or, 2 teaspoons ground lemongrass) 
  • 1.5 tablespoons of sesame oil, divided  (0.5 + 1)
  • 0.5 tablespoon gluten free tamari (or coconut aminos for soy-free)
  • 0.5 teaspoon sugar
  • 0.5 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Roots trimmed, 1/2 bunch of fresh rinsed watercress, about 1 or so ounces / 30 grams
  • The above fish sauce salad dressing.

Combine all the above except one tablespoon of the sesame oil, the watercress, bok choy and fish sauce dressing in a bowl.  I let this marinate for 20 minutes, although the recipe did not discuss marinating.

On a platter or in a bowl, cut the watercress into 3-4 inch / 7-10 cm segments, and chop up the optional bok choy.  Add about half of the fish sauce dressing, and toss.

Heat up a small skillet on medium high.  Add that last tablespoon of sesame oil, spread it, and immediately drop in the contents of the beef bowl.  Stir, browning the meat, for 2-3 minutes.

Remove the contents of this skillet and place atop the greens, add the rest of the dressing, toss and serve!

I served with rice, waiting until my rice cooker rice was nearly ready before searing the steak.

Vietnamese, recipe, beef and watercress salad, Bò Trộn Cải Xoong, beef, watercress

Ready to eat, except this still needs the beef to be tossed with the underlying watercress, and the overlaying dressing.

Thoughts about this cookbook:  Lemongrass, Ginger and Mint, by Linh Nguyen:

Vietnamese, cookbook, Linh Nguyen

For a cookbook published in 2017, there are startlingly few photos of the meals.  However, there are a lot of intriguing meals to be had here, including the signature pho dishes.  If ingredients are hard to find, Nguyen makes these with those ingredients, but lists substitutes and how to use, if and as needed.  Many of the recipes are simple (as is the one I’m posting today), others are much more complex and nuanced.  But there are plenty of simple recipes, and a variety of tingling taste sensations to be had here.  The book totals 75 recipes, but the variety makes it seems like there are more.  Instructions are clear.  Unfortunately, Nguyen does not provide a recipe for the one I failed at and am not yet including on my blog…

There’s a good section on ingredients to stock in your pantry, cooking equipment, and also a short discussion on the differences between north, central and south Vietnamese cuisine.

I am looking forward to trying several of the rice vermicelli recipes, as well as the Vietnamese crepes.  Also, char siu pork.  I have another Vietnamese cookbook dedicated mostly to pho, and will sample one of those pho recipes first.  There are several bánh mì recipes in this book, but I’ll admit, bready baguettes are just simply not my thing.

For those who celebrate:  Happy New Year!

This recipe has made its way to Fiesta Friday, where it is happy to join in the Fiesta.  Co-hosting this round are Antonia @ and Julianna @ Foodie on Board.

And, yes, let’s provide some good eats over at the Homestead Blog Hop, too.

AND more… let’s go hang with Full Plate Thursday, and yes, my plate’s full.









Posted in Asian & Asian Influenced, Cooking, Meats | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Raising Chickens, Part III: Trekking to My Chickens in Zone 5 Winter

Note:  I hadn’t intended this to be an early part of the Raising Chickens series I’m doing, as it is way out of sync of the order one might ideally present such a series in.  But… It’s Winter!  (Needs to go up, now.)   

The location of my hen house is perfect for most the months of the year, but in Winter it can be a bit of a challenge to tread to, here in the northerly snows of Zone 5 B.  In fact, that snow that came mid-November through the northeast never totally removed itself until the 23rd of December… a feat that lasted about two days before more came.  Fortunately just a little for a while.

Winter, chicken coop, commentary

I had certain constraints when laying down the location for the hen house and run:  the hen house, coop and run had to be on a flat surface, reasonably close to the solar panels — the coop WILL BE connected to electric come spring.  (Things just froze up outside sooner than I was able to do what I shoulda done, and the landscapers with the excavator got involved here late, and ran out of time…)  The set up had to be in the back yard, just for aesthetics.  (Although I enjoy running chickens enough that if I set up a second coop, that will be in the front of the house,  to the side, and I can plant shrubbery around the road side.  Plus I didn’t know I’d be getting such an attractive coop.)  I also didn’t want them too close to the human entertainment area which will be set up as a patio with a smoker grill, fire pit, and Maypole.  Chickens aren’t exactly continent.  The solar panels had to be closer to the house (the longer you run the line, the higher the price).

So… my birds are way out there in the back, which feels just right in the summer but not so all-right in winter with a layer of snow.  And, snow which varies in texture and walkability with type of snow, or ack, ICE!  There’s a slight downhill slope at one point, too.  So, let’s say it’s about 350 feet from my back door to the coop, since I can’t walk it in a straight line, such as a crow allegedly flies.

So, this one year, sans electric at the coop, but still having Winter, me being 65 years old, with some relatively minor but long-term physical issues, this is how I cope:
*Note*:  for me this for 12 chickens, located around 350 feet as the crow won’t fly, from my back door.  Scale up or down as required.

Hiking Poles.  I have two non-optimal knees, and one bad ankle.  There is a slight slope in one location on the way down.  I bought my first pair of hiking poles from LL Bean, and they were very useful for various purposes over this past year.  However, one pole did snap in half not long ago.  (Since I have a disjointed sense of humor, I’ve left the bottom part of that pole remaining out there.  For now, anyway.)

Chickens, chicken coop, winter access, hiking poles

The new hiking poles. Sized up and ready for use.

SO, I bought a second pair.  I will note that I usually manage well using just one pole, and it strictly depends on the type of snow/ice or how/where I want to hike, if I really need both.  (Or, either.)  Backups, however…  one cannot say too much about back ups, whether on hiking equipment or on computer dalliances.  Anyhow, the second pair:  TrailBuddy’s Ultra Strong Aluminum Cork Trekking Poles (Amazon).  Too early to render a full verdict on these, but they appear to be more sturdy than the original poles.

Homesteading, winter, poultry, hiking

The new pair, when I pulled them out of their packet. They seem more  sturdy than my older pair.  Various tips are supplied with them, depending what you are walking on!


Backpack.  One that will hold what you need it to hold.  I will get a larger one next year, but this seems satisfactory overall for now.  (This one was pre-existing for day hikes.)  One added benefit:  the hot tap water you carry down twice a day is nice and warm against your back, as noted again below!   No, I don’t see the need to get an Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers pack… But I will want one larger than the one I have now when I get more livestock – a subject to tackle physically (much) later on, though I am planning anyways.  (I will also have vehicular access most days – a UTV or a small tractor.)  

Gallon jug for water.  I’ve re-purposed a Poland Springs gallon water jug for this purpose.  The brand will matter – Poland Springs is one of the few brands that apparently has a screw top lid, and can be effectively re-sealed after each use.  The plastic also seems a bit more sturdy than some other brands I’ve seen.  Yes, I use tap water.  I run the hot water tap and fill and re-fill the jug with it.  Even when I get electric to the coop, I WILL HAVE to refill winter water daily, or twice daily, and very occasionally, thrice daily in winter, since the hose won’t run to the chickens in winter.  Temperatures depending.  The hose won’t be heated from the source sufficiently enough to keep this from freezing, considering the distance.  Unless I want to spend buckets of money on this…  One good thing about using hot tap water… in your backpack it really nicely keeps your backside warm on the way down and while you provide other chicken maintenance, prior to water dispensing!  (Can’t mention this often enough!)

In case you are dubious about your own winter water (ie, oncoming storms and potential power failures) have a good stock of drinking water available for both yourself and them.  I try not to deplete groceries of pre-bottled water – if I plan ahead, I can find plenty of food-safe containers in the house, and when I absolutely do have to buy some, I save those containers, for needs such as this.

(I admit I am also considering a second well, but… We, and the budget, shall see how this plays out, but it should be do-able for my future four-leggeds.)

Pans for water down at the coop.  I started by using smaller kitty litter pans (virgin, of course – besides my cats would never keep their bizness inside a small kitty litter pan, anyway).  Unfortunately, at very low temperatures (one demolished itself at 17 degrees F / minus 8.3 C), these pans have a habit of cracking when you try to remove ice so you can add more water.  Nipple buckets and standard hanging buckets will freeze at the ports of exit for drinking, and while excellent in non-freezing seasons, aren’t optimal for those of us who get Real Winter.   At any rate, I’ve just ordered a couple of 4.75 inch deep pans that are meant for research laboratory use, that are capable of holding frozen dry ice as well as liquid nitrogen (BRRRR!), these pans should not crack at any temperature on this planet where anyone is going to be apt to be raising chickens.  (Yes, I’ve learned from my past scientific research life – they really do stand up to liquid nitrogen temps.)  They cost quite a bit more, but.  Done.  On order, and on the way.  I’ll edit this post to add a photo when they DO arrive.  EDIT Jan 31st:  I’m removing the recommendation for this product.  Appearances online can sometimes be deceiving.   When I get what I really was hoping to get, I will re-edit again, with that promised photo up close!  PS, for $30 dollars one should not get glorified Styrofoam – yes it would hold liquid nitrogen, but for slamming ice out of it to replenish… not so good.  

Large jug for food transport.  I’ve re-purposed a plastic container once containing kitty litter for this.  It holds more than the water jug, but won’t be as heavy, since it’s not carrying water,  when full.  It is severely better than manhandling 25 pounds of chicken feed to them at a time on icy surfaces.  (Note my aforementioned knees and ankle, please.)  I would not use this for water, as it is probably not food-safe plastic.  I will bring down loads of food in the jug at one time, and store the food in the bin associated with the run, and return the empty container to my house until I need it again around a week later.  (The only critters who have ever gotten into the bin have been crickets.  Um, I do recycle those to the chickens!  Crickets are dumb enough to be caught, but you won’t find them past September.)  Note, if the ground isn’t slippery, I just manhandle down the 25 lb bag, or put half in a bucket that I use for storage in the bin and carry that down.  Non-winter or muddy months, I just drive the stuff down, but I need a tractor or UTV for further farm growth!  (THIS year…)

Egg collection apron.  For 1-4 eggs, I can carry them in my jacket pockets, especially if I remembered to bring a few sheets of paper towel along.   Both as buffer, and as a way when some eggs were dirty… my pockets could survive the mud or poo.  This helped for the first month of what was winter up here.  I’ve eleven hens, some of whom didn’t get the memo about not laying much in the darker days of the year… So, I got myself this egg collection apron.  These seem to hold 12 eggs total (and there are still always your jacket pockets anyway for back up).  With 11 hens, I certainly don’t need more than 12 pockets!

Homesteading, poultry, egg collecting, winter

Winter apron, 12 slots for 12 eggs, none have dropped out when I bend over, to date. Safe also when I did a “slip and fall” in the snow, which fortunately damaged nothing more than my dignity.  Paper towel (hard to see) to upper left is divvied out for dirty eggs, so I don’t have to wash this apron as often.  

Yes, there are some great baskets for egg collection, but for winter with certain types of snow/ice/mud, I want my hands on my hiking poles.  Sometimes I am bringing things back and forth leaving me with just the right-hand pole, but for everyday use?  Give me a good apron!  If I’ve slipped on my dignity, it’s been my backside!  Cackleberry Home Egg Collecting & Gathering Apron 12 Pockets, Bright Garden (Amazon).  They do have other apron patterns, but this one was chicken-themed.  

Paper towels/face cloths.  Nice to have, I keep them in my jacket pockets.  They are also fine in the back pack.  If you only have a couple or so of eggs each time, you can separate them from clinking against each other with a paper towel.  Or a face cloth, which is more bulky.  Your choice.  (Face cloths are too bulky to fit with an egg into those apron slots.) Wrapping them also keeps poo’d -on eggs from contaminating the others or your apron slots, within reason.  You may also want to store extra paper towels or face cloths in your chicken storage bin.  

Snow shovel.  Get an extra that you keep AT your coop/run.  You don’t want the ability to access your coop or run to be ruined by snow that turns into frozen nastiness.  Go out early and often, clear your entryways to the coop and run.  I like the ergonomic shape, do as you will.  On the small scale this clearing is, ergonomic need not be a consideration and a regular straight pole for a handle should do just fine, but I had an extra ergonomic one, so that’s what’s there.

Broom.  I’m using the broom I also use to sweep out the coop.  I also use it to brush off the top of the storage bin… turns out too much snow weight on the lid makes the hydraulic mechanism that keeps the bin open when I’m poking around in there, not work so well.  Not crazy about the lid crashing down on my head, despite my winter head gear!  The coop broom I use is has a 12-15 inch sweep, which for its main purpose (cleaning out the coop proper), is why I bought that size.  It works with snow as well as with coop clean out.  You may well find other uses… knock that snow that is turning into icicles off the coop roof, that sort of thing.

De-icing spray.  This is the thing you keep around for your car lock especially back in the day when cars had to be opened with a manual key.  This spray/spritzer is handy for getting into your coop if icing occurs.  Even if icing occurs, you won’t always need it, but GOOD to have on hand, just in case.  Or you could do what I had to do about twenty years ago to my car sitting in my driveway to get into it so I could get to work one morning after the entire driver side (and passenger side) doorway was iced over… a half liter of vodka…  Yep, don’t laugh, although that car probably should have been pulled over for its own severe inebriation.

Head Lamp This is something you should have anyway.  Winter, summer, spring, fall.  Chickens, four-legged livestock, getting lost in the woods, checking the outdoors for whatever, or just for anything!  The back of my house does have lights, but you will want directed light, and why tie up the use of one arm in the dark holding a flashlight, lantern, or your truly awkward mobile phone to light your way?  If you really have to go visit your chickens at night, it’s usually something you’ll want quick directed light to access.  Full moonlight is cool, but hardly ever around when you need it.  Also, it may not be good enough.

The head lamp I bought, Atomic Beam, is awesome. It uses LED lighting, and you can set the light to either of two levels of brightness (I’m sure the lower level will go through the battery slower), as well as to a strobe light, for which I’m not certain how I’d use that feature, but others may certainly find applications.  Hopefully not for the induction of epilepsy, but if you are susceptible, I can see where this setting would be a trigger.  There are straps so you can adjust it to fit your bare head, or over whatever winter or hard-hat needs you may have.

Poultry, winter, atomic beam, head lamp

This is the beam on the lower intensity setting, simply so I could get a better photo. Love it!!!

I am planning on buying a second one to keep in the car.  Just in case.  Y’ never know!  Atomic Beam Headlight by BulbHead, 5,000 Lux Hands-Free LED Headlamp, 3 Beam Modes (Amazon). 

Yes, keep a stash of extra batteries for anything you might ever need to use that requires them!

Footprints:  Especially if you are on a slope of any nature, and need to access your chickens or any other livestock on a regular basis, having defined footprints in your landscape can be a lifesaver.   Back in the day around 20 or so years ago, when I only had ONE bad knee, I lived in a home atop a super-steep driveway, and if my car couldn’t climb up (it could have been plowed, but if it were icy, I still couldn’t always drive up…), I parked at the bottom, and hiked up the side of the drive.  I left footprints and followed them both directions.  I didn’t have hiking poles then, but had a couple good sturdy wood sticks (aka tree branches), and they kept me from falling.  One day that 20-year-ago winter it suddenly reached 50+ degrees F, rained, and froze solid to 20 degrees F… and for the next five days the weather dropped to about 9 degrees F.  Stayed there.  I had to use those footprints, and those sticks, to get back and forth from my house to the car (and work) and back again.  I remember the only thing I could purchase and get into my house during that time was canned cat food for my feline companions, because I could carry them in my pockets.  (I lacked a backpack then.)   Fortunately, I had plenty of human food there.  So… hey, I maintain footprints as a fail-safe.  And a backpack.  Unless you can plow the area (and on a steep driveway, even that local plow could not make it non-icy and safe that week, and at that level of cold, salt just sits there and laughs at you), maintain a set of footprints.

Raising Chickens, winter, laying hens, chicken coop, commentary

While this picture doesn’t demonstrate the slight slope I have, there is one, and those footprints can be awesome to follow, especially at the slope. In this photo, to the left they lead to the food bin, to the right to the coop itself. A shovel near the run door.   The run is dark in back because I’ve tarped that area to keep excess winds and snow out.

Yes, you can plow out a path, but DO keep tracks for yourself so as not to slip.  Because, as noted above… snow plow paths do NOT necessarily keep you safe from secure footsteps, even if there is any sort of slope involved.  I KNOW this.

Boot or shoe crampons.  Yaktracks is the popular brand, but Unigear traction cleats dig into ice even further.  Choose your brand depending on your needs, and on the access you have to your coop.  I’ve had a broken knee, and another knee where a benign tumor was  removed the year prior to this, and  a really bad ankle that now has pins and a plate.  I’m working on trying to figure out how my XL-sized Unigear will fit with support on a hiking BOOT, rather than just the running shoes you see in these pics.   (I wear 10.5 sized footwear… men’s, US sizing, although my boots are size 11.)  Unigear Traction Cleats Ice Snow Grips with 18 Spikes for Walking, Jogging, Climbing and Hiking (Amazon). 

Winter, coop, chickens

With my seriously bad knees, I am best off if I can hoist myself off in this footwear, by going up from a chair. The backpack contains water, and can also contain other supplies as needed. The crampon-adapted shoes have spikes that are best not worn indoors, or on the epoxy surface of my chicken coop.

At any rate, you shouldn’t need to wear these every trip you take to the coop in winter.

winter, homesteading, chickens, coop

Here’s a slippery slope, overly crunchy occasion… IN this case, we had a load of snow, then lots of rain but not everything melted away… and the residue rain settled into the remaining snow… Temperature plummet… ICE!  This was seriously worse the day prior to the photo.

Here’s the spikey base of the cleats I am using.  Step down solid as you walk.  

Winter, chickens, poultry, access

The spikes dig in somewhere between a quarter inch to a half an inch.

Winter garb.  You should already know what works for you.  I do try to keep two pairs of gloves, one regular winter wear for the cold, and another pair that I can switch to, which has more finger flexibility but protective capability should a chicken, especially  a rooster, object to a procedure.  Hopefully said procedures won’t be necessary, but one never knows.

One reminder:  On really bright sunny days with snow on the ground, “snow blindness” is a thing.  Get shades.  Prescription, if needed.  Or simply something to cover over glasses you may already need to have.

We’ve had three-four days to date where temps dropped to about 0 degrees F.  I kept the chickens cooped up in their coop.   They are able to keep each other warm, and if you have winter-hardy birds and have a properly-ventilated coop you should do just fine.  You’ll need to provide them with liquid water more frequently, but that’s fine.  Add ample pine shaving or hay bedding, and allow the poop by the roosts to accumulate… this will provide more warmth.  But if it smells bad when you go in there, it means your ventilation system is inadequate or overloaded, and you will need to remove some of their droppings.

I understand that some breeds of chickens who are otherwise winter-hardy may be susceptible to comb or wattle frostbite.  I understand that Vaseline rubbed on their combs will protect them from said frostbite.  Fortunately, my Wyandotte roo, Tiny Dancer, is likely not susceptible — which is good, because I don’t think he’d stand still for frequent applications of the stuff.

Winter Garb Addendum, for -10 F and Worse: 

January 19th through most of the 20th we had a snowfall of about a foot here.  Then, late Sunday (the 20th) our temps just simply plummeted, to a low of -13 F / -25 C on Monday.  Temperatures struggled up to about -7 by the end of that day.  Wind chill factors hovered around minus 25 to minus 30 (probably lower here) all day.  The 12 chickens were fine enclosed in their coop (no wind chill, decent ventilation, shared body warmth, some poop warmth, and I’d given them a third of a bag of extra pine shavings before the storm).  Their water froze, but that’s why I had to go down and replenish.

Normally, a good pair of thermal gloves suffices.  Mittens are hard to work with, and for certain tasks you WILL have to remove at least one of them for dexterity purposes.  BUT, if you get winter weather this cold, BUY A PAIR of thermal MITTENS!  You can remove one quickly if you need to have fingers at the ready for half a minute.  Most times, warmer weather, thermal gloves will suffice.

But, best yet!!!  My friend Kat just sent me information about two styles of convertible mittens/fingerless gloves.  They seal up as mittens, and unseal to bring your fingers to the ready when briefly so needed – for instance, the picking up of eggs.  I am ordering NOW.  My choices:  TrailHeads Power Stretch Convertible Mittens – Women’s Fingerless Gloves  or Beurlike Women’s Winter Gloves Warm Wool Knitted Convertible Fingerless Mittens (both Amazon).

I was only down there about 15 minutes or so, but on the way back, I could feel my gloved fingers growing numb.  I will also get a heavier-duty insulated hat (make sure any hat you have covers your ears, which mine did, but it was not heavy duty enough…).  By the time I got back to the house, I was feeling that unpleasant “brain freeze” you can get if you eat too big a spoonful of really cold ice cream all at once.

I will also note that those effective temperatures around minus 30 F / minus 35 C wind chill factors will exhaust you.  Wind out of one’s sails, and other metaphors… Or maybe it’s just me, at age 65?  A good scarf and/or ski mask may also be in order.  

Keep a stash of Vaseline or similar around in case a rooster or hen needs the protection from frostbite.  (ATM, mine seem to be fine; as noted my rooster, Tiny Dancer, resists handling, so I’m glad he doesn’t need it.  Some breeds are more susceptible than others to frostbite. In this region, I’d made a point of choosing breeds that were not.)

Upcoming Project

A friend convinced me not to sell my childhood sled on Craig’s List.  Several years ago, rather tongue-in-cheek, I named it Rosebud, and while I do have fond memories using it as a child, I’m not into any Orson Wells state of attachment.  I want to adapt it to my needs as a livestock keeper, and I figure something like setting it up for running bedding to my chickens would be a good first project.  Bedding is just not something that will efficiently be run down to a coop using a back pack.  Bedding is reasonably light, but it IS bulky.  Whatever bedding you can carry in a back pack is not likely to do diddly in itself.

winter, chickens, poultry

An ancient Fearless Flyer (late 50s, early 60s?), needs rope replacement, and one nut/bolt assembly also needs replacement. Otherwise, this will work fine for a downhill chicken bedding run, with proper bungee cords. Haven’t had the need yet, but I do have the rope and should simply just set it up! PS: Ancient memory of freezing my lip to the metal bar in front as a kid!  Finally solved THAT problem via saliva!

Before that pre-T-Day snow storm hit (which was a predicted blizzard), I’d loaded up their bin with much of the stuff the chickens might need long term, including bedding.  So, I have had time to adapt the sled.

So, here we go with Rosebud, keeping in mind that a manual old-fashioned sled such as this is, will not be practical in all snow conditions.  Try to get anything you want to cart down that would work on a sled down there before you need to think about using a sled… because, yeah, one will not work in all winter conditions.  Even if, as with me, you are transporting downhill.  Consider this item a backup that will not always be useful, but if and when it is… It’s there!

At any rate:  Don’t let Ole Man Winter get you DOWN!

This post is shivering, but warming up over at Fiesta Friday, where this week’s co-hosts are Antonia @ and Julianna @ Foodie on Board.

Warming up, but still needing additional warmth, over at the Homestead Blog Hop!











Posted in Cooking | 18 Comments

Taco de Lengua: Beef Tongue Tacos

Contains:  Nightshades, dairy. 

NOTE:  I’m posting this recipe in two parts today:  one, the salsa verde, the second the tacos de lengua.  Some may want just the salsa and may want to steer well clear of any meat such as the tongue.  (Or, may not be able to find some.)  Although, do note that you can substitute in shredded pork shoulder (carnitas).

Mexican, recipe, tacos, lengua, tongue, salsa verde

A completed taco, ready for folding and eating.

A decade or so ago, I was on jury duty in Danbury, CT, and across the street is a largely-authentic Mexican eatery, adjoining a Mexican grocery.  Promptly at noon, we’d be let out to fend for ourselves for lunch for exactly one hour – it was rather strange to me for a task to stop precisely at noon, practically mid phrase of a spoken deposition – my own job didn’t work like that!  We worked until we had a sensible stopping point, and on a few days you just grabbed a bite at your desk, or took it to a meeting.

recipe, Mexican, Salsa Verde, Tacos de Lengua

The ingredients for both the Salsa Verde and for the Tacos de Lengua.

Anyhow, there were only two or three places to eat near enough to walk to (if you left by car, you’d never find a parking spot upon return) to be back precisely by one (some people did bring their own lunches), but this Mexican eatery, while it didn’t look like much and the juke box was way too loud for the middle of the day, was the real thing.

Mexican, recipe, tacos, lengua, tongue, salsa verde

Yummers! (If in doubt: If you didn’t know what it was, and you like beef, you’d like this…)

I ordered the tongue tacos one of those days fulfilling my civic duty.   They were quite good, as I’d expected (being as I like beef tongue).  So, I figured, with my new beef tongue, I’d attempt this Mexican dish, with an eye to some level of authenticity.

For tacos, I needed to cook the tongue  a shreddable level of time.  I had no intention of turning all the meat into tacos, and overall only certain recipes work best shredded:  taco meats, carnitas, that sort of thing.  I wanted slices out of the rest.

Mexican, recipe, tacos, lengua, tongue, salsa verde

For the tongue

So, I cooked the whole tongue 4 hours on high in my crock pot, cut off the parts I wanted to cook longer, and cooked those (after de-skinning) another two hours.  This also allowed the Mexican seasonings to permeate the meat.

Mexican, recipe, tacos, lengua, tongue, salsa verde

Shredded beef tongue, with spices added.

It felt weird not adding something acidic like vinegar or dill pickle juice to the tongue during its slow-cookery, but, well, something different, as they say.  (The family had been eating Mom’s tongue – don’t take that literally – since our early childhood, and for home cooking, it’s been the only way I’ve known.)

Mexican, recipe, tacos, lengua, tongue, salsa verde

Get bits of everything ready for assemblage of your taco. Again, note, you can use shredded pork carnitas instead of tongue.

I did take some liberties in lengua/tongue seasonings.  Recipes I checked online seemed to state adding nothing more than onion/salt during the slow cooking stage.  I couldn’t keep my hands that idle!

Mexican, recipe, tacos, lengua, tongue, salsa verde

Layered the seasoned meat, then the bell pepper… before adding lettuce and salsa atop what you see here.

Anyhow, here’s what I’ve come up with.  BTW, we found the guy guilty beyond reasonable doubt of two of the four charges.  You may not ever want to do it, but I found being a juror to be a valid learning experience on many levels, some possibly unintentional (I was only away from my own career for about four days, and to be honest, three of those days I went to work before and/or after the proceedings.)

lengua tacos done

Ready, set, go!

Cook Time:  6 hours for the slow cooker, maybe another ten minutes if you don’t eat this right away and need to re-heat the tongue.  
Prep Time:  5 minutes prior to slow cooking + 15 minutes just before the end of slow cooking.  10 minutes after.  (Salsa recipe will be separate.)
Rest Time:  Not necessary.
Serves:  For the amount of tongue I used in this recipe:  about ten tacos.
Cuisine:  Mexican
Leftovers:  Yes, just don’t assemble the next tacos until you are ready to eat them.

Taco de Lengua

Cooking the tongue:

  • 1 beef tongue, of which I used half, once slow-cooked.  Reserve the rest for other ideas.
  • 1 small onion, peeled and quartered.
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  • 1 teaspoon Annato,
  • 1 teaspoon ground ancho chili pepper

Prepping the tacos:

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ancho chili pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 colorful bell pepper, cut into slivers and de-seeded
  • Lettuce, hand-shredded
  • Salsa (see my Salsa Verde with Tomatillo, Avocado, Sour Cream recipe for an idea)
  • Other items at whim:  Cilantro, chopped tomato, hot sauce(s), heated re-fried beans and so forth.
  • Soft (or hard) corn tortillas

For the tacos, to shred this meat, simmer it for around 6 hours.  In this case, I used high, so that the tongue would shred more effectively for the purpose of tacos.  At any rate, add the ingredients under “Cooking the Tongue” into the slow cooker when you start it up.

When you pull it out, let it cool just enough that you can remove the skin.  It is really difficult to remove skin from cold tongue.

Take the warm shredded tongue, and mix in the chili powder, oregano, paprika, salt and pepper, from the Prepping the Tacos ingredient list.  (Re-heat the tongue if necessary; use either the microwave for a minute and a half, or put the tongue in a small oven safe bowl that you cover tightly, and into a pre-heated (350 F / 175 C) oven for about ten minutes.  THEN mix in the spices.)  

I heat up the soft taco shells (microwave or in the oven on a low setting, such as 225 F / 105 C) until just warmed.

Layer down the meat, then the pepper slivers, then the lettuce.  Top with a spread of salsa, then any other item that you would love to finish with (suggested in the optional ingredients list).

Fold up, serve and eat!

lengua tacos done logo

Yes, it’s Fiesta Friday once again!  I’m happy to be re-joining as a co-host this week, along with the marvelous Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau.

And we are also off to share with What’s For Dinner, Sunday Link Up!



Posted in Cooking, Meats, Offal, South of the Border | Tagged , , , , , | 19 Comments

Salsa Verde with Tomatillo, Avocado, Sour Cream

Contains:  Nightshades, dairy.  Is:  Vegetarian.  

NOTE:  I’m posting this recipe in two parts today:  one, the salsa verde, the second the tacos de lengua.  Some may want just the salsa and may want to steer well clear of any meat such as the tongue.  Although, do note that you can substitute in shredded pork shoulder (carnitas) in that second recipe.  

I wanted to make a salsa for my tacos in the next post, and seeing that tomatillos are frequently used in Mexico, I figured I’d try my hand experimenting with these.  I wanted it chunky but creamy – which lead to both the avocado and the sour cream.

salsa verde, Mexican, recipe, tomatillo, avocado, onion, sour cream, vegetarian

Salsa Verde with tomatillo, avocado, onion, lime, sour cream, cilantro

For various health and taste reasons (you can see other posts of mine, or check out _________ by ___ ) I prefer to use full fat dairy in nearly all cases.   Although if you are lactose intolerant or vegan, substitute with a thick canned coconut cream and add a little more lime juice.

I like my salsas chunky, but feel free to pulse to the texture you prefer.  If you choose to make this fully or nearly-entirely smooth, I’d squeeze and discard extra liquid from the diced tomatillos before proceeding further.  Cheesecloth in a kitchen sieve would work, using fist or spoon pressure.

Mexican, salsa verde, tomatillo, recipe

Dicing the tomatillos

I’ve noticed a vast heat difference in jalapeños.  Some will burn your gut if you look at them cross-eyed.  Some seem no different than a mild poblano, even with seeds.  Afraid you’ll have to taste your volunteer and adjust the amount by the thing’s native heat and your taste buds.

Of course, you can use this salsa for any reason you’d use salsa to begin with – not just for tacos.

Let’s get to it!

Prep Time: 15 minutes. 
Cook Time: Huh? 
Rest Time:  Let flavors meld at least half an hour.
Serves: Depends on use.
Cuisine:  Mexican.
Leftovers?:  Refrigerate, seal tightly with cling wrap to help keep the avo from oxidizing.

Salsa Verde with Tomatillo, Avocado, Sour Cream

  • 3 peeled and washed tomatillos (to wash off the sticky stuff), finely diced.
  • 1/2 small onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 1/2 jalapeño (or more depending), optionally de-seeded.  Finely diced.  (See note above.)
  • Juice of 1/2 lime (you can add more, but taste test at the end!)  
  • 1 avocado, nice, fresh and green, chopped up.  
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons quality sour cream.   Or thick coconut cream if lactose intolerant or vegan.
  • Several sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped, and stems are fine.  

If you plan to pulse this salsa to a smooth or nearly smooth texture, strain the tomatillos through cheesecloth to remove excess liquid.  If you want it rather chunky, you don’t need to do this, but reserve it as an option.

Gently mix the first five ingredients above together by hand.  If you will be wanting to pulse at all (coarse or more smooth) add to a small pulse-capable blender, and pulse a couple times (or many).

Return to the bowl you’d originally cut them into, and add 3 tablespoons of sour cream.  Mix by hand.  If you deem another tablespoon necessary for your wanted consistency, add it now.  Taste.  Add more lime, especially if you’ve gone the coconut route (as there’s no sour flavor from that).

Add the cilantro, hand stir with your spoon.

Set aside in fridge for at least half an hour, but less than six for optimal salsa.

Yes, leftovers will last longer, but hints of browning may well set in, from avocado oxidation.

recipe, Mexican, Salsa Verde, Tacos de Lengua

The ingredients for both the Salsa Verde and for the Tacos de Lengua.


Yes, it’s Fiesta Friday once again.  I’m happy to be re-joining as a co-host this week, along with the marvelous Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau.

And, again yes, we are celebrating Sundays over at What’s For Dinner, Sunday Link Up!


Posted in Cooking, South of the Border, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , | 18 Comments