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Tuesday, February 24, 2009


The girls have been up late celebrating Mardi Gras. Of course the Three Swingin’ Chicks are always up for a party—they don’t need much of an excuse.

However, they’re disappointed—once again—they had to settle in Minnesota. Not only because of the weather but it’s Carnival time and, according to the three revelers, you would never know it here in Icicleland. No parades, no costumes, no partying at all hours of the day and night. Roxanne thinks it’s pathetic how eerily quiet and respectable everything is. The only state where everyone goes to bed early.

The Swingin’ Chicks have been doing their best to carry on the Mardi Gras party tradition on their own by jammin’ and generally making a racket in the coop, but they’d love a few extra chicks for a real party and maybe a horn section parading down the street.

The girls would also like a little spicy heat to jazz up their food, if not the rest of their lives. Instead they’ll have to settle for traditional Fat Tuesday pancakes. I think they’ll be happy. I’m making blini today, a Russian Mardi Gras tradition.

Quick Blini or Russian Mardi Gras Pancakes
Print This Recipe
This recipe is from two Russian friends from St. Petersburg who stayed with us several years ago on an exchange program. It uses baking soda instead of yeast making it an easy quick version of traditional blini. These blini are so simple to make that our two friends whipped these up on the spur of the moment in the middle of a party at our house—they were a huge hit. I prefer them at breakfast but they’re great celebration food anytime.

2 eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Vegetable oil for frying
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Strawberry or raspberry preserves
Sour cream

Whisk together the eggs, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl until the eggs are frothy. Pour in 1/2 cup of the milk and whisk just to blend. Dump in the flour and whisk until the batter is thick and smooth with no lumps remaining.

Once the batter is smooth, whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup milk, adding the additional 2 tablespoons of milk if necessary to create a very thin batter. The batter should be about the consistency of heavy whipping cream.

To cook the blini, heat a small (about 8-inch) nonstick skillet or crepe pan until hot. Brush lightly with oil and spoon about 1/4 cup batter into the pan. Immediately turn the pan so the batter covers the bottom and goes slightly up the side of the pan.

Cook 25 to 30 seconds or until the bottom is golden brown and the top is dry. Turn and cook about 10 seconds or until the bottom is dry.

Place on a plate and brush with butter. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Serve the blini letting everyone fill their own with a spoonful of berry preserves or sour cream or a combination of the two. Fold the pancakes in quarters.

Makes about 12 blini

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Year of the Egg

It’s official—eggs are trendy! Bon App├ętit magazine proclaimed
Anything with an Egg on Top as their Dish of the Year in the January
2009 issue. Eggs are featured on top of pizza, on top of pasta and at the top of salads for delicious high-protein low-cost meals.

The girls were nonplussed when I told them. Lulu harrumphed “I’ve been laying eggs “on top” of lots of things for a long time and no one thought to make that page one news! Eggs on top of cedar shavings, eggs on top of straw, eggs on top of grass, eggs on top of treat bowls and last week I even laid eggs on top of snow and no one made headlines for me!” (I think they’re a little grumpy—freezing rain will do that I guess.)

I have to say I’m excited the rest of the country will finally experience what those of us with chickens have known all along: Eggs are the perfect food with anything, especially newly-laid still-warm eggs fresh from the backyard.

Check out the post below for a recipe honoring The Year of the Egg.

Roasted Mushroom Linguine with Parmesan Eggs

In honor of The Year of the Egg, I recently made a roasted vegetable pasta with eggs. Italians have always used eggs in pasta, the most famous dish being Pasta Carbonara. The eggs add extra protein and creaminess to the sauce. This recipe is tossed at the last minute with lightly fried eggs. The eggs add flavor while the creamy yellow yolk adds richness to the sauce.

Roasted Mushroom Linguine with Parmesan Eggs
Print This Recipe

1 (6 oz.) pkg. cremini mushrooms (also called baby portobellos or baby bellas), halved
1 (3.5 oz.) pkg. shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and discarded, caps halved
1 red or orange sweet potato (usually labeled yams), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup coarsely chopped shallots
3 large garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup white wine
8 oz. linguine
3 eggs
1/3 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Heat the oven to 400°F. Toss the cremini and shiitake mushrooms with the sweet potato, shallots, garlic and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large bowl. Spread the vegetables in a single layer in a large rimmed baking sheet and set the bowl aside for later. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until the vegetables are browned and tender.

Toss the cooked vegetables in the original bowl with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil along with the salt and pepper. Place the baking sheet over medium heat on the stovetop. Pour in the wine and bring to a boil. Boil 1 minute or until the wine is reduced to about 1/3 cup, scraping up the browned bits as the wine reduces. Pour over the vegetables.

While the vegetables are roasting, cook the linguine according to the package directions. Drain well and toss with the mushroom mixture. Place in a large shallow serving bowl and cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until warm. Add the eggs, being careful not to break the yolks. Cover and cook 1 to 2 minutes or until the whites are just set but the yolks are still runny, adjusting the heat if necessary. Place the eggs on top of the pasta. Generously sprinkle the cheese over the eggs and pasta. Bring to the table and gently toss the eggs into the pasta, cutting the eggs into large pieces as you toss.

Serves 4

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Chewy Chocolate Brownie Cookies

I recently got together with some long-time friends for a mid-winter women's getaway. We came prepared with the essentials: lots of wine, other libations, and enough food to sustain us for days in case we were snowed in. Of course we didn’t need to bring any food with us as we were eating all of our meals out, but as women always do we came prepared and ready to nourish! One of the goodies I tucked away in my bag was a tin of homemade chocolate cookies. They were opened and passed around before we even got to our destination. Friends, laughter and chocolate—three keys to the perfect getaway!

With Valentine’s Day coming up, these cookies would make a great treat for anyone you love. They’re like bite-size brownies: shiny and crackly on top with a soft fudgy center.

Chewy Chocolate Brownie Cookies
Print This Recipe

I first tasted these cookies last year while in New Orleans for a food conference. They were the winner of the Louisiana Cookin’ magazine’s Reader Recipe Contest. I’ve changed the name of these cookies and adapted the recipe slightly. If you’re like me and really love dark chocolate, I suggest using 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, cut up, in place of the semisweet chocolate chips. Whenever I use chocolate I always splurge and buy the best chocolate available. It does make a difference.

1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips (8 oz.)
4 tablespoons butter, cut up
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (12 oz.) pkg. bittersweet chocolate chips

Heat the oven to 350°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Combine the semisweet chocolate chips and butter in a small microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high in 20-second increments, stirring every 20 seconds until the chips are almost melted. Stir until smooth. Cool until warm, not hot. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in another small bowl.

Beat the eggs, brown sugar and vanilla in a large bowl on medium speed for 3 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the melted chocolate. Beat in the flour mixture just until blended. Stir in the bittersweet chocolate chips. (Batter will be soft, but if excessively soft refrigerate until firm enough to scoop.)

Drop by 1 1/2 tablespoons (a tiny ice cream scoop works perfect) onto baking sheets. Bake, one sheet at a time, for 9 minutes or until the tops are shiny and cracked and the centers are soft. Place the cookie sheet with cookies on a cooling rack and let sit for 3 minutes to allow the cookies to firm slightly. Remove the cookies to the cooling rack and cool completely.

4 dozen cookies

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Valentine’s Day Treat

This year my girls received an early Valentine’s Day gift: a parcel of fresh green grass. Yes, it’s still the middle of winter here in the Icebox Capital but my girls are walking barefoot through the grass! I was fortunate enough to receive the grass after we used it in a photo shoot for Cooking Pleasures magazine. The chicks are as thrilled with their present as I would be if I received a large box of Jacques Torres chocolates.

Fresh Grass under a Snow-Covered Canopy

The grass is actually wheatgrass, the early growth of wheat plants, not sod. However, it turns out wheatgrass is extremely beneficial for chickens as well as people. Interestingly, scientist Charles Schnabel experimented with wheatgrass in 1931 while looking for a way to bring sick chickens back to health. His experiments showed that wheatgrass not only improved the health of the hens, it also increased their egg production. He was so enamored with the benefits of wheatgrass that he began expounding its virtues for humans and animals alike. Today wheatgrass is available in dried, powdered and tablet forms or you can order up a yummy wheatgrass shake in any respectable health food store. Fresh wheatgrass is available in many co-ops and health food stores or you can grow your own with self-starter kits.

Barefoot Through the Grass

I’m sure my chicks don’t really care about the health benefits of their grass. I think what they really love is dreaming about summer and pretending they are running barefoot through the park.

For the Valentine Treat I would rather receive watch for my next post, Chewy Chocolate Brownie Cookies.


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