Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Love Affair with Peanut Butter

Image courtesy of

A recent posting on the Serious Eats blog ( discussed peanut butter. I have been a fan for years and the article got me thinking of my love affair with the thick, fragrant, smooth or chunky nut butter.

My mother, who used to pack my lunches when I was in elementary school would make me these wonderful sandwiches with lunch meats and cheese, mayo and mustard with lettuce and tomato. Sometimes it was just a bologna and American cheese and other times it was capicola with provolone and once in a while it was roast beef with Swiss.

I would unwrap these midday feasts from their wax paper and swiftly hand it over to my right or left and take the peanut butter and jelly sandwich offered me from a classmate. So many of my school friends were stuck with this sandwich day in and day out because we went to Catholic school and, well, they came from large families where the food budget was tight and a PB&J was just a good, stick-to-your-ribs kinda lunch.

It wasn’t until second grade that my sister told my mother that I was giving away my sandwiches and all hell broke loose! I was eight years old and had to hear about how much lunch meat cost and that she wasn’t giving it to me to feed the neighborhood.

Agreed. Points well taken, but all I wanted was a delicious peanut butter and jelly on white bread. Just like everyone else. Was that too much to ask? By the middle of second grade, it wasn’t and that’s what I got.

To this day, one of my favorite lunches is a nice PB&J with a couple pickles and some potato chips.

My love of peanut butter doesn’t stop there, though. I enjoy a good spoonful now and again, straight from the jar. When I was young, that swirly stuff in the jar with the PB & J all in one was one of my favorites, but as an adult I can see that’s just not right.

Here are some favorite ways I have with peanut butter:

Mix with raisins and spread on a toasted English muffin and drizzle honey on it.
Toasted bread, PB and sliced bananas.
Spread on apple chunks.
Peanut butter pie.
Mung bean salad with peanut, soy sauce, sesame oil dressing.
Peanut butter sundae, add marshmallow and have a fluffernutter sundae.
Fluffernutter sandwiches.
Use in place of tahini in hummus.

So, how do you have your way with peanut butter?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ok, I know this blog is about food and a rooster can be food, but not in my vegetarian world, as many of you know. I’m an ovo-lacto-pesca-vegetarian. What that means is I eat eggs, dairy, honey and fish.

I stay away from the meat counter for the most part, unless I come to dinner and you’ve cooked meatballs in tomato gravy (yeah, I call it gravy – but that’s another posting) and as I don’t wish for you to go crazy trying to make me something else, I’m polite and will eat the pasta and gravy, sans the meatballs.

Joanne’s mother used to make an absolutely phenomenal Italian Wedding Soup (so delicious, the woman could have made a fortune from it) every holiday and I would pick out the chicken and those teensy weensy meatballs every time and just have the soup with the escarole and parmesan cheese. Oh, so yummy…but alas, I digress.

I grew up on a farm and our animals would see the light of day, have veterinary care and were overseen with compassion and respect. Today’s animals raised for food do not get that. They are raised in factory conditions as if they are inanimate objects without senses of pain or fear. As I found this out in my mid-twenties, I gave up eating meat. It’s my thing. I don’t preach or get on a soapbox, but most people wish to know why I’m vegetarian, just giving a bit of background. You eat what you want and I’ll eat what I want.

So, in my little ways of feeling like I’m getting the most from my patch of land, I started raising chickens. Well, I had a girlfriend give me three little bantams about 10 years ago. From there, it’s just gone crazy, this chicken thing of mine.

Three little hens pecked and scratched around my property for a while. Then someone told us they had some chicks, so we took them to add to our flock. From that group came some silkie hens and our wonderful rooster, Hector.

Hector is about two pounds of gorgeous colored feathers and one proud, handsome rooster. He clucks for ‘his girls’ to come get some little speck of something he’s foraged and sounds like he’s saying, “Look-look-look-loook-loooook!” trying to get their attention.

Silkies are great little chickens with feathers that don’t look like feathers, but more like fluffy hair. They are birds to be reckoned with, as their small size does little to deter them from taking on the most ferocious beast should the beast make the error of thinking they can take advantage of them.

In another round of special chicken-getting, I had the opportunity to get a couple other silkies and one was a ‘blue’ which is lingo for grey and white feathering that looks blue in the light. This little fella grew up to be Buddy. We call him our ‘Girly Rooster’ since he tends to know his place.

If you’ve ever heard the term pecking order, you need to know in the world of chickens, it is as true as it sounds. These birds make an order of dominance and in our little henhouse, Buddy is at the bottom. One look from Hector sends him flying in the opposite direction and screaming as he goes which gives way to the identity of ‘girly rooster.’ However, he’s just a rung or two higher than the new birds that have entered the flock.

This year, we ordered ten pullets from a local feed store. As we could order however many of any breed we wanted, we chose them based on some research we did. Pullets are ‘girls’ before they lay eggs. These babies were only about a week old when they joined us and had to spend the better part of three months in a small crate inside our hen house to be acclimated and big enough for the original chickens to not hurt them.

We purchased light and dark Brahmas for their huggability according to one website, Australorps for their beautiful black feathers, Buff Orpingtons for their dependable egg laying ability and docile character and Ameraucanas for their egg colors of blue and green (so far no eggs from them.)

A local farmer gave us two Plymouth Barred Rocks who were only older by about 3 months and then we have our silkies and one little bantam hen. We have named them all in our quest to keep them as pets, rather than just birds who produce eggs for us.

For Joanne and I, that’s the way it works. We’re all family here.

As they grew, they became beautiful. Sexing chickens is nearly a lost art from what I’ve heard and is never, ever 100%, but we thought we had a better chance this way, than to let any of our hens sit. There are always more boys than girls that hatch.

About August, it came to light that one of the light Brahma girls we named Betty, was mis-sexed and Betty was turning out to be a boy. Uh-oh…well, we just kept calling him Betty thinking that perhaps the idea of being named a girl would influence the stars.

Nope. That deep, throaty cock-a-doodle-do he came out with one morning as I was leaving for work was all I needed to be assured we had rooster number three. There was no mistaking it. Compared to the crows of Hector and Buddy-the-girly-rooster, he sounds like a foghorn to their squeaky-toy sounds.

Now, roosters can be mean SOB’s and growing up on our farm, I had plenty of opportunity to run in the other direction when our big Rhode Island Red boy came after me! He was half my size and flew at me with his talons outstretched in a clear sign he meant business.

In an effort to put that sort of thing to rest, we have handled Mr. Betty and have found him to be just as huggable as the website told us this breed would be. At about 10 pounds, he’s an armful, but is very nice and calm once you get hold of him. He’s shown he can be kind to his girls by foraging for them and does the typical rooster circle dance with wing tips on the ground to court them.

About four weeks ago, Mr. Betty decided that he didn’t like his pecking order and thought he’d try moving up the rungs and took on Buddy one night while we were doing our dinner feeding. Well, that was all we had to see. Out of the henhouse he went and he’s now living with Helen the Pig until we can find him a new home.

We almost lost Hector in just such an incident about five or six years ago and it is something that we won’t allow to happen again. Thinking first that Hector was dead, we realized he had survived, but suspected the loss of an eye, we felt fortunate that he lived and very lucky he didn’t lose that eye. After much clean up and attention to wounds over a period of a few weeks, Hector was back to normal.

So, that’s where this is going…Mr. Betty the Rooster needs a home. Two roosters and 16 hens is a great ratio and with Buddy being as scared as he is of Hector, it works.

I want him to have a nice home with a few girls and know Mr. Betty would make a wonderful addition to any farm. I placed an ad in an online marketplace at work and have had some fun phone calls from my fellow employees. It’s been a great way to get to know people and let them know more about chickens.

Did you know that there is no nutritional difference between white and brown eggs? Are you aware that in some municipalities in urban areas you are permitted to keep hens? Not roosters, but a few hens can be nice and offer you fresh eggs that supplement your diet and hold down a bit of your food bill.

Joanne and I are being inundated with eggs right now. We have been getting up to nine in one day and at this point have averaged 6.8 eggs per day. Ok…so rounded up its seven eggs per day, but that’s almost three dozen a week.

Not only are we trying to find a home for a lonesome rooster, but trying to find takers for our eggs. If you are nearby…fresh quality eggs for a mere $2/dozen and if you have room for Mr. Betty…he’s $15 to a good home.

Monday, January 18, 2010

We Sure Know How To Eat!

The Annual January Brunch with our group of friends took place this weekend and WoWeeee can we make great food! Baked brie, sweet and savory scones, carmelized onion tart and even a FABULOUS flan!

Take a look!

Progress...What's next?

It’s an old fashioned drive-in eatery at the very visible intersection of Routes 412 and 611 in Ottsville.

Serving soft ice cream from a window in summer after soccer and baseball games and chili, burgers and fried chicken indoors all year, Pryzuski’s has been an Upper Bucks County staple for 40 years.

Yesterday was it’s last day open.

With the sign out front displaying, “Thanks for 40 years,” it was a gentle way of saying goodbye to the legions of people who drive by every day and stop in a couple times a week or a couple times during the year.

Progress has come to our world up here at the top of Bucks County. When we moved here in 1992, there was a field across from Pryzuski’s that said, “Coming Soon: Nockamixon Crossing.”

Our family, moving up from Central Bucks and Montgomery County areas was excited that there would be some sort of civilization nearby and looked forward to not having to drive 20 minutes in any direction to get take-out on Friday night and possibly grocery shop closer to home.

Little did we know, there were fights going on behind the doors of the municipalities in this portion of the world. There are folks who lived here, didn’t necessarily want shopping centers with grocery stores, dry cleaners, take-out food shops or other unnecessary things that could be gotten elsewhere. They wanted open space, clean water in their creeks and fields kept open for farming.

What folks wanted was a nice place to take the kids on Saturday nights for a quick hotdog and milkshake. An unpretentious, old fashioned dining place that catered to those with less discriminating palates and lighter wallets is what satisfied people in this area.

Pryzuski’s was a step back in time. A square building with a slanted roof, two windows for ordering ice cream with an air conditioner overhead that you had to be careful not to get dripped upon when they handed out your cone.

Inside were brown linoleum tiled floors, windows on three sides that started at waist level and go up to the roof. You get your food by counter service, get a number and 9 times out of 10, they deliver your plastic tray with food on paper plates or Styrofoam containers to your table. Tables and chairs were stationary with brown Formica tops and orange plastic mate’s chairs all one unit with legs sunk into the floor..

Teens usually worked the kitchen and did an adequate job serving sundaes and fries.

With the dawn of subdivisions comes the new people who want to live in the country. New people who may not understand that there aren’t fire hydrants down the street, but volunteer fire departments who use tanker trucks to put out a blaze. New people aren’t always fond of taking the winding back roads to the nearest town 20 minutes away to get pizza with artichokes New people wish for gas pumps five minutes away to fill up to and from their faraway jobs.

Capitalism has a way of rearing its head and we now have two new shopping centers. One about two miles away from where Pryzuski’s and one only a few footsteps away from it’s location. The final insult may have been the new small batch ice cream shop just up the street that opened up last year. Delightful for those who like well crafted homemade food, it seems well appreciated, but surely puts a dent in the cash register of Pryzuski’s.

I’m guessing competition is fierce nowadays. With two pizza places only a stones throw from the Pryzuski’s location; one north and another east, a sandwich shop and two diner-like restaurants close enough to spit at, things are just too much for this little piece of Upper Bucks County.

Of course there’s the old adage that nothing lasts forever and it is true. However, it is sad just the same to see something that generations of people have flocked to in their cars, motorcycles, hot rods and even horses for some sustenance and refreshment over the years.

In 1992, I used to be one of those new people. This area and these little places I’ve become fond of, just as I’ve become fond of the land, clean water and farms that surround me here. Progress can’t be stopped, but, I for one will miss seeing that tell-tale start of summer with Pryzuski’s sign saying they are open till 9 P.M.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Help for Haiti

Here's a chance to help others who are clearly in a devastating situation and need humanitarian aid. Haitians surely need our assistance and if you are inclined and able to give, no matter how small, here are a few ideas...

From the website Serious Eats (

How to Help Send Food to Haiti
Posted by Erin Zimmer, January 13, 2010 at 6:50 PM

As we learn more about yesterday's 7.0 earthquake in Haiti, relief efforts are underway to help those left devastated by this tragedy. Epi-Log has come up with a list of organizations where you can make donations: United Nations' World Food Programme, Red Cross, Oxfam America, and Action Against Hunger.

Also from my friend Mary Shafer...

If u can text, u can help. Text HAITI to 90999 to donate $10 to Red Cross Int'l Releif fund, billed 2 ur cell phone account. NOT a scam. White House endorses. I just did it. Please share this with ur friends - Haiti's the poorest nation on Earth, and just survived two disastrous tropical storms recently. These people h...ave NOTHING. It's just $10 to you, but together with everyone else, you may make the difference between enough and not enough. Bless u for giving what you can. Bless u doubly if u can't.

***** <<< her writing/publishing

***** <<<< local stuff

***** <<< her blog about pets

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Eggs, Eggs and More Eggs

This past year we purchased 10 pullets to add to our flock of chickens. Now, if you don't know what pullets are, they are girl chickens that have been sexed before purchase. There is no guarantee that the sexing is foolproof, but we wanted to get hens to add to our group of tiny girls and two bantam boys.

We were looking for egg laying hens and checked the breeds before purchase and were able to get as few or as many of any breed we chose from Oley Valley Feed Mill. Highly recommend them and see their website at We purchased Australorps, Buff and Dark Brahmas, Buff Orpingtons, Americaunas (green eggs!) and Barred Rocks. All breeds are relatively good layers, low key personalities and tame.

Joanne had hip surgery two weekends after we got them and these girls grew like weeds. They blended in well with our other birds, all of whom are bantam or silkies that weigh in at about 1.5 pounds. The new girls are about 7-10 pounds and tower over the little girls and my two roosters.

Right now we've had a light on in their stall over their water so there isn't as much freezing during this cold snap, however, as chickens are sensitive to the light for laying eggs, we've been inundated with fresh eggs!

Since the first of January, we've gotten over five dozen eggs. It has been amazing. Our little girls are all broody - they are sitting in their boxes, so every night we have to take them out and collect the eggs.

So, now I have to get rid of the eggs and find good recipes. Any ideas?

Oh and you remember that 'sexing is not foolproof' statement above? Well, we named all our girls and Betty has turned into Mr. we're looking for a better place for him, and that's NOT the stew pot.