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naramata-blend

Life in a slow place that quickly steals your heart.

The great chicken coop escape

 

IMG_8268.jpgThe girlies would tell you this tale if they could but their typing is hunt and peck at best and would take far too long. I think the whole event confuses them as well. An aside… Did you know chickens have a great memory and can differentiate between more than 100 human or animal faces. They love to play, they dream (about eating millions of bugs?), they mourn for each other and they feel pain and distress. They also make great moms — they talk to their chicks while still in the egg and turn the eggs about 50 times a day.

IMG_8288.jpgA week into chicken husbandry I am still getting up at 6 a.m. to check on them. In my pjs, no coffee on board, I duck into their coop to change the water and hear the run latch gently click shut with me inside.

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The run is some distance from the house and the sleeping Handyman who decidedly  does not wake up at 6 a.m.

Three old ladies stuck in a lavatory”

The old weird song lyrics start going through my head…

Oh, dear, what can the matter be
Three old ladies locked in the lavatory
They were there from Monday to Saturday
Nobody knew they were there

I try using a stick to poke through the hardware cloth and lift the latch up.

The first one’s name was Elizabeth Porter
She went in to be rid of some overdue water
And she stayed there far more than she ought to
And nobody knew she was there.

Maria and The Baroness are watching me curiously. (Re side note…they are smarter than you think.) I then try pushing the hardware cloth out, with a fair bit of force, in several spots. The Handyman is really good at building things and the coop is racoon-proof, or so we thought.

The second one’s name was Elizabeth Pomphrey
She went in and made herself comfy
Then she said: “Girls, I can’t get my bum free.”
And nobody knew she was there

After only a week with my new pals we aren’t super comfortable with each other. They are eyeing me suspiciously and making low murmuring sounds. Another aside…Researchers have shown that there are at least 24 different sounds chickens make and maybe as many as 30. While chickens don’t have nearly the vocabulary that us humans have, and their chicken brains don’t allow for abstract and deep conversations, they are still a very vocal and conversational critter.

I finally hit on the solution and break a few zip ties that are securing a set of overlapping panels of the hardware cloth and make my great escape. Coffee!

The last one’s name was Elizabeth Carter
She was known as a world renowned farter
She went in and played a sonata
And nobody knew she was there.

Later that day The Handyman installed a rope gizmo allowing the latch to be opened from the inside as well.

 

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The day after the escape from the coop I woke at 6 to find the nesting box door hanging open. I ran to the coop expecting it to be empty or a scene of indescribable carnage but found the girlies milling about in the run, all feathers accounted for. The new bungee addition makes the coop really racoon proof.

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Chicken TV

Because chickens are clever creatures, each occupying a different role in the pecking order, keeping them in your backyard gives you a chance to see the individual personalities and quirks. Maria is fascinated by holes of any kind. She is also the boss.

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Here she is sorting out the perfect spot for a dustbath. Distracted momentarily, The Baroness steals her spot… not for long. After a dust up Maria reclaims her throne.

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The girls and The Handyman

Despite being told I am the chicken lady and in sole charge, I catch The Handyman letting the girls out when he is working on the farm…and he talks to them and makes a special clucking noise. The exercise king, here he is taking them on a little jog…which is funny itself. Something about chickens running cracks me up.

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A taste of country life

I love our chickens. Who would have thought it. They are curious, interesting, sweet creatures who demand little and give us eggs daily. I feel good about giving them great food, room to roam and a nice, cruelty-free life.

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Hens with Benefits

They give us breakfast in return and lovely fluffy cakes.IMG_8150.jpg

Farmer’s Market – in micro

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A photo essay of the Penticton’s Farmers Market and Community Market — up close…a microcosm of the Okanagan in June.

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Naramata Peach Spice Cake

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It has to be tasted to be believed. This rustic-looking cake belies its simple appearance. It is a toothsome combination of ingredients such as cocoa, cinnamon, fresh-ground nutmeg made light and moist with fresh eggs, butter, grapeseed oil and buttermilk. The smell from the oven is as enticing as it gets. Take it up a notch by soaking the cakes in a glaze made with peach jam and spices. Blow it into orbit with a fluffy caramel cream cheese frosting and give it some delicious crunch with rosemary toasted pine nuts and fresh summer flavours with dynamite organic peaches from Naramata’s T NT Farm and you have something worth the afternoon it will take you to bake it and a run-on sentence worth running on about.

This amazing creation, which I Naramatified, is from British Columbian Tessa Huff and her spectacular Layered cookbook. In a Julie and Julia type scenario I’ve been baking my way through her cake cookbook, adding a few custom touches here and there and sourcing my ingredients locally. This recipe gets a 12 out 10. Enough hyperbole…let’s get cracking. There are six separate recipes to tackle…none of them hard: Spice cake, peach glaze, rosemary pine nuts, salted caramel sauce and Swiss meringue buttercream. You will need a two 8-inch cake pans for this beauty that serves 12 to 15 peeps.

 

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Spice Cake ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cut grapeseed oil
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla
  • 4 large eggs (I walk out to my yard, and get them from my chickens Maria and The Baroness…bragging a little)
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk (from the store…I don’t have a cow yet)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350F, grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans and line with parchment rounds.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking powder, ginger, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cloves and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter on medium. Add the oil and sugar. Turn the mixer to medium high and mix for 3 minutes. Turn mixer to low, add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl.

Turn mixer to low and add the flour mixture alternating with the buttermilk in three batches. Only mix for 30 seconds or until just combined.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake for 25 to 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean. While the cakes are baking work on the peach glaze as you will need to spread it over the cakes as soon as they come out of the oven.

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Peach glaze ingredients

  • 1 cup peach jam
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

Directions

Combine the jam, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in a saucepan. Heat over medium until the jam melts…five minutes or so. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve set over a bowl to remove any solids. Evenly pour the warm peach glaze over the top of the two cakes just after they come out of the oven. Let them cool completely on a wire rack before removing the cakes from their pans. Do not turn the cakes upside down to remove as the tops will be sticky. Rather pry them up with the parchment or a lifter.

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Cakes just out of the oven with their glaze.

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Rosemary pine nuts ingredients

  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon Okanagan honey
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary (you can use dried)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and dry-roast the nuts for about three minutes. Add the honey, rosemary and salt and stir until nuts are evenly coated. Cook, stirring for another 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and spread on piece of parchment paper to cool and dry … about 10 minutes.

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Salted caramel sauce ingredients

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste which I use exclusively as it’s better…Nielsen-Massey is great.)

Directions

Place the sugar, corn syrup and 2 tablespoons of water in a heavy-bottomed small saucepan. Stir. Heat over high heat, stirring occasionally swirling the pan, until in turns a medium golden amber colour…8 to 10 minutes. The sugar mixture will begin to rapidly boil before slowing down and darkening in colour. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cream. Be careful as it will foam up and sputter. Add the butter and stir until melted. Add the salt and vanilla and stir. Pour into heat-safe container and let if cool or refrigerate. It will thicken as it cools.

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Vanilla swiss meringue buttercream

  • 1/2 cup plus egg whites
  • 1  cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (very important that it be at room temperature or it won’t combine properly) cubed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

Directions
Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer. Whisk them together by hand to combine. Make a double boiler by filling a medium pot filled with water over medium-high heat. Place the mixer bowl on top of the pot. The bottom of the pot should not touch the water.

Whisk intermittently and heat the egg mixture to 160F (candy thermometer) or until it is hot to the touch. Carefully fit the mixer bowl onto the stand mixer and whip with the wire attachment on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes, until it holds medium-stiff peaks. The bowl should be back to room temperature at this point. Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk attachment for the paddle.

With the mixer on low, add the cubed butter, a few tablespoons at a time then the vanilla. Once incorporated, turn up the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until the buttercream is silky smooth, 3 to 5 minutes.

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Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting ingredients

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups vanilla swiss meringue buttercream
  • 1/4 cup salted caramel sauce

Directions

In the bowl of stand mixer with the paddle, beat the cream cheese on medium until smooth, add the buttercream and caramel sauce and mix until combined.

Some assembly required

Level the layers. Place a layer on a cake plate and spread half of the frosting over it. Top with the next layer of cake and frost the top with the remaining frosting. Arrange peach slices from one or two peaches on top (I resorted to frozen peaches from T NT as it will be August before nice new fresh ones are ready) and garnish with a generous handful of the rosemary pine nuts.

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A bit of morning magic

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Columbines after the rain

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Secret garden entrance

 

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Potager

 

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Raspberry farm

 

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Statue is called #4 with tree fort in the background

 

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Raspberries…soon

 

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Chives

 

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Hyper local, hyper fresh, hyper delicious Urtica Eatery at Legend Distilling

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Photo: Cedar Photography

Chef Josh Bender and his new restaurant Urtica Eatery at Legend Distilling in Naramata are taking eating local and sustainable to a whole new level. He grows or forages as many of the vegetables and herbs as he can and sources the rest from neighbouring farms. In addition to lovely local fruit the Valley is known for world-wide, Chef Josh serves only sustainably farmed meats, seafood, dairy and eggs.

After a busy day serving guests at Urtica, Chef Josh unwinds at his Naramata property by tending his 12 garden beds and 100 containers of vegetables and herbs and the containers he has planted at the restaurant itself.

“I cooked as a kid,” he says as he offers me a first dish of roasted beets with cumin yogurt, nettle pesto, pumpkin seeds, orange and wild fennel.

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Urtica, Chef Josh tells me, is latin for the stinging nettles he used in the most amazing tasting pesto I’ve ever had. “It’s my favourite wild edible and its a super food for plants as well. I ferment tons of it to feed to my vegetables. I love foraging for it.”

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“My mother had a big part in my cooking,” he says. “She was my first teacher and I was lucky to grow up surrounded by nature. Blackberries lined our two-acre property in Langley where we had a creek you could walk along for miles in the forest.”

Josh, a guy of few words, describes his Urtica menu as comfort food with a twist which is better tasted than explained in any case. Who needs words? The beet cured organic spring salmon with cucumber carpaccio, radishes, whipped goat cheese and olive crumb was as fresh, bright and luxuriously creamy tasting as it looked on the plate. Each bite was a pleasure and the flavours and textures worked beautifully together.

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Other choices on the ever-changing seasonal menu included a roasted carrot hummus with pita, dandelion honey ricotta, hazelnuts and chili oil, mushroom bruschetta with local cultivated oyster mushroom, herbed ricotta and aged balsamic and a farm kale salad with Upper Bench King Cole cheese, honey walnuts, apple chips, pickled onion and anchovy dressing. A selection of focaccia sandwiches included a buttermilk poached chicken with slab bacon, spring greens, tomato, pickled onion and caramelized onion mayo. A braised beef neck melt and goat cheese & beet were also tempting. The featured entree was a vegetable curry stew served with kale chips, spiced yogurt and pita.

“Urtica is a dream come true for me,” says Josh who put his culinary degree to work for him in various restaurants for the past eight years. “I knew since I was 16 that cooking is the only thing I want to do. I’m coming at this out of a place of love versus building a brand. I want to make good food and be happy with what I do. I’m lucky not to be ‘working for the man’ but able to pursue my passion and learn more and more as I go.

“I am making food that I would be happy to feed my family. Food that is sustainably farmed that is good for you.”

Urtica aligns perfectly with Naramata’s status as an international Cittaslow member town. Cittaslow is an organisation founded in Italy and inspired by the slow food movement. Cittaslow’s goals include improving the quality of life in towns by slowing down its overall pace.

Talking about slow, the view on Legend’s patio makes the dining experience one you want to linger over. I paired my lunch with a refreshing summer cocktail, the new Legendary Cup featuring their just released Amaro.

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Urtica Eatery is serving lunch Tuesday through Sunday 11:30am – 3:30 pm and beginning today dinner service Wednesday through Saturday 5-8 pm.

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Chef Josh Bender, a Naramatian, grows much of his own produce and forages for ingredients such as the nettle his restaurant is named after. Photo: Cedar Photography

Long table love

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“This is the power of gathering: it inspires us, delightfully, to be more hopeful, more joyful, more thoughtful: in a word, more alive.” Alice Waters

Every Sunday evening in the summer at God’s Mountain Estate, set in a vineyard above shimmering Skaha Lake, the chefs of Joy Road Catering create  a culinary adventure.

The menu is inspired by the season, local wine, and the best of what growers, foragers and farmers present. When Joy Road and Upper Bench Winery & Creamery are riffing off  each other some Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Okanagan Sun cheese, U&Brie, Gold cheese, Grey Baby and King Cole blue music is made. A fantastic evening turned into a magical one for the lucky 47 to score spots at the long table when a late May day decided to be a mid-July one bathing everyone in warmth and casting a rosy glow over the evening.

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Dana Ewart prepares the flowers for the Alfresco table set simply but beautifully in white linens.

“It’s around the table and in the preparation of food that we learn about ourselves and about the world.” Alice Walters.

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IMG_7333.jpgFirst to arrive, U&Brie gougere with Joy Road’s own 2-year house-cured prosciutto with a Brie, heirloom radishes & herb salad, paired with chilled Upper Bench Riesling.

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Chardonay was served with a Tartiflette cooked in a wood oven featuring Okanagan Sun cheese and farmer Yuri’s potatoes, leeks, lemon thyme and house-cured bacon.

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Award-winning wine, artisan cheese and the Valley’s most sought-after caterer combine to create a night to remember.  Upper Bench Winemaker Gavin Miller’s passion for the vineyard and the terroir is expressed through his signature, hands-off, minimalist approach to winemaking. He is known in the industry for his big Bordeaux-style reds and has a distinct way of showcasing a wine’s varietal character.

The winery and creamery’s Cheesemaker Shana Miller has steeped herself in the art of artisanal cheesemaking and has been creating her own line of Upper Bench Blue, Brie, and washed-rind cheeses since 2011.

Joy Road is famous for its cuisine du terroir with its lovely food with a strong sense of place. They use local ingredients for the simple reason that fresh tastes better. The caterers believe wholeheartedly in socially-responsible food sourcing allowing its customers to enjoy the Okanagan bounty at the height of ripeness while also sustaining the farmers and artisans who represent the agricultural heritage of this region.

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The kitchen building at God’s Mountain looks like a Provence house with its blue shutters.

The main course was a rack of pork rubbed with fennel and chili, overnight braised shoulder and jus with Swiss chard and kale paired with a stunning Pinot Noir.

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Chef Dana reading a “prayer” from Alice Waters about good honest food and sharing it with good people.

IMG_7454.jpgOne of Joy Road’s most labour intensive dishes was this amazing house-ground flint corn polenta with wild white chanterelle mushrooms and Upper Bench Gold cheese served with Similkameen asparagus with Grey Baby Mornay sauce, chives and chive blossoms.

IMG_7415.JPGFarmer Jordan’s spring-tender greens were perfect.

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Behind the scenes social media action to capture the magic with the help of a glass of Upper Bench Riesling and a second golden Chardonnay.
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Plating taking place adjacent to the Long Table

IMG_7441.jpgFor the final act, guests were treated to fairly lights, a stunning sunset and red wine poach pears with a King Cole blue and Similkameen apiary honey and vanilla bean caramel.

IMG_7461 2.jpgGod’s Mountain Estates is a unique 115-acre oasis featuring a Mediterranean-style villa, built by an eccentric pioneer couple and their family. The spectacular views of the lake and vineyards, the serenity and grandeur of the mountain and the eclectic ambiance of the home, make this a story-book venue for a long table dinner.

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Estate’s pup sent guests off after a perfect evening…well sort of.

Naramata Cider Company Rest Easy pork chops in a cream sauce

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The secret ingredient — Cider Maker’s Select … Rest Easy from the Naramata Cider Company

Seasoned with garlic cloves and shallots, this easy to make pork chops recipe is elevated into the stratosphere with its apple and blackberry hard cider and velvety cream sauce. Adapted from blogger queen of France’s Mimi Thorisson’s new cookbook, French Country Cooking, the recipe takes less than a half hour to prepare.

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Keeping it local…all the ingredients were sourced in the Okanagan Valley including the Naramata Cider Company Rest Easy, lovely thick pork chops from T-Bones in Penticton, cream from D Dutchman Dairy and vegetables from my garden and the Penticton Farmer’s Market.

Ingredients

  • 4 bone-in pork chops, 2.5 cm thick
  • fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, unpeeled and smashed
  • 8 sage leaves
  • 2/3 cup Rest Easy Naramata Cider Company apple and blackberry cider
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream

IMG_6972.jpgDirections

Preheat oven to 325F

Score the pork chops on both sides and season all over with salt and pepper.

In a large saute pan, heat the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook for 3 minutes. Add the pork chops and garlic cloves, reduce the heat to medium and cook just until the juices run clear (about 7 minutes per side).

Transfer the pork chops to an ovenproof dish, put the sage leaves on top and spoon the pan drippings over all. Put in the oven to keep warm.

Increase the heat under the pan to high and pour in the cider. Boil for 2 minutes to reduce. Add the heavy cream, stir until thickened and remove from the heat.

Pour the sauce on top of the chops and serve. Pair with the remaining cider!

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Amaretti Amaretto limone tarts

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Not to be all fancy pants Italian, these lovely tart lemon tarts have almonds three ways in the buttery tart shells…crushed Amaretti biscuits, Amaretto liqueur and ground almonds (almond flour). The lemon curd uses fresh eggs and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Topping them off is a small cloud of Amaretto meringue topping.
IMG_5863.jpgTart shell ingredients
Makes eight 4-inch tart shells or six 6-inch shells
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup finely ground blanched almonds
  • 2 tablespoons finely ground amaretti cookies (I bought mine at La Cucina in Penticton.) Look for them in an Italian store. (Place a handful of amaretti in between sheets of parchment and crush them with a rolling pin)
  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes, softened but still cold
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, almonds, and ground cookies; set aside.

  2. Place butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle over confectioners’ sugar and toss, using your hands, until butter is fully coated. Attach bowl to mixer fitted with paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until butter and sugar are well combined.

  3. Scrape down sides of bowl, add egg yolk, and continue beating until combined. Reduce speed to medium-low and slowly add the flour mixture; beat until well combined. Scrape down sides of bowl and add heavy cream and Amaretto; beat until well combined. Form dough into a large ball using your hands. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate 3 hours or overnight if you make the day before.

  4. Lightly flour a work surface. Turn dough out onto floured work surface and cut into 6 or 8 pieces, depending on the size of tart shell you select. Gently knead each piece of dough into a smooth disc, using a spatula to turn dough, as it will be sticky. Add more flour to work surface if necessary. Cover each piece with plastic wrap and refrigerate dough until chilled, about 10 minutes.

  5. Using a rolling pin, roll each piece of dough into a 6-inch or 8-inch round, about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer each round to a 4-inch or 6-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and gently press into tart pan. Roll a rolling pin over each tart shell, pressing lightly to trim any excess dough; discard.

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  6. Place tart pans on a baking sheet and prick the bottom of each tart pan with a fork; transfer baking sheet to refrigerator and chill 30 minutes.

  7. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Transfer baking sheet to oven and bake tart shells until golden brown, about 15 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

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 Lemon curd ingredientsIMG_5889.jpg
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 3 to 6 lemons depending on their size)
  • Grated zest of two of the lemons
  • 2 large eggs
  • 7 large egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue topping) ((Come on Maria…please lay one more egg as I only have 6…Yippeeee…good chicken)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

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Directions

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice and zest and let sit for 10 minutes.

In a medium nonreactive bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolks and sugar until combined. Add the lemon juice/zest and whisk until combined.

Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Cook stirring constantly until the mixture has thickened…about 6 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the pan and whisk in the butter. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a bowl.

Press plastic wrap onto the surface of the lemon curd to stop a nasty skin from forming. Set aside at room temp. until you have made the meringue and are ready to assemble the tarts.

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Lots of egg photos…eggs as art when you have your own chickens.

Amaretto meringue ingredients

  • The 7 large egg whites you have reserved
  • 1 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of Amaretto liqueur

Directions

Whisk egg whites and sugar together in a nonreactive mixing bowl and set over a saucepan of simmering water. Cook, whisking constantly until the sugar is dissolved and mixture reaches 140 degrees…about 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the pan, with an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the mixture on high until stiff peaks form adding the cream of tartar after about 3 minutes. Mix a further 3 minutes and then add the Amaretto and mix just to incorporate.

Some assembly required

Add the warm lemon curd to the pre-baked tart shells. Drop a dollop of meringue on top of the lemon curd and place under a preheated broiler until the meringue is lightly browned.

These tarts should be eaten within 24 hours (no problemo).

(You will have left over meringue…unavoidable to have enough yolks to make the curd…you can make meringue cookies with the leftovers. You may also have leftover lemon curd. Refrigerate and enjoy like pudding.)

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Chicks are hip – the revival of back-yard chickens

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Meet The Baroness … a Black Sex Link in her laying prime

Ordered on Black Friday as my Christmas present I had to wait months for my May Christmas morning chicken delivery which I anticipated with almost ponyesque excitement.

My grandmother would be astonished to know how eagerly anticipated my chickens were. “In my day they were meat and eggs and they would never be named,” I hear her say in my head as she long since gone. She would also be very perplexed that I am RENTING my two laying hens from Rentthechicken. com and have read up on all the treats I can feed them such as a half a watermelon, which now on the grocery list.

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Maria sticking her neck out for treats.

Chickens seem to be a perfect convergence of the economic, environmental, foodie and emotional matters of the moment, plus, in the past few years, they have undergone an image rehabilitation so amazing that it should be studied by social media experts. Why do posts of a grinning person holding a garden variety chicken get thousands of likes?

Now that my chickens have arrived I am the object of more pure envy than I have ever experienced in my life. (I kind of like it.) I can’t count the number of friends that want to know all about chicken raising before they decided to give it a shot. I’m thinking of charging an admission fee to see them.

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They forage for food all day long!

Until the nineteen-fifties, it was common to keep a few chickens around. They were cheap and easy to raise. Some table scraps and bugs, a coop and you were good to go.  A hundred years ago, a chick cost about fifteen cents and a laying hen a few dollars. A hen in her prime, which lasts two or three years, could produce an egg every day or two in the laying season, and once she stopped laying she could be cooked.

Then came urbanization, the supermarket, the egg cholesterol scare, giant egg farms and you know the rest and all the horrible images of tens of thousands of birds crammed into a giant industrialized egg laying factories. (After hanging out with these friendly, curious and surprising un-bird brained creatures I feel even more strongly about giving them a nice life…)

Renting the girls will give me a good taste of what’s involved in chicken husbandry without worry about wintering them over or fully committing to the idea. I can adopt them permanently if I get attached or request the same pair again next summer.

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My first two eggs.

Here are some observations after a couple of days of chickening.

  1. They are friendly…at least they seem so once they established that every time they see me I’m holding out some scratch, freeze-dried mealy worms, prize dandelion leaves, grapes, a bit of toast or to-die-for apparently…tattertots.
  2. Chickens make a wide-range of cool noises from a sort of purring sound to a happy cackle after egg-laying that I interpreted as I MADE EGG!!!!! But research says the egg-song made a distance away from the just laid nice warm egg is to distract predators from the bounty.
  3. There is a pecking order and a bit of squabbling between the ladies. The Baroness took a good peck to the neck over a grape squabble but shook it off like a prize fighter.
  4. Their legs and feet are kind of creepy and dinosaur looking and their toes are very flexible.
  5. Finding the first set of eggs was pretty cool, OK really cool, cooler than it should have been, but really, really cool.
  6. I’m losing sleep. I get up with the chickens to make sure they are OK. I imagine I will chill out soon. I had a reason to worry this morning. The door to the nesting area of their coop was wide open this morning and I had spotted a racoon in the hood last evening. It’s like the racoon was pulling up at a drive-through…just checking for his egg McMuffin. The girlies were OK but the nesting box is getting a second latch today.
  7. I like them!
  8. I was shown how to pick them up so I can have one of those Instagram grinning-person-holding-a-chicken photos but haven’t gotten up the nerve yet.
  9. You haven’t lived, if you are chicken, until you have had a dust bath. They really, really, really like it and fling dirt around, loll around, flap wings…
  10. Still not sure if chickens have lips.
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Maria was shy at first but is coming out of her shell.
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Egg salad sandwich in the making.
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Omelette with fresh herbs from the garden and Upper Bench Winery & Creamery Brie.
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Marie from Rent The Chicken in Kamloops letting the girls out with The Handyman looking on.
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Hand feeding. I’m working on getting them to come when called, “chick, chick, chick, chick” so I can let them do some free-ranging.

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