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Jar Lunch: Polenta with Cream Cheese & Chives

The Jar Lunch: It’s like a bag lunch or a bento lunch, but the next big thing is lunch packed in a good ol’ mason jar. I have to microwave my lunch at work, so metal containers won’t work and heating up plastic has me worried. We often simply fill mason jars with leftovers, but sometimes it is fun to come up with a clever jar lunch and make a big batch. Lunch for the whole family is already packed.

Oh my gosh, it’s Friday! I went to bed last night convinced it was Wednesday. This post was already a week late thanks to a trip to urgent care last week. Everyone is okay, except possibly my gallbladder. We have been absentee bloggers as we’ve moved from one project to the next in our house and yard. Sadly, the blog and garden have been neglected. I do have a new Jar Lunch for you, however!

Sometimes new ideas come about from leftovers. Instead of trying to make a creamy polenta packed with milk and heavy cream, I decided to try stirring in a little cream cheese and fresh chives. It was a hit, and stores perfectly in a pint-sized jar. You can make them ahead, store in the fridge and add your favorite toppings later.

Polenta with Cream Cheese & Chives
Makes six small servings

4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup yellow corn meal
6 tablespoons cream cheese
2 tablespoons chopped chives

Directions:
In a medium sauce pan, bring water and salt to a boil. Add the corn meal slowly while whisking. Reduce to low heat and simmer about 10 minutes, stirring frequenly, until thickened.

Turn off heat and stir in cream cheese and chives until fully incorporated. Using a jar funnel, divide the mixture between six pint-sized mason jars. Allow to cool, then refrigerate until set.

You can put just about anything on top of polenta. This week we opted for vodka sauce, sauteed mushrooms, Trader Joe’s Meatless Meatballs, and a little parmesan.

Next time, I’m taking a cue from the store bought tubes of polenta and adding some cooked quinoa for a healthier grain. And perhaps a poached egg on top!

xo Krista

See our other Jar Lunches here.

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Jar Lunch: PB & J

The Jar Lunch: It’s like a bag lunch or a bento lunch, but the next big thing is lunch packed in a good ol’ mason jar. I have to microwave my lunch at work, so metal containers won’t work and heating up plastic has me worried. We often simply fill mason jars with leftovers, but sometimes it is fun to come up with a clever jar lunch and make a big batch. Lunch for the whole family is already packed.

Instead of the standby lunch sandwich, how about a peanut butter and jelly yogurt parfait? If you are skeptical about peanut butter in yogurt, I understand. I’ve tried it before to not-so-great results. This lunch was inspired by Levi, who taught me that peanut butter and jam yogurt really works. We eat plain yogurt with homemade jam just about every single day, and he decided to add some peanut butter. I went with his discovery and just added fruit.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Yogurt Parfait

Ingredients per lunch:
3/4 cup fresh fruit (sliced strawberries, blackberries, blueberries)
1 tablespoon jam
one cup plain yogurt
1 heaping tablespoon creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon sweetener (sugar, cane syrup, agave, honey)

Directions:
In one bowl, combine fruit and jam until evenly coated. In another bowl, whisk together yogurt, peanut butter, and sweetener. Layer fruit and yogurt into pint-sized mason jars.

All that is missing here is a sprinkling of granola.

Next time I’m going to have to try Elvis-style, with bananas and honey.

Please add your photos to the Jar Lunch Flickr pool for this or any other jar lunches you make!

See our other Jar Lunches here.

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Baby Chicks: Day 11

As certainly as the sun rises, baby chicks grow out of their fluff in an instant. It seems like every time I turn around, they are sprouting new feathers. These photos are from their Day 11 photo shoot.


Ponyboy


Goldie!


Sodapop


Two-Bit

Salmon Faverolles pullets and cockerels are supposed to look different by the time they’re two weeks old. We’re having a hard time making sense of the ‘sexing’ of salmon faverolles. I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent wondering What is a “black feather”? and what exactly does a “salmon feather” look like? This is where life experience is better than google results. However, I think we have 2 hens and 2 roosters. Two-Bit and Ponyboy look very much alike, while Goldie and Sodapop’s feathers are the same. I just couldn’t tell you which two are which. This alleviates a lot of my “What if we hatch four roosters???” nightmares. I’m no expert though; I could be wrong about this rooster/hen ratio. Any salmon favs experts reading?

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weekending

How is it that project task lists multiply? We started with a two-step plan when our oven stopped working.

Step one: get a gas line installed
Step two: buy a new gas range

And then we decided that before our new stove is delivered, we might as well re-do the kitchen floors since you can’t just unplug a gas oven and move it out of the kitchen. And by some miracle, we pulled off installation of a new floor before the range was delivered and installed, although we still had to polish it.

Eventually we managed to get all 7 layers of polish. Seven! But since all the furniture and kitchen gadgets are out of the kitchen (and as you can imagine, I have A LOT of kitchen gadgets), we might as well paint the walls, right?

You would if your kitchen came with stenciled vines and beige and green walls. It seems worth it, but it is hard to squeeze all these projects in between late-spring/early-summer activities and busy work weeks. And I haven’t even mentioned that the painting led to replacing the cheap trim and also removing and replacing filthy caulk. And every single one of these tasks takes way longer and way more trips to the hardware store than you could anticipate. Our house has been chaotic for weeks as a result.


US, Sweden, and Washington flags all at half-mast on Memorial Day

We are SO close to being finished. And we celebrated “almost finished” with a trip to IKEA where we failed to find new window treatments.

Of course, a trip to IKEA means we have to squeeze in some Seattle food, right? Jess found us an incredible food experience in Katsu Burger. The burgers are different kinds of meat or tofu breaded in panko and fried, served on a giant sesame bun and topped with amazing sauces, pickles, or in some cases wasabi coleslaw.

They were the most gigantic burgers I have ever been served. Veggie burgers aren’t typically gigantic. Levi had a curry pork cutlet.

And then there were the fries. Oh my god. We shared an order of nori fries and curry fries with dipping sauces like wasabi mayo and a spicy mayo made with sriracha and magic.

And to complete the meal – milkshakes! Green tea pineapple and kinako cup (kinako, chocolate, and black sesame). Wow.

The perfect weekend is a careful balance of hard work accomplished and some fun. Sunshine and junk food help. And a bonus chicken Instagram (create your own caption, it’s fun):

My weekend still has one last day. Back to painting, caulking (say “caulk” a dozen times in front of a teenage boy and try not to laugh), and mitering for me.

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Jar Lunch: Homemade Pudding Cups

The Jar Lunch: It’s like a bag lunch or a bento lunch, but the next big thing is lunch packed in a good ol’ mason jar. I have to microwave my lunch at work, so metal containers won’t work and heating up plastic has me worried. We often simply fill mason jars with leftovers, but sometimes it is fun to come up with a clever jar lunch and make a big batch. Lunch for the whole family is already packed.

I won’t turn down a Snack Pack, but nothing from the store compares to homemade pudding. Why not pack it in jars for lunch? Add a little whipped cream – even better. Any half-pint jar will do. If you can’t get the wide mouth half-pints, this would be adorable in the quilted jelly jars.

Being huge fans of lemon desserts (Lemon meringue pie! Lemon curd! Lemon bars!), we decided to try this lemon pudding recipe.

If only we had thought of this sooner.

In case you don’t have a favorite pudding recipe, how about a pudding recipe round-up:

Please add your photos to the Jar Lunch Flickr pool for this or any other jar lunches you make!

See our other Jar Lunches here.

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three days-old

We have been working hard on our kitchen makeover, and got a little behind on the Salmon Faverolles chick photos. Hopefully you’ve been checking in on them on the Brooder Cam. They have just started to really get fun: eating treats and playing games of keep away. The photos I’m sharing today are from day 3.


Two-Bit & Ponyboy’s teensy wings


Goldie & Sodapop’s feet


Goldie


Goldie & Sodapop


Ponyboy’s wings in progress.


Feather feet.

More photos soon with tremendous growth to report.

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Jar Lunch: Little Lasagnas

The Jar Lunch: It’s like a bag lunch or a bento lunch, but the next big thing is lunch packed in a good ol’ mason jar. I have to microwave my lunch at work, so metal containers won’t work and heating up plastic has me worried. We often simply fill mason jars with leftovers, but sometimes it is fun to come up with a clever jar lunch and make a big batch. Lunch for the whole family is already packed.

Pasta and cheese are not at the top of my list of healthy foods, but sometimes what you need is a healthy-sized portion of something delicious. It’s the whole concept behind many of the frozen diet meals on the market, only better and cheaper. Why not make your own small lasagna portions in wide mouth half-pint jars to take for lunch with a giant salad?

Little Lasagnas with Portobello Mushroom
Makes 8 small servings in wide mouth half-pint jars

Ingredients:
8 lasagna noodles
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 large portobello mushroom
1-1/2 cups marinara sauce
3/4 cup low fat cottage cheese
1 egg
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded parmesan

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Cook the lasagna noodles according to the package directions. After draining, rinse with cold water. Slice the noodles in half lengthwise.

Roughly chop the portobello mushroom. If you prefer, you may opt to remove the gills first. Heat a sauté pan over medium heat. Add olive oil and once hot, add the mushroom to the pan. Sauté until soft and browned, 8-10 minutes.

Place 8 wide mouth half-pint jars on a baking sheet. Add a tablespoon of marinara sauce to the bottom of each jar. Fold each piece of noodle back-and-forth a few times and stuff two into each jar, ruffled ends up. Add two more tablespoons of marinara sauce evenly on top of the noodles. Divide the mushroom pieces evenly between the jars, stuffing them down between the folds of the noodles.

In a small bowl combine the cottage cheese, egg, parsley, and garlic. Divide the cottage cheese mixture amongst the jars and spread evenly. Top each jar with two tablespoons of mozzarella and one tablespoon of parmesan. Pat the cheese down slightly so it doesn’t cover the rim of the jar.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden around the edges.

Please add your photos to the Jar Lunch Flickr pool for this or any other jar lunches you make!

See our other Jar Lunches here.

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Meet the Outsiders

If you managed to find the time to read yesterday’s epic post about our hatch, I mentioned at the end that we would be announcing the names of our new chicks. I also gave some hints:

  • Like our other book & movie inspired chicken names, these babies would get pop-culture names as well.
  • This batch would be named after both a book and a movie.
  • The book was from the 60’s and the movie adaptation was made in the 80’s.

And then Hillary commented and correctly guessed they would be The Outsiders. Either I was too obvious, or Hillary is a really good guesser! The Outsiders will be a pretty perfect name for this crew come flock integration time, don’t you think?

Introducing:

You know, Emilio Estevez’s character in the film. If you are watching them on the Brooder Cam, there are two that have a lot more black on them than the others. Two-Bit has some black but not as much as…

Ponyboy Curtis. The narrator in the book. If you are wondering if we are concerned about naming them boy names, the answer is “yes and no.” Our first chicks were named after characters from the film Cry-Baby, and the only one given a boy name (Cry-Baby Walker, of course) turned out to be a rooster. Realistically, I don’t believe that the names we pick can change the already determined sex, so we went ahead and gave 3 of the 4 boy names this time around. Take that!

Of course we had to have a Sodapop Curtis. She was our last to hatch from egg #7, and she is randomly a ginger! We aren’t sure what to make of how different each of these babies looks and the fact that some of them have so much black. They are all Salmon Faverolles, purchased from a reputable breeder. We have read conflicting things about them having spots of black. Eventually roos will develop black feathers, but the coloring they hatch with should not indicate the sex yet. We are wondering if Soda will end up more mahogany-colored. We are already very fond of her, and I expect she will have some ginger ale related nicknames.

And finally Goldie, the hatchling from egg #2 whose beak was hanging out of that dirty egg for so long. It is worth noting that the two pairs that hatched together also resemble each other. Ponyboy and Two-Bit hatched on the first night, and both have black coloring. Soda and Goldie hatched the next morning and appear slightly smaller and have lighter coloring. Goldie is the blonde with only a hint of grey.

Goldie isn’t named directly after a character, but after the Robert Frost poem Ponyboy and Johnny read together.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

We plan to tell her to “stay gold” a lot, a la Johnny on his death bed.

You can tell they are all definitely faverolles by their puffy cheeks and distinctly funny feet. They have five toes and feathers on their feet.

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Hatch Stories

A number of people checked-in at different stages during the process of our Salmon Faverolles eggs hatching over the weekend. Thanks for watching! This experience turned out to be more incredible and more fun than we anticipated, and I am glad we were able to share it with friends, family, and blog readers via live streaming. If you missed out and want to cut directly to the chase, we now have a live brooder cam so you can check-in on our chicks as they grow.

We have some photos to share despite the fact that we had a card glitch on the camera we used for most of our documentation. We lost a lot of amazing photos and videos. Technology! My only consolation is that I had a lot less photo editing and uploading to do and we will just have to do this again someday.

Friday morning I woke up and went directly to check on our incubator as we knew we were getting close. I honestly didn’t expect to find anything, but immediately noticed the first pip.

“Pip” can be a noun or verb, and we used this word a lot over the weekend as we watched for each chick to first break through its eggshell. Once I discovered things were getting started, I ran to tell Jess, “WE HAVE A CRACK!.” We knew this would take hours, but because she had to go to work and didn’t want to miss anything (and neither did some of our friends) we ran with a suggestion to use Jess’ laptop and Ustream to set up our Hatch Cam.

Here’s what our set-up looked like into the wee hours of the night. Multiple cameras, lights, and the laptop serving as our web cam. Everything was crammed into this little corner as this was the safest spot in our house to keep dogs and cats from knocking it over. We did get multiple reports of our cats making appearances on the Hatch Cam, however!

While Jess was at work I luckily had the day off. Levi even had the day off school but had to take a practice AP exam. I shuttled him around and tried to get things done but spent a lot of time staring at eggs. We had started with 7 hatching eggs that were shipped to us, and from the beginning 2 never developed. We candled them frequently during incubation. In the last week we had become certain that one of the remaining 5 eggs had quit developing, though we left it in the incubator with the others. Our hope was to get those four to hatch. It turns out incubating and hatching eggs involves a LOT of worrying.

The first pip seemed to get the tiniest fraction bigger as the day progressed, and I watched and waited for the others to start. Luckily, there was still action. You could hear them peeping through the shells. Even the web cam could pick up the peeps that were heard through the shells and through the incubator. The eggs also moved! It was so incredible. Sometimes it was a tiny twitch, and sometimes those little eggs really rocked. You could also distinguish between the peeps that were from pipped eggs and the more muffled peeps from inside in-tact shells.

The egg that had first pipped was #6. Awhile before picking up Levi, I discovered bits of broken shell underneath egg #1. It was breaking through the bottom and could barely be seen. I announced that discovery to the web cam audience and Jess at work. Then I brought Levi home so he could confirm that it wasn’t my imagination. We had two pips! And then several more hours of peeping and jiggling but not much else. Jess made it home from work and barely missed any action.

We went grocery shopping to make sure we all would get dinner, and on the way home my mom called to report she thought there was a crack on top of egg #2 visible on the web cam. That egg was sort of to the back of the view, and I had already had one other viewer think the shadow from the lid was a pip. We were excited to see if there was a change. When we got home, there was nothing visible on top of egg #2, but I decided to turn the incubator around and discovered not only a pip on the bottom but a beak sticking out! I don’t know how long we had been missing out on that!


Egg #2 with a beak hanging out.

This was especially good news as this was the only egg that we had not caught in the act of wiggling much at all. Now we began to wonder which egg would go first, and when would lazy egg #7 finally pip? The suspense! Luckily, egg #7 had been really kicking around most of the day so at this point we grew more confident about getting four chicks.

As it got dark out, egg #6 (our first pip) started to make serious progress. After they pip, they zip a ring around the egg that they can then kick apart.

We didn’t take our eyes off the incubator once the zipping started. While #6 was zipping, suddenly #1 (the one that had the broken shell bits underneath it) got very active. That egg was rocking back and forth and started to zip. It looked like it was progressing a lot faster than the one we had been watching make slow progress all day.

And finally, #6 opened up!

It’s a wing!

And out came a foot!

It’s a whole chick!

There are a few videos of #6 emerging and that is where our documentation glitch occurred. We lost all the pictures and videos after that, sadly. I mostly wish we had the photos and videos of them getting up on their feet and squirming around in there together.

While we were busy watching #6 emerge, #1 went from starting to zip to hatching immediately after #6. Some viewers at home noticed #1 was also out moments before we did! Suddenly we had two chirping, wet chicks inside the incubator with the other eggs. They would rest for a moment and then cheep and wiggle around, even going on top of and over the eggs. They would wake each other up like infant twins. It was incredible.

We were up until very late watching the new babies and waiting to see what would happen with our other two eggs. At some point there was the excitement of the final egg, #7, pipping as I watched. Sometime between 1 and 2am we decided to take a nap and check on them in a couple hours. Nothing was happening, so we slept until morning. First thing in the morning we added water through a couple little tiny holes in the incubator lid. We had two completely dry fluff balls and wanted to make sure there was plenty of humidity so the two pipped eggs wouldn’t be stuck in dried out membranes. We could not open the incubator to remove the baby chicks until they hatched!

I continued to fret over egg #2, whose beak had been hanging out for approaching 24 hours and the membrane around the pip looked very dry. All my motherly worry was for nothing. About 12 hours after the first two hatched, the second pair did the same. While I ran Levi to go volunteer at the food bank, Jess watched #2 finally hatch. And shortly after I got home #7 hatched before my eyes. Every single moment of it was amazing. Once all four were out, we pulled a still wet #7 out for a quick photo shoot. Those pictures we didn’t lose.

Behold, the contents of egg #7:

We will be back with video, day old chick photos, and baby chick names. We thought we wouldn’t be able to tell them apart at this point, but they are each actually very distinct. Now is your chance to guess what book or movie we named them after. Our first baby chicks were named after characters from the John Waters movie Cry-Baby and our two Lavender Orpingtons are named after The Hunger Games books. I will give you two hints: a) these babies are named after a book that was also made into a movie. b) the book was published in the 1960’s and the movie was made in the 80’s.

Wow, if you read this whole thing, you really should leave a comment. Thanks everybody!

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the backyard jungle

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