Welcome to the Farm!!

Welcome to the Farm!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Freezing Cooked Chicken In Individual Pieces



We eat a lot of salads around here, especially in the summer. A salad is light and refreshing and very cooling on a hot day. A salad also doesn’t require any cooking…unless you like some kind of meat on your salad like we do.

Don’t get me wrong. I love to cook. I just don’t like heat. There are days when I’d rather starve than stand in a hot kitchen or in front of a hot grill outside in the hot backyard. Plus, if I’m just making a lunch salad for myself, I don’t want to dirty any dishes or fire up the grill.

By the way, no, I don’t have one of those handy dandy Foreman countertop grills, and no, I have no intentions of buying one anytime soon. And yes, my BBQ grill is charcoal only, and no, I do not plan on changing that either. Although I have a problem with cooking just one chicken fillet, I do not have a problem cooking up a whole mess of chicken breasts at one time and freezing them. Now, when I pack my salad for lunch at work, I pack a frozen cooked boneless breast in a separate container, and it’s thawed by the time I need it for lunch. Easy peasy!!

If you have ever frozen anything, you already know that reaching into a bag of frozen chicken fillets and pulling out just one isn’t easy peasy. Usually, whatever is tossed into the bag is frozen into one big lump requiring a chainsaw to carve off even a little piece. Since I don’t like to waste, I don’t put each piece in its own bag either. However, I’ve learned a little trick that will make taking just one piece of meat out of the bag a lot easier. I’ll tell you at the end. I promise.

Prepping the Breast Fillets

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts can be pretty thick and too much for one meal. Slice the breast in half, making it thinner and reducing cook time. A thin, sharp blade works best.





Spread the chicken out in a baking dish and marinade with the sauce of our choice. Sometimes I use teriyaki, sometimes Italian dressing, sometimes nothing at all. Do what works for you. Allow to marinade in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.



Either grill the chicken for a couple of minutes on each side or broil about 4 or 5 inches from the broiler element about 1 minute on each side. I prefer grilling or broiling for these breasts because you don’t have to add any extra fat like you would for pan frying. Also, grilling or broiling allows me to cook all of the pieces at once.



Allow chicken to cool to room temperature or chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. This cool down keep the heat out of your freezer!

Freezing

Spread chicken on a cookie sheet or metal baking sheet in a single layer. Set the pan in the freezer.



Toss the frozen chicken breasts into a freezer-safe container like a zipper-seal freezer bag. Place the bag in the freezer. The pieces should not stick together at this point. You’ll be able to pull out as many pieces as you need.



By the way, if you forget to take out a piece in the morning for your lunch, you can defrost it in the microwave. I don’t use my microwave for much, but I have been known to thaw my chicken for one minute on high. It’s usually ready by the time I’ve tossed my salad!

This method of freezing food separately first before bagging is useful for all kinds of different foods. Freeze cooked meatballs this way, and you’ll have meatballs on hand for any size crowd. Just think how easy it would be to grab just a handful of strawberries or peach slices for your morning smoothie. Plus, you save on those freezer bags by being able to freeze large batches in one bag instead of as individual servings in separate bags! I’m all about less waste and using fewer consumable products!!

Thanks for stopping by! Because of the ugly list of ingredients and the ugly price tag, we don’t buy lunch meat. However, a grilled chicken sandwich makes a great lunch! Just a thought.

Grace and peace be yours in abundance,
Betty



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Heat Stress in Chickens



When the thermometer turns more red than white, and the humidity makes the air feel thick and heavy, I melt. Out comes the lightweight t-shirts and shorts, and I park myself in front of the nearest air conditioner. Unfortunately, my chickens don’t have the luxury of spontaneously shedding their feathers, and they definitely don’t have an air conditioner in their coop. So, they need alternative ways to keep cool.

Heat stress is a chicken killer. As temperatures approach triple digits, chickens cannot lose body heat fast enough. Occasionally, the result is nothing more than a loss in egg production. More times than not, however, the result is the loss of the chicken.



 First Signs of Heat Stress

Panting Humans sweat when it’s hot. The evaporating sweat cools the body. Chickens do not have sweat glands. Instead, they’ll open their beaks and pant like a dog. The panting evaporates moisture from their throat, cooling the body.

Spread Wings Have you ever walked up to a fan or air conditioner with your arms lifted when you’re overheated? It’s amazing how a breeze over your armpits is so cooling to your whole body. Chickens will do the same thing during heat stress. They lift their wings to release heat.

Lethargy Movement creates heat. Touch your skin after a workout, especially your feet if you’re a runner, and you’ll feel the heat. Rather than overheating the body, many people from cultures in warm climates take a nap during the hottest part of the day. Your chickens will do the same and become lethargic and slow moving, therefore trying to prevent a rise in body temperature.

Decreased Appetite Digestion creates heat. Chickens won’t eat during the hottest times of the day, again trying to prevent a rise in body temperature.

Decreased Egg Production Creating and laying an egg takes a lot of water and energy. A chicken in heat stress is low on both!


Heat Stress Management

Although I cannot do anything about the weather, I can take preventative measures and provide heat relief for my girls.

WATER! Provide fresh, clean drinking water and lots of it!

Shade Do not assume that the roof on your run provides adequate shade. Watch how the sun hits your coop at different times of the day. You may need to hang a sheet or piece of burlap on the side for more shade. Do NOT use a tarp or any other type of plastic sheet! The plastic impedes ventilation and will cause heat to build up in the coop. If your chickens run free on your property, make sure you have plenty of trees and bushes for both shade and predator protection.

Ventilation Make sure your run is open on the sides to allow for natural ventilation, and be prepared to set up a fan on those extra hot, still days. Also, make sure your coop isn’t air tight. I saw a monstrosity of a coop one time that was made like a metal shed. Can you say, “Solar Chicken Roaster?! “

Space Have you ever been in a room too crowded for the air conditioner? Warm bodies give off a lot of heat! Give your chickens enough space so they can create distance between themselves.

Cleanliness Decomposing food, litter, and waste gives off heat. Keep the coop clean.

Cooling Treats Frozen bits of fruits and vegetables will help cool a chicken’s body. Watermelon and watermelon rinds are also excellent cooling treats.

Electrolytes If your heat wave is lasting a while, you might want to consider adding electrolytes to the water to replace minerals lost to heat stress. Yes, you can add Pedialyte or Gatorade to the water in a pinch, but it would be better to pick up something formulated for chickens at your feed store or try this homemade electrolyte replacer recipe from the Chicken Chick. Do NOT add electrolytes to the water of healthy chickens! This is only for chickens already experiencing heat stress and dehydration!

Heat stress isn’t just a southern thing, by the way. In fact, my girls are used to the heat and we rarely see any long term problems. However, we have seen heat waves hit all areas of the country the past couple of years. Ninety degrees feels a lot hotter to both people and animals living in cooler climates that it does to those of us living in warmer climates.

Thanks for stopping by! It was very difficult to get pictures of my chickens in heat stress, and I’m afraid they aren’t the best. I have a problem with purposely causing an animal distress for the sake of a picture. However, it was a particularly hot and muggy day and the girls were feeling it. So, I quickly snapped a few pictures before setting up a fan and tossing out some watermelon rinds. No harm done.

Grace and peace be yours in abundance,
Betty





Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Good Egg or Bad Egg? How to Tell the Difference



Willy Wonka: The Egg-dicator can tell the difference between a good egg and a bad egg. If it's a good egg, it's shined up and shipped out all over the world. But if it's a bad egg, down the chute.
Grandpa Joe: It's an educated Egg-dicator.

Sometimes I wish I had and egg-dicator to know what is going on behind the shell of an egg. We have a very simple but effective method of rotating our eggs so the oldest eggs are used first. However, mishaps do occur and a carton of questionable age is found in an unlikely place. I hate waste, but I also don’t consider the sulfur scent of a rotten egg to be an acceptable air freshener. I’d rather know before I crack the egg that it’s gone bad. Unfortunately, without Mr. Wonka’s egg-dicator or a little x-ray vision, I’m out of luck.

Or am I?

As a matter fact, I do have my very own egg-dicator and x-ray vision…and so do you. Let’s start with the egg-dicator.

Believe it or not, a cup or bowl of water can tell you whether or not an egg is fresh. Simply place the egg in the water and see what happens.
If the egg lies flat on the bottom, it’s very fresh. “Shine it up,” and use it, or place it in your carton.
If the egg tilts or stand upright, it’s still got a little life left in it, but use it soon, or hard boil it to buy yourself a little more time.
If it floats, it’s a bad egg and should be sent “down the chute!” or into the compost pile.



Why does this work? Well, the larger end of the egg contains an air pocket. Add in that an egg shell has roughly 17,000 pores. Over time, the liquid part of the egg evaporates, and the air pocket gets larger. When the egg goes bad, that air pocket is large enough to float the egg.

X-ray vision can also be used to tell the size of that air pocket. You say you don’t have x-ray vision? I say you do…if you have a flash light, that is.

Using a bright, focused light to see the inside of an egg is called candling. Candling is used more often to check if an egg is fertilized and to track embryo development. However, it can also test the age of an egg.

Hold the egg at about a 45° angle in front of a bright flashlight. You’re looking for the air pocket at the top of the egg. The air pocket of a freshly laid egg is about 3mm. The larger the pocket, the older the egg.

This is a very old egg with a very large air cell. 
I took this photo during the day. You can see the shadow of the air pocket at the top. I will try to take a better picture at night. In the meantime, you can search the internet for some great pictures of egg candling. Many state extension offices and 4-H sites have great pictures of candled eggs!

Thanks for stopping by! I don’t test every egg that I use. We have a good system and pretty much use our eggs in the order they come into the house. I also don't like to get the eggs wet. However, it’s nice to have my “educated egg-dicator” or my “x-ray vision” available if I come across an egg of questionable age or character. Is it a good egg or a bad egg? Now I can know for sure!

Grace and peace be yours in abundance,
Betty


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