Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Super Easy (and Good!) Sweet and Sour Chicken

  I have a confession to make...or at least I have to state this confession again...I'm a terrible chicken owner! I say this because I love chicken! As much I love my birds; their beauty, humor, creative juices they spark within me, their gossipy chatter, erratic behaviors, the way they drive me insane sometimes and of course, their eggs, I just can't deny how much I love to eat chicken. (Not my own! The already dead ones found frozen solid or pre-packaged in the grocery store.) If someone told me I could only eat either chicken or beef for the rest of my life and I had to choose, I would definitely pick the chicken.
  During my last grocery trip, I stumbled along this package among the Kroger shelves:

They say never to grocery shop hungry, but yours truly didn't heed that advice. The thought of sweet and sour chicken over a bed of rice made my mouth water. Plus the fact this was going to make a super fast and super easy dinner had me sold on the product. I tossed the package in my cart and made a mental note to pick up an extra box of rice.
  There are multiple reasons why I'm posting and bragging on this sauce. One of them is because the only other ingredients you need are the chicken and vegetable oil. (Plus maybe some rice, mushrooms, or any other additions that sound yummy to you.) Personally, I love a meal that doesn't require 100 different ingredients, or that calls for that rare component I'll use only a little bit of and never use again. (I'll let you in on a little secret...we here at Shawhan farm are not adventurous foodies by a long shot! Meat and potatoes please!)
  Anyhoo, if anyone needs a quick and easy meal idea, this is a good one to try! Another reason I really liked this was because the list of ingredients wasn't that long and I could actually pronounce all of them! Because of this, I was going to let Carl try some of it too, though I didn't have high hopes on that front...I was right too. He tried some of it but didn't eat much.
  All you do is heat the oil in the skillet, add the chicken (which, ok, I cheated and bought already cut up chicken breasts!) and cook until the chicken is done.

  While that got going, I put in two bags of Boil-N-A Bag white rice (I'm so healthy, I know) and let those cook for the directed 10 minutes.
  Once the chicken is cooked through, you simply add the package of sauce and let that cook for an additional 5 minutes.

  And Ta-Da! A simple, warm meal for a snowy night!
  I sorta stopped taking pictures at this point...Dan came home, Carl was underfoot and needing things (you can see his half eaten banana above hahaha!) Ahhh dinner at our house is usually a goat rodeo.
 It made enough so we are able to have the leftovers tonight and I saved Carl's bowl hoping me might be more adventurous today than he was yesterday, though I'm not holding my breath.
  At any rate, I'll definably be buying this Campbell's skillet sauce again. It was Chicken Lady approved!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Farm Show!!!

  Yesterday Dan I got home from our annual visit to Louisville, Kentucky and the National Farm Machinery Show. It was also my very first time away from Carl all night, in like, ever! As we left the little guy in good hands (grandma's and pappy's to be exact) I was able to enjoy myself, snag a lot of freebies and people watch until my hearts content! But that still didn't mean that I didn't miss my little boy like crazy!
  As this was a kids-free trip, Dan and I caught up on our Rodney Carrington listening as soon as we got into our suddenly quiet car. A few exits from Louisville, we ate a quick lunch before reaching the show. I tell you this because within the first half hour of being at the show I had stuffed my purse full of candy that every single booth offers, tried a shot of this flax seed magic potion that cures women's health issues from cancer to hot flashes and donated $1 to the Kentucky FFA so that I could get a bag of freshly popped popcorn which had been provided by - GASP! - Monsanto!

 GMO or no, those peeps make some darn good popcorn!
 As I sat in the booth with other ladies whose husbands where talking like Dan, who was in deep discussion with a sales rep about the new grain dryer and where/how they were going to fit it within their existing grain bins, scarfing this amazing popcorn, watching the amazing people walking by in their various fashion statements, it dawned on me that I was eating my emotions! The Taco Bell, candy and popcorn helped to numb my emotions of being away from my child... After this realization, I tried to focus on getting as many free reusable bags as possible and this year I believe I succeeded in bringing home more than any other year!
 Other farm show highlights included in sitting in a BLUE tractor...

 Getting my picture taken with this hottie at the GEA booth (it's a dairy thing):

And watching the talking stalk of  ragweed at the Syngenta Seeds booth. This guy creped me out a little. He reminded me of the wicked witch of the west in The Wizard of Oz. I think he could have auditioned for a role in Wicked.

This show is geared more towards farm machinery and equipment than it is about livestock, so I can't report a lot of the chicken front in this post. I searched high and low, but I really didn't see anything that had to do with chickens except for these publications that I picked up. 

 The livestock convention (I believe) is held in November and I really want to try and make it this year.
  Carl did great on his night away and thanks to all the amazing food and our dinner at Tumbleweed, I was able to keep down my anxieties of the first night away from my baby!
 Of course when we got back into the car with Carl he decided to remind us how loud he can be in small confined spaces...

Sunday, February 8, 2015

How Do You Do? Talon Hawkins To You!

   More than one time I have been outside and walked past this fence row and have spotted a hawk perched upon the post. Fully knowing that hawks are known predators to chickens, my first thought is, 'Oh cool! A hawk!'. (How traitorous am I?) My second thought is replaying all the gory details of the disemboweled chickens found on my brother-in-law and sister-in-law's property from their dealings with hawks. Maybe I really should be concerned....
  Well,  I was finally able to have a little chat with the hawk that comes and rests his wings on our fence post. Since it was such a warm, Spring-teasing type of day, Dan, Carl and I ventured outside after church and lunch. It was one of those days where you got a lot of stuff done, like cleaning out the chicken coop, washing the cars and cutting the bottoms off of barn doors...the types of things you do on Spring-teasing types of days.

  As Dan sawed and Carl played with rocks and puddles, I suddenly remembered I had to put a roast in the crock pot for dinner. Jogging up the driveway, I looked over and saw a serious looking bird -in what was that? a top hat?? - perched on the fence post, starring out in the direction of the horse pasture. I stopped and blinked, thinking my eyes were playing tricks on me, but no - that was definitely a top hat! Knowing this was more important than dinner, I changed my course of direction and walked across the yard, the wind whipping my hair into my face.
 "Hello?" I called. "Can I help you?"
  "Oh! Yes, yes, hullo!" He responded in another shocker - a British accent!
 "Hi." I said, dumbfounded.
  "Beautiful day isn't it? I just love this kind of weather."
  "Me too. Er, who are you?" I asked, taking in his suit vest, tiny bow-tie and rimless glasses.
  "Oh, my, where are my manners?" He cleared his throat, removed his top hat and gave what I'm assuming was a bow...not much room to work with when you are that small. "My name is Talon Hawkins, how do you do?"
  "Um...I'm good. My name is Rebecca." I said, feeling really stupid. Was I really speaking to a bird?? AND having trouble finding something to say? I had successfully crossed the line from weird and had gone into Looser-Ville.
  Shaking my head, I had to ask. "Are you hear to eat my chickens?"
  Talon Hawkins took a couple of jumps backwards sputtering.
  A wave of guilt washed over me. "I'm sorry!" I was quick to say. "It's just, I've seen you here before and I know for a fact that hawks love chicken."
  Seeming to recover his decorum, Mr. Hawkins put a wing over his chest and cleared his throat. "I accept your apology. As a responsible chicken owner, you have every right to have the best interest in mind for your birds. I cannot lie to a lady! I was indeed debating on picking off one of your fowl for a Sunday snack."

   I gasped in terror thinking of Macho, a little bantam rooster belonging to the in-laws who met a gruesome and violent death by the talons of a hawk. Is this what happened to my beloved Fumm? As far as I know, (knock on wood) none of our chickens have been attacked by a hawk. That is why Mr. Hawkins' presence has never really bothered me before.
  "Have you snacked on chickens in this area before?" I asked, wanting some kind of justice for little Macho.
  "No, I swear it. I am just passing through on my way to Indiana to visit relations. I heard the squawking of your birds and my tummy growled. I am so hungry and I have traveled so far." The sun reflected off his spectacles as he looked at me.
  "Well, it's not very nice to eat other people's chickens." I told him, much like I would scold my own child.
  He put his head down. "I know. I am terribly sorry. I just can't help but love the taste of chicken, however. I am most fond of the tender dark meat, as it melts in your mouth with that succulent flavor..."
  As Mr. Hawkins continued to describe the flavor of chicken in minute detail, my own stomach began to growl. I thought of the frozen chicken legs in the freezer destined to be fried in my skillet one of these days. I thought about the Combo #1 from Chick-fil-A yesterday, and how good that chicken sandwich is with a Cherry Coke. Then there was the Burger King chicken sandwich I had for lunch, and goodness, I've had too much fast food this weekend!
Food! My roast! If I didn't get that thing in the crock pot so it could cook for several hours, we were going to be eating fast food again tonight!
  "Look, I really need to be going." I said, cutting into his descriptions. "Can I get you some bread or anything? Anything besides my chickens?"
  "No, no, thank you anyway. I have a gluten allergy. I need to be off myself. I need to try and make headway while the weather is so nice. Sorry to have given you a scare. I'll leave your chickens alone. Good day! Good day!"
  And with that, Talon Hawkins took flight and flew away.
  I scratched my head on the way back to the house, asking myself if I really did just have a conversation with a hawk? And if so, was that well-spoken old chap really a brute and viscous killer of chickens? 
  Going inside and to my roast, I really hoped he wasn't and wished him a safe journey to his Indiana destination.

Sunday, February 1, 2015


   For the past couple of months, Carl and I have been attending story time for kids Carl's age at our local library. Hillsboro doesn't have a whole lot of variety (not even a Chick-fil-A or a Target!) but thank the Heavens above, it does come equipped with a library! Nothing beats the smell of old binding, the lullaby of pages softly turning and the familiar comfort that engulfs your soul as you walk into a room that is floor to ceiling with books. (I would have stayed with the Beast too in Beauty and the Beast if he would have had that library!)
  Anyhoo, the downstairs of the Hillsboro library is dedicated to children with their shrieks of laughter (and anger) and the noisy symphony that accompanies the music box and half a dozen toddlers. This place has been great for Carl and I; we are meeting new people, enjoying new activities and we have a consistent accessibility to new reading materials. No more wondering when we are getting to the library and renewing books over the internet, nope, it's a pretty safe bet we'll be most every week with our book bag of new and read books.
  Carl loves books! If he inherits anything from me, I hope it's the love of books. He can sit for a long time just happily flipping through the pages. Not a day goes by that we don't read several books. It didn't take long for me to become tired of reading the ones we have here at home, though I'm waiting for the day when Carl knows them by heart and tells me when I skip a page or even a word, and so I'm loving the constant interchange of new reading materials.
  After story time, I usually follow Carl throughout the stacks and grab an armful of books here and there. He has gotten to love sitting at the small table by the checkout counter that is loaded down with fun puzzles while I hand over my library card.
  This particular week, without even looking at the cover of the book in my arms, we stumbled across this tale, Chanticleer and the Fox, which was adopted from The Canterbury Tales. Although it was originally a work by Geoffrey Chaucer (all hail the King of literary genius!), as I read the words to our dear boy who can't quite grasp the lesson of the tale, it reminded me of something we would find in Aesop's Fables. It also reminded of the 1991 movie, Rock-A-Doodle and the Elvis-like main character, "Chantecler".
  Do you know that "Chantecler" is not just a name dreamt up by old man with a quill pen or an Elvis impersonating bird? Nope, there really IS a Chantecler chicken breed. The Chantecler originates from the Quebec Province of Canada, which up until the birth of the breed, Canada did not have any chickens to say they hailed from their country. In deciding the traits of the Chantecler breed, the bird had to be able to tolerate the cold winters. The Chantecler chicken for this reason, has nearly no wattles at all and a very small comb, making it harder for the bird to get frostbite. Other characteristics of the breed include a gentle nature and it makes a good meat bird, no matter the chicken's age. (They are also known for egg production.)
  The name "Chantecler" means 'to sing' ("Chanter") and 'bright' ("clair"). Perhaps this is why a Chantecler became the main character to don the Elvis hairdo and rock out in a children's movie!
  The story of Chanticleer and the Fox is a little lengthy, but good medieval children's literature that I was happy to fall upon. After all, we usually do seem to grab the books with the farm animals on the cover!