Taking a bit of a detour this month before returning to the subject closest to our hearts – cheese.
If you go for a ride on country roads, you’ll notice the “Fresh Eggs” signs popping up this time of year. Farm hens will typically lay fewer eggs, or stop laying altogether, when the daylight hours shorten in late autumn and winter. And now that spring has arrived, bringing more sunny hours, the hens have started laying again.
If you do stop and buy your eggs directly from a small farm where the chickens have access to the outdoors, you’ll be rewarded with the most vibrant yellow color in your breakfast scrambled eggs, to say nothing of the fresh taste and added vitamins when chickens are raised in small flocks and able to get part or all of their food from plants.
Did you know how easy it is to have your own fresh eggs? Enlightened city councils have approved ordinances to allow people in many towns to raise three or four hens. That number of chickens would easily provide enough eggs for a family of four, plus a few extra for baking or gifting to a neighbor.
You are generally not allowed to keep a rooster, but chickens don’t need a rooster to lay eggs (and you won’t have to contend with that early morning wake-up call from a feathered alarm clock either.)
Our three chickens give us about a dozen eggs a week. They have a fenced-in yard with grass and a few trees, plus a coop for shelter at night — you do need to provide protection from raccoons and other predators. In addition to a soy-free chicken feed, they get all our kitchen fruit and vegetable scraps, plus weeds and spent garden plants. It’s nice to know that squash seeds, the ends of carrots, and an occasional treat of popcorn are all turned into their beautiful brown eggs.
If you have eggs and cheese in the refrigerator, you have a meal. Breakfast, lunch or dinner can be just minutes away. We have “breakfast for dinner” at least once during the week, and it’s usually a take on this simple recipe. Whether you call it an egg pie, crustless quiche, or a frittata, this dish is basically a combination of eggs, cheese, and vegetables, baked together to provide a nourishing and delicious meal that’s simple to get on the table for a weeknight supper, with leftovers easily warmed up the next day.
This is a great way to use small amounts of vegetables and cheese left over from another meal.
2 cups of cooked, cooled, drained vegetables (mushrooms, onions, broccoli, peppers, zucchini, potatoes, spinach, etc.)
1/2 cup shredded cheese
Salt, pepper, dried herbs to taste
Optional: slices of tomato, zucchini, olives, shredded cheese for the top of the quiche
Put the cooled vegetables into an oiled glass pie pan or 8-inch square baking dish. Beat the eggs with a splash of milk and stir in the cheese. Pour the eggs over the vegetables in the baking dish. Decorate the top with additional vegetables and more shredded cheese. Bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes until the top is browned and the quiche is cooked through (check the center of the quiche with a knife). Let cool a few minutes before serving. For dinner, serve with a salad.
Leftovers can be warmed up for breakfast or lunch – especially good rolled into a flour tortilla with extra cheese and salsa.
Terry and Denise Woods are owners and cheesemakers at Highfield Farm Creamery in Walworth on State Line Road. If you have a question you’d like answered in this column, please send it to Info@HighfieldFarm.com