Zero-Waste Goat Cheese: Herbed Chevre for Us and Whey Oats for the Chickens

Brett+and+Chicken.jpg

For just a little over 15 months, I have been lucky enough to own chickens. Small chickens and full-grown hens. Large Rhode Island Reds and tiny Sebright bantams. I've spent hours on their coops, hundred on their food. In return, I get eggs, a hobby, and an anchor to this farm. It's legitimized me, in some ways, to know that I can care for things outside my own myopia. They need me, in some ways; but I know I need them more, in many ways.

They're headstrong, the whole lot of them. They want to be left alone until they need something. I've learned to whistle a tune when I feed them. They come running and I once again feel loved by them. One small Antwerp Bantam we have is curious. She lets me pick her up and she falls asleep in the crook of my sunburnt arm while I water her sisters. I like that she trusts me, it gives me hope that others can too.

I don't own them. I take care of them. I'm stewards to their needs, but I do not own them. They can lay or they can't; either way, they're welcome. Some have died by hawk and speeding cars and I mourn them when I think about it. But I'm a believer they deserve the freedom and the danger that comes with versus a dirty-covered chicken run to waste the days in.

36505654_1792391120826562_2640997427787595776_n.jpg

And I'm a believer in eating well. I'm a believer in a diet rich in greens and protein for them. I'm a believer that if I can give it to them versus throwing it away, I'll pick the former. I think we all deserve variety and so they get our scraps. And half of their diet is supplemented with a local restaurant's food waste, portioned out in large platters to devour in seconds.

You can see from my Instagram Stories that I make them bowls when I can - warmed up in the winter and often refrigerated in the summer. I'm a big believer in this practice. It's the variety that I think they crave, something we all do. In doing so, I can offer my hens - in a flock of 10 or 28 - a chance at food diversity, with the added benefits of nutrients that can help protect their immune systems, digestive system, and better eggs.

35574630_193653454667810_2070968702542544896_n.jpg

When I make anything, I think of these things. I think of how my meals can feed the world around me, whether through composting, what the dogs can share with us, or if any of the waste and byproducts can benefit the chickens. More often than not, they can. So when I decided to try my hand at cheesemaking, this ran through my mind - how I can use the whey and for what purpose.

This led me to making the chickens their go-to: an oatmeal bowl, soaked in whey, topped with fruit, herbs from our kitchen garden, and some red pepper flakes (good for their immune system). For us, I used the same herbs and spice to roll the curds. And while I'll never be as good as Vermont Creamery, I think it's a good first try, if you have the time (and 28 chickens to help clean up the waste). 

Homemade Herbed Goat Cheese
(With no-waste options for your chickens!)

Herbed Goat Cheese and Whey Oats

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart goats milk
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 TB white vinegar 
  • Any herbs and spices you want! (see note below)

Directions:

  1. In a saucepan, heat goat milk until bubbles begin to form around the edges
  2. Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice and vinegar
  3. Allow to stand for 15 minutes
  4. While waiting, dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth and put over a receptacle to collect the whey
  5. Slowly pour milk mixture over cloth. You may have to pour whey into larger jar like I did (save the whey for your chickens, see second note below!)
  6. Tie ends of cheesecloth into a knot and hang over a measuring cup or other vessel on a wooden spoon
  7. Allow to drip for 2 hours
  8. While that is dripping out any excess whey, pulse your herbs in a food processor (see author's note)
  9. Peel cheese from cloth and roll in your herbs
  10. Take some plastic wrap and put herbed cheese into the center. Candy roll wrap around the cheese and shape into a log
  11. Refrigerate until ready to use (best after a couple hours to mellow in the fridge)

Author's Note: I made this cheese to be rolled in fresh herbs. With my partnership with Tractor Supply, I have been fortunate enough to have an excess of healthy plants growing around me. My herbs are all on the deck, just feet away from my kitchen. For this batch, I used tarragon, basil, rosemary, lemon balm, and parsley. You can also use dried herbs, if you want. I also added some red pepper flakes for a kick, and salt and pepper to taste. 

 

Herbed Goat Cheese and Whey Oats
Herbed Goat Cheese and Whey Oats
Herbed Goat Cheese and Whey Oats
Herbed Goat Cheese and Whey Oats
Herbed Goat Cheese and Whey Oats

Just a few ingredients make the cheese, but I added a special twist by rolling my curds in herbs I had pulsed in the food processor.

As you can see on the left, my kitchen herb garden is still growing strong!

In the background, you can peep some peppers that will be featured soon!

Herbed Goat Cheese and Whey Oats
Herbed Goat Cheese and Whey Oats
Herbed Goat Cheese and Whey Oats
Herbed Goat Cheese and Whey Oats

Using up the whey: Oatmeal Bowl for the Chickens

 

To make the Whey Oats for your poultry: Steep 4 cups instant oats in 2 cups of whey. Allow to soak until oats are softened. Decorate with melon and other scraps in your kitchen (I used 1 1/2 cup cantaloupe, 2 bananas, and the same herbs and red pepper that I myself flavored our cheese with).

To learn more about what chickens can eat, this is a handy little table.

Herbed Goat Cheese and Whey Oats
Herbed Goat Cheese and Whey Oats
Herbed Goat Cheese and Whey Oats
Herbed Goat Cheese and Whey Oats

This post was made in partnership with Tractor Supply, who provided me with a selection of herbs from Bonnie Plants. I am SO in love with my kitchen herb garden on our deck and I use it nearly daily. The plants come potted and I just transfer, add a little more soil, and water. It couldn't be easier and I am excited to have herbs (and peppers) to enjoy for the rest of summer. 

Picked from the Garden, Topped on a Parfait

IMG_1292.JPG

I was never one to think about gardening, to be honest. Last year, all we grew were some radishes and onions, but that was because Nolan's dad told us to and then planted them himself anyways. What I liked, as is what I like about Nolan and the dogs and the chickens, is that I feel needed. That something relied on me. That there was a benefit to tending to something outside of myself.

And so, I had it in mind that this year would be the year that we create more than small dishes. That we would harvest things in terracotta pots and large plots of tilled soil and that it would be a reason to stick around the house a little bit longer. This thought nagged at my mind. I looked up farm pictures of Daylesford and others. I looked up the cost of a farmer's market booth. I did everything I could to grow something beautiful in my mind and, like always, I read all that I could on the topic in the months that followed.

IMG_1417.JPG

And we waited until the snow stopped, all the way into late May. And then another week for the grass to die. And then we planted. In pots on our deck and in small holes in the soil, we planted everything we could: herbs and flowers and vegetables. And while we wait for the soil to create its magic, I look out the kitchen window at the herb garden and see every touch of beauty one can imagine: peppers dangling from the stem and boastful herbs relaxed in the sunlight.

And I am proud of the magic I have created myself. I'm proud to share it all with you in the upcoming weeks. This is the first of many recipes from our garden, all thanks to Tractor Supply Co. Expect recipes using jalapenos, dill, parsley, basil, lemon balm, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, arugula, kale, and much more in the upcoming months.

 

 

Blueberry Chèvre Cheesecake Parfait
Topped with basil picked from my Bonnie Plants herb garden

Blueberry Goat Cheese No Bake Cheesecake Parfait

Ingredients:

  • 4 graham crackers, pulverized with a rolling pin or food processor
  • 6 oz goat cheese (I used Vermont Creamery's blueberry and lemon chevre, but you could also use regular goat cheese and 2 TB smashed blueberries)
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 5 oz jar of Oui vanilla yogurt (sub with greek if you can't find Oui)
  • 1 brick cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 TB vanilla extract
  • 3 TB confectioner's sugar
  • 1 TB lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup whipped cream
  • Basil for garnish

Directions:

  1. Sprinkle in about a 1/2 inch into your Oui yogurt jars (or any small jar you may have on hand)
  2. In a stand mixer, beat together all remaining ingredients (except whipped cream and basil)
  3. Transfer to piping bag and pipe into jars over your graham cracker crumbs
  4. Rest in fridge for 1 hour to firm up
  5. Top with whipped cream and basil and enjoy!

Author's Notes: Really, you can't mess this recipe up and it's pretty variable for that reason. You can make it sweeter, add more extracts, add a different fruit, exclude the yogurt, add sour cream, sweeten with honey. It's more just about having a little treat than an exact science with this one!

Blueberry Goat Cheese No Bake Cheesecake Parfait
Blueberry Goat Cheese No Bake Cheesecake Parfait

Chocolate Snack Cake for Any Day!

Chocolate Snack Cake

I made this cake on a whim, I do that now. I do not plan things days out if I don't have to. This cake was a whim. I set a couple coffee dates with new companies on a whim. We went to see a concert on a whim. I made this cake on a whim and then read a book for three hours on a whim.

I don't operate always on free will. Sometimes I think that I am dictated by the to-do lists that I keep, chicken-scratched and coffee-stained on a legal pad in my office. I write small reminders on it - take out the trash, do the dishes, mail your letters. And for larger things, I totally forget about--keep learning French, exercise more, remember to be grateful.

And with 3 extra hours of daylight, I baked a cake, let it cool, and iced it. I ate a slice, leaned over the sink as the crumbs fell, and stood watching the yard flood in the rain. It was not a perfect day, but it was a perfect moment all the same.

Chocolate Snack Cake

Chocolate Snack Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cup AP flour
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 4 TB unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (or even tahini!)
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/3 cup boiling water or very hot coffee (I did coffee here)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350*F and grease a 10x7" brownie pan with butter and parchment (can also use an 8 or 9 inch round cake pan)
  2. Sift together flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder in a bowl
  3. In a stand mixer, cream together sugars and butter until light
  4. Add eggs, one at a time
  5. Add vanilla and oil
  6. Alternate between wet ingredients (half and half first, then water) and your dry mixture
  7. Finish mixing by hand with a rubber spatula
  8. Bake for 50-55 minutes and allow to cool completely before icing (see below for directions)

Decorating Directions: I have too many eggs and too much confectioners' sugar, so I actually did a royal icing for this cake. It wasn't too sweet, as it played off the deep tones of the coffee and chocolate. My ratio for royal icing is 3 cups sugar for 2 egg whites, with just a *hint* of vanilla or even orange blossom water (any more and it will make the mixture runny). Just mix with a fork until thick ribbons fall off the tines and smooth out onto cake. This is topped with Supernatural Starfetti Sprinkles.

Chocolate Snack Cake
Chocolate Snack Cake
Chocolate Snack Cake

Summertime Pav!

I walked barefoot out to the barn for the first time this year. The grass, dewy and cold, is shaggy. I like it this way. Too manicured and I feel it is all too tamed. We have five acres. I want them to breathe a little.

The dogs watched from the sidelines, held back by only a small sliver of chicken wire in the grand scheme of things. They whine for my return. They bark at my back as I turn away from their needy heads and their soft tongues and their lazy tails. And I walk alongside the fence line. Long grass brushes my shin. Three barn swallows circle. I close my eyes--the sun hits the truck a little too hard in the morning.

Summer Pavlova with Strawberries and Lemon Curd

And when I look down, I see 13 tiny beaks opened up to greet me. To shriek at me. To stare curious and open-mouthed, waiting to see what I bring in my bucket. Twenty-six golden and black eyes are motionless and I meet their gaze as best I can. The hens follow me for 20, 30, 40 feet and then taper off back to the field, back to scratching the dirt, back to hiding in the shade and getting lost in the acreage. 

I put on shoes I keep down at the barn. I fill their water and wipe my hands on my pant leg. I create a cotton well in my shirt and hold the 9 eggs laid that day. I hear the chirps of the barn swallow chicks. I turn the light off. It's like I was never there.

Summer is growing on me. I see the way the world is most itself now. It can breathe freely, it can sigh in the shade, it can sway its lazy tail. And, humbly, it goes on existing while I work. Once I am back at the house, putting the eggs in the fridge and the cut herbs on the counter, it is like I was never there.

Summer Pavlova

Summer Pavlova with Strawberries and Lemon Curd

Ingredients:

  • Wedge of a lemon
  • 8 egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cup lemon curd (I used Ina's Recipe here)
  • 1 cup whipped cream
  • 8-10 strawberries, sliced
  • Lemon balm for garnish (optional)

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 280*F and trace an 8 inch circle on parchment paper
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat eggs on high until soft peaks form
  3. Gradually and slowly, add your sugar and vanilla. Continue to beat until stiff and glossy
  4. Gently fold in cornstarch and salt
  5. Spoon or pipe meringue onto your circle, first with a base, and then piping (or swooping with a spoon) an edge with a well in the middle
  6. Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes, then lower temperature to 200*F
  7. Bake an additional 30 minutes. Turn oven off and let cool completely (ideally, overnight)
  8. When cooled, spoon in lemon curd into center well, add whipped cream and strawberries. Serve chilled.
Summer Pavlova with Strawberries and Lemon Curd
Summer Pavlova with Strawberries and Lemon Curd
Summer Pavlova with Strawberries and Lemon Curd

Bakewell Cookies: A Renaissance of Who I've Missed

Bakewell Cookies

The last couple weeks have been hard to pinpoint. The weather has been calm and I have not been myself. I have been dreaming; I am a dreamer by nature. I have been quiet. I have been reading. I have been baking and perfecting. I have been alone and I have been cuddled in Nolan's arms on an air mattress in Philadelphia. 

I have been discouraged. I had lost my sense of adventure when it comes to baking. I took a few months off and avoided the kitchen. I think I forgot about the fun it can be. I think I forgot how much it's become a part of me now. I think I forgot how the small motes of flour, when they hit the light, can be one of the most beautiful moments in my otherwise boring day.

I tell myself to relax and I don't take my own advice. I've told myself to wake up early and I ignore the alarm clock and the small dog paws that run on my back. I used to fill the tub up to my chin and then I'd let it drain a minute later. It gave me something to do. Any form of procrastination, if I didn't have to bake. 

But I realize the tender stupidity of that reaction. I've missed the stuck pages of a cookbook and the sink overflowing with whisks and egg shells. I've missed the dogs queuing for their taste. I've missed the purpose baking has given me.

And I thought about all this while I made these cookies. I forgot to take more pictures. I was eager to eat them outside, breaking one into thirds and parceling it into treats. And slowly, happily, I am realizing that that's the moment I missed these last five months: being able to share, to stop, to breathe, to create a moment in time I am most proud of.

Bakewell Cookies

Inspired by Mary Berry's bakewell tart, I've adapted it into a cookie form!

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 1/4 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy
2. Add egg and vanilla and mix together
3. Sift together dry ingredients and gently stir into your butter mixture
4. Turn out onto a floured work surface and pat into a disc. Wrap and chill for 1 hour
5. Preheat oven to 400*F
6. Roll out and cut dough into desired shapes (about 3/4 inch thickness worked best for me)
7. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 9-11 minutes, or until edges are just browned

To Decorate: Mix together 2 egg whites and 3 cups confectioner's sugar. Stir with a fork vigorously until you have a stiff glue of icing. Divide, 1/3 in a small bowl and the remaining 2/3 can stay in mixing bowl. Heat 1 teaspoon raspberry jam until just runny. Whisk into the smaller apportionment of icing until it forms ribbons when lifting your fork up. Add just a tad bit of water to the undyed white icing. 

Transfer both to piping bags. The white bag can have pretty much any larger tip, while the raspberry one should have a fine tip. Fill cookie with the white icing, filling in the gaps of icing with a toothpick and dragging royal icing out. Run 4 parallel lines over top of the flooded white and drag up and down to create feathers of pink. Repeat with remaining cookies.