I’ve talked about raising chickens for eggs for quite awhile now. We finally have the room, facilities, and time for me to be able to start this enterprise, so I’m REALLY excited! My dad had a flock of chickens when I was a kid that finally met their demise to some rampant dogs when I was in middle school. I never really had much to do with the chickens, but we love to eat eggs and this seems like one more step to the self-sufficient lifestyle that I want to lead. If I can manage to keep these ladies alive and well, and we stay in the house for awhile longer, a couple of milking goats are the next step!

I bought 15 chicks from Orscheln’s Farm and Home in Iowa City on March 9. One of our cars was being serviced, so I had to go pick up Andy from work in Iowa City anyway, so it seemed like a good time to go ahead and pick out my chicks. The flock is 5 Rhode Island Reds, 5 California Whites, and 5 Barred Plymouth Rocks. I’m hoping to end up with 12 laying hens when they’re grown up.

I had my spring break last week, so my goal was to use the time off (and Meg was still going to day care since we had to pay for the week whether we used it or not) to modify an outbuilding into a hen house.  My construction skills are not great and I, apparently, get frustrated really easily, so Andy helped me to finish up on Saturday.  We still need to finish the nesting boxes, roost, and the outdoor run, but the space is usable for the flock to be enclosed in a ring while they get big enough that they won’t be able to escape through the holes in the foundation of the building.  Until their move outside, they were living in a box on our back porch, which made the cat and dog more than a little nervous!

This is the building that I hodgepodged into a hen house.  I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, so I tried to use mostly found wood, but I had to buy most of the wood for the door.  The building has a really cool weather vane on top and a concrete slab to the side, perfect for an outdoor run.  I hope to be able to let the hens “free range” in our yard in the afternoons this summer, but I’ll need to secure the garden first, so they don’t eat our veggies before we get what we need.

New Year’s Day Food

Andy gave me a directive that I couldn’t produce lots of dishes while making dinner for yesterday’s dinner. So, I made breakfast dishes instead! We had chocolate chip pancakes (mine were a la Papa…with molasses and maple syrup), bacon, and pineapple. The pancakes were half whole wheat and had ground flax, so sort of healthy. The dishes were done before lunchtime, so no complaints from Andy!

Then, dinner was leftover chicken noodle soup. It was once made from homemade broth and homemade whole wheat noodles, so I did do work a couple of months ago for it!

New Year Dinner

In case you didn’t know, I like to cook. I’ve tossed around the idea of adding a separate section of this site just for our nightly meals to be recorded, but never got around to it, especially since my job has had me out at night more frequently, leaving Andy to eat leftovers or things he can make for himself (mostly frozen pizza). However, I have a couple of people under me now who get to work the odd hours and I thought last night’s New Year’s Eve fancy dinner is just as good a time to start sharing as any! If I keep up with this, which is honestly doubtful, then Andy will make a separate section, but for now, here’s the first night!!

We started with roasted garlic shrimp and crusty French bread while Meg ate her dinner:

Then, after the baby was in bed, we had fillet mignon, stuffed clams (from Aldi), fresh steamed broccoli, and roasted garlic cous cous.

Dessert was this recipe, which was really easy and REALLY good, especially with homemade, sweetened whipped cream on top. We just finished mine from last night tonight for dessert and it was still wonderful!

R.I.P. Garden

May 2010-October 2010

Last weekend, while my mom was here to take Meg to Target to buy toys, we finished pulling everything out of the garden and turned the dirt over in preparation for the long Iowa winter ahead. I didn’t know what we were really getting into when I planted in May, I just wanted to see what would grow and what wouldn’t so I can really get going next spring. I learned that the dirt is so good here that everything grows monstrously and need twice as much room as I gave it, it’s hard to mow under out of control squash, and cheap tomato cages aren’t worth the 99 cents I spent at all. I’ve ordered my seed catalogs and am looking forward to plotting out next year’s garden plan before I start my seeds inside in a few months!

A Busy Saturday

Thanks to my recent incessant PBS watching, I found this recipe for whole grain bread from America’s Test Kitchen.  I want to make our sandwich bread, but haven’t seen a recipe I like that’s also easy until now.  This one is definitely a keeper (ATK makes you join to get their recipes, but you can do it for free and get everything from this season if you want!)!

I also picked the first several-tomatoes-at-a-time crop today.  Andy took this shot of some of them in the window sill ripening a little more.  I’ll process them tomorrow, hopefully.

And, for your viewing pleasure, here’s Meg, in her bouncy seat where she spends a lot of time while I’m cooking and whatnot!  You can tell how excited she is about the BLTs we had for dinner.

Andy’s Favorite

Those are from my first picking on Wednesday, but there’s at least that much in the garden ready to be picked today and canned tomorrow!


I was listening to OnPoint from NPR on the way home today, and their subject was about childhood obesity in the US.  The discussion vacillated from point to point, including taxes on soda, the rise of “Super Size” fast food meals, and the subsidies toward corn farmers that allows for all the high-fructose corn syrup in snack foods of children.

I was struck, however, by two callers to the program.  One of them complained about how they find it difficult, as a parent, to prevent their kids from getting high sugar snacks, as schools and day-care programs still offer them (along with fruit, veggies, etc.).  Another parent pointed out that they only allow their children to have soda “on special occasions, like parties.”

For the record, I used to drink quite a bit of soda, especially in late-high school and college.  Only after getting married (i.e. having someone to make healthy dinners for me…) did I lose the 30 lb I gained over that 7 year period, primarily by not eating Hot Pockets every day for lunch and upwards of 64 oz of soda per day anymore.  I would estimate that my Linsenbardt/Plochberger genes probably kicked in around the same time, allowing my metabolism to bring me a bit closer to my family’s general body size.

Growing up, however, I can’t say I was over-weight.  I drank soda.  Mom sent fruit snacks along in my lunch (even though those “fruit snacks” contained maybe 0.001% actual fruit…).  I ate chips.  I ate candy bars.  I ate ice cream.  And, to this day, I still do.

I think one thing those callers, and many overly-liberal parents, are missing is the “moderation” piece of the puzzle.  Denying your children soda, or making your kids eat exclusively organic food, will not solve the obesity problem amongst young people.  Preventing your children from watching more than 1 hour of television a day, or keeping them from video games, will not prevent your kids from being over-weight.  These approaches can help, but they are, by no means, a silver bullet.

My intention with Meg, and any future kids, is to try and instill a sense of moderation from the beginning.  Yes, she can drink soda.  Yes, she can have candy bars.  But will I let her down a 32 oz soda on the way to Wal-Mart and another one for the trip home?  No.  Will I send a “snack size” candy bar in her lunch, and then let her have a “king size” one for a “snack” when she gets home from school?  No.  Will she eat all the vegetables on her plate like her Dad does (even if she and he don’t like them)?  Yes, she will.  Will those vegetables be organic?  Sometimes, but it’s more important that she eats them at all, along with the rest of her “balanced diet.”  It isn’t a black-or-white issue of only eating some things and not eating any of another.  It’s the same reason Prohibition didn’t work out so well.

Maybe my opinion(s) will change over the coming years, but I guess that’s where I stand for now.  Lest she turn out like Cartman.

Edit: The USDA came out with some new info on the potential benefits of a soda tax recently.  Some of the info is summarized in the following chart, and quote:

A tax-induced 20-percent price increase on caloric sweetened beverages could cause an average reduction of 37 calories per day, or 3.8 pounds of body weight over a year, for adults and an average of 43 calories per day, or 4.5 pounds over a year, for children. Given these reductions in calorie consumption, results show an estimated decline in adult overweight prevalence (66.9 to 62.4 percent) and obesity prevalence (33.4 to 30.4 percent), as well as the child at-risk-for-overweight prevalence (32.3 to 27.0 percent) and the overweight prevalence (16.6 to 13.7 percent).

The Atlantic has another article discussing some of the proposed benefits, as mentioned in the new USDA report.


I harvested the first of our garden’s bounty last night, a radish! It was a little on the hot side for my tastes, but Andy said it was good, so I guess that’s good!

On another note, the green beans (and sometimes the laundry that’s been hung on the line) are covered with these bugs.

What are they and what do I do about them?

Chocolate Cheesecake


Earlier this week when I was looking for something to make, I remembered this really easy recipe from an old Arch UMC cookbook, but I couldn’t find it. After a frantic search of my recipe box, I finally located it and promptly made it! So, just in case I ever lose the recipe again, I’m putting it here for your enjoyment and posterity’s sake.

1 box chocolate cake mix
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
16 ounces cream cheese
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Separate 1 cup of the cake mix and set aside. To the remaining mix, add 1 egg and oil. Mix well and press into the bottom of a greased 9×13 pan. In a mixing bowl (an electric mixer really does best for this one), cream sugar and cream cheese. Mix in 3 eggs, then add milk and the 1 cup of cake mix. Pour over mixture in pan and bake in a 300 degree oven for 55 to 60 minutes. Let cool at room temperature, then refrigerate to serve cold with Cool Whip (real whipped cream would be a waste for this one).


Last week, in an attempt to cheer ourselves up amidst 3 days in a row of rain, my coworkers and I went out to lunch at The Piccadilly a few blocks from our office.  The food was great, especially the beer cheese soup.  So, last night, I tried my best to recreate it and did a pretty good job, if I do say so myself.  I wasn’t expecting such great results, so didn’t take any pictures, but here’s the recipe anyway:

1.  Make a rue in a big pot (my enameled cast iron is great for this).  Melt about 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat, then add about 2 heaping tablespoons of flour to the butter, stir, and let cook until it doesn’t smell like raw flour and turns a golden brown color.

2.  Add 1 bottle of beer (we had an Oktoberfest in the fridge, but I think a pale would be awesome too) and a cup or so of chicken broth to the flour/butter mixture, keeping the medium heat going.  Bring to a boil until it begins to thicken, then add 1/2 cup to a cup of cream, half and half, or milk (depending on how rich you want your soup to be).

3.  Lower the heat a bit and add 3 cups of cheese (something with a lot of flavor, especially with a darker beer, like the sharp cheddar I used).  Stir together, adding a spice cabinet raid (I used white pepper, mustard powder, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, chili powder, and a tiny sprinkling of nutmeg) of whatever sounds good.  Keep stirring until the cheese is incorporated and not stringy.

This recipe made enough for two dinner sized bowlfuls and enough for my lunch today.