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Of Chickens and Chicken Coops

Not long ago, our chickens had their 2nd month birthday. As a special treat, we gave them some watermelon rinds, and boy, did they enjoy them! I made sure not to trim the watermelon so low so the chickens would have some sweet fruit to nibble on, but what we saw after a few hours surprised us. The watermelon rinds were eaten down to the skin! Literally. It actually looked like rolled paper - it was that thin!
They LOVE watermelons!

So far, we found out that their favorite treats are strawberries, cantaloupes and watermelons. Oh, and they also like corn cobs and worms. In fact, they like to tug on hubby's untied shoelaces thinking that they are worms. We like to give them a variety of treats, but we always check to make sure they are safe to eat. And when in doubt, we go to backyardchickens.com. All the answers are there!

Anyway...  we finally finished our chicken coop (just in time for hurricane Debby!). Despite the strong winds and seemingly endless rain fall, the coop (and its 10 tenants) survived! We are also very pleased that so far, the chickens are safe and the coop is secure. No sign of critter break-ins whatsoever. Son actually calls it "Fort Knox" and he is mighty proud of it. After all, he is the "architect" of the coop. 
"Fort Knox" (notice the brick that keeps the door shut haha)

So, in order to familiarize the chickens to their new digs, hubby has to bring them in one by one at night and put them in their individual nesting boxes. As for the rooster, he has a special spot in the corner of the coop! Hubby did it for 2 consecutive nights, and come the 3rd night, they already knew what to do! When we came out to put them in their coop, they were already there! These chickens are really smarter than I thought!

I also found out that they recognize the sound of our voice. One time, they were huddled together under their coop, and about 10 feet away from the coop, I started calling them (I like to call them "Cheepy"). Well what do you know. They started to break away from the group and respond to my calling. It was the sweetest thing. I really am a proud momma. 

Of course, it is not always fun. Feeding them in the mornings is always a pain. Cleaning the coop is also a big task - but we have to do it so our chickens would not live in a pig sty (haha). And waiting for them to lay eggs... well, let's just say we are getting antsy and want to see some eggs soon!
Kissing cousins!

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Saucy Beef Picadillo

 

I was thinking of something to make with my ground beef, and I remembered a certain blog post of my friend Kuya Dennis. His blog is actually one of the few cooking blogs that have Tagalog instructions, and reading it is like a (food) trip back to the Philippines, since he features Filipino food. I decided to try a dish he featured in his blog - Picadillo.

I had to substitute some ingredients because there are items that I can't get here in the US. I also had to veer away from the traditional "dry" Picadillo because hubby wants his dishes saucy. I don't blame him - I like mine with a little bit of sauce, too.

I think it is awesome that this is a one-pot dish. I am not a big fan of doing dishes (particularly pots and pans) so anything I can do to minimize the usage of these utensil would really make me happy. 

Anyway, the dish turned out great! Even my picky father-in-law enjoyed it. I made a big batch and we ate them to the last morsel. Yes, it was that good that we didn't mind eating it for days! ;-)


What you need:

1 lb ground beef
1 russet potato, diced
2 carrots, diced
1/4 cup peas
1/4 Vidalia onion, sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 whole green bell pepper, diced
1 can (454 oz) tomato sauce
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 tomato, cut in wedges
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
hard boiled eggs, for garnish 
fried plantain slices, for garnish


What to do: 

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute garlic, onion and fresh tomatoes for about a minute. Add ground beef, season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beef is browned. 

Add fresh thyme and potatoes. Mix well. Pour in the tomato sauce, and the rest of the veggies. If it seems to dry out, add water, about half a cup at a time.  Lower the heat and let simmer for about 10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Serve with hard boiled eggs and fried plantains.




Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:
 

1. If using dried thyme, use less. Maybe just a teaspoon since the flavor of dried herbs are more concentrated.
2. Use quail eggs instead of regular-sized eggs! They're bite-sized and fun to eat. Higher in cholesterol, though.
3. When dicing veggies, make sure they are roughly the same size so they would cook evenly.
4. Instead of water, add beef broth to make your dish saucy and tasty.
5. Hubby suggested I add green olives or raisins next time. 
 

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Fort Lauderdale

First, I want to apologize for neglecting my blog for a long time... I have been sooo busy with my summer schedule, that at times I would rather lay in bed and rest than sit in front of the computer. Even as of time of writing, I haven't really caught up with my sleep yet, but hopefully things will get better when I adjust to my new schedule.

For now, I would leave you with some pics from our trip to Fort Lauderdale. It is a very beautiful city - and we actually saw the famed A1A (Beachfront Avenue!). Needless to say, we were belting out "Ice, Ice Baby" the whole trip!
Such a beautiful city!
A1A Beachfront Avenue!

Asia Bay Restaurant (click for larger image)

Taza Mediterranean


 

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Lemon Thyme Couscous

The thyme leaves got buried... but I promise, it was there!

No, that is not rice you're seeing on the plate. That's actually couscous, a coarsely ground pasta made from semolina wheat. It is similar to rice in the sense that they are both carbs, but a bit  different in texture.

Anyway, I decided to make couscous instead of rice just to shake things up a bit. The box of couscous has been sitting in my pantry for a few months now, so I thought it was time to use it. I also had a little bit of help from the herbs in my garden. 

As for the meat, I just marinated it with Mama Sita BBQ mix. I always keep a packet or two in my pantry for those days when I crave for Pinoy BBQ. Not to be confused with American BBQ which is usually smoked meat, Filipino BBQ is small slices of meat (usually pork) threaded on a skewer. And because it is usually sold as "street food", it gets its fair share of smoke from the vehicles that pass by (hahaha). 



Ingredients: 

1/2 cup couscous
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon thyme 


What to do: 

In a medium-sized pot, bring water to a boil.

Add couscous, olive oil, lemon juice and thyme. Cover and boil for one minute.

Remove from heat and let stand for about 5 to 8 minutes. Before serving, fluff couscous with a fork.

Serve with your favorite meat dish! 


Tips, Tricks and Tweaks: 

1. This turned out a bit tangy so you might want to reduce the amount of lemon juice to 3/4 tablespoon.
2. Some people like using Grapeseed oil instead of olive oil.
3. For a stronger herb flavor, double the amount of thyme.

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"Teen-Agers"

Our chicks don't look like chicks anymore. In fact, they are starting to look like chickens! They even cluck like chickens! Kinda' sad because my "babies" are now "tweeners".
Quite the funambulist, no?
  
They still have a long way to go before egg-laying, though. Not sure what we're gonna do with our rooster... if we decide to keep him, we should build a separate pen for him. Otherwise, we are gonna have more chicks! We actually want eggs to eat!

"So... did you hear about Clucky from down the road?"

They are very active now. They love catching insects, and running around. They are soooo funny to watch.  


Can you think of a funny caption for this picture? :-)


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Crustless Chicken Pastel


I don't really know if I should even call this dish "Chicken Pastel" because the traditional pastel is almost like chicken pot pie - meat and veggies encased in a flaky crust. 

What really happened was, I was gonna use crescent rolls dough, but it was sooo hot that even after pinching the sides, the poor refrigerated dough just broke apart. I salvaged them by just baking it like regular crescent rolls and eating it with the Chicken Pastel. Still made for a good meal, if you ask me.

And yes, I made it a bit saucy because hubby likes it that way. I ended up dipping the crescent rolls in the sauce while enjoying the meal! 


What you need: 

1 1/2 pounds chicken breast, cubed
1 pound of smoked sausage, coined
3 tablespoons butter
1 large potato, cubed
2 carrots, coined
4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
8 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced 
1/2 cup evaporated milk
2 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper, to taste
hard boiled eggs for garnish
few sprigs of chopped parsley for garnish 


What to do: 

In a pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion, saute for about a minute. Add in the cubed chicken and cook until meat is no longer pink. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking for about 3 - 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the sausage and the rest of the veggies and cook for another minute, then pour in the chicken broth and milk. Season with salt and pepper according to taste. Bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with hard boiled eggs and chopped parsley. Enjoy! 


Tips, Tricks and Tweaks: 

1. If you like the traditional pastel, try this recipe.
2. You can use other vegetables like green bell pepper, corn, or peas.
3. Some people prefer using canned mushroom soup instead of evaporated milk. 
4. As always - season according to taste. Tweak your own recipe and see what you like!
5. I used smoked sausage but you can use hot dog or chorizo.

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Restaurant Review: 4Rivers Smokehouse

Burnt Ends and Six Shooter (or what's left of them!) Click for larger image

If you're from the Orlando area, chances are, you have heard of 4Rivers Smokehouse. And there's a good reason why they're popular nowadays - it is because their food is awesome!

From the rustic dining area to the courteous and polite crew, 4 Rivers is just the place to be. I don't think I have ever gone there and just straight up ordered. Every time we visit, there is a line outside their door, which continues to the inside where there is an efficient assembly line of employees that would take your order. Be warned, though. Your food will come on a tray - NO PLATES - just a plain old tray lined with paper. If that's enough to scare you from eating there, then it is your loss. 

Anyway, on busy days, we would always see a cop or two outside the restaurant. At first, we thought that they were "crowd control" - making sure that people don't go too rowdy (or that nobody would cut in the line because it is almost always looong). Later on, we found out that they are there to control parking and make sure that customers don't park on private properties. But don't let parking follies deter you as well - on weekdays, they serve free juice and water outside, and if you're lucky, you might even get to taste a free sample! 

So far, hubby's favorite is the "Six Shooter" - it's cheese grits topped with pulled pork, southern  slaw, pickles, jalapenos and BBQ sauce. I know it sounds weird, but it is delicious! I would never have imagined that slaw with pair well with cheese grits and pulled pork, but by golly, it does!

Of course, my favorite is the burnt ends. And I promise, you will love it too once you try it!


What we liked: 

- The food. The meat is tender and delicious. Yes, it is delicious. Did I mention it's delicious? You really don't need the sauce to cover up the taste of the meat. But hey, their sauces are good too! (Hubby agrees, and he normally drowns his BBQ with sauce. But not at 4 Rivers!)
- A lot of sides to choose from. We recommend the Smoked Jalapenos. It is wrapped in bacon and is just so yummy! Occasionally, you get a very spicy one so just be careful! (When I mentioned "smoked jalapeno" to hubby, he got that glazed expression on his face - like he wandered off to dreamland and dreamt of those 'pe├▒os).
- Reasonably priced. We wouldn't mind paying such amount for great food.
- Courteous staff. Very helpful and attentive. 


What we didn't like: 

- Dining area is small-ish. Several times, we ate standing. But it was well worth it! ;-)
- Parking space is scarce. Good thing they let you park in the street. (Oh, what did you say, officer?)  ;-) Note, though, that they are building a bigger venue just right across their location.
- We always have a hard time ordering. That is because everything looked so good and we wanted to try all items in the menu! 


The Verdict: 

Needless to say, we love 4 Rivers and have been coming back. Not only that, we brought friends and family too, and they also loved 4 Rivers. Frankly, the reason why there are only 2 pictures here is because we tend to forget everything and just start digging in when we get our food. So yes, we recommend it to everybody. And a word of advice: come hungry! 

As usual, just letting you know that this is NOT a sponsored post. Just spreading the love. ;-)


*Visit 4rsmokehouse.com for locations

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