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Jalapeno Popper Chicken

What do you get when you combine jalapenos, cheese, and chicken? 

Jalapeno Popper Chicken, that’s what!

Jalapeno Popper Chicken

Let me tell you, this stuff is warm, filling, and unbelievably good. 

Jalapeno Popper Chicken 2

Jalapeno Popper Chicken

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup of green onions, chopped
  • 1 (8 oz) package of cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup of colby jack cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt
  • 1 sleeve of Ritz crackers, crushed
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Toothpicks, optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
  2. Using a small knife, cut a pocket in the side of each chicken breast.
  3. Season each breast with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together the cream cheese, Greek yogurt, jalapeno peppers, green onions, and cheese.
  5. Stuff each chicken breast with the cream cheese mixture. If needed, use toothpicks to help secure chicken.
  6. In a shallow dish, whisk together the egg and milk.
  7. Dip each chicken breast into the egg/milk mixture, then in the crushed Ritz crackers.
  8. Place in a baking dish that has been lightly coated with cooking spray and bake for about 40-50 minutes or until chicken is done.
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Burlap Tree Skirt

I’m just gonna go ahead and throw this out there:

I usually go naked. . . . As in, no skirt under the Christmas tree. 

What’d you think I was talking about? 😉

But after perusing the Christmas decor at TJ Maxx and seeing this beautiful ruffled burlap tree skirt, I decided our tree needed clothes. Like yesterday. 

The only problem – the skirt was $30. I don’t know about you, but I’m a little frugal. Okay, okay, I’m downright cheap. And it’s Christmas time, which means my budget is already tight.

Being a lover of anything DIY and Pinterest, I decided to make one of my own.

Burlap Tree Skirt

Tree Skirt

I’m going to be honest with you, it took longer than I thought (at least 4 hours of cutting, gluing, and glue burns), and about halfway through, I was started wishing I was a little less frugal.

But it turned out beautifully, and the fact that I made it myself makes this tree skirt so much more memorable than if I’d just bought it. 

Tree Skirt3

Items Needed:

3 yards of burlap

1 inexpensive tree skirt

Hot glue gun

Scissors

and last, but not least, time and patience

Directions:

I found a 56 inch tree skirt from Fred’s for $5 to use as a base, but you can certainly recycle an old skirt instead. 

Tree Skirt 4

Cut the burlap into strips about 1 1/2 – 2 inches wide. This is where it starts to get messy. And I mean really messy. By the end, there was burlap everywhere

And since it was everywhere, it was a good thing I had some help. . . . 

Sophie and tree skirt

I had the hardest time keeping Miss Sophie off of this project, so I eventually gave up.

Start off by gluing the end of the first burlap strip to the bottom edge of the base tree skirt. Then, using your fingers crimp the burlap to create ruffles, securing each ruffle with glue.

Tree Skirt 5

Tree Skirt 6

Continue repeating the last two steps until you’re finished. 

Then, trim the frayed bits of burlap (something I was able to do only after coaxing Sophie and teddy off of it – I’m telling you, I think she was convinced I was making a new bed for her) and enjoy!

Sophie and tree skirt2

 

 

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Pumpkin Icebox Cake

I’ve been the “cook” in my family for years now, and I love it. All the planning and preparation and trying out new recipes = right up my alley. But it wasn’t always like that. Let me tell how that came about.

When I was 18, my mother and grandmother were both sick with a cold during Thanksgiving, and I was basically told, “If you want turkey and all the trimmings, you gotta cook it yourself.” Now, in previous years, my contribution to the meal was opening up the can of cranberry sauce and slicing it and setting the table. Not a lot. But that year? Trial by fire.

The gravy was the consistency of jello. The dressing was from a box. And the turkey? Burnt to a crisp.

 In fact, the only halfway edible thing was the pumpkin pie. . .  and that was all thanks to Mrs. Smith. Hey, at least I did turn on the oven and put it in. 

Somehow (still not sure how), my mother and grandmother both loved the meal and raved about it.

Yeah, I think it had less to do with my skills as a cook and more to do with the fact that they were getting a little vacation from cooking. And somehow (I”m even more unsure about how this happened), I became the designated family cook from there on out.

It’s been many Thanksgivings, Christmases, and Easters since then, and I think I’ve learned a thing or two. Well, hopefully more than a thing or two.

This year, though, I’m getting my own little break (no more flour everywhere or waking up before dawn to put the turkey in). No, this year we’re eating out for Thanksgiving.

But it I were cooking this year. . . this is what I’d be making for dessert. 

Pumpkin Icebox Cake

Pumpkin icebox cake. Which has some of my favorite things in it: Pumpkin? Check. Whipped Cream? Check. Cream Cheese? Spices? Check check.

IMG_2459

IMG_2471

Pumpkin Icebox Cake

Ingredients

  • For the crust:
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons of butter, melted
  • For the pumpkin filling:
  • 1 pint of heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup (add more or less depending on how sweet you want it) of confectioner's sugar
  • 2 (8 oz) packages of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup (add more or less depending on how sweet you want it) of confectioner's sugar
  • 1 (15 oz) can of pumpkin puree
  • 1 Tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup whipped cream

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.
  2. In a large casserole dish (mine was a 12 x 9, but any dish of a similar size should work), combine the graham cracker crumbs, granulated sugar, and melted butter until the mixture resembles wet sand.
  3. Press into the bottoms and sides of the dish.
  4. Bake in the preheated over for about 10 - 15 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  5. Filling:
  6. Whip the heavy cream and 1/4 cup of confectioner's sugar until soft peaks form. Set aside.
  7. In a medium bowl, mix together both packages of softened cream cheese, pumpkin puree, 1 cup of confectioner's sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla extract.
  8. Once that's completely combined, remove about a cup of the whipped cream you made earlier and fold into the cream cheese/pumpkin mixture.
  9. Pour on top of the now cooled crust, using a spatula to spread the mixture out evenly.
  10. Top with the remaining whipped cream.
  11. To finish it, sprinkle pumpkin pie spice on top of the whipped cream.
  12. Let dessert chill in the refrigerator for about an hour or until it's set, then enjoy.

Notes

Other great toppings to sprinkle on to the whipped cream besides pumpkin pie spice, are crumbled gingersnap cookies, chopped pecans, chopped walnuts, grated chocolate, or graham cracker crumbs. The amount of sugar is really just a suggestion. Feel free to use more or less depending on your tastes. If you want, let the dessert chill overnight. To me, it was so much better the next day after the flavors had had time to meld together more and the filling had set up even more.

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Turkeys 101

When I first started this blog, the only followers were other hobby farmers.

Fast forward over three years, and it’s a different story. I love my followers and I’m truly grateful to anyone that takes a second out of their day to listen to little ole me. . . . Thank you!

But I’ve been thinking, and I’ve realized that some of the things that I talk about on here (you know, bucklings, kidding season, hatching, soap making, etc) are probably not topics that most people discuss everyday.

They are for me, but before our little farm was started, that wasn’t the case. Back then, I hadn’t the first clue about the difference between a hen and a pullet or that you could actually eat fertilized eggs. 

So, I propose this: a series of 101 posts about the topics you’re most likely to encounter on this little piece of cyberspace. And, since it’s November (or better known around here as Jim Bob’s Month), let’s start with turkeys.

 Turkey 101

What do you call male and female turkeys?

Young males are called jakes, while adults are toms (or gobblers). Young females are called jennies, while adults are hens. And chicks, they’re called poults, but unless you’re talking to someone who takes their turkeys very seriously, you’ll most likely hear them called chicks.

How long do their eggs take to hatch? 

About 28 days, give or take. You can hatch them using natural incubation (meaning using a broody turkey hen or a broody chicken to sit on them) or artificial incubation (i.e. incubator). 

How many breeds are there? 

A lot. There are many heritage breeds (ones that our farming forefathers commonly kept), some of those are endangered. There are even extinct breeds (some of which, breeders are diligently working on recreating). Then, there are more commonly found breeds (we’ll get to those in a moment).

There are small turkeys (such as Midget Whites) and large ones (White Hollands). And of course, turkeys are bred in an amazing assortment of colors. Like Chocolate (literally Chocolate turkeys – and on my wish list). Black (Black Spanish). Or how about buff (Jersey Buffs)?

Then, there are the two breeds most commonly consumed in the US: Broad Breasted Bronze and Broad Breasted Whites (with the Whites being the most popular of the two because they make a more attractive carcass). Both are the creations of modern industrial agriculture, and are bred to reach maturity very rapidly, which in turn shortens their natural lifespan and makes it difficult for them to breed. In fact, nearly all Broast Breasted turkeys are artificially inseminated. Oh, yeah. . . . you read that right.

So, in other words, if you’re looking to breed or have a turkey as a pet, choose one of the heritage breeds, instead. But if you’re looking for a breed to raise quickly to slaughter age, the Broad Breasted ones might be the choice for you. 

What is strutting and gobbling? 

See video below. When you see pictures of a beautiful tom turkey with his wings down and his tail feathers fanned out behind him. . . . that’s strutting. The loud noise that the tom makes, that’s gobbling. Both are done to attract a mate. Although, sometimes female turkeys will also strut. 

How do you sex turkey poults?

Sexing turkeys isn’t quite as easy as other types of birds. For the most part, look for the ones that are bigger, have thicker legs, and bigger snood bumps. In some breeds (like Bourbon Reds), once the poults have feathered out and have their adult plumage, check the tips of the feathers on the back and chest. On males, the feathers will have black edging on the tips. See the picture of our Bourbon Red tom’s, Jim Bob, feathers below.

Jim Bob Feathers

Do turkeys really have a beard? 

They sure do. See the picture of one of our turkeys, Snoody, below. They also have a snood (that’s the long fleshy thing that droops down over their beak) and caruncles (the large bumps).

Turkey Anatomy

 And a little closeup view of the snood and caruncles. A little odd looking, huh?

Jim Bob Anatomy 

Are turkeys easy to raise?

I’m going to tell you the truth. They’re not as easy as chickens or ducks, at least not to me. The old belief that turkeys drown while looking up at the rain isn’t true, but they can be sensitive to their brooder conditions. With proper care, they’ll grow in to beautiful, gobbling birds. Just remember the old saying, “A cold and wet poult is a dead poult.”

How do you brood poults?

You can use a brooder that you’ve bought or built specifically for that purpose, but a lot of people make do with shipping crates, plastic storage totes, etc so long as the birds aren’t overcrowded and have enough room to spread out if need be. 

For bedding, you can use wood shavings (only pine, never cedar since it’s known to cause health issues in birds), paper towels, old towels, etc. Some people use newspaper, however, as it’s a slippery surface and doesn’t provide enough traction for the poults it can (and will) cause orthopedic problems (example: splayed legs). 

Poults will need to be kept warm with a heat lamp (or even a Brinsea EcoGlow Brooder – on my wishlist) for the first few weeks. For the first week, 95 – 98 F degrees is ideal, and after that reduce the temperature by 5 degrees each week until they’re completely feathered out by raising the lamp and/or switching to a lower watt bulb.

However, I rarely rely on temperature. Instead, I prefer to judge whether or not poults (and of course, chicks, ducklings, goslings, etc) are warm enough by their behavior. If they’re huddled together, then they’re too cold. If they’re panting and/or as far away from the light as possible, they’re too warm. But if it’s a little of both, then they’re fine. 

poults

As for feeding, poults need a higher protein food than chicks. Most game bird starter feeds have around 28% protein, which is perfect for the first several weeks. After that, some turkey owners switch to a slightly lower protein feed and some don’t.

Be sure to use a shallow waterer – poults have been known to drown in anything too deep. It’s a good idea to place clean marbles or rocks in your waterer. They serve two purposes: 1) To ensure that the poults won’t drown. 2) To attract them to the water, so they’re more likely to drink. Be sure, when putting the poults in their brooder the first time, to show them where their water is by dipping the tips of their beaks in it (being careful not to submerge the nostrils). Food and water should be made available 24/7.

Where can I purchase turkeys?

Most hatcheries have straight run (meaning they’ll be unsexed, so you’ll get a mixture of males and females) poults available during Spring. Usually, you have to order a minimum number of poults to ensure they’ll be able to keep each other warm during shipping. Make sure to include your phone number, so the post office can contact you as soon as they’ve arrived. Anytime I receive shipped birds through the mail, I immediately take them home and put them in their warm brooder. Because shipping can result in weakened chicks/poults, I always have electrolytes or a sugar/water combination for the first couple of days. Poly-vi-sol infant drops (without iron) is another great item for weakened chicks/poults (and for other problems, such as wry neck, curled toes, etc) and something that I always keep on hand.

If you’d rather forgo shipping, you can most likely find turkeys available locally. Chck out the farm and garden section of Craigslist or the bulletin board at your local feed store. Also, most poultry forums (such as, my personal favorite, BYC) have a section where birds can be listed for sale. 

Or, if you’d prefer, you can hatch out your own. Check out my tips on hatching shipped eggs (something I’ve done a lot of).

What about health concerns? 

For the most part, turkeys are fairly hardy, but there are some health problems that you do have to watch out for. 

Blackhead

Also known as Histomoniasis, Blackhead is caused by the micorscopic protozoan, Histomonas Meleagridis, and is particularly dangerous to turkeys and peafowl. Other birds, such as chickens, pheasants, geese, and ducks, due to a resistance to the disease can act as carriers and infect turkeys. Symptoms of the disease include gastric issues, weight loss, yellowish colored droppings, and darkened skin and wattles (hence the name Blackhead). Sick birds often appear dull and depressed and may stand by themselves with drooping trails and ruffled feathers. In instances of Blackhead outbreak in turkeys, the mortality rate can be as high as 80-100%. 

Contact your local farm extension service to find out if Blackhead is known to be a problem in your area. If it is, keeping turkeys separate from other types of birds is recommended. 

Coccidiosis 

Coccidiosis can be a major problem when raising turkeys. Because it is a soil-borne disease, some turkey owners don’t allow their birds to touch the ground until they’re 5-6 months old and even then, putting a fresh layer of sand down for them. Symptoms can include weight loss, lethargy, droopy, ruffled appearance, diarrhea, etc. 

Most starter food in the US is medicated and will help prevent coccidiosis to some degree. However, if you choose to feed unmedicated food or if you’d just like a little extra prevention, apple cider vinegar (the raw, unfiltered kind) added to the water at a rate of 1/2 tablespoon for every quart of water or 1 tablespoon for every gallon is a known preventative regularly used by many bird owners.

Starvation

It’s not uncommon for turkey poults to starve even with food constantly available. Always make sure that you actually see your poults eat. I sometimes place a couple of 1 to 2 week old chicks in the brooder with turkeys for the first week or two to teach them to eat. 

Aspergillosis

A respiratory disease caused by fungus that affects chickens and turkeys. Symptoms can include gasping, rapid breathing, weakness, lethargy, weight loss and loss of appetite, swollen eyelids, etc. The mortality rate is anywhere from 5 to 50%. Good management and proper sanitation is key to the prevention of Aspergillosis. 

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Mini Caramel Apples

What’s better in Fall than Caramel Apples?

Nothing. Except. . . . . 

mini caramel apples

Mini Caramel Apples!

First, in a medium sized bowl, combine the juice of one lemon and about a cup and a half of water together.

Using a melon baller, scoop out little balls of apple. 

Apple Melon Baller

Place each ball into the lemon water to help keep them from turning brown quite as bad. 

Apples Lemon Juice

Insert a lollipop stick into each ball and place on a wax paper covered cookie sheet to dry off. 

Meanwhile, melt the caramel bits according to the package directions. 

Once melted, allow the caramel to cool for couple of minutes. Then, dip each apple ball into it, swirling off any excess. 

Then, dip into any toppings you’d like. Chopped peanuts, pecans, sprinkles, etc. 

I’m a no topping kind of girl, so I left some of mine plain.

Mini Caramel Apples 2

Mini Caramel Apples

Ingredients

  • 2 - 3 green apples
  • 1 bag of caramel bits
  • 1 1/2 cup of water
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • Lollipop sticks
  • Toppings of your choice (chopped peanuts, sprinkles, pecans, etc)

Instructions

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the lemon juice and water. Set aside.
  2. Use melon baller to scoop out bits of apple.
  3. Place each apple bite into the lemon water to help prevent oxidation.
  4. Insert lollipop sticks into each apple bite and place on a wax paper lined cookie sheet to dry off.
  5. Melt the caramel according to package directions.
  6. Dip each apple bite into the caramel, swirling any excess off.
  7. Dip in toppings of your choice.

Notes

Allow the caramel to cool for at least a couple of minutes before dipping the apples in it.

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