Product review: The Eggstractor

Eggs are delicious and versatile protein powerhouses, and eggs from happy, pastured chickens should be a staple in every (non-allergic) person’s diet. I eat eggs scrambled with veggies for breakfast most days, but my favorite way to enjoy eggs is when they are deviled. Last time I attempted to make deviled eggs the shells did not want to go peacefully, and I have not laughed so hard in a decade as I did when assembling those pitiful, mangled eggs to take to a fancy luncheon. So sometimes not being able to prettily peel an egg may be a positive, but generally, when one peels an egg, one wants it to peel easily and come out with a smooth, intact surface.

Enter the Eggstractor. The Eggstractor “Peels Hard Boiled Eggs Instantly & Perfectly”! It’s fast and easy: just tap the egg to break the shell on one end, put it on the specially designed Eggstractor egg holder, and press on the billows to pop a perfectly peeled egg out of the bottom of the apparatus. Seems too good to be true, right

Fun and easy!

The A-Team and Haute Pasture teamed up to try out this magical tool. Carefully following the instructions, we made several attempts and ended up with a pile of crushed and/or exploded eggs, and much hilarity. We filmed our eggsperimentation for your education. Please watch this video before purchasing an Eggstractor.

Or if you’d prefer a photographic journey:

Many others have tried the Eggstractor with similar results, but there are some success stories in the comments of that article, claiming that you should only press down part of the way on the billows to avoid an eggsplosion. Maybe we’ll repeat our experiment in the future and employ some of these tips, but for now we can confidently say we do not recommend the Eggstractor, eggcept for a good laugh.

Thanks to the A-Team for their help with this eggsperiment!

Tips for feeding bugs to your family

I mentioned a special surprise dessert in my satay post.

chocolate-dipped crickets

You may recall from my birthday gathering last fall that a chocolate shop in Charlottesville sells chocolate-dipped worms, crickets, and scorpions. Mr HP and I thought it would be fun to surprise the family, which includes a brave 4-year-old girl and a slightly timid 7-year-old boy, with some crickets. Mr HP and I made a big show of savoring our cricket treats, but alas, nobody else would try one. The other adults wimped out completely, and after careful consideration, our niece asked to take hers home “to eat later.” (We have not yet received confirmation that it actually happened.)

my niece vs the crickets

Our nephew asked to take his home too, and then burst into hysterical tears. He was so torn between wanting to do this thing that seemed really interesting and cool, and his general fear of bugs. It was kind of adorable.

The bugs were packed up and conversation moved on.

Five minutes later, through his sobs, he declared he was ready to eat the bug and proceeded to stand in front of us all, bravely pop it in his mouth, tentatively chew, and then triumphantly open his mouth for inspection. He said it tasted like chocolate.

Success!

Fast-forward one week, and my sister and her husband were visiting. Since the adults of Family Weekend #1 passed on the chocolate crickets, we presented them on a dessert plate to the adults of Family Weekend #2. My brother-in-law didn’t hesitate, eating one with zero fanfare. My sister, however, wavered. She stalled with questions (“do I eat it cricket-side up or cricket-side down?”) and made all sorts of dismayed sounds while alllllmost pulling the trigger. Finally she did it… and said it tasted like chocolate.

Success!

What is the moral of this story?

Feeding your family bugs is fun for everyone. Chocolate helps the process. Read this post to learn more about why eating bugs is a good thing to start practicing. If you haven’t tried a chocolate-dipped bug and have them available to you (ahem C’villans), you should try one, and tell us how it goes in the comments!

Cheenius’ adventures in homemade wine

More educational fun from Cheenius! Thanks, Cheenius!


What if you could make your own wine???

Well, Cheenius can’t. Or at least the initial attempt was slightly flawed. But, while it was nothing you’d want to force on anyone, Cheenius’ blackberry wine was actually drinkable, and talk about local! Check it out:

Cheenius had been scoping out a nearby empty lot with lots of brambles for some time. Last July she happily trespassed once the blackberries were ripe, and within an hour had a huge bucketful. These wild berries weren’t the tastiest, but Cheenius figured they had enough sugar to make alcohol and make her trespassing worthwhile.

The recipe was easy:

  1. Smash up berries
  2. Let them sit
  3. Add water, wine yeast and sugar
  4. After four days, strain with cheesecloth

straining the wine  becoming wine

Six months later you have something that tastes alcoholic, and with a teaspoon more of sugar to your glass, isn’t too much of a chore to drink. Rousing endorsement, for sure.

blackberry wine

OK, maybe you’re thinking this particular experiment wasn’t a success… and yet, Cheenius MADE ALCOHOL from scratch. That’s like playing God, people.

Malaysian satay recipe

My mother-in-law spent two years in Malaysia with the Peace Corps in the 60s. During that time she was exposed to all sorts of wonderful food, and fortunately for our family, she brought many cooking skills and recipes home with her.

One of our favorite dishes she introduced us to is satay: meat marinated, skewered, grilled, and served with a dipping sauce. Preparation is long and involved, so it’s a special occasion dish, best saved for when it can be tackled as a team effort. This past weekend was just such an occasion: the family was all together!

I bought several pounds of steak and chicken breasts from JM Stock, a local, sustainable butcher in Charlottesville, my brother-in-law provided the marinade and sides, and he and Mr. HP supplied the skewering labor and grilling prowess.

Typically we use flank steak for satay, but JM Stock recommended a bavette steak, which I hadn’t heard of before, and it worked perfectly.

bavette steak

The beef and chicken is cut into thin strips and threaded onto skewers, basted with coconut milk, and grilled, then served with a peanut dipping sauce and accoutrements such as rice squares, cucumber salad, and pineapple cubes.

beef and chicken skewers ready for the grill

 

basting the chicken

cucumber salad and rice squares

beef skewers

SO GOOD. Thanks, family!

RECIPES

SATAY

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 lbs. thinly sliced meats (flank steak, chicken breasts, tofu)
  • skewers
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • Large ziplock bags

Marinade:

  • 2 T curry powder (Malaysian/Indian brown)
  • 1/2 t anise
  • 1/2 t coriander
  • 1/2 t ginger powder
  • 1/2 t cumin
  • 1/2 t turmeric
  • 1/2 t cayenne pepper
  • 3 T lemon juice
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 c vegetable oil
  • 1/2 c soy sauce
  • 4-5 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 T sugar

Method:

  1. Mix marinade ingredients; add to large ziplock bag with sliced meat and marinate for 1 day
  2. Thread marinated meat onto skewers
  3. Grill skewers, brushing them liberally with coconut milk while on the grill

PEANUT SAUCE

Ingredients:

  • 1 c peanuts
  • 1 large onion
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 in piece ginger
  • 4-5 dried red chiles
  • 3 T vegetable oil
  • 2 t coriander
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1 t curry powder
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 3 T brown sugar
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 2 T soy sauce

Method:

  1. Puree peanuts and set aside
  2. Puree onion, garlic, ginger, chiles and set aside
  3. Heat oil in saute pan over medium heat. Cook onion mixture until it smells of onions and garlic
  4. Stir in coriander, cumin, curry powder and simmer on low heat for 5 minutes
  5. Stir in coconut milk, peanut puree, brown sugar, lemon juice, soy sauce until combined

RICE

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c short grain white rice
  • 2 1/2 c water

Method:

  1. Boil water
  2. Simmer rice, covered, for 25 minutes
  3. Press cooked rice into a glass dish; refrigerate at least 2 hours
  4. Cut chilled rice into cubes

CUCUMBER SALAD

Ingredients:

  • 3 cucumbers
  • 2 shallots
  • 4 T sugar
  • 4 T white wine vinegar

Method:

  1. Chop cucumbers and shallots
  2. Mix sugar and vinegar
  3. Marinate vegetables in mixture overnight

skewered meat with peanut sauce, pineapple, and rice

This post got too long so I’ll save the surprise dessert for another day.

Have you ever made satay? Let us know in the comments!

A visit to Vermont’s Shelburne Farms

Another sustainability adventure from Cheenius. Thanks for sharing, Cheenius; sounds like a wonderful trip!


Cheenius and Mr. Cheenius ventured north! First stop was Shelburne Farms near Burlington, VT.

Descendants of this Vanderbilt “country house” decided in the 1970s to put their tremendous acreage to work for sustainable agriculture and education:

We believe that soil, plant, animal, environmental and human health are interconnected and that agriculture is the base of a healthy culture and civilization. Our goal is to be a diversified, organic farm that supports a healthy local food system and creates an inspiring learning environment.

Shelburne Farms country house

They have a large herd of dairy cows, make their own cheese, and manage the manure in an amazingly responsible way through a system of field filters. Cheenius was excited to try their cheese, and was impressed with the variety of cheddar they were able to produce through aging or smoking.

Cheese samples

They grow organic produce and raise chickens and goats too. They also have an entire herd of solar panels! Their plan is to be completely energy self-sufficient in the next few years.

Shelburne Farms solar panels

Their main focus is much broader than just another sustainable farm, however. They partner with schools in and out of the area, and have brought THOUSANDS of kids to learn where their food comes from, and about sustainable agriculture in general.

We care about the sustainability and quality of life on earth. We care about young people having hope for the future. We believe that sustainability is grounded in individual awareness and action in our own communities.

Today at the Farmyard
The day we were there they were preparing for kids to come in and bake their own bread — starting with wheat from the field! I’m sure later they were going to smear homemade butter on it, and probably sing this song:

The Butter Song


Shelburne Farms offers visitors a Welcome Center and Farm Store, and general admission to the property gets you access to walking trails, a Children’s Farmyard, and cheesemaking viewing. For the ultimate Shelburne experience, stay at the Inn and have dinner at the restaurant:

At one of Vermont’s premier farm-to-table restaurants, our menu items are built around what’s being harvested in our Market Garden or from area farms on any given day or week.

Have you been to Shelburne Farms? Let us know in the comments!

Left Bank Butchery in Saxapahaw, NC

Last month I visited a few fantastic local sustainability resources in the Burlington, NC area: Burlington’s food co-op Company Shops Market, Piedmont Feed and Garden Center in Chapel Hill, and Left Bank Butchery in Saxapahaw.

Left Bank Butchery

Have you been to Saxapahaw? It’s a magical oasis of local food, drink, art, music, and nature in the middle of rural Central North Carolina.

Food and drink: Saxapahaw General Store, The Eddy Pub, Haw River Farmhouse Ales, and of course Left Bank Butchery

Art, music, nature: Haw River BallroomPaperhand Puppet InterventionHaw River Canoe & Kayak Co.

Combining all categories: the weekly farmers market and outdoor concert series Saturdays in Saxapahaw, running from May through the end of August; and this coming weekend (May 2) is the annual Haw River Festival!

On the gloomy March day of our visit, we stopped only at the General Store for a delicious lunch (I wrote about our first visit there here), and Left Bank Butchery for some treats for dog (pig ears) and human (grass-fed local steak from Braeburn Farm).

Left Bank Butchery believe in using sustainable farming practices to raise healthy, happy animals. They start with whole carcasses from cows, pigs, and chickens pasture-raised (or, for the pigs, pasture- and forest-raised) on local farms, and butcher them in-house to ensure the highest-quality cuts of meat possible.

Our arrangement with local farms is simple- we buy from farmers that use the highest standards in regards to animal welfare, ecologically sound farming techniques, and quality of meat.

The day we visited our only planned destination in Saxapahaw was the General Store for lunch; we were thrilled to see Left Bank Butchery a few doors down. Next trip to NC we’ll have to go back on a summer Saturday for Saturdays in Saxapahaw… or to see a band at the Haw River Ballroom… or for dinner and beers at The Eddy… or to paddle the river. So many reasons to return to Saxapahaw!

The New York Times and Washington Post love Saxapahaw too. If you go there and don’t want to leave, here’s who you should talk to about real estate.

Have a Saxy day!

Piedmont Feed and Garden Center in Chapel Hill, NC

The next stop on our tour of local shopping highlights in the Burlington, NC area, was Piedmont Feed and Garden Center, right down the road in Chapel Hill.

I’ve been dragging my feet on this post because my sad, sorry, rainy day pictures are an embarrassment and don’t do the place justice. The store is bright and welcoming, full of feed and products for livestock, dogs and cats; a carefully curated equestrian section; bulk farm and landscaping supplies; and anything you might need for your garden. And if the greenhouse was lovely on the dreary March day I was there, it must be gorgeous now in Spring bloom.

See their Facebook page and Instagram feed for photos full of vibrant colors that show off the store way better than I do here, or better yet, go visit in person!

Piedmont Feed & Garden


The greenhouse 

This was before the Spring plants were fully stocked; the greenhouse is even more impressive now.

Greenhouse plants

Greenhouse plants

Greenhouse plants


The equine section (my favorite)

Equine section

Wanted: everything

Purchased: a Shires grooming kit bag (I am absolutely loving this bag), and a hoof pick/corkscrew combo (for emergencies)


The pet, poultry, and livestock sections

Poultry and livestock sections

Wanted: the fancy chicken coop and the squirrel-proof bird feeder (the sales video at the feeder display is pretty entertaining)

Purchased: a duck-shaped dog toy (HPuppy’s current favorite) and some limited-ingredient dog treats


If you live in the Burlington or Chapel Hill areas, Piedmont Feed and Garden should be your go-to gardening and farming resource. Check their events calendar to learn about upcoming plant and animal workshops and seminars, and go see Chris and Lilly–then vote for them as Best Garden Store and Best Pet Store for Chapel Hill Magazine’s 2015 Best of Chapel Hill Awards! Hurry, polls close on Wednesday the 22nd.

Waterfall

Next and final Burlington area tour stop: Left Bank Butchery in Saxapahaw. (We also stopped at Saxapahaw General Store for lunch but I’ve already written about how wonderful that place is.)

 

The Ole Country Store and Bakery in Culpeper VA

When you’ve travelled it a zillion times like I have, Route 29 between Charlottesville and DC is a pretty dull (if beautiful in spots – I’m looking at you, northern Greene County) drive. Next time you make the trek try breaking up the monotony with a stop at The Ole Country Store and Bakery in Culpeper. Not only can you pick up unique roadtrip snacks and random gifts and housewares, but you can stock up on local, pastured, steroid/antibiotic/hormone-free happy meat from Clark’s Old Peach Tree Farm, Summer Creek Farm, and Rider’s Backfield Farm.

Clark's Old Peach Tree Farm

Old Peach Tree Farm raises heritage breed pigs on the grasses, nuts, and berries of pasture and woodland, supplemented with non-GMO feed, and PUMPKINS in the fall, lucky pigs! The Clarks raise the pigs from birth to slaughter, which allows them to ensure a low-stress environment for the animals’ entire lifespan.

Summer Creek Farm

Summer Creek Farm raises lambs and beef cattle on pasture with some supplemental local grains; but upon request Summer Creek will feed only grass to animals for customers preferring completely grass-fed meat. They practice environmental stewardship by protecting waterways from animals and frequently rotating pastures.

Rider's Backfield Farm Beef

Rider’s Backfield Farm raises steers on pasture, with a small daily portion of natural grains during finishing. The pH of the cows’ rumen contents is carefully monitored to ensure no negative effects from the grain. The Riders pride themselves on “manag[ing] their beef gently and humanely and the farm(s) that they maintain.”

Local, pastured, clean meat

Meat case

Bins of meat

The Ole Country Store & Bakery

Support local family-run farms and pick up some pasture-raised, hormone-, steroid-, and antibiotic-free meat, while getting a unique shopping experience and relieving your Route 29 boredom at The Ole Country Store & Bakery.

See also: MooThru ice creamery in Remington VA, for the BEST ice cream, made from local hormone-free milk!

Highland County Maple Festival: “I’d Tap That!”

Guest post by Buzzy! Thanks, Buzzy! Where’s my maple donut??


Buzzy and Mr. Buzzy were finally able to realize a life-long dream:  attending the annual Highland County Maple Festival just an hour and a half away!  So many activities and events! I won’t go into the magic of the entertainment

Greene County Cloggers

Or the impressive junk food options

Funnel cakes and fried oreos

Or even the wonder of the Maple Queen and her Syrup princesses (we missed the crowning at the Maple Ball)…

Maple Queen and Syrup Princesses

Instead, we’ll focus on the fascinating process of getting sugar water from trees to something worthy of crowning your pancakes.

It starts with a sugar maple tree.  In Virginia they mainly grow above altitudes of 3,000 ft..  Some of the trees still in use for tapping are 200+ years old!

Tapped tree

With a good cycle of freezing and thawing, pressure grows in the tree to seal up the hole that the tap (called a spile) has made.  During the thaw, the sugar water comes out of the hole, too quickly for the tree to heal itself.  Don’t worry:  no trees are permanently injured in the making of maple syrup!

Spiles

The sugar water that gets collected varies in sugar content each year.  For 2015 it takes only 32 gallons of sugar water that you boil down to produce 1 gallon of maple syrup.  In other years it’s been much higher, and you can actually make syrup from lower altitude maples, but you’d need double the sugar water.

Heating the sugar water

Once you have maple syrup, then the options to celebrate are limitless.  We highly recommend the maple donuts.  Buzzy ate four!!

Maple donut

For you energy-conscious readers who are thinking:  wow, this is a ridiculously energy intensive process — you’re right!  Buzzy recommends you get your sugar from honey, where the bees do all the work evaporating nectar into honey.  Carbon footprint = 0.

This post brought to you by McBene Hill Honey.

Burlington NC’s local food co-op

Company Shops Market

My sister lives in Burlington, NC, a town just off the interstate between Greensboro and the Chapel Hill-Raleigh-Durham area. While it may often be overshadowed by its better-known neighbors to the east and west, Burlington is the anchor of a fast-growing local food scene in North-Central NC. On Saturday my sister and her family treated Mr HP and me to a tour of local food resources in the Burlington area, starting with breakfast at the Company Shops Market, Burlington’s food co-op. Their slogan: Local Food for Local People.

Company Shops Market

Burlington food co-op aisles

Burlington’s food co-op sources as much as possible of what it sells from local farms and producers, and charges members a fee in exchange for discounts at the store and the opportunity to participate in elections. Membership is a bargain one-time payment of $100 for individuals, or $150 for a two-adult family. The Burlington co-op is a strong supporter of the local community:

For every dollar you spend, 68% goes back into the community through donations, purchases, taxes and payroll. We’re helping to support the local small farms, businesses and producers and offering our customers all-natural, free-range, fair trade, organic and REAL food products!

I particularly appreciated the bulk eggs: fill your own container! Genius!

Our breakfast was fantastic, with more variety than the Charlottesville Whole Foods breakfast bar, for about half the price.

Burlington is lucky to have the Company Shops Market. I’ll definitely be back.

Co-op breakfast bar

Local food for local people


Downtown Burlington’s Saturday morning farmers market is also getting ready to open for the season on April 4:

Did you know that all of our vendors grow, raise, and create everything they sell at market within a 60 mile radius of Downtown Burlington? Now that’s what you can call local!


Next stop in our tour, Piedmont Feed and Garden Center in Chapel Hill!