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Extras recipes

Recipe for King Ranch Chicken Casserole

To me, good casseroles taste good, are easy to assemble, and don’t require dirtying more than 2 pots. And that’s if you’re not paying attention. That said, sometimes you don’t know if you’re about to make a good dish, especially if it’s new. But then there are the classics. The ones that have been around for generations, like this recipe for King Ranch chicken casserole.

Many people believe that King Ranch chicken casserole has been around for at least 80 years. Since it’s prepared with both condensed chicken and condensed mushroom soups, this seems a likely time frame. That’s because Campbell’s introduced condensed mushroom soup in 1934, while condensed chicken soup came out in 1947. And both types of condensed soups feature in King Ranch chicken casserole.

casserole dish with layers of tortillas and mixture of food

Others believe the recipe originated at King Ranch, the largest ranch in the world. Although the owners deny this allegation, because they’ve focused on beef, not poultry. Therefore, nobody really knows the exact beginning of this timeless southern casserole.

King Ranch Chicken Casserole Ingredients:

layer of shredded chicken on a casserole dish
  • 1 1/2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
  • **22 corn tortillas
  • 10.5 oz can each of cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soup
  • 1 c each of diced onions and diced bell pepper
  • 10 oz of Rotel
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2-3 c shredded Mexican blend cheese

King Ranch Chicken Casserole Instructions:

layer of cheese in casserole dish
  • Spray 9×13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Next, line the dish with a layer of corn tortillas.
  • Then saute┬┤ onions and green peppers in butter over medium heat. When soft, add soups and chili powder. Stir till well combined.
  • Pour layer of soup mixture over tortillas, then layer with shredded chicken, and then layer with shredded cheese. Repeat layers. When done, pour over all the Rotel.
  • Then bake one hour in 350┬░ oven.
King Ranch chicken casserole with tortillas and tomatoes

**I got this recipe from my mother-in-law, who’s been making King Ranch chicken casserole for at least 40 years. And her recipe calls for a 2-3 lb fryer chicken, but I don’t like having to deal with that mess. I find it’s much easier working with chicken breasts. In addition, most of the classic recipes call for only a dozen corn tortillas, which makes me think I distribute my layers sparingly.

Also, I boil my chicken, which makes shredding so much simpler. However you can buy a roasted chicken and shred that instead. It’s really up to you and what’s easier. Furthermore, you can add more heat to spice things up. And then there are newer varieties of the recipe which call for chips instead of tortillas. But the idea is still the same: a comfort food that’s easy to make.

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Chicks Hens raising happy, healthy chickens Roosters

Reasons to get Chickens

Eggs are the number one reason people get into the backyard chicken-keeping business. And since 2020 more people got into it, though their reasons weren’t necessarily the same. However, there are many reasons to get chickens.

Eggs

multi-colored fresh eggs in nest
Fresh eggs straight from the nesting box.

Even so, eggs are a great reason to get chickens. And a good egg laying hen will produce ~ one egg per day. So if you want a dozen eggs a week, you need 3 or 4 hens. Which means, you don’t need a whole lot of space for only 3 or 4 backyard birds.

Healthier Living

roasted chicken on a white plate
Photo by Maksim Goncharenok on Pexels.com

Due to shelter-in-place restrictions and then supply shortages, many people started raising their own chickens. A lot of backyard birds are dual-purpose birds. That means you can have hens for eggs. And if you have extra roosters, they can make good meals. In addition, knowing where your food is, and what goes into it somehow makes it taste more amazing.

We’re pretty blessed living where we do; however I know that bare shelves prompted a lot of people to buy chickens. And having backyard birds allows people to be somewhat self-sufficient, by providing a fresh source of eggs and chicken.

Sustainable Living

chickens around a raised garden bed with coop in the distance
One of our first raised garden beds that our chickens loved to help eat from and fertilize.

Rather than supporting factory produced eggs and their big carbon footprint, when you raise your own eggs, there’s less manure. So you have less of a carbon footprint.

Also, the chicken manure can be used for fertilizer or composted. Therefore, the result is less carbon emissions. And the birds help you with gardening.

Pets

Black Ameraucana rooster with Pekin duck
My pet rooster, Megatron.

Another reason to get chickens is that they make great pets. And when they’re chicks, they come on the cheap side; no pun intended. Furthermore, they come in many different breeds, colors, and sizes. And you can name them, if you so choose. We’ve named all of ours–after Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Marvel, Transformers, and anime characters.

Additionally, they all have personality. And they’re mostly easy to take care of: feed and water them, provide good, predator-proof shelter, and remember to clean their coop. Other than that, they do their chicken thing, providing you with food.

Chicken TV

Cream Legbar rooster asleep in person's hands over sketchbook outside
This was our Cream Legbar rooster; he’s asleep in this pic, but he looks like he’s reading.

Have I mentioned chicken TV? Keeping backyard chickens also provides free entertainment without the use of electricity. Just step outside, pull up a chair, and sit a spell. It’ll only take a moment before you see one of the members of your flock doing something adorable or hilarious.

And if you can, I highly recommend getting a rooster to complement any flock of hens, because that’s the best entertainment. You’ll get drama, suspense, romance, and comedy when you add a rooster.

Education

chick hatching from an egg
This was one of our first chicks hatching.

Having chickens is also educating. I can’t express to you how much I’ve learned just in the 7 or so years we’ve kept backyard birds. For most people, this might be considered useless. However, if you have children or grandchildren, it will be fascinating, especially when they see their first egg hatch. And they’ll learn to take care of animals.

Backyard Therapy

mixed flock of backyard chickens
This is one of my favorite things to do with them: just be out there with them.

The biggest benefit I personally receive, from taking care of chickens, is backyard therapy. And I’m not the only person to have experienced this. Other people, who either have kept chickens, or still keep birds, are familiar with this phenomena. I don’t know if it’s just the birds, or a combination of being outdoors, watching the birds, or what. But things that were troubling eventually fade away.

I don’t know that I would say the chickens are empathetic, and that’s the reason having them helps. It’s just that after I’m outside watching them for a while, I start to feel better.

To Conclude

I’ve listed 7 reasons to get chickens, but ultimately the decision is yours. Backyard chickens make amazing pets and are a great supply of food. But I’m sure that whatever the reason you decide to get chickens, you’ll enjoy them.

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Extras Hens raising happy, healthy chickens recipes

What are Pasture Raised Eggs

It used to be you only had brown and white eggs to choose from. But now grocery stores offer cage-free, free-range, and even pasture raised eggs. Maybe you think they’re all the same? I mean, they all come from the same place, right? Well, I’m going to explain the differences, in particular, of pasture raised eggs and the others.

What are Caged Eggs

white chicken in cage
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Caged eggs come from hens that are basically housed in battery cages. This is the most common method for industrial egg production. So ~85% of US eggs are from caged hens. And that means the birds are stuck in cages for their egg-laying lives in roughly 67 square inches. Also, they’re fed a corn or soy diet.

In my own opinion, I understand why the industrial egg producer keeps their hens in this situation. Since they’re dual-purpose birds, when the hens are no longer laying eggs, (at the industrial level ~ 2-3 years old), they’ll slaughter them, package the meat, and sell to a specialty grocery store. Because a 3 year old hen, that’s gotten plenty of exercise, is a tough old bird in terms of food. So, the less space they have to move in, the better they’ll taste when those farmers cash in on those hens for the last time. Thus, it’s more economical for the farmer to keep their egg-producing hens confined this way.

yellow heavy equipment on landfill
Photo by Tom Fisk on Pexels.com

However, some industrial egg producing farmers send the hens to a landfill or make them into pet food. I wouldn’t do any of those options, because my birds are like my pets. But I’m also not a commercial egg producer.

What are Cage-Free Eggs

As of March 2021, about 29% of eggs sold in US grocery stores were from cage-free hens. In addition, these hens have a little more space, than caged hens, with a little less than one-square foot each. Furthermore, they’re living in barns, and like their counterparts, they don’t have access to the outdoors. And they also have a diet consisting of corn or soy.

What are Free-Range Eggs

hen chickens through chain link fence
Photo by Will Kirk on Pexels.com

According to the National Chicken Council, (yes, apparently there’s a chicken council), less than 1% of chickens are considered free-range in the US. Additionally, these hens have more room than either caged and cage-free hens with 2 square feet each. And they have access to the outdoors. Although there’s not really a consistent standard on how long the birds get to be outdoors or what the space is like. Also, they too are fed a diet of corn or soy.

What are Pasture Raised Eggs

pasture raised chickens outside

Pasture raised eggs first got their start in 2007 by Matt O’Hayer from Texas. However they didn’t get any steam until cage-free and free-range had already gotten attention. With that being said, there’s not a standard for pasture raised eggs either. But, according to the USDA, pasture raised eggs are laid by hens with more access to the outdoors, and their diet is supplemented with bugs and wild plants.

Although, the best method to determine if the eggs you’re buying are pasture-raised is other labels, such as: Certified Humane Raised and Handled + Pasture Raised, or American Humane Certified and Pasture Raised. If your eggs have either of these labels, then the hens who laid the eggs have access to the outdoors, with 108 square feet per hen. And each hen eats a combination of a balanced feed and whatever they get from foraging: grass, worms, and insects. In addition, they can roam all day and return when it’s time for bed.

Which is More Expensive

dollar sign
Digital Art of a Dollar Sign, courtesy of Sarah Smith

As you can well imagine, the most expensive option is going to be the one that is the most humane for the birds. I already mentioned that the most economical way for the farmer was the battery caged method; and that’s because the farmers are sucking every last penny out of those chickens that they can get.

Which is the Healthiest

2 different chicken egg yolks in a white bowl

According to The Egg Nutrition Center, there’s little nutritional difference between all 4 types of eggs. Although, there have been studies showing differences in mineral content based on the type of housing a particular egg was laid in. And Mother Earth News has verified the superiority of true pasture raised eggs to traditional eggs sold in grocery stores several times.

Furthermore, I covered a post on egg facts not too long ago, confirming that hens with access to pastures, grass, and bugs lay richer eggs. And richer eggs just taste better.

What’s Better for the Birds

red and black rooster on green grass
Photo by Erik Karits on Pexels.com

Obviously allowing chickens all day access to the outdoors is the best policy for the chickens. It’s what they do in nature; it’s what they did before we captured and tamed them for our own use. They can communicate with each other, stretch, roost, forage, and just be birds when they’re truly in a pasture setting. But in the other 3 settings they don’t really get to be the way nature intended; they’re the way we intended, which isn’t the same thing at all.

What’s Better for the Environment

green grass field and river
Photo by Barnabas Davoti on Pexels.com

Since we’re considering every option, people and birds, I wanted to include the environment. Because any type of industrial food production has an impact on the environment, which then trickles down to us. However, the only thing I could find on that was based on feed. And that really applies to all of the egg-producing systems. Apparently any type of egg production leaves behind a pretty steep carbon footprint due to the embedded emissions in concentrate feed.

Therefore, if industrial chicken or egg farmers could find an alternative feed for their birds, that doesn’t produce as many greenhouse gases, then it would be better for the environment. Of course the feed should also consist of a balanced diet for the birds.

In Conclusion

There are 4 types of eggs to choose from at the grocery store. Since labels can be confusing, you need to know how to read them. Caged eggs make up the vast majority on grocery store shelves. While cage-free hens are in somewhat better living conditions, they still represent a small percentage. Even though free-range and pasture raised have access to the outdoors, there still isn’t a standard for commercial egg producers.

green leaves and organic word
Photo by Fuzzy Rescue on Pexels.com

However, if you’re interested in animal welfare, then look for those kinds of labels. But if you see labels for organic, that has nothing to do with the bird’s welfare; it just means the bird was fed a vegetarian diet, free from antibiotics and pesticides.

If you have neighbors with backyard birds, know they treat their birds well, and you have the means, buy some eggs from them. That way you’ll be supporting your very local community and get to enjoy the benefits of farm fresh eggs, which are true pasture raised eggs.

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Extras recipes

How to Decorate Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Since Valentine’s Day is coming up, it’s typical to see chocolate covered strawberries in grocery and on online stores. However ordering, or buying pre-made, doesn’t make much economic sense when you only get 6-12 strawberries for a whopping $30-40. In addition, 2 lbs of fresh strawberries costs less than $8, and the other ingredients are simple to get. Thus, it’s just as easy to make your own. So I’m going to show you how to decorate chocolate covered strawberries instead.

fresh strawberries

Chocolate covered strawberries are great to eat any season. And there are a lot of benefits to eating them, such as their fiber content. Also, eating strawberries can lower the bad cholesterol in our bodies. Additionally, eating them could even prevent cancer cell growth.

Then there’s the chocolate combined with the strawberries. And there are different textures involved too. Sometimes it doesn’t work. But sometimes it does. And chocolate and strawberries are definitely meant to be together.

Ingredients for Decorating Chocolate Covered Strawberries

metal muffin tin filled with a variety of toppings
  • 1 lb strawberries; Driscoll’s have the best
  • 10 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 6 oz white or vanilla melting wafers
  • 1/4 c each of toppings, such as: sprinkles, decorating sugar, coconut, chopped nuts, and/or chocolate curls

Instructions for Chocolate Covered Strawberries

  • First, line a jellyroll pan with wax paper
  • Next, wash the strawberries; and carefully pat each one dry with a paper towel
  • Put each topping in a separate shallow bowl

Melting Chocolate Chips and Wafers

melted chocolate and melted vanilla in 2 white bowls
  • Place the vanilla wafers in a microwave-safe bowl
  • And microwave on medium power for 30 seconds to a minute, depending on how cold it is in your house; the colder it is, the more cooking time you’ll need
  • Stir the melting wafers
  • Continue this until the wafers start to melt; then drop the cooking time to 30 secs
  • Stir in 1 tsp of olive oil to thin out the vanilla, if it’s a thick mixture
  • Next, melt the chocolate chips in a similar manner to the wafers: on medium power for 30 seconds to a minute; however, do not add any olive oil when you’re done

We’re almost done! My main concern during the last part was the chocolate and vanilla hardening before covering all of the strawberries. So my youngest helped me out, and it made it much easier. Also, I laid everything out like an assembly line. Therefore, if you have pre-teens, have them help. You both will enjoy it. Likewise, set everything up as an assembly line: strawberries, chocolate, toppings, and finally, the jellyroll pan.

How to Decorate Chocolate Covered Strawberries

3 decorated chocolate covered strawberries on a white plate
  • Take one strawberry by the leaves and dip it into the melted chocolate or vanilla.
  • Swirl until evenly coated.
  • Then dip chocolate coated strawberry into the topping of your choice.
  • Next, place decorated, chocolate covered strawberry onto jellyroll pan.
  • And repeat until all of the strawberries are decorated.
  • Chill in the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes or until chocolate is set.
  • Ideally, these are best served the day you make them and at room temperature. They can be made a day ahead, however condensation will form, which isn’t good. Read this for tips on how to store chocolate covered strawberries in the refrigerator.

I hope you guys have a great Valentine’s Day! And thanks for stopping by! If you enjoyed this post, please like, post a comment, share, and don’t forget to follow!

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All animals Extras

Do Pets Get Jealous of Other Pets

Basic emotions come from the limbic system. And we share that with many animals: reptiles and other mammals. Also, birds, like chickens, have something similar to a limbic system that’s said to have evolved from a common ancestor. So, with that information, do pets experience emotions? Or, for that matter, do pets get jealous of other pets?

Sketch of a Brain
Sketch of a Brain, courtesy of Paul Smith

Do Pets Get Jealous of Other Pets

Well, the answer should be obvious that, yes, pets can and do get jealous of other pets. And they can also get jealous of other people, particularly babies, boyfriends, or girlfriends. Or really anyone or thing that’s taking attention away from them. That’s because the limbic system, which I already mentioned, is linked to emotions.

Signs of Pet Jealousy

According to the emotion wheel, jealousy or envy is a combination of anger and sadness. But what are some other signs your pet is jealous?

  • Aggression
dog nipping person's hand

If your pet is jealous, they might be aggressive. For instance, they might bite or nibble the person, or pet, getting the attention they’re in competition with.

  • Acting out
tortoiseshell cat on white background

Since our pets can’t talk the way we do, sometimes they’ll act out. For example, when we first got Meow Meow, she was the only indoor pet we had, other than our dog, Moses. However, as time went on, we collected 2 more cats, 2 bunnies, and another dog. The bunnies are no longer with us, and Moses died of old age. Now these changes happened over a period of years. But Meow Meow didn’t care. She metaphorically put her paw down and started acting out. By peeing on the kitchen counters. Therefore, Meow Meow moved out to the garage with Cake, so she wouldn’t be alone.

**Because using the bathroom outside of the litter box, or having accidents in the house, can be a sign of a health issue, always check with your veterinarian.

  • Clinginess
Australian Shepherd licking a person's face

If your pet is clingy, which you might interpret as cuddly, they want your attention. Imagine your pet is in your face, extra close, and licking your face and hands. That’s clinginess.

  • Dominating
Australian Shepherd getting between 2 people hugging

This type of behavior reminds me of our dog, Sophie, when my husband and I hug or kiss each other. Sophie will come right in between us, demanding attention.

  • Fighting

Listen to the sounds your pets make when they interact. Do they hiss and growl at each other? Watch their body language, and you’ll know if they’re fighting.

  • Scaring Visitors

Some pets may fiercely bark, hiss, or growl when visitors come over. In addition, other pets might be just as aggressive if there’s a knock on the door or the doorbell rings.

  • Smother you
white dog trying to get woman in white hoodie's attention from the floor
Photo by Yaroslav Shuraev on Pexels.com

Cats are notorious for getting on their owner’s level when they want attention. For instance, when my calico cat, Poppy, is ready for me to play fuzzball with her, she’ll walk on the kitchen table where I’m working. And a lot of times she’ll just walk across my computer keyboard.

  • Fawning

This is another behavior typical in cats, where they will rub against their owners, purr, and meow prodigiously. And these are all in the attempt to get their owner’s attention.

  • Leaving

Pets can get mad just like people. And if you don’t pay attention to your pet, they might just walk out of the room and withdraw. Poppy did this last night. She pulled away from me while I was busy with something else. But the next time I spotted her, she was playing with one of her fuzzballs. So I made it up to her and started playing with her.

  • Competition
Australian Shepherd dog and calico cat leaning on an indoor gate

Finally, the last sign of pet jealousy is competition. Pets who are jealous of other pets might compete with each other for attention. However the competition doesn’t necessarily have to be aggressive.

Both Poppy and Sophie are jealous of each other. When one of them is getting attention, the other is watching and waiting. If Sophie gets to go outside, Poppy will meow, yowl, and cry to go out too. And Sophie’s playtime with her ball prompted Poppy to learn how to play fetch. Additionally, Poppy doesn’t like to play fuzzball with me when Sophie is in the room with us. She wants me all to herself.

Warning. Graphic image of animal injury below.

headshot of injured Black Ameraucana rooster
This is our boss rooster, Megatron, after his son attacked him for leadership. He had feathers ripped out, and his right eye was swollen shut. But we nursed him back to health.

What about birds? Do they get jealous? If you follow my blog, it’s possible you’ve read my article on the chicken pecking order. Which is all basically based on the leader of the flock running a tight ship. However birds that aren’t on the top will display jealous behavior.

Take, for example, my 2 roosters, father and son. Baby Nay is jealous of his dad, because Megatron bosses him around, essentially telling him when he can mate, who he can mate with, when he can eat, and etc. And so he attacked his dad to change his position in the hierarchy.

Possible Reasons for Jealousy

There are several reasons why pets will get jealous of other pets, including boredom, lack of space and exercise, and stress or conflict. Furthermore, genetic disposition, upbringing and level of socialization, insecurity, and interaction with a pet parent all contribute to pet jealousy.

ethnic hipster man taming west siberian laika in park
Photo by Zen Chung on Pexels.com

Interaction with a pet parent can also be interpreted as lack of enough bonding time. If your pet feels like it’s not getting enough quality time with you, it can act out aggressively toward another pet.

Insecurity can come from abandonment issues, like our dog, Sophie, has. Animals have memories of both good and bad events. Thus, their jealousy could stem from being abandoned by previous owners. Or possibly even from past abuse.

Pets without enough social interaction with people or animals can easily experience jealousy. So when they’re confronted with a social encounter, that pet might act out due to a lack of instruction and experience. Because, essentially, they’ve never been taught better.

Tips to Stop Jealousy in Pets

a young woman walking a group of dogs in a park
Photo by Blue Bird on Pexels.com
  • Observe and note the times and conditions that cause the jealousy and/or aggression. This way you can discuss the issues with your veterinarian to help manage them.
  • Give your pets equal time and attention.
  • Make sure your pets each have their own safe space, like a crate for a dog, and a room for a cat.
  • Feed your pets separately during meals. And give them an equal amount of treats.
  • When you get home, don’t pay more attention to one pet over another.
  • Leash dogs when walking two at a time.
  • When petting your pets, make sure to include all of them.
  • Make sure each pet has its own bed and toys.
  • And don’t forget to reward your pets when they’re good and don’t act jealous!

To Summarize

Jealousy is a complex emotion. And it’s obvious that, since all animals have some sort of limbic system, your pets have emotions like you, including the ability to get jealous of other pets. In addition, just like with people, jealousy in pets can present in similar ways.

But there are things you can do to mitigate issues with your pets. And they primarily involve giving each pet the same amount of attention, food, supplies, and toys. However, this doesn’t always work with chickens, like with my 2 roosters.

2 roosters fight outside

They each have their own harem of hens. And they have plenty of space, healthy food, and clean, fresh water. But after letting Megatron back with his flock, both father and son wanted to annihilate each other, to the exclusion of all else. Therefore, if you still have issues with your pets, definitely reach out to your veterinarian for suggestions.

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Extras recipes

Easy White Chicken Chili

My parents were both realtors when I was growing up in Dallas. And each year the Collin County Association of Realtors had a chili cook-off in the spring, which my parents participated in. But most of the entries, if not all of them, were classic chili. However, now that I cook, I know there are so many more choices out there. Although, the first time I made this easy white chicken chili was just a couple of years ago.

I think the main difference with this and classic chili is obviously one is white, while the other is red. But the other main difference is in this recipe, the meat, or chicken, has to be pre-cooked. And you can cook it pretty much any way you want to; including buying a roasted chicken and shredding the meat.

Ingredients for Easy White Chicken Chili:

teal plate of shredded chicken
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 tbsp dried cilantro
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp each red pepper sauce and salt
  • 11 oz white shoepeg or whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 can each (15 or 16oz) great northern beans and butter or lima beans, drained
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken breasts
  • crushed tortilla chips
  • 1 fresh diced tomato
  • chopped green onion
  • shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • sour cream or Greek non-fat plain yogurt

Instructions for White Chili:

pot of white chicken chili
  • First, heat olive oil in 4 quart Dutch oven over medium heat. Then cook onion and garlic in oil. And stir intermittently, until onions are cooked through.
  • Next, add the rest of the ingredients, aside from the chicken. Stir and heat to boiling.
  • Then reduce heat, and simmer uncovered ~ 20 minutes.
  • After that, stir in the chicken, still simmering until hot.

At this point the white chicken chili is finished. However, no chili is complete without toppings. Thus, add some shredded cheese, crushed tortilla chips, chopped green onions, fresh diced tomatoes, and sour cream.

Similarly with my Cincinnati-style chili, I found this originally in Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, 9th edition, which was printed in 2000. And again there isn’t a link online, but if you’re interested, you could probably find it at Etsy, Ebay, or something similar.

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