When I was a girl growing up in Santa Barbara, California, my best friend, Caity McPherson, and her family had some unusual and very practical pets living in their backyard: chickens! It was so much fun to sleep over at Caity’s house and take the kitchen scraps out to their chicken coop in the morning, reaching our hands into their nests to pull out fresh, warm eggs, which her mom would cook up for breakfast.
Michelle Stern, cooking teacher, former high school science teacher, and author of the delightful new book, The Whole Family Cookbook, also raises chickens in her family’s backyard in San Rafael, California. Michelle says, “Not only are they easy to care for, but they eat all of our kitchen scraps, recycling them into delicious eggs for our family to eat.”
Michelle’s children, Ari, 8, and Amelia, 10, love having their own working egg factory. Amelia says, “It is really cool to have chickens in the back yard. People think we have a farm, but they are just like our pets.” Ari adds, “Our eggs taste amazing because there are no disgusting things in their food.”
According to Michelle, “Chickens don’t require much space, although we have fenced off a corner of our yard, so they can leave their coop, stretch their legs, and forage for bugs. They love to dig in the dirt and roll around. We adore having them — they are really fun to watch and seem to have replaced cable TV as our favorite form of entertainment.”
This week marks Earth Day (April 22nd), which is the ideal time to teach your children about the positive environmental impact of eating locally raised foods and cooking from scratch, rather than buying foods that come wrapped in cardboard and Styrofoam. And you can’t get much more local than eating eggs from your own backyard and cooking them up into this savory frittata! Even if you aren’t lucky enough to have chickens in your backyard, you can do what I do and buy local free-range chicken eggs at the farmer’s market (Some supermarkets carry local eggs — mine does!).
If your kids haven’t cracked eggs before, this is a great recipe for them to get some practice. Just make sure they wash their hands before and after cracking the eggs into a bowl. They can use half of an eggshell to scoop out any stray shards of shell.
We love the combination of flavors in this frittata from The Whole Family Cookbook, and the way the apples and cheddar melt into the dish. You can leave the bacon off of part of the frittata for vegetarian diners, as we did for my daughter Celia and her friend Sophie, use vegetarian bacon, or omit it altogether. Serve it with a green salad and whole grain bread.
A-B-C (Apple-Bacon-Cheddar) Frittata
Prep (20 minutes) + Cook (20 minutes)
3 slices bacon, pork, turkey or vegetarian
10 eggs (use 8 whole + 2 whites)
salt and black pepper to taste (optional)
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
2 apples, Fuji or Gala
1 Tbsp. butter
Cook the bacon by frying it in a skillet or baking it in a 425 degree oven on a cooling rack placed over a rimmed baking sheet. Remove it from the pan or oven, let it cool, and crumble or dice it.
Put the oven rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat it to 450 degrees.
Crack 8 eggs into a medium mixing bowl. Add the whites only for the remaining 2 eggs. (To separate the egg whites, crack the egg over an egg separator or someone’s clean hands. Carefully let the egg white slip through the fingers into the bowl, and discard the yolk.) Using a whisk, beat the eggs until the yolks and egg whites are thoroughly combined. Add half the cheese to the egg mixture and stir to combine. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, if desired.
Peel, core, and thinly slice the apples.
In a medium cast-iron or nonstick ovenproof skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. When it is completely melted, coat the skillet with the butter and add the egg mixture to the skillet. Sprinkle the bacon crumbles evenly over the eggs.
Gently arrange the apple slices on top of the eggs, in a circular pattern, and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Transfer the skillet to the oven, and bake it until it is firm in the center and the cheese is browned, about 20 minutes.
Remove the skillet from the oven, use a flexible spatula to loosen the frittata from the pan, and carefully slide it onto a cutting board. Allow it to cool for a few minutes before slicing it into wedges and serving.
Do you raise or grow any of your own food? Please share how you enjoy local foods.