Growing up on her family farm in Massachusetts the last thing Lisa Steele had in mind was raising chickens as an adult. She recalls being chased by an aggressive rooster named Bojangles and being pecked by broody hens when she went to gather eggs. “Raising chickens meant more chores. What kid wants to clean a chicken coop when she can be out riding her bike or swimming in the town pool?” Steele recalls.
Steele graduated college in Rhode Island with an accounting degree and headed to New York City to pursue a career on Wall Street. But she eventually realized the corporate world was not her destiny after all. She says, “As exciting and fast-paced as it all was, it wasn’t the life for me. I always felt like an imposter.” Steele decided to leave her job and her daily two-hour Long Island train commute. For a time, she operated a used bookstore near the train station, selling books to commuters (this was pre-internet).
Still, the country beckoned. Steele returned to farm life and ended up …raising chickens. Steele and her husband, Mark, first set up farm life in Virginia, where he was then stationed serving in the U.S. Navy. Now they live on a farm in Maine where there’s peace and quiet save for the morning rooster calls. Steele’s life ended up full circle; she is now the fifth-generation farmer in her family.
Looking for a way to earn an income living in the rural country, Steele started a blog and Facebook page called Fresh Eggs Daily dispensing tips on raising chickens and soon earned a loyal following. A natural poultry supplement line followed along with best-selling books on raising chickens and coop management. Media outlets dubbed Steele “Queen of the Coop.”
With an endless supply of eggs on hand, Steele embraced her passion for cooking and started writing recipes and producing cooking videos. Her legions of fans – now over one million – devoured them.
2022 is turning into an egg-scellent one for Steele. She has a new cookbook, The Fresh Eggs Daily Cookbook (Harper Horizon), and is the host of a new television show, “Welcome to My Farm” debuting in April on American Public Television. The show will share a glimpse of Steele’s life on the farm, from coop to kitchen.
The Fresh Eggs Daily Cookbook provides practical tips on buying, storing, and using eggs and features more than 100 recipes. Some are traditional and others have a very creative twist. One example is Baked Eggs in Butternut Squash Rings.
Steele writes, “These baked eggs are such a fun way to use squash. I’m partial to butternut, but acorn or spaghetti squash would work equally well. Roasting the squash before adding the egg ensures that the squash will be tender and slightly caramelized, while the eggs will be cooked to perfection in the center.”
1 large butternut squash
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh sage for garnish
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash the squash and cut crosswise into six 3/4- to 1-inch slices. Scoop out the seeds and hollow out the middle of each slice to allow room for an egg.
Arrange the squash on the baking sheet and brush each ring with olive oil inside and out, then season with salt and pepper. Bake on the center rack of the oven for 20 minutes, until the squash has softened. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and gently crack and slide 1 egg into the center of each squash ring. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, and return to the oven. Bake about 8 minutes, until the egg whites are set, and the yolks are firm but not fully set.
Use a spatula to slide the squash rings onto plates. Top with Parmesan, garnish with fresh sage, and drizzle with olive oil.
Makes six servings.
Author’s tip: Steele advises to buy the freshest eggs possible. They really do taste better. As for carton labels, Steele says the wording that really matters is Certified Humane Pasture Raised. This means chickens can freely roam and forage on grass outside year-round for at least six hours a day with adequate space – at least 108 square feet per bird. And it means the chickens have a safe place to sleep at night, protected from predators. In other words – the five-star chicken life.
Recipes excerpted with permission from The Fresh Eggs Daily Cookbook by Lisa Steele, published by Harper Horizon 2022, $27.99 Hardcover. Photography: Tina Rupp.