“Bird” is the operative word when it comes to Lisa Robinson’s cooking. Eggs are a staple in the diet of the Robinson brood — husband Greg and 23-year-old son Dylan — thanks to the New Hampshire Red chickens (like Matilda in the photograph) and guinea fowl.
Robinson takes pride in living on 14 agriculturally zoned acres in Kansas City and growing some of her family’s food. Their home is a gathering place for friends and extended family, including Lisa’s mother, Elizabeth Campbell, who lives just down the road.
Q: Can you tell me about your homegrown enterprises here? Have you always been this tied to nature?
A: Believe it or not, I was a stockbroker for 20 years, but for the past seven years, I have worked physically as a landscape architect and love it. I am from Fort Smith, Arkansas, and have been drawn to the outdoors my entire life.
One of my earliest gardening memories is tending the marigolds in my grandma Jewel Goines’ flower bed. At heart, I’m an old-fashioned person and believe there’s something about being tied to the earth. We’re supposed to be good stewards of the land and take care of it for the next generations.
Q: What is the appeal in raising chickens?
A: Historically, chickens have always been an important part of a farmstead, and raising chickens was a serious part of living well on the land. Not only do they produce eggs we get to eat, but the chickens and our other birds eat insects in the yard. We don’t butcher our chickens to eat, but chicken dishes have been a staple on many farm dinner tables.
The guinea fowl we raise are also a great alarm system, because they alert us loudly to any disruption in their routine, such as a predator or stranger near them. Living here has given me a true appreciation for the land, all the animals and, of course, fresh eggs.
Q: This French toast recipe uses quite a few eggs …
A: Meals I prepare don’t really require a recipe. One of our favorite meals this time of year is a BLTE: a bacon, lettuce, tomato and egg sandwich with thick-slab bacon and tomatoes from the garden. There’s just something so delicious and beautiful about the orange yolk of a fresh egg fried on a sandwich that satisfies.
We also like to eat breakfast for dinner — I can always eat eggs. This particular recipe is a perfect brunch dish when you’ve got a houseful of guests. I don’t make it often, because it is so sweet, but it is a cross between traditional French toast and a caramel roll. Do the preparation the night before and you’re ready to feed people who are up with the chickens.
Q: Has the farm helped cultivate this no-nonsense, straightforward attitude you have about life?
A: From a young age, I learned that worry is a wasted emotion and fretting about something is a waste of time. If there’s something I can’t do to make a situation better, I just give it to God. I am a person to take action, do what I can, then let it go.
Before I lived on the farm, I would dread winter. But now I see it as a time when the earth and I get to rest. Winter is a necessary cycle in life. Sometimes in life you have to go through a hard winter to appreciate the newness of life in spring. Life is a gift and I get to see that here in a very special way. I feel very blessed to be reminded that in nature, all things are working together for good.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Baked French Toast
Makes 9 servings
1/2 cup butter
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup pecan pieces
9 slices brioche bread, cut 1 inch thick
1 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.
In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat on stovetop. Whisk in corn syrup and brown sugar and stir until dissolved. Pour into prepared pan.
Sprinkle pecan pieces evenly over all.
Arrange bread slices in a single layer over pecans.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk eggs, milk and vanilla together until well combined. Pour egg mixture evenly over bread.
Cover pan with plastic wrap or lid and place in refrigerator overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes, or until bread is slightly browned and puffy.
Carefully invert pan onto a large platter and serve immediately with fresh fruit.
Per serving: 312 calories (48 percent from fat), 17 grams total fat (8 grams saturated), 148 milligrams cholesterol, 33 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams protein, 325 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.