Monthly Archives: March 2018

World Down Syndrome Day – Rock Your Socks!

March 21st, 2018

World Down Syndrome Day


The S.T.E.P.S. (Skills To Enhance Personal Success) program at one of our local high schools is fundraising by selling socks as part of the LOTS OF SOCKS campaign.

Here are 2 of the patterns I bought to support the effort

Wear your craziest pairs of socks and help raise awareness of what Down syndrome is, what it means to have Down syndrome, and how people with Down syndrome play a vital role in our lives and communities.


Pie Crust – Blind Baking Techniques

Lots of pictures but I think the results are worth it.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!

First, I want to say that I HATE blind baking.

I know how to do it. I HAVE done it. I have a jar of chickpeas set aside for the purpose. A single layer of the chickpeas over a round of parchment paper works pretty well.

But I don’t LIKE the concept.

I’ve attempted the alternative … DOCKING.

Here’s what I started with. Now, using the tines of a fork, prick the pie crust all over. The base AND the sides. (Sorry, I didn’t take a picture.)  And then bake as long as your recipe calls for. Then cool and fill.

And here’s the result … shrinking and bubbling up of the pie crust resulting in a shriveled up pie shell. NOT pretty.

But there’s a THIRD option. I found the technique on the King Arthur Flour website.

Blind baking using  a second pie pan of the same size and laying it over the pie crust.

Then you FLIP THE TWO PANS OVER and bake.

Here’s a picture of a mini aluminum pie plate and a regular sized metal pie plate ready to go into the oven.

After your chosen bake time, flip the two pans back over, remove the pie plate on top and THEN dock. (I forgot to do this in this case.) And complete baking. I covered the full sized pie crust with a round of parchment paper to prevent sticking to the pie plate on top

I probably baked this a bit too long but I forgot that it continues cooking when you take it out of the oven.

Flip/dock or just docking … which would YOU use?

Pi Day – Foolproof Lemon Meringue Pie

I haven’t made lemon meringue pie in ages, but after my LJ friend, Spikesgirl, mentioned making one, recently, I got SUCH a craving that I couldn’t resist making one too. Of course, that meant that I was going to have to eat an entire pie before it went bad … or I got so sick of eating it that I had to pitch the leftovers.

Then I had a BRILLIANT idea.

Scale down the recipe and make a couple of mini pies.

Well, the best laid plans and all that.

I tried a new recipe for the filling/meringue since it was easier to halve but it still made more filling than would fit into the two mini pies I had pre-baked, so I filled a 7 1/4-inch pie shell, and snacked on the rest of the filling.

Lemon Meringue Pie – baked for 20 minutes until the meringue tips were golden brown.

I lasted a bit over an hour and then I just had to cut into the pie. Conclusion … DELICIOUS.

PS: I did NOT know it was Pi Day.

Chicken Cordon Bleu (“Blue Ribbon” Chicken)

An old style ‘fancy’ dish which is actually very simple to assemble ahead of time and then finish off by crumbing and baking.

I’ve seen it napped with a white sauce or gravy but the honey mustard sauce that the blogger at “Lemon and Mocha” used is a perfect accompaniment to cut through the bland richness of the chicken and cheese. The chicken roll is baked rather than fried making it more diet-friendly.

Chicken Cordon Bleu

Chicken Cordon Bleu – serves 2

2 chicken cutlets, pounded to about 1/16 of an inch
2 slices of deli Black Forest ham
2 slices of provolone cheese (Swiss, Edam or even Havarti would work too)
salt and pepper

Crumb coating ingredients:

In 3 separate shallow pans (pie pans work), assemble the following.

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 egg, whisked together with 1 tsp cold water
1/2 cup seasoned Italian bread crumbs (or toasted Panko bread crumbs)

Pound the chicken cutlets carefully between two sheet of plastic wrap or parchment paper, to minimized the mess. Be careful not to make holes in the chicken.

Preheat the oven to 375 deg Fahrenheit.

Season the chicken cutlets on both sides with salt and pepper. Place one cutlet at a time on your work surface and cover with one slice of the ham and then a slice of the cheese. Roll up (narrow or wide end of the cutlet, it doesn’t really matter) the chicken and use a toothpick to ‘pin’ the roll up. NOTE: You can cover and refrigerate the rolls at this point if making ahead.

Dip one roll at a time into the flour, coating it evenly. Shake off the excess. Dip the floured roll into the beaten egg, allowing the excess to drip off. Dip the roll into the bread crumbs, shaking off the excess. Place on your baking sheet. (I just placed one of the sheets of parchment paper I had used to pound out the chicken on a pie plate and then threw the paper away after baking.)

Bake for 30 minutes or until the breast is firm but still has a bit of bounce to it when pressed down with a finger. If the top isn’t as golden brown as you’d like, turn on the broiler to high and bake for 2-2 1/2 minutes until the crumb coating is as dark as you’d like. There may be some darker areas but as long as it’s not burned, it’s fine.

Honey-Mustard Sauce

Honey-Mustard Sauce – makes a couple of tablespoons, enough to dress 2 chicken rolls

1 tbsp mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
1/2 tbsp honey
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon or French’s mustard

Whisk together in a small bowl until smooth and creamy. Spoon over the hot chicken roll.

NOTE: This would be great as a dip for chicken tenders/fingers or as a salad dressing over fresh greens.

Cheese Spaetzle

Sometimes I run across recipes posted in the blogs I subscribe to that I have to make ASAP because they look and sound amazing.

Like this Cheese Spaetzle from Masala Herb.

I only had about a cup of leftover spaetzle/nokedli in the freezer, so I had to estimate the amount of cheese (old/sharp cheddar) that I used and cut up the smallest onion I found in my mesh bag of onions. I used real butter, rather than margarine, to cook the onion, as the recipe recommended, and tried to slice the rings as evenly as possible so that they would cook at the same rate. As the thinner rings caramelized, I removed them from the frying pan to try to avoid any burning. (Well, I tried.)

It took less than a minute under the broiler to melt the cheese … and then I dug in.

I had intended to leave half of the dish for the next day but ended up finishing the pan cause it was just THAT good.

Creamy Avocado Pasta and a Quick Asparagus Spaghetti Carbonara

Cooking for one can be a chore, but these two pasta dishes need few ingredients, and can be made at the end of a tiring work day. In fact, waiting for the water to boil takes longer than actually cooking/assembling the dish. You can use leftover pasta warmed in very hot tap water if you’re in a hurry. (Or heat 2 cups of water to a boil in the microwave and dilute with a cup of tap water.)

The creaminess of the sauce for this dish owes nothing to cream, butter or even cheese, just a whole avocado mashed with a fork, a bit of lemon juice to cut through its bland richness, and salt and pepper to taste. I’ve seen recipes that add whole kernel corn, diced whole or halved cherry tomatoes but I was too lazy to thaw the corn and didn’t have (nor do I like) raw tomato.

Avocado Pasta

Creamy Avocado Pasta – serves 1

100 gm/3.5 oz dry fettuccine, linguine or spaghetti pasta, cooked according to package directions
1/4 cup reserved pasta cooking water, barely warm
1/2-1 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of garlic powder
1 small avocado
1 green onion, top only, thinly sliced on diagonal (for garnish)
2-3 cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)
2 tbsp fresh corn kernels, or thawed and drained (optional)
dry red pepper flakes (optional, for garnish)

Slice the avocado in half, pit and scoop out the meat into a medium sized bowl. Add 1/2 tbsp lemon juice, a pinch each of salt, pepper and garlic powder and use a fork to mash the avocado into a fairly smooth paste. (I like to leave some smaller chunks for texture.) Add the cooked pasta and 2 tbsp of the reserved pasta cooking water and stir together. Taste. If the sauce seems bland, add a bit more lemon juice. If it’s too thick, add some more reserved pasta cooking water. Adjust salt and pepper amounts to taste.

Sprinkle the tomatoes and corn over the pasta and stir in. Sprinkle on the green onion and red pepper flake garnishes, if using.

Serve immediately as it will not keep.

I’ve made spaghetti carbonara before but am repeating my ‘recipe’ for one person, with the addition of asparagus, cause I had some in the fridge. Delicious, creamy without using ANY cream and fast to put together.

Asparagus Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara – serves 1

100 gm/3.5 oz dry fettuccine, linguine or spaghetti pasta, cooked according to package directions
1/4 cup reserved pasta cooking water, barely warm
6-8 asparagus stalks, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
3-4 strips bacon**, fried until crispy and cut into 1/2 inch pieces, reserve some of the fat to cook the asparagus  and add to sauce
1 tbsp bacon fat**
1 egg yolk
2-4 tbsp ground Parmesan cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper

** Vegetarian Option: In place of the bacon/bacon fat, use 1/4 cup coarse seasoned breadcrumbs and olive oil to saute the asparagus and toast up the bread crumbs.

Cook the pasta just before assembling the dish or rewarm by dipping in some very hot water, if using leftover pasta. Drain.

In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk, Parmesan cheese, 1/2 tbsp bacon fat and a couple of tbsp of the cooled pasta cooking water.

In a large saute pan, over medium high heat, saute the asparagus, just until tender using the remaining 1/2 tbsp of the bacon fat. Sprinkle some salt and freshly ground black pepper over the asparagus.

Add the diced bacon strips and re-crisp if using leftovers.

Add the warm pasta and stir to combine and to warm through the pasta.

Take the saute pan OFF the heat and pour the yolk mixture over the hot pasta. Stir well to coat the pasta with the mixture. The grainy mixture will smooth out and become creamy and slightly thickened. Add additional warm pasta cooking water if needed. Season with more salt if needed.

Serve immediately with additional freshly ground pepper over the top.

February Wrap-Up Pt. 2 – Roast Duck and 3 Pepper Pasta

Yes, I know … I thought I was done too. And then I remembered there were a couple of dishes that I forgotten to share.

Spatch-cocked Roasted Duck

I spent $12 for this frozen duck and after thawing and spatch-cocking (remove the backbone and flatten), I sprinkled the top and underside with salt, pepper and some paprika for colour, and roasted using the cooking instructions/time on the package. Both the breast were removed, wrapped up well and frozen for the future.

While roasting the duck, the fat was drained off periodically so I ended up with a bit over a cup of clean duck fat for future roasting and baking. BONUS!!!

Roasted duck leg, asparagus and boxed stuffing with duck gravy made from pan juices.

Home Made Semolina Pasta

I remembered I had some dried home made 3 pepper pasta noodles in the pantry so I cooked them up. The sauce was jarred Classico tomato and basil spaghetti sauce and hot Italian sausages. Another fast meal that didn’t cost a lot.

Vin’s Same Day Sourdough Bread and Broccoli Potato Soup

I’ve only been baking with sourdough for a few years and though I’ve had more than a few great bakes, it’s the failures that nag at me. One of my peeves is the inability to get good oven spring. So, this loaf made me very happy.

The original recipe was posted on a sourdough FB group but I also found it on the web here.

The Facebook post has different baking instructions (see below) and it was THOSE that I used.

This bread was baked in an oven preheated to 500 deg F. (The dutch oven, lid included, was pre-heated at the same time.) Once the bread had been place into the oven, the oven temperature was reduced to 450 deg F, and the bread was baked for 25 minutes covered. Then, the lid was removed, the temperature was reduced to 400 deg F, and the bread was baked for another 20 minutes, or until the crust was as browned as I wanted. I don’t like it overly dark.

After all the stretches and folds, the shaped dough was flipped over and placed, bottom up, into the towel lined colander and proofed in the oven with just the light on, for 1 hour.

Then, the risen dough was transferred to the fridge, for 40 minutes. After its rest in the fridge, the dough was flipped over onto a sheet of parchment paper and slashed.

The baked loaf … ears and GREAT oven spring.

The crust of this bread was hard and crunchy when it came out of the oven but as it sat cooling on the rack, it softened a bit while still remaining nice and chewy.

The crumb … spongy … and the bread itself was very tasty.

I enjoyed it plain, with jam and dipped in a bowl of broccoli and cheese potato soup.

I had about 150 gms of active sourdough starter left and wanted to use it up so I added it to a batch of my usual pizza dough. (I reduced the dry yeast from 2 1/4 tsp to 2 tsp.) Since I had committed to six hours of making the same day recipe with stretches and folds over 3 hours, and wasn’t sure exactly when the oven would be free, I kneaded my pizza dough for 10 minutes and then wrapped it up and placed it into the fridge to cold proof. Two hours later … I saw this.

The pizzas are for work lunches and a couple of slices staved off my hunger enough to be able to hold off on cutting into that hot loaf until it was room temperature.

February Wrap-Up


February’s been a month of snow and rain and cooking.

I’ve already posted a number of things but there have been meals and dishes produced to nourish the body even if they were not post-worthy on their own or repeats of previous posts.

No-knead sourdough with a bit of ground rolled oats added to make for a taste boost. Toasted and spread with peanut butter … a delicious breakfast addition or snack.

I also made another loaf of sourdough quinoa for sandwiches.

I tried out a recipe for Chipotle Yum Yum Sauce posted on “The Frugal Housewifeblog and used it on pork roast and on poached eggs served on toasted sourdough bread … a sort of Tex-Mex eggs Benedict. Fast and easy to make and delicious.  I’m sure I’ll think of other ways to use it in the future.

Devilled eggs made with the Yum Yum sauce in place of the mayonnaise … so good

Meals and stuff

Creamy beef tortellini soup

Teriyaki baked salmon

Japanese chicken and tofu curry (using prepared roux) over rice

Chinese sausage rice bowl

Sliced bread/baguette pizza

Grilled cheese and cream of tomato soup … I added a couple of strips of cooked bacon to the sandwich as well.

Fried eggs, Polish sausage, cream cheese breakfast or lunch

Puff pastry filled with sweetened whipped cream and fresh blackberries

Blackberry lemonade