Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Pinto Protein Bowl

I'm getting an early start on my "healthy" new year's eating with this one.  I know it looks bad for you, but there's more fat and salt in the cheese than anything else, and pintos are high in iron, fiber, and protein with very little fat.  Paired with a lightly dressed side salad, this is far less decadent than it tastes.  Plus, your kitchen smells like Taco Bell and bacon for a day.

*1 C dry pinto beans
4 oz thick-cut bacon
1/2 C diced onion
cracked pepper to taste
1/2 C shredded cheese of choice

1.  Place beans in a medium saucepan with a generous amount of water, at least 4 cups.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 3 hours, until tender but still hold their shape.  Turn off the heat while you make the rest of it.

2.  Chop the bacon into 1/2" pieces and cook in a medium skillet until almost done, about 10 minutes.  Instead of draining off the rendered fat, add the onions and continue cooking the whole thing until the onions are translucent.

3.  Drain the beans and rinse, then return to the saucepan.  Add the bacon and onion mixture.  Add as much pepper as you like, then sprinkle the top with shredded cheese.  Since this is basically a tortilla-less tostada, feel free to add diced tomatoes, avocado, salsa, or sour cream.  Whatever sounds good.

Difficulty rating π

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Tomatoes Grow on Vines

Most of the time we talk about gardening efforts, we refer to tomatoes as "plants".  Sometimes, we talk about individual branches as "vines", but in a kind of loose way.

After this month's rain, I kind of ignored my Bradley and Beefsteak plants because I didn't have to water them every few days for a couple of weeks and they didn't have any ripe tomatoes on them.  When I finally decided to work on them a bit, I found that they had been taking lessons from the pumpkins.

Bradley, who I had almost ripped out several times in the past nine months, is making a break for it.  He has far outgrown his cage.  I could have cut back the longest vines, but they have healthy tomatoes on them.  Instead, I'm training them up the waterfall so they don't languish in the dirt.  The rest of the pond is getting overrun by some weeds, so I really should plant something there to hinder them.
The Beefsteak is also very healthy and developing fruit.  The local tomato worms have infested such a yummy plant.  I trimmed off as much as I could and sprayed it all over with neem oil as a deterrent.

This is what winter gardening looks like in a Zone 10b neighborhood.  It may be too cold for the tomatoes to ripen on the vine, so I plan to bring them in as soon as they show any hint of red and let them finish in the greenhouse window.  Other than that, it's business as usual.  I may get to use those quart jars yet.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


I was going to pick up a jar of applesauce to have with the Chanukah latkes, but I never make it through a whole jar and it's disgusting when I find it in the back of the fridge two months later.  Hey, I always have a few apples in the fridge.  I can make my own!

Frankly, I was expecting this to be a whole lot more complicated.  Cook apples until soft, run through food mill, serve.  It was almost more difficult to come up with proper recipe amounts for everything than to make it in the first place.

As for what apples to use in the sauce, there are an awful lot of kinds of apples available at the market.  Keep in mind the texture and sweetness of whatever you use.  I keep galas on hand because they work either for cooking or eating raw.  Fuji, honey crisp, and pink lady are similar in sweetness and texture.  You want to stay away from red delicious because they don't cook well.  A tart apple like granny smith is fine, but you may choose to add a bit of sugar in the end.  You can also use an assortment instead of all one kind.

2 medium apples (I used gala)
*cinnamon stick (optional)
sugar if needed
lemon juice if needed

1.  If using a food mill or tomato press, remove stems from apples, cut in quarters, and remove cores.  If using a blender, food processor, or potato masher, peel the apples first.

2.  Place quarters in a small saucepan and fill with about 1" of water.  Water does not need to cover the apples.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, lower to a simmer, and cover.  Cook until very tender, 20 to 30 minutes (depending on type of apple).  If using cinnamon, place stick in the pot while simmering for a subtle hint of flavor.

3.  Remove apples from heat and drain.  Run through whatever processing gadget you choose for a fine sauce, or use a potato masher for chunky.  Taste and add sugar if too tart, lemon juice if too sweet, and cinnamon powder or other spices to taste.  Refrigerate before serving.

Makes about 1 cup

Difficulty rating :)

Saturday, December 20, 2014


This is the other recipe I was excited to make for the first time.  I bought the filo dough for this over a month ago, then had to wait for a humid day to make it.  You can't do anything with filo on a dry day.

This was what my mom used to make every Christmas for us to take as gifts to teachers, and the reason I kept her Welcome Wagon cookbook, despite its horrendously dated recipes from the '70s.  Baklava was a giant, two-person project and explains why I have so much wax paper in the house.  She would buy a new roll every year when she went to pick up the ingredients, then never use the open roll from the previous year, or the one before that, or the one before that…  When I moved in, there were eight barely-used rolls of wax paper in the cabinet.  And more plastic wrap than you can imagine.  Some of it was so vintage that it was a different thickness than what you can buy nowadays.

I was a bit nervous about making this alone, without someone on the side to tend the sheets, so I just got hyper-organized before starting.  My mom had left notes in the cookbook's margins that I can pass along as helpful hints.  Once I had all my ingredients prepped, assembly was far easier than I had expected.  There were no disasters, unless you count having no idea how big to cut the pieces.  They're a lot bigger than my mom used to make.  I'm going to suggest in the recipe a more manageable, two-bite way of cutting.

1 C sugar
*1/2 C honey
1/2 C water
*2 Tb lemon juice

Combine ingredients in medium saucepan.  Warm just barely to boiling and cook until sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes.  Stir in lemon juice and remove from heat.  Let cool to room temperature while you're making the rest of it.

2 sticks unsalted butter
1 lb walnuts
1 C sugar
*2 tsp cinnamon
*1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 lb Filo dough, room temperature (defrost per directions on box)

1.  Prepare the mise en place:  Melt the butter on low and keep liquid but not boiling.  Pulse walnuts in food processor until chunky.  Add sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and pulse until finely ground.

2.  Prepare the pan & work area:  Get out a rimmed cookie sheet (roughly 12x18x1) and line with wax paper.  Let "handles" hang off the edges in case things stick.  Place another sheet of wax paper the same size on the counter and have a slightly damp kitchen towel ready to cover the filo while you're working.  Preheat oven to 300º.

3.  Before unrolling the filo, compare the width to the width of the baking sheet.  If it is wider, cut off that extra inch or so before unrolling with a very sharp knife.  Hang onto the knife, we're going to use it again in a few minutes.

4.  Take a deep breath, then carefully unroll the filo over the wax paper on the counter.  This is the most anxious part of the project.  Once it unrolls intact, you're good to go.

5.  Place 10 sheets of dough on bottom of pan, then cover remaining sheets with cloth until needed.  Again, there will be a bit of overhang the long way, but those are the edge pieces you don't use and it's less than an inch total.  Spoon a very thin layer of nut mixture over the dough, add a single sheet, and repeat until nut mix is gone.  You will get between 4 and 6 layers.  I wish I had photos of this step, but it's the part you have to do fast before the dough dries out.  Once nuts are used up, cover with remaining dough.
6.  To cut the shapes, make 6 divisions with that sharp knife down the long side (not the 4 I did).  Do not drag the knife, but press straight down, move the knife, and do it again.  Dragging will tear the filo.  For triangles, make squares and then cut diagonally.  For diamonds, just do the diagonals after the long lines.  You're going to have leftover triangles on the edges.  Snacks.

7.  Drizzle with all of the melted butter.  If you get more coverage in some areas than others, use a pastry brush to spread it around.  Let it soak into the dough for 2 to 3 minutes, then bake for 30 minutes, until lightly golden.

8.  Turn up oven to 450º and place baking pan on the top rack.  Bake until as dark as desired, about 4 to 5 minutes.  Watch it, it can go from dark golden to burnt in under a minute.  Remove from oven and pour glaze evenly over all.  Run the knife through all the cuts again, to be sure, then let sit for at least 15 minutes so the glaze can soak in evenly.  Remove from pan and store on wax paper or in baking cups.  If you have trouble removing it from the pan, warm it in a low oven for a minute and try again.  Can be served at any temperature and keeps in the fridge for weeks.

Makes about 3 dozen, depending on size

Difficulty rating :-0

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Yes, I'm aware it has been a whole week since I've posted.  Not only have I not had any time, I haven't made anything interesting.  I don't think you're interested in reading about last night's burritos (even though I did the pintos from scratch) or the basic steak and veggies I had before that.  But this is one of the adventurous recipes I was referring to before my roof sprang a leak and I worked six days in a row.  So, I literally just made this less than 10 minutes ago and rushed to post it.

I love eggnog.  I always have, and never understood why the adults "ruined" it by adding alcohol.  I didn't know that some people find eggnog gross, and only drink it because it's spiked.  To me, it tasted like drinkable ice cream.

Ok, so I was really nervous when I made this.  This is basically raw eggs and cream, not the pasteurized stuff you get in the market.  You can't use pasteurized eggs in this because the whites won't whip to stiff peaks.  I went grocery shopping today, so this is as fresh an egg as I can get short of raising a chicken.  Let you know later if I got sick.

To make this an anytime drink and fine to put in my morning coffee, I made this batch alcohol-free.  I'm going to add a little rum or bourbon later to a single cup (it's 11:30 am!), but nowhere near as much as Alton Brown's recipe calls for.  It's probably safer to drink with the alcohol in there to kill whatever lurks in raw eggs, but the American supply is generally safe if stored properly.

I put the custard in the stand mixer and did the whites with the hand electric beater, so this took far less time than Alton's 15 minutes.  Totally up to you.

4 eggs, separated
1/3 C + 1 Tb sugar
*2 C whole milk
*3 oz burbon (optional)
1 tsp nutmeg
*1 C heavy cream

1.  In a stand mixer, beat together egg yolks and 1/3 C sugar until pale and foamy.  Slowly add milk, cream, bourbon (if using), and nutmeg and beat on low until smooth.  If you have a splash collar for the mixer, use it.

2.  In a separate bowl with clean beaters, beat egg whites until foamy.  Add remaining 1 Tb sugar and beat to stiff peaks.

3.  Whisk together milk and whites until smooth.  Chill.  Before serving, stir mixture smooth again if the whites have separated.  Serve plain, or with a garnish of whipped cream and nutmeg.  Use within 2 days.

Serves 6-8

Difficulty rating  π

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Broth Bag to the Rescue

I hate going to the grocery store with no idea what I'm going to make.  I just wander the discount meat and dry goods until something sparks.

In this case, lamb was way marked down.  I got some chops for that day and a boneless leg of lamb for whenever I have guests.  To go with the chops, I decided on vichyssoise and green beans.

When I got home, I realized that I had not bought any chicken broth.  When I don't plan ahead and haven't looked at the recipe for a while, these things happen.  Darn, and I had eaten chicken the night before and not saved the bones.  I did, however, have a half-filled broth bag in the freezer and vegetable broth is better than just plain water.  I pulled it out and rummaged through for trimmings that would go with the vichyssoise.  The recipe only needs a pint of broth, so I tossed in 2-1/2 cups of water and enough bits to flavor that much, about an equal amount.  That simmered while I played a few online games and took a shower, then it was time to make soup.

I have only been keeping a broth bag for about a year, but it's a great idea.  I fill it with vegetable cuttings and peels whenever I cook, and make a batch of broth when the gallon bag is full.  The taste is never exactly the same, so you can make a recipe slightly different each time.  The project costs nothing and saves quite a bit of money over time.  All around, it's a great idea!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Good to Go

So, in getting back to my non-NaNo routine, I kind of forgot to post here.  To be fair, the only thing even remotely interesting I've made since the last post was a kale and wild rice side dish, and I don't see any point in posting my fourth thing to do with kale and grains.

It rained last weekend!  Around here, that's a big thing.  And it rained over an inch.  To my relief, the vegetable garden did not turn back into a pond.  Whatever I did to the drainage is working, so I'll start checking out what's good for a winter garden around here.  Last year's assorted lettuce worked out nicely.  I'll see what the garden store has.

There are two recipes coming up that I definitely want to make, and I'll see what inspiration I get tomorrow at the market for other posts.  Maybe I'll come upon a new cookie recipe to try when the Times puts out its annual top ten.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Acorn Squash and Black Bean Stew

So the thing about not hosting Thanksgiving is that you don't have leftovers.  Had to cook the next day.

I've never had acorn squash, but they looked so cute in the market that I bought one.  I figured that I would want something somewhat light after Thanksgiving and decided to make a squash dish with some kind of beans as a one-pot meal.

I'm not calling this a chili, because it would be too much like the butternut squash chili I made a couple of years ago.  Unlike that recipe, I went ahead and soaked the beans first.  I was trying to get rid of the black water the beans give off, but more came off into the broth when I cooked it.  Also to be different, I seasoned it with savory herbs instead of spices, and topped it with queso fresco right before serving.

Beware, this is a very high fiber dish.  It's fine for anyone as a side, but don't make it a main course like I did unless you can handle it.  Most Americans don't have enough fiber in their diet to manage something like this without discomfort.  For the day after Thanksgiving, it was a wonderful change from the heavy dishes slathered in fatty sauce.

*1 C dry black beans
1 acorn squash (about 2 lbs whole)
*1/2 C diced onion
*1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tb olive oil
*2 C vegetable or chicken broth
*1/2 tsp dried oregano
*1/2 tsp dried sage
*1/4 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper as needed
4 oz crumbly cheese such as feta, chevre, or queso fresco

1.  2 to 4 hours before starting, rinse beans and soak in water.  When ready to start, drain and rinse again.

2.  In a larger saucepan than I used (make it a big one), heat 1 Tb oil over medium.  Add onion and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about another minute. Add broth, beans, oregano, sage, and cumin.  Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cover.  Allow to cook 1 hour while you go make the squash.

3.  Preheat oven to 350º and line a baking sheet with foil.  Cut squash in half across the equator and scoop out the seeds and strings.  (You can roast the seeds while the squash is cooking, if you want.)  Rub surfaces of squash with the other tablespoon of oil and place cut-side down on baking sheet.  Bake until mostly cooked, about 40 minutes.  Remove from oven and let sit until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.  If you're making corn bread, just turn up the heat as soon as the squash comes out and put in the bread when it gets to temperature.  Everything should finish around the same time.

4.  If squash is mostly cooked, the skin should peel right off.  Cut flesh into 1" cubes and add to pot.  This was when I realized my pot was too small.  Continue to simmer another 15 minutes to finish cooking the squash.  Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary, but keep in mind that whatever cheese you're using as a garnish is probably salty.  Ladle into bowls while hot.  Top with crumbled cheese and serve.

Serves 4-6

Difficulty rating :)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Roasted Root Vegetable Soup

I finally hit my 50,000 words yesterday!!  It felt like forever, and involved coming up with two more short stories out of desperation when I clearly was not going to make the count with what I had started. Now I can start feeding myself again without feeling like it is taking away from writing time.
This was a recipe of leftovers.  The only thing I picked up new was the parsnips.  It is also low in active time, since you purée the whole thing and don't have to make any of the vegetables pretty.

The taste was intriguing.  I added the parsnips because you all may be tired of how many different ways I can turn carrots into soup.  Mixing the veggies with the rosemary gave the soup a sweet/savory combination that tasted like I had added nutmeg.  It is also a very filling soup, and much thicker than I had expected, given how watery everything looked in the pot.

*1/2 lb carrots, peeled and chopped
1 lb parsnips, peeled and chopped
*4 ribs celery, chopped
2 Tb oil, divided
*1/2 tsp dried oregano
*1 tsp dried rosemary
*1/2 C diced onion
*1 quart chicken or vegetable stock (low sodium)
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Line a baking sheet with foil and preheat oven to 400º.  Coat carrots, parsnips, and celery with 1 Tb oil and arrange on the baking sheet in a single layer.  Sprinkle with oregano and rosemary and bake until just beginning to char, about 45 minutes.  Stir every 15 minutes to keep from sticking to pan.

2.  Remove vegetables from oven and set aside.  In large saucepan, sauté onion in 1 Tb oil until browned, about 8 minutes.  Add stock and roasted vegetables and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until vegetables are completely softened, about 15 minutes.
3.  Purée soup in blender in batches until smooth.  Return to heat and taste to see if it needs salt or pepper.  If too thick, thin with water.  Serve hot.

Serves 4 as lunch, 6 as an appetizer

Difficulty level :)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Stuffing (Dressing)

I'm finally up to 40,000 words.  I have been very busy, and skipped at least two days trying to fix a leaky toilet, but it looks like I'll be able to finish the project if I can find an hour a day to work on the book.

Meanwhile, I'm still not cooking as much as I would like.  I'm currently on a batch of macaroni and cheese with bacon.  It tastes great, and used up most of the random bits of cheese in my fridge, but it is a rerun.  I think I'm going to make a simple margherita pizza tomorrow to use up the last dregs of some spaghetti sauce and some shredded mozzarella.  A dozen cherry tomatoes are in the oven right now, dehydrating to use on future salads.

I bought two bags of cranberries and canned up a year's worth of sauce while typing at the kitchen counter.  Five half-pints will even be enough for me to take some next week to Thanksgiving.

There was talk of Costco stuffing at the meal, so I decided to make some of the real stuff to have at home with pork chops.  Stuffing is super easy, can be baked alongside most meats, and can be flavored with absolutely anything you want.  I did celery, onion, an apple, and the sage pumpkin seeds I loved.  You could easily swap out the apple for a carrot or parsnip, but I thought the sweet would go well with the pork chops and apples come with fiber.

This is a small version for a family dinner, not the huge mounds you make for a holiday meal.  Yes, it takes longer than the box, but you can flavor it any way you want.

*1/2 French bread or baguette, stale and cut into 1/2" cubes
1 C chicken or vegetable stock
1 Tb butter, plus greasing
1/2 onion, diced
*3 ribs of celery, diced
*1 medium apple, diced (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp dried sage
1/4 C pine nuts or pumpkin seeds, toasted

1.  Cut bread and set aside.  It can get as dry and stale as it wants.  Butter an 8"x8" baking casserole.  Preheat oven to 350º.

2.  Melt 1 Tb butter in a large skillet.  Add onion and sauté until it starts to get soft, about five minutes.  Add celery and apple and continue to cook over medium until everything is soft, stirring occasionally, as much as 10 more minutes.  Stir in sage and 1/2 C stock to deglaze pan.
3.  Stir in bread.  Once the bread soaks up all the liquid, transfer to baking dish.  Drizzle with remaining stock and allow to sit a few minutes so the bread can soak it up.  Sprinkle top with seeds or nuts and bake until bread is toasty and everything is heated through, about 20 minutes.  Serve hot, with gravy if desired.

Difficulty rating  π

Friday, November 14, 2014

Everyday Fancy

I haven't been doing a lot of cooking because of NaNo.  As in, barely being able to feed myself.   I went almost two weeks without grocery shopping, when I usually go every three to four days so that I have fresh produce in the house.  Used up almost everything in the freezer and about half of my pantry staples.  Eggs and toast for lunch, until I ran out of bread.  You know it's bad when you're checking the tomato plants just to have something to eat.  Mmm, baked tomato with mozzarella.  I finally have some time to go grocery shopping this morning and to cook this evening, but I'm going to stock up on enough food to last until Thanksgiving, which I won't be able to host this year because of work.  Got invited out, and I'll take my pumpkin chiffon pie.

I made some meatballs with leftover sweet & sour sauce over rice.  There was more veal on sale, so I did another veal & eggplant parmigiana bake.  I really liked that the first time.  But really, after working six days a week and writing 2,000 words a day, all I want to do is pick up something on the way home.

A lot of people feel that way, but it isn't a healthy way to eat long term.  So here's something that can be put together out of packaged foods that isn't so bad for you.  Personally, I tore the lettuce off a fresh head of green leaf, got the seeds from a whole pomegranate, and roasted the pumpkin seeds, but there is no reason it can't be thrown together in two minutes or less.

1 package salad greens, rinsed
1 8 oz container pomegranate arils
1/2 C roasted pumpkin seeds
2 Tb balsamic vinegar

1.  Place lettuce in serving bowl (or divide into servings).

2.  Sprinkle generously with pomegranate seeds, then pumpkin seeds.

3.  Drizzle top with balsamic vinegar and allow to sit for a minute so the vinegar can make its way through the salad.

4.  Serve before seeds become soggy.

Difficulty rating  π

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Blossoming Tea

That baker I was supposed to train fell through, so I'm still getting my tea time.  I made a batch of scones to go with the guava jam.

One of the stories I'm working on for NaNo involves a girl who works at a tea shop.  As research, I went to the one at the mall and ended up buying a couple of tins of blossoming tea buds.

These are simply regular teas and flowers that have been wrapped by hand into a little ball and dried.  As they rehydrate, they "blossom" into an anemone-like mass in the bottom of the tea pot.  It's kind of gross when you watch it, but fascinating.  The tea tasted wonderful, at least until I got halfway through the pot and it started to be bitter.  That happens to all teas.

The blossoming teas are rather expensive, about $2 per bud, but fun for a party or special occasion.  I'll probably give a few as gifts this holiday season because they're so unusual.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Guava Jam

It took me a little longer to get to 10,000 words than last year.  I actually made this on the first, but haven't had the time to post it.

My neighbor received a boatload of guavas from another neighbor and passed on several pounds to me when I mentioned that I sometimes can stuff.  I don't think I've ever had a guava, only guava juice.  Off to Wikipedia we go, and it looks like guavas are great for canning because they have a lot of built-in pectin and are usually sweet enough to go easy on the sugar.  All I needed was a proper recipe and a few free hours for canning once the fruits were fully ripe.

I put the guavas in several paper bags to ripen more quickly, along with a green tomato to make sure the process was working.  Fruits give off a gas as they ripen, which then helps to ripen other fruits stored with them.  There was a chance these were the green variety of guavas and I would not know if they were ripening, but I had accidentally knocked a green Bradley off the bush and figured it would be a great control subject.  Sure enough, it was much more pink the next day.  I moved it to another bag to help those along.

These guavas were the green kind, with white flesh.  I kind of let some of them go a little too long and had to throw out a few, but there were still 4 pounds of fruit once I had trimmed off the stem and blossom ends.  They almost filled my second-largest pot to the brim.  Since my 2-gallon stock pot is also my canning pot, it's a good thing they fit.
I finally broke down and bought a food mill.  I have been able to avoid it and use either a sieve or the food processor because I cook in small batches.  Pressing this much guava through a sieve would have taken all day.  I can use it on all sorts of things that I make anyway, like not-refried beans.  Just one more toy.

This is the one-pound version, for those who don't own a tree.

*1 lb ripe guavas
1/2 C water
*2 tsp lime or lemon juice
1/2 C sugar

1.  Cut off stem and blossom ends of guavas.  If using a blender, peel.  For a food mill or sieve, that is not necessary.  Quarter and scoop out seeds if using a blender.  Food mill or sieve, put in pot whole.

2.  Add water and cook fruit over medium until completely softened, about 30 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly.

3.  Either purée fruit in a blender if peeled and seeded, or run through a sieve or food mill to remove seeds and skin.  Return fruit to pot, add juice and sugar, and bring to a boil.

4.  Boil jam until thickened, about 15 minutes.  Either cool and store up to a week in the fridge, or process in a water bath 15 minutes to can.

Makes just under 1 cup

Difficulty rating :-0

Sunday, November 2, 2014

NaNo 2014

Despite the fact that I still haven't edited the first draft of last year's novel, I'm doing National Novel Writing Month again.

The main impetus for committing to 50,000 words in a month is my desktop computer.  It's really old, and one day will no longer work.  The printer doesn't, and the operating system is so old I can't go online.  Meanwhile, I have first drafts of several stories for a Young Adult mystery & horror anthology on it, plus rather detailed story notes for more.  Like, way more detailed notes than I realized.  If that computer dies, I will have lost nearly 15,000 words of pretty decent stories.

It will also be nice to do a NaNo that isn't completely cheating.  While four stories will be rewrites, there will be at least three new ones, and one is a very challenging concept for me.  I might even make the 50k goal.

So, fancy cooking and blog posts will be my reward if I manage to get ahead on the word count.  Or really want cookies.  I keep forgetting it takes less time to make a batch than to run down to the store for some.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Halloween Miracle

After three months of checking the two remaining pumpkin vines almost daily for female flowers and hand-pollinating at least once a week only to have the fruits fail,  I finally got one!  I knew it wouldn't be ripe for Halloween, but at least I can have a pumpkin in some stage of production for the Great Pumpkin to see.  It should be ripe before Thanksgiving, so I can use it as a centerpiece before it gets turned into a dish.  I did buy some canned pumpkin at Sprouts, but that's to make soup at some point, or maybe another batch of that rice pudding.  My home-grown pumpkins are for recipes that use pumpkin with more texture.  The seeds from this one are going to be cinnamon.  I haven't done sweet ones yet.  This pumpkin seems to have slowed down its growth at 13" circumference.  Based on previous pumpkins, that will be about 12oz.  Very small, but better than nothing.

I finally ripped out Tommy.  So much for salsa.  Since the two tomato plants are doing fairly well, I replaced the dead rosemary bush by the front door with a beefsteak tomato, which bloomed only two weeks later.  I am going to use those quart jars for something, I swear it.  Living somewhere it never freezes opens my options for fall planting.  I still have Kale's spot to fill, and now Tommy's.  I may leave the latter empty until I'm sure I've solved the drainage problem in the fountain.  Gives me a few months to plan next year's garden.  I'm considering another shot at corn, or perhaps something from seed if I'm feeling especially cocky.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Butternut and Cilantro Soup

I caught a cold and wanted soup.  I just didn't want soup with that much salt in it.  Sometimes I do, but this cold wasn't that bad and I only needed a hot soup to go down my throat.  So I bought a package of pre-chopped butternut squash and started rooting through my fridge and pantry for ways to make it into an interesting lunch with not too much effort.

Then I realized that, as long as I wasn't feverish, there was no such thing as me making something without effort.  Cooking is an effort of love for me, even if it's just for myself.  It nourishes both body and soul.  Still, I bought the squash already prepped.  No reason to add a cut-off finger to the pot.

This is very much like my chilled butternut squash soup, except I added cilantro and basil to it.  I should have bought a lime and put in a splash of orange juice instead.  It's really a carrot soup recipe made with butternut.  Whatever, I was sick and it sounded palatable.

1/2 C diced onion
1 Tb olive oil
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped (about 20 oz)
2 C water
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp dried basil or 1 Tb fresh basil leaves, chopped
juice of 1 lime or 1 Tb orange juice
1/2 C cilantro leaves, finely chopped
Salt and white pepper to taste
Plain Greek yogurt and cilantro for garnish

1.  In medium saucepan, cook onion in olive oil over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add squash, water, nutmeg, and basil.  Stir together, cover, and simmer until squash is tender, about 30 minutes.

2.  In blender, purée mixture in batches until very smooth.  Return to saucepan.  Stir in lime juice and cilantro and return to a simmer.  Cook 5 minutes for flavors to meld, then taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

3.  Serve hot, garnished with yogurt and cilantro if desired.

Difficulty rating  :)  (for cutting up the squash)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cinnamon-Oatmeal Bread

I may be training a new baker very soon, which means my daily teatime will be reduced to only a few times a week.  On the other hand, I'll be able to shift my time zones a couple of hours west.  Atlantic time is fine if you live there, not so much if you're in California.

I looked in quite a few places for cinnamon chips, even gourmet and restaurant shops.  You can order them online if you plan ahead.  It isn't cheap, especially when you add in shipping, so I would only do that for a party.  There are also a few DIY chip recipes out there, this one with some very helpful comments.  I decided that my DIY would be to take some yogurt chips I already had in the pantry and toss them in straight cinnamon to coat.  It looked like it worked, but the cinnamon washed off into the batter.  The chips melted into a nice creaminess in the bread, so it wasn't a total loss.  Toffee chips are probably an acceptable substitute if you love caramel.

I'm basing this on a recipe from Better Recipes.  Some of the amounts are awkward, and possibly scaled down from a restaurant or multi-loaf recipe.  I'm rounding them a little, since not everyone has a 1/4 tsp measuring spoon.  Or a 1/2 Tb spoon, for that matter.  I do, but I have a lot of cooking gadgets that don't get used often.  I'm also replacing some of the flour and sugar with rolled oats, since that much in the streusel was just going to fall off anyway.

1/3 C light brown sugar
*2 tsp cinnamon

1.  Stir together until well mixed.  Set aside until needed

1/2 C rolled oats
*1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tb brown sugar
1 Tb butter, melted

1.  Toss together the oats, cinnamon, and brown sugar.  Stir in butter until everything gets clumpy together.

2.  Store in refrigerator until needed.  This will harden up the butter and make the streusel granola-like.

Cake (um, because this is really a cake.  I don't know why it's called "bread")
2 C flour
1/2 C rolled oats
1 Tb baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C granulated sugar
1 egg
*1 C milk
1/3 C vegetable oil
1/2 C cinnamon chips, chopped walnuts, or raisins, optional

1.  Grease a standard loaf pan with shortening and place it on a baking sheet to catch crumbs.  Preheat oven to 350º.

2.  In a medium bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder, salt, and sugar.  Separately, combine egg, milk, and oil.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet.  Stir only until combined, then let it sit a couple of minutes.  When you go back to stir it a few more strokes, it will be much more evenly moist.  Stir in any chips, nuts, or raisins.

3.  Pour half of batter in loaf pan.  Sprinkle with half of the brown sugar filling.  Top with remaining batter, followed by remaining filling.  To get a marbled loaf look, poke down in several places with a blunt knife.  Top with all of the streusel.
4.  Bake 40 minutes, then test with a toothpick.  If still too moist, put it back in and check regularly.  Mine was almost an hour, but I did use those yogurt chips, which probably added moisture.

5.  Allow to cool in the pan five minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.  You may need to run a knife along the edges first.  Once cooled, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours.  This will make it easier to slice.  I sliced mine, put a bit of waxed paper between the slices, and wrapped the whole thing back up.  It went into the freezer, and I can pull out a slice any time I want and pop it directly into the toaster or warm it in the microwave.

Makes one loaf, about 8-10 real slices (where did he get 16?)

Difficulty rating :)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Individual Dip Cups

I have solved the issue of double-dipping!  You can have a cocktail hour in December without the fear of spreading the flu.  It takes about ten minutes longer than simply making a dip and pouring it into a bowl, but the presentation makes a much greater effect and all but eliminates the spread of germs.

I used some glass bowls I have for the photo because I didn't want to go back out, but Party City has an impressive array of plasticware for "tasting parties".  I've never done one.  It seems like an awful lot of work that you reserve for foodie friends who truly appreciate the effort.  I don't have many of those.  The cups and bowls are mostly in the 2-ounce range, and the prices are quite reasonable.  Smart & Final also carries a variety of containers, including the little salad dressing cups you get at takeout.  You can make up a couple of trays of these little cups and bring them out whenever the need arises.  This also reduces the chance of serving warm and possibly hazardous dip that has been sitting out too long.

This idea also lets you get a little creative with presentation.  I garnished a 6-layer dip!  I also used fresh lime juice for the guacamole layer and really liked the result.  The sour cream is actually plain Greek yogurt, which I use frequently as a substitute.

For non-layered dips, a fast way to fill the small cups would be with a pastry bag or ziplock with the corner snipped off.  Again, it's the presentation.  There's no reason onion mix-and-sour cream dip on football night can't be an event.  It may even reduce the number of calories consumed, as you watch the stack of cups on the coffee table grow.  Dips are bad for diets because you have no idea how much you've had.  Individual cups may give dieters the freedom to enjoy what they otherwise might have passed on because they can now see the portion size.

I am definitely doing this the next time I put out dip.  A few extra minutes and a couple of dollars for the cups is worth it to keep your guests healthy.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

One Little Tomatillo

Tommy must have heard me thinking about tearing him out in favor of something that actually produces.  When I went out to pick a tomato that afternoon, I found several tomatillo husks.  The fruit inside them was the size of peas, but it was enough improvement for me to let him live a while longer.  I did have to rip out Kale.  She had some kind of bug infestation and most of the leaves had died.  I still have kale ribs in my freezer's broth bag, so she may make a contribution to Thanksgiving from beyond the compost pile.
Wow, washing them a lot makes your hands look old.
A week later, only one husk had a sizable fruit in it, and that size was smaller than my cherry tomatoes. What am I supposed to do with one little tomatillo?  I guess it can be a garnish on one serving of something.  I'll probably buy several more in order to make it an ingredient, totally defeating the purpose of growing the plant.

Even with the success of the pumpkins, this year's gardening effort was nowhere near profitable.  Guess I'll try again next year.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Lavender-Lemon Shortbread

I wanted cookies and found this recipe from last year's L.A. Times cookie contest that I had never made.  Good enough.

If you have a food processor, this recipe comes together in just a couple of minutes.  Then you chill it and bake as desired.  If all you have is a blender or coffee grinder, there will be some manual labor involved.  Maybe five more minutes than the food processor version.

The difference between a "cookie" and a "shortbread" is one egg.  With the egg as a binder, it's a cookie.  Without, it's flavored pie crust and known as shortbread for the high proportion of fat that shortens the gluten strands.  Yes, that's what "shortening" means when you talk about Crisco.  It's the fact that fat creates a barrier around flour grains, preventing long glutens from forming.  This does not mean a product is gluten-free, merely that the protein of gluten is deterred from creating long strands.  This is why cookies and cakes crumble, while long-strand products like bread do not.

My batch of shortbreads got very dark on the bottom.  The most likely cause was cutting them too thick.  I only got 15, and didn't feel like re-rolling and re-chilling the log.  Another possible cause was putting them on a dark sheet pan.  I also get better results when I use the silpat.  Then there's the possibility of my oven being a bit hot.  Whatever I did, they did not taste burnt.  They smell like lavender and have a distinct lemon tang.  Not bad for a few minutes' work.

*1 tsp dried lavender
1/3 C sugar
1-1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest (either use a micro-planer or chop up regular zest)
1 C flour
pinch of salt
1/2 C (1 stick) cold butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
1-3 tsp lemon juice

1.  With the food processor running, drop lavender through the tube.  The reason for this technique is that the blade will sit above the buds if you put them in first and nothing will happen.  Doing it while the machine is running will keep them moving until they are pulverized.  Trickle in sugar and lemon zest, then pulse until combined.  If you let it run, the sugar will turn into powdered sugar and escape.  Add salt and flour and pulse to combine.

2.  Add butter and pulse until the big chunks are gone.  Add lemon juice half a teaspoon at a time and pulse between additions.  You know you have enough when it starts to clump.  I did this on a dry day, and it took a full tablespoon.

3.  Roll dough into a log about 10" long and wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper.  Chill 1 hour in the fridge for immediate use, or place wrapped roll in a ziplock baggie for freezer storage until needed.  Just thaw for about 30 minutes before using.

4.  Preheat oven to 350º.  Slice log crosswise into 1/2" pieces and arrange on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake until edges are golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.  Cool on a rack and serve.

Makes 20

Difficulty rating  π

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Tomato-Yogurt Dip

I amassed a whopping four small tomatoes on the day I was trying to eat only from pantry and garden items.  This turned into a sauce to have with some falafel and chicken, since I didn't have any cucumbers for a proper tzatziki.

I've made roasted tomato spreads and cheeses, but I don't remember ever doing it with fresh tomatoes in a cream base.  It's fantastic.  You get the bright freshness of the tomato flavor against the tang of the yogurt.  It's almost like a soup, and works great against any vegetable, bread, fish, or poultry.   Plus, it takes less than five minutes to make.

*1/2 lb tomatoes, seeded and petite diced
*1 C plain yogurt (Greek or regular)
*1 Tb lemon juice
*dash of salt
*dash of dill weed

1.  Stir together tomatoes, lemon juice, salt, and dill.

2.  Stir in yogurt.

3.  Chill and serve.  If it sits overnight, some of the whey and tomato water will pool up.  You can either drain it off or stir it back in before serving.

Makes about 2 cups

Difficulty rating  π

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Chicken Stock & Consommé

And this is what you do with the bones from the chicken you de-boned last week.

I'm going traditional with this one, straight out of the garde manger textbook.  However, I'm cutting it down a bit.  What is the average home cook going to do with a gallon of chicken stock?  Here, we're working with one chicken's worth of bones and trimmings, which will be somewhere between 1-1/2 and 2 pounds.  That will make about a quart, otherwise known as enough for the base of your average pot of soup, risotto, or stuffing recipe.

I rifled through the broth bag to pick out only celery, onion, and carrot for the base stock.  There's an awful lot of kale in there.  I still have a quart of veggie broth in the freezer, but my next batch will be heavy on the kale and celery.  That would be lovely for a stuffing base.  Can you tell that I'm ready for Thanksgiving?

For the second part of this recipe, the consommé, I cut up fresh stuff.  I even sacrificed half a pound of perfectly good ground turkey.  Unlike stock, which is leftovers, consommé is a proper recipe in its own right.  It is an elegant and somewhat labor-intensive dish, and all diners think of it is strained soup.  It is clarified soup, which can also be boiled down into a reduction sauce or all the way down into a form of gelled, preservable soup base that can be rehydrated.

Chicken Stock
2 lbs chicken bones
6 C water
2 oz by weight chopped onion
1 oz by weight chopped celery
1 oz by weight chopped carrot
1 bay leaf
3 coriander seeds or peppercorns
1 sprig fresh thyme

1.  In a pot, bring chicken bones and water just barely to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Boiling will bring up scummy stuff, so keep the water on as low a heat as possible.  Cover and come back in 4 hours.
2.  Stir in remaining ingredients, leave the lid off, and continue to simmer for another hour.

3.  Run contents of pot through a coffee filter or cheesecloth placed over a mesh strainer.  It will take some time, but don't force the liquid through.  All those little specks of cooked chicken at the bottom of the pot are safe to eat, but not pretty.  Refrigerate overnight, then skim off any fat.  Stock may be used immediately or stored up to three days.

Makes about 1 quart

Difficulty rating  π

Chicken Consommé
1 quart chicken stock
1/2 lb ground chicken or turkey (ground beef is more traditional)
3 egg whites (1/2 C if you're using carton)
2 oz diced onion
1 oz diced carrot
1 oz diced celery
herbs of choice (bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, parsley, etc)
salt and white pepper to finish
reserved carrot and celery leaves for garnish

1.  Make meatloaf out of everything except the stock, salt, and pepper.  Just mush it all together.
2.  In a large saucepan, add stock and that lump of meat, then stir it together while heating over medium.  It's going to look like something you don't want to eat.  Let the soup warm up slowly, stirring every minute or so until the meat forms a "raft".  Yes, it's just as gross as it sounds.  Reduce heat to a simmer.  You don't want to boil this, or the act of boiling will kick up more of the gunk we're trying to get rid of.  The idea is that the raft absorbs any bits left in the stock, while emitting more flavor.
3.  After an hour, strain through coffee filters or cheesecloth over a mesh strainer.  Use a ladle so you don't have to kick up more debris.  Think of it as wading on the edge of a lake.  You can drag your feet until it gets muddy or step carefully and only get wisps around the ankles.  The raft doesn't look any better after it's cooked, but it is perfectly safe to eat.  I added mine to some marinara.  You could stir it into mac & cheese, chili, or anything Hamburger Helper.

4.  Add a very subtle amount of salt and white pepper to the consommé, just one or two shakes for the whole batch.  Chill consommé, then skim off any fat.  Can be served chilled or hot, with bits of celery and carrot as garnish.  If chilled, it will require one extra shake each of salt & pepper.  Mine didn't come out as clear as I was hoping (see photo at top), but I totally nailed the salt & pepper.  The flavor is rich, yet smooth, with only the faintest hint of the spices and herbs.

Makes about 3 C

Difficulty rating :)

Monday, October 6, 2014


Found something to do with the maple syrup!  Granola can be really expensive for something that is mostly rolled oats, which cost less than a dollar a pound.  And then there always seems to be something in it you don't like, or something missing you do like.  Problem solved, make it yourself.

I'm still trying to take one meal a day with me to work, since I seem to be staying long enough for both breakfast and lunch on most days.  We do have a low-fat granola on hand, but I thought this would be a cool project that anyone could do, even as a cooking lesson with kids.  And it's nice and easy, after the last post.

I'm starting with Alton Brown's recipe, which has many positive reviews.  It's a little too sweet for my taste, so I'm cutting back on the sugar.  My mix-ins were sweet, which may have something to do with it, but even the oats part was a bit much.

Speaking of a bit much, this makes a lot more than I thought.  When his recipe said six servings, I was picturing six cups of granola.  Then it filled my half-gallon jar, and there was still more in the bowl.  I'm going to cut it in half here, and make the list of mix-ins more generic.  The only specific I'm using is rolled oats as opposed to quick oats.  It's going to make a big difference in your finished product.

1-1/2 C rolled oats
1 C mixed nuts (I used sliced almonds and broken macadamias)
*6 Tb (1/4 C + 2 Tb) coconut flakes - I used unsweetened
2 Tb dark brown sugar
*3 Tb maple syrup or honey
2 Tb vegetable oil
1/4 tsp salt
up to 1 C other mix-ins like dried fruit and chips

1.  Preheat oven to a mere 250º.  Get out a rimmed baking sheet.  No parchment or greasing required.

2.  In a medium bowl, combine oats, nuts, coconut, and brown sugar.  In a separate bowl, combine maple syrup, vegetable oil, and salt.

3.  Combine two mixtures until dry mix is thoroughly coated.  You can even let it sit a few minutes to let everything soak in together.  Pour out onto sheet pan in a single layer.

4.  Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes for even browning.  If granola starts to look dry and crisp at the 1 hour mark, go ahead and pull it.

5.  Allow to cool on pan, then stir in dried fruit and/or chips.  I used dried cranberries and yogurt chips.  Taste and add light salt if needed, which would mainly be if you went heavy on the nuts.  Store in a sealed container at room temperature.

Makes about 1 quart

Difficulty rating  π

Friday, October 3, 2014

How to Debone Poultry

I finally got around to it, the lesson I have been wanting to do almost since I started this blog.

The version I'm doing is the classical one demonstrated by Jaques Pepin on PBS many, many years ago.  It's on the long side, but an excellent demonstration.
There are faster ways to do it, but this one preserves the most meat and the shape of the chicken.  I did this once to a turkey.  Do not buy a Butterball, or you will be pulling out handfuls of butter from between every muscle.  Once it was stuffed and tied up, it looked like a turkey on a diet, but the shape was intact.  The leg bones had been replaced with stuffing, and the whole thing could be sliced crosswise like a loaf.  I didn't have to figure out how to carve it.  I had done all the hard work before it went into the oven.

For this demo, I picked up some Cornish hens.  Very thin bones.  With smaller poultry, you have to be extra careful not to tear the meat or skin.  Chicken, duck, and goose are all the mid-sized fowl that are easiest to do with this method.  Since you get a better meat yield with deboning, over 90%, I was able to allow half a hen per serving instead of the usual full bird.

This took me 20 minutes for the first bird and about 18 for the second.  Some of that time was stopping to wash my hands to take pictures, but not much.  It has been about ten years since I've done this, so a first-timer should expect a similar result.  In a professional kitchen, the prep cook should be able to do it in about five minutes.  The turkey took me slightly over an hour.  In my defense, it was not 100% defrosted and I spent a lot of time dumping that butter in a bowl.

All right, here we go, breaking down the video into smaller segments:

1.  Get out an array of very sharp and thin knives, plus one heavier knife to break the legs.  By having a few on hand, you'll be able to switch off more easily if you realize one isn't quite right for a particular step.  Unwrap bird, rinse thoroughly, and pat dry with paper towels.  Make sure the cutting board is secure, with either a towel or grip pad underneath.  Have a plastic bag handy to collect the bones.  Either freeze them for a project we're doing next week, or use it to seal them before throwing away.  They smell after a few days.

2.  Remove two end segments of the wings.  On a person, that would be shoulder to elbow that stays put.  This is easily done by placing a knife in the joint, which should give way without effort.  You can save the next joint for a wing dish or toss it in the bag.

3.  Place chicken breast-side up.  There should be a neck opening so you don't have to cut the skin.  Make two small slashes at the top of the breast just deep enough to pull out the wishbone.  If it breaks, make sure you go in there and get all the pieces.  It is an extremely sharp and dangerous bone once broken, and you're going to be sticking your hand in there in a minute.

4.  Turn over the bird and slice the length of the backbone, all the way down to the bone.  I find it easier to make two cuts, one on each side of the spine.  They will be very close together, maybe half an inch apart, and go neck to tail.

5.  Back on the breastbone side, reach through the wishbone slashes until you feel the shoulder joints.  Disjoint them with the tip of a knife, making sure to cut the sinews.  Do not remove the wing bones just yet, or cut any of the skin.

6.  Flip over again and pull the flesh off the carcass at the ribcage.  Pepin talks about including the "oysters", which are a pair of round muscles at the hip-bone.  Since you are going through the back, the breast meat should be largely intact.  Sometimes, the filets come off as you're pulling.  If not, pull them off separately and remove the long sinew as Pepin demonstrates.  Bony parts go in the bag, meat back on cutting board.
7.  Scrape down the thigh bones until the "knee" joints are exposed.  Cut connective tissue and remove thigh bones.

8.  Using the back of your heavy knife, break the "feet" knobs free of the leg bones.  For the turkey, I needed Techie Smurf's help to break the bones.  The Cornish hens were so light, I could almost do them with bare hands.  Scrape down leg bones and remove, leaving feet in the skin.

9.  Scrape down and remove last wing bones.

10.  Double-check for bones, cartilage, and connective tissue.  The only tough parts left should be the feet.

Now, what to do with this floppy mess of meat.  The fancy dish would be a galantine, which the average home cook would not necessarily serve the family for dinner.  A ballotine is more appropriate, and is what I did.  My trussing string is from Home Depot.  Don't spend a lot, just make sure it's cotton.  Pepin's looping technique is not only classical, it is the easiest and most reliable way to tie up poultry or a roast.

When cooking a stuffed, deboned piece of poultry, the standard 350º oven and 160º pull temperature are still recommended.  Make sure you are temping the center of the stuffing, especially if it contains eggs.  The other five degrees are from a ten-minute rest.  The cooking time may be slightly less because the stuffing is usually less dense than the meat and bones.  It depends on what you use and how tightly it's packed.  Use a thermometer, check every 15 minutes until it gets close.

Good luck!

Difficulty rating $@%!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pumpkin & Coconut Rice Pudding

When you've got pumpkin to burn....

I've been looking for ways to decrease my grocery bills, then looked at the freezer and pantry.  My, there's a lot more stuff in there than usual!  I bought quite a bit of coconut milk and shredded coconut when Sprouts was having a Coconut-themed sale.  Then there was my guilty stock-up of healthy grains and beans when I was eating too much junk.  And of course the quart-plus of pumpkin purée from my "harvest".  There will still be enough for a pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving.

I went back and forth debating what kind of rice to use.  Many of the recipes I found use brown rice, as it holds up well against the pumpkin and has a better nutritional profile.  I decided to go with Calrose, or sushi rice, for its medium grain and softer taste.  This was going to be breakfast.  Also, I had the right amount left.

1 C rice of your choice
*1 13.5 oz can light coconut milk
water as needed
1 C pumpkin purée
*1/3 C unsweetened coconut flakes
*1 tsp cinnamon
*1/4 tsp nutmeg
*1/4 tsp cloves
dash of salt
1/4 C brown sugar
*2 Tb maple syrup (or more brown sugar)

1.  In a medium saucepan, stir together rice, coconut milk, 1 C water, and a dash of salt.  Bring to a boil, then simmer until rice is cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

2.  Stir in pumpkin, spices, and sugars.  Return to a simmer and add more water if pudding appears dry.  At some point, I started adding milk, but that's because I have a lot of it at the moment.  This recipe is plenty creamy without dairy.  Taste, and add more syrup if not sweet enough.

3.  Just before serving, stir in coconut.  Serve hot in bowls or chilled in ramekins for dessert.  Garnish with more coconut flakes.

Serves 5 to 6 as breakfast, 8 as dessert

Difficulty rating  π