Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas Pudding

I've made Christmas pudding once before, and really liked it, but the recipe makes an awful lot and it's usually only three of us.  Then I saw a comment on some site about making it in mason jars and realized I could do individual portions.

The last time I made it, I went strictly by the Bible's "Steamed Pudding".  This time, I went surfing for other opinions.  What I settled on was pretty close to Jamie Oliver's.  Hey, ask a British guy for a British recipe.  It's pretty much dried fruit stuck together with breadcrumbs.  I made a cake as backup in case my guests didn't like it, but they both finished theirs.  I noticed that his had some odd amounts for some ingredients and started doing the math.  It must have been converted at some point from pounds to metric, making it very easy to convert it back.  My version makes 1.5 quarts, which is slightly smaller than 1.5 liters, but it still serves 8, just slightly less in each serving.  No one is going to notice that they're having one or two fewer bites.

Since I couldn't find Golden Sauce at the last minute, I decided to make Hard Sauce and had to learn what that was.  Spiked frosting.  Really.  It does provide a wonderful creaminess if you hit a clump of ginger like I did halfway through my portion.

1 lb assorted dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, currants, apricots, blueberries, etc)
*3 Tb brandy
3/4 C chopped dates
3 Tb candied ginger, finely chopped
1/2 C butter, frozen, plus more for greasing containers
*zest of 1 orange
1 C flour
3/4 C sugar
3 C fresh breadcrumbs
*1/2 C sliced almonds or other chopped nut
1 egg, beaten
1/2 C milk

1.  If any of the fruits are larger than bite sized, like apricots, chop them smaller.  Grease one 1.5 quart domed bowl or 8 wide-mouthed pint jars with butter.  I found that the Ball brand jars greased better than the Kerr ones.  Not sure why.  Either set up steaming pots or get out a deep roasting pan for oven steaming.
2.  This step is cool.  Take the frozen stick of butter and run it through the large holes on a grater to make shredded butter.  I suppose you could use melted and cooled butter and it would work just the same.  I was just following the recipe.
3.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Stir until everything is evenly distributed and hydrated.  Either pour everything into the one bowl or pack into 8 jars.  This is the one time the metric came in handy, as I used the 200ml mark on the jars.  Cover the openings with parchment paper and screw down jar lids or tie around the rim with string.  The time I made this in a bowl, I used the press-and-seal type of plastic wrap.  That only works for stovetop steaming.  Don't put plastic wrap in the oven.
4.  Set bowl in a deep pot and fill with water almost to the rim.  Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cover.  Steam for 3 hours, checking water level every so often.  Alternately, set oven to 325º.  Set roasting pan on oven shelf, then add jars.  Fill pan with boiling water and bake for the same 3 hours.  Check water level frequently.  Any part of the pudding that is above the water line will come out much darker and almost burnt.
5.  You can "decant" and serve the pudding immediately, or store it in its baking container and reheat when ready to serve.  I steamed them again while we were eating dinner, but the microwave seems to do just as well.  Serve with a dollop of hard sauce on top.

Hard Sauce

1/4 C butter
3/4 C powdered sugar
1 Tb (or a bit more) brandy

1.  Whip butter until soft.  Add powdered sugar gradually and whip until fluffy.  Add brandy and whip to incorporate.  Refrigerate when not using, but allow to come to room temperature to serve.

Serves 8

Difficulty rating  :)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Magic Cookie Bars

This is what I used as the basis for my Seven Layer Bars.  My godmother brought the recipe to the cookie party, so I finally have the definitive recipe.  I see why hers are always so much more moist than mine; she puts the condensed milk on the crust, not over the top.  She also gives them more resting time.  It's a process, but she has it down.  It would probably take me two batches to perfect it.  Not today; I still have cookies in the freezer from the party.

1/2 C butter or margarine, melted
1-1/2 C crushed graham cracker crumbs
1 14oz can Sweetened Condensed milk
6 oz semisweet chocolate chips
6 oz butterscotch chips
3 oz flaked coconut
1 C chopped walnuts

1.  Preheat oven to 350º.  (325º for a glass pan)

2.  Pour melted butter into a 13" x 9" baking pan.  Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs evenly over butter.  Pour sweetened condensed milk over the crumbs.

3.  Top with chocolate and butterscotch chips and coconut.  Sprinkle walnuts on top of all.

4.  Press down gently with a glass or cup to compact the crust.  Bake for about 30 minutes, until nuts are starting to brown.

5.  Cool thoroughly before cutting.  You can slide a spatula round the sides and cut through the cooled bars but do not lift them out of the pan until they have set for several hours or overnight.  You can even keep them in the fridge until ready to cut.  Place pieces (1" x 2" would be the largest I would recommend) in liners to make them easier to stack on a serving plate or gift box.  If not refrigerated, these last two to three days.  In the fridge, you have about a week.

Difficulty rating  π

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Grandmother's Oatmeal Cookies

This was a guest recipe from the cookie party.  The baker said she had a little trouble getting them off the baking sheet, so I'm suggesting the use of a silpat or parchment.  The cookies spread out a lot as they bake from so much sugar, so I don't recommend greasing the pan.

I'm not sure who the "Grandmother" is, but this recipe is not the same as the one I use for my Oatmeal Everything cookies.  These were very soft and chewy.  The raisins were especially soft from being soaked.  Santa would not be disappointed.

3 eggs, well beaten
1 C raisins
1 tsp vanilla
1 C shortening (may be part butter)
1 C brown sugar
1 C granulated sugar
2-1/2 C flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 C oatmeal
1/2 C chopped walnuts (optional)

1.  In a medium bowl, combine eggs, raisins, and vanilla.  Let set for one hour.

2.  Cream shortening and sugars until very light and fluffy in a large bowl.

3.  Sift together flour, salt, soda, and cinnamon.  Mix well with creamed mixture.  Blend in egg mixture.  Stir in oatmeal and walnuts; dough will be very stiff.

4.  Preheat oven to 350º and line cookie sheets with parchment or silpat.  Drop dough by the spoonful at least 2" apart.

5.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the middle is almost set.  Let cookies cool on the sheet for 2 min before transferring to cooling racks.

Yield varies by size of cookie, about 4 dz

Difficulty rating  π

Monday, December 14, 2015

Cookie Party!

Instead of a regular Winter Tea, I had a cookie-swapping party.  Every guest was asked to bring a plate of cookies and the recipe.  I had cards handy to make copies to take home and boxes so everyone could take an assortment with them to share with their families.  To balance the sugar a little, there were nuts and cheese out for snacking.

I made peanut butter cookies, with some turned into PB&J and others with a little chocolate ganache between them for Reeses's style.  I have a lot of ganache left over; I can make a cake and use it for the filling.  Shucks, too bad that I have to make a cake.  ;)

I had already made some gingerbread cookies to keep in the freezer, so I defrosted a plateful and put out icing and sprinkles for guests to decorate their own.  Some were precise, while others were just in it for the icing.

Some of the guests didn't quite get the concept and showed up without cookies.  However, I did get two good recipes out of the event.  You'll get those in the next two posts.  We never got around to the cute arts & crafts project with the recipe cards, but after having cookies for dinner, no one really cared.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Oyster Chowder

Oysters were super-cheap the day after Thanksgiving, so I bought a jar to make soup during my vacation.  Just two servings, since most of my lunches are being taken elsewhere.  I was at Olvera Street yesterday at lunchtime.  Somewhere under all that avocado sauce was a tamale and two taquitos. I got lucky that there was very little spice, but I was so hungry after walking halfway across downtown that I would have eaten it anyway and dealt with the asthma for the rest of the day.
My original plan had been to eat at the Grand Central Market.  When I got there, I was disappointed that it was basically an elaborate food court with very long lines.  The one grocer had nice, inexpensive produce.  I wished I needed some.  For that kind of atmosphere and inflated prices, I'd rather go to the Original Farmers' Market.
And my mountain trip was nice until I slipped twice on an icy hiking trail and got pretty bruised up.  I'm staying active so the muscles don't cramp, hence my two-mile walk from 5th Street through Chinatown and down to Olvera.
I did get good photos of the grape vines across the plaza that are almost as old as the city itself.  Oh, and coming down the mountain from my out-of-the-way, avoiding soft targets day trip, I had to pass a dozen police cars racing to the San Bernardino shooting location.  At this point, I'm just going to do what I want and hope for the best.

Where was I?  Oh right, soup.

1 large (1/2 lb) red potato
1/2 C diced onion
1 8oz jar oysters
1 C milk
1 Tb butter
1 Tb flour
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
dash cayenne pepper
*1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce

1.  Dice potato, skin on if desired, into 1/2" pieces.  In a medium saucepan, simmer potato in water until fork-tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain and leave the pieces in the colander for a bit.

2.  Melt butter in the saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and sautée until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add flour to the pan and stir until it soaks up the butter and gets pasty.

3.  Add 1/2 C milk and stir in.  Once it heats, it should thicken into a creamy consistency.  Add the rest of the milk and allow it to thicken as well.

4.  Add drained potatoes, oysters with their water, and spices.  Stir soup and allow it to come up to a simmer.  If it is too thick for your taste, add a bit of water.  Once the oysters are cooked, they are easier to break up into smaller pieces with a spoon.  That's why I didn't have you go through the drama of trying to cut them raw.  It's not as easy as it ought to be.

5.  Serve hot with a side of crackers or bread.

Serves 2

Difficulty rating  π

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Vacation vs Staycation Menus

As of this moment, I am on a two-week stay-cation.  I was originally going to have visitors from out of town for the first week, but no one wanted to fly in the current world situation.  Can't blame them.

So these two weeks are all about me getting away from it all, but at home.  I'm going on day trips and doing touristy things locally (avoiding soft-target type spots when possible).  After all, I live in one of the most-visited tourist destinations on the planet.

This is also my chance to get back into proper eating habits.  As this posts, I'm at the grocery store loading up on healthy food and reasonably healthy car snacks.  Most days I'll be out at lunch time, but I can easily control breakfast, dinner, and snacking.  This is going to be like two weeks at a health spa, with long walks, lots of fluids, and a relaxed outlook on life.

This is not how I vacation when I go away.  When I go somewhere, I do get plenty of exercise from walking around attractions, but diet and sleep patterns are at the mercy of where I am.  The reason most of us lose vacation weight quickly is because half of it is water retention from salty foods.  A couple of weeks of normal eating lets the rest of it drop off.

So I'm headed up to the mountains tomorrow to play in the snow.  Probably won't need the snow chains I bought, but I'm sure I will eventually.  Then I won't have to run to the auto store at the last second for some.  I can decide at 5am that a snow day sounds like fun.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Indoor Seedlings

Gardening does not stop in Southern California.  I had to start my seeds inside because it was still too hot and dry for direct sow of winter vegetables.

This was my first successful indoor seeding.  I put the tray in the back room, where it wasn't too hot and they would get mostly afternoon sun.

They are going to town.  Still not getting many beets, but the lettuces started coming up in three days.  Two cilantros look like they're going to make it.  Once El Niño hits, I'll be able to do more beets as direct sow.  For now, I'm waiting to see which seedlings end up the strongest for transplant.  It was hard to thin them!  I took out the ones at the edges and kept the ones in the middle, figuring they would have a better chance of developing root systems.  I still tossed the thinned ones into the pond, in case any decided to take root.  Only one so far, and it's not very happy.

There is still a faint chance that the Christmas salad will be garden greens.  A very faint chance, but not impossible.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


After posting the last one (finally), I realized I didn't do a crouton recipe.  It feels like a basic thing, but a lot of this blog is about making things from scratch.

Crouton is French for "little toast".  That's all it is, toasted bread.  But what kind of bread you choose and what you add to it makes all the difference.  Caesar salad?  Garlic.  Italian dressing?  Oregano.  Soup topping?  Depends on the soup.

So here's a basic how-to.

1.  Slice bread of choice into cubes or tear into small pieces.  These should be bite-sized, so no larger than 1" on any given side.  Place in a bowl or on a sheet pan and let them get a little stale.  This can be an hour on a dry day or overnight when it's humid.  I found Princess eating out of the bowl an hour later and was very glad this batch was not for company.

2.  Preheat oven to 350º.  Melt a little butter, only 1 or 2 Tb, and pour over bread.  Use your fingers to make sure all sides of the bread are covered and there isn't one piece soaking wet.  Sprinkle with any spice that is appropriate to your intended use.  For these, I used salt, white pepper, and thyme.  That would go with my turkey and pumpkin soup.

3.  Spread pieces evenly on a sheet and bake until toasted and crisp.  Check and stir every 10 minutes, less when they get close to what you want.  Allow to cool slightly before serving, so you can check to make sure they really are dry.  Store unused croutons in a sealed container for up to a week.

Difficulty rating  π

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner Soup

I caught a cold from a coworker who swore it was just allergies.  Liar.  I'm hoping it's less severe because I had a flu shot a few weeks ago.

I was going to roast up the Halloween pumpkin this week anyway and decided to make the purée into soup.  While I was at it, putting in ground turkey meatballs sounded like a good idea, and at some point this turned into a Thanksgiving menu in a soup bowl.  Food Network had a similar recipe with shredded leftover turkey and making dumplings out of stuffing, but didn't have the pumpkin.  I decided that the stuffing would get too gooey for subsequent days and opted for croutons, aka stale bread.  Dropping them onto the hot soup would soften them into a stuffing-like consistency.  Since I'm not hosting this year, I don't have any of the crispy onions in the pantry, but those would also make an excellent garnish.

I still can't get iPhoto to work, but I remembered that I do have an old laptop in a drawer with a working version.  So I can do the blog on the one with the dead battery (plug only, totally defeating the purpose of a laptop) and everything else on the faster machine.  I'm going to print my camera tomorrow.  It has nine months of photos on it.  At least I will have hard copies.  Technology can fail or become obsolete, but a physical copy endures.

*2 cans pumpkin purée or one 3-lb pumpkin roasted, peeled, seeded, and puréed
1 lb ground turkey
2 C cut green beans ( I did frozen)
*1/2 C diced onion
1 Tb olive oil
1 qt low-sodium chicken broth
1 egg
1/2 C breadcrumbs
1 tsp sage
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
dash cloves
salt and white pepper

1.  In a small bowl, combine turkey, egg, breadcrumbs, sage, and salt & pepper to taste.  Refrigerate for about half an hour to let the flavors meld.

2.  In a soup pot, heat oil over medium.  Add onion and sauté until soft.

3.  Shape turkey into golf ball-sized pieces and place in saucepan.  I got about 20.  By the time you've placed the last one, the first should be well browned.  Wash your hands, then turn all of them to brown the other side.  Add broth and bring everything to a simmer for 10 minutes, to finish cooking the meatballs.

4.  Add green beans, pumpkin, and remaining spices.  Bring back up to a simmer and taste for seasoning.  Add salt, white pepper, or anything else you need to balance the flavors.  It should have the savory edge of the sage and an undertone of cinnamon sweetness.

5.  Serve hot, topped with a generous serving of croutons.

Serves 4 to 6

Difficulty rating  π

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

9 to 5

No photos today.  I'm having trouble with iPhoto.  Probably because I haven't upgraded in some time.

I've been doing this traditional-schedule thing for over a month, and it sucks.  I appreciate the old-school way that the spouse at home would have dinner waiting for the one who worked until 5 or 6.  Since I don't have a spouse at home to cook for me, I've been making easy stuff that isn't creative and is not all that healthy.

But I did make fresh pasta last week.  I whipped up a batch of Pasta #2 in the morning, wrapped it tightly, and put it in the fridge.  (I also cooked up some chicken drumsticks and almost forgot to put them in the fridge.  Princess was disappointed when I remembered them.)  When I got home, I diced up a bunch of fresh veggies and threw them in a skillet while the pot of water was coming to a boil with some frozen peas and carrots in it.  The pasta rolled out almost as well as if it had only rested for an hour.  It took about half an hour to make fresh pasta primavera with chicken on the side.

Now that the new closing manager is fully trained, I'm going to have an easier schedule.  I won't be able to make fancy breakfasts as often, but I will get to have a proper dinner.

Aside from a few carrots, the pond is only sprouting grass.  I planted some seed strips this morning and will transplant the seedlings when they're strong enough.  So much for my Christmas salad.  I could still have beets in January.  Meanwhile, it has been warm enough that I still have a couple of eggplants growing and the peppers are going to town.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Guilt Bowl

I finally went for a basic physical.  It has been years since I had my cholesterol checked.  The doctor asked how I've been eating lately, and I answered honestly that I've been in the mood for fattening foods and salt.  I've also put on a couple of pounds.  It happened suddenly, so I think it's salt related, but I need to go back to my better habits before the lure of holiday temptations kicks in.  Been having steel-cut oats for breakfast, so lunch is the only meal I have to watch.

I am not vegan nor gluten-free, not by a long shot.  However, this recipe is.  I used up the last of two legume jars and tossed a stir-fry on top of it.  Anticipating the need for a dressing, I looked over what little I had in the fridge and decided on a champagne-cilantro combination.  And bought a lime in case it needed help.

So after four days of this, which I'll admit tasted much better on Day 1 than Day 4, I got my tests back.  Not only am I generally healthy, my cholesterol index is in the "excellent" range.  I'm having home-made pasta next week.

*1 C fresh cilantro leaves
2 Tb olive oil
*2 Tb champagne
*2 Tb lemon juice (I never used the lime)
pinch each of salt and white pepper

1.  Place all ingredients in blender.  Pulse until the cilantro breaks down, then run until smooth.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

*1/2 C dry navy beans
*1/2 C dry red lentils

1.  Soak the navy beans for 8 hours.  Drain.

2.  Add a pinch of salt to 3 C water and add navy beans.  Bring to a boil, then simmer beans for 2 hours.  Add lentils and continue to simmer until lentils are done, 15 to 20 minutes.  Drain.

1 lb asparagus
*1/2 C sliced onion
1/2 lb carrots
1 bunch kale
2 Tb olive oil

1.  Trim the tough bottoms off the asparagus and cut into 2" lengths.  Peel the carrots, cut into 2" lengths, and quarter (so they're about the same dimensions as the asparagus).  Slice and quarter about 3 strips off an onion.  Cut the kale off the ribs and chop the leaves into a manageable bite size.

2.  When you put the lentils in the bean pot, add olive oil to a large saucepan.  Heat over medium high and add onion, asparagus, and carrots.  Cook, stirring often, until veggies are bright and onion has begun to soften.  Add kale and a light sprinkle of salt and cook until wilted.  If you have a lid for the pot, that will help to keep the moisture in.

3.  When the veggies are cooked, toss in the dressing until evenly distributed.  There's only half a cup.  The veggies won't be swimming in sauce.  The point of it is a light flavoring, not to drown out the natural flavors.

4.  Serve the beans next to, under, or mixed in with the stir-fry.

Difficulty rating  π

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Ugly Carrots

This now counts as my Halloween post.  More than a month after my first carrot harvest, I pulled a few more to use in a crab salad.  The one that had the bushiest tops went first.  It was at least an inch in diameter, but quickly devolved into a misshapen gnarl of carrot that usually happens only in compact or rocky soil.  The next one wasn't much better.  The third one was carrot-shaped, but very thin.  And the last was a lumpy mess of carroty tumors.

I cleaned them up and ran the veggie peeler over them to get rid of stray roots.  In the grocery store, they don't tell you that they've scrubbed off all kinds of stuff from the carrots.  There was also a lot of dirt in the ridges and between the stringy roots.  When you pick a fruit or leafy veggie, you don't have to deal with all that dirt.

This did not discourage me from planting a winter garden of mostly root vegetables in the pond.  The 20 or 30 gallons it took to rehydrate the soil almost made me wait for El Niño, but by then it will not be warm enough to give the sprouts a good start.  I'm also gambling that it will not climb above 85º again in two weeks, when everything starts to take root.  I planted a mesculun assortment, beets, and yet more carrots.  Eventually, I will figure out how to grow them properly.

The neighborhood skunk rooted through the pond a few days later.  All the dirt was tossed into random piles, meaning my neat rows are useless.  Adding to that, all sorts of things started sprouting way too early to be what I planted.  I pulled many of the weeds, but a few may be the lettuce assortment.  I'll wait for a few more leaves before pulling those.  The problem is the only thing I will recognize when it first comes up is the carrots.  Wish me luck.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Crepes Foster

I had a couple of galettes left over from the Greques and a banana a couple of days past its prime.  Thus comes the inspiration for the fastest fancy dessert I ever made.

If you're making the crepes as well, this is not fast.  But there are pre-packaged ones in the market, usually near the little spongecake cups or the berries.  If you do want to make them on your own, I have a basic sweet crepe recipe here.

8 crepes
2 slightly over-ripe bananas
2 Tb butter
2 Tb brown sugar
1 Tb light rum
vanilla ice cream to garnish (I didn't have any)

1.  Slice bananas thinly.  Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add brown sugar and let it melt into the butter.  Add banana slices and continue to cook until they are glazed and the butter makes a sauce, 3 or 4 minutes.  Add rum and either let the alcohol boil off or just stir it into the sauce.

2.  Divide the bananas among the 8 crepes and fold them into quarters.  Use two per serving with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.  Or you could do a single one in a small dish with a scoop to make it serve 8 if you had a big meal.

Difficulty rating  π (store-bought crepes)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Galettes a la Greque

So the thing about writing posts is remembering to finish and publish them.  I was going through the photos in the camera and went oops.

Once again, I'm spending a lot of grocery money to use one ingredient I've grown.  I did use the rest of the package of spinach I'd bought for the pizzas, the lettuce I had gotten last week for salad, and all of the crepe ingredients were pantry.  So I bought a lamb chop, a container of yogurt, a cucumber, and hit the olive bar to pick out only pitted kalamatas and marinated feta cubes.

So far, I have roasted or fried all of my eggplants.  It was nearly 100º on Sunday last week (look at the date of this post) and I couldn't bear to turn on the oven.  So I decided to find out how they tasted stewed, then pan-fried the lamb chop after.  I think I prefer roasted, but they weren't bad.

Oh, and for the lamb chop, I decided to get cute.  You know on cooking shows how they rain down spices from about a foot above the pan, pinching them from a cute little portion cup?  I did that.  Aside from making me feel stupid, I don't think it made any difference.   The meat was seasoned just the same  as if I had rubbed it on.

Once again, this produced way too many dishes.  I made the time to do a round before things got out of hand, and only had the soaking lamb skillet to finish in the morning.

1 batch galettes
1 C tzatziki sauce
8 large leaves red or green leaf lettuce
1 medium eggplant
4 oz spinach leaves
4 oz pitted kalamata olives
4 oz cubed or crumbled feta
1/2 lb lamb chop
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp black pepper
olive oil

1.  Prepare galettes and sauce and set aside until ready to use.

2.  Dice eggplant into 1" cubes.  Drizzle about 1 Tb olive oil into a medium skillet and heat on medium.  Add eggplant and cook, covered, until eggplant is completely softened, at least half an hour.  Stir periodically.  Drop in spinach leaves and allow to wilt, 3 to 5 minutes.  Remove veggies to a holding container.

3.  Add a little more oil to the pan and turn up the heat to medium-high.  Combine the four spices and rub all over the lamb chop.  Pan-fry until medium done, about 4 minutes per side.  Remove meat from pan and chop into bite-sized pieces, getting as much meat off the bone as possible if you bought a bone-in.
4.  Start layering the ingredients in the crepes.  First the lettuce, then the cooked veggies, then the meat, olives, and feta.  Close the crepes and drizzle generously with tzatziki sauce.  Serve two galettes per person.

Difficulty rating :)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Crazy-Pizza Night

Lately, it has been all about what I can make with eggplant.  At one point, there were 10 eggplants on the bush of various sizes.  This is why I rarely plant the same thing twice.  By the time the plant runs its course, I am thoroughly over whatever it was for the next several months.
So I decided to make pizzas that incorporated roasted eggplant.  I was originally going to do a Greek theme with ground lamb, like a moussaka pizza, but wasn't impressed by the quality or price of the ground lamb at the market.  So I went with Italian sausage and your basic red sauce/mozzarella kind of pizza with a bit of spinach to round things out.  The dough is the same one I used for the prosciutto & brie pizza.

I usually clean as I go, especially when rise time for dough is involved.  This time, I just got busy and didn't have time to do dishes until the pizzas were in the oven.  That's when I found out just how many pots, pans, bowls, etc I had been using.  And it doesn't count the two baking sheets in the oven.
Yeah, that took a while.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Hearty Pumpkin Soup

It's going to be cool-ish for a couple of days, so I'm making soup.  Hot Santa Ana winds won't be here until the weekend and I'm pretending it's Fall.

There are two ways to make this, the way I did it and the easy way.  I made my own stock and soaked and pre-cooked the beans.  The chicken was from a leftover carcass in the freezer.  Something close to 24 hours for a pot of soup.  On the other hand, you could buy broth, canned beans, and canned chicken and be done with this in about half an hour, so I'm going to post that.  The biggest difference with my version is the salt content.  I've been eating way too much salt.  I did an experiment recently where I only ate food I had prepared and drank plenty of water for a day.  Woke up the next day a pound lighter, and that's including snacks and ice cream.  All salt.

1 qt low-salt chicken broth
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped bite-sized
4 stalks celery, chopped bite-sized
1/2 onion, diced
1 (15 oz) can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 small can chunk chicken
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin purée
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp dried sage
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp nutmeg

1.  Bring broth and bay leaf to a simmer in a large pot.  Add carrots, celery, and onion and simmer until carrots are tender, about 10 minutes.

2.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Bring back up to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.  Discard bay leaf and serve hot.

Serves 4 to 6

Difficulty rating  π

Saturday, October 3, 2015

No-Plan French Toast

When you look up French Toast recipes online, what you're going to find requires a trip to the grocery store and several days of preparation.  What if you just wake up and decide you want it for breakfast?  That requires all the skill and ingenuity of the average home cook.  It's called dropping bread into an omelet mix.

Any bread will do, even the cheap stuff from the market.  I happen to have some raisin challah in the freezer.  That's as fancy as this gets.

I'm giving the single-serving, one-egg recipe.  (Or 2 small children.)  That makes it easiest to scale up.

1 egg
1/4 C milk
2 slices bread
1 Tb margarine (so you don't have to salt the egg)

1.  Beat the egg in a shallow pan.  I use a pie tin.  Add the milk and beat to combine.  If you want to get creative, you can add spices directly to the egg like cinnamon or nutmeg.
2.  Set bread slices in egg mix.  Go make coffee, or sausage, or something.  In five minutes, flip the bread to let the other side soak up the mix.  Preheat a skillet over medium-low and melt the margarine, even if you're using a non-stick.  It will be creating the browned look on the bread.

3.  Place the bread slices in the skillet and allow them to cook undisturbed for about 5 minutes.  You're cooking this over a lower heat so the outside doesn't burn before the egg on the inside is done.  It's also how I make grilled cheese, so the bread is browned around the time the cheese melts.  I used to throw out any egg that didn't absorb, but they're expensive nowadays, so I just pour it on top of the bread in the skillet.

4.  Turn the bread and cook until browned, about 3 minutes.  Serve hot with powdered sugar and/or syrup.

Serves 1

Difficulty rating  π

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Molasses Baked Beans

While I'm technically not on my endurance test anymore, I'm still using pantry items first.  The idea of leaving the oven on all afternoon was pretty hideous, but I cooked this at a low temperature.  I have a very well-insulated oven, so it didn't really heat up the kitchen.

For the most part, I followed a scaled-down recipe from food.com.  I skipped the pork because I was having this with short ribs done kalua style.  I was happy that there's no added salt.  For once, a recipe doesn't resort to it for flavor.  Yes, ketchup is salty.  That was enough.  I've been eating out too much and noticed my face getting a little puffy from all the salt.  Started having high-potassium foods and more water to compensate.

This is a soak-the-beans recipe because the ones out of the can are already cooked and will come up entirely too mushy.  Plan the day before.

1 C dry great northern beans
1 bay leaf
1/2" thick slice of onion, quartered
1/4 C ketchup
3 Tb brown sugar
3 Tb molasses
1 tsp mustard or 1/2 tsp dry mustard powder
1/4 tsp ground pepper

1.  The night before, soak beans in 3 cups water.  Early in the day, drain.

2.  Preheat oven to 300º.  Into an oven-safe 2 qt casserole, place all ingredients.  Cover with 1 C boiling water.  Stir until sauce is even, cover with a tight lid, and bake for 4 hours.  Check every hour to make sure the water didn't all evaporate.  If still too watery at the 3-hour mark, leave the lid cracked slightly.  You want a thick sauce, but not dry beans.

3.  Remove from oven, discard bay leaf, and serve hot or cold

Difficulty rating  :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Nothing Special

I went a little crazy at the market and spent about $50 restocking.   Basically, I bought anything I thought I might use in the near future that was a decent price.  Only the chicken thighs and broccoli were part of a planned meal.

The reason I'm posting something as basic as this is to show that a "special" meal (in this case, my Shabbat Shuvah dinner) is all about the attitude and presentation.  You can make something fancy, or you can present the ordinary with an air of elegance.  Half of what makes restaurant food so appealing is how it is plated.  (The other half is salt.)

I haven't been cooking much because it has been so hot.  Boiling the veggies and throwing chicken in the oven felt taxing.  I'm mostly doing dips and cheeses.  Or picking up stuff. The last thing I baked was a batch of Oatmeal Everything cookies.  Since it makes over four dozen, I just threw the rest in the freezer for teas over the next few weeks.  Don't be surprised if I don't post for a week.  Unless my cooking mojo comes back, I'm not making anything until next Tuesday, meaning the post would be the day after.  I really hope it's cool enough by then to slow-roast some pork ribs I picked up.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Garden Meatloaf

I'm going grocery shopping this morning!  I had hoped to sneak in a small batch of chicken soup with a carcass I found at the bottom of the chest freezer, but there isn't enough to round it out.  It would have been just chicken and lentils or navy beans.  I used up the last bit of onion on this.  Still, 18 days is pretty impressive for someone who shops every three to four days (the shelf life of bananas) and primarily uses fresh produce.  I'm going to clean the fridge first.  It hasn't been this empty in a year.

I pulled the first ear of corn and the largest-seeming carrots for this.  Eggy was getting jealous until the carrots turned out to be extremely small.  So I threw in the two largest eggplants instead.  This turned out to be an excellent idea.  This has to be the most moist and delicate meatloaf I've ever made.  It does not taste like eggplant, except for a lingering hint of something different.

I used rice for the filler, but did not pre-cook it.  I soaked the Basmati for several hours and put it in raw, so the juices of the vegetables and meat could soak into it as everything baked.  The rice did cook, so that experiment is a success.

*1 small eggplant, cut up
1 carrot, chopped
*1/2 onion, chopped
*1 ear of corn
salt and pepper
1 egg
1/4 C dry rice
1 lb 80/20 ground beef
*1/4 C ketchup

1.  Early in the day, soak the rice in 1 C water.  Drain and toss in the food processor.

2.  Preheat oven to 325º.  To the rice, add eggplant, carrot, and onion.  Scrape the kernels off the ear of corn and add.  Run the processor until the veggies are a coarse paste.
3.  Add ground beef, egg, and ketchup.  Process again until uniform.  Spread in a loaf pan and bake until internal temperature reaches 160º, about one hour.  It's ok to drain off the juices after about 45 minutes.  There will still be enough in there to finish cooking the rice.  Let loaf sit for 10 minutes to rest and reach 165º.

4.  Slice and serve.  It may be very soft and break apart.  Given the alternative of a sturdy chunk of meat, I'm cool with that.

Difficulty rating  π

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Lemon Meringue Tarts

Rooting through the pantry doesn't have to mean weird, mish-mash food.  It just means you have to look at what's in there with an open mind.

I have no idea how old the box of graham crackers is, but the "sell by" date was Jan 2013.  It's pie crust now.  One lemon off the tree, an egg before I finish them off, and the rest is pantry staples.

I had debated whether to do these as simple lemon curd tarts, but then I'd have an egg white left over.  Instead, I did a 1/4 recipe of a full sized lemon meringue pie.  Fun with math.

4 graham crackers (8 squares)
2 Tb + 1 tsp butter
4 tsp cornstarch
2 Tb lemon juice
6 Tb water
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 egg, separated

1.  To make the crust, crush the graham crackers.  You can use the food processor, but I just put them in a ziplock and ran over them with the rolling pin.  Melt 2 Tb butter and pour into crumbs.  Stir with a fork until moistened.  Press into 4 patty pans or - if you're into insanely cute kitchenware like I am - individual tartlet pans.  These are so small that you do not need to pre-bake the crusts.

2.  In a small saucepan, stir together cornstarch, 8 tsp (2 Tb + 2 tsp) sugar, and a dash of salt.  Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, and water and allow everything to dissolve.  Cornstarch will clump when heated if it is not dissolved in a cool liquid first.

3.  Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  It only takes a couple of minutes because there is so little in the pot.  It will start to thicken and turn glossy.  Remove from heat.

4.  Beat egg yolk slightly.  Add a couple of spoonfuls of the lemon mixture to the egg to temper it, beat everything together, then return the gloppy mess to the pot.  Heat over low until thickened further, but do not boil or you'll curdle the egg.  Turn off heat and stir in 1 tsp of butter until melted and incorporated.  Divide filling between tart shells.
5.  Preheat oven to 375º.  Beat egg whites with a dash of salt to soft peaks.  Slowly add 1 Tb of sugar and beat meringue into a firm, glossy peak stage.  Top tarts with meringue and bake for 10 minutes, or until meringue is as dark as you want it.

6.  Cool tarts to room temperature before trying to remove from tins.  I left the removable bottoms on mine and served them without the rims.  You can chill the tarts to serve cold, but the meringue will start to get chewy after a day or so.  I don't recommend making these more than one day ahead.

Difficulty rating  :)

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Pantry Endurance Test

I'm redoing my guest bathroom and trying to find ways to save a few dollars here and there.  It isn't a huge, expensive redo, but replacing a toilet turns into redoing the cracked floor, and of course the old wallpaper doesn't come down far enough to meet the new baseline.  And while the medicine cabinet and light are off the wall anyway, might as well get new ones…  Not redoing the vanity or shower, which would have been much more expensive than the rest put together.

So I decided to see how long I could go without grocery shopping.  After all, I eat at least one meal a day at work anyway, so we're only talking about one or two meals a day plus snacks.  My last shopping trip was on August 29th.  There's still plenty in the pantry, a few things in the freezer, and I'm getting close to harvesting carrots and corn.  There was a surprise cucumber hiding behind a rock and all the cherry tomatoes ripened at the same time.  Plus, Eggy keeps producing, even if the eggplants are on the small side.  My guess is I'll run out of OJ, milk, and eggs around the same time.  I have dinners planned until the 16th if I can harvest a couple of carrots and ears of corn.  Maybe later if I have to run from work to choir rehearsals and pick up drive-thru, but I don't think the milk will last that long.  I can do without OJ, but I need milk in my coffee.  I'm out of cheese, too.  Had a dollop of cream cheese on my nachos (home-made tortillas).  It was different, as it subbed in for both the cheese and sour cream.
What I'm finding is that I still look longingly at the weekly grocery ads, thinking what I could make with what's on special.  But I do have loads of food on hand that I should prepare before stocking up again.  Most of our food waste as a nation is what we throw away because it spoiled before we could eat it.  It's an expense, and somewhat immoral when you consider those who do not have enough to eat.

But I really do miss grocery shopping.  I already started a list for when this ends.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Summer Picnic at Home

It was hot in late August, as it often is.  Combined with closing shifts and not having time to cook, I decided to do a picnic-style dinner.  Sprouts carries pre-made patés.  They also had cantaloupes on sale for 48¢ each.  A wedge of brie, a loaf of fresh bread, and some pre-cooked mini eggplants later, I had the fixings for a no-cook meal that only needed some red wine to make it elegant.

If this looks like a lot of food on the plate, it was.  It was a nice snack-style assortment of fruit, veggie, meat, and dairy.  This is the kind of meal you eat slowly, enjoying the contrasts in flavor and texture.

I hope everyone enjoyed their summer.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Hash Browns

When I go out for a fancy breakfast, the main dish may be what I order, but I'm really there for the hash browns.  Crispy, slightly greasy, over-salted hash browns.  I'm not even all that into potatoes, and tolerate fries as a tradition with certain foods.  That's one of the reasons Passover is so hard on me starch-wise.

Making them at home is another matter.  The frozen ones taste great and cook up somewhat quickly, but they are much more expensive than they should be for something so simple.  You're paying someone else to clean the food processor.

This is basically Alton Brown's Man Hash Browns, with my own variations and substitutions.

Warning, these take a while.  That's another thing about getting them at a restaurant: minimal wait.

1 large Russet potato, about 1 lb
2 Tb rendered bacon fat or butter
salt, pepper, and paprika to taste

1.  Scrub the potato clean and cut off any eyes, but leave the skin on.  Either shred in a box grater or run through the food processor's shredding attachment.  Rinse, then dry on a kitchen towel.  Keep the towel closed while you heat up the pan.

2.  Preheat a 10" skillet over medium heat.  Melt bacon fat or butter and swirl around to coat the pan evenly.  Spread dried potato shreds evenly in pan.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and paprika.  Cook until browned and crispy, about 15 minutes.

3.  If you're talented and have two wide spatulas, you can flip the whole thing to brown the other side.  My attempt was less than successful, but I finally got all of the sections turned over.  You don't need to season the second side because it has most of the bacon grease on it.  Cook until browned and crispy, another 10 to 15 minutes.  Serve hot.

Difficulty rating  :)

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Grill Pan

I wanted to get a grill pan at the beginning of summer, but they seemed too expensive for such a specialized item that would only get used a couple of times a year.  Then there was one in the half-off, end-of-season section at Target and I decided to go for it.  It's supposed to be for cooking pizza on the grill, but can be used for anything.  Besides, bbq-ing pizza?

Brussels sprouts are not an obvious choice to serve alongside burgers, but I really wanted to try out the pan.  And grilling or roasting the sprouts until they are slightly charred is my favorite way of having them.  I only wished I had remembered I was out of parmesan when I was at the market.  Besides, whenever I light up the grill, I want to make the most of the charcoal.  I also made the grilled polenta for dessert.

One little caveat, keep some oven or grill mitts handy.  The handles get hot.  Yes, I was stupid.
And this has nothing to do with my most recent grilling session, but I took this photo of the corn while the charcoal was getting up to temp.  I have about four ears for sure.   I'm fine with them being small, since I usually cut my ears from the store in half.  I'm just hoping they grow healthy.
This isn't my house.  It's a few blocks away, and I thought it was totally amazing.  They trained their squash vines up on the roof!  I'm not sure exactly what they all are.  I think some are zucchini and there may be butternut squash.  Really hoping there's enough pumpkin in there to make the most awesome Halloween decoration ever.  You can see on the left that they trained the vines up a trellis until they were long enough to toss on the roof.  It's actually a very good idea.  The leaves won't get sprayed with water and form mold, and there are probably fewer pests up there.  It provides shade insulation for the house against the summer heat.  Getting the fruit down is another matter.  I have a rock roof, so this won't work for me, but a handy person who has limited garden space and no fear of heights could do this easily.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Fruity Coffee Cake

Thanks to everyone else's availability, I've been closing at work lately and having split days off.  It's a horrible schedule for a morning person, and even worse for preparing interesting dinners.  However, I'm not falling asleep during choir rehearsals and I get to have elaborate breakfasts.

Instead of making my apple coffee cake, I decided to blow the last of the canned nectarines on this one.  It wasn't going to be enough to flavor an entire cake, so I added a small container of fresh blueberries for the top half.  I think this makes the cake healthy…ish.  There's fruit in it.  Other than that, it's the same recipe, minus a little sugar because canned fruit is sweeter.  Since that post was five years ago (!), this isn't so much a rerun as a reminder.

1/4 C flour
1/4 C quick oats
dash nutmeg
2 Tb sugar
3 Tb butter

1.  Stir together flour, oats, nutmeg, and sugar.  Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly.  Refrigerate until needed.

1 C flour
1/3 C sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ginger
1/4 C melted butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 C milk
1 15 oz can sliced peaches (since you can't buy canned nectarines) drained
1 5 oz container blueberries

1.  Preheat oven to 350º and butter an 8" square or 9" round cake pan.

2.  In a bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.

3.  In a separate bowl, combine butter, egg, and milk.  Stir into dry ingredients until just combined.  Do not over mix, and it's ok if there are dry patches.  Add peaches and stir to distribute.

4.  Pour out batter into baking pan and spread even.  Rinse blueberries, remove any lingering stems, and distribute evenly over top of cake.  Sprinkle top of that with the crumb topping.

5.  Bake for 50 minutes.  Turn off oven and let the pan sit in there another 10 minutes in the residual heat.  Remove from oven and cool completely before trying to turn out, or serve from pan a lot sooner.

Serves 6 to 8

Difficulty rating  π

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Cucumber Gazpacho

I was massively skeptical when most of the "cucumber gazpacho" recipes I found included yogurt.  In gazpacho?

Guess what… it works.  The soup isn't overly creamy and has a distinctive bite, even though I skipped the hot sauce myself.

I'm not calling this "white gazpacho" because it came out green.  Also because I didn't cut the cucumber with honeydew or green grapes.  There were a lot of cucumbers to use.  The herbs add to the flavor enough to give it depth and not taste just like cucumber.

And it only takes minutes to make!

*1 lb cucumber
*1/2 C fresh parsley leaves
*1/4 C fresh mint leaves
1 C water or vegetable broth
*2 stalks green onion
*2 Tb white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
*2 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp salt
dash pepper
tobasco or other hot sauce to taste
2 Tb plain yogurt (Greek ok)

1.  Peel cucumber and chop into bite-sized pieces.  Also chop the green onion.

2.  Put everything except the last four ingredients into the blender.  Pulse until large pieces are broken up, then run until smooth.  Add yogurt and run again to mix.

3.  Taste, then add salt, pepper, and hot sauce as needed.  Remember that flavors will dull as the soup is chilled.

4.  Keep soup cold until ready to serve.  Chilling the bowls is a good idea.  Garnish with more yogurt, parsley or mint leaves, or cucumber slices.

Makes 4 small appetizer servings

Difficulty rating  π

Saturday, August 22, 2015


Even though the corn stalks are only knee-high, they started flowering right on cue.  I'm really hoping this doesn't turn into another disaster.  I'm giving them plenty of water and nutrients and taking pest control seriously.  Even if the ears are small, I'd really like a successful corn crop.  The cucumber isn't complaining.

The eggplant crop isn't a problem.  Finding people who want it is.  I'm probably going to end up cooking a lot of them and freezing the mash to use later in baba gannouj and casseroles.  I used three with a package of ground veal on clearance and the last of the Bradley marinara to make the stacked parmigiana.  There was also a batch of eggplant and lentil dip, which made a light side for some poached salmon.  The bush itself is healthy and very pretty.  I would like it even if it was only a decoration.  The same spider/ticks that killed Kale found it, which makes sense because it's in the same place.  I'm taking care of those the second I see one.

The carrots keep getting nibbled on by tomato worms.  As if keeping them off the tomatoes weren't hard enough!  I'm going to guess they're ready when the corn is.  I'm used to seeing my produce above ground.  Nothing from the sweet pepper seeds I planted last week where some carrots never sprouted.  Considering I may not be able to eat them, it's not such a loss.  Once that planter's experiments are over, I'll let the boysenberry run wild.  It's mad at me for training it in a cramped space.  All I can think of is how many berries I might get next year!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Fruit Galette

I'm not all that good at making pie crusts, but this dessert uses a "pastry" crust, which is somewhat more forgiving.  It's also supposed to look "rustic", which is code for being allowed to be imperfect.

One thing I noticed in every photo I researched online was that the fruit did not look very good once it was baked.  It was dry and shriveled because you can't add as much liquid with a stand-alone crust as you can in a pie tin.  I decided to solve that problem by making this for canned fruit, which is already cooked and infused with simple syrup.  Specifically, I'm using two of my three jars of canned nectarines.  This is the kind of thing I made them for.  For those picking up ingredients at the store, peaches or pears would be the obvious choice.  Pie filling would be a second-best option.

I have never understood refrigerating pie dough to make it "easier to handle".  I chilled it overnight and had to let it sit on the counter for an hour before it was warm enough to roll out without cracking.  I'm putting in here to chill it a mere half hour, which is enough time for the dough to hydrate evenly and for the butter to firm up.

This recipe is based on one from The New York Times.  Since I'm always into pastry cuteness, I made four breakfast-sized galettes instead of one large one which would serve six to eight.

1-1/3 C flour
1 Tb sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C butter (not margarine-one stick) cut into chunks
1 tsp lemon juice (optional)
1 egg
heavy cream

1.  Place flour, sugar, and salt in the food processor.  Add butter and pulse until evenly distributed into crumbs.  This can be done by hand with forks or a pastry cutter, but it's easier in the processor.

2.  Beat egg.  Add enough cream to make 1/3 C and beat together.  Add lemon juice to flour mixture and one tablespoon of egg cream.  Pulse and continue to add mixture 1 Tb at a time until pastry sticks together, up to 1/4 C.  Reserve remaining mix for egg wash.

3.  Form dough into a disc and wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap.  Chill for at least 1/2 hour.

4.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.  Either roll out one large, round crust that is 1/4" thick or divide for four or six mini pastries and make smaller circles about 1/8" thick.  Use the rolling pin to transfer the crust to the baking sheet and refrigerate it while you prepare the filling.

Filling & Baking
1 29oz can peaches or another stone fruit (about 3 C)
1 Tb sugar
2 Tb cornstarch
1/4 tsp ginger, cinnamon, or another accent spice
1 tsp lemon juice (optional)
egg wash from above
extra sugar for sprinkling

1.  Preheat oven to 400º (375º for minis).  Drain fruit and immediately transfer to a bowl so it still has a little juice in it.  Add sugar, lemon juice, and spices and stir together.  Stir in cornstarch and allow to sit a few minutes, until the starch dissolves.

2.  Spoon filling into center of crust.  Don't pour, or the filling will be too wet.  You will end up with a little juice still in the bowl.

3.  To form the galette shape, pull up a thumb-sized part of the circle.  Pinch it into an inward-leaning pleat and move on.  You will end up with something that looks like an inside-out pleated skirt, with most of the filling visible.  Brush egg wash on crust and sprinkle with sugar.  Use a large-grained or sanding sugar if you have it.
4.  Bake for about 35 minutes, until crust is golden and filling is bubbly.  The boiling filling is cooking the cornstarch and thickening.  Mostly, you want to make sure the crust is done but not burnt.  Cool for five minutes on the baking sheet before trying to transfer the galette to a cooling rack.  Cool another 20 minutes before serving, or the filling will run everywhere.

Serves 4 to 8, depending on slice size and if you make minis

Difficulty rating  :-0

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Coconut Chicken

I bought a can of coconut milk a while ago to make this.  Then I used it to make some carrot coconut soup, and totally forgot about that.  By the time I figured out why my can of coconut milk had disappeared, I already had my heart set on making this.

You probably don't even need the coconut milk to make this work.  You can dredge the chicken in beaten egg or cream.  What you need is something with fat content to seal in the juices.  It's just hard to keep skinless chicken tenders moist.

I'm putting panko breadcrumbs in the recipe, but I actually used some stale buckwheat bread heels for the crumbs.  Any stale bread will do.  If you use unsweetened coconut, you could even use stale poundcake and skip adding sugar.

1-1/2 lbs skinless chicken breast tenders
1/4 C coconut milk
1/2 C panko bread crumbs
*1/2 C unsweetened coconut flakes
1 tsp sugar (or omit for sweetened flakes)
dash salt

1.  Place chicken tenders and coconut milk in a sealable bag and marinate for at least 1 hour in the fridge.

2.  Combine breadcrumbs, coconut flakes, sugar, and salt.  I used the food processor because I was breaking up bread.  With pre-made breadcrumbs, you can stir everything together in a pie pan.

3.  Preheat oven to 400º.  Use pan spray on a foil-lined baking sheet. Let the coconut milk drip off the chicken for a moment, then dredge in crumbs, coating all sides.  Arrange tenders in a single layer on pan.

4.  Bake for 8 minutes.  Turn pieces over and cook an additional 6 minutes, until the coconut flakes get toasty.  Don't flip them a second time, or you're going to start losing crumb.  Serve hot.

Difficulty rating  π