Guillermo baked Gingerbread


Guillermo (my sweet William) has a very sweet tooth.  Not for candy, or gum.. but milk chocolate, cakes, cookies, squares.. if they’re anywhere NEAR the house.. he’ll sniff them out.  I’ve taken to trying to find the most obscure hiding places.. but when his sweet tooth calls.. he finds whatever I’ve hidden.  Even the darkest chocolate that he normally would never touch and I can keep in the house for months so it’s there when i need a small bite.. he’ll find that and finish it off.  and HE’s the thin one.  So unfair.  LOL.  Good thing he’s very handsome!

When he was a wee lad, he said to his mother one day… “I want chocolate cake!” and she promptly replied, “well then, you better learn to bake one!”  and so he did.  He has a chocolate cake recipe that is quite incredible – he baked 2 of them for my birthday earlier this year.  img_5043

I was supposed to blog that recipe and him baking last year, and realize now that I never did.. .I will definitely do so next time he makes it.  He also makes the most amazing silky smooth cheesecake.. mmmmm… cheesecake.  Honey, if you’re reading this.. when Covid is over and we can have company again for dinner.. you’re on dessert duty!

THIS week though, it wasn’t the chocolate cake or cheesecake that he was craving.. it was Gingerbread.   Now, being a good Dutch girl.. when I hear gingerbread.. my mind doesn’t go to cake.. it goes to Speculaas.. Gingerbread cookies.  I learned that gingerBREAD is an actual thing when I married my Sweet tooth William.

I was busy doing something elsewhere in the house, when I  started hearing pans clanking in the kitchen, measuring spoons clunking around, and tell tale signs (murmuring, singing, humming, mumbling) that he was about to go to work.   This VERY old recipe of his that came from some newspaper likely 40+ years ago is glued into his own Hillroy lined paper recipe book. (think school workbook)  Unfortunately the COLOR photograph is not included in his recipe book)


This bread/cake has an overwhelming molasses taste… it’s NOT my cup of tea, but he loves it.  And it’s pretty simple.  He doesn’t include the poached apples – which actually may temper the molasses a bit, but you can BET he includes the whip cream!



We don’t actually have a 9×9 pan that this recipe required.. we may have had one before the “great upheaval” renovation/move-out/purge in 2018.. but we no longer do.. so he used two loaf pans instead.


Looks like chocolate cake, doesn’t it?  That rich darkness is all from the Black strap molasses.

And below his first serving… yes, I can hear you laughing… I finally understand.  He only needed a vehicle for his whipped cream.  HAHAHA


In other news, and for the sake of rememberence… we’ve had SNOW this week.. in almost mid May.. other years we’ve had to turn the AC on in late April.  May 12th and we’re still running the heat every day.

We’re not happy.

We want to porch visit our parents.  Go for long walks.. garden, be outside!! But the weather is not cooperating.  We’re still hovering in single digits (Celcius) most days, and have another frost warning for tonite.

I planted some kitchen scraps that I was growing on the window sill a couple of weeks ago when I had hope for them.. but they’ve wilted.. likely frozen.


Never fear.. i have more Romaine lettuce growing on the windowsill, and will plant them when we are sure that Jack Frost has left the area.


I had a rutabega on the counter also growing sprouts.. so i’ve decided to see what that will do.. not sure if the wax will be an issue.. but it’s growing, so I’m gonna try it!


In keeping with our hopeful theme of “Bill and Amy’s garden” for the next few weeks… here’s a pic of our poor magnolia that isn’t having any luck this year with all the frosty nights.


BUT… we are Very pleased to have our friend Mr. Redbreasted Grosbeak return.. plus quite a nice little flock of Baltimore Orioles that I’ll share with you on your next visit to


Bill & Amy’s Garden


For the next couple of weeks the Blog focus is shifting from our kitchen to our garden(s) as we hope to spend more time outside than in.    While April here in Southern Ontario began with lovely warm days, the last 3 weeks for the most part have been unseasonably cool, with the odd warm day thrown in.  Today started at 6C, but  i’m sitting outside, wrapped up in fleece and determined to enjoy these Spring days at home during Covid-19.

I started this blog a few years ago introducing ourselves with a post showing pics of our crazy overgrown vegetable garden.   First post is HERE.    A lot has changed, especially since June 2018, almost 2 years ago, when we tore it all apart.  If you’re interested in that insane story.. it starts HERE.   One thing remains.. i still grow a LOT of garlic.. mostly for the scapes, that I’m very much looking forward to grilling in a couple of months.

This morning, Guillermo and I had to run a couple of errands, and stopped at a couple of roadside flower stands.  I picked up some hyacinths, mini daffodils, and bright orange star of Bethlehem  (these have been on my garden wish list for YEARS)


After planting the new bulbs, i took a tour of our gardens, and will now take you along with me.


We have a lovely Kwanzan Cherry that is about to bloom.  This past Sunday the  thermometer held in the mid-high Twenties (close to 80F) and a lot happened in our garden.  Since then it’s dropped down to single digits up to low teens.  (mid 40s-low 50s F) Everything is late this year.. and growing slowly.  I finally have tulips starting to open on the East & West sides of the house, but the North is just starting to sprout stems between the leaves.


One of my favourite Spring blooming plants (and for some reason one of Guillermo’s least fav) is this bleeding heart I transplanted years ago from the hedge line between our driveway and our neighbours.


Our previous neighbour Helen (who we lost several years ago) had something planted EVERYWHERE – her back yard was a jungle of vegetables, fruit trees, perennials, fruit bushes, weeds….  and I very gladly inherited quite a bit from her.  I love meandering around the yard and remembering the original owners who gifted me their plants.


Most of the variagated hostas & Solomon’s seal that are vibrantly sprouting up  are from my sister Judi’s garden – transplanted when she moved from Ontario to Vancouver over 10 yrs ago.  Garlic bulbs in our new raised garden came mostly from Helen’s garden over a dozen years ago, the kale and onions are left from last year’s late summer planting, and doing well.

Two different mint varietals were gifted last year from our landscapers.  Now mint… that’s interesting..


Mint is VERY invasive.  I’m surprised we received that from a landscaper..   I actually left the two plants we have in their pots, planting ‘pot and all’ into the dirt “hoping” that would contain them, but the shoots had a bit of a party in the fall, winter and early spring.  I cleaned them up yesterday, and washed all that I harvested and immediately made a pot of fresh mint tea.

It reminds me of our time in Holland 4 years ago when we often would order mint tea, it came with several mottled sprigs in a tall glass mug of boiled water and a pat of honey.  No tea bags there!  I had my first cup with cranberry honey, then found I didn’t need it.. the mint was fresh and more than sweet enough on it’s own.



We retained about half of our peony hedge with the new deck/patio installation last year, and they are well on their way for a June bloom.


The faithful rhubarb seems to have greatly multiplied, even though we gave away more than half of it.  I can see some rhubarb crumbles coming along soon… mmmm


This month Bill is boxing them in and giving them their own new space, while moving these dark purple peonies (rescued from Helen’s Vegetable garden – don’t ask) and tulips back to their rightful spot behind the cottage in a new rebuilt garden.   This pile was only meant to be a temporary transplant while we renovated.

The sweet cherry tree is beginning to blossom, and beckoning it’s faithful pollinators.  Without the orchard behind us, the bees are rare, but we hope to see them return soon.


Sadly, our magnolia is suffering… there are a few factors.. the cold Spring, a few hot days mixed in with sudden frost causing damage.. and SQUIRRELS!!  The little beasts have not only figured out how to forage at our “squirrel proof” bird feeder, they’ve been eating the blossoms right off the magnolia.   ARRGGHHH… where’s my super soaker?



While wandering, I went out into the field behind our house.  When we excavated for our new addition 18 months ago, a large pile of dirt from the front of our house went back into the field for us to re plant with.  Our neighbours have been whittling at the pile during the last year (with our permission) and I’m curious how many of my plants they inherited!🌷 Today I found several tulips, poppies, and narcissus on the remaining dirt pile.  I laughed when i found them and immediately went back home to get my tools to dig them up and transplant back home where they belonged.


That leaves our container garden.. which will soon have lettuces, heirloom tomatoes and fresh herbs for daily picking throughout late summer & autumn.


2 hydrangeas that were meant to be planted last year, stayed out on the new stone patio in their original planter all winter, and survived.  THIS Spring they will finally be planted and the waiting game will begin as we find out what our new soil in the North facing front garden produces.. Blue or Pink?  Pink or Blue..   Almost feels like a gender reveal party in the making. 😎 👫😀

Hope you enjoyed the tour.. we look forward to what the next few weeks reveals, other than tired muscles. 😉

Cooking on a dime

The reality of this pandemic is sinking in. While we’re thankful for the government aid, it’s limited and considerably less than what we’re accustomed to and budgeted on. So we’re making cuts and doing what we can to save money. Neither of us knows what our future employment will look like – and bills keep rolling in- so it’s definitely time to pull up our socks.

The other day I was grocery shopping for my mom and shocked to see a price of $2.82 (Can) on 4 chicken leg quarters. I’ve already stopped buying more expensive meats/fish like salmon/tenderloins- and looking for less expensive cuts, and planning to cut down on meat in our cooking. We’re not going out at all, and haven’t done any takeout (yet). As much as we’d love to support our local restaurants, we need to be good stewards too.

I’ll admit- I only typically buy boneless skinless chicken breasts or sometimes thighs… again boneless and skinless. But I couldn’t resist this price- and knew with the inter web – I’d be able to find a recipe and make it work. I’ve never purchased or prepared chicken quarters (never mind a whole chicken!) before. At 2.82 that’s 70.5cents a person! Add in the veg, spice, and potato, I think we were at $1.50 per person for the meal.

The recipe I found required me to touch the raw meat. If you’ve been following me- you know this is a real struggle, but my sense of money saving won over the squeemishness.

First I made a wet rub of the following:

1 tablespoon (pink Himalayan) seasalt

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tsp Clubhouse Vegetable seasoning

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tbsp chili powder

½ teaspoons fresh cracked black pepper

I cut off a LOT of the excess fat underneath the quarters and slit open the skin. My kitchen scissors were bleached and sanitized before and after while I shuddered… LOL

Then I called Guillermo over to be my photographer, because my hands were going ALL IN and up into that chickens skin. Peeling back the skin, you rub that mixture right in, under and over the skin, and put the skin layer back on top. Make sure the quarters have room between to cook evenly – place in preheated oven at 400F for 40 min.

Once I had the chicken in the oven, sanitized the counters, tools and my hands.. I cut up 2 small potatoes and poured boiling water over them to sit for 10 min before drying thoroughly, seasoning and adding to the oven. I learned this trick of soaking in water, then drying last week and successfully made excellent crispy oven fries this way.

Last 5 minutes on timer I stir fried mushrooms, snap peas and carrot sticks in a Tsp of Sundried tomato and oregano dressing.

One thing I learned from all my interweb surfing about chicken leg quarters – is that unlike chicken breasts which are very important to NOT overcook as they will dry out – the longer you cook leg quarters, the juicier and better they will be. I’ve had enough chicken quarters at restaurants when the meat seemed undone (bloody even) around the bone – that this encouraged me not to worry about taking out too early, check multiple times, and allow the meat to just cook thoroughly.

Success first time! The taste was fabulous, the meat was juicy and fork tender. And my Scottish Guillermo was thrilled with the price!

So now the question is… eat the skin or take it off??? Ooooooo.


Silly walks and Salads

Since Guillermo has been laid off and at home, my routine & schedule is thrown right off.  May explain why i’m not blogging as much anymore.  I was in a groove.  don’t get me wrong, I LOVE having him home, but he doesn’t thrive by routine like I do.  Mealtime is the biggest issue, and then I get Hangry and cranky if I wait for him.   Today’s a typical day now that we’re both home…. it’s 2 pm, and he’s hard at work outside and doesn’t want to break to eat lunch.  He’ll be in likely by 4pm just as I’m putting dinner in the oven, drink 4 glasses of water because he’s dehydrated, eat half a loaf of bread and an apple, and look at me funny when I  try to put a dinner plate in front of him an hour or two later, because..yes, it is dinner time.  At some point we’ll have to figure it out.. cause in the meantime I do want to still prep & cook healthy meals, and not waste food.

Today he is oiling/prepping wood we just had delivered that is going to be made into raised garden beds for our beans, squash, rhubarb and other vegetables.

The weather has NOT been doing at all what it’s supposed to this week.  Today was to be sunny and warm with partly cloudy, but it’s been cold, damp and cloudy all day.  So I retreated to the kitchen, and just started pulling food out of the fridge and pantry. not sure what I was making – i was craving salad.. but not green salad.  I just started cutting up veg, and putting it in a couple different bowls until a plan came together.


Bowl #1 became a Greek Quinoa salad.   The dishwasher was running with my one and only good mesh strainer, so I ended up pre-rinsing the quinoa 1/4 cup at a time in a tea strainer, laughing at myself while i was rinsing.    Yes, rinsing quinoa is very important to remove any bitter flavour.  I tried once cooking without rinsing, and wouldn’t try it again.  It’s not worth it.   I added 1/3 of a veg bouillon cube to the water, and simmered for 20 min (1 cup of dry quinoa rinsed, 1.5 cups water, & 1/3 bouillon cube cut up.

When it was done cooking, I dumped it on a plate to spread out and cool, and flipped about 20 min later on the plate to finish cooling.

Greek Quinoa salad

1 english cucumber chopped
10 grape tomatoes halved
1/4 cup chopped feta
1/2 yellow pepper
handful carrot sticks
~ dozen raisins for fun
2-3 chopped celery stalks
2 tbspbalsamic vinagrette
1 tbsp avocado oil
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
Club House Greek seasoning

Crab Pasta salad

1 bag of spiral pasta cooked, drained, rinsed & cooled
2-3 chopped celery stalks
1/2 yellow pepper
handful carrot sticks
2 pkgs of imitation crab meat chopped.

1/2 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup light mayo
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsps dried dill
S & P to taste

Lunch is ready!


See those cards behind my plate?   They have been keeping me busy as well the last week.   I was sending out a lot of “thinking of you” & encouragement cards in the last month, and decided to make my own greeting cards.   I made my own Christmas cards about 6 yrs ago, and thought I’d try again.  These 4 are chosen from several photos I’ve taken over the years that I had been saving for either framing or making into card art one day.

a Magnolia encircled pond in Alfred B. Maclay State Park Garden in Tallahassee Fla.
Daisies from our garden
Bumblebee on Ecchinacea (also our garden)
Tulips from Niagara Parks


I also used photos inside 2 of the cards – one in faded colour, one in greyscale.

This verse from Romans 15:13 has been my go to prayer for those I’m writing cards to in the last month as we’ve been dealing with Isolation, fear, hopelessness, loneliness.

May the God of all HOPE fill you with all JOY and PEACE as you TRUST in Him, so that you may overflow with HOPE through the POWER of the Holy Spirit.   

I think i mentioned this before, but it’s been such a blessing in return to send out cards and notes in the snail mail.  We’ve received so many phone calls, emails, and return texts of encouragement – and been getting to know some people that we normally don’t have opportunity to touch base with.

You may remember from the last blog post, I was prepping the base for some shepherd’s pies.   I put the 3 together the next morning, baked that afternoon, and we delivered with fresh baked chocolate chip cookies and a bowl of fresh berries.   We wanted to convey love and care to these 3 dear elderly gentlemen, and the response was great from all 3.  One of them called us 3 nights in a row (it was enough for 3-4 meals each) as he finished his dinner to again say thanks.  It took so very little effort on my part – and the appreciation was the greatest gift in return.

You may have heard about the family from Yorkshire who put a “commence silly walking sign”  by the sidewalk in front of their house… here’s a LINK  I decided to give it a try… not the silly walk, but the idea.

A friend gave me a bucket of children’s sidewalk chalk so I tackled about 6 sidewalk slabs in front of our house earlier in the week with a word or phrase on each slab.   SMILE, DANCE (we’re all watching) BUNNY HOP, SKIP, JUMP, DO the TWIST.    Hoping to get some smiles and cheer.

So far I haven’t seen any silly walking.. but I did catch one neighbour doing a Bunny Hop. 🐰  thanks for playing along!

Tonite I’m talking crispy oven fried chicken quarters for the first time.. They were realllllly inexpensive, and as we’re trying to budget, I thought I’d give it a try.. that will be next time… hope it turns out!

Peas, Potato Fries, Puzzles, Pies and Power outages

I’m writing this on Sunday evening.. last day of the weekend.  Which reminds me of one of my favourite lines by Maggie Smith on Downton Abbey.. “Wh..what is a week-end?”

I know I’m not the only one that understands this feeling quite well now during this Pandemic.  Tomorrow I’m fulfilling a promise to myself, to bring a meal to a few of our elderly widowers.  I contacted them to let them know it was coming.. which also helps me to follow through.  After a great morning “online church service” I fried up 2 lbs of ground turkey that I had put in the fridge yesterday morning to thaw.


ASIDE:   I’m finding that raw meat is very expensive during Covid-19, and often hard to find! The packing plants and supply chains are suffering, so i buy it frozen, so much cheaper! 4 lbs for $10 for lean ground turkey, this price has continued to hold, plus it’s very convenient, especially for someone like me who plans meals in advance.  I usually have a couple packs of these 4 lb bags in my freezer ready to pull out for casseroles, meatballs, meatloaf, spag sauce, lasagnas.. wherever gr. beef is called for, I substitute lean ground turkey.

Whenever I buy carrots, celery, onion.. I will wash and cut up the entire bunch of celery, several carrots and at least one large onion, and cook together, prepping for future meals.  Saves a lot of work when cooking later, and saves left over raw veg going bad in my fridge unused. I had made a LOT of this end of Feb (cut, panfried til still slightly crunchy, drained, cooled, then frozen) almost 2 months ago, and pulled one out, thawed a bit, and added to the fried ground turkey, and mixed in a little Veg seasoning, and salt.  Tomorrow I will boil and mash the potatoes, and assemble a few small shepherd’s pies to bake & then deliver in time for supper.   I might even make one for us.  😏


One of our bulk purchases at the beginning of isolation was dried chick peas.  I filled a giant Costco sized pickle jar with the dried peas, and put the instructions on the side.  A couple days ago, I soaked and boiled 2 cups of the dried peas – and today baked half of them in the toaster oven for a crunchy savoury snack.   They need to be dried first before oiled in order to get the right amount of crunch.. you don’t want to steam them in the oven.   In the toaster oven on 375F convection, I added a bit of Avocado oil, smoked paprika, a pinch of salt, and Vegetable seasoning.   I stirred them every 10 min til they had the right colour.. about 30 min total.    If it seems odd to re-hydrate peas, then roast/dry them again.. believe me, I wondered the same.. but the dried peas in the jar just don’t do it for me.  😉 

These are my basics that are always at hand for a LOT of my recipes.. Greek Seasoning, Vegetable Seasoning, Smoked Paprika, S&P, and Avocado Oil (AO).   AO has a much higher smoking point that Olive Oil, and great for high temps in the fry pan or oven.


Our power went out for 2 hours this afternoon, likely due to the really high winds we’re getting here in Niagara Peninsula. (a yearly experience in late April)



The outage was only in our little town, we figured it wouldn’t be too long, so we opened up and started our 3rd 1000 pc puzzle, this one of Positano, Italy.  We sorted, edged (except for TWO pieces we haven’t located yet) and puzzled for over 4 hours and managed to get a good portion of the outside done.


A few days ago I was REALLLLLLY craving French Fries  I don’t buy the frozen ones or keep them in the house.. too tempting.  I’ve tried to make them from scratch before, but never had much luck.. so I did some googling.  I found several sources that all said the same thing.. if you want crispy fries.. you have to soak the sliced potatoes, and you have to dry them.

So that’s what I did.   I scrubbed/washed 4 medium sized potatoes, and cut them into approx 1/4″ thick fries, rinsed them a few times, and then put them in a bowl, and poured boiling water from the kettle over them, and let them sit for ~10 minutes.

During that time, I heat up the oven, with my very old and well seasoned baking stone IN the oven to preheat to 450 degrees.


After 10 minutes soak in hot water, drain the bowl, and put unbaked fries on a towel to dry thoroughly.  Wipe and dry out the bowl, and put dried potatoes back in the bowl, add ~1-2 tbsp oil, and your favourite seasonings.   I found THIS great recipe  that really does a much better job laying out how to do this than I.   I used dill, smoked paprika, S & P, and garlic powder.  I then pulled the stone out of the oven, (careful, a stone is MUCH hotter than a cookie sheet!)  brushed some Av. Oil on the pan, and then spread out the seasoned fries, and returned to oven to bake for about 15-20 min.  After 15 min, I turned all the fries, and put back in for another 15 min.  I find that my gas oven tends to run a little colder than most recipes call for, and after 30 min total, they weren’t quite as crispy looking as I’d like, so I added another 7 minutes.. which ended up being perfect for me.

A bit of work, but so worth it to still the raving hormonal beast craving inside.  So crispy on the outside, and still soft potato fluffy on the inside.. just perfect.  Needless to say.. there weren’t any leftovers… but if you did make these, and somehow managed to have leftovers… (I would think you were supernatural or super disciplined, or just plain nuts)..   Erin from Well Plated does address the best way to re-heat left over fries so they’re crispy again.

mmmm’mmm…  In blogging about these fries, I can see another ‘hankering’ coming on… we’re doing groceries tomorrow, I’ve meal planned for the next couple of weeks & made my list.. I should double check if I put potatoes on the list… 😏 😉 😀



Bruschetta Chicken, Crustless Quiche and Take-them-a-meal

Good Saturday Evening, Blogosphere..  I’m sorry I’ve slowed down in my blogging, I’ve actually been quite busy.. and not taking the time to write – which is why we’ve been getting 2-3 recipes per blog post recently.

Our church family welcomed a new baby girl this week, so I’ve been arranging meals for the family, taking a couple to them, as well as another family who’ve been struggling with illnesses (not Covid) and just needed some encouragement.

A few years ago, I discovered the website – it’s FREE and such a great way to organize meal delivery for individuals or families who are either welcoming a new baby, dealing with loss of a loved one, grief, illness… or whatever the reason may be.  Our church has been using it now for a few years, and I’ve been invited as well to join a friend’s schedule when our neighbour was dying from ALS, and we had a meal schedule for the family for a few months.  If you haven’t used it or heard of it.. please check it out:

Once you sign up to “take a meal” – the schedule will send you a personal reminder a day before with something to the effect of:  “Hey Amy, you are signed up to take a meal to the Smiths tomorrow, and  you’re bringing meatloaf, rice pilaf and a salad”   The ladies that started this website are genius.

I’m hoping to set up a small schedule of a couple meals a month (or more!) for 3 widowers in our church during Covid-19.  Two of these men are in their 90’s and were reliant on meal delivery services for a couple meals a week that are no longer coming.  I’m hoping to get a few more people on board to bless these men with some encouragement and a few good healthy square meals.

I brought “lunch” instead of dinner to my 2 young families this week, because it was easier for me at the time.. and I was inspired.  A quiche, salad & a loaf of fresh hot baked bread. Today’s quiche looked quite good.  I will try to lay out my “recipe” though quite honestly.. it changes every time, and there is no measuring at all.  More just a couple squirts, a drop or two, a few shakes… but I’m guessing the below is pretty close.


Amy’s Crustless Quiche
Preheat oven to 350

Whisk in one bowl:
9 eggs (whisk first)
~ 1 tbsp French’s yellow mustard
~ 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
~ 2 tbsp 10% cream
Clubhouse Greek seasoning
(set bowl aside)

Spray a 9″ round pie plate with baking spray.

scrub/wash & dry 2 potatoes (or one large)
poke potatoes all over with a fork, and microwave for 3 min, turn and micro another 2 min if needed – done when potatoes are soft to the touch on exterior.  Take out and slice to about 1/4″ thick, and line bottom of pie plate.

The quiche pictured above had cubed ham, then half a red pepper, about 6 asparagus spears, and 3 green onions (with white parts) all chopped and layered on top the ham, with about half a cup of Tex Mex cheese, then the egg mixture, grape tomatoes and Arugula on top.

…. but you CAN layer on top of the potatoes any combo of the following (or come up with your own fun combos!) :  cubed ham, cut up small broccoli, chopped red pepper, asparagus, baby spinach, cooked sausage, (i remove from skin and cook like burger, and drain fat).. (if using mushrooms, onions, or zucchini.. you’ll need to panfry these first, then drain so most of the liquid is gone, otherwise quiche will not set) sprinkle grated cheese on top of meat/veg.

Pour egg mixture over everything.  Decorate the top with arugula or baby spinach and halved grape tomatoes.

Bake for ~ 50-55 minutes.  Take out and let sit for at least 10 minutes to finish setting.

I made “Chicken Coup” salad with my fresh garden kale, baked a loaf of our Multigrain bread and delivered hot.

While I’m pretty confident now in my cooking at home for the 2 of us, I do get nervous cooking for guests and bringing meals to people.  Quiche, cheesy shepherd’s pie and “Salad Bar in a box” are my go to’s for taking a meal, but if I’m bringing to the same person more than once.. I need to up my game, and learn some more meals that aren’t all casseroles.  Same goes with meals at home for guests.. I want to be prepared as well for quick easy meals using ingredients in the house if we have surprise guests. So part of this time during Covid-19, I want to beef up my arsenal of “tried and true”, recipes I know will work for families with young kids, those with more refined tastes, those with health/food restrictions, or the healthy eaters.. in other words.. being a well rounded cook.


Tonite’s meal would fall under “families”, no allergy restrictions, made in 35 min including prep, and a possible crowd pleaser.  This recipe for “BRUSHETTA CHICKEN BAKE”came out of a Kraft What’s Cooking magazine years ago, with “Amy alterations”.   Stove Top Turkey Stuffing Mix was on sale last time I did a grocery run for .79 cents a box, so I picked up a couple with this recipe in mind.  It’s SUPER simple.

Combine 1 can of stewed tomatoes with box of stuffing mix & 2 cloves of minced garlic, set aside.  (note, only stewed tomatoes i had in the house were chili seasoned which I thought might be interesting)

Cube 4 (thawed) chicken breasts, and lay in a sprayed 9×13 baking dish

top chicken with dried (or fresh if you have it!) basil (I had NEITHER, so I substituted oregano)  and 1 cup of shredded Moz cheese (I use Kirkland Tex Mex), then top with the stuffing/tomato/garlic mix.

bake in 400F oven for 30 min.  When there was 10 min left, I put a small pan of fresh broccoli florets in the oven,  tossed with a bit of Avocado oil, parm cheese, fresh cracked pepper and greek seasoning.

I’m curious what it would have tasted like had I actually followed the recipe to a T, (using  Stove Top for chicken, plain stewed tomatoes, basil, only Mozz cheese..)  But this combo was really delicious.   Not your healthiest meal with breading & cheese.. but definitely super simple and yummy.



We finished our Springbok 1000 pc puzzle “Spring Wedding” so I put out a feeler on Facebook to see if there were any friends wanting to exchange puzzles.. i had quite a bit of responses, and see friends of mine from different areas of life who don’t know each other who are exchanging.. it’s quite fun!  Our next puzzle will be this gorgeous one of Positano, Italy that I picked up from a dear elementary school friend.  I can’t wait to get it started!


so.. what are you doing to pass the time during “self Isolation?” My hope is that we’re coming to a good balance of serving, working, blessing/helping others, getting things done on our “to do” lists, exercising, rest, fun, reading, visiting (safely) and a bit of Netflix bingeing of course.  😉

The NutCrocker & Agoraphobia

It’s a really weird combination… ones I would never think to put together.. but somehow, these simple ingredients work.  This took me less than 5 minutes to assemble and click GO.


1 cup medium salsa
1/3 cup light Peanut Butter (i used full regular crunchy.. more on that below)
2 tbsp frozen orange juice concentrate
1 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp honey (i used our smoked honey for this one)
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 tsp curry.. (woops, i put in more like a tbsp by accident… but can there REALLY be too much curry??)


whisk all that together in the crock pot (no dirty dishes other than your measuring tools!)
top with 12 boneless skinless chicken thighs, and then evenly coat the chicken on all sides.

put on LOW 5-6 hours, or HIGH 2-3.   I did LOW for 6 as my thighs were still partially frozen. (note: it was too long – I quit early, 4 hours on LOW was more than enough – may vary due to heat of each crock pot.. my LOW setting seems to still be quite high)

OPTION: Garnish chicken with chopped green onions and chopped peanuts.

We had Indian Style Basmati rice and stir fry veg as side dishes. This Basmati rice came from Bulk barn, and I LOVE it.  It’s quick and so flavourful.. lots of fun stuff in it.  I labelled the jar with the ingredients and instructions.


plated Nutcrocker chicken, stir fry mushrooms/peas/grape tomatoes & Indian Basmati rice


Guillermo was watching, listening, and smelling his bread baking all afternoon – this was his first time making it, the recipe has always been in my head – not written down, so I typed it out for him today, and taped it to the front of the breadmaker so he could continue to make it.  He goes through a loaf in 2 days – so it’s nice if he can make it now too.

My recipe makes a fairly dense loaf, mainly because we add more grain, seeds and use a less processed whole grain flour I pick up from bulk barn instead of whole wheat.  He loves it that way, if you’re into fluffy airy bread, this isn’t that.  It’s more than just 12 grain – i couldn’t tell you how many grains/seeds are in it.. i change up the seeds I add in partway through.  Sometimes hemp, flax, chia, sesame.. whatever jar my hand grabs that day.  Here’s my recipe if you have the same type breadmaker:



Liquid measuring cup (1 ¼ cupper)
1 tsp ¼ tsp
1 cup, ½ cup, ¼ cup
small scraper

Warm up the bread pan (not too hot!)

Place ingredients in pan in this order:

1 ¼ cup luke warm water/milk mixture
1 ¼ tsp salt
2 tbsp butter
2ish tbsp honey
1.5 cups white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
¾ cup 12 grain cereal (from Bulk Barn)
1 ¼ tsp yeast

press MENU button til GRAIN is lit up and hit START
bake time:  4 hrs 10 min

When machine beeps loudly about 1 hr in, you can add seeds – about 2-3 tbsps.

We finally (ok I did it) broke up the Vienna puzzle and started the next one. A lovely country church wedding scene.  Emptying the box and sorting is kinda cathartic for me.  I can’t quite describe it..  I don’t know if it’s the tactile nature of touching all the pieces when we are “hands off” everything right now, or if it’s organizing (I do love organizing) but this process of quietly sitting and taking this pile and sorting it by colours and parts of scenes did my heart good.  Calming.

Today is “errands” day.  We woke up early to head out to get mom’s groceries and make some deliveries.   I admit to being a bit anxious.  Perhaps I’m becoming agoraphobic.  I feel safe, protected, clean and well in my home.   I can breathe & relax here.    Every time I have to go out to a store I feel exposed and feel as though i need to go home and bathe in sanitizer.  However, I have to say, there is something about early morning shopping.  We were in the (very clean) store with an empty parking lot just after 8 am, no line up, in and out the store fairly quickly with our 2 lists completed.

It was a gift to be that protected, (thanks God!)   I think there were only 5 other shoppers in the whole store with us this morning, which is unheard of.   I don’t need to be anxious for ANYTHING.  God is Sovereign over all, and I am in His mighty hands.






Never ending weekend

Is this what it feels like to be retired.. no longer knowing what day it is?   I expect it will be different when we’re not Self Isolating, can visit, shop, volunteer.

I will say this.. Guillermo is a morning person, and he’s making me into one.  I’ve been off work now for almost 6 weeks and the time has flooooown by.  At first I was all “to do listy” and organized, then i fell off the wagon for about a week.   Now that Guillermo is home (laid off due to Covid-19 this past Thursday) we both have a desire to be structured and productive.  We still have a couple of weekly things that bookmark our days, like Sunday morning church and Monday evening Zoom life group.  But today (Tuesday, i think?) I woke up and took my brain a few minutes of going back in the memory banks to figure out what today was.  Bill mentioned a few times to friends yesterday.. I’ve had 4 Saturdays in a row!


His first day off, I procured a 1000 pc puzzle.  We’ve never done one together, and I’ve always wanted to, but felt it was a guilty pleasure.. or a time waster.. and took up too much room.  Since Bill & Amy’s kitchen isn’t entertaining right now, and the dining table is out of use for dinner parties… what better time?   We finished this lovely scene of the Trattoria Sempione (Restaurant) in Venice, Italy in 3 days, working on it mostly in the early mornings when the sun was streaming in our East dining window. I don’t know if you’ve ever tackled a Springbok puzzle – perhaps this is the norm for puzzles – but it has the ODDEST shapes and variety of sizes.  Finding and identifying the edge & corner pieces almost had me giving up.  But we kept at it.

It was interesting doing a quiet project together side by side for hours.  Not watching TV, or individually reading books, or working on different things in the same room.. but quietly together – we talked, sang along with the radio, let our conversation just flow from one thought to another.  We made phone calls on speaker phone while we puzzled.  And had some very good “together” time that we haven’t had in a long while.  I no longer felt that it was a time waster, but something very beneficial.


We finished it Sunday after (on line) church.. and I haven’t the heart to disassemble it quite yet, while on the other hand I’m itching to start the next one.  Maybe i’ll wait til the real weekend?  After all, it is only Tuesday.. 😉We’ve been busy at other important things and Bill & Amy’s kitchen kept buzzing with activity too.  Guillermo has been doing what makes his heart sing.. fixing a dryer for a couple in our church, and changing a dear lady’s tires from snow to summer (all with careful social distancing) fixing his van that ‘broke’ 2 weeks ago.  And we’re back making to do “Honey do” lists, checking boxes and taking numbers.  

I dug up an old recipe my dear friend/cousin Hope gave me several years ago.   It looks like its on Christmas paper and I don’t know where it originated, so I can’t give credit where due.. she may pipe in in the comments below and have an idea of where it’s from, and I can edit to include afterwards.  The recipe is called:

Salmon Cannelloni with Creamy Lemon sauce.  I made this once before for a family potluck and remembered how well it turned out and tasty it was.


This time I was less enamoured… maybe my palette has changed, maybe i changed something.  I was looking for Gruyere Cheese to grate for a couple of weeks to do this recipe – and we couldn’t find it anywhere.  So I cut up sliced lactose free swiss cheese (using what we had) as tiny as i could.  I guess that alone would make a big enough change to the taste.

You’ll need a 9×13 greased greased glass pan, and a 350F oven.


3 tbsp butter melted
3 tbsp flour
2.5 cups milk  (used lactose free 2%)
1/2 tsp dried dill (ok.. I put in more like 1.5 tsp)
1/2 tsp salt (I put in likely less)
1 cup shredded swiss cheese
2 tbsp lemon juice



In a saucepan, melt butter and stir in flour.
Add milk, dill, salt, and half the cheese.
Cook and stir until bubbling and smooth.
Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.



Combine these ingredients and spoon filing into 12-14 oven ready cannelloni.

213g canned salmon (drained) (and I removed the spine bones)
1/2 cup sour cream
2 green onions
1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
1/4 sp salt


Caveat.. i realllly stuffed mine, and barely had enough for 12 cannelloni.   I think if I do this recipe again, I’ll do 1.5 times the filling ingredients, or maybe even just add another full can of salmon to be able to stretch it to 14 cannelloni, which would likely fill the 9×13 pan better.

Preheat oven to 350F (180C) Pour a thin layer of sauce on bottom of greased 9×13 baking dish.  Place canneloni in a single layer and cover with remaining sauce and cheese.  Cover and bake for 35-40 min.


Instead of using foil to cover while baking, I used my Charles Viancin Banana Leaf silicone cover. img_8809

I am a HUGE fan of the Charles Viancin silicone covers line.   I first discovered them in Havana Florida while on vacation several years ago, and bought a couple of the large sunflower lids, and gave one to my sister – and said.. you need to be carrying these in your store.  At the time, there wasn’t any representation in Canada of the line.. now several years later, you can find them quite easily.. but I recommend (if you’re local) purchasing them through Avant Garde Emporium.

here’s a fun quick video of the line and how they work.  And I can attest.. they do really work.  you CAN use them on frying pans, in the oven (up to 260C) and in the microwave.  They are great for on glasses outside to keep fruit flies and bees out of your drinks, or keep tea hot.  Listen to me.. i should be selling them!

Here is the finished product.. and looking at it.. yes, it definitely could have used 14 cannellonis.  And maybe a bit more dill on top.


Last week, I pulled the One Dish Salmon dinner that I blogged about HERE out of the freezer and popped it in the toaster oven.  It turned out pretty good for a freezer meal.  I would do it again and try different variations for sure.  This was a recipe that called for grated Gruyere cheese, and we only had sliced swiss..  The instructions also said to bake uncovered.  I found the cheese was overdone, maybe covered for part of the baking time would have been better, or to leave the cheese off until the last 10 min?  Still, turned out pretty good, and a perfect 2 portion meal that was super quick & easy.  (400 in toaster oven for 35  min from frozen) I was impressed, the broccoli wasn’t soggy, and it had really good flavour.

Today we are bringing out the 2 big guns.. the bread maker and crock pot.. Guillermo is following in his dad’s footsteps and making bread today, and I’m cooking up a peanut ginger chicken “the Nutcrocker” from LooneySpoons for dinner, which will pair nicely with some wild rice and stir fry veg.  One of our favourites lately that is really quick is stir fried mushrooms and snap peas.  It takes about 5 minutes and makes such a yummy side.  I usually throw in a few halved grape tomatoes in the last 30 seconds for some extra punch of flavour.  Here it is with some Maple Balsamic chicken breasts I made last week.  That’s a teaser for tonite’s dinner, and tomorrow’s blog.


One thing on my heart a lot lately is to send “happy mail” –  the Post office ladies here and the mail carriers as well have been hopefully getting some joy.  I often write little things on the outside of the envelopes as well.. like “enjoy your snail mail” or “this envelope has NOT been licked, coughed or sneezed upon”   We have a mail carrier at our church, and I sent her one and she’s delivered a few of my envelopes as well.   Decorating the envelopes with bright happy stickers and away they go to hopefully spread some joy during these unsettling and lonely times.


What can you do to spread JOY and reach out to others?   We’ve been the recipients of flowers twice, phone calls, emails, Face Times.. and hearing stories of others going for walks, porch visits, dropping off flowers and baked goods.. I’m encouraged by people’s enthusiasm and desire to do good things.. bringing this verse from Galations 6:9 to mind.. so I’m going to spend some time thinking for this week ahead.. what GOOD can I do?

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Never give up.



There’s Kale in the Chicken Coup

Aha.. you thought you caught me in another typo, didn’t you?  Nope… that title is on purpose.. read on to find out why.

I’ve been much better at making good dinners, we’re not eating out, or eating too much processed foods.  I have not been as proactive with my lunches.  I’ve been waiting til I’m hungry and then grabbing what was handy, and not always making the best choices.  So after breakfast today, I went through my recipe books looking for something I could make, that would be healthy, real food – with what I have in the house.  I found 3 great salads that I have (almost) all the ingredients for.   I decided today to try the “Chicken Coup” recipe from the Looney Spoons collection.

I altered a bit, based on what I had in the house.. so here’s what I did…


4 celery heart stalks with leaves, chopped
4 green onions with white parts, chopped
1 honey crisp apple, peel on, cored and chopped
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup chopped pecans
2 cans of Kirkland cooked chicken, drained
(recipe called for parsley, but we don’t have any in Bill & Amy’s kitchen)


dressing: (mix up well together before adding to salad fixins above)
1/4 cup mayo
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt (recipe calls for light sour cream, I substituted)
1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar (recipe calls for plain white vinegar)
1 tbsp honey mustard
1 tbsp frozen orange juice concentrate
fresh ground S & P

It was really really good.  I will definitely make this again!  So yummy.  I put it in the fridge for lunch later today.. and headed out to hang laundry on the line.




While I was out hanging laundry, i was reminded about a conversation my sister and I had (socially distanced) on my back patio last week.

We have 6 kale plants that wintered really well and are regrowing beautifully.  She asked me if i’m using it yet in salads – which i haven’t.    So I picked 6 good leaves and brought them inside, washed and chopped, then put through the food processor to chop really fine.


We also have some onions I left in the ground over winter – we planted too late and they took a long time to establish themselves, but are now showing really nice promise.


Fresh washed kale leaves, then chopped fine in food processor

I added the kale to the “Chicken Coup” salad..  and it’s Perfect.


mmmm.. yummy yummy in my tummy.

A couple of days ago, in a continued effort to waste less.. I kept the seeds aside from an acorn squash we had with dinner a few nights ago.  Washed, dried and then sprayed with cooking oil spray, a small dash of salt, a couple pinches of smoked paprika and garlic powder.. then roasted in the toaster oven for 12 min at 350 convection.  Definitely not enough to use the big oven, but perfect for our Cuisinart Convection Toaster Oven.   I love our toaster oven.  We use it more than the big oven, it’s so handy and quick.  The roasted squash seeds turned out fantastic, great crunch and very flavourful.. a lovely snack.  I don’t think i’ll throw out seeds ever again.



It’s Saturday of Easter weekend, the day when my family typically gets together for a grand potluck dinner.  Instead, due to Covid-19 and social isolating, we met for 4 hours on Zoom last night.. some of my nephews/nieces and greats popping in for a short while, a couple for the whole time.  We cooked & ate together, folded laundry together, shared what’s happening in our lives, and had stuffed animal shows.  A young great niece took us all on a tour of their family’s horse farm with her daddy’s phone, showed us how she can climb hay bales, and introduced the family to her pony named “Peanut butter”.  2 of my sisters took us on tours of their gardens.  It isn’t the same as being together, but in some ways, it was better.. we saw each other in our own homes.. it was chaos.. and it was beautiful.

As are my fair feathered friends who continue to visit and entertain..


Meatloaf and Miracles

We received the most glorious Spring Sunshiney afternoon yesterday, and I knew it was coming, I worked hard to accomplish all my “To Do List” in the morning, including masking up and heading to the grocery store to get my mom’s and our groceries.   I rewarded myself with some basking time in the sun with 20C warmth, knowing we were getting some yucky weather ahead.

Weather here (in Niagara Peninsula, Southern Ontario, Canada), can on any given day, with or without warning – be quite fickle.   4 pm and  almost blistering hot in the sun, to next morning 2C with wet snow falling hard (those white stripes in the 2nd pic.. that’s wet SNOW in motion)

Re groceries: during this pandemic, I’ve managed to spread it out to about 10 days between trips, and would like to see if I can spread that even further to maybe 2 weeks by carefully budgeting food and resources in the house.  Those of you with more mouths to feed –  I understand it’s very likely impossible to do that.  I hear there’s people that go to the grocery stores still every day.. likely because it’s their one social outing.. but I can’t fathom that.  I’m not an anxious person, but i’m careful.  I don’t want to go out more than I absolutely have to.. so i have a hard time understanding those that are purposely going every day.    In fact.. i’d be happy to stay home and go nowhere at all til this pandemic is over. I mean.. i know i’m blessed, i’m in a newly renovated home, have a big fridge and separate freezer.. A home with a big backyard, and a gorgeous deck/patio with southern exposure.. so i don’t have to go anywhere… i have space here to roam.. and i’m finding the longer i’m home, the more i’m convinced about being an introvert.  I’m kinda thriving.. sorry to the extroverts.  I’ll admit – I feel that I’m getting more social interaction than I did when working with more people making  more phone calls, face-timing and Zoom..

Interestingly and sadly,  a lot less time with my Guillermo, as he’s an elder/treasurer in our church, and serves on a couple other committees – so most nights he comes home from work and goes straight to his home office, sometimes for 3.5 hour Zoom meetings.


Because today’s forecast was for cold, rainy, overcast and definitely not patio weather.. I made plans to cook & bake today.   I had lean turkey burger thawed, and looked up a bunch of meatloaf recipes on line.  I’ve never had much luck with meatloaf before, and if you’ve been following me a while, you know that I really don’t love the taste or smell of beef, so I typically substitute turkey or chicken “burger” in most recipes.

I found quite an interesting recipe that called for finely chopped mushroom, and since i’d just stocked up on mushrooms yesterday meant for a couple of other recipes, I  decided to give it a whirl.
Here’s the original recipe.

Lookit these lovely fresh mushrooms.. they’re so firm and crunchy.  I almost felt bad pulverizing them.


And here’s what Amy did instead… ’cause you know i only take recipes as suggestions.😊

Moist and Mushroomy Meatloaf

splash of Avocado oil
1/2 a red onion  (finely chopped)
3 garlic cloves minced
8 oz Cremini (baby bella) mushrooms finely chopped in food processor
S & P

img_8690heat pan, oil, and then fry onion til translucent, midway i added minced garlic, and finally the chopped mushrooms.  keep cooking til most of water is cooked off.  Cool completely.  Again, like yesterday, i cooled in the window sill.  See that black van in the driveway? It’s not supposed to be there right now…  It’s part of our “Miracle” story today – I’ll get back to after the recipe)


1 cup panko breadcrumbs (this bugged me, i felt mostly healthy til here.. I think next time i’ll pulverize some Mary Crackers.. unless someone has other suggestions of what to replace the breadcrumbs with to make the recipe healthier?)
1/3 cup milk (i use water with skim milk powder)
Soak & mix the panko with the milk
1 lb lean minced turkey
1/4 cup egg whites (equiv of 2 eggs)
3 tbsp ketchup
1 tbps worcestercire sauce
a few dashes of La Grille Vegetable Seasoning
a dash of smoked paprika


Now mix it all up … i used a fork, i canNOT put my hands in raw meat.. i’ll gag and can’t bleach my hands enough afterwards.  Honestly, this pic above is kinda grossing me out… ughh.

My mix felt still quite wet.. so i added a bit more panko, and then decided to put it in a loaf pan lined with sprayed plastic wrap to cool/set some more before upturning (& coating with more ketchup) on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to cook later.

Plated later with garlic mashed potatoes, green beans and a salad. Comfort food on a plate!


I peeled and cut up all the potatoes early this morning while i was prepping the meatloaf and had them in the fridge ready to go on the stove about 2/3 of the way through the baking time.


(my garlic mashed: 4 large yellow flesh potatoes peeled and cut, 2 garlic cloves boiled in lightly salted water, drain, mash (I whip with my hand blender), add either herb & garlic cream cheese or plain cream cheese and a bit of milk when whipping)



The cooling/forming of the meatloaf worked well.  I topped with ketchup and a bit of this smokey Habanero sauce I brought back from Mexico in December.

Here’s the result.. some nice outer crunchy bits.. SOOO much flavour, and still nice and moist!

Let me tell you about our Miracle of the day… which partly explains why i was up so early doing food prep and baking.   Guillermo typically leaves for work by about 6:20 am, and without fail, kisses me goodbye while i’m still sleeping. About 3/4 of the time, I’m awake enough to remember.  Today he came back a 2nd time, a few minutes after the 1st.. to tell me “my van broke, i need to take yours today, K?”  and then he was gone.  This woke me up enough to not turn over and go back to sleep for a couple of hours, which I’ve been doing the last few days.

When I got to the kitchen to make coffee, I noticed his (black) van was pulled up about 3′ from where it normally sits, and parked on an angle.  He later explained to me that he thinks a spring broke.  the MIRACLE being the timing.   1) I’m off work and we have a second vehicle he can use right away, and 2) the biggest.. it didn’t happen 10 minutes later when he was going 110 km/hr (or more) on the highway.  We thank God for His protection.

As I watch the amazing birds out my window each day and remember that God cares even for the littlest sparrow or finch in such marvellous ways.. how much more, how much more, how much more... does He care for me, and supply all my needs every day.

Speaking of birds… here’s today’s Ornithology… we had a new visitor this afternoon.. i didn’t get a good photo, he was shy, and arrived in poor lighting, so I had to overexpose the photo to show his brilliance.. he’s a red bellied woodpecker!  Not sure why he’s named a “red bellied”.. it’s his cap that’s red.. not his belly.  He was quite large, a mature male.. likely a full 10″ or more. img_8709

This Dove sat and nonchalantly preened in front of the window for a good 1/2 hr.


We’ve discovered  we have orange house finches!  I honestly wondered if it was a cross breed between  American Goldfinch and a Housefinch.. (I’m guessing that’s impossible) but found out through the Cornel Ornithology Lab that it’s actually a variant of the typically red house finch.   I consider myself quite blessed, cause as you may know, I’m quite partial to orange..  😉

My photo of these darlings is quite blown up and from too great a distance, also not showing the brilliance of the orange head & breast, but THIS on line pic  (<—click here) that I found is much more indicative of what we have in our fun sideyard. 



And My dear friend Mr. Downy.. he visited quite regularly today as per usual.


Thanks my fair feathered friends for brightening the day, and readers for stopping by.  😘

Stay safe,  #stayhome