Monthly Archives: May 2010

Spam Haiku: In memory of a good friend

I just learned that my friend Mark Yannone, whom I met years ago on an epilepsy message board, died last summer. We had last emailed in May 2009 and then, as  sometimes happened over the years, lost touch for a while.  I was just looking him up again when I discovered that he had died.  I never did meet him in person, but we had an ongoing online friendship that spanned everything from political  sparring (he was Libertarian to an extreme) to nonjudgmental emotional support.  In between was the haiku phase.  In particular,  the Spam Haiku phase.  That would be of the porcine variety.  🙂  I would like to publicly thank Mark for introducing me to this seemingly never-ending source of entertainment.  Enjoy and be glad we didn’t get into trading Spam recipes.  <grin>



–Wendy Dennis and Mark Yannone, &

I’ll miss you, Mark.

Fiddleheads !

I LOVE fiddleheads.  You will too if you like Brussels  sprouts, asparagus, or brocolli. And, even if you don’t, you just might like fiddleheads the way I prepare them with olive oil and Parmigiano reggiano cheese.  🙂

only available in the spring!

If you live around Wakefield, go to the refrigerated section in the far right corner of Farmland and look for this package:

From my favorite neighborhood grocery

Some folks simmer and then saute and/or marinate.  But here is my favorite way of preparing fiddlehead ferns:

While bringing a pan of water to a boi, rinse the fiddleheads well, swirling around in cold waterl.  Add the fiddleheads to the boiling water and simmer (NOT a roaring boil!) for 15 minutes.  Drain.  While the fiddleheads are still hot, add a BIG handful(s) of grated cheese, with freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano my recommendation, and a tablespoon or two of olive oil as desired. Unbelieveably delicious.  Good served over pasta, too.

NOTE:  When simmering the fiddleheads, don’t be alarmed at all the brown flakes, etc. that end up in the water.  It is just part of the plant.

Remember, fiddleheads are only available in the spring, as far as I know.  So, if you are going to try them, do it now!

Chayote !

As I wrote on Facebook the other day, I picked up a chayote at Farmland because I had never tried it before.   Once home, I forgot what it was called except that it started with the letter C.

Mystery Produce

The Produce Guide to the rescue!!!

And, the both trusty and creative website provided the perfect basic recipe.  Click HERE for the original recipe.

Here is what I did:

The squash. I added a medium zucchini to the chayote


  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 chayote squash, cut into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice

A few folks on suggested adding extra garlic and sliced onion, so I did.

First, heat olive oil in medium skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add garlic, squash, salt, pepper, sugar, and red pepper flakes. Stir together and cook 2 to 3 minutes.

Add lime juice to the squash mixture and cook 2 to 3 minutes longer, until the squash is slightly wilted, but still firm and crunchy. Taste, and add more salt or sugar if needed.

Done. Yum!

This was really tasty and the perfect amount for two people.  The chayote was more crunchy than the zucchini – which was fine with me, but you might want to start the chayote first if combining with more watery veggies such as zucchini or yellow summer squash. And, check out the original recipe for other variations and ideas.

Unbelievable Chicken “All-in-One” Casserole

Okay – this is REALLY GOOD.  Unbelievably good, in my opinion – with that opinion shared by my husband.  It is a WOW. It gets even better when leftover and it goes especially well with strongly-flavored vegetable such as fiddle heads (in the spring when you can get them) or Brussels sprouts.  Click HERE for my fiddlehead recipe that goes with this casserole perfectly.

Click  HERE for the original recipe on, a site that I love.

Here is my version.  It is not much different from the original except that I added shallots and changed the amounts of some of the ingredients.  I am sure that the original is just as fabulous.


whole ingredients

Here are the veggies and chicken breast pre-chopped - food art! 🙂

chopped ingredients

And here they are chopped, plus the RV olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 lb boneless chicken breast (2 halves)  cut into small cubes
  • 8 oz  sliced fresh mushrooms
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 medium zucchinis, cubed (about 2 cups)
  • 2 small or one large sweet potato/yam, cut into cubes (about 2 cups)
  • 3 medium red potatoes, cut into cubes (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • * 3/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs (you can Make Your Own and add your own seasoning.)
  • 1 cup cup freshly  grated Parmesan cheese (I used parm reggiano)
  • * 1/4 cup olive oil
  1. Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a baking dish with a bit of olive oil.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Stir the chicken and mushrooms  until the chicken is no longer pink in the center and the juices run clear, about 15 minutes.

    Seasoned and ready to mix with the veggies et al

  4. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat and stir in the zucchini, sweet potatoes, red potatoes, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and 1/4 cup of olive oil; transfer to the prepared baking dish.

    Note that I mixed everything in a separate bowl - the 12 inch fry pan was too small!

    THEN it went into the 9 x 13" three quart baking dish

  5. Bake in the preheated oven, stirring every 15 minutes, until potatoes are tender and easily pierced with a fork about 1 hour.
And, here it is, half-eaten.  It smelled so good that I forgot to take a picture before serving it.
half gone, and the leftovers were even better!
This really was incredible.  Try it!  Providing you like chicken, sweet potato, Parmesan cheese, and the other ingredients, the depth of flavor in this casserole will blow you away.

Breadcrumbs – make your own instead of tossing stale bread

Some folks prefer the convenience of buying ready-made breadcrumbs, but I like to make my own.  I simply save any bread ends or scraps that would otherwise get tossed in a brown paper bag in my cupboard.  When I need breadcrumbs, I just toss the now dried scraps into my food processor and let it run for a minute or so.  That way, I don’t waste food, and, because I use mostly whole wheat products, the breadcrumbs have more fiber than most store-bought ones.

I got more than a cup of breadcrumbs from this batch

You can also grind a batch ahead of time but I recommend storing these breadcrumbs tightly covered in the fridge so they won’t get rancid, at least if they are made with a portion of whole wheat bread.  While the WW breads stay stable when left to dry is slices or pieces,  grinding causes the  naturally occurring oils in the whole grains to b e exposed to air and light, which causes a chemical reaction leading to rancidity.

Parmesan Shells and Cheese – Mac and Cheese for Adults

I had half a box of small shells, 7 ounces, to be exact, a few chunks of  Parmesan Reggiano in the fridge, had milk that had not gone bad (always a miracle) and wanted something with at least a feel of comfort food.  A big thank you from me to  Southern Food for providing the perfect meal!

For those with little patience when making a roux, I can tell you that you can rush through the process and not ruin things.  Fun fact about me:  one of the first things my Mom taught me to make was a traditional roux, albeit with regular salted butter rather than the even more traditional version made with clarified butter.  Years later, when I was vegan, I created many “creamy” textured dishes using a roux made with olive oil and non dairy “milks” or other liquids.  I’ll have to experiment with all that again and post about it.  But, in the meantime, back to this post!

For the original recipe, click HERE.

Here is how I did it – just a few variations (one of which, I just realized, I did not mention when I reviewed the original recipe on  I forgot to mention that I added grated carrot.)

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 7 ounces small shell macaroni, uncooked
  • 1 1/4 cup soft bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
  • paprika, optional – acutally, I forgot about it, but I would have used it had I remembered at the end!


In a saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Stir in flour, cooking until hot and bubbly, about 1 minute.

This is NOT how it is supposed to look!

Gradually stir in chicken broth and milk. Add the salt and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring, until thickened and bubbly.

Still looking scary.

De-lumping techniques that my mother never taught me. 🙂

Stir in the Parmesan cheese and continue to cook and stir until cheese is melted.  Then add the grated carrot.

See, it all ended up nice and creamy with no lumps. :=)

Meanwhile, cook the shells in boiling salted water as directed on package. Drain well and add to the sauce mixture, blending well.

My volume (versus depth) perception was not working. Would they fit?????

They fit - easily!

Transfer to a lightly buttered 2-quart baking dish. Combine bread crumbs with melted butter and parsley flakes; sprinkle over the casserole.

ready for the oven. I forgot to take a pic after it was done.

Bake at 325° for 25 to 35 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Sprinkle with paprika before serving, if desired.
Serves 4 to 6.

This was really good. Nice flavor and texture – not as gooey, perhaps, as some may prefer, but it was creamy enough for me, and Steve liked it a lot, too.

And, I can’t say that I ever made a recipe that called, specifically, for “soft”  bread crumbs, or, if I did, I just used regular dry ones…So, how to make?  I had some whole wheat bread in the fridge, so I tore it up and put it in the toaster oven at 250 degrees for a 10 or so minutes, then crumbled it up more by hand and let it sit a bit longer.

Still too squishy.

There, good enough! A bit of crunch but still a bit soft.

And, here is a good tip:  Melt the butter in the microwave in a container big enough for the breadcrumbs, then add the breadcrumbs and seasonings to the butter.  If you don’t use a microwave, melt the butter stove top in a pan big enough for the breadcrumbs.

Nuke the butter for 20 seconds or so - keep an eye on it! Then add crumbs.

To end with a more attractive picture, here is the chopped fresh parsley that I used.  🙂

Parsley, parsley!