Saturday, March 16, 2019

Coconut cream pie for my favourite brother

I love the relationship I have with my little brother.  We're 7 years apart, so I can remember life before him... and it's better for having him in it.  Growing up with him, while challenging at times, helped shape me into being a better mama to my boys.

Well now that that sappiness is over, I can get to food.  I lived vicariously through Al when he went to culinary school, and continue to be jealous of his prowess in the kitchen.  For his birthday, my mom aimed to impress by baking not one, but TWO of his favourite pies: key lime and banana cream.  Unfortunately she was slightly misinformed... while her banana cream pie was indeed delightful, COCONUT cream pie is actually his #1.  Mom had never made a coconut cream pie before, and was a bit disappointed that she got it wrong; of course we still had two delicious pies, so no harm done.

Somehow, my overtired mom-of-three brain parsed this situation into a PERSONAL CHALLENGE: to bring Al some homemade coconutty goodness on the actual day of his birth.

CHALLENGE  ACCEPTED.  Coconut cream pie tarts.
During the wonderful time that was my maternity leave, I also started using Pinterest again to find quick and/or make-ahead recipes that would help us eat in (and use up a ridiculous quantity of meat from NutriFarms), even when I went back to work.  I used that addictive platform to find this recipe for a coconut cream pie, and merged it with this recipe for a stabilized whipped cream.  I didn't want the topping to get all sad and deflated while waiting for little brother to finish his shift at work, you see.  However, owing to 1) my last-minute discovery of a lack of cornstarch, 2) my previous utter failures at homemade pie crust, and 3) my desire to make these SUPER COCONUTTY, I made a few tweaks.  Happily these were well-received, if the following text exchange is anything to go by...

I impressed him, I think!!

Honeybee's Coconut Cream Pie
Makes 12 tarts + 1 typical 9" pie... or one very large deep-dish pie

For the filling:
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cups half-and-half
  • 5 egg yolks (I saved the whites and made an egg-white omelete for brekkie)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup Birds custard powder (you can get this at Bulk Barn... or use 4 tablespoons cornstarch, like the original recipe states)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flaked sweetened coconut
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
For the topping:
  • 1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut
  • teaspoons water
  • teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • cups cold heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

For the crust:
  • Not gonna lie, I used Pillsbury frozen pie crusts.  A dozen tarts in a standard muffin tin uses about 1 & 1/2 to 2 crusts; a third crust is needed if you're also making the standard 9" pie like I did.  You could buy frozen tart shells.  If you're good at making crust from scratch or have another go-to pre-fab product/mix, use it!

  1. Prepare pie crust according to blind-baking instructions of recipe, for whatever receptacle (9" pie plate, deep dish pie plate, 12 standard muffins, etc.) you're using.

For the Toasted Coconut Topping:
  1. Spread coconut evenly on a rimmed baking sheet. Place into 350º F oven for 8-10 minutes until coconut has just begun to turn brown.  Set aside to cool.
For the Coconut Custard:
  1. Pour coconut milk and half-and-half into a liquid measuring cup. Add egg yolks and whisk together. Set aside.
  2. Add sugar and custard powder to a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk egg and milk mixture together once more and then slowly begin to add to the sugar and cornstarch, whisking together constantly.
  3. Bring custard mixture to a boil. Switch to a rubber spatula or wooden spoon and continue to stir constantly. Boil one minute.
  4. Remove from heat and add butter, (untoasted) flaked coconut, vanilla, coconut extract, and salt.
  5. Spread custard into pre-baked pie crust/spoon into baked tart shells. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until set, about 30-45 minutes.
For the Whipped Cream:
  1. Add the water to a microwave safe bowl and sprinkle the unflavored gelatin on top. Allow to sit for a few minutes.
  2. Transfer the gelatin mixture to the microwave and microwave until the gelatin is fully dissolved (start with ~10 seconds in the microwave, it's quick).  Stir the mixture, then set aside to cool.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer, combine the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, vanilla & coconut extract. Whip the mixture until it starts to thicken and soft peaks form, then turn the mixer to low speed. 
  4. Slowly pour in the gelatin mixture until well combined. Increase the mixer to medium speed and continue mixing until stiff peaks form.
  5. Spread or pipe the stabilized whipped cream on top of coconut custard. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  6. When ready to serve, top pie or tarts with toasted coconut.
Oh yes, it works well as a standard pie, too.  I made this after realizing that I had a TON of custard left after filling 12 muffin tin sized crusts.
Cross-section.  It's a bit of a thin pie (since it's really just the leftovers from the tarts)... I look forward to making the whole recipe into one enormous deep-dish pie (probably for Hubs' birthday).
Delish (if slightly messy with all that coconut)
So there you have it, ma.  Apparently Al expects this every year.  We'll draw straws for 2020. ;)

Having enjoyed dusting off the old blog, I remain,

-Honeybee (now a perpetually tired mom of three) <3

Monday, August 15, 2016

Tasty-fied Zucchini Frittata alla Parmigiana

So over the past year or so, my Facebook wall has become inundated with BuzzFeed's "Tasty" videos. Y'know, the short demonstration videos giving a recipe for something quick and, well, tasty (, if you're interested).

While they do look good, I find a lot of these recipes use a ton of fat and sugar. I'll watch and think, "Duh, of COURSE it's tasty with all that cheese!!" I can't judge, though, since I recently applied the same principle to a family favourite: zucchini frittata. 

TL;dr version- I had zucchini and eggs that needed to be used, but I was craving chicken parmigiana. Best of both worlds!!

Zucchini Frittata alla Parmigiana

Serves four

• 3 zucchini, sliced thinly
• 1/2 white onion, chopped
• 1 tomato, seeded and diced (and/or bell pepper... But since I don't like peppers much, tomato it is!!)
• 1 Tbsp. oil (canola, olive, vegetable, whatever)
• 5 eggs, beaten
• Sriracha, to taste (optional, but adds nice flavour and not too much heat. I used about 1/8 cup)
• garlic powder, salt, pepper to taste
• 1 cup shredded mozzarella
• 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
• 1 jar marinara sauce (yes, jarred. Shame, shame, I'm a bad Italian... But honestly, my mom fooled me into thinking that the Kirkland Signature Marinara was homemade, so I'll take it.)
• 1 lb. dry pasta, prepared
• Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a nonstick, oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Cook onion, zucchini, and tomatoes/peppers, stirring frequently, until well cooked and browned. Spread cooked veggies in an even layer in the skillet and turn heat down to medium. 

Combine eggs, sriracha, and seasonings. Pour over vegetables in skillet, stirring just a couple times immediately after adding. Cook, scraping down sides of skillet, until almost cooked through. Flip over (I cheat and use a plate: slide the frittata onto the plate, flip the skillet over onto the plate, then while holding both, flip the whole deal over. Voilà). Return pan to low heat on the stove. 

Preheat the oven broiler. Open the jar of marinara and spoon about a 1/4-1/2 cup of sauce onto the top of the frittata (enough for a layer to give flavour, but not enough so you can't still see frittata underneath). Too with all the mozzarella, then the breadcrumbs. Broil until cheese melts (about 3-4 minutes- watch carefully!!) Remove and let cool slightly. 

In the meantime, toss the cooked pasta with the rest of the sauce. Cut the frittata into wedges and serve alongside pasta, with Parmesan cheese on the side to top. 

Better cheap-as-free zucchini than veal parmigiana, what with the price of beef these days!

Off to eat some leftovers,


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Nonnetta's tomatoes and kinda-Caprese salad

Almost every Saturday, I start the morning with breakfast and coffee at my grandmother's (Nonna, who has been promoted to Nonnetta as a great-grandma to my kiddos*)

* yes, that's kiddos, plural. Baby girl joined the family almost 8 weeks ago, and big brother is almost 3! Yikes!

In the summer, these breakfast visits are made even more awesome by forays to Nonnetta's garden to pick fresh produce. Tomatoes, zucchini, basil, cucumbers, green beans, sweet peas, peppers... An absolutely glorious bounty. 

Nonnetta and her great-granddaughter (and namesake!) 💗

Nonnetta is the reason I love the smell of tomato leaves. Mmm, childhood nostalgia!!  Her tomato garden is amazing. She was growing heirloom tomatoes since before it was cool, using seeds brought over from Italy over 60 years ago (...but maybe don't tell Customs and Immigration about that).  She has a truly remarkable green thumb... When we developed a fondness for the Kumato varietal from the grocery store, she took some seeds and grew her own! Brilliant. 

Thanks to my most recent pregnancy, I have a few pounds to shed. What better way than filling up on tasty veggies and fruit? Instead of having a bagel and cream cheese for lunch, I whipped up this tasty little Caprese-ish salad. Behold!

Kinda-Caprese Salad
Serves one

• 2 medium tomatoes, as fresh as humanly possible, seeded and diced
• ~4 basil leaves, chopped (or torn by hand if you're lazy like me)
• 1 Babybel Light wax-wrapped cheese, diced (use REAL mozzarella for authenticity, instead of stealing your son's  snacks... If you want...)
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• Balsamic glaze**

Toss the first four ingredients together in a bowl. Top with a drizzle of glaze. Devour promptly. 

** I like using balsamic glaze since it's so nice and thick. Not gonna lie, I picked up this bottle at Dollarama. #momlife #neversaidIwasgourmet. 

On to more adventures while cooking for a family of four!


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Sesame Tuna Pasta: A Stupidly Simple Supper

Yep, that's going to be a new category: Stupidly Simple Suppers.  It'll be searchable!!

This recipe might be stupidly simple, but finding the time to blog about it was... less so.  Apparently, here's another post I started but didn't finish.  So get into your Delorean and head back to February 2014!!

Life is settling into a rhythm here.  Wake up, feed baby, get dressed, go to work, come home, feed baby again, feed us grownups, then maybe catch a bit of TV or a nap or see some friends, then blessed sleep.  Not a bad routine, but it doesn't leave a lot of time for fancy, multi-step dinners (or time for the cleanup thereafter!)

Enter these recipes.

My coworkers sometimes tease me, saying that I downplay the ease of certain recipes.  Mainly, this has to do with chopping.  I remember seeing a commercial for pre-cut potatoes once that made it seem like it took, quite literally, ALL DAY to chop a few spuds up for dinner.  At the time, I thought, "you can't be serious..."  but now, I understand a bit better (though I'll be damned if I start chopping veggies at work...)

This takes seriously minimal chopping.  I've played with this (fellow Blogspot user's!) recipe a few times, especially after a big sesame craving during pregnancy; I think this hot iteration is my favourite.  While I like chicken, Hubs doesn't, so I really liked this (much easier) tuna version.  It's a far cry from tuna noodle casserole (not that there was anything wrong with that, Ma, I swear...)  Try it out (except you, Ni, and all others with a sesame seed allergy).

Sesame Tuna Pasta
Serves 4
  • 1 lb rigatoni pasta (or similar short pasta; farfalle also works very well!)
  • 2 cans of tuna packed in water, drained (chunk light is what I usually use; feel free to up the quality!)
  • 1/3 cup canola, safflower or other mild tasting oil
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, cut julienne (or chopped finely, if you're me)
  • 1 cup of green onions, sliced
  • 1/4 cup roasted sesame seed
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 3 cups washed baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons red pepper flakes
  1. Boil and cook pasta according to directions. Make sure to salt the cooking water. Drain pasta and just leave it in the colander. 
  2. Return the pasta pot back to the stove. (You don't need to wash it.) Add the canola oil, soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, peppers, and rice wine vinegar. Heat over low heat until the honey is dissolved and the peppers are softened.
  3.  Remove from heat and toss in the pasta. Add the tuna, scallions, black pepper, sesame seeds, and red pepper flakes. Toss well to coat all the ingredients. Toss the spinach in at the last minute, so it only gets slightly wilted.
  4. Either serve hot, or chill down and serve as a cold pasta salad (which I did for my coworkers at a potluck!)

Now that I've taken this little trip down recipe memory lane, I'm going to add this to my refridgerator-door-menu for next week.  Somehow, just knowing what I'll be cooking each night makes it seem like a LOT less work (maybe I'm mentally preparing on my drive home...?)

Thinking about cooking for the week ahead,

PS- I took this pic of Baby G the day after making this pasta; he's giggling due to tickles at his 6-month well child doctor's visit.  Compare with previous post.  How time flies...

Savoury New Year's Day Waffles!

Happy 2015!!

I tried to entice some friends to stay the night after partying by offering up these tasty morning-after-NYE-party treats.  Nobody took me up on it (can't blame them... nothing better than sleeping in your own bed); even Hubs slept in QUITE late.  So G and I had a lovely breakfast, just us two!

These Savoury Dill & Cheddar Waffles are inspired by some that Ni made for the family one holiday morning.  Honestly, it's not much different from how I made regular cornbread... just enter a waffle iron!

The key here is Jiffy cornbread mix (America's favourite!!)  Yes, I am endorsing the use of a mix.  The ease afforded to you cannot be understated!  Go buy some, it's well worth the 50¢.

Savoury Dill Cheddar Waffles
Makes 3 Belgian-sized waffles (enough for two adults and a toddler!)
Adapted from the Jiffy box
  • 1 package Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp (1/8 cup) shortening, melted (or be like me, and use some of the rendered fat from making bacon!!)
  • 3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 2 sliced green onions
  1.  Preheat your waffle iron.  Mine is really basic; it's either on or off (no temperature setting).  Spray with non-stick cooking spray or brush with melted butter.
  2. Mix the muffin mix, egg, milk and shortening/bacon fat until just combined (it will be lumpy).
  3. Stir in the cheddar, dill and onions.
  4. Pour/spoon about a 1/2 cup into the waffle maker.  I overestimated the first time and ended up with batter overload... try the "less is more" approach.
  5. Cook until browned.  In my experience, the outside of the waffle might look a bit "overdone," but you want the inside cooked fully (raw cornbread batter is icky).
  6. Serve nice and hot, ideally with more melted butter if you're feeling decadent.  

I love savoury/sweet combos, so I stuck with syrup and added a side of thick-cut peppercorn bacon (thank you, President's Choice!!)  Paired that with a cup of freshly-ground vanilla hazelnut coffee (thank you, Costco!!), and G-man and I had a lovely breakfast together (his consisted mostly of a kiwifruit, banana, and grapes, but he got some waffle and bacon love too!)  A great way to start off what will hopefully be a fantastic year!

Bidding you all good eating in 2015,


Monday, September 8, 2014

Freezer meal: Roasted tomato, sausage and spinach pasta

Hey look!  Apparently, way back in December 2013, I had thought about posting this and got distracted.  Mommybrain, thy name is Honeybee.

This was a super-tasty recipe, which I liked making (and eating).  It also made me smile because it marked the (slow) return of my ability to share my cooking with others (read: forcing friends to be my guinea pigs).  I really enjoy that, so after months of barely feeling up to cooking for us, let alone others, it was a refreshing change.  The idea was to create some freezer meals that we could just heat up quickly later when I went back to work, and to share the love with some of our dear friends who also welcomed a baby just four weeks and one day after G-man arrived!

The recipe really didn't take much modification on my part.  It's posted here, from Canadian Living Cooks (they called it "Make-Ahead Baked Pasta... not descriptive enough.  I like my title better).  I think my only addition was some baby spinach wilted in before baking (you can see this in the pics, below).  I felt like it needed some extra veg.  Feeding a bubs with my own body made me somewhat nutrition-conscious!

Lastly: this meal was brought to you by Costco.  I think only the garlic was purchased elsewhere.  I love that store.

Noticing one more draft from months ago... perhaps for another night...
The finished (if slightly blurry) product.  Mmm, melted cheese.
Sooo, these are out of order.  Deal with it.  All packaged up, ready for the freezer, with reheating instructions written on the labels!
Recyclable (yay, no dishes!) aluminum baking trays, wrapped with plastic wrap (remove before baking!!) and wrapped again with aluminum foil.  Freezer safe!!
Handwritten reheating instructions.  Nobody has time to go back and check the online recipe!
Getting ready for packaging/baking.  The white dish on the right was for our dinner that evening, the other two for later!
Adding in that baby spinach!
Pasta boiling, roasted tomatoes, garlic and sausage at the ready!
Words cannot adequately describe how AHMAZING this smelled.  Roasted garlic, Roma tomatoes, and spicy Italian sausage.  Yet another possible application for Smell-o-vision... or... Smell-o-internets?  Nevermind.
Roasting off some sausage, fresh Roma tomatoes, and two HEADS of garlic.  Yup, this isn't for a first date.
Mmm.  Tasty tomatoes.  These did take a bit of time to chop and seed, but it was WORTH it.

Peanut Stirfry, As You Wish

This post is dedicated to "Sue", one of my favourite coworkers.  She frequently compliments my lunches, which are usually dinner leftovers.  The big joke is that I'll say, "Oh, it was so easy!!"... but I've quickly come to realize that "easy" is a relative term (it's the chopping.  Sue hates chopping!)

Back when I was still expecting my little G-man (he'll be 11 months this week... gawd...), I was hit with a MASSIVE peanut craving.  It has... lingered.  I also had odd cravings for broccoli and tofu.  Sounds like a delicious combo for a stir fry!  So, with the power of the Interwebs, I've thrown together a little recipe.  Here it is.  I added the "As You Wish" in the title because it's endlessly modifiable depending on the veggies you have on hand.  Also, I like the Princess Bride reference.  Sue, try it, and tell me if it meets criteria for "easy" in your books!!

This was not my stir fry.  Ain't nobody got time for food photography with an active little monkey trying to climb into the oven.  This is the best approximation that Google Images could provide.  Photo credit goes to
Peanut Tofu Stirfry, As You Wish
Serves 4
Adapted slightly from

Stir Fry:
  • 1 lb package of extra-firm tofu, cubed (or substitute any other protein.  Chicken, beef, as you wish...)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 2 cups vegetables, chopped (fresh or frozen.  I like to use broccoli, zucchini, and/or bell peppers.  You could do a bag of snow peas, so there'd be no chopping, Sue ;) Again, as you wish...)
  • 1 cup baby spinach (this is usually pre-washed, but check the package, just in case, ok?  I don't want to be responsible for grit in your stirfry)
  • 2 green onions, sliced finely
  • Noodles, cooked according to package directions (I like to use duck egg "Chinese long life" noodles from the Asian aisle.  You could use Udon.  You could use rice vermicelli.  You could use spaghetti.  As you wish.)
  • Optional: If you've got a handful of peanuts for garnish, great (like in the photo.  It's a good idea.  I'm stealing it)
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar (this should be in the Asian aisle in most major grocery stores.  If not, white wine or apple cider vinegar would work in a pinch, though I can't vouch for the results...)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons (or 1/8 cup) brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder*
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger*
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (to start... and/or crushed chilies, and/or sriracha.  As you wish)
  1.  Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat.  Start boiling water for your noodles (if required per their package directions.  I don't know what noodles you decided to use, so you're on your own here!)
  2. Sauté onion until soft.  Add the 2 cups of vegetables until somewhat softened, but not 100% cooked (if you've got tougher stuff, like broccoli, add that first; softer stuff like mushrooms should go later.  Or you can be like me, say heck with this, and cook it all at once.  As you wish.)
  3. Now is a good time to cook those noodles if need be.  Drain when done.
  4. Add cubed tofu.  Periodically keep tossing it around with the veggies.  I like it when the tofu browns up a bit in the pan.  Mmm.
  5. Stir together the sauce in a measuring cup.  Not going to lie, it'll look a mess (since the peanut butter won't really mix in well).  Fear not.
  6. Add the sauce to the frying pan (which contains your veggies and tofu).  Turn heat to medium low.  Stir well; the PB will melt in nicely.
  7. Add the cooked, drained noodles and toss thoroughly to coat.
  8. Add the baby spinach and toss until just wilted.
  9. Top with sliced green onions and peanuts and serve.
*I know this might be hard to imagine, but I've gotten much less judgey about dried herbs/spices.  When G-man is careening towards the cat food for the third time in as many minutes, finely mincing garlic is the last thing on my mind.  So if you don't have fresh garlic or ginger to chop, or if you've got the jarred/squeeze tube pre-chopped stuff, well, good enough!

Sue, this was for what I had for lunch.  I used a zucchini, half a red bell pepper, and half a yellow bell pepper for the veggies.  You can double the sauce like you mentioned for an extra-saucy version.

Alright, time for a cup of calming chamomile, perhaps an episode of the newly-rebooted Sailor Moon Crystal (yes, I am a product of the 90s), then bed.

Finally settling into mommyhood while still putting tasty dishes on the table,