Cooking in the Time of Covid-19: Super quick and easy to prepare – Pasta Daniella

If you can figure out what is too much and what is too little; if you have a functioning tongue and can figure out what tastes bland or just plain bad, you can cook. If you can pay attention to what you have cooking, baking or simmering while turning your attention to another dish without burning everything; if you can multi-task even just a little, you can create a dish out of whatever you find in your kitchen pantry and fridge.

Every pasta dish I make up off the top of my head with whatever I can place my hands on in the kitchen is Pasta Daniella. Here’s what you do:-


Boil pasta – any pasta you can put your hands on.

I found spicy Genoa salami, mushrooms, green onion, garlic onion, lemon, capers, green olives, Kosher salt, black pepper, oregano, thyme, olive oil and garlic butter. I chopped the veggies and squeezed in some lemon juice added the seasonings and a splash of white wine. I sauteed the seasoned veggies and spices in the olive oil. Next, I added the salami and then the pasta and shredded some Parmesan onto the pasta and tossed it all again.


And here it is – prep and cook time maybe 1/2 an hour. Tasty and satisfying. Bon appetit!


Cooking in the time of Covid-19: Quick, Feel Good Food.

One view that has solidified for me since the world has been dealing with this virus is that we have to be happy. We have to home in on who we are, what we have and find happiness. We spend too much time planning to be successful, figuring out how to earn more, do more with our time and we pass that stress on to our children and grandchildren and it is a failing life plan that puts way too much emphasis on everything but happiness. If you know how to tap into the simple things that make you happy you wont spend precious days, months and years putting in time to a lot of useless and unfulfilling things that are supposed to lead to happiness, but never do. During this pandemic isolation, cooking has made us all very happy. Today I thought I would look at some of the quick and easy to prepare treats that made us feel good.

Throw Down Chicken and Cauliflower Tikka Masala

When my children were small, like all kids,they went through the occasional reject of the good food that you wanted in them and not on the floor, or on the table or in their hair. Like any mother, I too hid vegetables in pancakes and put stuff in wraps but as they got older and I revealed what they were gobbling up made for young men who have their favorites but pretty much eat any food of any colour and texture of any flavor and colour. So here is a dish that takes no time at all. I am going to tell you right away, if you want to do this from scratch, you can totally look up how to make the sauce but if you have a tight schedule or just a hungry family who can’t wait long for food, USE THE JAR SAUCE! IT’S OKAY. I recommend having Tikka Masala, Butter Chicken, Coconut Curry sauce and Pad Thai Sauce in your pantry. Today I decided on Tikka Masala sauce as I had thawed seasoned chicken and cauliflower which in my past recipe for fritters you found out that I have an over abundance of frozen cauliflower.

I diced the seasoned chicken and set aside.Then I poured the bottle of sauce into a skillet. I added chopped onions and a clove of garlic and stirred it in and let the sauce simmer for about 5 minutes. Next add the cauliflower and the chicken and fold in with the sauce. When the sauce has covered the chicken and the cauliflower, cover and simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes.

The smell of this sauce is amazing. It’s inviting and there is spiciness and fruitiness and it is just a happy dish. Serve over Naan bread or rice for a satisfying meal. To quote my son Logan when I asked him how his meal was, “Loved it. Tasty and lots of good flavours and the cauliflower was a nice surprise. I thought it all looked like chicken!” It was a nice touch that is exactly how I got them to eat cauliflower in the first place. And there you have it, a hearty meal in just over 20 minutes, and why not take the shortcuts? You can add to it if you wish to make it more spicy or you can leave the sauce as is. In spite of the pandemic, we have a busy next couple of days with baking and planting and Logan has on-line presentations, we have webinars and Adam has schoolwork to catch up on.  I made this and stored it in the fridge knowing that I wanted to serve it to Logan for dinner the evening after and to Adam for dinner the following evening when he comes to pick it up. Tom and I will have it for lunch tomorrow. Nothing like a heat and eat dish that makes you smile. While this dish was simmering, I started my …

Cinco de Mayo inspired Buffalo Chicken Dip cups.

Last Monday was Cinco de Mayo and we had chili cups for dinner. It is more like a snack made with tortilla wraps and chili and that recipe will follow this one but I decided on this variation on Wednesday as this chicken dip is my husband’s favourite and I wanted to make it for him and we needed dinner anyway so while the Tikka Masala was cooking, I started on this tasty snack and turned it into a meal.

Cook 1 1/2 to 2 chicken breasts in a pot with salt, pepper, a 1/4 cup of water and a teaspoon of garlic butter. Once the chicken is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, put the chicken into a separate bowl and pull the meat apart. Add 3 teaspoons of sour cream and 2 table spoons of cream cheese. The sour cream and cream cheese should be enough to cover all the shredded chicken. If not, add a little more of each without making the chicken soggy. Add some fresh ground pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and either red pepper chili flakes or a generous pinch of cayenne pepper. I also recommend adding a 1/4 teaspoon of the buffalo seasoning powder and a 1/2 teaspoon of the Hidden Valley powdered dressing for a really nice flavour.Shred a cup of cheddar cheese and set some aside for topping and fold the rest into the dip.

Add a generous dash of Frank’s Red Hot or equivalent and a decent dash of Buffalo Chicken sauce.This dip is all about intense, satisfying flavour. Cut up a stalk of chives or green onion. Save a bit of it to garnish the dip and fold the rest in. Lightly brush some tortillas with olive oil, Cut in half and then into quarters. Line the muffin pans by taking a quarter of the tortilla and pushing it into the hollow, oil side down. Put in a bit of the chicken dip and a little cheese.

  Then place another tortilla quarter on top the layer of cheese and repeat with a bit of the chicken dip and cheese. Place in an 325 F oven for 20 minutes. Tortillas will get slightly brown and crispy. Top with a dot of sour cream and cooked crispy bacon. Variation – Using Red bean and meat chili.

Logan wanted more than mini tortilla treats so I took some left over chili that Tom made a couple days before and put it in a wrap. I put some chicken dip in the other. Top with cheese,then fold and roll and wrap in foil and place in oven also at 325 F for 25 minutes as they need a little more time than the tortilla cups to cook.Place the rest of the dip in an oven ready container. Top with cheese and bake again for 20 minutes at 325 F or at least until the edges brown and the cheese bubbles. Top with bacon and the rest of the chives.

And here is my Buffalo chicken Dip end result. It made 3 dishes – buffalo chicken tortilla cups, a wrap and a moreish dip for tortilla chips. I wanted to make it for Tom because I know how much he loves it and usually we have left overs to heat up for later but we had nothing left. Not a scrap.



Tom’s Homemade Bread – We are now into making different kinds of bread. Here is Tom’s recipe for Basic Homemade White Bread. You need 1 tbsp margarine or butter. 1 tbsp shortening. 1 cup boiling water. 1 cup scalded milk. 1 pack yeast and 1/4 cup warm water. 1 tsp sugar. 2 1/2 tbsp sugar and 1tbsp salt. 6 cups flour. Makes 3 smaller loaves or 1 bigger loaf.


Here is how to do it – In a large bowl, place boiling water, scalded milk, margarine, shortening, sugar and salt. Cool to lukewarm.Add 1 pk yeast to 1/4 cup warm water and 1 tsp sugar. Allow to foam up then add to lukewarm milk. Mix. Add sifted flour using a wooden spoon or silicone spatula.

Knead bread on a floured surface. Place n greased bowl (with butter) and turn to grease surface. Cover preferably with a damp cloth and allow to rise double in bulk. Punch down to release sour fermented aroma. Divide dough int 3 equal parts. Roll out 1 part then knead and shape into a loaf. Repeat with other 2 parts of dough. Place in greased bread pans. Next cover with a damp cloth or cover with another bread pan and allow to rise double in bulk.


There is NOTHING like the smell of fresh baked homemade white bread. Nothing is as tender and soft and satisfying. It reminds me of my childhood and I still cut the first warm slice and smother it with butter. Mmmmmmm

Recipe for the cream cheese frosting I made for some box red velvet cupcakes I made :8 oz cream cheese softened to room temperature. 6 tbsp softened salted butter. 1 cup confectioners (powdered) sugar. 1 tsp vanilla extract. Mix cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl (use an electronic kitchen mixer low speed until combined). Add vanilla and sugar and continue to mix on low  then mix on medium-high for 2 more minutes. Use a spatula to break up air bubbles. Immediately frost onto a cooled cake or pipe onto cupcakes and ENJOY!

The finished cupcakes. They were light, soft and tasty. I liked that the frosting was not heavy or overly sweet as some cream cheese frostings can be.

Apple Pie, Cherry Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Bread, Cupcakes and Cookies

We are mostly cooks and not bakers.Tom is the more likely of the pair of us to bake as he likes the precision and accuracy of baking…it’s very scientific and that satisfies Tom’s mind incredibly.Once in a while we throw down a batch of cookies and cupcakes and loaves of bread and pies as a treat for the guys mostly as they aren’t training as hard now that we are in a pandemic and it satisfies the occasional sweet tooth craving they may have. Here, in the photo above,we see a half eaten apple pie that our younger son basically claimed as his own. The week before he claimed all of the pumpkin pie I made the week before. Missing from the photo is the cherry pie I made for my sister for Mother’s Day. Hid it so I could actually give it to her as a present bite free – lol. I make pies using frozen fruit which I boil into a chunky sauce and add spices like cinnamon and nutmeg or star anise. I used store bought pastry shells (because why not?) and my glaze is either honey and water, sugar and water or a beaten egg yolk. When I make cookies I use store bought cookie dough because I hate making cookie dough and add to it  – more fruit, chocolate chips of chunks, dark chocolate pieces or white, Skor bar pieces or almonds or some other nut just to give it my flare. I make cupcakes now because the storage is easier, easier to transport to the guy living in his own place and they usually take one or two at a time which is healthier than them cutting a huge hunk of cake with twice as much frosting.

That concludes the Quickies recipes. There are more but this is enough for one posting. I am feeling like we are coming to the end of our pandemic lock down but I think it will be a slow transition back. So I think there is a lot more time left to cook and bake and share. I think once we are back on schedule with life, we are really going to try and carve out the time to do more cooking and baking at home. We have proven to ourselves that we can and Logan is really learning to cook very well, so there is no reason why we can’t look at our schedules and set aside some time for cooking more than we had been before. Fingers crossed we will be able to resume our lifestyles gradually soon. Spend the time with the family well and stay healthy. ~ Daniella and family.


Cooking in the time of Covid-19: Dear Logan,

Dear Logan,

We have been home doing our part to stop the spread of this deadly virus and keep each other healthy. Today, we have been home for 53 days. We are doing our part to keep our family safe as well as preventing the spread of this virus that abruptly ended life as we know it. This virus couldn’t come at a worse time for young people like you who are on the brink of so much growth and change. You have always had to fight to get where you want with your passion and now it seems you have to wait and be patient just a bit longer. I struggle to understand why things happen when they do and I try to ground my belief that things do happen for a reason, but this virus occurring now, has me frustrated and my heart aches when I think of how it has interrupted your and your brother’s life. I think if it were just Dad and me, I wouldn’t feel so frustrated, angry and disappointed at the timing of this virus. If it were just Dad and me I wouldn’t care that I was home for 53 days. But, I look at you, son, and you are patient, resilient and you are finding ways to utilize your time and be happy. You also keep us happy around here and once again, you have earned the right to be called pure joy. Some days are better than others and cabin fever does show up from time to time but for the most part, we have all been okay while stuck at home.

I wanted to let you know that including all these recipes on my blog is primarily for you. If people try our recipes and learn to cook as well, that is just a wonderful sharing bonus, but this is all for you. You have embraced using this time together to learn to cook and take yet another step to independence. I have gotten to know you better during our time in the kitchen. I have always known you but finding out more about who you are becoming has made my heart full. You are ready to head out and forge your way in the world and I cannot wait to see the coming chapters of your life unfold. I hope you have a long and happy life, filled with as many experiences as you can gather. I hope you see thousands of places, eat thousands of dishes, swim in many oceans and lakes and embrace many cultures. I wish you joy and peace and the strength to stick to what you believe in and get back on your feet when life knocks you down. I want you to tap into the reservoir of our support, belief and love for you when we are apart from each other and know that when we do see each other we will re-fill that reservoir with every hug, kiss, smile, kind words and laughter. It is a pleasure to cook with you, to teach you and to learn from you. It is reassuring to know you are independent and capable of taking care of yourself. You can call me, text me or video chat with me anytime you want, but I think more often than not, you will refer to the blog for anything you need to know about the dishes we have taught you. This blog, in all it’s virtual locations will be here for you now, for when we are not available or able to help you and it will be here long after we are gone. I think I can safely say this blog will be here not just as a reference for cooking but for comfort and will serve as a a bank full of beautiful memories we have created together.

We love you Logan and we are so grateful and honored to be your parents. You are an incredible gift of love, light and life.


Last Monday’s dinner was part of what I call phase 2 of learning to cook. In phase 2 we cook the dishes we have learned for the second or third time. So far he has done lasagna twice, shepherd’s pie twice and has done chicken and broccoli pasta twice. For Monday’s dinner, he prepared chicken and broccoli pasta for his dad and did a shrimp variation for us. This is how he he did it:-

First, Logan cut up the chicken, seasoned it  with oregano, salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder and put it in a pot of olive, a little Worcestershire sauce and a little water. He covered the pot and let the chicken cook on medium low heat for 10 minutes, reducing it to low heat for 15 – 20 minutes until the chicken is thoroughly cooked but tender. Once the chicken was cooked, he turned off the burner and set the chicken aside.

Next he boiled the water for the pasta (with a little olive oil and salt in the water). While he waited he rinsed the shrimp and seasoned them. Logan chose, salt, pepper, cayenne, Worcestershire sauce, fresh garlic and diced onion.

Once the water came to a rolling boil, he put in the pasta of choice which was rigatoni and boiled until al dente. He drained the pasta, rinsed it and set it aside. Next he cooked the broccoli in a teaspoon of butter until it softened a bit and turned a brighter green.

He added the pasta to the pot and folded in the Alfredo sauce  and some freshly grated Parmesan and left on low heat.


Lastly, he cooked his shrimp in a separate pot (only because we were doing two versions of the dish – otherwise he could have cooked the broccoli with the shrimp. Once the shrimp turned light pink, Logan added the juice of 1/4 of a lime, stirred and set aside.

He added some of the broccoli pasta Alfredo into the pot with the chicken to make Tom’s dish and then added the shrimp into the remainder of the pasta and broccoli Alfredo.

Once the meals were plated, he topped them with some Parmesan and black pepper and served.

When a dish is made right and is tasty, it satiates you and leaves you wanting for nothing more. Since the pandemic it has been difficult not to snack but generally I eat and stop when I am full so often I will have one big meal a day with  two very light ones. If I am hungry, I eat.The second time he made this dish (and with a variation) it tasted even better. He is learning so quickly and so well that I forget I am teaching him. I give him the freedom to season how he wants to and the freedom to choose how great or how fine he wants to cut his ingredients. He makes me so proud when he tastes the food as he cooks it, cleans as he cooks and puts ingredients away while he waits on the food as it cooks ….and….he smells his seasonings and in a short space of time has learned to flavor meat by eyeballing how much he thinks he needs to make his food tasty.

If this is round 2, I can’t wait to taste round 3 of these fabulous dishes.

Stay well, wash your hands keep 2 meters between yourself and strangers and hang in there, This too shall pass.  ~Daniella and family.


Cooking in the time of Covid-19: Logan declares Meat Monday – Tonight he tries Steak Frites

Wanting to learn his way around the grill, it was Tom’s turn to teach Logan today. Like baking, I am not in love with cooking outdoors. I like eating it, but it’s just not my department. Tom does it splendidly and I am happy to let him do it as he is so much better at it than I could ever be. He also wants to make sure Logan remembers grilling with him. We don’t have daughters so this is a real father/son thing. We always want to do right by our kids. We always want to give our kids what our parents couldn’t or just didn’t give to us and tonight my husband gave his son a memory. As they grilled steaks for the first time, I heard them laughing and talking and I could see how special this time was for them.  I introduce to you, THE PLAYERS at the grill:-


and this guy …DAD WHO ALSO GOES BY TOM….Can you imagine grilling with people with these expressions? Expressions that are quite normal for them on a daily basis….

Here is what the grilling action was like – the goal – medium …maybe medium/well…


                                   EVEN SOME FLAME ACTION HERE 


We usually use our air fryer for making fries. No oil is used and it is a healthier way to make light crispy fries. However, as usual, the things that are not as good for you always tastes better. Yearning for a little “bad for you”  I decided to find a way to make fries in oil with a light crispiness.

Cut up a couple large potatoes – for our family of 4, I washed 3 but they were so large, by the time I cut 1, I realized I overshot so I cur up 1 1/2 for the family’s dinner and the rest I cut up and put in the freezer for another time.


Next, boil a pot of water. Season the water, or not but when it comes to a boil, add your cut potato and boil for 5 minutes. Any longer and you will have mashed potatoes. drain and rinse in cold water and set aside for all the water to drain. In a large bowl, mix together equal parts of flour and potato flour. Season with seasoned salt, garlic powder, chili powder and black pepper or whatever seasonings will make your fries taste best to you. Toss the drained fries in the seasoned flour mixture making sure each fry is coated properly. Then, heat some oil in a pot. Tom has ruined this iron pot of mine by poorly frying  food in it over the years. It is now known as the fry pot. Once the oil is hot, put in the fries, portions at a time and with a strainer spoon or a mesh ladle, gently stir occasionally to prevent fries from clumping.

Cook until the fries are golden brown. Drain on paper towels and salt them before transferring them to the plates. These fries can be kept warm and crispy in the oven at about 300 F but tonight, the steak landed on the plate and seconds later so did the frites.

Here is Logan’s steak, accompanied with my fries for Meat Monday’s Steak Frites. The meat was tender, juicy and the fries were light and crispy and the food was enjoyed by all. Adam’s portion was picked up after his run and we three settled down to a great meal and some fun conversation. Nothing like family dinner and soon, there will just be dinner for two, Use this time at home to teach your teenager to cook. Enjoy the slower meals together. Enjoy not having to head out to somewhere after dinner. Lockdown is hard but being ill,or dead is worse. Stay home. Stay safe. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. This too shall pass ~Daniella and family.



Cooking in the time of Covid-19: Left Overs, Left Overs, Send TJ Right Over.

Remember the school yard game Red Rover? I was thinking of that when I was saying the words left overs. I think my husband has come a long way with food. He was never too crazy about left overs and that kind of drove me crazy because in a Trini’s mind, food is food oui, and you should not fuss when you are hungry – just eat. He has gotten more creative and the rare occasion when we have left overs, he comes up with some tasty creations. Tonight it was do something with that plain penne, left over pizza sauce and some cooked ground beef from two nights before.

It’s a simple game plan. Combine meat and pizza sauce and place in a small baking dish. Shred a little mozzarella and mix in. Lastly, top with a bit of 4 year old cheddar and bake for 15 minutes until the cheese crusts. Promise your wife you’ll only eat half the dish then break said promise because it just tastes oh, so good.


This pandemic has been difficult at times but it has provided us with some good laughs too. It is really cool to be able to spend more conversation time with our most current man child in his chrysalis state. He is funny, nutty, and does not come from a place of judgement. Mind you, there have been moments when sharing a space have led to some moments where we butt heads but we also have been able to talk things out and get back to a civilized place lol. We have had moments that could have been disastrous but luck was on our side – note here Tom’s singed goatee from a pizza oven incident. He didn’t know the extent of it until he wondered why he was smelling something like burnt pizza crust and realized he was actually smelling burnt beard.

    (Tom has singed body hair before. He has singed arm hair a couple times and most recently after this goatee episode.)

Back to left overs. Sometimes I don’t remember what I have bought and shoved into the freezer in the basement. My latest over purchase over the last 4 months has been cauliflower and broccoli. We have managed to use up all the broccoli and Tom, who re-organized the freezer, in his controlled frustration simply said to me,” Please do something with all this cauliflower,” So I present to you, my attempt at cauliflower fritters.

In a food processor or blender pour in about 6 cups of cauliflower florets. Once they are ground up, add 4 eggs and a 1/2 cup of flour and to keep them light and fluffy I added in a teaspoon of baking powder.

Add the seasoning of your choice. You can use Italian seasoned breadcrumbs, or powdered Italian salad dressing or like me you can try buffalo-ranch powdered seasoning. I also added in a pinch of garlic powder and onion powder and sriracha powder (you know how I feel about giving food flavor). Blend it all. If it seems too wet, add in a bit more flower. The consistency should be sticky, not drippy. Cover the bottom of a skillet with olive oil or any oil of your choice (I like using a monosaturated fat). Heat the oil and once it is hot enough, place a heaping table spoon of batter into the oil. Fry on oneside until golden brown then flip and repeat on the other side.

Drain on paper towels. I shredded a little 5 year old cheddar and Parmesan over them and placed them in the oven to keep warm, Served them with last night with steak, corn on the cob and garlic bread bites, to use up a couple left over hot dog buns sitting in the fridge. Of course, Adam, who has his own place and basically sees us as Skip the Dishes during this Pandemic, was upset that it was not steak frites. To give him credit, he did try the fritters – he ate one of two I served him  – left one in tact to make his point and made me promise steak frites on Monday, no variations.

Everyone else who didn’t feel the need to protest, enjoyed the fritters. They were light and tasty and went well with a tangy dip Tom made. I say choose your fave dip and enjoy.

So, in this time of pandemic lockdown, I urge you to try new things, create new recipes by using your noggin and combining ingredients that you think can work together well. But do stay safe. Try not to burn anything, cut anything or break anything. remember, no one really wants a trip to the ER in these germy times and the medical staff already have their hands full. They don’t need more work, so be kitchen and outdoor cooking careful. Stay home. Stay safe. Use up your left overs. ~Daniella and family


Cooking in the time of COVID-19: And then …Tom made Smash Burgers


My husband wasn’t taught to cook, do his laundry or iron his clothes before he left home for University. When I met him, he had figured out washing colours and whites separately and when to wash in hot water and when to wash in cold. When it came to food, he ate like a student — Kraft Dinner, cereal, fast food (subs, hamburgers, hot dogs) and he lived in a condo building above a Taco Bell. Tom ate there so much that he earned himself a hat and t-shirt from the restaurant. The more I got to know him, I learned that instead of trying to diversify his palette, his parents pretty much gave in to him at meal time and proceeded to draw attention to his fussy eating habits at the table in front of their friends and in my presence as well, even though he was an adult. I always felt what they were doing was disrespectful and cruel and I was concerned that he would not be comfortable around my family at mealtime. I am a Trinidadian and my culture revolves around food. We are all about cooking and enjoying a variety of food and flavors and I was not about to dull down my cooking to accommodate his basic palette but try and introduce new flavors to him, slowly and comfortably. In Tom’s defense, he didn’t grow up eating flavorful food. Back when we would eat at his parents’ home, my mother-in-law’s food was not terrible but she certainly is a salt and pepper only cook. To quote my husband, his “DNA was screaming for something different” and so, he chose to be with me. Wow! On so many levels other than cuisine, that was quite the avant garde move for him. He chose a a Heinz 57 wife, fathered two Heinz 57 sons, and not only eats all kinds of food, he makes a repertoire of meals that are as flavourful and spicy (sometimes spicier) as anything I would cook. I made it clear to my family that he was not to be singled out at the table. I did not tolerate any verbal Trini observations about his uncertainty around our food and my family and I never forced him to try different foods and flavours in our early years together. As time went by and a trip to Trinidad at Carnival occurred, Tom tried many different kinds of food. My husband, the son of a salt and pepper cook, eats doubles, roti, pelau, callaloo, curried everything, roast beef, Jamaican patties, samosas, a variety of Italian food, fried rice, Oriental styled chicken and beef and Korean food, thus ending the running “joke” of the little boy who only ate peanut butter sandwiches and hamburgers. And while he is not versed in what are my staple Trini dishes, the food he does make are his signature meals and he keeps adding to his menu every two to three months. Not only does he cook a variety of things, he has now added kitchen gadgets to the other gadgets out there that interest him. Tom is a reader and a researcher and not only can he build his own computers, brew his own beer and dabble in making his own music, the man has purchased some tools to help him cook what he knows well and try new creations as well. It is with great pride that I add Tom’s recipes to my Cooking in a time of COVID-19 Blog Series.


When the kids were little, Tom made eating fun for them. Not wanting them to be picky like him, he not only made tasty and nutritious food, he made food fun and bestowed zany names upon everything he made for them. I remember picking up Logan from Kung Fu and Adam from somewhere else and asking them what Daddy made them for dinner. I was also giving a co-worker a ride home and she was appreciating their answer as much as I was when they both said, “Crabby Patty Explosions” with salad. They were big Sponge Bob fans at the time and Tom stole the name of the burger on the show, made their burgers with thick patties, melted cheese and a slosh of ketchup that went not only on the burger but smeared onto the plate much like if the burger exploded. He kept the top bun off and made putting the lid on the burger the boys’ job. That was just one of the many kookie meals he made for them when I was not home to cook. Adam ( albeit autistic ) and Logan ate pretty much everything we made for them and still do. Now young men, the Crabby Patty Explosion no longer exists but in honour of the important role this Daddy made burger had in their mealtimes, I give you my husband’s delicious-as-all-get-out, Smash Burgers.

As we entered our period of isolation because of the COVID-19 virus pandemic, we realized we had more than enough food for our meals. Happy that this would cut down the time we spent in public, we started cooking food pledging to use everything we had and substituting ingredients wherever we could. This also allowed us to keeping an on going list of grocery items until we ran out of until it was a long enough list to warrant a shopping trip. Just before the isolation period came into effect, Tom had ordered another gadget he had his eye on that is now an integral part of our cooking adventures.

To make smash burgers, you need regular sized hamburger buns because you don’t excess bread that will fill you up too quickly and prevent you from thoroughly enjoying every crumb of this burger. You will need 8 strips of lean bacon and about a pound and a quarter of medium ground beef (Tom uses a scale as he is a more precise cook than I am).

We get our meat from a local butcher and they taught us over the years that you need a little bit of fat in the meat in order to make a good burger. For those of you are afraid of what I just said, all I can tell you is exercise before you eat your food. get your quota of movement to balance your quota of food intake, okay? Okay, next…get your toppings ready. Sometimes we use tomatoes and mushrooms or peppers, but in keeping with our isolation rule of using all that we have before going out to shop, we just had onions and American cheddar slices. Next, form the ground beef into mid sized balls. Tom puts 2 patties on a bun so he makes a total of 8 to feed us. Tom has also made his own burger sauce which really gives the burger that Mom and Pop burger joint taste.

Mix a bit of ketchup, mustard, relish and mayonnaise and set aside to spread onto the burger buns later. Tom makes a jar of sauce. He stores in it the fridge in a small, sanitized former Smuckers jam jar for future burger use. As with anything in cooking keep adding the ingredients gradually, mixing them and tasting to ensure good flavor. Oh, another thing to remember, if you are serving fries with your meal, you have to decide how to time that out so that they are ready to be served with your burgers. We use a Tefal Air “Fryer” that takes about 25 minutes to make the fries. We also don’t use the recommended table spoon of oil when cooking with it as you really don’t need to. The surface of the pan is non stick, easy to clean and it can cook anything from fries to chicken and anything you would ordinarily fry in oil. It can even cook vegetables if you want it to. By not needing oil you get healthier prepared fries that are just as tasty and crispy as those fried in oil.


We now use a Blackstone propane griddle and really enjoy cooking everything on it at the same time. When you have a hungry 17 and 20 year old to feed, you want things done quickly and efficiently so that you can keep the hunger beasts that live within them at bay. The griddle is one stop tasty cooking because it allows us to adjust the heat on parts of the grill to accommodate what we are cooking. If you want to try this and you don’t have a griddle (or crazy husband who will wear a coat and set this thing up in the garage because smash burgers can’t wait until spring) you can certainly use a frying pan on a stove top and toast your buns in the oven or a toaster. You can also cook your bacon in the microwave to utilize your time well.

First, Tom toasts the buns and fries the bacon and sets them aside before the real fun begins.


The heat is equalized across the grill and the meat balls are equally spread across the surface. After they sear for about 20 seconds, the balls are ready to be smashed (he he he).

Add salt and pepper and let continue to cook for another 30 secsonds. Look at the juiciness of the burger and the crust that forms on the surface that traps the flavor in the meat. Flip the burger and cook the other side for about a minute. The grill is hot and the meat is pressed thin so it will cook fast so be careful not to over cook or burn. Top with cheese and allow to melt.

Meanwhile in the kitchen, I spread the burger sauce on the buns.

Tom placed the burgers on the tray and brought them into the kitchen where we topped with bacon, onion rings and the buns with the burger sauce. We added the fries to the plate and served another quick and tasty lunch on another isolation day. Our time together at the table was not very long but we did manage to exchange a few words between moans of sheer delicious delight. I’m not sure I will ever eat a burger from a restaurant again. This burger was just too damn good. It was the right flavor, the perfect size and it was made in a clean environment and made out of love. With lunch devoured, digested and done, we looked towards dinner. My turn again hmmm…I’m thinking Trinidad stewed chicken and pigeon peas with macaroni pie. That should make them smile.

Feel free to try this and share your recipes as well. I like to think the more we share ideas and use the time to cook and create, the easier this time of home isolation might be. Stay healthy, stay home and try and enjoy your time at home.

Cooking in the Time of Covid-19: Baking an Old Favourite from the Naparima Girls School Cook Book.

You know a recipe is a well loved tradition in your family when the page of the cookbook you are using is stained  and kind of crispy and a little yellowed.

  I am not sure if this is still a thing, with technology being so easy but I don’t know a Trini cook who does not own a Naparima Girls High School Cookbook. I have the edition with the bright pink cover and I know there was another fancier edition since then but I am in love with the one I have so I never felt the need to upgrade.

    Whenever I doubt myself about a recipe and I can’t get a hold of my mother, I refer to this book. Before the internet and when the only way to get anything on line was by e mail, I referred to this book. When the kids were toddlers and I wanted to cook for them using recipes from home, I used this book. I remember a lentil pie I made for Adam and then again for Logan when they had those little peg teeth and I was so happy they devoured it. I had large monster babies, both 10 lbs plus at birth and I wanted them to develop a taste for my heritage cuisine.This book, especially in the middle of winter, and especially when I was far away from my Toronto based family, gave me comfort and pride and confidence to cook some dishes from my homeland that I never tried make.  Nothing makes an expat feel happier and less lonely than something from their mother country that they can eat. And so, I cooked and these toddlers grew up and from the moment they started school, theytook their mother’s cooking to school in the array of textures and colours, rarely taking sandwiches and never taking anything from a can to school in their lunch boxes.

Tonight I realized with all this cooking, I did not yet make a banana bread. I made cookies (from the packaged dough) and pies (with filling from the can and the ready-made pie shells) but not banana bread. I will begin by telling you I prefer cooking to baking. I don’t have the precision or patience for baking and will happy refer anyone to my friend Ronnie, or Leslie and even my husband Tom, when it comes to information on baked goods but I do enjoy making my Naparima Girls banana bread. So let’s begin.

Here are the ingredients:

And here is the method:

I am planning to do the banana bread muffin style. Now, bear in mind I mentioned I am an impatient baker and over the years I have found some shortcuts in the mixing of the ingredients and baking time – hence the muffins as opposed to prepping a loaf pan for a solid loaf. I do suggest you follow the recipe for best results but what I have done does work. You will see that I put the mashed bananas and eggs, salt, sugar ( I use brown sugar)  and baking soda and baking powder (my addition 1 teaspoon) in a bowl.


I added the lime juice and zest (my addition as I like to use all of an ingredient if I can) and the milk and fold it all in. I also omit nuts, partly because I did not have any that would work and I usually add a pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon because I love the taste.


I use 1/2 cup of vegetable oil instead of butter and really mix it in. Once the batter is all blended (I like to blend by hand but feel free to use an electronic mixer)pour it into the papered muffin tins place into an oven pre-heated to 350 F and bake for about 45 mins. Separating the batter into muffins allows them to bake in less than an hour so check them during the baking process so they don’t burn.


And there you have it, plus a pumpkin pie that Logan was craving. Give this recipe a try and enjoy for breakfast or lunch or a snack warmed with melted butter or jam of your choice. Stay Home. Stay safe. Try new recipes. Teach your kid to cook. ~Daniella and family.


Cooking in the Time of Covid-19: Logan Whips Up Some Chicken Thighs and Black Beans and Rice

Monday came around again and it was Master Logan James’ time to make dinner. What started perhaps as a non-preferred task has morphed into a a young man speaking to me the night before to discuss the meal and the time he’s going to get started. Today I asked him to do something with chicken thighs.

First, Logan washed and boiled the rice. He ran down to our overflow pantry and grabbed a can of black beans or sometimes they are called Turtle beans. He drained and rinsed them and added them to the rice pot. He put in a dash of oregano, pepper sauce a la Trinidad (every Trini has a bottle of home made pepper sauce in their fridge but you could use Franks or Tabasco or whatever you have on hand). He added some paprika and a little olive oil to the pot so that the rice would be nice and moist without being clumpy.

While the rice and beans were boiling down, he seasoned the chicken thighs with salt and pepper, garlic, onion powder, cayenne pepper and some Frank’s Red Hot with a bit of Worcestershire sauce.

He decided he wanted the chicken crispy but not deep fried. He is very aware of saturated fat and prefers to eat food that is baked or air fried. So, to help him achieve what he wanted I showed him how to combine mustard (usually I use Dijon mustard for this but I didn’t have any) and a little maple syrup. Once the meat was seasoned I told him to pour the mixture over the pieces and let it marinate for about 10 minutes.

  Maple Mustard glaze on seasoned chicken  lightly frying in olive oil

   Logan turning chicken pieces occasionally to get the skin to the crisp and colour he wants.

Fry chicken on medium heat turning occasionally until it stops bleeding and when it attains a golden brown colour. Next, take the time to check your phone for updates and send a quick one word or emoji response. Maybe send a snap. If you are not 12 through 30, put the phone down because this is a skill you cannot do well. Once your message has been sent, lightly moisten a sheet of foil and place on a baking dish


   Check your phone again while the next set of chicken thighs brown. Do not miss anything. Also, inform your mother of the latest news headline on Covid-19, to prove to her that your phone is vital to you for more than just staying in touch with friends. Physical newspapers are a thing of the past and too hard to hold. Also, today’s man can multi-task. Mic drop.

The chicken should cook in the olive oil for no more than 10-12 minutes on medium high heat. Place in foil lined baking dish and tent with another piece of foil to finish the cooking process and keep the crisp without burning the chicken skin.

Plate your meal, serve and enjoy. Cooking time an hour if prepping everything from scratch (that is seasoning meat, washing and boiling rice) This rice recipe can be done with left over rice as well. I would suggest using the seasonings Logan used for the rice dish with the beans (which you can cook separately) and fold in once beans are cooked. Stay home, Stay safe. Wash your hands and take precautions when going out shopping. Teach your teen/kid to cook. I am LOVING this time with Logan and while we are happy to share this with you and your family, I take comfort knowing that he can refer to this blog any time in the future should he need help making any of these meals. It also gives him a chance to read the mini stories that go along with them and it will hopefully keep these special moments alive for him for years to come. ~ Daniella and family.




Cooking in the time of Covid-19: Logan takes on Rice Noodles with Pork and Vegetables

Young Logan, as I mentioned before LOVES Asian cuisine and after cooking up some pork for him and Adam the other day, I held back a few cutlets so he could do something Asian style last evening. So as usual, here is photos, is Logan using the slow cooker to prepare this meal. I like using the slow cooker with him because when he is on his own, it is a good way for him to make his meals while he is in class or at practice or a game. This prevents him from having to cook when he gets home. After practice or class one can feel tired and when you are tired, the temptation to go out and grab fast food is too great and as an athlete he has to eat well and as a single guy on a fixed budget, he has to not waste his money. When a young person is on their own, a slow cooker, an Instant Pot and a smart oven is the way to go.

The pork was seasoned with a pinch of all purpose seasoning and put into a tightly sealed baggie earlier that morning and left for an hour in the fridge. Next, he cut the pork into strips and placed them into the slow cooker. Then he added a teaspoon of Chinese 5 spice powder, followed by 3 teaspoons of reduced sodium soy sauce.

We keep a fair supply of frozen vegetables on hand. Logan chose the Thai Style Stir-Fry ready veggie mix. He pot them in their frozen state with the port in the slow cooker and he added 2 teaspoons of sesame oil. He covered the pot and set it to low for 2 hours.

Rice Noodles are really easy to make. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Shut off the heat. Pull out the noodles from the package and place them in the pot and stir for 5 minutes. They will become al dente. Drain. Rinse in warm water. Drain and place in a pasta bowl or plate and top with the pork and veg. Enjoy. Smells fantastic. Tastes delicious and is completely satiating.

Stay home. Stay safe. Teach your teen to cook. Have important conversations, silly conversations. Get to know them even better. They are pretty amazing people. This pandemic is a bitch but, it too shall pass. Make the most of the time together. ~ Daniella and family.



Cooking in the Time of Covid-19: They Wanted Fast Food – As In Me Cooking Something Fast

It was work out day for my guys. Adam was at his apartment using his heavy bag and Logan was working out in the basement and with work and an afternoon nap, I was running late on my day to cook.The wanted to eat right after they were done. Adam called and said he would have liked it if we could do a delivery at about 6:15 pm, and Logan was looking for his around the same time. So, I needed to cook food fast. Pulled out some pork cutlets, and of course, Adam put in a request for rice and beans.

So, I opened up a can or mixed beans, put a little water in the pot, seasoned salt and a little dash of Trini pepper sauce (you can us any hot sauce you have available to add a little zing). I let that heat on low while I boiled the rice and got the pork underway.

I seasoned the pork with the juice of half a large lemon, stole a pinch of Tom’s Kosher salt. added a few twists of the pepper mill grinder and 2 chopped cloves of garlic and a dash or onion powder. Next, I put some vegan butter in a pan and added the pork. I added chopped parsley and 2 caps of white wine and covered the pan and lowered the heat and simmered the pork. When the pork is slightly brown and tender when poked with a fork, it is done. Pork cooks quickly so pay attention to it. We don’t eat pork cutlets often but I thought it would be a nice change for the boys.

   One meal for here…..


   The other to go….

So, if you are looking for something to cook quickly, that will fill up hungry people, try the other white meat for dinner. It can be all done in 25 to 30 minutes.  Logan’s was plated and waiting for him at 6 pm and I did the sliding door social distancing drop off at 6:15 pm at Adam’s apartment. This meal is also a good source of protein for my guys after a workout or anytime.

Stay safe. Stay inside. Be patient. Cook ~ Daniella and family