Savory Portobello Mushroom and Fennel Dutch Baby Pancake


Summer is still playing hide and seek here in the Midwest.We are getting lots of rain, but that beats a drought, as we have had in seasons past, any day. I’ve been craving fennel lately. I love the bulb tasting slightly of anise, and the frilly green fronds. I created two recipes with fennel this week.After the chicken roulette, I’m being extra careful. My boyfriend is away, so I’m going lighter on the dinners and forgoing meat , for the most part. I will get to meat again, but I’m still feeling my way. One of my favorite sweet pancake recipes is a Dutch Baby. It’s like a big popover cooked in lots of butter in a cast iron skillet. Normally I load them up with apples and cinnamon. But this time I decided to do a savory spin on this puffed up classic. It didn’t puff as much as I intended , but was still a decent rise and texture after adding loads of softness sautéed mushrooms , fennel, and Parmesan. This is great light meal, reminiscent of an omelet or Quiche category, but lighter,that can be shared between two or three persons.  Play around with your favorite vegetables , herbs, and cheeses. Chopped herbs tend to be a bit trickier for me to get out of the braces. Be sure to thoroughly floss after eating.


Savory Portobello Mushroom and Fennel Dutch Baby Pancake

  • 2 portobello mushrooms sliced
  • 1 bulb of fennel
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ground black pepper and salt to taste
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2/3 cups of milk
  • 2/3 cups of flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter

You will need a cast iron or ovenproof skillet.

Preheat oven to 450 F. Set cast iron pan in middle rack to heat.

Slice your mushrooms, and fennel. The chopping can be coarse.

Mince your garlic cloves and parsley.

In a non stick skillet add the olive oil. Heat a few moments , then add the mushrooms, fennel, garlic , and parsley. Slowly saute until soft and wilted . Season with salt and pepper to your tastes. Set aside.

In a stand mixer or large bowl with whisk beat eggs until frothy. Add salt,milk, and flour and continue to beat . Add Parmesan cheese. The batter will be thin.

Take out cast iron pan and heat butter to melted. Pan is hot already , so be careful.

Don’t brown butter too much as it will continue to cook in oven. Swirl the butter so the pan is completely coated.

Pour quickly the batter into the pan with the butter.

Add about half of the sautéed mushroom and fennel mixture on top of batter.

Place the cast iron skillet in the oven. Bake for 18- 25 minutes ( oven temps vary) until slightly puffed and golden,

Serve immediately.



Think of Crabs When Eating With Braces

crabs embraceable

The game of chicken roulette I played the other day turned a tad more serious than a bent wire. The next morning I noticed the entire bracket loosened on one tooth and was hanging on the wire I popped back in. I was in the chair today and the orthodontist fixed it in flash. No problem at all. My doctor entertained me with his love of chicken. meats on the bone, and how it sustained him in medical school as he held my mouth open and bonded and repaired away. I wanted to laugh naturally , but couldn’t. I was out of there within 30 minutes and a little more confident, that these things happen and can be repaired. It’s a learning curve and part of the process.

Since I was on the South Side, after the appointment,I made a detour to a lively fish market  that I recalled had live blue crabs years ago. I have only seen live blue crabs at two locations in Chicago. A Korean Market called H Mart  and   this place called Market Fisheries on South State Street.It’s midsummer and I crave blue crab, originally being from Maryland. I eat them alone when I know my boyfriend won’t be around, because he says it’s too much work.Of course I didn’t think about eating these until I paid for them and carried the wriggling live crabs back to my car. Crab meat is soft. So with that, I reasoned shouldn’t be an issue in consuming. The work with crab is picking the sweet meat from the shells. Hammering and picking. Pre braces, I would have sucked that meat directly from the claws , but with braces I carefully cracked and picked the meat out carefully avoiding any shells hitting my appliance. It took a while, but I enjoyed every salty Old Bay infused bite . I felt little limitations and finally understood when everyone said I would figure it out. A crab walks sideways, with some hesitation , but eventually gets to its destination.

Bent Wires and Fried Chicken

fried chicken

Word to the wise…lay off the fried chicken during the first month or so as you adjust to braces.

Barbed Wire

It’s summer and I’ve been craving Fried Chicken. Hell we always crave good fried chicken. It’s my lazy, I don’t want to cook food.You know the good , guilty, greasy takeout kind. I confess , very rarely do I fry batches of chicken at home. The night before I got the braces, I wanted to have a last hurrah  and party with some meat on a bone, but my boyfriend CS and I couldn’t manage that task, due to insane work and schedules. So I’ve been dreaming of chicken.  And this was going to be the day.Today was the first day I went free of discomfort, pain on mouth from rawness , and callouses forming. It was a wax free day. I was confident.I could handle the crunchy bird.

We went to run some errands and picked up some takeout chicken for a late dinner in front of the television to catch up on the past weekends shows. I carefully cut my chicken up into little pieces and chewed slowly. It was all going seemingly well, some crunch here and there, but nothing major,and them as I ran my tongue  over the brackets to assess the amount of food caught up in the wires, I felt it. Something odd. I ran down to the bathroom and inspected with my tiny mirror. I had bent the last section of wire on  my molars  on the left side. Thankfully nothing was sticking out.  I made a call and all I can do is wait  for a response  from the orthodontist. Meanwhile I searched, and read all I could find about bent and broken wires on the web. It seems to be pretty common with rookies, as my Cousin Mimi calls me. The first set of wires is not as thick and strong, as you graduate up in the process of braces. A heavier gauge wire would pop your teeth out, so the first wire is pretty pliable to allow the newbie to adjust. After an hour of anxious fretting,I tentatively tapped the wire with my index finger and it popped easily back in place. I felt an instant tightening of the teeth as they moved to a tight position back in line with the wire directing them. But I will err on the side of caution and go see the good doctor.

Oh and I guess the stress and friction of all of this is causing a canker sore to form on the corner of my mouth. This is truly an initiation and forcing one to practice discipline and patience. emBrace the struggle and don’t forget to floss.

Coconut Crème Brûlée with Banana

emBRACEable Coconut Crème Brûlée


A newbie with braces has to adjust to so many things. Many foods we take for granted are verboten. Raw veggies, corn on the cob, meat on bones, pop corn, nuts,sugary or acidic drinks need to be consumed with care, or not at all. Besides our day-to-day  struggles, we find ourselves constantly rinsing , picking, flossing, and brushing our teeth and brackets to clean and dislodge food particles. I have buildups on my back molars for the foreseeable month or two, that prevent me from really biting down and chewing for a while, until they grind them down or remove. So I’m opting for ground meats, smoothies, rice, and pastas. But these can get old, and one needs to stay on top of their cooking creative game.  This past week I had an epiphany that texture and bite and just as important as taste in the whole food experience. There is nothing worse than not being to really chew and taste when metal obstructs and catches a lot of your intake.At my first social outing at a charity gala since getting braces, it took me literally 15 minutes to eat a  passed tender slider with blue cheese. I grabbed a spot at high top and daintily tore my slider into bite size pieces as my companions looked at me as if I was odd. I’m a TMI type, so I explained my dilemma, and they all chimed in with advice and stories from their childhood experiences. I then excused myself to go check my grill in the rest room. I’m gradually forming a routine and my boyfriend is learning to to deal with slow eating, and soft foods.

There is nothing more comforting than a Crème Brûlée. I decided to capture a tropical flavor and substitute rich coconut milk for cream. The banana flambe on top softens that hard crunchy brûlée aspect a bit. I had a few cans in the pantry, as my goal is to make a lot of curries. We will talk about curries in another post, because that is a another learning curve with braces altogether! One word,stains! Crème Brûlée are easy to make ahead and store. You have a weeks supply of a comforting , easily eaten, smooth and creamy desert . Conversely you have  a great dessert if you have guests over and you don’t want to deprive them because of your orthodontic struggle or issues. Everyone wins, and that’s what’s it all about. Be sure to brush your teeth thoroughly after.

Coconut Crème Brûlée with Banana

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Nielsen- Massey Pure Vanilla Bean Paste
  • 14 oz can of coconut milk
  • Sugar for Brûlée garnish ( approx 1 teaspoon per ramekin)
  • 1 banana sliced on a diagonal
  • zest of one lime for garnish

Equipment needed

  • Blow torch
  • 6 ramekins
  • zester


Preheat oven to to 350 degrees F

In a bowl of a stand mixer, combine egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, and vanilla paste.

Using the whisk attachment blend until buttery yellow on medium speed.

Heat up can of coconut milk gently in a sauce pan.

Carefully temper little amounts of coconut milk at a time while yolks are beating in stand mixer, until all of the coconut milk is added.

Add to ramekins and play in a tray with a water bath.

Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Take out and let cool.

Cover each ramekin with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours.

Pour sugar on top of each of the custard ramekins. Add a few slices of banana on each, and sprinkle more additional sugar on top.

Using a blowtorch , torch each of the ramekins until sugar caramelizes.

Cover and refrigerate until serving.

Add fresh lime zest to each as a garnish.