Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Divine Divan

I think I am fortunate that we aren't the type who go out to dinner often. Cooking every night is an everyday thing for me, so unlike many of my friends, I am not struggling with quarantine cuisine during our "shelter in place" confinement. Sure, we've had our "I don't want to cook one more night" dinner of French Toast (on Easter Sunday no less!), but for the most part I manage to get something on our plates that is fairly nutritious and tasty. A few times since the lockdown began I have been inspired to go above and beyond, making do with what I have on hand. One night I became inspired to make lobster/crab fettuccine using leftovers from a Friday Night Date Night Take-Out seafood supper, a recent addition by our community eatery. My fettuccine began with a base of home made stock from lobster and crab shells and lots of other savory things. I served it on home made pasta. Oh, and it was delicious! This was something I had never made before. Thank God for the Internet and lots tons of recipes, with ratings, at one's fingertips... literally!

Bits of lobster and crab waiting for the stock to reduce.
Pasta waiting to be cooked.
Most recently my inspired meal choice was Chicken Divan. 

I've never had Chicken Divan. The idea came about from a conversation with my bff. She mentioned, with a fair bit of excitement,  that she was cooking it for dinner that evening. I mentioned that I had never had it before, and asked how she made it. She rattled off the recipe. It sounded tasty (who doesn't like gooey, melted cheese?) and I tucked it in the back of my brain. 

Flash forward... well, in these times the days don't seem to flash... but suffice it to say... later, I decided to make the dish for dinner. I searched online to look at recipes and I also found the history of the dish.

Wikipedia tells me that: "Chicken Divan is a chicken casserole usually served with broccoli and Mornay sauce. It was named after the place of its invention, the Divan Parisien Restaurant in the New York City Chatham Hotel where it was served as the signature dish in the early twentieth century. Its creator was a chef named Lagasi."

I came across a link to the WORLD'S BEST Chicken Divan and stopped there. I'm glad I did! I read through the the blog post/recipe and began pulling out the ingredients. Because I can't go running off to the grocery store I made a few substitutions and changes, working with what I had on hand. I guess we all have similar limitations! 

I certainly identified with New York Time's columnist, Sam Sifton's column entitled "Substitution City".  He wrote: "With everyone out of this pantry item or that one, recipes have become mere suggestions of where you might start. They’re like assembly charts from Ikea when you have only 60 percent of the fasteners."

 The major substitution I made was using the broth from a can of chicken noodle soup, mixed with water, for the chicken broth and bouillon... and what the heck, I threw the noodles in the casserole as well. Knowing that canned soup tends to have a ton of salt in it, I did not add any other salt in my cooking. 

The recipe link above has detailed instructions. Here is my "Cliffs Notes" version:
  • Sauté seasoned cut broccoli and cauliflower (I didn't have enough broccoli) in olive oil for 30 seconds, then add 1/2 C of chicken soup liquid and water. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and put in a baking dish.
  • Add some butter to the pan after removing the veggies. Increase the heat. Put in cubed chicken that was previously seasoned liberally with pepper and paprika. Sear the chicken for about a minute, then stir and cook only until just done. Spoon the chicken on top of the broccoli/cauliflower mix.
  • Add a hunk of butter and some olive oil to the juices in the pan. Add some flour, seasonings and make a paste. Add more of the chicken soup liquid with water, some milk (I used half and half) and cook to thicken. Add sour cream, shredded cheddar and parmesan. I also plopped in some mayonnaise. Combine and spoon over the vegetables and chicken. (The recipe called for corn starch. I used it. I wouldn't use it again. My sauce became very pasty. I don't think it needed additional thickener.)
  • Pour some bread crumbs on top and cover with additional shredded cheddar. (When I make this again, I'll add some pats of butter on top of the bread crumbs)
  • Bake for 30 minutes at 350 and then enjoy.... thoroughly!

Just an aside....
this was posted on FaceBook. It was written by Haroon Rashid.
Wow... what a powerful message, putting us all in our places!

We fell asleep in one world, and woke up in another. 
Suddenly Disney is out of magic. 
Paris is no longer romantic, 
New York doesn't stand up anymore, 
the Chinese wall is no longer a fortress, 
and Mecca is empty. 
Hugs & kisses suddenly become weapons, 
and not visiting parents & friends becomes an act of love.
Suddenly you realise that power, beauty & money are worthless, 
and can't get you the oxygen you're fighting for.
The world continues its life and it is beautiful. 
It only puts humans in cages. 
I think it's sending us a message:
"You are not necessary. 
The air, earth, water and sky without you are fine. 
When you come back, remember that you are my guests. 
Not my masters."

Friday, April 10, 2020


In my last post I included a video I created. I made the video to show others how to use the bias binding foot of a Singer Featherweight sewing machine to make straps for face masks for our health care providers, since elastic is difficult to find. I put the video on YouTube and posted a link to it on the Singer Featherweight FaceBook page that I belong to. I have received such positive feedback. Many people are sewing masks, and those that responded to my post were thrilled to learn how to use that presser foot, which came standard with all Featherweights. And, this was before our President suggested that we should wear masks when we go out! The demand for masks is even greater.

Following my first video I perfected my technique, and put a second video "out there".  I posted a link to it on the Singer Featherweight FaceBook page, and again I received many nice comments. But the best compliment I received was a message from the Singer Featherweight folks asking if they could repost my instructional videos on a page dedicated to mask-making.

Shortly after I received a notification of an order being shipped from the Featherweight shop. I didn't order anything! Evidently they sent me an order of bias strips as a thank you for letting them post my videos. What a great shop!!

Sew, this is the mask my group has been making.

We are using the FU mask pattern:

Most of our masks are going to nurses who are wearing them over a disposable mask, which due to availability, they must wear all day, or in some cases, all week. The nurses are able to replace the cloth mask after seeing each patient, keeping the disposable masks more hygienic when used patient after patient. The cloth masks are laundered and are ready for use the next day. For this purpose, I have been using a layer of cotton fabric and a layer of batik. The weave on the two fabrics is of different thicknesses, so may have a bit better filtering capability. I know that the mask would not stop the virus. That is not the intent!

Now that we have been encouraged to wear masks ourselves, I am adding a layer of iron-on interfacing to my masks. I have been cautioned not to make the masks too thick as then it becomes difficult to breathe. One of my neighbors is cutting fabric for the masks for me. That's one less task that I have to accomplish. It makes the process quite a bit easier.

Each morning I wander into my sewing room and get to work. It's a new day and I begin with great zeal. About mid-day my back begins to hurt. I hate what I am doing and by the end of the day I decide that I'm done. I will not sew one more mask! I deliver those that I completed to the lead person in our group when I walk the dogs and return to watch TV with my husband, read a book or play a game on the computer. A good night's sleep erases my discontent, and the next day I set about my mask tasks with renewed ardor!

What is Four?

Have you ever thought of the meaning of "four"?  Four is the number of: seasons in a year. corners and sides to a square. virtues....