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All Eggs are Not Created Equal

September 27, 2017

I love eggs.  I eat them poached, coddled, fried, boiled, scrambled or as an omelette. Sometimes nothing hits the spot better than a simple egg salad sandwich on squishy white bread with crunchy lettuce. (Okay not healthy, but this is one of my guilty comforts!) When I order Chinese, I always have the Egg Foo Young, basically a Chinese frittata.

Eggs are personal. Some people just can’t eat eggs. On the other hand, I once cooked for an ova-lactate vegetarian who could eat eggs all day long. Then there are my vegan friends who don’t eat any animal products at all. Others eat only the whites, but  I love the entire egg, especially the yolk. These are all personal choices and to be respected.

(Some of my vegans make the argument that they don’t eat eggs because all eggs are a potential life, a position that for me holds no water. Eggs are a byproduct of a hen. Whether there is a Rooster hanging around or not, that little lady is going to drop that egg no matter what. To my thinking, if the egg isn’t fertilized,  it’s not really a potential life, is it?).  

Before moving to Panama, I pretty much thought an egg was an egg was an egg. I couldn’t have been more wrong, but I only knew what was around me.  Before Panama, I had switched to organic eggs after hearing  the Buddhist monk, Thich That Hahn explain that “If you are going to eat an egg, eat a happy egg from a happy hen.”  But I learned that “organic”  doesn’t guarantee the hen is raised in a happy environment and these so-called organic eggs tasted and looked about the same to me with a very pale yellow yolk inside a runny liquid white.

It’s not all about taste for me.  No, I’m not an activist vegan for several reasons, but I do respect their cause and their commitment.  And, if you haven’t gone online to view how hens are treated at the big egg factories, please do. It is not pleasant. There is nothing remotely good,  appetizing or humane about factory farming.  It’s destructive and cruel. But it lines the pockets of the big companies and it does offer a less expensive product for people who need to shop economically.  The latter point I understand and I have chosen, on my tight budget, to cut corners elsewhere so that I can pay for my happy eggs. My local supermarket, Publix, now offers at least three farm-raised egg options, indicating, at least anecdotally, that the mainstream demand for fresher eggs seems to be increasing. (Links to some of these companies are posted, below.)  When I support a company selling “pasture-raised” eggs, I am supporting the local farmers who provide product for these labels. 

It wasn’t until we moved to mountains of Panama where my neighbors had hens that I had my Come-To-Jesus moment.  These eggs, even those from the supermarket, were delicious!  They were rich, rich, rich! The yolks were a deep cadmium yellow, brighter than a school bus, nearly orange and at first I was actually startled by the intensity of color.  These gorgeous yolks sat in a firm albumen that stood up on its own when you cracked it into a pan.

With fresh eggs, the white around the yolk will stand firmly after cracking. Note the color of the yolk.

All Panama eggs have brown shells.  I’ve never seen a white-shelled egg in Panama, but I think this speaks only to the breed of hen. In Mexico, eggs are white and often called  “blanquillos” meaning whites.  The only drawback to having brown eggs is that if you have little ones, it puts a damper on Easter Egg-dyeing fun … but my neighbor’s hens laid pastel colors eggs, shown in the featured picture for this post, and I was able to get some color on these.

Panama spoiled us forever. I could purchase eggs from my neighbor, Rumelia, for .15cents per. Further up the road, Grandma Gloria , who loved my cakes but who was reluctant to use her propane gas for baking, would share her pastel colored eggs in exchange for some of my oven treats. And at one point, we had a few hens of our own and Honey Bun, the prettiest, sweetest and cleanest hen ever, would come up onto my porch at 7 am, sit outside my kitchen, lay an egg and leave it for me under my table.

The flavor of an egg from a pasture-raised hen is so notably richer that my brother Nicholas, who lives lives in California where there’s a lot of conscious eating going on, exclaimed that the eggs he ate at my Panama house  were the best tasting eggs he had ever had. Ever. And he’s traveled the world.

When we moved back to the USA, my son William, who had grown up on Panama eggs, declared that he simply could not eat the supermarket eggs sold in the USA.  So I resolved to spend the big bucks!  A dozen eggs from pasture-raised hens will cost me anywhere from $4.50 to $5.99 (occasionally more). They are not quite as good as our Panama eggs, but they are noticeably better than the factory raised eggs with their pasty yellow yolks and runny whites.

Note of caution:  “Organic” does not mean cage-free. And “Cage-free” does not necessarily mean “Pasture-raised.”  “Free-range” might mean that a hen has one square foot of space.  So it’s best to get acquainted with the companies who are selling you your eggs. It’s not hard to do: A good company will have a website that answers all your questions under it’s FAQ section. Read on for links…

Here are links from two of the companies I purchase eggs from here in Florida.e Happy Eggs,  Nellies.  You will find good explanations of the differences between “free range,” “cage free,” and “pasture raised.”

 

 

 

Comfort Food

Left-Over Lift: Arroz con Pollo

March 5, 2017

Arroz con Pollo is a staple of many Latin American households and there are as many ways to prepare it as there are moms and grandmothers.  I make it the way I was taught by my neighbor in the Panama Interior, with a few spins of my own.

What’s even better is Arroz con Pollo is versatile; serve it hot or cold, and it’s easy to put your own spin on it using whatever feels right to you, or what makes sense from your fridge on any given day.  Leave out the chicken and bingo! Now you have a Vegetarian/Vegan dish! 

My recipe is perfect for both left-over chicken and left-over rice.  I don’t always make it with left-overs. I’ve been known to gently poach chicken breasts and then hand-shred them. But that’s just not necessary. And if you are using freshly cooked rice, chill it before blending it into the dish.

This past Saturday was “beach out like a whale” day which  in my house. means lots of binge TV and binge food, including super market fried chicken.

On Sunday, I was  left with an ample amount of tender chicken under the cold, crusty, greasy skins.  I also had a decend amount of cold, left-over chinese take-out rice (let’s not discuss that binge!) — perfect since this recipe uses cold rice.

I peeled and tossed the chicken skins, shredded the tender meat, and set it aside.

ARROZ con POLLO

  • Place two cups of cold, cooked, white rice into a large bowl. If you have freshly cooked rice, spread it out in a wide dish and refrigerate 1/2 hour.

    To the rice, add the following, adjusting quantities according to taste.
  • 1  or 1-1/2 cups of shredded chicken breast
  • 2 Tablespoons sliced green (or black) olives
  • 1 Teaspoon of caper berries
  • 1 Very thinly sliced or shredded carrot
  • 1/4 Cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 Teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 Cup green peas (Frozen…then run under warm water.)
  • 1/4 Cup corn (Frozen is fine, just run under warm water.)

As a main course, I was taught to serve this warm and always together with a light, crispy and simple salad with Russian dressing. Personally, I love the warm rice dish together with the crisp cold of the salad.

TIPS: This is such a versatile and deceptively filling way to eat rice and chicken so change it any way that works.

  1. Add chopped celery tops (the light green only) or celery heart.
  2. Make it without the chicken and you have a Vegetarian/Vegan dish.
  3. Toss in a little olive or caper juice, or even a squeeze of lemon or vinegar
  4. Some people add chopped tomato
  5. Remember: Use cold rice. It’s easy to quickly chill freshly made rice.
  6. Serve hot or cold, as a side dish or as a main course.

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Comfort Food

Absolutely Delicious Spinach

August 9, 2016

Spinach is a funny vegetable. Kids and adults can claim to love it or loathe it, but for me, almost anyone will love it if it’s prepared in a tasty way.

When my son’s girlfriend, Sabrina, a self-proclaimed disliker of the green stuff, ordered and then devoured yummy, warm and cheesy spinach appetizer at a local restaurant, I put my mind to creating a spinach dish that would be just as tasty, but healthier.

Not every mom is as lucky as I am when it comes to kids and vegetables, especially spinach.
William eats just about anything, but when he was little, I didn’t know if this would hold when it came to something like spinach. So I would prepare what we simply called “green noodles” as my way of adding this healthy vegetable to his diet.

The recipe below blends my “green noodles” idea with the comfort of the creamy, warm and cheesy restaurant dip.  So it’s not just for kids.
It’s super as a side dish but also filling enough to eat on its own.
The bonus is that it serves up the warm comfort feeling of something like Mac & Cheese, but definitely healthier!

Here is how I prepare spinach for even the most finicky guest or visiting child.

Oh! And if you like gooey, creamy, hot spinach dips, you and your guests will devour this comforting and tasty side dish.

PREPARATION

Finely mince, and I do mean mince,  two cups of lovely, tender baby spinach (or one cup per person) until the leaves are teeny tiny. Do not cook. Just set the pile aside on the chopping board.

  1. Boil the right amount of tiny pasta until done. I measure out about 1/2 a cup, dry, per person.
    For the pasta here, I used Orzo, but you can also use little stars, or other really small pastas. I do not recommend larger noodles and wouldn’t suggest any thing bigger than an elbow macaroni.
  2. Drain pasta and return to the hot pan it was boiled in.
  3. Immediately add 3 tablespoons of good butter so it will melt into the pasta.
  4. Toss in all the uncooked, minced spinach.
  5. Add 1/4 fresh, grated parmesan cheese.
  6. Add 1/4 sour cream or creme fraische.
  7. Salt & pepper to taste.
  8. Stir until the butter, parmesan and sour cream are well combined.
  9. Top with fresh, grated parmesan.

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TIP: If you eat gluten-free, simply substitute wheat pasta for a Quinoa or Rice pasta.

Comfort Food

Low-Carb Potato Alternative…

April 7, 2016

Cauliflower is very popular these days as a healthy replacement for not only carb-loaded potatoes, but as a meat replacement in dishes such as Tacos!

If you’re eating Paleo, Vegetarian. Grain-Free, or just wanting a new way to get your veggies, this super simple preparation is for you!

No bacon needed!

CAULIFLOWER SMASH!

  1. Split or quarter  1/2 of a large head of Caulifower, leaves included, except for those really thick, tough leaves that don’t steam up well.
  2. Have 1/4 cup loosely chopped onion handy but don’t add yet.
  3. Cover your Cauliflower with salted water (2 tsp salt) and simmer until easily stabbed with a fork. About 3 minutes before it is really soft, toss in the onion!
  4. When fork-soft, drain and place in a large bowl.
  5. While still hot, chop or break the cauliflower it into smaller pieces with a scissors or a knife. This should be easy.
  6. Toss in 2 tbsp butter
  7. Toss in a 1/3 tsp of Oregano. (Any fresh herb could do, such as Tarragon, Sage, Thyme, but stick with one flavor.)
  8. Puree all the Cauliflower & Onion with a hand blender, or whatever blender/food processor you use. Leave a few lumps for a nice consistency.
  9. Once pureed,sprinkle in about 1/4 cup of Italian blend cheese or a very mild cheddar, or any mild cheese. Now stir in the cheese until combined and melty.

Spoon your puree out and garnish with fresh herbs.

TIPS:  To treat this more like traditional mashed potatoes, add a little Half & Half to the mix as you puree. You can also top with gravy or, on each serving, top with a dollop of  Sour Cream, Chives, and extra Cheddar. Cauliflower is influenced by the flavors that surround it.

Comfort Food

Paleo Veg Surprise

January 23, 2016

Everything is better with bacon. And teensy cabbages are no exception. Oh, you think you don’t care for brusel sprouts…but ah, you haven’t tried this dish. I dare you to serve this up to even the most reluctant eater, and I encourage you to cheat; Don’t even tell them what it is. You’ll see.

To Prepare

  • With your favorite scissors, dice up 4 slices of bacon and stir fry until crispy.
  • Set aside and drain, leaving about 3 tablespoons of the bacon greese in the ot pan.
  • Cut about 8 fresh brussel sprouts in half. Then quarter them.
  • Toss these into the pan along with the hot bacon grease and stir fry until the edges feel crispy and begin to brown.
  • Toss brussel sprouts and bacon bits together, adding salt & pepper to taste.(If you can find Truffle Salt, try some!)

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Comfort Food

No More “Gringo Rice!”

November 1, 2015

I’ll never forget when a an honored dinner guest, an educated hydroponics engineer type whom I was trying to impress — and who is given to social blurting — blurted out his obvious disappointment upon seeing the savory rice dish I was about to serve, exclaiming (a la “Oy Vey”) “Oh… Gringo rice.”

That was it. I had spent seven months in the Philippines and two years in Mexico and I still cooked rice like a Greenwich girl… all sticky and gooey and clumpy.

I had been taught that it was key to use exactly  twice the water to rice and also to never, ever, lift the lid of the pot while it steamed.  I followed this to a T every time, and for years, and still I got goopy “Gringo rice” every time.

Back in the 1970s,  my dad, who had is own ad agency, rejected the marketing of a brand called “Success Rice,” claiming that the concept was a ploy: that people all over the world found making fluffy rice easy breezy and would only  laugh at the little, holey, pre-measured, steam bags made for us WASPY white-bread types who bought into the idea that rice making was a mystery, that rice-making required a special touch.

The morning after my dinner party rice disaster, I marched over to my Panamanian neighbor Leticia’s house, refusing to leave until she showed me exactly how Latinas make their rice all light and fluffy. Since that day, never ever has as my rice been met with disapproval.

It is not a science so you don’t need measuring cups, and it is easy. I was recently back in the United States and a friend, another girl brought up on bread and pasta, cooked up a pot of white rice. It came out as I expected see photo below).   I took the very same rice, the same kind of pot she’d used, but instead I simply made two simple changes and whipped up my Latino style arroz blanco (white rice.)

The photos speak: you can see that the first batch, made by my friend, is sticky, clumped and gooey, while the same rice product, made by me, came out fluffy.

FLUFFY LATINO RICE — There are only two simple tricks!

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Gooey “Gringo Rice”

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Fluffy Rice, Latino Style

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Measure out a cup of uncooked, white rice and place in a bowl.
  2. Rinse this rice until the water runs clear. (Some save the first rinse-water for soups. See tip below).
  3. Drain/strain out the water in a colander.
  4. In your favorite pot for rice cooking, heat two tablespoons of oil or butter.
  5. Dump your rinsed and drained rice into the hot oil and start sauteeing.  
  6. Stir until the rice seems dry but does not brown, about a minute.
  7. Now pour water or chicken stock over your rice until the rice is covered and the water level measures about as high as your first knuckle above the rice…about 1/2 an inch.  I use my index/pointer finger knuckle and I do this by eye. It is not an exact science and this does not matter. 
  8. Bring the liquid to a low boil. Then cover and reduce heat to a simmer and let cook for about 15 minutes.
  9. Lift the lid and check by picking out a fork full and tasting.   Is it dry? Add 1/4 cup of water, cover and cook on low another 8 minutes or so.  When you feel your rice is done, just turn off the stove and let the rice sit in the pot.

TIPS:

  •  If your rice develops a hard, crusty and golden layer at the bottom, no worries! This is called the “dorado” and many people think it is a treat to get some of the crust.
  • A Filipina friend of mine sets aside her first, cloudiest rinse-water from her rice wash  — the starchiest batch –adding this to broth to an give her soups that, milky-cloudy, Asian look.
  • I have developed a liking for eating rice with breakfast eggs, especially fried or sunny-side up. When using your rice for making Fried Rice dish, or Arroz con Pollo, wait until your rice is cold, cooled or one day old to use for this type of dish.  Freshly cooked, hot rice will not give you the desired result.
  • For extra flavor, when you add your liquid, toss in a whole, peeled clove or two of garlic if you like. You can pick them out when your rice is cooked.
My Daily Kitchen

Decadent Pesto Pâté

September 13, 2015

I could eat Pesto sauce all day long, but I tire of having it on wheaty, fattening pasta. So I am always trying to come up with other ways to give my food the delicious taste of pesto sauce, such as tossing it with vegetables (try cauliflower or zucchini) or using it as a sandwich spread on wraps or break. But as I said, this gets boring.

I am a hedonist; I do not do well with deprivation.  I wanted be able to eat something rich and smooth, something I could enjoy in the same way I used to savor a silky liver pâté, or dig a petite knife into a ripened, warm, gooey, pungent  Brie, but without the meat or dairy.  In other words, I want a low-carb Pesto decadence and I found a way to have it!

I came up with this delicious and satisfying Pesto Pâté, good enough to serve to company.

Here is how I prepare it.

Dedadent Pesto Pâté

In a food processor (mine is only a tine $10 food chopper) add:

  • 2 Cups fresh basil, tightly packed (or 3 cups loose leaves)
  • 1/2 Cup extra virgin olive oil, best quality
  • 3 Garlic teeth/cloves (or 3, 1/2 tsp crushed garlic from the jar)
  • 1  Tsp freshly squeezed lemon or citrus
  • 1/4 Tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/8 Tsp salt

Process the above by pulsing until reduced … but not puréed!
Fancy food processors might mince too finely, so go bit by bit.  You do not want this to be soupy, but rather you want it chunky while still spreadable. Think about cutting hair; once cut, you can’t put it back,  but you can always cut more. So take your time and before you think your are there…
… This is when you want to add:

1 Cup whole, salted cashew nuts (if using unsalted, you’ll need to add more sale to the mix)
1 Cup grated Parmesan cheese (Vegan? Use a cheese substitute).

  • Process until the mixture is chunky but still spreadable. 
  • Taste it. If you want a tad more lemon, or cheese, or salt, just adjust until your taste buds are dancing.
  • Now, pack your mixture into any container and either freeze this…  or chill.

SERVING:
If frozen, just set the container on the counter for a few hours counter until you can tip it, intact, onto your platter.

If refrigerated, tip & scoop onto your serving platter. Don’t worry if the shape comes out goofy because this mix is malleable and easily sculpted after it is on the plate.
Keep refrigerated on the platter until you are ready to serve. Then place your crackers at the last minute.

TIPS:

  • If you are Vegan, omit the Parmesan and replace with a vegan option.
  • Gluten Free? Just find a good rice cracker in place of wheat.
  • Slice large pieces of tomato or zucchini and use these in place of crackers for spreading.

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My Daily Kitchen

So Easy… Dill Goat Cheese!

August 29, 2015

I purchased a quart of fresh goat’s milk at the market and decided to make my own flavored  cheese. It was astonishingly simple to do…a nearly effortless process, and the result was delicious, subtle flavored with dill and pepper. Plus, the process gave me control over the amount of salt I wanted to use.

DO NOT BE DAUNTED by the list below. I have outlined each step I took. It is easy, easy, easy. The entire process took me maybe 15 minutes.

Goat’s milk is generally considered to be beneficial in ways that cow’s milk is not. For a list of benefits CLICK.

Now you can make your own flavored cheese. I chose Dill because I had some, and it’s light and versatile.

HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN GOAT CHEESE

  • Pour  1 quart or liter of fresh Goat Milk into a saucepan. Add to this:
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons of finely chopped, fresh Dill
  • 1 Teaspoon of good quality salt (or less, just to your taste).
  • Shake in about 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • Stirring, bring the mixture to near boiling. The surface will develop small, foamy bubbles and the pan will emit sweet smelling steam. Avoid a rolling boil.
  • Turn off the fire.
  • Now for the magic!  Right into your hot milk & herb mixture, add 1 Tablespoon of White Vinegar, or fresh citrus.
  • Stir a few times and walk away for a few minutes. (Your milk will curdle and the whey will separate.)
  • Find a nice bowl over which you can securely set a strainer.
  • Line your strainer with a large coffee filter
  • Spoon or pour all your mixture, liquid and all, over the filter.
  • Let sit & drain until all the liquid is gone and only the firm white cheese remains.
  • Scoop this dryer into a new, clean coffee filter & gently squeeze into a small ball.
  • Set the wrapped ball on a little dish, like the one below. Now set another dish on top, for weight.
  • Leave this in the refrigerator overnight or until chilled & firm
  • Voila! You have an easy, nice, tasty and firm cheese.

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TIPS:  Eat it sliced on crackers, or sprinkle it atop an omelette. Add it to sandwishes or garnish soups with it. Sprinkle it or arrange nice slices on your next healthy salad.

This is a super fun project to do with kids!

My Daily Kitchen

Delicious Power Salad…Hold the Dressing!

August 20, 2015

There are no rules to my salads except one: I never use store-bought dressing. In fact, I hardly use any oils at all, even the healthy ones.

You can throw anything you want into your salad, but the more super foods you can add, the more your salad becomes an energy-sustaining meal, instead of a light side dish or starter.

Denser food items will keep you feeling full longer and smooth out blood sugar levels longer. By the way, there is very little oil in this salad, making it heart-healthy.

2 STEPS TO PUTTING IT TOGETHER

  • First, I grab a  couple of handfuls of already washed, very dark, leafy lettuces.
    Generally speaking, the darker the green,  the higher the nutrient content.
    I added arugula, which I try to keep on hand. Also, you can sneak in your beet tops. See BEET NOTES, below.
  • Next, I tossed in just few shakes of my favorite seasoned salt (here, I used Lemon Pepper, but sometimes I use Cajun Seasoning, or Cavender’s, or Lawry’s.  Whether you have Dollar Store spices, or fancy mixes from boutique or organic vendors, surely you have some favorite seasonings. Use them. Sprinkle in a little at a time.)
  • Next, I squeezed in about a teaspoon of lemon juice, since I used only a few handfuls of lettuce.
  • Then, and here is the surprise, I added only two or three shakes of extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil.

With these ingredients in my large bowl, I use my favorite Dollar Store scissors to cut (right hand) and spin the bowl (left hand) which chops and incorporates the lettuces, lemon, oil and seasoning.

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Now,  cover a dinner plate with this tossed, seasoned and chopped lettuce mix.

Separately, chop and set aside these ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of loosely chopped, Roasted Walnuts
  • 1/4 cup ripe Avocado
  • 1/4 cup sliced, sweet Plantain
  • 1/4 cubed, ripe Tomato
  • 1/4 cup sliced, then cubed Artichoke hearts, from a can.
  • 1/4 cut fresh (boiled earlier) beets. *See note below on beets!
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced Onion, white or red.

Arrange these remaining ingredients around your lettuce in a way that appeals. Start with the darker items, like the beets, which will serve as a nice backdrop to offset the lighter items, such as plantain, avacado, tomato.
Onions and walnuts go on last.

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TIPS:  If you really can’t wrap your head around beets, or think you can trick your family into them,  think about adding steamed carrots or heart of palm.

If you need more protein, go ahead and add a boiled egg or some lovely turkey breast. Grapes, raisens, apples, olives … and a little flax seed could also add some tang and substance.

DRESSING TIPS: Rather than douse your greens with oils, in addition to lemon and seasonings, toss in a bit of your artichoke, olive, or pickle juice. Squeeze in a spritz of orange or mandarin juice. Or pineapple. All these liquids can add zing to a dressing without adding oils!

*BEET TIPS: People routinely make the comment: “I hate beets.”
Maybe they do. Or maybe the think they do.
Beets are very nutritious and I think, misunderstood. If served right, they are a surprisingly beautiful addition to dishes. And sometimes easy to disguise!  Here are my beet tips:

  • Boil your own beetroot but not until squishy. When you use them in a salad, they will still have a firm feel, even a crunch. And they really tend to take on the flavor of your dressing.
  • Keep them cold, in their boiling juice, until ready to use
  • Chop them small and mix them into dark lettuce. People hardly notice.
  • SAVE the beet tops. The leaves are even more nutritious than the root and, you can chop these into your lettuces! Who will know?
  • Beets can be processed raw and are lovely when combined with onion, mandarin, even a little citrus rind.  Try them in a bowl with onion and Blue Cheese! Dreamy….
  • You can save and use the beautiful magenta juice in dressings, or even drink it.
Comfort Food

Vegan-Ease …with Spice!

August 16, 2015

Taro Root has a surprisingly creamy, buttery taste on it’s own.
So when you do add some zip, it’s even better.
Taro is an interesting and different alternative to the white potato, plus, it’s easier on your blood sugar load.

To Prepare Creamy, Spicy Taro

  • Peel 4 good sized taro roots
  • Cut them into chunks
  • Cover with water, about an inch
  • Toss in a full tablespoon of fresh, or dried, rosemary
  • Add a teaspoon of hot red pepper flakes
  • Add a teaspoon of salt to the pot
  • Boil together as you would potatoes, about 20 minutes, or until you can pierce a chuck with a fork.
  • Drain away the water and don’t worry that much of the Rosemary and Pepper Flakes will wash away. Enough will remain.
  • Stir in a spoonful of Earth  Balance butter substitute

TIP: This would be easily just as yummy with Fresh Parsley, but tossed in at the end, after the boiling is done. I would use about 1/4 cup.