South-Mex Chicken & Waffles

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>For The Love Of Crab Stuffed Flounder

>I prefer to make everything from scratch and try, really try to buy things local and in season. As you know I don’t like anything that has been premixed or prepackaged and will avoid it at all costs if possible.

Now I’m not a total crazy; I buy organic pasta and canned tomatoes, Ghiardelli chocolate chips, things of that packaged nature. However I do have a full time job that, although is completely based in my home office, if often consumes many hours at night as well as my days.

So even though my mixer has a pasta attachment and I would PREFER to make pasta from scratch I have to find a balance; at least until I finish my Time Continuum Controller which will allow me to control how slow or fast time will move and when. Patent pending.

There simply isn’t enough time in a day and the fact that weekends are called weekENDS and not week beginnings, even though we technically consider Saturday the end and Sunday the beginning, (and why is one a compound word and the other two words), that simple fact makes those two days pass faster than the other five.

Boy did I get off track.

Food. I have a lot of things I want to learn how to make from scratch and I think it’s important to buy not only local but sustainable. Therefore I am very particular about when, where and what kind of fish I buy. I know, from homemade food to weekends to fish, yeah… ADD.

I haven’t had fish in a long time, not sure why, but it sounded really good. I just happened to see wild local caught flounder had been rounded up recently so I had some wrapped, thanked it for the sacrifice and married it with some crab. Trust me, the honeymoon was delicious!

Do a little research before you go shopping and you’ll be a better fish buyer before you can say “fishboy boots and cow fins”. If you haven’t looked at your local fish wrangler recently here’s a few tips

Fish farms may SEEM like a good idea and some are but it depends on the fish being raised. Most fillet fishes like salmon, catfish etc actually create more problems than solve. They are raised in large nets and in a single day can generate up to 65,000 lbs of waste. I would NOT want to be their garbage man. This waste falls to the bottom of the seabed floor where it can cause more damage and mess to the natural ecosystem of the water than 13 toddlers let loose in a Toys R Us; and like 13 toddlers this mung can create some nasty harmful bacteria.

Now, lets talk feeding these suckers. These fish farmers don’t just go to their local Pet Smart and buy 30,000 lbs of fish food. So where do they get it? They go catch it of course. Salmon are carnivores that eat, what else, fish. It takes three pounds of fish to grow one pound of farm raised salmon so that math is better left alone.

The good news is the FDA passed a law that requires fish to be labeled by how it’s grown, wild or farmed, and list the country of origin. You’re going to pay a lot more for flounder shipped in from Norway than those caught in Florida. Besides our fish have nice tans. Last time I checked Norway is flippin cold!

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Just for the record there is “dolphin fish” and “dolphin mammal” think Flipper. Dolphin fish is commonly known as Mahi Mahi, Very yummy and totally legal to eat, remember wild. The mammal however is a protected species world wide and illegal, as in go straight to jail, to hunt, sell or eat in all countries.

Lets get down to the hard core, hard as in shellfish. Shellfish has very little impact on the environment when raised in farms. They are quiet, don’t throw rowdy parties, make big old messes and usually just lay there and play nice with Mother Nature. How nice of them. So it’s ok if you buy farm raised shellfish, just look for that caught as close to home.

Ok so what’s fir dinner right, I mean that is what we are working towards.

I couldn’t remember the recipe I made once upon a time so I winged it and threw things together that sounded like they would jive.

I hope you enjoy and Let me know if you have your own variation of this.

 

Crab Stuffed Flounder

Ingredients

4 fresh flounder fillets
1 C. fresh or canned lump crab
4 Tbs butter
1/4 C. celery, finely chopped
1/4 C. green onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 C. fresh parsley, chopped
1 Tbs oregano, chopped
1 Tbs lemon juice
1/4 C. heavy cream
1 egg
1/2 C. fine bread crumbs (fresh bread run through a food processor works best)
2-3 Tbs melted butter
1/4 C. grated Parmesan, Romano or Dublin cheese.

Preparation

 
1. Dry fillets completely and lay flat on parchment paper covered cookie sheet.

2. In a medium skillet, melt butter on medium heat. Add onion, garlic and celery and saute for 2 minutes.

3. In small bowl combine cream and egg, whip until mixed.

4. Add crab, breadcrumbs, herbs and lemon juice to pan. Remove pan from heat and slowly temper the cream and egg mixture so as not to scramble the egg. Combine well.

5. Spoon 1/4 of crab mixture onto the center of each fillet and starting with the small end of the fish, roll.

6. Place seem side down and baste fillets with melted butter. Dust with salt and pepper and bake in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.

7. After 10 minutes sprinkle with cheese and cook additional 10 minutes or until flaky.

To Plate

Serve over a bed of buttered pasta, basmati rice or risoto. As pictured: basmati and brown grain rice mixed, complimented with wilted spinach salad.

CLICK TO PRINT RECIPE

>Bread to Distraction

>

Too many things at once; thoughts, conversations, to do’s, projects, chores, yes I have ADD. I’m easily distracted.

Oh look there’s a flower print on the bottom of my shoes.

What? OH sorry right, distraction.

The problem with multitasking is I often find I have started many things and failed to finish any of them. Or I begin talking about one subject and stray into so many other subjects without keeping track of where my mind is going that I forgot what I was initially trying to say.

I’m really trying to work on it, taming the monkey mind. It’s difficult believe me. Being an American makes it especially difficult as this is a country that has shifted into turbo drive and our culture now functions on how many minutes can we fit into each second; the fast and the furious is almost a religion in this country.

I have ADD… Did I already mention that? Sorry. So for me, concentrating and slowing down is like being The Little Engine that could; it takes will power, effort, and focused determination. Being an American built engine is like having the whole stinking Rocky Mountains AND Grand Canyon in my way.

I’m working on it though. I even took a long, long walk today for the only reason of taking a walk. I actually walked four miles and had no where to go, no where in mind and nobody chasing after me with fire sticks and maces. I even stopped to smell the flowers, literally, they were magnolias.
Crazy right?

But you know what they say about the best placed plans?

Well this is what happens when you forget you have dough rising in the oven and crank it up to 500 degrees.

Sigh… And right after my “refocus walk”.

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…

Where’s my tea?

>Pizza Anytime

>When was the last time you had pizza? Did you make it, buy it from a local pizza palace or was it frozen from a box?

I’m picky about pizza, really picky and I’m not picky, usually; unless we’re talking about “science food”; you know, fake food? Seriously, any food product that has more than 30 letters in it’s name is not food; and contrary to popular belief, pancakes do not come in a box or have 27 ingredients and for the record cheese is NOT EVER powdered.

Science food! Geesh!

Ok so maybe I am a little picky but only about the stuff that goes into my food and where is comes from, not so much as what it is as long as it’s all natural, real food. I’ll eat brussel sprouts and seaweed and be happy, Medicine Man….not so much.

Pizza however is one of those foods that just needs to taste good. The sauce need to be tangy, rich with the aroma and flavor of herbs with just a hint of salt. Dough should be light and airy, cooked to a golden sponge. The cheese should be gooey and melted into a pool of creamy heaven. Mmmmmmmm.

Thankfully we have this amazing born and bred family that run a pizza parlor near home and their food is so amazing. The sauce recipe has been handed down from generation to generation and is a closely guarded secret. Everything is cut up fresh each day, dough is made from scratch and perfectly hand tossed, and pies are cooked in fire ovens to perfection.

We’ve eaten there so much over the last four years the whole family knows us and treat us like part of their own. I just love going in and getting an authentic Italian double cheek kiss from Senore Raymondo when I see him.

Alas eating out is expensive and I just don’t have the time to stop down in the middle of the day to get WizKid and Me some lunch. Now that Medicine Man and I are experimenting with the whole “one car thing” I also don’t have the means to get there.

I love making bread so it made sense to just make our own. Why not? Dough is remarkably versatile and can be frozen for whenever you need it.

So that’s exactly what I did last weekend. Along with breakfast muffins, cookies, bread and sweet rolls I whipped up some pizza dough, divided it into six separate little balls, froze them individually and presto, fresh pizza whenever we want. In my house we all like something different so I made them single serving size.

The best part about pizza is it can be completely different each time, even dessert! It just may be a perfect food. I have no doubt when I get my new freezer I am going to have a lot of pizza dough on standby. Along with Swiss Buttercream courtesy of Rosie from “Sweetapolita“.It is the perfect solution for all the left over egg whites I have from making pastry cream, cream puffs etc. If you haven’t stopped over to see Rosie’s amazing creations you seriously need to. She is incredible!

WizKid is a meatsa-pizza kinda kid so I cooked up some bacon, sausage, cut up ham and pepperoni then bagged them all up for quick access whenever he wants. Thank goodness he’s young and has enough energy to power a small city or else he’d have arteries that flowed like sludge. I think that boy could eat a pound of bacon and not think twice about it. Medicine Man and myself on the other hand are more veggie admirers so I did the same for peppers, broccoli etc.

The very best part of making our own is it’s something we can all do together and have fun. Wiz even gets in and helps roll them out. It becomes a family affair and now any time is pizza time.
Come on let’s go put a pie in the oven.

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PIZZA DOUGH

Ingredients
8 2/3 C. bread flour
3 1/2 C. warm water
1 1/4 tsp instant yeast
4 tsp salt
3 Tbs cornmeal
2 Tbs seasoned oil (see recipe below)
Preparation
1. Mix flour, water, yeast, salt and cornmeal in large mixing bowl and mix on low speed until incorporated.
2. Increase mixing speed to medium and mix an addition 2 or 3 minutes slowly adding the oil in four increments. 
3. Coat a bowl lightly with oil or cooking spray and scrap dough into bowl. Cover bowl and put in warm place for about one hour. 
4. After first hour remove dough and kneed for 30 seconds or stretch and fold.
5. Put dough back into proofing bowl for another 45 minutes. 
6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide evenly. The size will depend on your preference for us. For individual pizzas cut into 9 ounce section. 
7. Roll each section into a ball and set refridgerator for 4-6 hours. Or wrap each in oiled plastic wrap and freeze for future use. To thaw let rest on counter for a couple of hours or in refridgerator over night. 
8. To roll and bake: heat over to 500 degrees – these babies need to cook on some serious high heat. Roll dough flat to about 3/8 inch thick for thin crust. Don’t try to force the dough. Give it a good roll and then let it sit for a few minutes to roll again. Allowing it to rests lets the dough relax and more pliable with each rest.
9. Transfer dough discs to cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or cooking peal dusted with additional cornmeal. 
10. Using left over seasoned oil, lightly brush just the edges of the pizza trying to avoid dripping on pan. 
11. Top with your favorite seasoning and cook for about 12 minutes.

SAUCE

Ingredients

 2 14 oz cans of organic tomato sauce
1 14 oz can petite diced tomatoes
1 small onion minced – really small
2 cloves garlic minced – even smaller
2 Tbs basil and oregano or italian seasoning
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Preparations

Combine all ingredients and let sit in fridge for several hours before use ( you can use it right away but letting it sit gives the ingredients a chance to mix and meld.

Store in air tight container in fridge or freeze.

Some freezing options. Measure out enough for pizza size of choice (or several so you have your choice) and place in ice cube trays or small muffin pans (perfect for personal pizza) and freeze. Once completely set, remove and store in freezer bags until ready to use.

I like to keep a bin in my fridge for my pizza dough and sauces so they are both readily available when the craving starts.

SEASONED OIL

Ingredients

1/2 – 3/4 C. olive oil
1 tsp dried basil or italian seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preparation

Combine all ingredients and store in airtight container or oil dispense. I keep this stuff on hand for pizza, pasta dishes you name it.

Feel free to play with the ingredients. I grow tons of fresh herbs and like to add these as well for a richer flavor.

CLICK TO PRINT RECIPE

>Mad Science And The Potted Plants

>For the past couple of months WizKid has been working on a science project for his end of the year final. In Connections Academy these are called “portfolio” assignments and generally come with a rather hefty grade value attached. This particular assignment is worth a whopping 42% of his over all grade.

Being Mr. Little Grow Green who wants to save the ecosystems of the world, end poverty, eliminate pollution, waste and over consumption and do away with false foods (yes mom has taught him well), he chose a basic project of hydroponic mediums vs soil for plant growth.

The concept was simple; take three identical plants (basil) and plant each in a different growth medium.
One in plain potting soil.
One in gravel and sand.
One in nutrient rich water.

Over the space of two months record if any had a better growth rate than the others and if there were any noticeable advantages or disadvantages between the three.

To be honest the results were nearly what we expected and not overly surprising.

At first the basil in sand struggled and had to be watered every day. I think the gravel to sand ratio was too high, favoring the gravel, and the sand couldn’t hold enough of the water. A nylon rope was threaded through the hole in the bottom of the pot to act as a wick to draw moisture unto the roots.
It was very touch and go for several weeks but that little guy held in. Then one day it just started growing really well. Wiz thinks the roots finally grew enough to absorb the water it needed.

The soil pot did great of course as soil plants do. The only annoying issue, and one of the reasons we want to have all the plants in the house hydroponic, is soil becomes it’s own ecosystem and a breeding ground for pests. Little tiny flies especially that never seem to go away.

Th water plant did good for a few weeks but it started growing algae and it was very difficult to control. Sad to say it finally succumbed to the greater power. Such a tragic day when herbs die.

We had a moment if silence in the kitchen for our lost comrade and made basil baguettes in its honor. (with the healthy basil of course)

Over all I preferred the sand medium of the three and I would like to employ this method again. I do think I will mix a good portion of perlite or vermiculite in with the sand to give it that extra water retention power.
The benefit of this is it’s virtually a pest free medium. The disadvantage is the pots are far heavier and if you decide to plant something say like a tree, you’ll need a dolly truck to move it.

WizKid is nearly finished with his Power Point and I have no doubt he will get a perfect grade.
As for mom here, I couldn’t be prouder.

Doesn’t hurt I got two healthy basil plants out of the deal as well.

A girls gotta be practical right?

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Want to try your own sand plant? Here’s a basic instruction to get you started with the modifications I will use next time. I’ll add more photos to the post when I do another one of these.

Note: these instructions are based on an 8 inch pot, adjust all sizes, weights amounts etc accordingly based on the size of pot you use.

Materials

1 8 inch plant pot with a drain hole and water dish
1 plant of your choice; I prefer herbs or edible flowers..
Enough fine play sand or decorative sand (found in the flower arrangement section of Walmart or craft store) to fill the pot 3/5 full
1/5 pot worth of aquarium or small pebble decorative gravel
1 bag perlite potting mix (the bubbly white stuff you see in plant soil)
6 inches nylon, cotton or other water retention rope, 1/2 inch minimum
3 or 4 square blocks of wood or other flat solid material that are 1 inch wide by 1/4 to 1/2 inches high based. PVC ring fittings are also ideal. They come in all sizes and are rot proof and can ensure a perfectly even base.

Assembly

In a sturdy bucket mix 4 parts sand to 1 part gravel to 2 parts perlite.

Gently gently clean all dirt and soil from plant roots.

Unwind of carefully fray both ends of the rope. Then In plant pot, thread the rope through the hole leaving 2 inches dangling outside the bottom of the pot.

Holding the rope in the center of the pot add about one inch of the sand mixture to hold the rope firmly in place. You may want to place the pot on a rag or towel to prevent the sand from draining out of the hole.

Here’s the tricky part; dangle the plant in the center of the pot letting the roots pool just slightly on the layer of sand. with one hand hold the rope and plant together being sure the rope and roots are closely entwined or touching. With the other hand add a 1/2 to 1 inch layer of perlite on top of the first sand mixture.

Keeping the plant centered, gently add sand mixture to the pot up to one inch from the top (this will vary depending on the size of your pot, use your judgement).

Place the wood blocks evenly spaced in the water dish. These will become a support for the plant to rest on giving space for the rope to lie unobstructed at the bottom of the plate.

Carefully place the plant on top of the blocks, it’s heavy so make sure you know where you’re going to put this baby ahead of time.

Feed the plant with nutrient rich solution every day at first to soak the sand and perlite giving the roots time to adapt and suck up enough water.

Water as needed.

NOTE: if you find the plant is not absorbing enough water from the plate you can remove the blocks and place the plant directly in the dish. Be sure to coil the exposed rope in the center so it is not pinched or the plant unstable.

Did you try this project? Would love to hear from you.

>Around The World Cheese Pasta

>Comfort Food

Quick what just came to mind? Tonight for me it was macaroni and cheese. It’s been FOREVER since I had macaroni and cheese. Warm, melted gooey goodness dripping off a fork.

Oh my!

Today was Monday and ugh what a Monday. Nothing in particular really MADE it an Ugh Monday; it just was. Therefore I wasn’t in the mood to cook. I mean really get down and deep in my kitchen kinda cooking you know what I mean?

I needed something quick and for me that means anything that can be prepped and cooked in an hour or so. When you cook everything from scratch, rarely do I find anything that takes me less than 30 mins. I tried, really I did but well, I haven’t been successful with that yet. I simply can not bring myself to buy pre-prepared food in a bag or a box or a little plastic container that says “Just pour”. I did that and I remember all too well where THAT landed me; Unhappy with food and downright miserable in my kitchen.

And I just don’t have the energy to talk about the ingredients in most of that stuff. Can you say “Mad Science!?” That’s a whole other story and you’re welcome to dive into the whole ugly business in my “Why Butter” page. For tonight I just wanted quick but comforting and sitting at my computer “macaroni and cheese” came to me like a warm blanket wrapping itself around me on a cold night.

Rummaged through the freezer and fridge and there on the shelf were the blocks of cheeses I bought on a whim a few weeks ago. Cheeses from Italy and France, Ireland and Switzerland, Holland and yes even Milwaukee Wisconsin.

I had my muse.

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I’ve always wanted to travel around the world and although I have yet to begin, I think tonight’s dinner comes close…kinda.

Okay, here’s the dealio. If you don’t have a smorgasbord of cheeses on hand or perhaps a little tight in the purse strings, no problem it’s just a very worldly version of your every day Mac & Cheese. Good old Cheddar works just find by itself. You really can’t go wrong (except maybe with some Longaberger, I don’t recommend it).

Mix up any of the cheeses you have and see what you create. Stop by and let me know if you find a perfectly ambrosia combination.

Around The World Cheese Pasta

Ingredients

3 C. Rotini, Penne or other bite size pasta; uncooked
1/2 C. Butter
1/4 C. All-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
1/4 tsp Dry mustard
1/4 tsp Paprika
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 C. Milk
1 C. Heavy cream
1 C. Sharp cheddar cheese, grated.
1/2 C. Swiss cheese
1/2 C. Gruyere cheese
1/2 C. Dubliner cheese
1/4 C. Romano cheese
1/2 C. Panko bread crumbs
2 C. Broccoli florets quartered
1 1/2 C Fresh ham diced to about 1/2 inch

Preparations:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Grate all cheeses and set aside.

3. In small bowl, combine Romano and bread crumbs. Set aside.

4. In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.

5. Lightly butter a two quart casserole dish and spread the ham in a layer at the bottom of the dish.

6. In a second layer add the broccoli florets adding more if needed or desired.

7. In separate large sauce pan melt butter over low heat.

8. Whisk in flour, salt, pepper, mustard, cayenne and Worcestershire sauce. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly; remove from heat.

9. Stir in milk and heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute or until thickened.  remove from heat.

10. Stir in cheese until melted. The milk may be hot enough to melt the cheese on it’s own. If not add pot back to a low heat stove stirring constantly to avoid clumping or over cooking.

11. Drain macaroni and gently add into cheese sauce. Stir to combine completely.

12. Pour into casserole dish. Bake uncovered until bubbly, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

CLICK TO PRINT RECIPE

>Rainbow Inspired Romano Pork Chops

>I had to go to Bethesda last week to touch base with the Mother Ship, the main office.
I don’t have to go very often, usually only about twice a year for a couple of days.

We have a fantastic crew and it’s always great seeing everyone. Not too mention, Bethesda is just a really cool town. It has this vibe, this energy, that gives the city a pulse. I’ve never been to New York but I imagine it to be like a mini New York; always something new to see; always awake and in motion.
There are incredible places to eat and the tulips are simply beautiful if we’re lucky enough to get there in the Spring when they’re blooming. I’m pretty such the Big Apple doesn’t have tulips.

The flight from Tampa is a straight shot if I fly into Washington Reagan Airport, which I always do. The other plus is the super cool DC METRO picks up at the airport and just happens to drop off in Bethesda right below the parking garage to my office.

Talk about convenient right?

Any-who, I flew up early Tuesday morning and caught the 7:45 flight home on Wednesday. It rained the second day of the trip, oh and just happened to be a whopping 22 degrees COLDER than the day before.

81 on Tuesday
49 on Wednesday

What is UP with THAT?!

The rail trip back to DCA was quiet and just as we approached the airport a massive full rainbow appeared that was brighter than any I had ever seen before. It was like a paintbrush had swiped the sky and left this dazzling ribbon of color to send me off.

I took my Nikon with me and snapped a few photos between trains and below are a couple of the good shots. These have been uploaded directly from my camera with absolutely no post-process altering. What you see is what I saw.

Pretty amazing huh? And did I say it was a complete arc?

But the show wasn’t over yet. As I stood on the platform snapping a few shots I noticed off to the right a second rainbow began to form.

If you look in this next shot off in the right corner you can just see the second one faintly. Like the Little Engine that Could it tried and tried but just as it got a little steam a huge rain cloud blew in and took them both away.

The twin bows were a fantastic send off and they stayed with me the next couple of days as I settled back into the routine of life and catching up on 53,737,219,486 emails and pending tasks. I think I’m making a dent in them though I got about ten done by Friday.

Not bad I think.

The best part of coming home, besides the waiting muscular arms of Medicine Man and kisses from WizKid, was returning to my therapy den; my kitchen, and I thought it would be great to make something colorful, being inspired as I was by the ribbons of colorful light that sent me home in style.

Took a recipe for some pork chops, modified it a bit and threw together some complimentary side dishes and voila, Rainbow Inspired Romano Pork Chops, with ham and garlic sauteed asparagus over a bed of buttered herb rotini.

Romano Crusted Pork Chops

adapted from original recipe by: sgrishka

Ingredients

2 1/2-inch thick Center-cut loin pork chops; (bone-in or boneless)
3/4 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Black Pepper
1/2 tsp. fresh or dried rubbed sage
1/2 tsp. fresh or dried thyme
1/2 C. Romano cheese; freshly grated
1/4 C. Swiss cheese; freshly grated
1 large Eggs
1 Tbs. Vegetable oil
1 C. Dried Panko bread crumbs
Olive oil; (for shallow frying)
4 cloves Garlic; peeled and chopped

Preparations:

1. Spread cheeses in a shallow dish. Beat eggs with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in another shallow dish. spread bread crumbs in a third shallow dish.

2. Dry pork chops thoroughly. Combine salt, pepper, sage, and thyme, and sprinkle generously over both sides of chops.

3. Dredge seasoned chops in Parmesan cheese, coating both sides completely. Then, dip both sides of chops in egg mixture, letting excess drip back into dish to ensure thin coating. Finally, dip both sides of chops in bread crumbs, pressing crumbs with fingers to form an even, cohesive coating.

4. Place breaded chops aside and let sit for 5 minutes.

5. Heat 1/4 cup of olive or cooking oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-low heat. To flavor oil; stir in garlic, and cook until lightly browned. Remove garlic and Increase heat to medium. When oil shimmers, add chops and fry 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown and crispy, or to an internal temperature between 150 and 160 degrees F.

6. Drain on rack set over baking sheet, then transfer to a warm serving platter. Serve with lemon wedges and garnish with parsley sprigs.

CLICK TO PRINT RECIPE