Fast Tip Friday: PlagiarEYEs Me

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The eyes have it, folks. Feel free to take this idea (rather poorly  executed on my part, after LongJohn was in bed) and run with it for your next greeting card.

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Step one: acquire googly eyes. These came from the dollar store.

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Step two: come up with a pun that can be properly appreciated by a one-year – old (or a fifty-one-year-old).

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Step three: apply both to card stock. I hope you have better drawing skills than I do.

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I have some bigger projects in the pipe for you – now that I’m getting a bit more sleep I can actually think up some stuff – but strangely, when you have a baby in the house these projects tend to take a bit longer than they should. So stay tuned!

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PB & J Gooballs

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These are a great little snack when you’re on the go and need some protein. Or when you are pacing around your house with a small baby and have only one hand to get sustenance. Also good for children as a wee treat when they come home from school (although if you’re going to feed these to children under 1 year of age, replace the honey with maple syrup or something else, because botulism ain’t a joke). They were called “snack bites” on the website where I got the original idea but I think GOO BALLS is a way better term. So gooballs they will be. These ones taste like a peanut butter and jam sandwich, but you can pretty much customize these however you would like.

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Your basic ingredients are as follows: 1 cup oats, 1/2 cup peanut butter (or sun butter, or whatever), and 1/4 cup honey. The rest is up to you.

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I added in a few tablespoons ground flax, for health reasons.

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And a handful of Reese peanut butter chips, for non-health reasons.

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And some freeze-dried raspberries, because I had them on hand and they’re tasty as heck. Any dried fruit will do, provided you cut it up pretty small.

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Assemble all your dry ingredients. I crumbled the raspberries in my hand so they were smaller.

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Tip in the wet ingredients.

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Stir!

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Chill that for about 30 minutes, then take it out and roll a couple tablespoons’ worth of it into a ball. Repeat until you run out.

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Store these suckers in the fridge to keep them firm and less sticky. ENJOY!

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Momofuku’s Banana Cream Pie, only slightly butchered.

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I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix since LongJohn was born – it helps to pass the time while being forced to stay perfectly stationary for long periods of time. I figured going into this that I’d try to stick with documentaries – that way I could educate myself and if I was interrupted (which I often am) then I wouldn’t miss too much plot if they played in the background while I did something else. And so I’ve been watching a ton of cooking documentaries, and I just finished plowing through The Mind of a Chef. In the first season, the focus is largely on David Chang, owner of Momofuku in New York. One of the segments features his pastry chef, who whips up a banana cream pie like it was nothing.

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It looked so easy I figured I could do it even with LongJohn around. And then I had to think about that for a minute. This recipe involves making a custard, and uses four different kitchen appliances, some of them more than once. It really isn’t THAT easy, but it’s easy for me NOW to do. Talk to me five years ago and I would never have attempted this, or I would have addressed it as a challenge. It’s weird how much this blog has made me grow as someone who cooks things. But on to the pie, which is semi-easy if you’ve made things in the kitchen before. I set up a mis en place because I knew LongJohn could interrupt me at any time.

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I also took my butter and, because my microwave is all the way in the basement, I set it outside on my back porch in the sun to melt. I’m that lazy.

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Plus it was like 33°C, which is more than warm enough to melt butter.

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You like my squinty face?

And so it did.

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The recipe I used printed everything in weights (ounces and grams) so I’m going to use ounces here – my apologies. Get your kitchen scale ready. Start with 8 oz very ripe bananas (this is like two). These are the black ones that you chuck in your freezer. Pitch those into a blender together with 2 3/4 oz whipping cream, and 2 1/4 oz milk and blend the crap out of them until they’re lovely and smooth.

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Next, tip in 3 1/2 oz sugar, 1 oz cornflour (I’ve come to realize that this is a Britishism for cornstarch, not masa harina, which I used – butchery #1), a pinch of salt, and 3 large egg yolks. Blend that again, scraping down the sides of the blender, until the colour is uniform.

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Pour that stuff into a medium saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, whisking often, until the mixture thickens. Clean your blender while this is going on.

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The recipe says to bring it to a boil but mine never did. Eventually it will be a very heavy paste that holds its shape. Pour the thick stuff back into the blender.

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Grab 2 leaves gelatin or 1 pouch gelatin (I thought a leaf equaled a pouch and used two pouches – butchery #2) and follow the instructions to make it “bloom”. When it’s ready, chuck it in the blender along with 1 1/2 oz butter and blend until smooth (again).

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Next, drop in 1/2 teaspoon yellow food colouring (otherwise your pie will be brown not  yellow) and blend again until the pie is artificially crazy yellow (it will get lighter later, I promise).

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Pour the yellow goo into a container and chill it for 30-60 minutes.

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While that’s happening, make the chocolate crumb for your crust (I actually did this first, because it made more sense to me). Preheat your oven to 300°F and stir together 3 1/2 oz plain flour, 1 teaspoon cornflour (again, cornstarch), 3 1/2 oz sugar, 2 oz cocoa powder, and 1 teaspoon salt.

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Tip in 3 oz melted butter (yay, the sun!) and beat until small clusters form.

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Spread the clusters on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. The clusters should be still moist but will dry out as they cool. In order for this to happen they have to be a bit bigger than what you see in the picture, because these will burn (so either cook them for less time or make them bigger – butchery #3). Apparently this makes more than you need for a 10″ pie so you will only use 3/4 of it but I didn’t want to waste it or store it so I used it all in my 9″ pie plate and it was totally fine.

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Once the clusters have cooled, chuck them into a food processor and pulse until they turn sandy and there are no chunks left.

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Tip these granules into a bowl and toss with 2 teaspoons sugar and 1 tablespoon melted butter.

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Work that with your hands until the stuff is moist enough to knead into a ball (I did not do this because my poor carpal tunnel hands are killing me). Press that into the pan. I did it with just the crumbs and it was fine (butchery #4).

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Don’t forget to press it firmly into all the corners of the pan – you don’t want it to be too thick there.

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Now for the rest of the banana cream. Whisk 6 1/2 oz whipping cream and 5 3/4 oz icing sugar together until stiff peaks form (remember that it helps to chill your beater and the bowl beforehand).

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Tip in your cooled yellow goo and mix, mix, mix.

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See? I told you it would get paler.

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Tip half the goo into your pie shell. Cut up another, less ripe banana (I used two because they were kind of weenie) and spread that around on the surface. You can get fancy with the layout but nobody’s going to see it.

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Add the rest of the goo and smooth it out. Make sure none of the banana pieces are sticking out because they will oxidize and turn brown.

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Chill the pie for a little while then serve and eat within a day or two. Enjoy!

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Wingin’ It Wednesday: Tomato Mint Salad

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LongJohn’s Nana, Mrs. Nice, has been coming into town to spend some time with him once a week so that I can do things that necessitate the use of both hands (in fact, she’s here right now so that I can use both hands to type this post – yay for Mrs. Nice, and grandparents everywhere!).

When she was here last I whipped up this salad of things that were in my fridge: normally when I make a tomato salad with feta I use balsamic vinegar and fresh basil but I didn’t have either of those so I went with a little twist, and I hope you like it.

Start with some tomatoes, naturally. I’m using grape tomatoes here but you can use whatever you have.

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Then, finely chop up an onion. This is a shallot. A red onion would also be nice.

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Nice and small. We want the IDEA of onion rather than holy-wow-there’s-a-lotta-onion-in-this.

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Grab some mint. I grew this monstrosity from three stalks I got out of a box at the grocery store.

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Crumble up some nice firm feta cheese.

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Assemble!

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I made a dressing out of grapeseed oil, honey, and a bit of lemon juice, and drizzled it over the whole shebang.

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It was lovely!

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Fast Tip Friday: The Junk Drawer

We all have one. And, despite my best efforts, when we moved into our new house, we created one almost immediately. I’m talking about a junk drawer: that mystery drawer in the kitchen or the front hall filled with everything that doesn’t have a place anywhere else in the house … and lots of other flotsam and jetsam representing peculiar elements of your household existence.

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I’m not saying you can’t have a junk drawer, just that some of them could use a little help. Ours especially. So here are some tips for making your junk drawer into more than a repository for all those extra tiny packets of condiments you pick up when you get takeout.

Take out the trash.

I don’t even own this coffee maker anymore. Why do I need the manual? Recycle your old menus and pitch any weird pieces of garbage that end up the drawer.

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Everything in its place.

If you look at your drawer you’ll immediately see a bunch of stuff that can actually go elsewhere in the house. I now have a reusable coffee filter so those paper ones can go into my craft supplies in the basement. The Command Strip hooks can go with our other hardware, also in the basement.

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Same with these batteries, this Allan key, and these pieces of lamp hardware.

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These plates need to go up on the walls in the kitchen, and they’re not going to do that just sitting in the drawer. If I put them out on the counter they will annoy me enough to put them up. Whenever I’ve been putting off dealing with something, I always place it exactly in the way so I will have to do something about it sooner rather than later.

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Tidy spaces.

When you’re dedicating a space to all sorts of things with different purposes, it helps if you don’t just chuck them all back in the drawer willy-nilly. Then you get confusion, like when your corgi thinks you’re still keeping his pig ears in that drawer.

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Compartmentalize! Everything in its place on a small scale means that you can find everything again very easily.

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And you don’t have to buy specialty drawer dividers, either. This yogurt container is ideal for storing the tiny but essential components of this drawer.

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That’s all there is to it – have a great weekend!

Cheater Key Lime Pie (Gluten Free!)

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If you’ve been following our shenanigans for a while then you’ll be familiar with my recipe for Key Lim Pie, which I have slowly perfected over time. It’s the Pie’s favourite pie that I make, so when his birthday rolled around this year I decided to do my best to make it again. The thing is, it’s been really hot, and I didn’t want to do much heavy baking. Also, LongJohn decided to go through the growth spurt from hell that week as well, so I had to make something easy that I could do while pretty much wearing him constantly.

I found a few recipes online for no-bake versions but one of them required the use of a frozen can of limeade, and the other was bottled lime juice and Cool Whip. While I DID still have leftover Cool Whip in the freezer from the pre-labour cheesecake, I was reluctant to cut TOO many corners. That meant that I was at least going to use real key limes in my recipe.

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And as Fussellette was staying with us at the time, we went with gluten-free Oreo-like cookies for the crust. This recipe makes two 9″ pies. Easy peasy.

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So start by chucking two packs of Oreos or Oreo-like cookies into your food processor with about 1/2 cup shredded coconut.

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Buzz, buzz, buzz. Then tip in about 1/3 cup softened butter and give that a whaz until you get crumbs that stick together when you press on them.

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Press the crumbs into two 9″ pie dishes and bake at 350°F for about 12 minutes. Let those cool completely. I did this pie over the course of three days, so the pie crusts were done on day one. If you really don’t want to bake at all you can buy a pre-made graham crust, but I like my key lime to have a chocolate crust and they really don’t have gluten-free versions of that at the grocery store near my house.

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Next, we deal with the limes. For two pies you’ll need 2lbs key limes. Grate the zest from each one. It takes for-freaking-ever.

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Next, you’ll need to juice them. This many limes should yield between 1 and 1 1/3 cups of juice.

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I did the grating and juicing while wearing a grumpy newborn. Pro tip: roll the limes between your palm and the cutting board before cutting them open to juice them. It bruises the little globule things that hold the juice and makes it easier for you to extract the liquid.

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When you’re ready to assemble (day three in my case), grab as well 2 cans sweetened condensed milk, 2 cups Cool Whip (frozen), and 1 cup whipping cream.

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Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a mixer and stir to combine.

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Additional pro tip: frozen Cool Whip acts like a shovel and literally scoops all your liquids out of the bowl when mixing, so I would recommend breaking it into chunks first.

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Then you can taste your filling. I may have spilled some on the baby, but he was asleep and didn’t mind.

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Your batter will be whitish with green flecks. Totally not authentic, but nice and tart.

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Divide the filling between the two shells.

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Clean up your mixer after the filling explosion.

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Chill the pies for a couple hours until set.

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Serve and enjoy!

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Melon Mojitos!

It’s been HOT here in Ottawa. Very hot, like with heat warnings at least half of every week. Fusselette has been in town on furlough from her job up in Northern Ontario and she brought down with her a small pot of pineapple mint, which I’d never heard of before.

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And when in possession of mint in the hot summer, one must make mojitos. Obviously. And these ones were just a wee twist on the classic.

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Grab a couple glasses and scoop a few balls of watermelon into each one. You can use cubes if you don’t have a melon baller. You’re just gonna squish ’em anyway. Slice up some lime wedges and add them in as well.

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Yes, those are key limes. Just wait for the post where I deal with them. Add some mint leaves (pineapple mint!) to the glass as well. I also added an extra splash of lime juice because of my wee limes.

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Use a muddler (or in my case, my trusty spurtle) and mush those up. LongJohn helped, as you can see.

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Let them sit for a few minutes so the juices can meddle with each other.

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I added in a few more balls of melon, then 2 ounces of white rum.
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Top that up with club soda.

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Garnish with more mint and enjoy in the summer sun!

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