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.

Junk Drawer 2

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.

Junk Drawer 5

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.

Junk Drawer 1

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

Junk Drawer 6

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.

Junk Drawer 4

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.

Junk Drawer 8

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

Junk Drawer 7

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.

Junk Drawer 9

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

Cheater Key Lime Pie (Gluten Free!)

GF Key Lime 26

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.

GF Key Lime 1

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.

GF Key Lime 4

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

GF Key Lime 6

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.

GF Key Lime 7

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.

GF Key Lime 9

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.

GF Key Lime 11

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

GF Key Lime 13

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.

GF Key Lime 12

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.

GF Key Lime 15

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

GF Key Lime 20

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.

GF Key Lime 21

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

GF Key Lime 22

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

GF Key Lime 23

Divide the filling between the two shells.

GF Key Lime 24

Clean up your mixer after the filling explosion.

GF Key Lime 25

Chill the pies for a couple hours until set.

GF Key Lime 27

Serve and enjoy!

GF Key Lime 31

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.

Melon Mojitos! 10

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.

Melon Mojitos! 1

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.

Melon Mojitos! 3

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.

Melon Mojitos! 4

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

20160719_161341_HDR

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

Melon Mojitos! 6

I added in a few more balls of melon, then 2 ounces of white rum.
Melon Mojitos! 7

Top that up with club soda.

Melon Mojitos! 8

Garnish with more mint and enjoy in the summer sun!

Melon Mojitos! 9

Snap Happy!

Didja miss me? A whole twelve days without something new from Ali Does It? Shenanigans! We are starting to find ourselves in a routine with now month-old LongJohn (for the most part) so hopefully I’ll be able to get back to some kind of regular posting schedule in the near(ish) future.

Anyway, here’s something for you now. I recently found myself looking for a birthday gift for a mom friend of mine, who takes a good number of pictures of her kid on her phone. As a new parent too, I find myself doing the same thing – my phone is usually to hand when my actual camera is not (if you check out my instagram you can see what I mean …).

20160704_090258

So on my searches on the internet I found a company called Photojojo, and their specialty is photography. And they had these nifty kits with camera lenses you could attach to your phone! So I got one for her, and one for myself. Naturally.

Snap Happy 3

Each lens comes with several little adhesive rings so you can attach them to your phone, your partner’s phone, your tablet … whatever. The ring clips easily to a magnet set into the lens itself. No fuss, no muss.

Snap Happy 4

Simply stick the ring to your phone (that blue plastic comes off) and let it sit for half an hour.

Snap Happy 6

I got all the bells and whistles in my kit.

Snap Happy 7

Including this wee pouch that holds all the lenses!

Snap Happy 8

Here’s the ultra fisheye lens securely sitting on my phone …

Snap Happy 10

And its effect.

Snap Happy 11

You have to zoom in a bit so that the lens itself doesn’t show up in the shot:

Snap Happy 12

I’m especially interested in the wee macro lens that also came with the kit. Most of the stuff I do here on Ali Does It is in macro so I think I can have some serious fun with it. Stay tuned!

Snap Happy 1

Modding the Mom Hat

MomHat 8

I hope you all enjoyed your Canada Day/Independence Day long weekend! And if you didn’t get to celebrate a national holiday this weekend then I hope at least it was sunny where you were. Speaking of sun, I bought this hat at IKEA last summer for 99 cents. It is great to wear to baseball games to protect my pasty white skin.

MomHat 2

Now I’ve discovered that it’s also a fantastic wearable parasol for LongJohn (so named because he’s a lanky albatross like his dad) when I’m wearing him out and about.

MomHat 1

The problem is that in a good breeze the parasol becomes a parasail and I lose the darned thing. It’s very hard to chase down a hat while wearing a baby. So I need to make some modifications to keep the thing on my head, and while I do that, I might as well have some fun with it, right? With that in mind, I dug out a huge pink grosgrain ribbon.

MomHat 3

I cut it to match the band around the hat. I set that aside for the moment.

MomHat 4

Then I took two more pieces and wove them into the inside of the band, for straps to tie coquettishly around my chin. I felt very much like a Jane Austen character, dressing a bonnet, while I was doing this.

MomHat 5

Tied off the ends to prevent fraying.

MomHat 6

And then decided I needed a feather in my cap.

MomHat 7

And because it was Pride Week in Toronto (Ottawa’s isn’t until August and it’s much more low key), I decided to put a rainbow of feathers in my cap.

MomHat 9

I wound them together with some wire.

MomHat 10

Used a bit of hot glue to ensure they stayed that way.

MomHat 11

Then wove the wire end into the hat to fix the feathers in place.

MomHat 12

And I managed to do all of this while still wearing LongJohn.

MomHat 13

Then I glued the first piece of ribbon around the band, leaving room for the hat to expand as it gets squashed on my head.

MomHat 14

And I took another piece of grosgrain, this one in black, and fashioned a rosette out of it.

MomHat 15

The rosette fit nicely on top of the feathers, hiding the wire machinations.

MomHat 21

Tada, my Mom Hat that I can wear with Pride!

MomHat 17

Stay Cool!

Happy Canada Day folks!

DSCN9905

Even if you’re not celebrating the Great White North’s 149th birthday today, you should still make sure you stay cool and hydrated (even if it’s not summer where you are).

Here’s a recap list of my favourite refreshing beverages from Ali Does It’s archives. Some are alcoholic and some not – I hope you can find one that appropriately wets your whistle!

DSCN9906

Half-Baked Turtle Brownie Cheesecake

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 27

While I was waiting for the kid to show up I was getting pretty bored and pretty desperate, but I didn’t have a lot of energy. One of my former colleagues recommended cheesecake as a way to start labour and I figured, why not? I had nothing to do, and an easy cheesecake recipe would be doable given my lack of energy. This one from Sprinkle Some Sugar seemed to fit the bill. It involves using store-bought brownie mix, fudge sauce, AND COOL WHIP, so it’s the ultimate in cheater recipes for me. And given that the day I baked it the temperatures skyrocketed again for a roller coaster June, I was happy to be able to chuck this in the fridge instead of hanging over a hot oven.

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 20
The belly bump may have accidentally encountered some caramel during the making of this recipe.

The original recipe is a bit of a misnomer, as it states that there is no baking involved whatsoever with this recipe. That is a bold-faced lie – you gotta bake the brownie bottom. But it’s worth it.

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 2

Find a round springform pan, about 8″ or 9″ (this one is 9″ I think), spray it with cooking spray, and whip up some brownie batter. You can use your favourite recipe but I used this boxed stuff (hey man, I was really pregnant at the time, gimme a break).

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 3

I figured the salted caramel would add more panache to the finished product.

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 7

Plus I love the ridiculous measurements of the wet ingredients. So simplistic!

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 5

While this is baking, work on your caramel sauce (you can buy caramel sauce, of course, but this one is easy and a good way for caramel newbs to get started).

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 8

In a small pot over medium-high heat, whisk together 1 cup granulated sugar and 1/4 cup water. Whisk and swirl the pot until the sugar is all dissolved, then keep swirling the pot (but no stirring or whisking!) frequently until the liquid turns a nice dark amber colour.

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 10

When you get the colour you like, carefully pour in 3/4 cup heavy cream – watch out, because it will fizz up like crazy – and whisk that until smooth. Then tip in 3 tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla and stir until those are all melted away. Set the finished caramel sauce aside to thicken up and cool completely.

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 12

Once the brownie bottom is ready and baked according to whatever instructions you have, remove the outer ring and let it cool completely as well and start working on your filling.

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 9

In the bowl of a mixer, beat together 16oz softened plain cream cheese, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup brown sugar until smooth and creamy. I mean, it’s gonna be creamy anyway because it’s cream cheese but you get what I mean about the texture, right? Man I need more sleep …

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 13

Stir in about 3/4 cup of that lovely caramel sauce you made (or squeeze it from the bottle you purchased you philistine) and add in as well 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg.

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 15

Then I want you to do something totally foreign to me: grab 4oz Cool Whip and fold that in as well.

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 17

Put the outer ring of your springform pan back on and smush all that Cool-Whipped creaminess into the pan.

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 18

Give it some smoothing out so it *kind* of looks like you baked it, then chuck that in the fridge for 3-4 hours.

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 19

Before serving, crush a bunch of pecans and spread them over top.

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 23

Grab some fudge sauce (I bought it, don’t judge) and whatever’s left of your caramel.

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 25

Pop off the outer ring and drizzle liberally with fudge and caramel. The fudge I bought didn’t drizzle, so I have fudge poops drizzled with caramel but you get the general intention here, at least. Keep the leftover cheesecake wrapped up in the fridge for up to a week. Enjoy!

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 24