Fun Food Friday: Baked Avocado Fries

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Did you know that these are a THING?

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I was looking for a way to make it easier for LongJohn to grasp slippery avocado without totally. smushing. it. EVERYWHERE. and I found out that people BAKE the suckers after BREADING them. I got very excited about that. Then I looked at the price of avocados in this country and felt less excited. But LongJohn needs his superfoods …

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The trick here is to use underripe avocados, because otherwise they go a little too squishy after baking. These were perhaps a little past their prime but they did a decent job.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F, set the rack in the centre of the oven, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pit and peel your avocados and slice them lengthwise into nice long “fries.”

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Grab a bowl with some flour, another with some panko (seasoned with salt and pepper and whatever else you crazy kids can come up with), and a third bowl with a beaten egg (go with the ratio of one egg for every avocado you use).

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Dip an avocado fry into the egg, then the flour, then the panko, and lay them out on the baking sheet.

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Spray the fries with some cooking spray (sounds weird, I know, but trust me – it’ll make the panko go all nice and golden).

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Bake for 20-25 minutes, flipping the fries halfway through, until the panko is gloriously gold and they’re nice and crispy. You can see that my fries were a little softer than they should be in that my spatula took chunks out of them in the flipping process.

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I served these up to LongJohn with some tasty tuna patties, a dijon-yogurt dipping sauce, and a small mountain of fresh fruit … but you can do them however you do.Baked Avocado Fries 13

Happy Windfall Handpies

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There’s this tree in the green space where I walk with Gren and LongJohn in the mornings. It’s a beautiful old apple tree. I know it’s old because the apples on it are tiny and REALLY sour. But that doesn’t stop people from picking them – no sir. All the apples within a reasonable reach have been removed, so I scoured through the windfall after a recent storm and brought home about 15 or so more or less unscarred apples (because as you know I can’t resist stealing fruit from public places). I wanted to make turnovers, or handpies.

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Holy Hannah are strollers ever handy for carrying crap. And babies, I suppose.

This is the first bit of baking I’ve done while solo in the house with an active and demanding baby on my hands, so it was a challenge to test both my rusty cooking skills and my son’s patience threshold. All in all, it worked out for the most part. I also cheated and used puff pastry but can you really blame me?

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We didn’t cut the lawn for a long time and the long grass killed our mower. So now we REALLY need to cut the grass.

First, you need to peel the apples. I used about 15 of these tiny sour things but if you’re using regular apples maybe 3 large apples would suffice. Actually, before you peel the apples, you need to install the baby in his swing chair with Raffi for company. This will buy you about fifteen minutes.

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It takes a while to peel 15 tiny misshapen apples.

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Avoid the wormy ones.

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Chop the apples up roughly and sprinkle the pieces with lemon juice, both to keep them from going brown and to add some tartness to the mix (not that you really need tartness with sour apples). Wrap them up and set them aside.

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Next, whisk together 3 tablespoons cornstarch with 1/2 cup water.

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Tip your apple pieces into a pan with some liberal dashes of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and some sugar. Use about 2 teaspoons sugar for each regular apple – for the sour ones I went a bit more generous and added about 6 tablespoons for the whole lot.

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Re-install your baby in a new location with new focal points. You’ve got another fifteen minutes or so.

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Cook the apples on medium heat until they’re bubbly and the liquid is starting to cook down.

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Tip in the cornstarch mixture (you may need to re-whisk it because it’s not a solution and the cornstarch will likely be sticking firmly to the bottom of your dish).

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Stir quickly in and watch the juices thicken.

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Remove from the heat and spread in a thin layer on a plate to cool. Attempt to put your baby down for his nap.

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After failing to put your baby down for his nap (strange how a logical argument does not work on a three-month-old), grab some thawed puff pastry (this stuff comes in a box with two rolled out squares in it) and use a rolling pin to gently expand the sheet. You want the pastry a little thinner than it comes standard.

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Cut the square into 9 equal(ish) pieces.

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Place a dollop of the cooled apple goo on each square.

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Mmm, cooled goo …

Carefully peel the pastry off the paper and fold it over itself to form a triangle. Pinch the seams closed.

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Puff pastry objects to being handled so roughly so they look a little demented.

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Give your baby a different toy to punch. Encourage him to yell obscenities at the toy (I don’t speak baby so that’s what I’m assuming he’s doing) to buy yourself some more time.

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On the second sheet, I didn’t roll the pastry out as much, and it was easier to remove it from the paper. They looked less demented.

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Crack and beat an egg and brush each of the pastries with a bit of egg goo. Set them on a sheet of parchment on a baking sheet.

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Bake your pastries for about 20-25 minutes at 375°F and eat them as soon as they’re cool enough to hold in your hand. The demented ones stayed together better than the non-demented ones – just keep that in mind.

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Non-demented …
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Demented …

Enjoy!

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Slow Cooker Dip Trio – Dessert!

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Basically, it’s cream cheese glazing for cinnamon buns, in a slow cooker. This is definitely a fun dip to make for parties, and there’s plenty to go around. We also served cut up fruit and there was a ton of sauce still left at the end. If you have a large slow cooker, follow the instructions in the original recipe from Chelsea’s Messy Apron for making the fondue in a separate container within the slow cooker. If you have a wee one, you can just plop all the ingredients straight in (as we did) and go from there.

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Start by grabbing a bowl and using it and an electric mixer to beat together 1 8oz package plain cream cheese (room temperature) and 1/2 cup butter (also room temperature) until mixed and fluffy.

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Tip in 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract and beat that up too.

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Then slowly add in 2 cups icing sugar and beat it (carefully) until fully combined.

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Dump that whole thing in your slow cooker and leave it on low, stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

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When you’re ready to serve it, you probably want some cinnamon buns to go with it. If you don’t have any pastries handy, but want some, grab some of those rolls of pre-fab biscuits.  The Pie did not know that the rolls kind of exploded when you opened them, and even though I warned him in advance he was still startled by it, so exercise caution. Preheat your oven to 400°F and spray a muffin tin or two with cooking spray.

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Grab one of the biscuits from the tube and flatten it into an oval.

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Dip it first in melted butter, then in a mixture of cinnamon and granulated sugar.

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Plop.

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Roll the oval into a tube.

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Then roll the tube into a spiral. Give it a squeeze in the hopes that it will stay together.

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Plop the spiral into your muffin tin. For the record, the Pie made all the ugly ones.

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Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the rolls are golden and no longer gooey.

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Serve them hot with your fondue and a couple forks.

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And some napkins!

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Berry White Chocolate Scones

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Every once in a while, I get a craving for scones, and they’re so easy to whip up that there’s really no point in NOT making them. I like to use this base recipe from Canadian Living for versions where I’m adding in buttermilk, and then I just kind of wing it from there. Today we’re adding white chocolate chunks and some frozen service berries.

Berry White Chocolate Scones 1

Preheat your oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Grab your chocolate and roughly chop up a few ounces. Here I used 6 ounces white chocolate.

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In a bowl, dump about 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Give that a good stir.

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Cube up 1/2 cup cold butter and tip that in as well. Use a pastry blender or two knives to cut the butter up into coarse crumbs.

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Now tip in 1 cup frozen berries. If you’re using big berries I recommend a rough chop first. You can add in your chocolate chunks too at this point.

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Give them a stir until everything is coated in flour.

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Whisk together 1 cup buttermilk and 1 large egg.

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Tip that into the mix and stir until just combined.

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It will be sticky and gross.

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Form it into a rough ball and tip it out onto a floured surface.

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Dust your hands with flour and pat the dough into a flattened cylinder that is about 1-1 1/2 inches thick.

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Slice that sucker into as many pieces as you want. Twelve is always a good number.

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Line ’em up on your baking sheet – if they’re sticky then flour the parchment as well.

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Bake for about 18-20 minutes, until the scones are dry to the touch and slightly browned. If you are using extra frozen fruit, you may want to add a few extra minutes to the baking time.

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Serve immediately for breakfast, lunch, or dessert – or just a snack!

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Lemon Bread Pudding

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Here’s yet another recipe for trying to get rid of the massive amount of lemon pudding/curd I have left. Also a recipe for dealing with a lazy breakfast when you still have weird leftovers from the holidays. Here I have some of my pudding, half a panettone (my favourite fruity egg bread), some cream, and some eggs.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and butter up a baking dish.

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Crack 4 eggs into a bowl and whisk ’em up.

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Pour in a dollop or two of the cream, and add some vanilla and some pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon or whatever) and give it a beating.

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Grab your panettone. Inhale the gorgeous fruity aroma.

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Then rip it to shreds and drop some of the bits into the baking dish. Add a few dollops of pudding.

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Then add some more panettone. And more dollops of pudding.

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Then when you’re done/you’ve filled the dish, pour your eggy/cream mixture all over the whole thing.

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Let it soak in for a minute.

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Then pop it in the oven for about 45 minutes, until the middle is solid. If it starts to brown too much on the top while you’re waiting for the interior to solidify then cover it up to keep it from burning.

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Let it sit for a few minutes after taking it out of the oven so that you don’t burn your face off.

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Then serve for breakfast with a bit of maple syrup or some whipped cream!

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Wingin’ It Wednesday: Experiments in Grilled Cheese

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I’m trying to change up the way that I make food that I know is crappy for me. I figure if I make it well, with conscious effort to be precise, then it somehow makes it less crappy. Early on in our relationship, the Pie schooled me on the correct way to make a grilled cheese sandwich, and today I’m going to start playing with it to see if I can’t jazz it up a little bit. Today I’m going to add some tomatoes to the mix. Because tomato/cheese sandwiches are a favourite of mine.

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So we start with our bread. The Pie prefers a solid white Texas toast or thick-sliced sandwich bread to be his base. Everyone has their own preferences of course, but I do like how light and crispy white bread gets when you grill it, and it’s pretty much the only time we eat white bread so we figure that’s okay. Next, sparingly cover one side of each slice of your bread with margarine. This is the only time (aside from making those margarine cookies) that we use oleo in the house. Normally it’s butter, but we find the butter tends to burn too quickly in this particular case.

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Make sure to go right to the edges with your margarine. And don’t add too much – this is already a grease pile of a snack so you don’t want to overdo it. This is also why you don’t put margarine on BOTH sides of the bread. That’s too much.

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Now you can plop one of the slices of bread, spread-side down, on your warm griddle (medium heat is best), and add your cheese slices. We like to use high quality old Canadian cheddar. Because really it’s the best.

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I also had some cheese curds in the fridge so I added those as an experiment.

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Then I added on my slices of tomato. I think it helps if your tomato is at room temperature so it doesn’t interfere with the melting of the cheese.

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Then my second slice of bread and more cheese. I need the cheese on the second slice to melt enough to stay in place when I flip it down over the tomatoes.

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Of course when I flipped all the cheese curds fell out into the pan. But then I got some warm fried cheese curds, which were great. Like mini haloumi.

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And now you cook it long enough for everything inside to get gooey. Some people like their cheese only lightly grilled.

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Others, like myself, prefer a tougher exterior.

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Serve with a glass of milk and some pickles on the side. Always. How do you do YOUR grilled cheese? Next time, I’m going to try avocados!

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Fast-Tip Friday: Drying Herbs

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If you’re lucky, you still have time to run out and grab the rest of your late-summer herbs from the garden and do something with them before it’s too late. If you’re me, then while you were out of the country for work the temperatures dropped below zero and now all your basil is a disgusting black mess.

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HOWEVER, there’s still hope for a good number of your other hardier herbs.

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Since the summer, I’ve been hauling baskets of herbs inside to process. Some end up in butter (because mmmm, butter), and some, like the lemongrass stalks you see in this basket, go in the freezer. But most of them, I dry. It takes almost zero effort on my part and then the herbs are there for me to mix and package as gifts: spice rubs and herbal teas are quick and easy to make.

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What makes it easiest is this handy-dandy herb dryer that I picked up from Lee Valley. Hang it somewhere out of the way with good air circulation (for us, that’s over the side of our main staircase), and then just shove it full of fresh herbs.

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The mesh will allow air to circulate on all sides, meaning nothing gets mouldy or soggy, and some of your herbs, like lemon balm, will dry in a matter of days. And you didn’t have to do ANYTHING!

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Added bonus: for the few days it takes these herbs to start to dry up, the hallway smells like pizza or lemons or whatever we’ve got in the shelves.

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Herb Cheese Palmiers

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The second-to-last installment of all the stuff I made for my parents’ wedding anniversary party. The best piece of advice I can give you when planning a big shindig with lots of food is that time management is KEY. Anything that can be made ahead of time and frozen should be done wayyy in advance so that you have time on the day of to do the little things that absolutely cannot be done until that day. These little puff pastry dreams are one of those things that must be done on the day of, but they’re easy peasy and I promise you’ll enjoy them. I modified the original Martha Stewart recipe to be less salty and to make these a little thicker. I also totally forgot the egg wash at the end. I always forget the egg wash. But fortunately it’s not crucial.

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You’ll need some frozen puff pastry. I bought the stuff that comes pre-rolled into two square sheets because I am that lazy. Defrost that overnight in your fridge. Then go out into your garden and grab some fresh herbs, enough so you’ll have about 6 tablespoons of fresh herbs once they’re de-stemmed and chopped. I have here, from left to right, oregano, lemon thyme, and summer savoury.

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And these are chives.

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Chop those finely and set them in a little bowl. Gather as well about 6 tablespoons parmesan cheese, and grate up about 1/2 cup nice sharp cheddar.

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Now you can go ahead and preheat your oven to 375°F. Put your racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Lay out your puff pastry sheets and brush the surface of each with about 1 tablespoon olive oil.

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Sprinkle them evenly with the parmesan, the cheddar,

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and finally the herbs.

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Fold one third of each pastry sheet over,

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and then fold the other third over that, like you’re sending a letter. This would be goopy to send in the mail. You probably shouldn’t mail this.

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Then fold that in half so the two folded edges are touching each other. Jam that in the freezer for about 10 minutes until it’s had a chance to firm up a bit.

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I suppose if you let these get really firm you could slice them thinner, but the best I could do was about 3/4″ slices and even that was pushing it. Place the slices on their flat sides on the baking sheets.

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Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating your baking sheets halfway through, until the pastry is fully puffed and a nice golden brown. Let cool slightly and then serve!

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Fancy Pants Sammiches

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For my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary party I made a large number of cocktail sandwiches – those are the ones where you cut all the crusts off the bread, or you buy the long, already crustless tramezzini (which is what I did). I’m going to give you all my sandwich filling recipes in one post, and I’ll leave it up to you to do with them what you will!

Fancy Sammiches 181: Smokey Egg Salad Fancy Sammiches 6 Start with about a dozen hard-boiled eggs. Smush them up good. Fancy Sammiches 2 Mince up some chives and tip that into the eggs, together with some salt and pepper, a scoop of Hungarian smoked paprika, and a dollop of mayonnaise. Stir to combine. Fancy Sammiches 52: Lemon-Dill Tuna

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Mince up some celery.

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Grab some herbs as well, like sage, and of course dill. Mince those too.

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Add them in a bowl with your canned flaked tuna, and the juice and zest of 1 lemon.

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Add in just a wee bit of yogurt or mayonnaise for cohesion.

3: Classic Cucumber and Herb

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Grab a small handful each of fresh mint and chives. Mince those up.

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Beat those into softened plain cream cheese and season with salt and pepper. Serve with sliced cucumbers.

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4: Curried “Coronation” Chicken

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Dismantle and shred a small roasted chicken from the grocery store. Mix in a large amount of fresh chopped pineapple sage, as well as a little bit of onion powder, cumin, yellow curry, and a pinch of cardamom. Tip in plain yogurt or mayonnaise for cohesion.

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5: Peanut Butter & Jelly “Sushi”

Fancy Sammiches 24Smear your bread with the peanut butter of your choice (the all-natural stuff is a mite runny, be warned).

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Top with jelly.

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Roll the whole thing up and slice into discs.

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Salted Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread

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Banana bread freezes really well, and so it’s a great thing to make in advance for something like my upcoming shindig. Because it’s a fancy shindig, I wanted to make it with a bit of a twist on my traditional recipe. And while I’m on the bourbon caramel theme this week, I figured I might as well make me some fancy banana bread! I used my original recipe (see link above), but instead of using very ripe (pre-frozen) bananas I used yellow ones, because I wanted a few chunks in my banana bread. And of course I made up a bourbon caramel sauce, which I borrowed from the Minimalist Baker. So first we’ll make up the sauce, and then we’ll re-make our old classic banana bread.

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This caramel sauce! I’m definitely of the Keep It Simple, Stupid school of thought, so I love the 4-ingredient easiness of this recipe. And now I want to drink the stuff. It’s amazing. I doubled the original recipe because I anticipated loving it and wanting to drink it, but it makes a decent amount for a generous swirl of caramel throughout the banana bread (if you leave like half a cup leftover for yourself to eat with a spoon).

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 19Start with 2 cups granulated sugar and plop that in a medium saucepan together with 1/2 cup water (in this 4-ingredient recipe, water does not count as an ingredient. It evaporates so technically it doesn’t exist!). Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 1

Heat that on medium high for about 15-20 minutes. Don’t stir: just swirl the pot occasionally.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 5You’ll get bored, but you can’t leave. So enjoy a glass of bourbon while you’re waiting. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 4

The sugar will begin to boil, and then, as the water evaporates, the bubbles will get smaller and smaller.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 12Eventually the mixture will turn a lovely amber colour and will only be kind of fizzy. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 13

At this point, remove it from the heat (turn off the burner) and, whisking the whole time, drizzle in 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream. Don’t freak out as it fizzes and foams up around you. Just keep whisking. I usually sing a song to a volcano god while I do this. I always feel like I’m summoning a creature from the depths when I do science-y things like make caramel.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 14When you’ve got the cream all whisked in and the whole thing has calmed down, put the pot back on the still-warm burner and tip in 2 tablespoons bourbon (I used Maker’s Mark). This time it will only fizz a little bit. Add in as well a few pinches of salt – I used fleur de sel. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 15

Pour into a heat-safe container and let cool before storing in the fridge. If you want to use this for other things then just warm it up a bit and then it will become pour-able again. I kind of like the finger-scoop-y texture of it when it’s cold though.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 17I’m having a hard time giving up even a little bit of this for banana bread. But I gotta do what I gotta do. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 18

So. Let’s do some banana bread. Preheat your oven to 350°F and line two loaf pans with parchment paper.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 25Grab 5 bananas. You can use overripe or frozen bananas but this time I decided to use ones with a bit more substance to them – of course I waited too long to do the recipe and they’re a little spotty but whatever. Nobody ever said I was the proactive blogger. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 22

Mush, mush, mush ’em into a small bowl together with 1 tablespoon baking soda that has been “dissolved” in 3 tablespoons hot water. Put that bowl to one side for a minute.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 23Grab another, medium bowl and plop in 1 cup room temperature butter. Beat that silly with 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar until you get a serious case of the fluffy butters. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 24

Then crack in 2 eggs and beat that until it’s a coagulated mess. Mmmm … Line this bowl up with the banana bowl and leave those for a few minutes.

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In ANOTHER bowl (this time a decent-sized one), sift together 3 cups all-purpose flour and 2 teaspoons baking powder.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 29Now we put it all together. Beat the banana mixture into the egg mixture and then tip it into the flour mixture. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 31

Fold the flour mixture into the banana mixture until it’s all combined.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 33NOW, glop a bunch of your caramel sauce into the batter and kind of swirl it through gently. Don’t let it get too mixed in – you want streaks. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 34

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 35Tip the batter between the two loaf pans and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the loaves are cooked through and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 36

Use the parchment paper to lift the loaves out of the pans and let them cool completely on a cooling rack.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 39Freeze or cut and serve with butter. MMMMMMM!

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