Avocado Chocolate Mousse

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The other thing I made while we were in Florida was this amazingly simple (and kinda sorta almost healthy?) dessert. It was truly one of the best things I’ve eaten in a while. Now, here’s a caveat: I made it again once we got home to Ottawa and it was NOT as good.

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The avocados up here just aren’t as sweet as they were down south. So make sure you’re making this with the sweetest, ripest avocados you can find.

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But before that, rustle up some chocolate. I have here 7oz dark chocolate. This stuff has a touch of sea salt in it. If you don’t use salty chocolate I’d recommend adding a pinch of the stuff to the recipe. Bust up that chocolate and melt it in a double boiler. Set it aside for a few minutes to cool a bit.

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Grab yourself 4 ripe avocados.

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Scoop ’em out of the skin and plop them in a food processor. I had to use the baby food processor because that was all I had so I did everything in batches. If you have a normal-sized one then you can do everything in the one container. Tip in a couple tablespoons honey, to your taste. This was lavender flavoured honey and it was quite good.

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Add in as well a teaspoon or two of vanilla, just for flavour (people who think that chocolate and vanilla are binaries and can’t go together are crazypants). BLEND THE CRAPOLA OUT OF IT until you have green smooth lovely goodness.

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Now if you have a regular sized food processor, you can pour the melted chocolate into the avocados and blend, blend, blend. I only had a weenie baby food processor and I ran out of room.

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So here I am folding and whisking all that green and brown amazingness together. NBD.

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If you’re feeling fancy, before you serve the stuff, you can chill it and then whip it with a hand mixer to make it fluffy and moussey. And pipe it into cold pudding dishes.

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That missing spoonful was my uncle doing some Quality Control.

If you’re me you’ll dump giant spoons of it into room temperature dishes, top with whatever berries were in the fridge, and chill until dessert. You can see that my wee baby food processor didn’t do a super amazing job of making the pudding really smooth, but you can do better, right?

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This recipe serves four GENEROUSLY. Like, if you really like rich pudding you’ll eat your serving and love every second of it but kind of want to die afterwards. So maybe make it for six? Also keep in mind that this is best served the same day – we found that the next day the avocado flavour came through too strongly, but that was with the less-sweet avocados so what do I know?

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Molasses Oat Cake with Glazed Pineapple

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If you have checked me out recently on Instagram, you may have noticed that LongJohn and I just spent the last three weeks hanging out with my parents in Florida, where we both got a nice tan and the kid grew about four inches.

Really going to miss watching this yahoo enjoy the beach every day. #alidoesit

A post shared by Alison Bell (@alidoesit.herself) on

I didn’t do too much cooking while I was there, but I did make one or two things, and here’s one of them. My dad was trying to clear out the pantry in preparation for their trip back to the True North, so in my efforts to help him get rid of a few things, I came up with this puppy. It’s a good cake for the winter or the summer (I think).

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and spray or butter an 8″ x 8″ glass baking dish. Might as well polish off some of the brownies-from-a-box you made the day before. Gotta keep cleaning out that cupboard, right?

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Grab some butter (oh, the land where butter is always at a spreadable temperature!) and melt 3 tablespoons of it.

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Grab a small bowl and tip in 3/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup oats, and 1 teaspoon baking powder. Then assemble the rest of your stuff: 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, a pinch ground cloves, 1/3 cup molasses, 1 egg, and of course your 3 tablespoons melted butter. You’ll see here as well about 1-ish cup fresh (not frozen) blueberries. If you use frozen blueberries the juice from the broken blueberries will get all through the batter and alter the molasses taste. It might also take longer to cook.

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Take all the stuff that isn’t in a bowl with oats or is blueberries and beat that together.

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Take the blueberries and tip them in the bowl with the oats and flour and stir that a bit. Coating the blueberries in flour prevents them all from sinking to the bottom of the baking dish.

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Plop the oats, flour, and blueberries into the molasses mix and stir until smooth(ish).

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Spoon that into your prepared dish and bake for 25-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. This timing will really depend on how thick the glass on your dish is. I cooked this in a convection toaster oven which I think is slightly hotter than it says it is, and so it was done in 25 minutes. Put the cake, still in the dish, on a wire rack to cool completely.

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Now if you want to make it fancy, grab yourself a nice ripe whole pineapple. The pineapple trivet is optional.

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Cut the top and bottom of the pineapple up and then slice off the skin.

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Cut the pineapple into quarters along its core, and slice off the core from the quarters.

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Cut each quarter lengthwise into three pieces. Too complicated? Just cut it up any way you would like. I’m not your mother.

Molasses Cake Pineapple 11Coat each one of the pineapple pieces in granulated sugar.

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Set those aside for a minute.

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In a large skillet or frying pan (or saucepan, whichever is your biggest), melt another 3 tablespoons butter.

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Cook all the slices of pineapple in the skillet on medium heat until they’re cooked through and kind of shrunken, about 8-10 minutes. If you don’t have room to cook them all in the pan at once, wait until some of them shrink before adding a few more slices.

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Remove from pan and set on serving plate. They will start to ooze thick sugary juice.

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Add 3 tablespoons water to the butter and sugar in pan and let it thicken, stirring, JUST until it starts to brown then remove immediately from the heat. It will continue to brown as you stir, off the heat.

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Drizzle that over the pineapple.

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You can serve them hot but if you leave the caramel on the pineapple as it cools it will slowly dissolve back into the juice, leaving a nice sauce you can spoon over the pineapple and the square when you serve it.

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Enjoy!

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Hallowe’en Holdover Cookies

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Do you have Hallowe’en candy left? We did. But then we had houseguests. But while we did have leftover candy, I made these sweet somethings. I forgot to photograph the middle part but I’m trusting you to know what I’m talking about.

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Start with some hardshelled chocolate candy. You want the stuff with shells otherwise the chocolate will just melt out of your cookie and ruin the structure. Here I have M&Ms, regular and peanut, Reese’s Pieces, and Smarties. For you Americans reading this, these are more like M&Ms – not the chalky discs we call Rockets.

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So pretty!

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Gather up about 1 1/2 cups of candy. Try to avoid eating it all as you empty the little tiny packets.

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Grab 2 1/2 cups flour, and whisk it together with 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Set that aside.

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With a mixer, cream together 1 cup softened butter, 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup granulated sugar (I only had white in the photo but brown makes it excellent).

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Tip in 3 egg yolks and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and mix away.

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Add in your flour mixer and mix on low until just combined. You want this still to be a little crumbly.

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Dump in all your happy candy and stir it in.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop a golf ball-sized lump of dough and form it into a ball. Roll the ball in granulated sugar and flatten slightly onto the baking sheet. Bake for about 16 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until the tops of the cookies start to crack. Allow them to cool on the baking sheet a little bit before you move them to a wire rack to cool – that way they’ll stay together better.

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Then all you need to do is eat them – easy enough!

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Quick Paper Napkin Fold

Folded Napkins 20For the upcoming shindig, the number of attendees means I simply don’t have the appropriate number of fancy linen napkins available for each person. Not only that, but I have no interest whatsoever in ironing all that stuff. Nope. So paper napkins it is. But they lack a certain … pizzazz on their own. Folded Napkins 21

I ALSO have no interest in sitting down and folding fifty napkins into something ridiculous and elaborate. So here’s something super quick you can do.

Folded Napkins 2Grab your napkin and orient it so the corner where all the folds intersect is at the top and at the bottom it’s all open in four separate sheets. Folded Napkins 4

Start folding up each sheet towards the top corner, but leave a little bit of space between the top and the sheet you’re folding up.

Folded Napkins 5Repeat with the rest of the four sheets, flattening it into this stepped pattern. Folded Napkins 6

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Flip it over. Looks like a Superman logo.

Folded Napkins 9Take the top side of the Superman logo and fold it across about one third. Folded Napkins 10

Do the same with the other side of the Superman logo.

Folded Napkins 11Flip it back over. Isn’t that pretty? Folded Napkins 12

Then I took a rubber stamp and added a bit of extra fancy to the whole thing.

Folded Napkins 14Tada. Now do forty-nine more! Folded Napkins 16

Freezer Pies

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What do you do when you have a big party coming up that requires lots of yummy baked goods, but you know that on the weekend in question you’re going to be way too busy to do anything as involved as make a pie? You take advantage of your freezer, of course.

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First you make up your favourite pastry dough. I always love the original Joy of Cooking version that you can find in a previous post here. The Joy also has some great information on how to make pies ahead of time by freezing them before baking.

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Then you make up your fillings. Here we opted for a vanilla peach and a strawberry-blueberry version. As long as you have about five cups of fruit, and then a couple tablespoons each of sugar, butter, and thickener (flour or corn starch), plus a few drops of lemon juice, then you can make any pie you want.

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We had a tool that Cait called a “strawberry effer-upper” (though she used a stronger word than “effer,” if you catch my drift) which handily slices your strawberries into several neat pieces. Cait’s sister Jules was very happy to take on the effer-upper role. She’s a little sadistic like that.

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Cait also made the error of purchasing clingstone peaches for our pies instead of freestone peaches, so getting the flesh of the fruit off the stone was a bit of a challenge. Eventually I discovered that if you cut wedges into the peach then it’s easier to pry off the sections.

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Once your fillings are made and mixed, leave them at least fifteen minutes to macerate.

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Ideally your dough has been chilling happily all this time and you’ve had a chance to roll it out and let it chill some more. The difference between a regular pie and a freezer pie is that when you plop the bottom shell into the pie dish, you leave a piece of plastic wrap on the bottom between the dish and the pastry. Honest.

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Then you fill your pie that is sitting on top of a layer of plastic wrap. This pie is quite tall.

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Seal it in with more pastry. Do not glaze your pastry at this point, if you’re into that kind of thing. You gotta wait on that.

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Now wrap the rest of it up in plastic wrap so it’s tightly sealed. Wrap again in foil and shove that into the freezer.

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When you’re ready to bake, haul the frozen pies out of the freezer. Preheat your oven to 425°F.

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I stored the strawberry/blueberry one on an angle so I did have a bit of leakage.

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Pry the pie out of the dish and peel off the bottom wrap.

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Plop the pie back into the dish (you can glaze it now if you wish) and pop it in the oven for 10 minutes.

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After ten minutes, haul it out and cut steam vents in the pastry.

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Then shove it back in the oven (this time at 350°F) for a further hour, until the pastry is light brown and crusty and the insides are bubbling out.

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Let those cool completely (or nearly completely) before eating. Yum!

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Gluten-Free Cornbread Stuffing

I whipped up this pot of savoury delightfulness for our Canadian Thanksgiving in October, and I figured with Thanksgiving coming up this Thursday in America, you might find it handy. This particular incarnation of this recipe is both gluten-free and pork-free to reflect the dietary restraints of my Thanksgiving dinner guests, but feel free to replace the gluten-free cornbread with regular cornbread (may I suggest this recipe?) and the turkey bacon with regular bacon or sausage.

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Start with your cornbread. Because I was running low on time and energy (getting sick the week before Thanksgiving is not cool), I made the cornbread from the Bob’s Red Mill mix, and it turned out just fine.

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I crumbled the cooled cornbread onto a baking sheet and toasted it at 350°F for about 15 minutes until it was a nice golden brown.

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Once it cooled I sealed it in a bag.

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Meanwhile, I dumped an entire package of turkey bacon in a pan and fried it up.

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Then I started chopping. In a large pot, I dumped about 1/3 cup butter, then chopped up 1 1/2 large onions, 4 green onions, and a whole head of fresh garlic and plopped those in as well. I heated it on medium and stirred the onions while they softened.

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Then I chopped up 1 bunch fresh tarragon and 1 bunch fresh sage and dumped those in.

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Then 2 red peppers and 4 stalks celery. I added in some pepper to taste.

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Then I chopped up the turkey bacon and hucked that in as well.

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Because I was making the stuffing the day before, I put the vegetables in a bowl to cool and then covered them and put them in the fridge overnight.

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On the day of, put everything together. In a bowl, whisk together about 3 large eggs and some salt and pepper.

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Add to that about 1 litre (~4 cups) low sodium chicken or turkey broth. Give that a good stir.

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Dump your cornbread and your vegetable mix into a large baking dish or your slow cooker pot and stir them around. Pour the eggy broth over top and give it another stir to make sure it’s made it all the way through.

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So if you have space in your oven the day of, feel free to bake this (at about 350°F for an hour or so) to make sure that it’s all nice and crusty around the edges. If not, then pop it in the slow cooker in the morning and cook it on medium until you’re ready to eat. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s incredibly tasty.

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Rum Balls

Rum and Glue Balls

Cait and I made these last year for her contribution to our annual potluck extravaganza.  The recipe is a little fuzzy, because we decided to ignore what we were told.  And we also decided to take a shot of rum for every step we did in the recipe.  It’s all kind of a blur.

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Me and the Captain.

Start with your dry ingredients. First we used a food processor to grind up about 1 1/2 to 2 cups blanched almonds. Cait had to climb up on the counter again to get the processor down. Her kitchen requires acrobatics.

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You could use 1 1/2 to 2 cups almond meal for convenience’s sake.

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Whisk together with about 2 cups icing sugar.

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Take a shot.

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In a haze, melt about 8oz chocolate in a double boiler or heatproof bowl set over a pot of barely simmering water.

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While you wait, take pictures of whatever dogs are handy. I swear that it was Ruby who kept moving, not me.

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Let the chocolate cool a bit, and then add to it about 2/3 cup dark rum — you could use spiced if you like — and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Give ‘er a stir.

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Pour the rummy chocolate into your icing sugar/almond mix and whisk thoroughly.

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Chuck that in the fridge for a few minutes to solidify a bit.

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Take a scoop of this goodness and roll it in your hands to form a ball.

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Set each completed ball on a sheet of waxed paper.

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Dip each finished ball into more rum, then roll in chocolate sprinkles.

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Set the finished balls on the waxed paper to dry, then seal in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

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Now that is one tasty indulgence.