Creole Okra with Chicken and Tomatoes

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I don’t really know that much about southern food except that I like it a lot, and whenever I’m down south (I’m talking the southern US states here) I eat as much of it as I can. This dish started because I found okra at a good price at the grocery store and is more Creole-inspired than actually authentic (because again I don’t know much). It is adapted from something I found on The Kitchn. I doubled the amounts, prepared half this recipe in the pan and then chucked half of it in the freezer for later, like the clever person that I am†. Not that this recipe isn’t dead simple. I’m just lazy.

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I accompanied this one-dish meal with another dish: steamed beet greens.

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Preheat your oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Zest 1 lemon.

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Gather your spices. Creole spice blends tend to run to mixtures of the following, so make one to suit your own taste (this one is about 1 teaspoon of each): onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, parsley, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, cayenne. The recipe I was looking at didn’t use creole spices; instead it called for a bit of cumin and coriander. So I just used everything. Set that aside for a few minutes.

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Start with your okra, about 1lb, and slice the tops off before cutting it in half lengthwise. Apparently people either love or hate okra, because it’s a bit slimy. I am ambivalent so far.

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Lay that on your baking sheet and sprinkle with about 1 cup (canned/drained/rinsed) black-eyed peas.

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Next, slice up a small white onion.

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Sprinkle that onto the pan, together with a few cloves crushed or minced garlic.

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Give that a good drizzle with some nice olive oil.

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Now here’s where I kind of diverged from the recipe. This dish is a good meal all in itself as a vegetarian option, but I feed boys (boys who are not vegetarians) so I had to chuck some meat in here somehow. In a large bowl, I threw 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs together with a 14oz can of diced tomatoes and your lemon zest.

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Then I chucked in all those lovely spices and gave it a good mixing.

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Spread the chicken and tomatoes evenly across the top of your peas and okra and shove it in the oven for about an hour. Give it a stir once or twice to make sure everything is browning evenly.

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We served ours over rice with the beet greens and it was pretty good. The Pie thought the okra was a little slimy (#1 reason why many people dislike it) but I thought it was pretty good!

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If you plan to freeze this recipe for later, I would recommend freezing it in two parts: in one bag goes the okra, peas, garlic, rice, and oil, and in the second bag goes the tomatoes, chicken, and spices. It just seems like a logical thing to do to tenderize the meat and prevent the peas and okra from getting too soggy.

Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili

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Do you hate beans but like chili? Do you like beans but also like chili that’s a little different? Do you like chili? If you answered yes to any of the previous questions then this chili is for you. It’s beanless and beefy and incredibly satisfying, which is good because though it may be spring SOMEWHERE, in Ottawa we’ve had some major flooding and on Monday it stopped raining enough to SNOW. ALL. DAY. So we kind of need something cockle-warming. This chili is adapted from one my parents found on the internet and printed out and that I stole off their fridge in Florida and smuggled across the border.

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Start with 2lbs cubed beef chuck or stewing beef, and huck that in a non-stick skillet on high to sear all the sides. Chuck the browned beef into a large slow-cooker pot.

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Next, add in 2 tablespoons Worcestershire (“wooster”) sauce, 1 cup beef broth, a 28oz can of diced tomatoes, and 2 tablespoons tomato paste. Now, the recipe did not say to drain the tomatoes so I didn’t and I found my chili ended up a bit on the watery side (I also added twice as many tomatoes as the recipe asked for). I thickened the sauce with some cornstarch later on and it turned out super awesome, but I’ll leave it to your discretion to either drain the tomatoes or use a smaller can.

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Dice up the following: 1 white onion, 2 red bell peppers, 2 large carrots, 2 celery stalks, and a couple large green chilis. I used Anaheim chilis because they are huge and not too hot and I wanted to be able to feed this to LongJohn. Gather as well 1 tablespoon chili powder, 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons paprika (ours is smoked), 1 teaspoon onion powder, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon salt. Chuck all that in the slow cooker.

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Don’t forget to give it a bit of a stir.

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Cook that sucker on low for 8-12 hours, or on high for about 6.

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Before serving, juice 1 lime and add the juice to the mix.

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Serve garnished with either grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, or chopped cilantro (or all of the above, who are we kidding?).

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Challenge Accepted: IMPOSSIBLE PIE

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I found this recipe in the newspaper a little while back and thought it looked tempting enough to try. It’s easy peasy and totally delectable but it looks complicated and fancy when you serve it, and it is not a totally overpowering dessert, so you can always have seconds!

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The impossible part of this pie is that you mix everything together all at once and pour the very liquidy batter into your pan for baking, and what comes out ends up having three layers: a sweet fudgy layer at the bottom, a custardy layer in the middle, and the chewy coconut layer on top. Full disclosure: I never achieved the fudgy bottom layer, but I suspect it’s because I used a huge heavy pie pan (because that was the only one I had that was deep enough). Perhaps if you use a thinner pie pan you might have better luck – if not, the pie is still pretty effing good.

Heat your oven to 325°F and spray a 10″ wide and 2″ deep pie pan.

Melt 1/2 cup butter, and let that come to room temperature. Pro tip: if you only melt the butter halfway, then give it a stir, the melted butter will melt the non-melted butter and the non-melted butter will bring the temperature of the melted butter down faster and you don’t have to wait as long for your super molten burn-y melted butter to cool down. It’s like MAGIC. Or thermodynamics. Either or.

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Grab 4 large eggs out of the fridge and bring them to room temperature by plopping them in a bowl of warm water. While you’re at it, leave 2 cups whole milk (or a combo of milk and cream) out on the counter to warm up too. HEY PRESTO!

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Take 1 lemon and zest it and then juice it. Nothing super magic about that. It’s a lemon for crying out loud.

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Grab yourself a perfectly ordinary food processor (or is it?). Or a blender. Or do this by hand. I prefer the magic of electricity. Plop in your 4 eggs, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

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Then tip in (or do this first, the order doesn’t matter – this is just how I took the photos) 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder.

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THEN tip in (or do this second, or whatever) your 1/2 cup butter, 2 cups whole milk, and lemon juice and zest.

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Give that a good whaz, THEN tip in (and this time it DOES matter the order because this has to happen after the whazzing) 1 1/4 cups shredded sweetened dried coconut (I used unsweetened. It was fine.). Stir that around.

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Pour the batter into your prepared pan. There it is, all perfectly ordinary and homogeneous-ish.

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Shove that in your prepared oven (I used my convection toaster oven) and bake for 55-60 minutes, until the top is a golden brown around the edges and you can shove a toothpick in the centre and it comes out clean (LIKE IT WAS NEVER DIRTY! AMAZING!).

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Pop that on a wire rack to cool. You can serve this warm but it cuts best if it’s been chilled first, so I recommend that. Keep any leftovers (HA) in the fridge, covered up.

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Even without that fudgy layer, this thing was still ballin’.

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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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Devil’s Chocolate Bomb: 12-yolk Chocolate Cake

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As a follow-up to the angel food cake we made in the last post, I made this devil’s food cake the same day to use up the 12 yolks I had on hand. The only problem was that there wasn’t actually a recipe out there that used 12 yolks in a chocolate cake. We had long since grown out of doing that, using whole eggs instead. All the 12-yolk recipes on the internet were for yellow cakes, not chocolate. So I had to make it up. And here it is. I’m quite pleased with the results.

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Start by preheating your oven to 350°F and grab yourself a bundt pan. You can do this in any pan you like, or make it into a layer cake, but because I was serving this alongside the gluten-free angel-food cake, I wanted them both to be round with holes in the middle. Butter or spray your pan and then flour it to be on the safe side.

If you can bear to part with it (and as a parent of a nearly one-year-old, that’s a big sacrifice), save 1 3/4 cup coffee from your morning brew and allow it to cool. To up the coffee insanity (unless you made espresso earlier), tip in 2 tablespoons instant coffee or espresso powder and stir to combine.

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Chop up about 1 cup chocolate into wee pieces and toss it in the top of a double boiler or heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water and let that sucker melt. Let it cool a little bit so it’s not molten lava.

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In another container, whisk together 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa, 2 1/4 cups flour, and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda.

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In the bowl of your mixer, cube up 1 cup butter (softened) and beat the crap out of it together with 1 1/2 cups sugar until it’s soft and fluffy.

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Then grab your 12 egg yolks and slide them into the mixer one at a time until they’re fully combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add in 2 teaspoons vanilla as well.

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Look at that yellow loveliness.

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Now beat in your melted chocolate until your batter resembles a tar pit.

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Then grab your flour/cocoa mixture and your coffee.

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Alternate adding the two ingredient groups, flour-coffee-flour-coffee-flour and mix until the batter is smooth.

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Even with a spatter shield in place I still had a bit of a mess.

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Smooth the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

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To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure if it’s 35 minutes or not. I didn’t write down that part of my recipe and after having dropped one angel food cake and had to make up another it kind of slipped my mind. But I’m guessing 35 minutes. If it’s not, then it’s a little longer, maybe 45 minutes. But certainly not less than 35 minutes. So keep an eye on it. And tell me what you come up with.

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When the cake has somewhat cooled you can tip it out onto a rack to cool completely. You can see the light coloured stuff on the surface: that’s the flour/butter from the pan. If you don’t want that to show up – like if you’re not planning to ice the cake – then don’t flour it (maybe use cocoa?).

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While the cake is cooling, you can make up a ganache. Chop up another 8 oz chocolate and set it in a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup whipping cream until it’s just simmering, then pour it over the chocolate and stir it occasionally until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is uniform.

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Let that cool until it reaches a spreadable consistency.

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Then jam it all over your cake.

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I decided seeing as I suck as icing things in an artistic fashion to kind of make it look like stucco by smacking my icing spatula against it and pulling it away.

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Then I added some chips of white chocolate that I had on hand for contrast. I could have applied them better but again, not so good with the artistic part of cake-making. I’m more into the cake-eating.

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Which is what you can do now!

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Chocolate-Covered Pretzel Peanut Toffee

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Happy New Year! I hope you all had a great holiday. Ours was pretty quiet, which was good because all three of us got sick, one after the other – always a great way to spend one’s vacation. We have this week left to try to get as many things crossed off our to-do list as possible. We’re not holding our breath that they’ll all get done, but we’ll do our best.

In the meantime, here’s a quick little toffee recipe to help you combat those mid-winter blahs. I doubled the recipe, which I would not recommend, because the toffee sets so quickly it’s hard to get both batches flattened out on the pans fast enough.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and put it aside for a bit.

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In a heavy saucepan, combine 1/2 cup butter, 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon corn syrup, and 2 tablespoons water.

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Attach a candy thermometer to the side and heat that over medium until it reads 300°F. Try to avoid stirring as much as possible, and if you do, don’t use a metal spoon – wood or silicone will prevent premature crystallization.

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Next to the pot, place a little container of 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and another of 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. You’ll need to have those handy at short notice later on.

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While you’re keeping an eye on the sugar, crush up about 1 1/2 cups pretzel twists.I also had some salted peanuts on hand so I crushed and dumped those in as well – probably about 3/4 cup salted peanuts.

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And gather up 1 cup chocolate chips. I mixed mine with some dark chocolate for flavour.

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When your sugar has caramelized and gotten to the hard crack stage (that’s 300°F), remove it from the heat and quickly stir in the baking soda and vanilla. Try to resist screaming as it fizzes up and gets all terrifying. I promise that will pass.

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EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Toss in the pretzels and peanuts and stir the toffee quickly.

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Then tip it out onto your parchment sheet and flatten it down as much as you can before it starts to set.

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Sprinkle the chocolate evenly over the top of the toffee and let it stand for a few minutes while the chocolate melts.

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Then smooth out the melted chocolate with a spatula.

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Sprinkle the top of the chocolate with fleur de sel and let harden in the refrigerator for about an hour.

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Once it’s hardened, break it up into chunks and eat it all by yourself! share it with your friends and family.

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