Creamy Mint Guacamole

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I pulled this gem out of the Ottawa Citizen a few weeks back and it makes a fantastic dip all on its own or as a replacement for the traditional sour cream and guacamole side on a plate of nachos.

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I cut everything up by hand but if you don’t have the patience for that you can always pulse the ingredients together in a food processor until combined but still chunky.

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Start by opening up and de-pitting 4 large avocados.  You can tell that they’re ripe because of the bright avocado colour under the stem.

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Slice them into little cubes and scoop them into a large bowl.

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Next, mince up a few cloves garlic.  Chuck that in the bowl too.

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Then grab a bunch of fresh mint (this was about 8 stems) and pull the leaves off, discarding the stems.  Mince the leaves and chuck them into the bowl.

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Now, slice a fresh lime in half and juice it.  Drizzle the juice all over the avocados in your bowl.

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Add a few dashes Tabasco sauce, to taste.

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And a drizzle of honey, your favourite kind.

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Plop in 1 cup sour cream or greek yogurt and season with salt and pepper.

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Give it a vigorous stirring to mix it thoroughly and break up the avocado a bit more — not too much, though, because you want it nice and chunky.

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Serve with fresh warm tortilla chips (these are chipotle flavour from Farm Boy).

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Double-dipping totally acceptable.

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Watermelon and Feta Salad

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Mrs. Nice made this delightful dish for us when we were over for lunch last week and it really hit the spot during that blasted heat wave. She learned it from a man at the grocery store who had been setting out samples and she was immediately hooked.  After tasting it, so was I, and so I made it for a further lunch (on my family’s side) the following weekend.

A note in advance: keep all your ingredients chilled and separate until just before serving or everything will go mushy.

Start with a decently-sized seedless watermelon (or mostly seedless, as was the case here).

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Crack that puppy open by cutting off the ends and paring off the rest of the rind.

Watermelon Salad 2

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Cut it into slices and then chop those up into cubes and chuck them in a large bowl.

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Chop up as well a large red onion.  That can be pitched into the bowl as well.  You might want to start tossing the ingredients together with your hands so you don’t destroy the watermelon.

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Grab yourself a bunch of fresh mint.

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Pull off the leaves and chop those up finely as well.

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Sprinkle those over your watermelon.

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Finally, haul over a good-sized hunk of firm feta cheese and cut that up as finely or as coarsely as you like.

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Dump that in the salad as well and toss to mix it all up.

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Juice a lime and pour the juice into a bowl.

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Add in about 1 tablespoon (a glop) olive oil and whisk to emulsify.

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Drizzle that over your salad and eat it all up!
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Spicy Chicken Salad (Sandwich)

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Now, while nothing can really top my chicken salad that can change your opinions on chicken salad, some other versions come close (especially when I make them).  I had defrosted three chicken thighs with the intention of doing something else with them, and then I didn’t. So I had three pieces of raw chicken in my fridge that needed cooking — and soon.

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I roasted the thighs (45 minutes at 350°F) the night before with some cajun spices sprinkled over top.

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Then I dismantled them by removing the bones and chopped them into small pieces.

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I grabbed a knob of fresh ginger and cut off a bit about the size of a loonie.

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Peeled it and sliced off paper-thin slices.

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Which I then minced.

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Sliced up some green onions.

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Tossed the ginger and the onions in a bowl with some cajun seasoning, curry powder, cinnamon, and lemon juice.

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Added the chicken.

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Then a generous helping of mayonnaise (everyone’s preference for how much is different so I’ll leave that to you) and a vigorous stirring.

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I decided to put some in a sandwich, so I made a nice cucumber base …

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… and topped the salad with some chopped tomato and grated cheese left over from a taco night in recent history.  Waste not …

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It was a GOOD sandwich.  Hit the spot perfectly.

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Brussels Sprout Hash

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This recipe comes from the Globe and Mail‘s 12 October food page, and worked really well as a side dish for our Thanksgiving celebrations.  And it’s easy peasy and a great way to jazz up Brussels sprouts for those picky eaters.

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Cut about 8oz Brussels sprouts in half and remove the crappy outside leaves.  Set those aside for the moment.  Now, dump 6 large shallots and 8 garlic cloves into a pot (we doubled the recipe here).  Don’t even bother to peel them.

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Add water and bring them to a boil.  Let that cook for 2 minutes, then drain them and peel them all.

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Cut the shallots in half if they’re giants.

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Chuck a nob of butter and a glob of vegetable oil into a heavy lidded sauté pan and let that melt over medium heat.

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Toss in the garlic and shallots and stir for about a minute, then add in the Brussels sprouts and chuck them around.  Reduce the heat a bit and pop the lid on.  Leave that on the go, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes, or until the veggies are tender to your liking.

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When you’re ready to serve, toss with salt and pepper and a generous helping of chopped fresh parsley and let ‘er rip!

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Spinach and Mushroom Stuffing

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We made this for our Canadian Thanksgiving celebrations, but maybe the next time you cook up a turkey (say, for American Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or various other turkey-related feast days), you could try this stuff(ing) out.  You can make it all the day before and chuck it together at the last minute, which is awesome for big dinners.  It’s also the kind of stuffing that doesn’t actually go into the bird, so you can feed it to vegetarians, too!

Start with your bread.  You can buy bags of pre-cut, pre-toasted bread chunks specifically for making stuffing, but I kind of like to make them myself, because I can decide what kind of bread I’m going to use in my stuffing.  Here I used a loaf of Italian sourdough.

Mushroom Spinach Stuffing 1

I ripped each slice up into bite-sized chunks and spread them out across two baking sheets.  Shove them in your oven and bake them at 350°F until they’re dried out and lightly toasted, about 12 minutes.  Make sure to stir them occasionally.

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Dice up about a pound of fresh mushrooms.  The wilder the better.  Unfortunately all we had around were some oyster and regular white mushrooms, but feel free to experiment.  You should have about 9 cups diced mushrooms when you’re done.

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Chop up as well 2 large onions, so you’re left with about 3 cups chopped onions in total.

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And while you’re at it, go to town on 4-5 stalks celery, ending up with about 2 cups chopped celery in total.

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Find yourself some herbs.  These were all growing in our fall garden: sage, parsley, and thyme.  I thought about adding some rosemary to add to the “Scarborough Fair”-ness of the whole thing but managed to restrain myself.

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Chop up a couple bunches of each.  You can never have too many fresh herbs in your stuffing, so just go with what feels right.

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Dump 1/4 cup of butter and a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a large skillet and melt over medium heat.

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Plop in your mushrooms and sprinkle them lightly with salt and pepper.  Sauté those suckers until they’re all squishy and starting to brown, about 8 minutes.  Dump them in a large bowl for now.

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Slide another 1/2 cup butter into that skillet and let that melt.

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Add in your onions and celery and cook, stirring, until the veggies are tender, probably 12 minutes or so.

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Sprinkle in your herbs and cook for another minute.

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Then plop in a whole package (5oz) fresh baby spinach.  Toss in the skillet (maybe use a lid) until the leaves are just wilted.

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Chuck all that stuff into the bowl with the mushrooms.  If you’re making this ahead of time, this is where you stop.  Let the stuff cool, cover it, and bung it in the fridge overnight.

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When you’re ready to get this on the go, preheat your oven to 350ºF and butter a large casserole dish or 9″ x 13″ baking pan.  Whisk 2 eggs and some salt and pepper in a bowl.

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Pour in 1 cup low sodium chicken broth (you may need more if you find it dry) and stir that around.

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Toss your bread bits with your vegetable mix and pour your broth/egg stuff over top, stirring to make sure it makes it all the way through.

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Jam that into your baking dish and bake without covering until it’s brown and crusty on top, about an hour.  Let it stand a few minutes before serving (like, take it out when you start to carve up your bird and you’re set).

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Tabouleh, Take Two

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Mid-September in Ottawa is when the garden tomato harvest is at its peak.  For as long as my parents have lived in this house, they’ve had more tomato plants and therefore more tomatoes than they really know what to do with.  This year, however, was a different story.  Having spent a large chunk of last winter and spring in Florida, my parents got their plants in too late to have a particularly good yield.  In previous years, my parents have given plants and tomatoes to everyone who will take them.  This year, those recipients are paying them back.  So the next two dishes this week will be tomato based while I try to get the tomatoes used before they go soft.  This is my second tabouleh recipe here on the blog (first one is here), and this one is more or less traditional, though I added a few extra spices just for fun.

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Start with 1 cup bulgur, and about 3 tablespoons olive oil.  Stir those together in a medium-sized bowl.

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Cover the oily bulgur with 2 cups boiling water; give it a stir and set it aside for at least 15 minutes.

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Now grab yourself an enormous hunk of fresh parsley (probably about 2 cups total). We have two kinds in our garden — this fluffy one:

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and this more flat-leaved variety.

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You also want a hunk of fresh mint (about half a cup).  This has seen better days (it was the only survivor of our weed-burning escapade at the back of the house), but it’s still good.

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I was feeling lazy so I chucked all those things in a food processor.

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So much easier than mincing!

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Now comes the annoying part: you have to dice AND SEED all your tomatoes.  If you don’t seed them then your tabouleh will be mushy and that’s just gross.  I used about 10 medium-sized tomatoes for this particular recipe.

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When you’ve got all the tomatoes done, season them with salt and pepper.  I also threw in a dash of ground coriander and another of cayenne.  I figured the coriander is also a parsley sort of thing so it could only boost the flavour.

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Chuck in your other herbs.

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Your bulgur has by now absorbed all the water that it’s going to, so you’re going to need to drain it.

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Use either cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer to get as much water out of it as you can.  I find the cheesecloth helps because I can just pick it up and squeeze it.

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Add the bulgur to your tomato mix and add a few dollops more olive oil.  Stir in lemon juice to taste.

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Serve garnished with a piece of parsley, or stuff a bunch into a pita for a quick snack!

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Three Bean Mexi Salad

Three Bean Mexi Salad

This is a quick and colourful summery salad you can serve at any time, as a side dish and as a standalone meal. It’s easy and appetizing and full of flavour. And, as it’s Labour Day, you should take a break, and enjoy this simple salad.

Start with your beans. Crack open a can each of black beans, red kidney beans, and white navy beans. Or whatever beans you like, really.  Drain them and give them a rinse in a colander. Set that aside while you chop up some veg.

Three Bean Mexi Salad

Chop up 2 red peppers into whatever size you think is appropriate for a bean salad.  Who am I to tell you what to do?

Three Bean Mexi Salad

Do the same with 2 jalapeños.  Be careful not to touch your eyes while you’re doing this.  I like to mince mine up super fine.

Three Bean Mexi Salad

Chop up as well 1 red onion.

Three Bean Mexi Salad

And slice up about 4 green onions.

Three Bean Mexi Salad

Huck all those things in a bowl with your beans, and add to that about 1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels.

Three Bean Mexi Salad

For the dressing, start by mincing up a huge bunch of fresh cilantro.

Three Bean Mexi Salad

Drop that in a bowl with a few cloves minced garlic and the juice and zest of 1 lime.

Three Bean Mexi Salad

Add to that 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, a dash of salt and pepper, another dash of hot pepper sauce, and 1 tablespoon ground cumin.

Three Bean Mexi Salad

Mix that all together, then add in 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup red wine vinegar.

Three Bean Mexi Salad

Dump that on top of your salad and toss until well combined.

Three Bean Mexi Salad

This salad is best if you cover it and leave it in the fridge overnight to let the flavours mingle.  Serve it cold.

Three Bean Mexi Salad

Quick Quesadilla

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It’s very hot.  And we’re moving so very soon.  The last thing we want to do is cook up elaborate suppers for ourselves.  But the blog must go on, right?  So congratulations, today you’re getting a quesadilla.

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I didn’t eat my first quesadilla until I was in my mid-twenties, but I understand that they’re staple fare for the teenaged set.  Or at least, that was pretty much all Mags could cook for herself when I met her at fourteen.  In any case, if you’ve got the munchies, this one is for you.  It makes two hot and crispy quesadillas.

First, we sautéed a handful of mushrooms, about a dozen.

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Then thinly sliced up half a white onion.

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Then sautéed those up as well.

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I was going for caramelized onions, but then I forgot about them and so they were slightly charred instead.  Oh well.

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I also whipped up some guacamole with avocadoes, lime juice, salt, pepper, and some tomatoes.  Grate about 1 cup cheddar cheese while you’re at it.

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When you’re ready to cook, plop a dollop of olive oil or butter into a pan on medium high heat.

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Lay on top of that one large tortilla.  Allow that to heat until you can see bubbles of air forming between the tortilla and the surface of the pan.

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Lay on half of your mushrooms and onions.

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Sprinkle with half the cheese.

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Plop the other tortilla on top and let that sit for a minute so the cheese starts to melt and stick everything together.

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Then, very carefully, with the largest spatula you have (or two), flip the whole thing over.

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Allow the quesadilla to cook on this side for about two minutes, making sure it doesn’t burn, then slide it onto a plate.  Use a knife to cut the quesadilla into wedges. Make the other quesadilla up while you wait for the cheese on the one you just cooked to become less molten.

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Serve with sour cream and quacamole.

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Ooey gooey goodness!

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Petite Piglet Patties

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I was going to call these things “savoury sausage sliders,” or even “summer savoury sausage sliders,” but then the Pie suggested the above title and for some reason I started to laugh so hard I needed a tissue and had to sit down.  And then he suggested that, since we used hot italian sausage meat, we call them “picante petite piglet patties” and I may have told him to shut up at that point.

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Anyway.  These are sliders, if you hadn’t gathered that by now.  I picked up a package of ground sausage meat the other day and this is what we did with it.  Basic ingredients are about 1lb ground pork, 1 egg, half a white onion, and some fresh summer savoury.

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Mince up the savoury and the onion and chuck them in a bowl with the sausage meat and the egg.  Season with salt and pepper.

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Give that a good stir with a spoon and then mix in about 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (or whatever kind of bread crumbs you have on hand).

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Form the goo into balls slightly larger than a golf ball but smaller than a cricket ball and flatten them into patties (I ended up with eleven patties).

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Fry those suckers up.  For some reason the light was such in my kitchen on this particular afternoon that it took us twelve tries (the Pie tried to help) of blurry patty photos before I gave up and used flash.

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While that’s on the go, why don’t you have yourself a salad, too?  Here we have a mixture of baby spinach, a small hunk of plain goat’s cheese (chevre), a handful of sliced almonds, another handful of dried cranberries, and a diced ripe pear.

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Then the dressing is 3 equal parts vegetable oil (I used almond, because we’re trying to use it up), rice vinegar, and orange juice).

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Toss it up!

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Top your sliders with whatever floats your boat.  I used mayo, tomatoes, avocado, and spinach.  The Pie voted for barbecue sauce and cheese.  We had them on some picnic buns I grabbed in the bakery section.

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All in all, a good summer meal. Don’t forget to eat your veggies! You see them peeking at you in the background? Don’t forget them!

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Fun with Gelatin: Pink Strawberry Terrine

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This is another cleaning-out-the-pantry post, but it’s a little less nuts than the one we had on Monday.  At least this one is a bit more common.  It’s only got five ingredients and it’s super simple, and perfect for a hot summer day when  you really don’t want to do any baking.  Like when there’s a forest fire in Québec and the smoke has smogged up the whole island and the sun is a little pinky orange ball.  Those kinds of days.

Pink Strawberry Terrine 1

I have a ton of unflavoured gelatin packets in my pantry, as well as many cans of condensed milk.  There are lots of things you can do with gelatin, making aspics and whatnots, but I like the idea of creating a terrine of happily suspended fruit.  This one is a nice pretty example.  Then, if you want to get super adventurous, you can try layering your gelatin, and create a lovely contrast by adding sweetened condensed milk to gelatin to create a nice white alternating layer.  Beautiful, right?  And then you can sort of combine the two techniques by creating stained/broken glass jello.  So I’m gonna put all that together.  Because I CAN.

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Also I keep thinking of this, every time I make something with gelatin: I AM MADE OF JELLY.

http://www.weebls-stuff.com/

Start with some juice.  I like cranberry juice.  Tart and tangy and a lovely colour.  Pour half a cup of room temperature juice into a bowl and sprinkle 2 envelopes unflavoured gelatin on top of that (each package contains 2 1/2 teaspoons gelatin granules).  Leave that for 5 minutes to “bloom”.

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Here I have most of a container of strawberries that I picked up at the grocery store.  I think it’s about 2lb worth of fruit.  Anyway, wash that and cut it up to a manageable size.  Use whatever fruit you want, but I’m going with strawberries because they’re pink and that’s what I have.

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Take another 1 1/2 cup juice and huck that in the microwave (because I didn’t want to turn on my oven in this heat).  Heat that until it boils, which will be a few minutes depending on the type of microwave you have.

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Slowly pour the boiling juice over your bloomed gelatin.  Stir that like a crazy person until all the jelly goodness is dissolved throughout the liquid.

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Add in 1 can sweetened condensed milk.  Stir to combine.  It will curdle a little bit, but don’t fret.  If you want your gelatin to remain clear, leave the milk out of the equation.

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I also added in a splash of grenadine syrup, for more colour.  Let that cool to just warm.

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Toss your fruit into a loaf pan.  You can layer it if you want to get fancy, with different fruits, but that’s a little too high-falutin’ for my tastes today.  Plus my gelatin is opaque so you won’t be able to see the layers anyway.

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Drizzle the gelatin mixture over your fruit, careful not to pour too hard (if you’ve got layers that could be disturbed).  If you don’t want your fruit to float to the top (which will end up being the bottom when you flip it), drizzle only half your mixture in and chill that for at least 15-20 minutes first before adding the rest of the liquid.  This will gel your fruits into the places you want them to be.

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Chill that sucker for at least 4 hours (preferably overnight).

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To serve, set the loaf pan in a sink full of warm water for a few seconds.

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Wipe off the pan, and invert it over your serving dish to release the gelatin. I need a bit of practice with my dismount it seems.

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Slice it up like a loaf of bread.  I suggest you use a warm wet knife for this, as you can see that mine kind of fell apart a bit when I didn’t do that.

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