Slow Cooker Black Bean Enchiladas

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This recipe from the kitchn came with so many caveats about how these are not your ordinary baked enchiladas, and how they end up being a gooey mess but they’re still good, that it was almost worth making them just to see if they lived up to all the anti-hype. They’re easy, they’re tasty – they’re messy and not crispy at all. And still good. So give them a try.

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They are a great way to use up weird leftover bits of things. This is what tofu does when you freeze it. People like to freeze it because it goes crumbly, so we tried it as an experiment after making stir fry one night.

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Start by chopping up 1 small onion. Dice up 1 red bell pepper. Drain and rinse 1 16oz can of black beans. Divvy out 1 cup frozen corn. Mix all those together in a bowl. Grate up 1-2 cups good melting cheese, and add in 1/2 cup of that cheese to the bowl.

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Mix together as well some spices: 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon cumin and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. I find often that this sort of food genre is benefitted by adding in 1 teaspoon cinnamon as well.

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Tip that into the mixed veg.

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Add in any leftover ground meat or chicken you have, if you have any, or this weird crumbled spongy thawed tofu. I really felt like I was breaking up a sponge. Later, I felt like I was EATING a sponge.

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In the bottom of a 4-6 quart slow cooker, spread enough of a 30oz jar of salsa to coat the bottom. You’ll note here that we have a very bowl-shaped slow-cooker. This probably works a bit better in a more flat-bottomed version.

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Ker-SPLAT.

Grab a package of flour tortillas (ours were the small size, pack of 10). Scoop about 1/3 cup of that vegetable filling into each tortilla, roll it up, and lay it seam-side-down in the slow cooker.

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Once you’ve got a layer (with our shape of bowl, that didn’t take long), sprinkle with more salsa and some more of the cheese.

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You should probably end up with only two layers but because of the shape of our bowl we had three, so it was a good thing I grated more cheese. Any extra filling can be piled on top.

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Then add in the rest of the jar of salsa. Resist adding on the rest of the cheese – keep about 1/2 cup of it back for the end bit.

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Cook on high for 2-4 hours (or on low for 8 hours if you’re prepared for extra mushy enchiladas). In the last 15 minutes of cooking, take the last 1/2 cup of cheese and sprinkle that over top, close the lid, and let it melt.

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Serve with sour cream, guacamole, and cilantro, or whatever else floats your enchilada boat!

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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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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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Fast-Tip Friday: The Salad Roll

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If you haven’t seen this little trick before then I’m super pleased to be able to be the one to show it to you. One of our issues when we make salads or deal with fresh greens is that we always have way too many and they get all gross after just a few days. So one of the tricks we picked up in Newfoundland (the land of rotten vegetables) is this: the salad roll.

So you take your greens, spinach, lettuce, whatever, and you give it a good wash and a bit of a shake (so that there’s still some water on the leaves).

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Then you lay it out in a thin layer along the length of a clean dish towel.

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And you roll it up. Not too tightly. But tight enough that the leaves aren’t sliding around in there.

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Then you can toss this in the fridge and your greens will last so much longer!

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I dreamed a dream: the Egg Celise

This is a dream I had a while back, to the best of my memory.

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It has been several years since the mysterious extra-terrestrial virus turned over half the population into mindless zombies. While the harsh winters have killed off the majority of the monsters, the major threat now is surviving raids from those still human who have rejected all attempts at re-civilization. 

I am the leader of a ragtag bunch of human survivors, traveling in a caravan across the country in the hopes of finding peace. So far, it has been a long, dark road.

Then one day we rescue an old man from a band of raiders and he tells me that I am destined to save the world. The Egg Celise will save us all, and I am the only one who can call it back to Earth.

The Egg Celise? “That sounds like a sandwich,” I said.

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“It does sound like a sandwich,” replied the old man, “but it is actually a spaceship, hidden in the asteroid belt, and protected from the virus that has plagued humanity.”

Somehow I figure out that the amulet I carry is actually the Egg Celise’s beacon and I manage to summon the ship. The amulet glows and text appears:

EGG CELISE HAS BEEN CALLED.

Then, not too long later, 

EGG CELISE HAS LANDED.

We had to drive for what felt like forever before we found the ship, canted on an angle in a forest. It was HUGE: a giant flattened cylinder of white and orange, with the requisite flashing lights and windows and weird chimneys one would expect of a spaceship.

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“This is amazing! Who will be the captain?” The old man glanced my way and said one, terrifying word:

“You.”

I stepped aboard my new vessel and discovered decks upon decks of survivors already on board, settling in to a life of peace. They all greeted me by name as I made my way to the bridge.

Unfortunately I woke up before I reached the bridge so I don’t know what happened nextBut then I had another dream, in which I was telling someone all about the dream that I just had. My listener also thought that “Egg Celise” sounded like a sandwich.

So the point of this is that I need to make this sandwich. Any ideas as to what it should be made of?

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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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The Egg Monte Cristo

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When I saw this recipe on Design*Sponge a while back, I remember thinking, I don’t know what that is, but it sure looks good.  After finally getting around to making it, I know that it tastes as good as it looks.  I’ve never had a classic Monte Cristo, but this recipe has given me a new appreciation for fried sandwiches in general, so that *could* be next on my list.  In any case, this adaptation of an original is tops.  It’s fantastic as both breakfast AND lunch (and probably your evening meal, too, though I wouldn’t eat this more than once a day if I were you).

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This version of the recipe requires you to refrigerate the sandwich prior to frying it, so make sure you give yourself enough time.  If you’re planning it for breakfast, try making it up the night before and chilling it overnight — and be sure to make enough to share!

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Start with some nice bread.

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This is a rustic sourdough.  I like sourdough.

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For each sandwich, spread two slices of bread generously with apricot jam.  Apricot jam is my favourite, so this is one of the reasons I decided to try this recipe.

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Then, on one side of your sandwiches, spread some soft plain goat cheese (chèvre).  On the other, artistically drape a few slices prosciutto (the original calls for ham, so you could use that if you prefer, and for those of you who are kosher or halal, there is another variant with deli turkey, or forego the meat altogether).

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For each sandwich, you’re going to need 1 egg, fried over easy.  I’m not very good at frying eggs neatly but I did okay with these ones.  Feel free to season with salt and pepper.

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Carefully lay your fried egg on top of one side of your sandwich, then just as carefully lay the other side of the sandwich over top.

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I may have pressed too hard.  Oops.  Wrap the sandwich in Saran wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.  I guess you do this so everything congeals together before frying.

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When you’re ready to eat, you need to make yourself some batter.  For each sandwich, you’ll need 1 egg, 2 tablespoons milk (I used cream to be extra luxurious and it was SO worth it), and a sprinkling of cinnamon (two sandwiches, two eggs, etc.).  Whisk that all together.

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Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a hot skillet (I used the same one I fried the eggs in).  If you think that’s a lot of butter, keep in mind that some versions of this sandwich are DEEP FRIED, so count your blessings.

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Carefully dip both sides of each sandwich into the batter.

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Set it in the skillet to fry in the butter.  It truly smells fantastic.

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Flip (carefully) and cook the other side as well.  You want the outside to cook enough that the inside gets all warm and gooey, but not so much that it burns.  This all depends on your skillet and stove and the thickness of your bread.  You’ll just have to experiment with timing and temperature.

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Eat it piping hot.  Fantastic with a cup of coffee and a glass of cranberry juice.  Very filling!

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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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Cocktail Sammiches with Parsley Butter

Happy Birthday Matt!

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I feel like the week before Thanksgiving everyone goes crazy trying to entertain anyone who won’t be eating with them on the Sunday/Monday holiday.  Why not take some of the load off the entertainer and bring these elegant little sandwiches with you to your next gathering?  Plus these are all kinds of fancy with very little effort required.  It’s all in the artistic garnish, trust me.

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Start with 1/2 cup softened butter.

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Season that pat o’buttery goodness with all the salt and pepper your little heart desires.  To be extra fancy we used a special pepper Teedz brought back from Cambodia.  OooooooOOOOH … (I would be more pretentious if I could, but there’s only so much I can do).

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Chop up 1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaved parsley and huck that over the butter.

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Give that a grand good stirring. Now, take a baguette and slice it in half along its length (you know, like you were making a sandwich).

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Smear both cut sides with all that glorious butter.

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On the bottom cut side, layer on 1lb/500g of deli sliced roast beef (or 1/2lb if you are feeling health conscious but I think the sheer amount of meat on these puppies is part of their charm).

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Plop the top on and start slicing up your baguette into 1 1/2″ segments.  Pop those onto a nice plate.  Like one with a giant WHALE on it.  That would be ideal.  If you don’t have a whale plate, maybe you should get one.  I mean, really.  Who doesn’t have a whale plate?

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I also did another baguette, but this one was filled with turkey and it was AWESOME.

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Garnish your plates with some artfully arranged fresh parsley and you’re good to go.  Both plates disappeared within two hours at our little shindig, so I guarantee they will please any palette!

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