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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Baby Butt Butter (hahaha, BUTTS)

Sorry, I got another baby post for you. I promise that magic pie is next.

Latergram: Mr. Jaunty. #alidoesit

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

LongJohn is going to daycare (NEXT WEEK OMG OMG OMG) and I gotta make sure I send everything with him that he needs over the course of the day. One of those things is diaper cream (or butt butter, which is a much better term). I’ve been making my own for a while and I’ve tweaked it to a point where I’m pretty happy with it. My recipe also allows for substitutions when you run out of things, which is handy. Because I run out of things OFTEN. The secret to a good oil-based lotion consistency is to use the correct ratio of solid oils to liquid oils, and everything after that is golden.

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As long as you use a 3:1 ratio of solids:liquids, you can do pretty much whatever you want, in any quantity. So let’s get started, shall we?

Gather yourself 1 tablespoon beeswax1/4 cup cocoa butter,

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1/4 cup mango butter (or shea butter),

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1/4 cup coconut oil,

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and 1/4 cup grapeseed oil (or sweet almond oil, or extra virgin olive oil).

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Tip all those things into a double boiler and let them melt.

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When the mixture is uniform, remove it from the heat and add in 2 tablespoons vitamin E oil – you can get this in the pharmacy, either in a bottle or in capsule form.

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You’ll also want to tip in some essential oils, about 15-20 drops (in total, not each). I used a combination here of calendula, chamomile, lavender, and a bit of tea tree oil.

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Next, stir in 1-2 tablespoons zinc oxide powder (I ordered this from Amazon). I find this is the magic amount to avoid leaving too much white crap everywhere, and I’ve also never had any issues using this amount with cloth diapers. If you’re not a fan you can leave it out altogether. As I said, this is a flexible recipe.

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Now leave this oily goo to cool. You don’t want it to cool so much that it solidifies, because you want the finished product to be scoopable with a finger.

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I find that putting it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes is a good start. Then you get this solid bit around the edge but it’s still thick and liquid-y in the centre.

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Next, grab your hand mixer or immersion blender and a strong spatula (because the butter tends to solidify hard on the sides of a cold bowl) and give it a good beating, scraping down the sides as much as you can. Whip it until it looks like cream cheese icing. Now you’re done! Alternatively, you can pour the totally liquid butter into a mould for a stick-shaped solid, and use it kind of like deodorant on your baby’s butt, but(t) you will find that it melts on your hands quite a bit when you’re doing that.

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You can see how a few seconds on my arm and the butter just melts, which makes it easy to spread around and it sinks in nicely – I’m not a fan of gooey baby butt crap.

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But(t) even though it sinks in nicely it still forms a very nice moisture barrier, as you can see from my hands after I started to clean up my post-butter-making mess.

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I tried to pipe the butter into this tiny container in the hopes that I would make less of a mess doing so than I normally do, but I failed. So I ended up making just as much of a mess and now the butter looks super weird.

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Weird looking or not, it still does the job!

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Snap Happy!

Didja miss me? A whole twelve days without something new from Ali Does It? Shenanigans! We are starting to find ourselves in a routine with now month-old LongJohn (for the most part) so hopefully I’ll be able to get back to some kind of regular posting schedule in the near(ish) future.

Anyway, here’s something for you now. I recently found myself looking for a birthday gift for a mom friend of mine, who takes a good number of pictures of her kid on her phone. As a new parent too, I find myself doing the same thing – my phone is usually to hand when my actual camera is not (if you check out my instagram you can see what I mean …).

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So on my searches on the internet I found a company called Photojojo, and their specialty is photography. And they had these nifty kits with camera lenses you could attach to your phone! So I got one for her, and one for myself. Naturally.

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Each lens comes with several little adhesive rings so you can attach them to your phone, your partner’s phone, your tablet … whatever. The ring clips easily to a magnet set into the lens itself. No fuss, no muss.

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Simply stick the ring to your phone (that blue plastic comes off) and let it sit for half an hour.

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I got all the bells and whistles in my kit.

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Including this wee pouch that holds all the lenses!

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Here’s the ultra fisheye lens securely sitting on my phone …

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And its effect.

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You have to zoom in a bit so that the lens itself doesn’t show up in the shot:

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I’m especially interested in the wee macro lens that also came with the kit. Most of the stuff I do here on Ali Does It is in macro so I think I can have some serious fun with it. Stay tuned!

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Spidermageddon

Apple Clafoutis

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the entire spider population of the world. I’m happy to live and let live with my “spiderbro” friends. But ever since we moved into the new house, we’ve been completely overrun with spiders. They’re just the common North American house spider, and they mean no harm, but each room contains at least a dozen. There are no other bugs in the house, so we assume that they’re just eating each other to survive.

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Mostly they just build little nests, fight, and mate with each other. Sometimes there’s serious drama that occurs in the corner of the shower or the living room ceiling.

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Recently, I was reading in bed and found one crawling up my arm – I squished it accidentally because I thought it was the dog touching me with his wet nose. And then I thought about whether I wanted these creatures crawling around the new baby and I got all skeeved out …

So Spidermageddon happened. I took my vacuum and sucked up all the cobwebs, tiny nests — spiders too — that I could find. Some spiders hid behind objects but I managed to winkle all of them out eventually.

Then, before they could come back, I whipped up a quick and natural spider repellent. Spiders not only walk with their front feet but they eat with them too, so anything strong-smelling that they’re walking through gets in their mouths and they really don’t like that. So any pungent essential oil will do – I picked some that are particularly strong.

Grab a reusable spray bottle and tip in about 5 drops each of your essential oils: here I used lavender, peppermint, and citronella (I figured the citronella would repel the OTHER bugs should they come out to play this summer). Add in as well a dash of dish detergent – the soap will help to disperse the oils better than if you didn’t use it.

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You can also add a splash of white vinegar. The acetic acid is an irritant to spiders and other bugs, but it may also discolour the surface of what you spray it on so be warned. I was using it on the walls and windowsills so I wasn’t worried.

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Fill the rest of the spray bottle with warm water, give it a little shake, and spray away!

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Make sure to cover all the spaces where you found spiders in the past, like ceiling corners (they like pale or white surfaces to attract mates), and places they might enter the house, like windowsills and sashes.  I went through two bottles of the stuff in order to get all the rooms in the house.

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A week later I find the occasional spider, who gets deported and then the spot re-sprayed, but we no longer feel outnumbered in the house. I consider it a success!

Grapefruit Poppyseed Soap

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After my disastrous start with melt-and-pour soap, I’ve been leery of trying it again. It was way more of an accomplishment for me to learn how to make soap entirely from scratch, though nobody will let me near the chemicals these days. And with melt-and-pour soaps, you already know the chemical reaction is going to work, so newbies like me have much more freedom to experiment with the add-in ingredients. And this mixture from A Beautiful Mess has been haunting me for ages with its deliciousness. I had to do it.

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The simplicity of the ingredients is a definite bonus, and the fact that it’s so quick and easy to put together and then you can ignore it for a while is also a plus. I made this while painting two sets of lawn furniture so obviously my attention was divided. All you need is 1 grapefruit, 3 tablespoons poppy seeds, peppermint essential oil, grapefruit essential oil, and 2lb goat’s milk melt-and-pour soap base (which you can buy in craft stores and from Amazon). You also need something to pour your soap into to harden – I used the silicone trays I bought for making my jelly fish mobile.

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Grab your soap base. Apparently you can melt it in the container provided in your microwave but I decided that was unwise.

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Chop it into cubes.

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Plop those cubes in the top of a double-boiler and let that sucker melt for a while.

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You’ll find a skin develops as it melts. Just stir that back in.

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While that’s a-meltin’, go ahead and zest the entire grapefruit. Mmm, lovely.

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Then eat your grapefruit. It’s good for you.

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Gather your poppy seeds as well, about 3 tablespoons.

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Once the soap has fully melted, remove it from the heat and tip in your grapefruit zest and poppy seeds. Shake in about 12 drops peppermint essential oil, and about 30 drops grapefruit essential oil, and stir that in quite well.

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Pour the melted soap into your moulds to harden. You can use individual moulds if you like but mine was a big block rectangle – the soap is soft enough to cut afterwards so you can chop the soap bars down to size when they’re ready.

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The soap will harden in a couple of hours, but if it’s hot or humid where you are I would recommend leaving it for a few more hours just to be on the safe side. When I tipped out my soap I did find I had quite a bit of settling with the poppy seeds, but that’s okay. It means my soap will have an exfoliating side to it. I suppose I could have stirred it a bit while it was cooling, but I was painting furniture, so …

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I chopped it up into regular rectangles.

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The rounded corner bits I re-melted and poured into the same mould but with the corners blocked off so they had sharper edges.

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These make great gifts!

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Our New Food Dehydrator

Papa John and Mrs. Nice got us a beautiful giant Excalibur food dehydrator for Christmas this year, and we were so excited to use it that we could barely wait before we were fully unpacked to crack it open and start it up. It was super easy to put together and came with not one but TWO instruction booklets, which are also really easy to use. And having one gave me an excuse to pick up a new mandoline slicer and apple corer so I can make apple chips whenever I want. Which is right now.

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The corer, which I picked up from Amazon, was deceptively easy to use, and cleans really easily.

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The mandoline is also easy, and super sharp. And also from Amazon.

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For the first go-round in the dehydrator we stuck with plain apples, sliced about 1/8″ thick.

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I kind of wanted to play ring toss with these things.

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Instead I spread them evenly over one of the many dehydrator trays.

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I’m actually now keeping a small spray bottle filled with lemon juice in the fridge for spraying on fruit to prevent oxidation. You can also get some kind of bisulfide something-or-other but I haven’t quite gotten around to getting that yet.

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Then you shove it in the dehydrator …

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… put the door on …

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… and set it for however many hours you need. For apples it’s about 7 hours at 135°F.

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The machine turns off on its own which is awesome. So I came down the next day to these piles of tart and delicious gorgeousness.

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All you need to do is pack them loosely in an airtight container for a couple days so that the remaining moisture evenly distributes itself throughout the batch. Then you can do whatever you want with them.

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So the next day I tried bananas.

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These also were sliced about 1/8″ thick.

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And they take about 6 hours. They’re still in there now or I would give you an update.

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Next experiment? PINEAPPLE!

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Milling Soap

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This isn’t real, legit hand-milling of soap. If you want to do that, go here. But if you end up with all sorts of wee bits of soap that are too small to use without feeling ridiculous, and you feel silly wasting them, then this post is for you.

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These are all sorts of weird little bits that I had leftover, actually, from when I made real soap from scratch last winter. None of them is big enough or shaped well enough to use like an actual bar of soap, but I was loath to get rid of them considering I’d put so much effort into making the soap in the first place. And especially seeing as I gave every single bar away and had none for myself. 😦

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So the first thing you need to do is take all your soaplets (that’s what I’m calling the wee baby soap slivers) and grate them finely. It’s actually not as hard as you might think. This particular soap is pretty soft but I’m sure you could grate a commercial bar up in no time at all. And once soap has fully cured it’s not toxic (or at least, I don’t buy soap that IS toxic), so this is my regular cheese grater and I just shoved it in the dishwasher when I was done.

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Plop those gratings into a bowl over a pot of simmering water.

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I found that my gratings did nothing until I added a wee bit of water to the pot.

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And then I got some melting going on.

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It’s never going to get to that fully liquid state, but I got most things all squishy and stuck together. Then you can drain off the water.

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For distribution I stuffed the soap goo into this silicone tray overnight. It won’t cure completely in here because it needs air on all sides.

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But the next day it’s a little harder and easier to deal with so you can pop it out.

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It’s still pretty mushy so I just flattened mine into vaguely pebble-shaped pieces. Then I put this plate in a cupboard for a week.

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After a week, the pebbles are much harder (though it’s still a relatively soft soap because those are the kinds of soaps I made).

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But they make a nice little decorative guest soap kind of thing. Like little detergent-y geological gems. I think they look a lot like a sandstone conglomerate, so I think all my rock hound friends will appreciate the texture.

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