Slow Cooker Dip Trio – Dessert!

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Basically, it’s cream cheese glazing for cinnamon buns, in a slow cooker. This is definitely a fun dip to make for parties, and there’s plenty to go around. We also served cut up fruit and there was a ton of sauce still left at the end. If you have a large slow cooker, follow the instructions in the original recipe from Chelsea’s Messy Apron for making the fondue in a separate container within the slow cooker. If you have a wee one, you can just plop all the ingredients straight in (as we did) and go from there.

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Start by grabbing a bowl and using it and an electric mixer to beat together 1 8oz package plain cream cheese (room temperature) and 1/2 cup butter (also room temperature) until mixed and fluffy.

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Tip in 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract and beat that up too.

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Then slowly add in 2 cups icing sugar and beat it (carefully) until fully combined.

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Dump that whole thing in your slow cooker and leave it on low, stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

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When you’re ready to serve it, you probably want some cinnamon buns to go with it. If you don’t have any pastries handy, but want some, grab some of those rolls of pre-fab biscuits.  The Pie did not know that the rolls kind of exploded when you opened them, and even though I warned him in advance he was still startled by it, so exercise caution. Preheat your oven to 400°F and spray a muffin tin or two with cooking spray.

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Grab one of the biscuits from the tube and flatten it into an oval.

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Dip it first in melted butter, then in a mixture of cinnamon and granulated sugar.

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Plop.

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Roll the oval into a tube.

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Then roll the tube into a spiral. Give it a squeeze in the hopes that it will stay together.

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Plop the spiral into your muffin tin. For the record, the Pie made all the ugly ones.

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Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the rolls are golden and no longer gooey.

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Serve them hot with your fondue and a couple forks.

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And some napkins!

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Strawberry Shortcake

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As you may have figured out by now, my birthday gifts to my friends and family members usually end up being the birthday cake of their choice – no cake too elaborate, no tower of layers too high. We have had a few memorable ones over the years, but this one sticks out because when I asked Atlas which cake she’d like for her birthday a couple weeks ago, she said she wanted a strawberry shortcake. And I realized that I had never actually ever made this classical and simple dessert delight. So I decided to go right back to the cake’s roots and make it as classic as possible, following this recipe from Fine Cooking.

Strawberry shortcake, in its traditional form, is not really a cake at all. It’s more of a sweet sandwich in a biscuit (“short” cake indicating that the cake isn’t really made with any leavening agents and ends up pretty dense and flat). This recipe also doesn’t really lend itself well to making ahead, as it must be assembled immediately before cooking, but it’s simple enough that this is not a huge deal.

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Let’s start with our dough, shall we? I did make the dough ahead of time, and kept it in the fridge, wrapped in plastic, until I was ready to bake it.  Grab 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, 2 1/2 teaspoons  baking powder,  and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda (leavening agents, I know, but give me a break). Whisk those around in a bowl until they’re nice and mixed.

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Now grab yourself 1/2 cup cold butter and cut it into little cubes. Tip the butter into the flour and use a pastry cutter to blend it all up until you have a mess of coarse-looking flour with pea-sized bits of butter throughout.

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In another bowl, mix together 1/4 cup whipping cream, 1/4 cup buttermilk (why oh why don’t they sell buttermilk in smaller cartons?), and 1 large egg.

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Make a well in the centre of your flour/butter mixture and pour in the wet ingredients.

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Stir that around with a fork until you get a shaggy dough.

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Then knead it a little bit with your hand until it all comes together.

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At this point I wrapped it tight in plastic wrap and shoved it in the fridge overnight, but if you want to bake it right away you totally can.

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Ideally the biscuits are made so that they’re still slightly warm when you assemble them with the strawberries, but you can make them up to four hours ahead of when you need them. Just make sure to col them completely and then shove them in an airtight container until they’re needed. So when you’re ready to bake,  preheat your oven to 425°F, line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and lightly flour a nice surface to work on. Grab your rolling pin as well.

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Roll the dough out into a rough rectangle about 3/4″ thick. The original recipe calls for making six biscuits from this dough but those seemed absolutely ginormous so I cut the rectangle into eight biscuits instead and even then they were pretty big.

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Lay the cut biscuits on your baking sheet and brush with a tablespoon of whipping cream and sprinkle with a bit more sugar.

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Bake those for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.

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While they’re baking and cooling slightly, you can do your strawberries. You can prepare the strawberries a couple hours ahead of time as well, because they need to macerate (i.e. sit cut up in sugar) for at least 30 minutes. The recipe calls for 1lb fresh strawberries, but I probably used about 1 1/2lbs, and we all agreed later that I could have used the whole 2lbs that I bought. You can never have too many strawberries in strawberry shortcake.

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Anyway, wash and hull the berries, and then take about one third of them and use a potato masher or pastry cutter to mush them up in the bottom of a bowl.

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Slice the rest of the berries and plop them in the bowl with the strawberry mush.

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Tip in 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and give that a stir. Leave that to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. At this time you might as well also chuck a bowl for whipping cream into the freezer, along with whatever beater you are going to use. Cold utensils make for a better whipped cream.

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Now you’ve finished your lunch or dinner and it’s time to assemble the cakes. Grab your bowl and beaters out of the freezer and pour in 1 1/2 cups whipping cream. Add vanilla and sugar to taste. I don’t have any photos of this because the Pie did it while I was doing other things.

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Use a serrated knife to cut all the biscuits in half horizontally and set the bottoms of the biscuits on your serving plates.

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Spoon on a generous amount of strawberry goo. It’s okay if it spills off the edges – it looks all artistic that way.

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Add a generous dollop of whipped cream to the mix.

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Then plop the biscuit top on.

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Add another scoop of strawberry goo, followed by more whipped cream.

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Admire your handiwork.

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Then serve immediately! Yum!

Gluten-Free Buttery Biscuits

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As you know, I have a number of friends and family who live off a gluten-free diet, and as such I’ve been tinkering with gluten-free cooking for several years now. I have not yet, however, used actual gluten-free all-purpose flour, preferring most of the time to mix my own. So this landmark recipe is the first time I’ve tried it out – I picked up some Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose gluten-free flour and gave it a whirl. The recipe is more or less the same as the Quick Drop Biscuits I make all the time, so I kind of made it on autopilot and forgot to take a bunch of pictures – my bad.

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As penance for the lack of process shots you get Grenadier, in the backyard. This is a writing/photo technique I like to call GRATUITOUS DOG FILLER. You’re welcome.

Preheat your oven to 425° F and start with 1 3/4 cup gluten-free flour. The flour package recommends adding xanthan gum to the flour when baking, so I added in 2 teaspoons xanthan gum. Add to that 1 tablespoon baking powder and 1 teaspoon fine salt.

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Then cut in 6 tablespoons cold butter and use a pastry blender to mix it in until you get a lovely crummy consistency.

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Because the all-purpose flour (this brand at least), seems to taste a bit like beans, I needed a strong flavour to combat that so I added in 2 tablespoons Newfoundland savoury and 1 cup grated cheddar cheese.

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Add to that 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream (hey, if you skimp on the gluten you gotta overindulge somewhere else, right?).

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Stir it until it’s a sticky cohesive mass. Use a table spoon to plop balls of that onto an ungreased baking sheet. This will make about 18 golf ball-sized biscuits that won’t expand much, so you can crowd them all on the same pan.

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Bake for 12-15 minutes until they are a nice golden brown and remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Like most gluten-free stuff, they’re best eaten the day they’re made.

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Easter (Eater) Dinner

On Sunday the Pie and I had KK, Il Principe, and D, J, and S over for an Easter feast.

I have a lot on my plate this week (and I’m not talking about food here) so I’m going to draw the recounting of this tale out as long as I possibly can.  I’ll try to give you a post a day about all the fun and fantastic things we ate.

I love to have dinner parties.  I think it’s my parents’ influence again.  I’m not really happy unless I can stuff someone else with food until he or she feels the need to lie down.  It really makes my day.

That said, entertaining, on a small or large scale, takes a lot of work and a lot of planning.  Timing is pretty much everything, and it takes practice to get it all to happen at the same time.  The Pie and I have it down to an exact science at this point.  We take a gander at what time things are supposed to be done, chuck them in the oven or on the stove at the various points in time we think they need to go in, then we shut our eyes tight and cross our fingers that everything will turn out properly.  Most of the time we’re right but it took years to get us to this stage.

I have also learned the art of making things ahead of time.  This saves a lot of panic in the kitchen when you’re trying to get everything finished at the same time.  If there are some dishes on your menu that can be popped in the microwave or in the oven for reheating at the last minute then all the better.  Another important thing to remember, and something that I only recently learned, is that you don’t have to make absolutely everything from scratch.  There is nothing wrong with adding store-bought chips to your dips, or purchasing bread as a side.  The more stuff you make the more complications you are going to have.  Besides, sometimes the store versions of things are actually better.  You don’t have to have absolute control over everything that goes on your menu, and so that is why, finally, it is also important to let other people give you a hand if they want to.  Kª wanted to bring a salad, and you know what?  I thought that was a great idea.  And it was a great salad.

Items to be posted this week:

Menu

Appetizers

White Bean and Roasted Red Pepper Dip (made the day before)

Pita Chips (store-bought — really, you don’t have to be a domestic maven all the time – I get the In Snax sea salt versions from In Foods Inc.  They are totally tasty.)

Mains

Ham with Cloves (pre-cooked for simplicity)

Red Curry Quinoa (made the day before)

Sides

Spinach Salad with Blueberries, Feta Cheese, and Balsamic Vinaigrette (made by Kª – I don’t have a link because I didn’t make it)

Carrot and Parsnip Butter Mash (made the day before)

Steamed Asparagus with Lemon, Tarragon, and Toasted Almonds

Roasted Red Fingerling Potatoes with Rosemary and Sea Salt

Quick Drop Biscuits

Dessert

Strawberry Glazed Angel Food Cake (strawberry component prepared the day before)

Waiting for the feast.