Apple Galette – Fancy Cheating

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For the first time in I don’t know how long, it wasn’t up to me to cook Thanksgiving dinner this year. I’d been traveling for two weeks straight and I simply didn’t have the time. I did, however, volunteer to make a dessert for the meal, and I decided on something autumnal but at the same time not too heavy: an apple galette, which I adapted from this Jacques Pépin recipe. The best part about galettes? They look SUPER fancy and elegant and they’re hella easy. So it’s almost like cheating. And I made the pastry and cut the apples the day before so it got even easier.

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Dump 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons ice cold butter (cut into small pieces) into the bowl of a food processor.

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Pulse for about 5 seconds, until you have some rough crumbs. Drizzle in 1/3 cup ice water and pulse again for another 10 seconds, until the dough starts to come together.

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Scoop it out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and pat it into a small disc. Wrap up tight and refrigerate until chilled. I left it in overnight.

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Next, grab yourself 4 apples of your choice and give them a good scrubbing. You can peel them if you want but I like the colour that leaving the skin on brings to a dish. And yes, I know there are six apples in the picture, not four.

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Halve, then quarter the apples and remove the core. Slice them into crescents about 1/4″ thick.

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If you want to do the apples the day before, you totally can. I layered my slices in a plastic container and sprinkled each layer liberally with lime juice (this prevents browning and adds a nice level of tartness to the finished dessert). Then I covered them with plastic wrap and sealed the container. They were fresh as daisies the next day.

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When you’re ready to git ‘er done, preheat your oven to 400°F and lightly flour a clean work surface. Roll the pastry dough out until it’s about 14″ in diameter. You can free-form this galette by laying it on a baking sheet, but I have a very shallow tart pan that is ideal for making sure nothing gets away on me. Lay your dough into your dish (you will be folding over the edges, but if the edges are super extreme feel free to trim them).

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Slap on one layer of apple slices, arranged however you like – I did concentric circles. Drizzle that layer with about 1 tablespoon honey.

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Do another layer, or until you run out of apple slices. Then sprinkle the top with a mixture of 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Cut 1 tablespoon butter into tiny pieces and distribute those evenly over the top.

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Fold the edges of the dough over the top of the apples.

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Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the crust is nicely browned and the apples are cooked through. Keep an eye on things and remove the pie if things are starting to burn. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Dulce de Leche Cookies

I told you it would be sticky.

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I made these for a coworker’s birthday (oh how quickly I have fallen yet again into the baking trap!) and they were very well-received.

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If you already have dulce de leche on hand, good on you (I’m especially amazed that you didn’t use it all up pouring it into your mouth because that’s kind of what I do). If you don’t, I’ll show you a super easy and pretty much fool-proof way to make it. Grab a can or two of condensed milk. For this recipe you will barely use half a can but if you want some more on hand for other things, you might as well make it all at once because it takes for ever.

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Peel off the paper. You’re going to be boiling these so you don’t want that paper in there getting all gummy.

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Grab a large pot and fill it with water. Plop the can(s) in on their sides (so they can roll around and cook evenly). Ensure that they are covered completely with at least an inch of water. Bring the water to a boil and then let it simmer for 3 hours. You will likely need to top up the water occasionally so it’s always covering the cans. If the cans become expose then the whole convection element of the water stops working and the cans could explode. You don’t want that.

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After three hours, carefully remove the cans from the boiling water and set them upright on a rack to cool completely. Do not under any circumstances attempt to open a can while it is hot. You will be covered in horrible caramel burns as a result and that is a good way to ruin a nice day.

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Once it’s cool, you can make some amazing cookies, which I actually found on the Land o’ Lakes site. Those people know things about butter, which makes them my kind of people.

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Start by stirring up a bowl with 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom. Set that aside. Your cookies are going to wear that later.

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Now, in the bowl of a mixer, beat up 1/2 cup softened butter with 3/4 cup packed brown sugar.

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Tip in 1 egg and 2 teaspoons vanilla and keep beating until smooth.

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In a separate bowl, whisk together 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder.

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While mixing the egg/butter/sugar madness, slowly add in the flour and stir until fully combined.

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Separate about 1/4 of the cookie dough from the bowl. Chill both blobs of dough for about 30 minutes.

When you’re ready, preheat your oven to 375°F and line some baking sheets with parchment paper. Grab from the larger blob and make 24 balls of dough. Set the balls onto the baking sheet at least 2 inches apart, because they do spread.

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Dip the handle of a wooden spoon into flour and drive it into the center of each ball so that there’s a good-sized divot in each.

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Pile about 1/4 cup dulce de leche into a small resealable plastic bag and snip off a bit of one of the bottom corners.

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Pipe the caramel into each divot until the caramel comes level with the top of the hole.

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Now grab your smaller blob of dough and divide it into 24 equal pieces. Flatten each piece into a patty and use it to seal over the top of the caramel hole.

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Smooth down the edges to get a good seal.

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Bake, rotating halfway through, for 9-11 minutes, until the edges are slightly browned.

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Let the cookies stand on the sheet for 1 minute, then dip them in the sugar until thoroughly covered and leave them to cool completely on a wire rack.

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I don’t know how well these store because they didn’t last that long …

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Rice Pudding

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I LOVE rice pudding. It was a big treat for us growing up in a household where desserts were a rarity. And it was a dessert that, like apple crumble, was totally legal for BREAKFAST too! My grandmother made it. My mother made it. I’ve made it too.

I’ve been hankering for it recently, and I realized I haven’t made it in almost a decade. BECAUSE THE PIE *HATES* RICE PUDDING. So in all the years we’ve been together I’ve only made it once.

Well that’s about to change. If he doesn’t like it, then it means I can have the whole thing to myself for breakfasts and desserts for, like, a WEEK.

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Now there’s kind of two schools about rice pudding – there’s the totally squishy school of puddings, where the rice pudding actually is more pudding like – and then there’s the baked pudding school, where it’s more like a casserole with custardy bits surrounded by crunchy. I’m kind of somewhere in the middle, but on this one I’m going to go with the more creamy stove-top version. I also like mine with raisins and orange zest and cardamom and lots of cinnamon so if you don’t, well – just leave them out. But I’m going to judge you for that. I won’t judge you for replacing dairy with coconut milk – that stuff goes well with everything.

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The type of rice you use can determine how creamy your pudding will turn out, and as traditionally this dish likely emerged from leftovers, take a look at what you’ve got stored in your fridge. If you use arborio rice, for example, your pudding will be very much like risotto (because that’s what arborio rice is for). Short or medium grain rices will also make for more creamy puddings. And then the spices you use all depend on which grandma’s recipe you’re using, and where that grandma is from. So this is *my* version, that I came up with after some experimentation. It’s not quite my mother’s. It’s not quite my grandmother’s. It’s all mine. I’ll be the grandma some day with this recipe.

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Before you start, measure out 2 cups milk or cream and crack open a 400mL can of coconut milk (or use any combination thereof).

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Beat up 1 egg and put that in a dish. Actually, scratch that. Put an egg in a dish. THEN beat it. Hard to do it the first way ’round.

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Zest as well 2 oranges and put the zest in a dish. Juice the oranges and drink up that glorious vitamin C. You’re gonna need it – winter is coming.

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Now, grab 1 cup arborio rice (the risotto stuff).

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I plopped it in a large pot with 2 tablespoons butter and let the butter get all melty and bubbly and stuff.

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Then I poured in 2 cups water and brought the whole thing to a simmer.

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FOR LIKE EVER. Seriously it takes forever to cook risotto. Keep stirring it occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom.

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Getting there …

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… almost there …

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When you can kind of scoop it to one side and it doesn’t flow back super fast you’re probably ready for the next step.

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Now you can pour in the milk and give it a stir. Tip in the egg as well and stir it around before the milk gets hot enough to curdle the egg.

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Bring it to a simmer and let the mixture begin to thicken, which it will do pretty quickly. While that’s happening, I grabbed 1/2 cup raisins and left them to soak in 2 splashes warm water and 1 splash bourbon (optional).

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Tip some honey into the pot until it’s sweetened to taste. I used about 1/4 cup honey.

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You can add in your orange zest now, as well as 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon cardamom.

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Then I chucked in the raisins, bourbon-water and all.

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Lower the heat and allow that to simmer, stirring occasionally.

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The liquid will begin to disappear.

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We are almost there. I dig those totally round air bubble pockets.

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When the pudding is at a consistency that you like (i.e., when you stir it the liquid doesn’t form pools) then it’s ready to serve. You can enjoy it hot and liquidy or cold and solid – it’s entirely up to you!

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Oatmeal Chocolate Chunkies

Oatmeal Chocolate Chunkies 17 I made these to serve a double purpose: to provide cookies for the shindig last week (which was my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary), and also for the birthday of one of my coworkers – so I froze the dough for the birthday (which is tomorrow, yay!) and made the rest up for the party. I made these traditional oatmeal chocolate cookies with a little bit of a twist – the addition of some chipotle spice. It’s not excessive, but feel free to omit the spice if you wish. Oatmeal Chocolate Chunkies 16

Start by creaming together 1 cup butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar until it’s all lovely and fluffy.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chunkies 1 Beat in 2 eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Oatmeal Chocolate Chunkies 2

Now whisk together 2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and then — DRAMATIC PAUSE — 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder.

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Then mix in about 1 cup oats. If you want them more oaty and nubbly, then add in 2 cups total – that’s up to you. The more oats you add the more structure the cookie will have. I was looking for flat and crispy so I only put in the one.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chunkies 10 Chop up as well a large amount of chocolate. This worked out to about 2 cups chopped Belgian chocolate. Mmmm … Oatmeal Chocolate Chunkies 8

Now chuck the dough in the fridge for a little bit to chill so it’s easier to manipulate. Preheat your oven to 350°F and line some baking sheets with parchment. Plop rolled teaspoons of the dough onto your baking sheet and spread them out as they will flatten and expand while baking. I put them too close in these pictures so act accordingly.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chunkies 12 Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until the centres are set. Let the cookies cool on the rack for about five minutes before putting them on a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy! Oatmeal Chocolate Chunkies 14

Cranberry White Chocolate Scones

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I meant to make these back when I made the Savoury Sunday Scones but I ran out of time. So I just had a package of defrosted cranberries sitting in my fridge for AGES. I felt bad about those poor cranberries, so last weekend I whipped up a couple batches of this recipe from Chew Out Loud, one to eat right away, and the other to freeze unbaked as a giftie for Cait.

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First, make sure you have 1 cup butter sitting in your fridge (or better yet, freezer).

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Preheat your oven to 400°F and start with 4 cups flour (if you think that’s a lot of flour, imagine how much I had when I doubled the recipe. Okay, you don’t have to imagine: you can just do the math, I know). Whisk that together with 2/3 cup granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon salt.

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The original recipe calls for 1 cup sour cream, but I only had a very little bit. So I thought I’d add in some yogurt, but I only had lemon meringue flavoured yogurt (still, citrus and cranberry are a great combination). But I didn’t even have enough of that. So I added in some dregs of whipping cream I had lying around.

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I ended up cleaning out all three containers.

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So. In a bowl, mix together 1 cup sour cream (or your dairy Frankenstein equivalent), 2 large eggs, and 4 teaspoons vanilla. Set that aside for a minute or two.

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Grab your super cold 1 cup butter and grate it into your flour mixture. Yes, grate it. It’s oddly satisfying to grate butter. I always enjoy it, though I hate grating cheese.

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Use a spoon to stir it into the flour. I went ahead and used a pastry cutter on it as well just to ensure I didn’t have huge clumps of grated butter in places where they shouldn’t be.

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Stir in half a package of white chocolate chips (I used a whole one because I doubled the recipe).

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Now tip in your liquids and stir them until just combined.

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Add in half a package of fresh cranberries (again, I used a whole one because of doubling the recipe).  Stir those into the mix.

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I tipped the whole thing out onto a work surface to squish and kind of knead gently into a cohesive mass.

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I split it into four balls (two if you’re not doubling).

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I flattened the balls into disks, which I cut into 8 equal wedges.

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Whisk an egg in a small cup with a tablespoon of water and brush the egg wash over the scone wedges. Sprinkle with a bit of sugar.

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Bake those suckers on parchment-lined baking sheets for 14-17 minutes, until they’re a nice pale brown all over. Serve warm!

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Dutch Baby Pancakes with Apple Compote

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This is a super easy peasy breakfast item that makes you look all fancy pants. Though after you eat it your fancy pants won’t fit anymore. I found it in the paper a while back and saved it for a brunch with Krystopf, Atlas, and Gen. Zod.

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The pancake gets part of its fanciness from an apple compote that is spooned on top before serving. You can make the apple compote that goes with it ahead of time and just heat it up when you need it.

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Start with some raisins. Grab 2 tablespoons raisins and dump them in a cup of hot water to soak for 10 minutes.

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Then find yourself some apples. The recipe calls for 2 Golden Delicious apples and I went with that (though I doubled the recipe in these pictures for two pancakes), because the Golden Delicious is neither too sweet nor too tart and lends itself well to cooking.

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Core the apples, halve them, and then slice them (unpeeled) into 1/4″ wedges.

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Now, heat 1 tablespoon butter in a non-stick skillet on medium heat until it’s melted. Toss in the apples and cook them until they start to get a bit brown and soft, but aren’t yet mushy, about 8 minutes.

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Drain your raisins and toss them in, together with 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/4 maple syrup (use the real stuff here, don’t make me cry). Stir that around and then reduce the heat to a minimum just to keep things warm.

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You can also transfer the apples to a container to cool and store them in the fridge until you need them.

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To make your big fluffy pancake, heat your oven to 450°F and grab an oven-safe non-stick pan or cast iron skillet. I went with the non-stick option on these and it worked great. Grab a bowl and dump in 1 cup flour (you can do half whole wheat and half white if you wish, that’s up to you).

In a separate bowl, beat together 1 cup milk with 1 tablespoon maple syrup and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

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Then beat in 2 large eggs plus 2 large egg whites.

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Look at the size of that yolk in my tiny hand.

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Add your liquids to your flour and whisk until just combined. You can have some lumps.

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Put your pan or skillet on the stove and heat it so that 1 tablespoon butter melts. Slide the pan around until the melted butter coats the whole surface.

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Pour your batter (lumps and all) into the pan and slide it into the oven. Bake it for 15-20 minutes, until it’s all golden brown and puffed up into a giant soufflé-like object. Leave the oven door closed until it’s done.

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When you’re ready, remove the pan from the oven and slide the pancake onto a cutting board (it will deflate, don’t worry). This is where the non-stick really comes in handy.

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Spoon the warm compote all over the pancake and cut it into four wedges – serve immediately. I promise it’s worth it. I doubled the batch for the apples but I made my batter in two separate batches so that while we were eating the first pancake I could slide the second one into the oven.

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Super Fast Cinnamon Rolls

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As you know, I’m on a quest to create the best cinnamon bun out there, for my tastes, at least. People are very particular about their cinnamon buns: some like them frosted, some like them dry, with nuts, with raisins, with nothing … I like mine soft and sticky AND frosted. Raisins are okay but nuts I can usually do without.

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I don’t make cinnamon buns very often because of all the kneading and rising that they entail (and my current house is a little too cold at the moment). But these ones were easy – they’re not actually cinnamon buns in the way you’d expect – and they served to assuage my craving until I have the time and the temperature to do another batch for real. Preheat your oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. I wouldn’t skip the parchment paper, as the sugar coming out of these will caramelize and stick, so it’s better that it sticks to the parchment and not your pans.

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Grab a small bowl and dump in about 3/4 cup brown sugar, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, and 1/2 cup softened butter. Or less. You might want slightly less, as mine oozed everywhere. But if you like to live dangerously, then follow me!

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Give that a good mooshing with a fork or pastry cutter or even your hands, doesn’t matter.

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Now grab a package of thawed puff pastry (you will need to think far enough ahead for this to grab the box out of your freezer and chuck it in the fridge the day before, but that’s not that hard) and roll out the two rectangular sheets. If you bought the stuff that comes in blocks, then just roll it out flat.

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Sprinkle the sugar mixture generously and evenly across the surface of the pastry.

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If you’re feeling like going further, add a sprinkling of raisins and crushed walnuts as well.

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Carefully roll each sheet up into a tube. Chuck that in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes to stiffen up.

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Slice each tube into disks about 1 1/2″ thick. I think I ended up with 8 buns from each tube.

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Lay those flat on your baking sheets and shove them in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and golden and the butter is all melted.

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Remove the sheets from the oven and carefully slip the still-hot buns onto a sheet of waxed paper or parchment to cool completely. Feel free to flip them upside down while they’re still warm and oozy if you like your sticky part to be on top.

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If you leave them in the pan they’ll stick to the caramelized sugar at the bottom and then they won’t come off and you’ll be sad.

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When they were cool, I mixed together about 1/2 cup icing sugar with 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste and a dribbling (probably 1 tablespoon) of whipping cream.

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Doesn’t that glaze make your mouth water?

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I dumped it into a small plastic bag.

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And piped it onto the cooled buns.

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Try not to eat them all at once, okay?

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Humidifying – without a humidifier

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I don’t know what winter is like where you live (if, in fact, it IS winter where you live), but here in the Ottawa Valley winter is cold. Very cold. And very, very dry. It’s not uncommon to spontaneously bleed from the nose as you battle a searing headache and croak for more water through parched lips. And that’s not even an extreme case. In our house, the Pie’s sinuses dry up and cause him to snore. My asthma acts up, meaning I cough and wheeze all the time, and, because we have wall-to-wall carpeting, Gren has been avoiding us because we static shock him every time we pet him. It’s no fun.

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We have a humidifier in our bedroom, and it helps a whole bunch. We did our research and got the one that worked the best for the money we wanted to pay and we’re very happy with our choice (remember, kids: always do your research when buying an appliance). I also picked up a travel-sized humidifier for the various hotel rooms I seem to be finding myself in these days (and Winnipeg is even colder and dryer than Ottawa, and I’m in it as we speak).

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But sometimes you don’t want to buy a humidifier. Sometimes you can’t afford one (the ones that won’t give you Legionnaires’ Disease or fester with black mould tend to run a bit expensive). Sometimes your dormitory has ruled them out (usually for mould reasons). Or maybe you just need to give a bit of extra oomph to the humidifier you have. Here are seven quick-and-dirty tips to help you humidify your home the old-fashioned way.

1. Shower with the door open.

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Yeah, so this won’t work if you have roommates or small children or larger children or children at all. But if you don’t, skip turning on the exhaust fan and get things all good and steamy.

2. Get more house plants.

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So plants, when they’re done with all the nutrients and stuff in the water they suck up through their roots, basically sweat out water vapour through their leaves. It’s called transpiration. And sweaty plants make for a more humid environment.

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3. Skip the dryer.

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When you’re doing laundry, hang your clothes to dry inside the house in a warm spot. As the clothes dry the water on them will evaporate into the air in your house, making it more moist. MOIST. Plus you save on energy costs.

4. Spritzy-spritzy.

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Grab a spray bottle of water and gently – GENTLY – spritz your curtains with a little bit of water. You don’t want them soaked or anything, but a little misting on them will produce the same effect as wet laundry – without putting your skivvies in the middle of the living room.

5. Set out bowls.

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Place shallow dishes of water on sunny windowsills or on top of heating vents and the water will evaporate as it warms. Make them pretty crystal vases and you’ll add to the decor of your home. Add a floating bloom or some pretty pebbles. Granted, if you have small children or pets, leaving a bowl of water on the floor in your kitchen is asking for trouble, so be warned.

6. Wet a towel.

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Run a small dish towel under your tap and then wring it out thoroughly. Lay it over a heating vent (make sure the fabric isn’t so thick that it blocks the warm air completely) and let the heat percolate through and humidify the air as the towel dries. Again, probably not a good idea with small children. This is why we can’t have nice things.

7. Cook!

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When in doubt, cook. Whip up a batch of chilli or soup, anything on the stovetop that will get hot and steamy. I like to make a giant pot of tea, and when the kettle whistles and I’ve poured my pot and turned off the burner, I put the kettle back on the cooling element to let it steam itself out.

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You could also try a “simmer,” which is super trendy right now. Set a saucepan full of water on your stove and heat it to a low simmer. Toss in some whole spices: bay leaves, cardamom pods, star anise, cinnamon, and allspice; or rosemary, citrus zest, and lavender – or some combination thereof – and let that sit there simmering and scenting your house while it steams it up. Just keep an eye on the pot and add more water occasionally so it doesn’t all boil away.

A Better Hot Chocolate

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The Pie found this recipe from Jamie Oliver and he thought it was worth a try. I think it will also make a great wintry gift.

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The interesting thing about the original recipe is it involves Horlick’s, a malted beverage very popular at the beginning of the 20th century and through the 1950s. Horlick’s is hard to find in Canada, but a close equivalent is Ovaltine.

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Ovaltine on its own is definitely an acquired taste (I personally find it revolting), but it will add a richness to the hot chocolate that improves everything. You will need 2 tablespoons Ovaltine or Horlick’s.

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You will also need 100g chocolate (pretty much a large-sized chocolate bar), your choice.

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I made some with dark chocolate, but the Pie and I both prefer it with milk chocolate, seeing as there’s also a decent amount of unsweetened cocoa powder in this, 4 tablespoons cocoa powder, in fact. Make sure you choose a cocoa that you like – don’t go cheap on this!

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You will also need 2 tablespoons cornstarch (corn flour in the UK) to make this a nice thick beverage.

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Here is 3 tablespoons icing (confectioner’s) sugar. You can adjust this according to your taste.

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This is also a pinch or two of sea salt and a pinch of ground cinnamon, which, again, you can adjust to what suits you.

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To put it all together, take your chocolate and pop it in your food processor. The original recipe calls for you to finely grate the chocolate but who wants to sit there and grate that much chocolate? Not me, and I made six batches of this.

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So I just pulsed it in the food processor until it formed little crumbs.

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Then you simply add in the rest of the ingredients.

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Pulse it until the colour is uniform, kind of a grayish brown. The crumbs of chocolate will mix in and get smaller while you do this, too.

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To prepare the hot chocolate for two people, dump about 3 heaping tablespoons of the mix into a small saucepan.

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Dribble in about 1/4 cup milk.

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Whisk that until you get a nice paste. This will prevent the finished hot chocolate from being lumpy.

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Then pour in another 1 1/4 cup milk.

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Stir that until smooth and start heating the milk until it’s a temperature you like.

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Serve hot!

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To give the chocolate as gifts, you can pack the mix into these cute jars.

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Or you can put it in a wee bag.

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And then pop it in a customized mug.

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Or whatever floats your boat!

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Aromatic Fire Starters

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These easy peasy lemon squeezy fire starters are a perfect stocking stuffer for anyone who loves to curl up in front of a nice wood fire on a cold evening. They’re great for avid campers or armchair bookworms alike, and don’t contain any of the scary chemicals you find in a lot of commercial fire starters. And you can make them as cutesy as you like. So I’m going full cutesy.

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Now, the whole point of a fire starter is that it keeps burning long enough to get the larger pieces of wood in your fire going. For that, it’s handy to have some sort of wick/candle thing going on. So we’re going to start by making our own wicks. Now that I know how to do this I’m never buying pre-made wicks from the store ever again. All you need is water, borax, salt, and cotton string. I’m going to guess that most of you have those on hand. You can pick up borax from the cleaning aisle of your grocery store. It’s a very handy item.

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Anyone else find it super meta that the Borax girl is holding a box with a picture of herself on it, holding a box with a picture of herself on it … ?

Dissolve 4 tablespoons borax and 2 tablespoons salt in 1 1/2 cups warm water. Or dissolve it as much as you can. Mine didn’t dissolve all the way.

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Now cut a length of cotton string (butcher’s twine, anything like that). I decided seeing as I had the solution going I’d make a lot of wicks ahead of time for future use.

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Submerge the string in the solution and leave it overnight. Mine started to grow a few crystals as the supersaturated solution cooled. SCIENCE. The next day, hang the wet string to dry completely.

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Now all you need to do is melt some paraffin wax, which you can find in the canning aisle of the grocery or hardware store. You *could* use beeswax for this project but I think it’s a little pricey for something you’re going to chuck in a fire.

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Melt the wax in a double boiler or heatproof bowl suspended over simmering water.

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Dip your borax string in the wax two or three times and let it harden between dippings.  Tada. You have made wicks.

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Keep that melted wax going – make sure to check your water periodically to make sure it doesn’t boil away, because that happens and it’s not very good for your pot.

Line a muffin tin with cupcake cups. I picked owls because they’re all woodsy and stuff. And hella cute.

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And I’ve been saving my dryer lint for like forever. It’s full of dog hair, which is also flammable. Yay.

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So I put some dryer lint in the bottom of each cup, together with half a cinnamon stick, a sprig of fresh rosemary, and a dried bay leaf.

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Then I stuck the wick in and added a bit of melted wax, just to get the wick positioned where I wanted it. The wick doesn’t have to be centred in this thing – this is not a candle – it just needs to be sticking up and out of the cup.

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Then I added in enough wax to mostly fill the cup. Don’t worry about submerging all the tidbits inside. They add visual interest.

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Let the wax set for several hours. Once it starts to develop a skin on top like this you can start moving things around in the cups if you can’t leave well enough alone or if the wicks fall down.

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Set the finished fire starters on your mantle in a pretty bowl.

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Or hand them out in matching gift bags to the pyromaniacs in your life.

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