Toothpaste for your Furbaby

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We do our best to brush Gren’s teeth almost every day.  Granted, it’s a two-person operation: one person has to put the dog in a headlock and the other risks getting covered in paste and dog saliva on “scrubby duty,” but we do it because we love our little fiend.

I finally came to the end of the supply of dog toothpaste (vanilla flavoured, if you must know) that came with the latest doggy toothbrush (which I have since abandoned for a soft people toothbrush).  As I was about to go out and get some more, I chanced to look at the “all-natural” ingredients list.   Sorbitol?  I don’t even know what that is, but it’s the second ingredient.  And why does it need to be sweetened with stevia?  Since when do dogs need sugar?

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I’ve since learned that tea tree oil should not be ingested. And after several reminders from you dear readers I edited the post, so although you see it in this picture I no longer use it in my recipe.

So I’m going to make my own.  And there’s a ton of recipes on the internet.  Many of them require you to use glycerin, which I guess is the sticky-togethery ingredient that actually makes the paste into a pasty substance.  But that sounds like a pain in the ass, so I’m going to go with a version that uses coconut oil instead (used in small quantities coconut oil is beneficial to your pet’s health), and modify it a wee bit.

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Start with a bouillon cube, and dissolve that in 1 tablespoon water.  Or, in my case, use this gel-like one instead.  This is mostly for flavour, so use something your dog will like.  Gren has issues with chicken and beef so I would use pork or vegetable.

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Add in 2 tablespoons baking soda (a deodorizing abrasive), and 1 teaspoon cinnamon (a fragrant abrasive).

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I also ground up about 1 teaspoon dried parsley (for fresh breath) and added a pinch of ground cloves (an anti-parasitic).

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Looks tasty!  Actually it didn’t smell as awful as I thought it might: just like vegetable soup with too much cinnamon added.  Not bad in the end.

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Then you need to work in about 1/2 cup coconut oil.  If you have trouble mixing everything up you can soften the oil or melt it, but you want it to be solid in the end.

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You can store this mixture at room temperature in a sealed container for several weeks.  Brush often!

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Many sites actually recommend using your finger and a clean washcloth instead of a toothbrush for maximum efficacy, so we might try that at some point.  Fortunately, Gren seems to like the taste of this stuff better than what we were using before, so he struggles a lot less.

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Immediately after we brush his teeth Grenadier goes and gets his Tricky Treat Ball, which we fill with the other half of his dinner.  Trundling around with the ball, he will snarf up the kibble that falls out of the hole, and in gulping it down he will produce more saliva to further aid in cleaning his teeth.  When he’s done he usually drinks a whole whack of water too, to wash everything down. And then he goes to sleep.

Lazy

Pumpkin Pie

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I get a lot of questions from readers I meet about my husband.  The main one is, “why is he called the Pie?”  Well, I’ll tell you why.  And this goes back about nine or ten years, back when we had first met, and long before we started dating.  It’s really a great story.  I’ll tell it to you here:

One day, he told me that he really liked pie.

Yep.  That’s the whole story.  That’s why he’s called the Pie.  And now you know.  I hope you aren’t too disappointed.

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Sometimes, the Pie’s favourite pie is blueberry.  Sometimes it’s apple.  I can’t keep track.  But I know that pumpkin pie, even though it doesn’t qualify as a “true pie”, is at the top of my husband’s list of favourite pies.  And now that I have sort of mastered the art of vodka pie crust, and especially considering the amount of pumpkin purée I have in my possession, it is a logical choice, and this recipe looks lovely.  So here it is, a pumpkin pie that is so from scratch with its home-made pastry crust and fresh pure pumpkin that it’s almost like I made it entirely by hand-stitching individual atoms together (I can do that, you know).

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So, now.  It’s been a while since I made that vodka pie crust from Smitten Kitchen/Cooks Illustrated, so I think I’m going to lay it all out for you again, just so we both can get some practice.  If you like, you can take some more of Smitten Kitchen’s tips on better pastry from her second tutorial.  Like her, I’m not a fan of shortening, so I went with an all-butter version of the crust today.  And this dough recipe makes enough dough for two single crusts, so I guess that means I HAVE to make two pumpkin pies.  I will try to sneak one into the freezer so the Pie doesn’t eat it too fast.  That way later on when he grumbles about having no more pie I can dramatically reveal that he is wrong.  I like doing that.

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For the pastryyou need to make sure everything is cold.  If your kitchen is frigid, like mine, this is easy.  For everyone else, just keep chucking stuff in the refrigerator if need be.  Ingredients.  Tools.  Bowls.  You name it.

In a large bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour with 2 tablespoons sugar and a pinch of salt.

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Cut 1 1/4 cup cold butter into cubes and make sure it’s cold (re-chill it after you cut it before adding it to the mix).

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Dump that into the flour and use a pastry blender to chop it into tiny buttery-floury pieces.  You want to keep going and going and going, using a knife to clean off your pastry blender occasionally, until you end up with a mixture that closely resembles cornmeal.

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Put a dishtowel under the bowl to keep it from sliding around on you.

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Here’s the right consistency. You still need whole chunks of butter in there but you want them small.

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Drizzle 1/4 cup cold vodka (keep that baby in the freezer) and 1/4 cup ice water over the mixture.

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Use a big rubber spatula and a folding motion to bring everything together.

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You don’t want to stir so much as squish and squash everything into one big blob.  It will be pretty tacky, but that stickiness will disappear when the vodka burns off in baking.  You can use your hands to gently squish the remainder together, but don’t work it too much. If you feel you need to add more liquid, drizzle a bit more vodka onto it, but just a little.

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Divide your blob into two even pieces and flatten them into disks.  Wrap them tightly in plastic wrap for at least 15 minutes, and for up to 2 days.

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When your dough is sufficiently chilled, lay a piece of plastic wrap out on your work surface.  Unwrap one of the disks (keep the other in the fridge) and place it in the centre of the plastic wrap. Place another sheet of wrap over top.

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Working from the inside and moving out, use a rolling pin to flatten your disk into a nice round piece of pastry.  You’ll need a rough circle of about 12″ in diameter to fit in a 9″ pie pan.  Most plastic wrap is about 12″ wide, so you can use that as a guide.

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Notice how you can see gobs of butter in my dough?  That means I will have some lovely flaky pastry.  As the butter melts it will leave a little open space, which will fill with steam from the vodka and water, which will in turn expand the empty space, making the proper pastry flake.

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Chill your flattened pastry again for a bit.  If you put it on a baking sheet and chuck it in the fridge you should be good.  When you’re plopping it in your pie pan, make sure to remove the bottom layer of plastic wrap before rolling it over a rolling pin or folding it into quarters to place it in the pan.  I’ve done both methods here, so you can see what I mean.

Rolling pin:

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Folding:

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Gently lift the edges of the dough to make it easier to press into the bottom of the pan without tearing.

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Trim off the excess pastry from the edges of the pan.

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I used a fork to press the edges more firmly down onto the glass.  Chuck those back in the fridge when you’re done.

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I had some scraps left over from trimming, so I cut up a small apple, sprinkled it with cinnamon and sugar, and rolled out the scraps again to form a small circle.

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I put the fruit on one half, folded it over, and pinched the edges shut.  Then I put it in a sprayed pan and baked it with the pie.

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It looks a little demented, but we’re not going for high quality here, just a snack.

For the pie filling, you need some pumpkin purée.  You can be lazy and buy the stuff that already has the eggs and spices in it and whatever and just dump that in your pre-bought frozen pie shell but that’s just not cool here at Ali Does It.  Make sure if you’re using canned pumpkin that it’s pure pumpkin, without the sugar and salt and all things spicy.

Now, you American folks are likely working from the 14 oz can of Libby’s or whatever it is you have.  Fourteen ounces is about 1 3/4 cups of pumpkin goodness.  Here in the FAR NORTH of Canada we have E.D. Smith pumpkin, which comes in 28 oz cans (~3 1/2 cups), so we generally use half a can for one pie, a whole can for two.  And of course I’m working from a I-have-way-too-much-pumpkin-purée-in-my-fridge perspective.  So I will be using that instead of the canned stuff.

Preheat your oven now, to 425°F and position a rack in the centre of the oven.

Beat up 4 eggs in a large bowl.  Whisk in 3 1/2 cups pumpkin purée, 2 cans (300 mL) sweetened condensed milk (I believe some countries sell condensed milk in 400 mL cans — I would just use the whole can anyway for a slightly sweeter pie), 1 cup packed brown sugar, and 4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice.

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Take your pie shells out of the fridge and divide the mixture between them.  You may end up with extra filling (lord knows I always do).  I emptied it into a smaller pie pan and baked it as-is, for a sort of pumpkin pudding.

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Chuck the pies (and whatever else you now have on the go) in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Then reduce the heat to 375°F and keep baking for about 35 more minutes, until the pastry is all golden and lovely and you can stick a knife in the centre of the pie and bring it out clean again (i.e. the filling has set).  You can see that our crustless pie and the turnover turned out equally well, though with them in the oven everything took an extra 15 minutes or so to cook. Let the pie cool completely on a rack and refrigerate until ready to serve.  You can heat it up again if you like.  We enjoy ours with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream.  Yum!

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Pumpkin Creme Brulee

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Because we didn’t get any trick-or-treaters this year (or any year), I was able to take the pumpkins from our pumpkin-off and cut them up shortly after we carved them in order to make use of all that lovely pumpkin flesh.  And I ended up, after hacking and cutting and boiling and puréeing, with 14 cups of usable pumpkin goo.  So you’re going to get a lot of pumpkin recipes.  I hope you like pumpkin.

I have never made crème brulée before.  But for many years, the Pie and I were in possession of a tiny butane brulée torch.  Then about two years ago I decided we were never going to make crème brulée and I got rid of it.  And THEN, after doing that, I discovered how freaking easy they were to make.  Yes, I did kick myself a little.  Not to fret, though: you can do the bruléeing with the help of your broiler.  It doesn’t do as even a job as a torch, so you have to rotate your ramekins while you’re doing it, but it does work.  And this pumpkin crème brûlée from The Foodess looks too easy and too lovely to resist.  In fact, way easier than regular crème brûlée.  So we’re doing it.

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Preheat your oven to 325°F and set a kettle of water on the boil.  Find a large baking dish and eight 3/4 cup ramekins.  You’ll note here I used four ~1 1/3 cup ramekins.  You may need two baking dishes.

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In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups whipping cream to a simmer.

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In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups pumpkin purée (the plain stuff, not the pie filling), 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 5 egg yolks (save the whites for something awesome), 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, a sprinkle of salt, and 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice.

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Ever so slowly, dribble the hot cream into the pumpkin mixture and whisk it up.

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Divide the mixture among your ramekins and place them in the baking dishes.  Pour boiling water into the dishes until it comes about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

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Then pop that in the oven, middle rack, and bake for about 35 minutes (with my larger ramekins I baked mine for 55 minutes), until the centres of the puddings are just set.

Transfer the puddings to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes, then chuck them in the fridge for at least two hours.  You can make these the day ahead, and you can even freeze the chilled ramekins to eat later.  Just wrap them up carefully before freezing.

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Just before serving, you can take the puddings out of the fridge (or freezer) and sprinkle the tops of each with about 1 teaspoon granulated sugar (the plain white stuff works best for caramelizing).  If you’ve got one, use a brûlée torch to quickly and evenly caramelize the sugar and then serve immediately.

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I didn’t have a brûlée torch (see above(, so I used my broiler.  Thing is, even if you move the puddings around under the broiler (easier said than done), they still don’t caramelize evenly.  So I had some charred spots and some spots that were hard and crackly, but not brown.  Not to mention that all that time under the broiler heated up the pudding itself, which is supposed to be served cold.  Alas.  But they were still super tasty, with a nice crackly top, despite what this picture may be telling you.

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Pumpkin Spice Cookies

HAPPY BIRTHDAY POPPA!

Photo by Ian and Jacky Parker
Badass in a tuxedo at my wedding, holding ice cream.  (Photo by Jackie.)

Today my dad turns SIXTY-FIVE. He’s very well preserved. And still my go-to guy for all information regarding everything. Ever. How to replace a toilet. The exact reasons behind the Red River Rebellion. How to put a motion through City Council.  Which tools are the best for the job at hand. How to use a sextant. The correct procedure for loading and firing a torpedo. Yup, he knows all that stuff.  And more.

Office Reno
Like how to install crown moulding, for instance.

In fact, it’s usually a shock to my brain when I find out that he doesn’t know the answer to something. It’s just too weird.  He’s like prehistoric Google or something.

Dad and Me
Enjoying box seats at the Sens game a few years ago. I actually know more about hockey than he does.  Shocker.  (Photo by Doodle.)

I’m not where he is and he’s not where I am and I have to bake some stuff for the Sweet Treats group at work, so I’m baking today with Dad in mind. He loves cookies pretty much more than anything, and I hope you do, too.  Enjoy!

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I have so much pumpkin puree.  SO VERY MUCH.  I hacked up our carved jobbies from our pumpkin-off, because we only had them out for the day and they were totally salvageable.

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And then I boiled the crap out of them and mashed and blended what came out of it.  I know that I should have roasted them instead but the way that my pumpkin bits worked, that just wasn’t possible.  So boiling it was.

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I ended up with a full 14 cups of puréed pumpkin.  So be warned: there will be several pumpkin-related recipes in the days that follow.

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With the first bit of it, I’m going to make these pumpkin oatmeal spice cookies (recipe from Love From the Oven) for the good folks at work.  So to start, preheat your oven to 350°F and line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper.

In one bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups puréed pumpkin (if you’re using canned pumpkin, make sure it’s pure pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling, which has its own sugar and spices already added), 2 eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla until well-blended.

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In another bowl, mix together 3 cups rolled oats, 1 1/2 cups flour (you could use gluten-free flour here, as you don’t have to worry about rising), 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and about 4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice.

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I like to use the cinnamon/ginger/nutmeg/allspice/clove combination I found at My Baking Addiction. If you’re feeling adventurous, try grinding and grating your own spices for it.

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Cinnamon is harder to grate than nutmeg.

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Some day I will have a dedicated spice grinder, but until then I just carefully wipe out my coffee grinder and chuck in my allspice and cloves.

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Then you just chuck it in a jar for the next time you need it — which, with the way we’re going, is going to be soon.

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Mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients.  Your dough is going to be very stiff, so make sure you get everything mixed in well.

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You can add in more spices, as well as raisins, chocolate chips, or nuts.  I decided to add some chocolate chips and pecans for a bit of extra sweetness and crunch.

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Use a spoon to drop the dough onto the baking sheets, and press them down a bit with your fingers (they won’t spread).  Bake them for about 12-15 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until they start to brown.

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Store in a sealed container for a few days or freeze for comfort food cravings some time in the winter!

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Deep Dishes, Deep Pie, Deep Dough, Deep Thoughts

Deep Dish

Historically in my family, my dad’s mother has been the only person in the world who could successfully make pastry for pies. My mother and I have never been lucky enough to absorb her gift. I am still, however, determined to perfect my technique, and so, five years too late, I am using the Cooks Illustrated vodka pie crust recipe, which I borrowed from Smitten Kitchen.

I had gotten an email from my dad this morning (Monday) saying that my grandmother was unwell, and would I please send her a letter? So I was going to make a pie and take pictures and tell her all about how I had mastered this new skill. Or how I had failed. Either way, it would have been entertaining. Unfortunately, she passed away while I was making the dough, so I didn’t get that chance. She was 102, and healthy to the end. None of us can live forever, but she will nonetheless be missed. So in honour of Barbara Linklater Bell, the Queen of Pastry and all things baked, I present my own deep-dish pear and apple pie.

So we start with the crust.

Whisk together, in a medium-sized bowl, 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Next time, I would probably leave out the salt, as it didn’t dissolve and I kept hitting little grains of it when I ate it.

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Now, you add your cold fat.  This recipe calls for 1/2 cup vegetable shortening and 3/4 cup butter.  Both being very cold.  That is key.  Cut those up into small cubes.

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Using a pastry cutter (though you could use a food processor if you wanted), start blending the fat into the flour.

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Keep going …

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Until you get this powdery, crumb-y sort of material.

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Now sprinkle in 1/4 cup very cold water and 1/4 cup very cold vodka. If you’re worried about the booze content, remember that vodka is tasteless and odorless, and all the alcohol in it will evaporate during cooking. This is what gives us that lovely flaky crust.

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Fold that in with a rubber spatula, until things start to come together. This will take some time, so be patient. Resist the urge to add more fluid.

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Eventually, you will be out of powdery stuff and have all these curd-like clumps. That was good enough for me.

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Now pour half that mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap.

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Gather the edges of the wrap and use it to squeeze the pastry into a ball.

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Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it tightly, and do the same with the other half of the dough.  Refrigerate those disks for at least an hour.

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In the meantime you can prepare your fruit.  Peel and cube up about 4-5 pears and 5-6 small apples.

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Now, I decided to cook my fruit a little bit beforehand.  In hindsight, I shouldn’t have done that, as the fruit obviously cooks while in the pie.  But nevermind.

So toss your fruit with 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 pinch nutmeg and 1 pinch ground cloves.

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Add in as well 2 tablespoons butter and 1/4 cup brown sugar.

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And 2 tablespoons flour.

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Now, when your dough is chilled and ready you can start rolling it out for your pie pan.  I took this nifty tip from Smitten Kitchen to roll the dough (which, with the vodka, will be slightly stickier) between two pieces of plastic wrap.  It certainly saves chipping up cemented flour on your countertop.

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The Pie helped with the manual labour. Just make sure to remove the folds in the plastic wrap as you roll. It makes everything smoother.

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Oh, and preheat your oven to 400°F while you’re at it.

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Fit one of the rolled out sheets of dough into your pie plate and tuck it in.  Chuck that in the fridge while you do the other one, which will be the top. The plastic wrap is a godsend here in terms of transferring the dough from one place to another. I am never using any other method.

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When you are ready to assemble the pie, take the bottom out of the fridge and toss in your fruit (cooked or uncooked, up to you).

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Flop the top piece onto the pie.  Fold the edges of the top piece under the edges of the bottom piece. Man I really wish I had more light in my kitchen. Or that my lightbox were bigger.

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Crimp the edges with your fingers or a fork and cut some holes for escaping steam.

Brush lightly with milk, and sprinkle with demerera sugar (optional).

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Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until your crust is firm and golden-brown and the innards are all bubbly.  And, as my husband says, “your pies never look all that great, but they always taste great.”  He’s not being mean — it’s true.  I make an ugly pie.

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Allow to cool on a rack and warm to serve.  What a lovely, flaky crust!

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We had ours with Fussells, a present from Fussellette.

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When Life Gives You Apples …

Apple Sauce
… then you really need to figure out what to do with them when you’re about to go on vacation for two weeks.

This was our situation a few weeks back.  And really there’s only so much apple crumble you can handle in the summer months.
Apple Sauce

Why not make yourself some applesauce?  In addition to providing a tasty and nutritious snack, you can also use it as a dairy substitute in baking, and even add it to meat marinades to add flavour.  And it’s not like it’s hard.
Apple Sauce

I had nine Mcintosh apples, which I chopped up relatively small.  You can take the skins off if you like, but every time I do that I see my mother’s disapproving face in my mind and hear her saying, “that’s where all the vitamins are.”  So I leave them on, for texture and colour.
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Take two or three cinnamon sticks and about ten cloves, and wrap them up in a square of cheesecloth.
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Tie it into a tidy package.
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Toss that and your apples into a slow cooker. Add in a few spoonfuls brown sugar and some ground cinnamon, as well.  You can leave the sugar out altogether if you want a healthier sauce.
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Pour in about 1/4 cup water, just for juice’s sake.
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Cook on high for a couple hours, stirring occasionally.
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The smell is fantastic.
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When the apples are soft and brown, you are all set.
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Make sure to remove and discard the spice bag when you’re done.
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Squish the apples up with your spoon.  If you really want to go super smooth, put the sauce in a blender.  I like mine with a bit of structure.
Apple Sauce
The best part is that applesauce freezes up real good.  So you can enjoy it any time!
Apple Sauce

Maple-Glazed Ham

The Pie and I took Easter easy this year, and it was just the two of us, so we kept Easter dinner simple.  We had a maple-glazed ham, creamy garlic mashed potatoes, crisp mashed rutabaga, and roasted asparagus with cheese and bread crumbs.

The Pie and I like ham, and we’ve featured it here before.  Because we’re lazy, we always go with a pre-cooked ham, but this year we thought we’d try something a little different in the glaze department.

So, take your ham and take a knife and score the ham all over in one direction, then another, to make diamond-shaped cuts everywhere.  I just scored along the string lines, and that worked fine.

Stud the ham with cloves.

Mix together 2/3 cup brown sugar, 3 tablespoons maple syrup (the real stuff, please), and 1 tablespoon mustard (I went with an organic dijon).

Grab yourself a pastry brush, a very handy item.  Ours are made of silicone, which makes cleanup so much less of a pain in the bum.

Plaster that ham with your glaze. Bake according to your instructions, adding more glaze as you see fit.  If you bake it at 350°F for an hour or so, you should be good.  You are looking for an internal temperature of about 140°F.

Let it rest for a few minutes, then slice it up.

TADA!

Making Mincemeat (Outta You)

Mincemeat is to the winter holidays what chocolate and beer are to the Stanley Cup Playoffs (I’m serious.  Cadbury Mini Eggs and a microbrew during the finals is to die for).  Originally a combination of dried fruits, spirits, fat, and meat, over the centuries the meat part has all but disappeared from the recipe, and now it’s more of a dessert type of thing.  It does still employ three of the age-old methods of preserving, however: fat, sugar, and alcohol. 

I have adapted Allora Andiamo’s recipe from Jamie Oliver‘s website and it is incredible.  I quadrupled some things, and other things I just chucked in the amount I had, so it’s not particularly faithful to Ms. Andiamo’s original recipe but I give her full credit.

In a very large bowl I chucked the following, by weight:

275g raisins

55g dried blueberries

475g dried cranberries

575g candied orange peel

250g blanched almond slivers

400g finely chopped marzipan

474g (1lb) shredded butter (put the butter in the freezer, then grate it, or break it into chunks and run it through the food processor until you have fine crumbs)

1kg apples, finely chopped (I left the skins on and used a variety of different kinds, whatever I had lying around)

juice and rind of 5 large oranges

juice and rind of 2 large lemons

1kg soft brown sugar

3 teaspoons almond extract

8 tablespoons rum or brandy (I used both, of course)

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

4 teaspoons ground nutmeg

6 teaspoons ground ginger

4 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon allspice

Give that a good stir, cover it, and leave it somewhere to marinate for about 24 hours.

The next day, distribute the mincemeat into casserole dishes (or, if you are clever like me and used a metal bowl, don’t bother), cover with aluminum foil, and bake at 225°F for 3 1/2 hours.

I stirred mine halfway through, just to be thorough.  And also because I don’t trust anything on its own in an oven for three and a half hours.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool a bit.  The liquid will thicken as it cools so make sure to stir it occasionally in order for the syrup to coat all the fruit. 

Before it completely cools, pour into sterilized jars and seal — can according to your canner’s instructions, or check out our tips to canning here.

Store in a cool dark place for about 3 weeks before using. 

Christmas Fruit Cakes

My mother calls them fruit cakes.  My father calls them Christmas cakes.  Or it’s the other way around.  I can’t keep track of those two.

Nevertheless, before every holiday season, my dad makes between two and three dozen of them to give away to all their family and friends.  Being the stalwart Scots that we are, we fight over who deserves a whole cake and who gets only a slice.

You can’t be ambivalent about fruit cake.  You either love it or you hate it.  And I can promise you that this is not the leaden, dry, horribly frosted version that you hate.  This is the ooey-gooey sticky sweet and moist brick of goodness that you will LOVE.  Guaranteed.

Keep in mind that this recipe is easy to make.  Especially if you make several dozen.  However, you have to start your preparations the day before and baking time can take up to four hours for large cakes.  Not to mention that you can’t eat them right away — these cakes need a spell before they’re good to eat.  These ones here are from back in 2007.  They should be super excellent now.

Day the First:

In a large bowl, measure in 1 1/2 cups whole blanched almonds (blanched is key because the skin is bitter), 2 cups dark raisins, 2 cups light raisins, 1 cup currants, 2 1/2 cups chopped dates, and 2 1/2 cups candied citron peel.  My dad says that when making several batches it helps to bring a measuring cup to the health food or bulk store and measure what you need right into the bag so you don’t have to worry about having any leftover.

Drain a 12oz (340g) bottle of maraschino cherries, saving the juice.  The cherries should measure about 1 1/4 cups.  Add them to the mixture in the bowl.

Pour in 1/2 cup brandy (or fruit juice, if you prefer) and give it a stir.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it at room temperature overnight.

In a heavy saucepan, simmer one 19oz (540mL) can crushed pineapple with 2 cups granulated sugar.  Cook, uncovered, until thickened, about 45 minutes.  Make sure to stir frequently. 

By the end, the sugary pineapple should measure 2 1/2 cups.

Let the pineapple cool, and then stir in 1/2 cup reserved cherry juice.  Stir in as well 1 cup strawberry jam (the more all-natural, the better).  This doesn’t necessarily need to be done the day before, but it has to be cool before you add it to the cake batter.

Day the Second:

Preheat your oven to 275°F.  Butter your pans (we use four regular-sized loaf pans) and line them with parchment paper.The knob on our oven is positioned badly so we take the knob off in order not to hit it accidentally.  And yes, we probably should clean our oven more often.

In a large measuring cup, whisk together 4 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon allspice, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda.

Add about a cup of the flour mixture to the fruit and nuts and toss until the bits are all covered.  This will prevent them from sinking to the bottom when you mix them in the batter.  Set the rest of the flour aside for now. 

In another large mixing bowl, cream together  2 1/4 cups granulated sugar with 1 pound (2 cups) butter.

Beat in 12 eggs (yes, 12!), two at a time.  This is less of a pain in the butt if you have someone crack the eggs while someone else runs the mixer.

Take your flour mixture and your pineapple mixture and, alternating them, stir them into the butter and egg mix.  Make 3 dry and 2 liquid additions and stir it all in well. 

Your batter will be a lovely pink colour once you’re all ready.

Pour over your flour-coated fruit and nuts and mix well. 

Pour into your pans and chuck them in the oven.

Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven to keep the cakes moist.

Bake in your oven for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, for the larger cakes.  Smaller cakes might be done in about 3 hours. If you have a fast oven you might want to lay a sheet of aluminum foil loosely over the top to prevent them from drying out in the last hour or so.

The cakes should be fairly firm to the touch in the centre and should test clean with a toothpick.  Once you’ve removed the cakes from the oven let them cool in the pans for about five minutes. 

Then remove the cakes from the pans and peel off the paper.  Let the cakes cool completely.

Now you do your wrapping.

Lay a sheet of aluminum foil on your work surface.  Overlay that with some plastic wrap.

And some cheesecloth.

Plop your cake in the centre.

Baste it generously, all over, with rum or brandy (if you don’t baste you will need to keep the cakes in the refrigerator).

Wrap the cheesecloth tightly around the cake.  Then the plastic wrap.  Then the aluminum foil.

As the cloth dries out, give your cakes a periodic dousing with rum or brandy.  Don’t freeze the cakes or the flavours won’t mellow properly.

The cakes will make good eating in about three weeks, just in time for the holidays.

Ham with Cloves

While I fully intend, some day, to make a ham from scratch, until then I remain lazy and use pre-cooked hams.   In Newfoundland they are one of the few things that are readily available and cheap, and you can get them in any size.

So take your ham.  Spray a baking dish with cooking spray and plop the sucker down. Stud with cloves, and pour a little cranberry juice over the top.

Bake at 350°F until the internal temperature reaches 160°F, which comes to about 15 minutes a pound.

Cover the ham with foil if it is especially large, as it will tend to blacken after a bit.

Remove cloves before slicing and serve.  We generally live on the leftovers for several days afterward.  Cold ham is good fried with eggs, sliced into omelets or fritatas, stewed in Scotch broth, sliced in sandwiches . . . you name it.