Banana Chocolate Breakfast Cookies

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These popped up on my Facebook feed a few weeks ago and they looked so easy I figured there was no harm in trying them. And they’re fantastic! Switch out the oats for gluten-free oats and you can please those with dicky digestive systems. Replace the chocolate chips with dried fruit or nothing and it’s a great treat for wee folks who are learning how to eat solid foods with their hands. Shove some peanut butter in there and you have a handy dog treat. It’s really a versatile little cookie full of natural sweetness and texture.

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Plus it’s basically only got three ingredients, so it was an instant hit with Cait of chicken-salsa-cheese fame. I used slightly more than three ingredients because I was out of chocolate chips so I made do …

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I doubled this recipe because in a house with a large male and a very pregnant female these bite-sized morsels were simply not big enough. Start by preheating your oven to 350°F and lining a large baking sheet with parchment or spraying it with cooking spray.

Grab yourself at least 2 large ripe bananas (this is also a good recipe for when the bananas are just starting to go, and you don’t want to chuck them in the freezer for YET ANOTHER banana bread batch).

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Mash the crap out of those suckers. Not just a little bit of mashing, like you’d have for banana bread, where you want the chunks.

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I’m talking full-on banana soup. Yes. There is no picture. It was too gross.

Add in 1/4 cup chocolate chips (or whatever else you have that you want to use: this is a few spoonfuls each of dark chocolate bar, broken up, Skor bits, and peanut butter chips).

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Now tip in 1 cup oats (a little bit of shredded coconut and some ground flax would be nice here too, I think).

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Stir-stir-stir! Plop flattened gobs of those things on your baking sheet and shove it in the oven for about 15 minutes.

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These bigger ones took about 18), then let sit on the cookie sheet for about five minutes before eating.

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Definitely eat them warm – and all at once!

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Raspberry Mousse Pie

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This is another Martha Stewart recipe that I adapted to be gluten-free and made up for the second of our Mother’s Day celebrations (same day, different mom). This recipe is also great because it actually involves zero baking whatsoever, so if it’s hot where you are and you can’t handle the thought of turning on the oven – don’t worry about it.

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Start by lightly spraying a 9″ square metal baking dish with cooking spray. Or a 7″ x 10″ glass baking dish, which is what I did. Line it with parchment so that there’s some overhang, because you’re gonna need handles.

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Grab 7 or 8 graham crackers. These gluten-free ones are really tiny and kind of thick. We used the whole package. The original recipe involves laying them out in the pan whole but that always ends poorly for me so I plopped them in the food processor, together with about 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut and about 3 tablespoons butter and gave them a good whaz. Then I took that clumpy mixture and pressed it hard into the bottom of the pan. That way I could cut the pieces anyway I wanted without worrying about the shape of my graham crackers.

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Tip 3 tablespoons lemon juice into a wee bowl and sprinkle 1 envelope powdered gelatin (∼ 2 1/4 teaspoons) over top. Leave that for 5 minutes. Wash and drain about 2 cups fresh raspberries and plop them in your food processor. Purée the crap out of them.

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Pour the raspberry goo into a measuring cup via a fine mesh sieve. Scrape and scrape and shove the goo around until all the juice is through and what you have left is just seeds. Compost the seeds – you should have about 1 cup of raspberry juicy stuff.

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In a small saucepan, combine the raspberry stuff with 1/2 cup sugar and stir over medium until bubbles start to form at the edges.

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Tip in the gelatin mixture and stir constantly until the stuff is completely dissolved, about 1 minute.

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Pour that into a bowl and let it cool to room temperature.

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While you’re waiting, whip up 2 cups heavy cream with 2 tablespoons sugar until stiff and lovely.

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Fold your cooled raspberry goo gently into the cream and keep folding until the colour is uniform and it looks amazeballs.

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Pour the mousse goo over the graham crumbs and smooth if necessary with an offset spatula.

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Wash and drain another 2 cups fresh raspberries and use them to decorate the top.

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Refrigerate the mousse pie for about 2 hours or up to overnight. When you’re ready to serve, use the parchment handles to gently remove it from the pan before cutting it into squares. Enjoy!

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Ginger Molasses Cookie

So there’s a certain giant mega-corporation coffee chain near our office. I’m sure you know the one – it has a fishy logo. Because it’s the only place near our office, we go there ALL THE TIME. And I’m kind of in love with their giant ginger molasses cookies. But they’re a million dollars and I just KNOW that the reason they’re so chewy and amazing is because they’re filled with all sorts of ick. And there’s probably some form of addictive substance in them (other than sugar, I mean), because I don’t even LIKE cookies and I can’t resist these. And I just found out TWO DAYS AGO that the place near work has discontinued the darned things.

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So it’s been a quest of mine to re-create the recipe on my own. Turns out I’m not the only one who has tried. Most of the recipes I found seem to be taken from the same source and have mostly the same ingredients, so I picked this one from Food.com. Forgive my crappy photos – it’s a weeknight in the winter in Canada so it’s dark. Start by preheating your oven to 375°F and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Then grab your ingredients.

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Whisk together 2 1/4 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves. Set that aside for a few minutes.

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Next, in the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together 3/4 cup butter and 1 cup dark brown sugar. I didn’t have dark brown so I went with regular brown. But the darker your sugar, the darker your cookie.

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Scrape down the mixing paddle and the sides of the bowl and crack in 1 large egg. Pour in as well 1/4 cup regular unsulphured molasses. I used fancy grade molasses, because that seems to be what you can get in Canada. Not sure what the difference is.

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Give that a good beating until it’s smooth.

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Now, slowly add in your flour mixture while beating on low speed. Keep mixing until the dough forms a cohesive mass – it’ll be super thick and you’ll have to scrape things down occasionally to ensure good mixage.

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Now grab your cookie dough, and your baking sheets, and a shallow dish or plate. Tip about 1/3 cup granulated sugar onto the plate and spread it around. Scoop out 1/4 cup of the dough (I’m not kidding, these things are huge), roll it into a ball, and roll it in the granulated sugar before placing it on the baking sheet.

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Do that five more times for the first sheet, spacing them far apart (they spread). Do the other six on the other baking sheet (yeah, this recipe only makes 12. If you’re not insane and you’d like a smaller cookie go ahead and do that).

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Next, wet your fingers and press down on each cookie ball to flatten it slightly and dampen the sugar coating. Shove one baking sheet in the fridge and the other in the oven.

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Bake each sheet, one at a time, for 12 minutes, rotating halfway through, or until the cookie is an even brown and is mostly solid in the middle. Let those giant suckers cool on the baking sheet.

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I’m not sure if they’re *quite* the recipe I was looking for – I might add more ginger and more molasses (or maybe my ginger is just a little old). But they’re really good nonetheless!

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Yarn Eggs

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These puppies are all over the internet, so I can’t give you any one particular website that gave me the inspiration to try this little Easter craft.  Despite it being warm(ish), we just got another 20cm of snow this week (in one night) and I have had it with winter in the worst way.  So I’m doing Easter things.

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Today we’re making yarn eggs.   What you need for this is a work surface that you can easily clean off (this is a messy project), some brightly coloured yarn, a balloon, and some glue.  In this set of photographs I’m using a 5″ balloon for a medium-sized egg.  You can use a full-sized 10″-12″ balloon but you’ll use more yarn and glue and then you’ll have to find a place for your giant egg.  Water balloons, which are typically around 3″-4″, are probably best for this, though you will have to squish them around to make them a bit more egg-shaped.  I’m also using a papier mâché paste with a flour:water ratio of 2:3 as my glue.

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Start by inflating your balloon.  Tie it off and then loosely wrap it in the yarn of your choice, just to get an idea of how much you are going to need.

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When you have it wrapped to your satisfaction, you can cut the yarn.  I ended up with between 6 and 7 metres of yarn for a 5″ balloon (before you object too loudly, remember that I’m Canadian and we jump back and forth between metric and Imperial measurements with impunity — it’s a cultural thing).

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Loosely wind up your yarn so it won’t get too tangled as you pull on it and dunk it gently into your glue mixture.

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Keep hold of the end so you can find it again.

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Run the gluey yarn through your fingers to squeeze off the excess and start wrapping it snugly around your balloon.  Some people have sprayed the balloon with cooking spray to prevent sticking, but I didn’t find that this was a problem for me. Make sure to leave the tied off neck of the balloon hanging out so you have something to hold on to.

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When you are at the end of your yarn, tuck the edge in so it won’t unravel as it dries.

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It’s best to hang up the balloon overnight so it will be able to dry completely on all sides.

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While I was making breakfast the next day, the balloon decided to contract and it took me a good five minutes to figure out that the crackling sound in my kitchen was the balloon separating from the pasty yarn.

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Then you simply pinch the balloon near the neck and cut a snip in it to deflate the balloon quickly without popping it.

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Pull the deflated balloon out through the hole where the neck was.

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There you have it.   I’m not entirely happy with the way that the papier mâché paste has discoloured the yarn, but this method would probably work best on pale yellow yarn or off-white, to disguise the discolouration.

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For the next one (this was a test run after all), I decided to use Mod Podge “Stiffy” Fabric stiffener, mixed with a wee bit of Mod Podge Fabric Glue.

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This was a lot more slippery to work with, for some reason.  The papier mâché seemed to adhere better to the balloon when wet (though it might have also had something to do with me using a metallic balloon first, and then a regular opaque one next — I find that the metallic ones have a different feel to them).  The fabric stiffener slid all over the place, so I had to hold it with my fingers.  So glue was everywhere.

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The final three eggs I used straight Stiffy, no glue.  You can see that there’s a difference between the paste one, which is more rigid but has bits of goo all over it, and the Stiffy ones, which are slightly more flexible but also less gross looking.

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The finished eggs can be strung up as a garland, or displayed in a bowl, or used as place markers at the dinner table (if you made wee ones with water balloons).  You can also use rounder balloons to make actual spheres for non-Easter related decorating.  I’ve also seen them stuffed with LEDs as indoor/outdoor luminaries (though if you’re going to put them outdoors I would spray them with a waterproofing sealant first). I’ve even seen people use giant weather balloons to make huge pendant lampshades. It’s a very versatile and easy technique.

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Chewy Molasses Squares

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These were a consolation prize the Pie found after the disastrous experiment with s’mores cookies last week.  And they turned out to be an excellent way of depleting our more esoteric baking supplies.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and butter an 8″ baking dish.  I went with the extra precaution of lining it with parchment and buttering that, too.  Now I doubled my recipe and plopped it in a 9″ x 13″ baking dish because the recipe got its math wrong and there is no way that an 8″ square pan leaves you with forty 1 1/2″ squares.  It just ain’t so.  I only ended up with twenty-four, and that’s in the bigger pan.

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Anyway.  Don’t fret about the math for now, and whisk together 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and set that aside for now.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together 1/3 cup unsalted butter (room temperature) and 3/4 cup granulated sugar until they’re pale and fluffy, a couple minutes.  I used half white and half brown sugar here because I ran out of molasses so  I needed to boost the flavour a bit.

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Separate out 4 egg whites and use the yolks for something else.  I’m sure you could get away with tossing them into this mix, but it would make for a much denser cake.  I might try it next time.  Huck those into the mixer and beat to combine.

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Grab yourself 1 cup molasses.  I ran out of molasses halfway through and discovered that my Golden Syrup had corroded the tin it was in, so my only recourse was lily white corn syrup, which made my squares quite a bit more pale than they were supposed to be.  Your squares will be much darker.

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Anyway, pour that in as well and give it a stir until it’s all combined.

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At this point, the Pie remarked that this was one of the grosser-looking things I had ever made, with maybe the exception of banana bread.  He has no appreciation for the science of things.  Then of course I added in the flour mixture and whipped that around and he was all like, “ooooh, it’s so pretty and smooth!”  Figures.

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Anyway, smooth that lovely pretty substance into your prepared pan and chuck it in the oven for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of it comes out clean.  For the doubled recipe, this took about an hour.

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Allow the cake to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack, then tip it out and cut it into as many squares as you like.

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Grab a bowl and dump in about 1/2 cup icing sugar, and roll each square in that just before serving (if you do it in advance then the icing sugar will be absorbed into the square and it won’t look as pretty).

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Then you eat them!

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Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese

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Ando made this for Thidz’ birthday last week and it went down so well that he suggested I put it on the blog.  So here it is, adapted to his standards.  While the whole thing takes a little while to prepare, it’s all easy stuff that you can do in stages.  I ended up having most of it ready in the morning and then just chucked it together at the end and baked it.  But we’ll work from the bottom up on this layered casserole.  Also, the recipe says it serves 8, but really it serves 4 because you are going to want seconds.

BOTTOM:

Preheat your oven to 425°F and spray a 9″ springform pan with cooking spray.  My pan was a little wider, but that’s fine.

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In a teeny bowl, mix together 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, and some salt and ground black pepper to taste.

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Peel 2 medium sweet potatoes.  I only had large ones, so I opted to just do one, but I could have used both and it would have been fine.

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Use a mandoline to shave off super thin slices.

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Chuck those pieces in a bowl, drizzle with a few tablespoons vegetable oil, and add in your spice mix.  Toss with your hands until the oil and spices evenly coat all the potato pieces.

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Layer the sweet potato slices evenly in the bottom of the pan.

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Bake for 15-20 minutes until they are softened and starting to brown.  Ando wanted to bake them longer to make them more crisp, so I tried that, but I found that once you piled the rest of the ingredients on top they went soft again anyway, so don’t worry too much about that.  The Pie hoped for a thicker layer of sweet potatoes (because I only used the one potato and my pan was wider), so next time I would go for two.

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MIDDLE:

Grab yourself some pork tenderloin.  I had a boneless pork loin rib here that was on stupid sale so I used that.

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You’ll need 2lbs pork, cut into 2″ chunks.  If I did this again, I would cut the chunks larger, just so your pulled pork strings end up being decently long.

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Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and add in the meat.  It goes gray almost immediately, which is kind of gross.  Reduce to a simmer and leave that on the go for about an hour.

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Drain the pork and use 2 forks to shred it into little pieces.

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Then you’re going to need some barbecue sauce.  Ando expressed concern that the sauce tended to overpower the more delicate flavours of the macaroni and cheese on top, so we picked out a milder apple butter sauce and it worked out fantastically.  The sweetness of the apple really worked well with the pork.

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So you pour 14oz barbecue sauce all over your pork and mix it in.

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Then you add in 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar and stir that in as well, then set the whole thing aside.

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TOP:

Bring another saucepan of water to a boil and add a pinch or two of salt.  When it’s boiling, add in 8oz elbow pasta (MACARONI) and cook according to your package instructions.  When it’s ready, drain the water, saving about 1/4 cup of it.  Add the water back to the pasta in the pot.

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Add to the pasta 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (I think the sharper the better), 1/2 cup grated Gruyere (we used Jarlsberg), and 1/4 cup creme fraiche (which is next to impossible to find in Newfoundland, so we used sour cream instead).  Because Ando suggested boosting the flavour of the mac, I added a few crumbles of blue cheese (Rochefort) as well.

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Stir that up until it’s all melted, then add a few drops of hot sauce (we used Tabasco) to taste.

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Season it with salt and pepper and set it aside.

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CRUST:

Melt 1/4 cup butter and stir it up with 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and 1 cup panko breadcrumbs.

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ASSEMBLY:

Smooth the pulled pork over the sweet potatoes.

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Dollop the macaroni on top of that and flatten it down a bit.

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Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture on top of that to completely cover the macaroni.

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Bake for 15 minutes, until the casserole is hot through and the bread crumbs are browned.

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DISASSEMBLY:

Ideally you should be able to pop open the springform pan and cut this puppy like a cake.  My pork ended up being supremely saucy and thus too slithery to be architecturally sound in terms of casserole structure.  Meaning I tried to pop off the frame and then the whole thing went sideways — literally and figuratively.  So we just scooped it out with spoons, hence the lack of presentation.  Didn’t matter.  Ate it anyway.  And it was awesome.  Thanks Ando!

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Lemon Cloud with Strawberries and Mint

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Fussellette asked me to make “something light” for dessert following our Easter meal of a traditional Jiggs dinner.  What is lighter than a cloud?  Not much.  This sharp lemon foam is a great palette-cleanser and went smashingly with some post-prandial tea.  And, as most things gluten-free tend to be (with the exception of doughy things of course), it was easy and quick to make.  I made it the day before to allow the flavours to really concentrate themselves.

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Start with some fresh strawberries, 2 cups.  Wash them, cut the tops off, and slice them into quarters.  Drop them in a bowl.

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Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over top.

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Grab yourself some fresh mint, 2 tablespoons.  Chop that up and drop it on top of the strawberries.

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Give that a stir, then chuck it in the fridge to chill.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Spray a 1 1/2 quart soufflé dish (I didn’t have one, so I used this steep-sided oval bowl) with cooking spray and dust with 2 tablespoons sugar.  The recipe said to shake out the excess but I left mine in the bottom in the hopes it would get all crusty and lovely, and I was right.  Set the dish on top of a baking sheet.

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Separate 4 eggs and bring the whites to room temperature.  You’ll only need two of the yolks.  I had three whites left over from eggs Benny so in actual fact this recipe used 5 whites.

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Grate the zest of 2 lemons and squeeze out their juice as well.  You want to end up with 2 tablespoons lemon zest and 6 tablespoons lemon juice.

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In a small saucepan, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon corn starch.

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Add in the lemon juice, zest, and the 2 egg yolks and stir until smooth.

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Heat on medium, stirring constantly, until thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.  Transfer to a large glass bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.

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Take your 4 egg whites and plop them in a bowl with a pinch of salt.  Whisk until foamy.

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Gradually add, a little bit at a time, 1/4 cup sugar, and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.

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Take about 1/4 of the egg whites and fold it into the lemon curd in the glass bowl.

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When that is fully incorporated you can fold in the rest of the whites.

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Transfer the mixture to the soufflé dish and smooth the top.

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Bung that in the oven for 25 minutes, or until the eggy mess is puffy and slightly browned on top.  Haul it out and put it on a wire rack to cool.

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Now watch it fall.  Don’t fret — it’s supposed to fall.

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When it’s cool cover it with plastic wrap and chuck that in the fridge as well to get chilly. When you’re ready to eat, take it out. Or you could sit in your fridge and eat it. Whatever works for you. Scoop some out, top with your strawberry compote, and you’re golden.

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