Half-Baked Turtle Brownie Cheesecake

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While I was waiting for the kid to show up I was getting pretty bored and pretty desperate, but I didn’t have a lot of energy. One of my former colleagues recommended cheesecake as a way to start labour and I figured, why not? I had nothing to do, and an easy cheesecake recipe would be doable given my lack of energy. This one from Sprinkle Some Sugar seemed to fit the bill. It involves using store-bought brownie mix, fudge sauce, AND COOL WHIP, so it’s the ultimate in cheater recipes for me. And given that the day I baked it the temperatures skyrocketed again for a roller coaster June, I was happy to be able to chuck this in the fridge instead of hanging over a hot oven.

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The belly bump may have accidentally encountered some caramel during the making of this recipe.

The original recipe is a bit of a misnomer, as it states that there is no baking involved whatsoever with this recipe. That is a bold-faced lie – you gotta bake the brownie bottom. But it’s worth it.

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Find a round springform pan, about 8″ or 9″ (this one is 9″ I think), spray it with cooking spray, and whip up some brownie batter. You can use your favourite recipe but I used this boxed stuff (hey man, I was really pregnant at the time, gimme a break).

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I figured the salted caramel would add more panache to the finished product.

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Plus I love the ridiculous measurements of the wet ingredients. So simplistic!

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While this is baking, work on your caramel sauce (you can buy caramel sauce, of course, but this one is easy and a good way for caramel newbs to get started).

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In a small pot over medium-high heat, whisk together 1 cup granulated sugar and 1/4 cup water. Whisk and swirl the pot until the sugar is all dissolved, then keep swirling the pot (but no stirring or whisking!) frequently until the liquid turns a nice dark amber colour.

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When you get the colour you like, carefully pour in 3/4 cup heavy cream – watch out, because it will fizz up like crazy – and whisk that until smooth. Then tip in 3 tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla and stir until those are all melted away. Set the finished caramel sauce aside to thicken up and cool completely.

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Once the brownie bottom is ready and baked according to whatever instructions you have, remove the outer ring and let it cool completely as well and start working on your filling.

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In the bowl of a mixer, beat together 16oz softened plain cream cheese, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup brown sugar until smooth and creamy. I mean, it’s gonna be creamy anyway because it’s cream cheese but you get what I mean about the texture, right? Man I need more sleep …

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Stir in about 3/4 cup of that lovely caramel sauce you made (or squeeze it from the bottle you purchased you philistine) and add in as well 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg.

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Then I want you to do something totally foreign to me: grab 4oz Cool Whip and fold that in as well.

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Put the outer ring of your springform pan back on and smush all that Cool-Whipped creaminess into the pan.

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Give it some smoothing out so it *kind* of looks like you baked it, then chuck that in the fridge for 3-4 hours.

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Before serving, crush a bunch of pecans and spread them over top.

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Grab some fudge sauce (I bought it, don’t judge) and whatever’s left of your caramel.

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Pop off the outer ring and drizzle liberally with fudge and caramel. The fudge I bought didn’t drizzle, so I have fudge poops drizzled with caramel but you get the general intention here, at least. Keep the leftover cheesecake wrapped up in the fridge for up to a week. Enjoy!

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Slow Cooker Dip Trio – Dessert!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Plop.

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Roll the oval into a tube.

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

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

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

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Serve them hot with your fondue and a couple forks.

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And some napkins!

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Another Slow Cooker Dip Trio – in two parts

This past weekend, we had our housewarming party – finally. Mostly because we finally had enough furniture for people to sit on. And also because it’s hard to warm a house in the middle of the winter. This way, we could use the barbecue.

Dip Trio 1

The Pie wanted to make use of our three-pot mini slow cookers and prepare some dips for our guests, so here are two of the ones we came up with. The final one involved a bit of extra prep so it’s a post on its own. The two posted today were made significantly smaller so they’d fit in our tiny pots.

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This first one, a garlic white bean dip, doesn’t really require a slow cooker, unless you want it to be served warm (which we did). I also took out some of the prep steps to make the whole thing a one-shot process. Start by glugging 1/4 cup olive oil into a small saucepan, and add in the equivalent of 6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced. Cook that on low for about 5 minutes, until garlic smells start to fill your whole kitchen.

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Grate up about 3/4 cup parmesan cheese and the zest from 1 lemon.

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Then, grab your food processor and chuck in 2 cans of cannelini beans, drained and rinsed. I used one can white beans and one can of white navy beans. Tip in as well 1/3 cup water, 1 cup ricotta cheese, your garlic and oil stuff, the parmesan and lemon zest, 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, and a generous helping of salt and ground black pepper.

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Give that a good whaz until it’s all smooth. Add a bit more olive oil if you think it looks dry (and if you’re going to keep it in the slow cooker all day, add a bit more as it has a tendency to dry out).

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Plop that in the slow cooker and leave it on low for about 2 hours to warm through. Enjoy!

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This next one is pretty good, but we actually found it a little bland and might spice it up some more next time. It’s a corn and cheese dip with bacon and pale ale and I think it has plenty of potential for enhancement. Start by tipping 3 1/2 cups frozen corn into your slow cooker. Top that with 2 minced cloves of garlic and 1 1/2 cups grated cheese (we used an extra-old cheddar).

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Dice up a red bell pepper and a de-seeded jalapeno.

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Chuck those in the pot with 3/4 cup sour cream, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, and salt and pepper to taste.

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Grab a pale ale as well and tip in about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of it. I think next time I’d use something with a bit more flavour, as neither the Pie nor myself are IPA fans (not that I’m drinking these days anyway).

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Give that a good stirring to mix things up. Then grab a package of plain cream cheese and break it up into chunks, which you can then spread over the top of the thing. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours.

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While that’s on the go, cook up about 4 slices of bacon until it’s crispy enough to crumble and let it cool (so you can crumble it). Harvest some fresh chives from your garden (it’s the only thing growing right now). Cut those up in a wee bowl and set the bacon and chives aside until the dip is ready.

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When the dip is hot, stir well to incorporate the cream cheese and then garnish with the chives and bacon. Eat!

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Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting: Redux

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Two years ago yesterday I made this post, and to date it’s my most popular post of all time. It didn’t garner a lot of attention when I stuck it up there, but daily it’s my most-visited, most-pinned item – by thousands. AND I HAVE NO IDEA WHY. My second-most popular post of all time? Wattle fencing. Third? Cleaning your dishwasher. What is WRONG with you guys? You have seriously weird tastes.

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So the Pie thought it would be fun for me to re-create the post to see if it’s just as good the second time, so here I go: but with way more pizzazz than the first time. HOLD ON TO YER BUTTS.

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Making this for a second time, I’m reminded of how stupidly easy it is, which might be part of its allure. I mean, it feels like I’m making it out of a box, it’s so simple. Start by preheating your oven to 350°F and spraying a 9″ x 13″ baking dish. I am doubling this recipe so don’t be alarmed by the sheer amount of pumpkin cake you see here.

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Grab a large bowl and dump in 1 15oz can of unsweetened pumpkin purée. Crack in 4 eggs,  tip in 1 cup vegetable oil, and plop in 1 cup sugar (I reduced this from the last recipe). Give it a thorough whirl with a whisk so it’s gloriously and uniformly orange. Next, in a whole other bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 5 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (that’s another small change from the last one).

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Dump that flour stuff carefully into the pumpkin stuff and be thorough with the mixing again.

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Smooth the batter (wasn’t that easy?) into your baking dish and shove it in the oven for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

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Set that glorious orange cake on a wire rack to cool completely. Now you can whip together your amazing cream cheese frosting. I’m doubling the icing amount on this one because I believe that cream cheese icing is the greatest thing in the world and everything needs more of it (this is also why I reduced the sugar in the batter).

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In the bowl of a mixer, plop 8oz/250g plain cream cheese that is room temperature (to avoid lumps) and 1/2 cup softened butter, with a few drops vanilla extract. Beat that smooth and then add in 2-4 cups icing sugar until it’s the consistency that you like.

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Spread that amazingness generously on your lovely dark orange cake and EAT IT.

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Thrifty me, I still had some cream cheese icing leftover from the General’s Spider-Man cake, so I used it on my second cake. It looks a little funny but it tastes just as good!

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Yet Another Spider-Man Cake

The Pie’s crowning achievement in life (in his mind) is having gotten the General addicted to Spider-Man (or “Pydermun” as the General says). So when Atlas asked me to make a cake for the General’s second birthday party, we all knew what the theme would be. I made a cake for the Pie a year back with an arachnid theme so I was pretty confident I could replicate my awesomeness. The resulting decoration, due to some recalcitrant icing, was a little underwhelming but boy the cake was good – it disappeared within about twenty minutes!

Spider-Man Strawberry Cake

The cake itself is pretty easy. I adapted a simple yellow cake out of the Joy of Cooking and decided to tip in a bunch of strawberries, too.

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So I washed and cut up about a pint of the little red gems, and made sure that they were in decently small pieces.

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Then I buttered and lined a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with parchment paper. This cake is very moist and fragile so you need some help tipping it out of the pan and the paper helps. You can preheat your oven to 350°F as well while you’re at it.

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If you don’t have any buttermilk on hand, then whip up this quick substitute: add 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice to a 1 cup measuring cup and fill the rest with milk. Stir and leave for 5 minutes. Set that aside for now.

In a bowl, sift together 2 1/3 cups flour with 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. Set that aside and grab your mixer.

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In the bowl of your mixer, dump 3/4 cup softened butter and whip that into a pale fluffy frenzy for like three minutes.

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Now tip in 1 1/3 cup sugar and beat again until you have a fluffy amazing pile of salty sweet buttery goodness.

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Now add in 3 large eggs, one at a time, as well as 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and beat until fully combined and smooth.

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Grab your flour mixture and your 1 cup buttermilk (or substitute) and alternate adding them to the mix, stirring each time. Start with the flour, so you have three additions of flour and two of buttermilk, and go until it’s all smooth and batter-y.

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Dump in your 1 pint chopped strawberries and stir those in well.

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Smooth the batter into the pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Set that on a rack in the pan to cool completely.

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Make yourself some icing – your choice, but I prefer the standby cream cheese recipe of 1 cup butter:1 package cream cheese:3-4 cups icing sugar. I tipped in some almond extract to boost the strawberry flavour, and then dyed it appropriately with gel paste food colouring.

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I actually ran out of red colour so the background ended up a wee bit pink.

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And the black stuff got super wobby when I was piping it so it didn’t look so hot. However I did manage to get the floppy cake onto the lid of a tupperware container before decorating so it was a simple matter to simply jam the bottom on top for easy transport!

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Fancy Pants Sammiches

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For my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary party I made a large number of cocktail sandwiches – those are the ones where you cut all the crusts off the bread, or you buy the long, already crustless tramezzini (which is what I did). I’m going to give you all my sandwich filling recipes in one post, and I’ll leave it up to you to do with them what you will!

Fancy Sammiches 181: Smokey Egg Salad Fancy Sammiches 6 Start with about a dozen hard-boiled eggs. Smush them up good. Fancy Sammiches 2 Mince up some chives and tip that into the eggs, together with some salt and pepper, a scoop of Hungarian smoked paprika, and a dollop of mayonnaise. Stir to combine. Fancy Sammiches 52: Lemon-Dill Tuna

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Mince up some celery.

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Grab some herbs as well, like sage, and of course dill. Mince those too.

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Add them in a bowl with your canned flaked tuna, and the juice and zest of 1 lemon.

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Add in just a wee bit of yogurt or mayonnaise for cohesion.

3: Classic Cucumber and Herb

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Grab a small handful each of fresh mint and chives. Mince those up.

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Beat those into softened plain cream cheese and season with salt and pepper. Serve with sliced cucumbers.

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4: Curried “Coronation” Chicken

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Dismantle and shred a small roasted chicken from the grocery store. Mix in a large amount of fresh chopped pineapple sage, as well as a little bit of onion powder, cumin, yellow curry, and a pinch of cardamom. Tip in plain yogurt or mayonnaise for cohesion.

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5: Peanut Butter & Jelly “Sushi”

Fancy Sammiches 24Smear your bread with the peanut butter of your choice (the all-natural stuff is a mite runny, be warned).

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Top with jelly.

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Roll the whole thing up and slice into discs.

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Corn and Tomato Dip

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Another Martha Stewart dip, and I loooooooove this one. The way I made it is totally unhealthy but that’s kind of the point and it’s amazing. I can totally see myself just sitting down on a late summer afternoon with a bag of tortilla chips and just eating the whole thing for a meal. And then having to roll myself away from the table. Or dying. But what a good way to go. I doubled the amounts I found in the original recipe to fit the food I had and used cream cheese instead of silken tofu because silken tofu is gross and hard to find around here. You can use whatever you prefer.

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Start with some ears of fresh corn. I used five here, bought from the grocery store as our corn season has only just begun in Ontario. Use a knife or a special corn-kernel-scraping tool (whatever they’re called) to get all the kernels off the corn and into a pot.

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Pour in 1 cup 2% milk and heat over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until the corn is nice and tender. Let that cool for a bit.

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Meanwhile, grab a giant bunch of basil (any colour) out of your garden and start slicing that up.

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Grab as well some cherry tomatoes, about 16, and quarter those.

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Plop those in a bowl until you’re ready for them.

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In the bowl of a food processor, plop 1 250g package plain cream cheese, 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, a few pinches of salt, some pepper, and about 2/3 of your corn-milk mix. Buzz that until it’s mostly smooth and uniform.

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Transfer the contents of the food processor to a bowl and mix in the rest of the milk-corn stuff, together with the sliced basil and quartered tomatoes. Serve with chips and enjoy!

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Cheesecake Brownies

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More shindig food, so you’ll have to forgive my less than ideal photos – I’ve been doing a lot of night baking and then shoving everything whole into the freezer, so I can’t get the best pictures. So needless to say, these freeze really well. If you want better photos, go to Yammie’s Noshery, which is where I got the recipe.

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Butter a 9″ x 13″ baking dish and line it with parchment paper.

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Start with 1 cup butter and 2 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and melt those together in a pot until smooth and bubbly.

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Let that cool for at least 10 minutes and preheat your oven to 350°F.

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While that’s chilling out, whisk together 1 1/4 cups cocoa, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1 1/2 cups flour. Set that aside for a wee spell.

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In another bowl, whisk together 8oz softened cream cheese (remember that the warmer it is, the less lumpy it will be), 1/3 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 egg. You may want the hand mixer for this job. Set THAT aside.

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Grab another bowl (so many bowls) and whisk together 1 teaspoon vanilla and 4 eggs.

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Tip in your butter-sugar goo and whisk it until it’s glossy.

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Then tip all that into your flour-cocoa mixture and stir until smooth.

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THEN dump in 2 cups chocolate chips and mix those in.

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Smooth all your cocoa batter into the pan. Try your best to dig little troughs down the length of the pan and fill those with the cream cheese batter. As you can see, my best is not the best. My batter was more fluid I think than was intended so the troughs kept filling in. It was like trying to build a sandcastle in a rising tide.

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Then grab a butter knife and cut into the batter, dragging the knife perpendicular to the troughs.

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I hope yours looks better than this.

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Bake for 25-35 minutes (25 for gooey, 35 for non-gooey; mine was in-between) and let cool completely before cutting into bars.

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I can’t wait to eat one of these puppies on Saturday!

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Wingin’ It Wednesday: Stuffed Ham

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Don’t be too weirded out by that title. I mean, stuffed ham is a little odd, but it’s doable.  The Pie and I were planning a lazy Easter supper and he had hauled a small pre-cooked ham out of the freezer. But I wanted to try something a bit different so I thought, why does no one stuff hams like they do turkeys? So I gave it some thought, and I did some research.

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There are stuffed ham recipes involving complex cutting of grooves and bread crumbs and lots of work – usually for a larger, on-the-bone type of ham. But I wanted to be lazy and innovative all at the same time.

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So first I thawed out about half a package of frozen spinach (ended up being about 150g). I squeezed out the extra water and chucked it in a bowl.

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Then I added 1 package plain cream cheese (250g). It was previously frozen so that’s why it’s all crumbly like that.

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And some salt and pepper.

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Then I realized it was in too small of a bowl so I moved it.

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And gave it a good stirring.

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Now here I have my pre-cooked ham.

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I took a paring knife to it and cut it in a spiral from the cut side (the knife didn’t go all the way through).

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Then. Well, then I stuffed it with my cream cheese mixture. It was not as easy as I thought it would be.

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I plopped the remainder on the cut side top.

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Wrapped it in tin foil, and baked it at 350°F for about an hour, until the internal temperature was about 145°F. I ended up unwrapping the aluminum foil after a while because it was doing too good a job of insulating the ham.

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Then the question was, how do you carve it?

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I went with plain slices.

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Despite it being a total madcap experiment, it was really good!

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Nanaimo Bar Cheesecake

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If you’re Canadian, you’ve probably had a Nanaimo Bar once or twice in your life. If you’re not Canadian, you probably SHOULD have a Nanaimo Bar once or twice in your life.

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My sister-in-law Mags sent me this recipe as a not-so-subtle hint about what kind of birthday cake she’d like this year (her birthday was February 15th). We usually celebrate her birthday jointly with her dad’s, Papa John, whose birthday is on February 19th. But with a bunch of travel on all sides, we ended up postponing their birthday celebrations until this past weekend, which was MY birthday. So this is a joint cake for the three of us. And it’s amazing.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grab a food processor and chuck in 5 tablespoons cocoa powder, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 1/2 cups graham crumbs, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, and 3/4 cup dried coconut.

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Give it a good whazzing, then drizzle in 4 tablespoons melted butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla and whaz it again, until you get some crumbly mixture.

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Take your crumb mixture and dump it into a 10″ springform pan. Press the crumbs into the bottom and a little up the sides, making sure to press extra hard in the corners (I didn’t and it was a little too thick there, so that’s why I am warning you).

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Shove that into your oven and bake it for 5 minutes. When you pull it out, leave the oven on and shove in a large (9″ x 13″) pan of warm water and put it on the rack below where you will be cooking your cheesecake.

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Now, in the bowl of a stand mixer, chuck 4 250g packages plain cream cheese (remember that room temperature cream cheese makes smoother cheesecake). Beat that up until it’s smooth and lovely.

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Then, one at a time, crack in 4 large eggs, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating the whole time.

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Now you can chuck in 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 1/3 cup sour cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 3 tablespoons vanilla custard powder.

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I used Bird’s custard powder here, because that is all that is traditional and right in the world. Beat that up until smooth.

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Pour the mix into your baked crust above your pan of water and bake for 1 hour.

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When it’s done, turn the oven off and crack the door just a little bit and wedge it with a spoon. Leave that for 1-2 hours until the cheesecake is room temperature.

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Don’t fret about that crack. It’s not a big deal. Transfer the cake to a nice plate with care. Chill the cake for a little while.

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To make the lovely ganache that goes on top, toss 1 cup cream and 1 cup chocolate in the bowl of a double boiler and heat until the chocolate melts.

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Whisk until smooth, then let it cool to room temperature.

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Now gently pour it on top of your cooled cake. I had a lot of ganache so I carefully guided it down the sides as well.

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Chill your cake until the ganache is set.

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Serve to all your birthday guests!

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