Egg Nog?

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I love egg nog.  So much so that I wish I could have it all year ’round.  So of course I learned to make my own.  And every time I offer it to people, I try to do it in Denholm Elliott’s voice from (my favourite movie of all time — don’t judge) Trading Places.  He’s just so emphatic.

I know.  I don’t know why I showed you that. I just love egg nog that much. So when I found this recipe on Design*Sponge I knew the time had come. THIS WAS IT.

So first you start by creating an ice bath. That means either filling your sink with water and ice cubes, or a large bowl that will hold your pot. My sink is terrible at retaining water (not my sink, not my problem), so I opted for a heat-proof bowl.

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Then grab a medium-sized pot and crack in 6 whole eggs. Give those a thorough whisking.

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Pour in as well 2 cups whole milk (we call it homogenized here in the Great White North), 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar.

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Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the custard (because that’s what it is) thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Resist the urge to speed things up by turning up the heat. That’s how you get scrambled eggs plus milk. Not cool.

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Plop the pot into the ice bath. Add in 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and whisk the whole shebang for about 3 or 4 minutes.

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Put the lid on the pot, haul it out of the ice bath, and let it come to room temperature, about an hour (I had some errands to run so I actually put mine in the fridge for about four hours and it was fine as well).

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Next, strain the egg solids (those lumpy bits) out of your custard by pouring it through a sieve over a bowl.

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You can throw these out. Or compost them like a good citizen.

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Now whisk in your booze***. The original recipe calls for brandy or rum plus bourbon, but the Pie and I are not bourbon fanatics like Trav, so we opted for 1/2 cup rum plus 1/2 cup maple whisky.

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Whisk that whisky right in there.

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Might as well add a few dashes of grated nutmeg as well.

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Now pour 1 cup whipping cream into a bowl and beat the crap out of it until it forms stiff peaks.

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Then fold that gorgeousness into your eggnog.

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Let your eggnog chill for a couple of hours before drinking. It’s like drinking whipped cream, essentially. I personally don’t think the recipe would be that good without the alcohol to kind of dilute it, so if you’re looking for a non-alcoholic version, this is probably not it.

*** That said, however, if you want to try this particular recipe without the booze, this is what I recommend: instead of adding 1 cup booze, add 1 cup whole milk, and then when it gets to the final 1 cup whipping cream, just add it in without whipping. Then the whole thing is much less solid and easier to drink on its own.

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Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes, and some Thanksgiving

Happy birthday to both H.G. and Kº!

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What am I most thankful for this year?  Well that’s easy.  This week I crashed through the 5000-follower mark here at Ali Does It.  And that’s just WordPress followers, mind you: that statistic doesn’t include those of you who have bookmarked the page or signed up for email or RSS updates.  Five thousand plus, then.  And I’m thankful for each and every one of you.  My goal in starting Ali Does It was to show people that doing things like baking a layer cake or fixing a toilet are not too hard to do by yourself (or with some help!), and that everyone makes mistakes.  It’s all a learning process.  So. Thanks for being there with me while I do this learning thing.

Here’s a nice warm and cozy side dish we cooked up for an early potluck Thanksgiving with the Pie’s extended family.  It’s a perfect accompaniment to a less-formal celebration, and a welcome addition to any potluck occasion.  Shall we get started?

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Preheat your oven to 375°F and spray a 9″ x 13″ baking dish (we doubled our recipe and used two oval casseroles instead, but the principle is the same).

Let’s do the vegetable prep first, okay?  Start with 4 large yellow potatoes (like Yukon Gold), and give them a scrub.  Leave the skins on, and slice them up really thin.  We find that the mandolin actually makes the potatoes a little too thin, so we prefer to slice them by hand.  And my genius of a husband showed me a cool trick to cutting round objects in thin slices.  It’s much easier to slice them when you can hold them by the large middle part, so start on one side and cut towards the centre, like so:

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Then turn the potato around and start again from the other end.  This way you’re not left fumbling with the tiny end bits and a very sharp knife.  Brilliant.

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Give the potato slices a good soak for about ten minutes while you do other stuff, just to get rid of all the excess starch.

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While you’re waiting, grab a hefty handful of chives and chop them up, too.

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Like, a LOT of chives.

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And dice up an onion as well.  Set that aside for now.  It’s going to be in your sauce. As is the 2 ¼ cups cheese you’re going to shred.  We used a combination of Monterey jack and orange cheddar.

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Drain and rinse your potatoes and then start laying them out in single layers in your baking dish.  Sprinkle salt and pepper and some chives over each layer and keep going until you’ve run out of potatoes.

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In a medium-sized pot, melt ¼ cup butter and chuck in your diced onion.  Cook that, stirring, for a few minutes until the onions are soft.

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Stir in 2 tablespoons flour, then add 2 cloves minced garlic and 2 cups whole milk.  Keep stirring that over medium heat until it becomes bubbly and starts to thicken.

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When the sauce is thick, add in 2 cups cheese (save ¼ cup for sprinkling on top) and keep stirring that around until it’s all melted and incorporated into the sauce.

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Pour the sauce over the potatoes.

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You will likely need to pour about half the sauce, then stop and shake the pan from side to side and around and around to get the sauce to fill in all the little holes.  You see all these holes?  Then you can use the rest of the sauce.

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Sprinkle the rest of your cheese and chives on top.

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Chuck that in the oven and bake for 60 minutes, until the top is brown and crusty and everything is bubbling throughout, even in the centre.  Enjoy!

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Make Your Own Yogurt — The Easy Way

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I may have mentioned to you before that my new sister-in-law, Atlas, has the coolest mom, who may very well be my new hero.  This woman runs her own business, runs her family, runs the kitchen … essentially, she’s in charge of everything, but she does it in such a way that you don’t even notice.  And always with a big smile on her face.  Anyway, she gave me a recipe for making my own yogurt that doesn’t sound intimidating at all.

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I remember my mother trying to make yogurt with that weird little machine and the starter and all that stuff, and how I hated what came out of it.  It had a weird skin on it and was super runny.  But this stuff?  Not the same.  So much easier.  So much better.   In fact, my own mother has adopted the process and there’s always a huge tub of fresh yogurt in her fridge as well.  The recipe I’m going to give you below has been halved, because there are only two of us in our little house.  However, now that I’ve made it and I see how quickly we use it, I will probably make a full batch next time!

So what you need is a large pot, a spoon, 2L homogenized milk, 500mL half-and-half (“blend cream” is what they call it here), and about 1/2 cup plain yogurt (with no gelatin) as your starter.

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In the pot, stir your milks together and bring them to a boil.

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When they boil, they will foam the heck up, so stir vigorously for a minute before removing the pot from the heat.  Mine may have boiled over.  Twice.  I may have shouted some choice four-letter words.  Several times.  Note to self: next time, use a bigger pot.

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Leave the milk to cool to a nice warmer-than-room temperature (Atlas’s mom says somewhere between 40°C and 50°C). She says to stick your finger in it to feel if it’s warm. I decided, in the interests of science, to use a thermometer to confirm.  For your edification, 114°F is about 46°C.

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Mmm, milk skin … you can just get rid of that.

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Then add your 1/2 cup yogurt and give that a stir.

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Put the lid on the pot (or pour it in a container with a lid), wrap the whole thing in a blanket, and put it somewhere warm for 6-8 hours (or overnight).  Atlas’s mom puts it in the turned-off oven with the oven light on, but our oven doesn’t have a light, so I put it in our living room on top of the Pie’s computer.  It seemed to do the trick.

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And you can easily turn this into strained yogurt (“Greek” yogurt) by straining it for a few hours through a cheesecloth.  After 8 hours on top of the computer, I lined a colander with cheesecloth and dumped the yogurt in.  I let it sit over another bowl overnight in the fridge to drain off the whey and this thick loveliness is what came out of it.

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Goes great in soups and stews, in dips like tzatziki, on breakfast cereals, with a little honey and some strawberries … you name it.

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