Twisted Bee Ell Tee

B-A-L-T 15

I love taking classic dishes and putting a little something extra in them to add just that little bit more to their perfection.  And there is nothing more perfect than the classic BLT (that’s a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich, for those few of you uninitiated).  But is that actually true?  No.  Because you can always add.  There’s the BELT, for instance: bacon, egg, lettuce, tomato (on a biscuit, no less).  And a variation of the grilled cheese that we like around these parts, the BTC (bacon, tomato, cheese).

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As I have learned, adding avocado makes pretty much ANYTHING better.  In fact, I think I’m going to make a decree here for the Avocado Rule, which parallels the Pie’s Banana Rule, wherein adding a banana to anything (shakes, smoothies, pies) makes it better.  So this one is the same rule, but, you know, with avocados.  So we’re making a BALT (bacon-avocado-lettuce-tomato).

B-A-L-T 1

We don’t do a lot of sandwiches here at Ali Does It, but with the Pie away for the weekend it’s all I can really muster up the energy for.  This sandwich is at the high end of my give-a-crap level for the next few days.  So stand back in awe.

First you take a nice ripe avocado.  And you cut it open.  And you get rid of the pit.

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And you empty it into a bowl.  I know, this is heady stuff.

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And you mash it up with some garlic and some lime juice.

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Until you have a marvellous guacamole.  I would use a whole avocado for one sandwich but the Pie doesn’t let me so I would recommend one avocado for TWO sandwiches.  Leave that alone for a bit.

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Then you take a couple teaspoons of mayonnaise (whatever kind you want, it’s your sammich), and add a sprinkle or two of chipotle seasoning. Give that a stir.  Tada.  Now you have chipotle mayo.  CAN YOU EVEN HANDLE IT?  Me neither.

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Slice up a tomato while you’re at it.  And wash and dry some lettuce.

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Now you need some bacon.  However much you want, cooked however you like it.  I would recommend at least two slices of bacon per sandwich, but you can do what you want.  I’m not your mother.

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Slice up some bread of your choosing.  This is a simple ciabatta.  Regular sandwich bread is standard.  What is the total BEST though is a nice fresh croissant (it might be my favourite thing ever, especially if you add some gooey Brie to your BALT).  Like the BEST.

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Now you put it together!  Smear on some spicy mayo and soothing guacamole, then layer on your bacon, lettuce, and tomato and you’re good to go.

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Did you need a DIY on how to make a sandwich?  Perhaps not.  But I don’t care.  Because now I get to eat this. With a salad that is mostly comprised of exactly the same ingredients: lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, and bread. Oh well.

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Mango Key Lime Pie

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Mango Key Lime Pie 25

How much do I wish I was visiting my parents right now?  They’ve been in Florida since January, and they always offer to fly us down there every year when they go for a nice sunny break.  Unfortunately the university here doesn’t offer that Reading Week in February that most Canadian universities do.  Instead we get three days off, and then two days of midterms.  So leaving the country right now is out.  I did, however, see this recipe in the Globe and Mail and figured if I can’t be in Long Boat Key right now I can at least have some Key Lime Pie. Even if it doesn’t actually involve Key limes.

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I’m a huge fan of lime pies, and I’ve made two attempts to make my own.  They aren’t pretty, but they’re sure tasty. This recipe avoids the issue of having to deal with Canadian-sized cans of condensed milk (by adding mango as thickener), which means I can go ahead and only make one pie this time.  I also don’t have to grate and juice all those tiny key limes, which is a bonus for me.  I really hate doing that.

Mango Key Lime Pie 1

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

In a 9″ pie pan, stir together 1 cup graham-cracker crumbs (I’ve used Oreo crumbs before as well, and it’s delicious, and I bet Nilla crumbs would also work), 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, and 1/3 cup shredded coconut (adds a nice texture to the crust). Melt 5 tablespoons unsalted butter and drizzle that over the top.

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Stir it all up with a fork and press it down into the pan and up the sides to form your crust.  Bake that for 10 minutes.

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Let that cool on a wire rack while you’re making the filling, and leave your oven on. If the crust has puffed up during baking (which it probably has), just pat it down again with the fork.

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Ignore the pie filling on the right that you haven’t gotten around to making just yet.

Take 1 medium-sized very ripe mango, peel it, cut it into pieces, and smash it up in a blender.

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Like, so ripe that when you put it down on something it leaves lines in the skin. We’re talking MOOSHY.

Take 1/2 cup of the mango purée and put it into a bowl (you’re supposed to save the rest for smoothies or something but I just chucked it all in, to be honest).

Mango Key Lime Pie 5
Mango puree on the left, lime juice on the right. I did everything out of order.

Add in 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice (this is like the equivalent of 2-3 juicy limes).  I grated one of my limes before juicing and added that zest in as well.

Mango Key Lime Pie 2

Also chuck in 1 300mL can of condensed milk.  Sorry to all you folks who use 400mL cans.  You’re just going to have to figure something else out.  Or chuck in the rest of the can (which is what I would do — screw leftovers).  And when I say chuck the can in I mean chuck the CONTENTS of the can in.  Recycle that can.

Separate 4 eggs and plop 4 egg yolks into the mix as well.  I am going to use the whites to make meringue cookies to serve with the pie.  Because I’m that awesome.

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Stir what’s in that bowl until it’s smooth and lovely.  You’ll notice it’s not green.  Key lime pie is not supposed to be green.  Don’t let anybody tell you different.

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Pour that lovely smooth substance into your pie crust and bake for a further 15 minutes.  It’s still going to be rather un-solid in the middle but it will set as the pie chills.  Put the baked pie on a wire rack until it’s cool enough to chuck in the fridge.  Then refrigerate the thing for at least eight hours, and up to three days.  Honestly, try to wait that long to cut into it.  The longer you wait, the more solid your pie will be.  I promise.

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Serve cold with a dollop of whipped cream or meringue cookie.  Mmmm.  Tastes like summer.

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Life-Changing Burritos

Life-Changing Burritos

I know.  We just had a burrito post recently.  But when we were in Portland, and I was busy doing wedding related things with Doodle and the other bridesmaids, the Pie was often left to his own devices.  Luckily, Portland is a very walkable city, and there was a good Street Fighter tournament on the web for him to watch when he got bored with walking about.  One afternoon, he happened upon a place called the Burrito Bar.  The burrito he had there, according to him, changed his life forever.  So last week, he recreated what he had eaten there and I got to enjoy it as well. Plus, we had to do something about our raging onion population.

Life-Changing Burritos

First, he started by making up a batch of his famous Mexican rice.

Life-Changing Burritos

While he was doing that he gently poached 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

Life-Changing Burritos

Then he put me to work as his sous-chef.  I had to make the “salad” component.  First, I opened up an avocado.

Life-Changing Burritos

Then I cubed it.

Life-Changing Burritos

Then I found a tomato.

Life-Changing Burritos

And cubed that as well.

Life-Changing Burritos

Chopped up a handful of cilantro and added that in, as well as some salt and pepper and lime juice.

Life-Changing Burritos

Toss that and set it aside.

Life-Changing Burritos

Open up a can of black beans and drain and rinse them well.

Life-Changing Burritos

Then he had me finely chop a jalapeno pepper, to go in his cheese sauce.

Life-Changing Burritos

Life-Changing Burritos

The cheese sauce is made by melting a tablespoon butter with a tablespoon flour to form a paste, then adding a half cup of milk.  When that is well-mixed you can add your grated cheese, about 1 1/2 cups.  The Pie used a mixture of old cheddar and spicy Monterey jack.

Life-Changing Burritos

Once the cheese was melted he dropped in the jalapenos and let that sit for a bit.

Life-Changing Burritos

At this point the chicken was ready to be shredded. Just pull it apart with some forks. It’s pretty fun.

Life-Changing Burritos

We added a few tablespoons salsa to the chicken.

Life-Changing Burritos

So now we are ready to make these burritos, baby.  We have Mexican rice, salad, salsa-y chicken, black beans, cheese sauce, and some sour cream as well.

Life-Changing Burritos

You’re going to need the biggest flour tortillas you can find.  These ones are ten inches, though the Pie says the one he had in Portland was THIRTEEN inches.  Set your tortillas on a sheet of aluminum foil.

Life-Changing Burritos

Start piling on your ingredients in the centre of your tortilla.  Be generous.

Life-Changing Burritos

To properly fold a burrito, we looked to the internet.  If you’re not sure, try YouTube.

Life-Changing Burritos

Take the opposite side of your tortilla and bring it towards you, so the ingredients get all jumbled together and pushed to one side. This also leaves a bit of food sauce on the empty side of the tortilla, which provides a bit of friction to keep things stuck together.

Life-Changing Burritos

Unfold the tortilla and lift up the sides, to sort of hold everything in. Take the side of the tortilla closest to you, with all the ingredients, and flip it up and over on itself.

Life-Changing Burritos

Then, tucking in the top of the tortilla, start rolling towards the end.  Try to get it as tight as possible.

Life-Changing Burritos

Make sure your ends are tucked in and slide the rolled tortilla to one side of your aluminum foil.

Life-Changing Burritos

Tightly roll the burrito up in the foil, and twist off the ends when you are finished, to hold everything together.  That is your burrito, all wrapped up.  We had enough ingredients to make seven of these puppies, and we tossed a few in the fridge for a later meal, and a few in the oven for about ten minutes to heat up a bit.

Life-Changing Burritos

To eat, just peel off some of the foil and you are all set. Take a bite.

Life-Changing Burritos

This is one of the burritos the next day, cut in half.  Look at that lovely combination of ingredients!

Life-Changing Burritos

Key Lime Take Two

My last attempt, as we all know, was somewhat disastrous, though the Pie says it is the best pie I’ve ever made (what does that say about the rest of them?).  This time, with some new calculations, it worked out a little better …

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Chocolate Crumb Crust

In a bowl, mix together 1 cup chocolate baking crumbs, 1/2 cup shredded coconut, and 2 tbsp granulated sugar.

Melt about 1/3 cup butter and pour it in.  Mix well. 

Flatten your crumb mixture into a 9″ pie pan and shore up the sides as well. Bung it in the oven and bake it for ten minutes.  Let the crust cool completely while you work on the filling.

Key Lime Filling

Take yourself a pound of key limes (about two dozen).  Using a rasp zester, grate the zest from about half of them into a small bowl and set aside.

Juice all the limes and set that aside as well.  It takes for freaking ever. 

Take yourself six eggs.

Separate them and put the whites away for something else.

In the bowl of your mixer, plop in the yolks and the zest, along with 2 tbsp granulated sugar.  Beat for several minutes until thick.

Add in 1 can (300mL) of condensed milk and 1 can (500mL) coconut milk.  Beat again for a while, then add your lime juice and mix until incorporated.

Pour into your cooled pie shell (I have slightly overfilled mine).

Bake for 35 minutes or until the middle is almost set.  Cool completely, then chill for at least an hour and serve with whipped cream

Obviously, I still need to work on the aesthetics part. 

Creamy Coconut Lime Cupcakes

This is a recipe that I made for the Great Wedding Cupcake Experiment of 2009.  I have recently reinstated a “cupcake collective” at the office and I vowed to bring back this crowd-pleaser as my inaugural bake.

Seriously, this cupcake got so much hype when I brought it in the first time.  It didn’t make the final cut for the wedding but it’s the one everyone remembers with fondness.  I also remember it as being one of the few recipes I made where everything turned out exactly as it was supposed to, which is rare when you’re me.

These pale babies come from page 26 of Susannah Blake’s Cupcake Heaven, and I always double my recipes.  In my notes I took from last time, I found that the cupcakes were best if not allowed to brown, and that I used extra ingredients in the frosting, which was originally too cream-cheesy for my taste.  But that’s up to you.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Line a muffin pan with baking cups (the amounts are for the single version of the recipe, but the photos show me tripling).

Beat together 6 tablespoons room temperature butter, 2 tablespoons coconut cream, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar in a bowl.  The mixture should be pale and fluffy.

Beat in 2 eggs, one a time.

Sift in 3/4 cup self-rising flour (or add 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder to 1 cup regular flour for the correct proportion and reduce accordingly) together with 1 teaspoon baking powder.  Fold that in.

Add in 3 tablespoons dried shredded coconut (unsweetened or sweetened, that’s your choice) as well as the grated zest of one lime and stir it in well.

Finally, stir in 2 tablespoons milk.

Use a table spoon to spoon the mixture into the cups, and bake for pretty much exactly 17 minutes until risen and golden.  A toothpick inserted in the centre will come out clean.

Flip them out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting, beat together 5 oz cream cheese (5/8 of a cup if you care, which is slightly over half of one of those 250g packages), 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar for the neophytes), and 2 teaspoons lime juice in a bowl.  As I mentioned above, I ended up adding extra sugar and extra lime juice, but that’s my own preference.

Swirl the frosting on top of the cupcakes, then sprinkle with shredded coconut or coconut shavings in a thick layer.

EAT!

Key Lime Pie – Messing up a classic.

I am not a perfect person, and it is my habit to make mistakes when trying new things.  And this blog is not about the perfect dessert or the best paint job – it is about experiments in grown-up living.   What follows, then, is not the first, and not the last, of my epic fails in the kitchen.  It has, however, inspired me to try again to see if I can get this right.  I have added it to my DIY To-Do list on the right-hand column.

***EDIT: The Pie wanted you to know that, despite the aesthetics of the thing, this was the best-tasting pie I have ever made.***

I found a pound of key limes at Sobeys about a week ago so I thought I would make some key lime pie. Obviously.

Key limes made in Mexico?

Key limes are smaller and sweeter than their more common cousins.

You can use regular limes, but purists will tell you it's not the same.

Now, key lime pie and lemon meringue pie are easy.  Really easy.  I decided to experiment a bit with the recipe.  The problem was that I was missing certain ingredients, which inspired me to experiment still further, and I was also coming off a rotten day, so making mistakes in the kitchen only added to my general frustration.  DON’T BAKE WHILE ANGRY.

The recipe I will give you below is how I should have done it, and I will explain as I go about how I actually did it.

I have two very shallow 8″ pie plates, and this recipe filled both of those.  I also have a deep 14″ pie plate, and it would probably fill that one by itself.  One of my next purchases is going to be a standard 9″ pie plate.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Start working on your crumb crust.  In a bowl, mix together 1 cup chocolate cookie crumbs, 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut, and 2 tbsp granulated sugar. In the normal recipe, you would use plain graham crumbs and leave out the coconut.  But that wasn’t fancy enough for me.

Getting fancy with the crust.

Add in 1/2 cup of melted butter and stir until the mixture is crumbly but still dry.  You should be able to squeeze a handful of the crumb mixture between your hands and have it stick together, but not be greasy.  My major failing with the crust is that several of the recipes I was using for inspiration had me add an entire cup of butter, which made my crust soggy and prone to collapse.  You might need more than 1/2 a cup to make your mixture cohesive, but you shouldn’t need much more than that.

Put your crumb mixture into the pan and pat it up the sides and across the bottom evenly.  For a nice, flat crust surface, press a slightly smaller pie plate into the larger one to smooth the edges.

Press a smaller pan into the larger one for smooth crust.

Place your crusts in the oven and bake them for 10 minutes.  Let cool and ‘rest’ while you do the rest of this.

Take a pound of key limes (about 24) and gather the zest of about half of them.  I use a fine food rasp from Lee Valley with a zester catcher.  It makes my life a lot easier.  I recommend you pick one up.  You can use a wood rasp as well (that’s pretty much what this is, anyway).

Pick up this rasp from Lee Valley.

Zesting 12 tiny limes took quite a while, and only rendered about 2 tbsp of zest, but that’s all you really need.

Careful when rasping - it's easy to get your fingertips caught.

Now we juice the limes. First, roll each lime on the counter while pressing with your hand.  This will bruise the flesh inside and make them easier to juice.

Cut all the limes in half and juice those suckers.  This took forever for me because the juicer kept sliding all over the place.  I had to put down a silicone baking mat, kind of like this one from KitchenAid, to get the thing to stay still.   Have patience.  You should end up with about a cup of juice.  Feel free to add more from a bottle if you feel you need more.

Juicing 24 tiny limes is a pain.

After this, I was already frustrated, and things started to go downhill for me.  As I’ve said, I put too much butter in my crust, which had sagged to the centre of each pan.  I pressed paper towels into the molten crust to remove excess butter and shored up the edges as best I could before baking them again and letting them cool.

This is easiest with a mixer.

Moving on … separate 6 egg yolks and plop those suckers in the bowl of your mixer.  Most recipes say to use 4 yolks, which is what I did, but I had problems with the stuff setting.  I will explain why shortly.  Add your zest to the bowl along with 2 tbsp granulated sugar and mix on high for about 6 minutes until the stuff is pale and fluffy.

Pale and fluffy.

At this point you add your condensed milk.  All the other recipes call for a 14-oz can of condensed milk (or, if doubling the recipe, two cans).  What I have discovered, however, is that a 14-oz can is slightly over 400 mL, while the available cans in Canada seem to only contain 300 mL.  Also I only had one can and I needed two.  I did, however, have a 500 mL can of baker’s coconut milk (this is why I added the coconut to the crust).  I figured adding the coconut milk would make the filling not as sweet, which is why I added a bit of sugar to the yolks and the zest.  I might even add more sugar next time.  Anyway, the coconut milk makes everything a little more runny, so that is why I suggested using 6 yolks instead of 4, just to make sure everything sets.

So you add in your coconut milk and your condensed milk and mix it on high again for another 5 minutes or so, until thick.  Pour in the lime juice and mix until incorporated.  Pour into the cooled crusts and bake for 25-35 minutes or until the filling has just set (as in, it shouldn’t be liquidy).  Cool on a rack, then chill for at least an hour and serve with whipped cream.

Having only used 4 yolks, I had trouble getting my pie to set, though it was all right after I had chilled it.  It was certainly not a pretty pie, but I plan to make up for it.

Not very pretty, but still tasty.