PB & J Gooballs

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These are a great little snack when you’re on the go and need some protein. Or when you are pacing around your house with a small baby and have only one hand to get sustenance. Also good for children as a wee treat when they come home from school (although if you’re going to feed these to children under 1 year of age, replace the honey with maple syrup or something else, because botulism ain’t a joke). They were called “snack bites” on the website where I got the original idea but I think GOO BALLS is a way better term. So gooballs they will be. These ones taste like a peanut butter and jam sandwich, but you can pretty much customize these however you would like.

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Your basic ingredients are as follows: 1 cup oats, 1/2 cup peanut butter (or sun butter, or whatever), and 1/4 cup honey. The rest is up to you.

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I added in a few tablespoons ground flax, for health reasons.

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And a handful of Reese peanut butter chips, for non-health reasons.

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And some freeze-dried raspberries, because I had them on hand and they’re tasty as heck. Any dried fruit will do, provided you cut it up pretty small.

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Assemble all your dry ingredients. I crumbled the raspberries in my hand so they were smaller.

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Tip in the wet ingredients.

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Stir!

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Chill that for about 30 minutes, then take it out and roll a couple tablespoons’ worth of it into a ball. Repeat until you run out.

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Store these suckers in the fridge to keep them firm and less sticky. ENJOY!

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Dutch Baby Pancakes with Apple Compote

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This is a super easy peasy breakfast item that makes you look all fancy pants. Though after you eat it your fancy pants won’t fit anymore. I found it in the paper a while back and saved it for a brunch with Krystopf, Atlas, and Gen. Zod.

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The pancake gets part of its fanciness from an apple compote that is spooned on top before serving. You can make the apple compote that goes with it ahead of time and just heat it up when you need it.

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Start with some raisins. Grab 2 tablespoons raisins and dump them in a cup of hot water to soak for 10 minutes.

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Then find yourself some apples. The recipe calls for 2 Golden Delicious apples and I went with that (though I doubled the recipe in these pictures for two pancakes), because the Golden Delicious is neither too sweet nor too tart and lends itself well to cooking.

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Core the apples, halve them, and then slice them (unpeeled) into 1/4″ wedges.

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Now, heat 1 tablespoon butter in a non-stick skillet on medium heat until it’s melted. Toss in the apples and cook them until they start to get a bit brown and soft, but aren’t yet mushy, about 8 minutes.

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Drain your raisins and toss them in, together with 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/4 maple syrup (use the real stuff here, don’t make me cry). Stir that around and then reduce the heat to a minimum just to keep things warm.

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You can also transfer the apples to a container to cool and store them in the fridge until you need them.

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To make your big fluffy pancake, heat your oven to 450°F and grab an oven-safe non-stick pan or cast iron skillet. I went with the non-stick option on these and it worked great. Grab a bowl and dump in 1 cup flour (you can do half whole wheat and half white if you wish, that’s up to you).

In a separate bowl, beat together 1 cup milk with 1 tablespoon maple syrup and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

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Then beat in 2 large eggs plus 2 large egg whites.

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Look at the size of that yolk in my tiny hand.

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Add your liquids to your flour and whisk until just combined. You can have some lumps.

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Put your pan or skillet on the stove and heat it so that 1 tablespoon butter melts. Slide the pan around until the melted butter coats the whole surface.

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Pour your batter (lumps and all) into the pan and slide it into the oven. Bake it for 15-20 minutes, until it’s all golden brown and puffed up into a giant soufflé-like object. Leave the oven door closed until it’s done.

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When you’re ready, remove the pan from the oven and slide the pancake onto a cutting board (it will deflate, don’t worry). This is where the non-stick really comes in handy.

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Spoon the warm compote all over the pancake and cut it into four wedges – serve immediately. I promise it’s worth it. I doubled the batch for the apples but I made my batter in two separate batches so that while we were eating the first pancake I could slide the second one into the oven.

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When in doubt, make soup!

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My parents are down in Florida and I’m looking after the house while they’re gone. This entailed cleaning out the fridge after they left, and so I arrived home with this oddment of groceries: 1 small zucchini, 4 wilted green onions, 2 baby bok choi, 9 multicoloured carrots, half a large sweet onion, half a large rutabaga, and half a large Savoy cabbage.

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Welp, that looks like a soup to me. Fortunately I had some stewing beef in the freezer which I chucked in the sink to defrost. Then I got to chopping.

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I also chopped up 1 head of garlic, and sautéed it with the onions in a large stockpot with a drop of olive oil until they were soft and sweet.

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Remember when cutting up rutabagas to be very careful. Slice off the top and bottom first so you have a flat surface to work on before you go after the skin, as it will be tough, especially if it’s been waxed.

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I added all the other chopped veg to the pot. I only scrubbed the carrots, didn’t peel them. All that vitamin-y goodness is in the skin and these are such tender carrots it seemed like a waste to remove the skin.

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Make sure to dry your beef before you brown it. It will make browning way quicker.

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I also like to dredge it in flour for a nice crust, and the flour will help thicken the stew as it cooks. You can use rice flour for a gluten-free option.

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Brown the meat until it has a nice seared edge all the way around.

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Then you can chuck that in the pot, too. I added about 8 cups water and two mini cups of concentrated beef bouillon, but go with whatever floats your boat.

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Give it a stir and set it to simmer for about 30-45 minutes, until the rutabagas are soft when you smush them with a spoon.

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I added in a pinch of ground nutmeg and cloves, as well as a few teaspoons of dried oregano. Add salt and pepper as well, if you like.

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To combat the bitterness of the cabbage I also added in a few tablespoons each of maple syrup and rice vinegar (it sounds weird, I know, but it works). You can also use cider vinegar.

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My scrumptious savoury stew!

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I shoved it into large freezer bags that I froze flat for easy storage. I can’t wait to haul one of these babies out in the dead of winter for some comfort food!

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Made-up Macaroni Salad

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Pasta salads are ideal for summer parties.  You can make them ahead of time and you don’t have to worry about heating up the house.  This one came together on the fly, as most of them tend to do.  I stuck with a reddish theme and it worked out.

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Start with a bowl of cooked pasta.  I used cavatappi, or Scoobi-do pasta.

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Chucked in a diced onion, tomatoes, garlic, red peppers, and green olives.

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Then some fresh oregano, chives, and some cubed feta.

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Then I decided to throw in a few bocconcini as well.  I also tossed in some tandoori spice and some Hungarian paprika for kick.

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When you make a pasta salad, make a lot of dressing to go with it, because the pasta will absorb so much extra liquid.  The base of this one was olive oil, maple syrup, Tabasco, and rice vinegar.

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As I said, make a lot.

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Put half in now and then the other half right before you serve it.

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TADA.

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There was enough left over that I added some pasta sauce to it, topped it with cheese, and baked it into a casserole afterwards.  Waste not!

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Overnight Blueberry French Toast

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Another French toast casserole?  ANOTHER one?

Frankly?  Yes.  They’re good.  And they’re easy.  Did I mention they were good?  And easy?

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I thought this one from Chef in Training would appeal to the bread loving members of the Pie’s family for their special housewarming brunch last weekend.  I adapted it a little, of course, as I am wont to do.  The easiness of the recipe was especially important, given that our bedroom at the time looked like this:

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So while our housewarming party didn’t show our house at its best, at least the food was good.

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So start with some bread.  The recipe maker likes to use 12 slices of Texas Toast, but I used a small loaf of crusty French bread that I had left out to get a bit stale.

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Cut the bread into cubes.

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Take a 8oz / 250g package of plain cream cheese and cut that into cubes as well.  I found it was easiest to slice it into chunks and then pull the chunks apart with my fingers.

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Grab yourself as well 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (the original recipe called for 1 cup but you know me).

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Now, crack 12 eggs into a bowl.  Give them a good whisking.

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Add 1/3 cup maple syrup, 1 tablespoon vanilla, and 2 cups cream to the eggs.

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Ready for assembly?  Generously butter a 9″ x 13″ baking dish and line the bottom with half your bread cubes.

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Evenly distribute the blueberries and cream cheese chunks on top of that.

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Then finish off with the rest of the bread.

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Carefully pour the egg mixture over the entire top of the casserole.  Or don’t do it carefully and spill it everywhere — it’s your choice, really.

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Gently squish the bread bits down so they absorb the eggy stuff.

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Cover the baking dish with foil and shove it in the fridge overnight.

Why not start on the blueberry syrup? You can make this syrup ahead of time and reheat it, or right before serving.

In a medium-sized pot, dump 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, and 2 tablespoons cornstarch.  Heat on medium, stirring frequently, until smooth and thick.

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Add in 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries and continue to cook, stirring, for another 10 minutes, until the blueberries have all burst and the sauce is thick and purple.

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Tip in 1 tablespoon butter and stir that until it’s all melted.  You are now ready to serve the syrup.  If you’re going to make this the day before, let it cool completely before just putting the whole pot in the fridge.  That way it’s easier to reheat it the next day.

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To bake the French toast, preheat your oven to 350°F.  Leave the foil on the dish and bake for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake for a further 30 minutes.  Serve with syrup and enjoy!

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Giant Apple Croissant French Toast

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Our families are too big to have over at the same time (because our new dining room is tiny), so when we wanted to host a nice summer housewarming brunch, we split them up: my family last weekend, and the Pie’s family this coming weekend.

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Because Krystopf and Atlas were coming and they were bringing the newly-mobile, currently-teething, and generally low-patience General Zod with them, we knew this particular brunch had to be easy and it had to be something they could eat and run.  I had made a Croissant French Toast Casserole before, and it had been pretty good, albeit way too sweet.  So for this one I dropped the sugar altogether in the egg mixture (it’s still in the streusel topping) and added a bunch of fresh and dried fruit to the mix.  I think it’s my new favourite, and everyone went back for second helpings so I think they liked it too.  I doubled the recipe to give leftovers, so this probably will feed 12 comfortably.  Feel free to halve it — though I bet it freezes well, and this amount made 2 casserole dishes’ worth, which would be enough for a potluck as well.

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Start with 12 stale croissants.   If they’re not quite stale, rip them up and leave them out for a couple hours and then they’ll be stale.  Don’t sacrifice a truly fresh croissant for this, though.  If you have a hot fresh croissant, you need to stuff that in your face this instant, or we can’t be friends anymore.

Chop up 3 apples into bite-sized pieces and set those aside.

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I also grabbed a jar of diced dried apricot and another of golden raisins, just for variety.

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Crack 10 eggs into a large bowl.

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Whisk in 3 cups milk (I used a mixture of cream and milk), 3/4 cup yogurt (any kind — I used Activia prune), 2 teaspoons cinnamon, and 2 tablespoons vanilla.

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Make sure you manage to break all those yolks.

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Butter two 9″ x 13″ pans generously and start layering in bits of torn-up croissant.  I then took a scoop or two of apple pieces and sprinkled them on, together with a small handful each of dried apricot and raisins.

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Layer on more croissant pieces, and more fruit, but make sure that the top layer is just croissant pieces, as the fruit will simply burn in the oven if left exposed.  Then, just pour on the egg mixture until everything is lovely and saturated.  Cover the casseroles with plastic and chuck them in the fridge overnight.

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The next day, preheat your oven to 350°F and grab a bowl.  Tip in 3/4 cup flour, 1 cup brown sugar, and 3 teaspoons cinnamon, and give that a good whisk up.

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Use a pastry blender to cut in 3/4 cup cold butter until you’ve just got little pea-sized pieces of it.

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Sprinkle that goodness all over the tops of your casseroles and bake them for about an hour and a bit, until the top is dark brown and the egg is all cooked. We served ours hot with maple syrup and a lovely layered fruit salad on the side.

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Hot Drinks for Cold Nights

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We’re entering that long, dark stretch of winter here in Eastern Canada where we just want it to END but we know there’s at least another three months of it waiting for us.  So we come up with ways to keep ourselves from getting suicidal.  In Ottawa we have our Winterlude festival, in which we pretend that we actually LOVE winter for the benefit of the tourists.  And after we’ve spent all day freezing our toes off while traversing the world’s longest skating rink, we appreciate a hot beverage or two to help us thaw out.  So here are two ideas for you.

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HOT DR. PEPPER

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Don’t freak out — this isn’t one of those newfangled sugar drinks that “kids these days” are coming up with to get themselves all wired up.  The recipe for this odd potation comes from the 1960s, when the makers of Dr. Pepper came up with it as a way to keep their sales strong in the winter months when a cold soda pop wasn’t as appealing.  I’m not even kidding.

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So first you want to slice up a lemon.  Really thin.  You’ll need one slice for every serving.  Stick a slice in the bottom of a heatproof mug.

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I used Navy tankards, complete with glass bottoms to prevent someone from slipping you the King’s shilling.

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Then take your Dr. Pepper (if you can get it in your country), and pour it into a saucepan.  I used 3 355mL/12oz cans of the stuff because Trav was over and we were all curious.

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Heat it to precisely 180°F.  I’m not sure why, but I think it has something to do with the stuff losing its carbonation.  It’ll fizz as the carbon dioxide escapes, so that will keep you entertained.

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Pour your hot Dr. Pepper over the lemon slice and add a shot of rum if you want to turn it into the adult version of the beverage (I personally think that it’s a little too sweet without the rum).  Enjoy!

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HOT APPLE CIDER

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While I’m not a fan of apple juice, I will always go for a refill of apple cider.  And not just in the fall — any time of year. Obviously there are a million ways to make hot spiced apple cider, but this one is what I felt like making today.

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In a medium sized saucepan, plop in 4 thin slices of lemon, 2 cinnamon sticks, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 2 tablespoons brown sugar (you could also use maple syrup, or leave out the sugar altogether).

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Pour in 4 cups fresh unsweetened apple cider and 1 tablespoon vanilla.

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Whisking occasionally, bring that to a boil and let it foam up for a minute or two before removing from the heat and serving.

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Garnish it with a slice of apple and your cinnamon sticks.  This amount serves two generously with room for a small refill, or four if you’re not as greedy as I am.

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If you’d like to make a grown-up version of this with alcohol, a nice dark rum, bourbon, brandy, or cognac would work well.  I’ll leave it to you to decide how much will work for you to keep away the chill.

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