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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Pecan Pie

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Phew.  This is the last of my backlogged posts.  I made this pecan pie, an adaptation from Epicurious, way back in October, for Thanksgiving.  Instead of the whole wheat crust, I used my new favourite recipe from The Joy of Cooking, the same one I used back when I made the two processor pies.

So, assume you’ve made one batch of dough, and you have two discs of dough to use.  I made one into a pumpkin pie, but saved the other for this recipe.  Roll it out and stuff it in the pan and whatnot, like you normally would.

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Chuck that in the freezer to stay cool and grab yourself a small saucepan. Pitch in 3/4 cup pure maple syrup, 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup light corn syrup, and 1/4 cup butter.

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Melt that sucker over medium heat until it’s all dissolved.

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Increase the heat and boil that for a minute, then remove it from the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature, about 45 minutes.

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In a small bowl, whisk together 3 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

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Whisk in the cooled maple mixture.

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Then stir in 1 1/2 cups pecan halves. Mmmmm.  I love pecans.

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Pour the filling into the crust.

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Bake that sucker for about 55 minutes, or until the filling is slightly puffy around the edges and the centre is set. Mine took less time for some reason (so you see it burned a bit), but it might have had something to do with the pumpkin pie I was cooking at a slightly higher temperature.

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Serve at room temperature, with a dob of whipped cream!

Classic Sticky Buns

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This is a recipe that the very pregnant Atlas found in a magazine my mother picked up called Donna Hay (it’s Australian.  Hello, Australians!).  I figured I would master the basic sticky buns so that later she and I could do the more complicated, fancy variations (so stay tuned for that).  We’ve already made one version of lovely cinnamon buns on Ali Does It, but I’m not above trying new recipes to see which ones I like the best.  So here goes!

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Let’s start with the dough.

Take a small bowl and 2/3 cup milk and heat up the milk until it’s lukewarm.  Add to that 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast and give it a wee stir.

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Set that someplace warm for 5 minutes, until the yeast starts to bubble and foam up.

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Lightly beat up 2 eggs.  Just bruise them a little.  Rough ’em up but no broken bones.

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And melt 125g (1/4 cup) unsalted butter (I used salted butter and left out the 1/4 teaspoon sea salt I was supposed to add).

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Plop 3 cups flour and 1/4 cup sugar into the bowl of your electric mixer.

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Add in the yeast mixture, the butter, and the eggs and mix on low for 1 minute until everything is combined.  You are supposed to use the dough hook attachment but I couldn’t find it so I went with ol’ reliable the paddle here.

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After a minute, turn the mixer to high and beat for another 5-8 minutes, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

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Scoop the dough out into a clean, lightly greased bowl, cover it with a damp tea towel, and set it somewhere warm to rise for an hour.

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Now the tops of these puppies are going to be covered in a sticky gooey maple glaze, which is actually going to go in the bottom of the pan and then when it’s all ready you’re going to flip it upside down.

For the glaze, take a small saucepan and dump in 1/3 cup maple syrup, 1/3 cup brown sugar, and 75g unsalted butter (or salted, if you’re daring like me — it’s roughly 1/3 cup for you imperials).

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Cook, stirring, over low heat until everything is melted and dissolved.  Raise the heat to medium and bring your sugar mix to a boil. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until smooth.

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Pour the glaze into the bottom of a lightly greased 20cm x 30cm baking pan (~9″ x 13″) and set aside.  Isn’t this pan nice?  It’s like the one in the magazine, and I said to my dad, “hey, if you were thinking of a Christmas present for me, this would be nice,” and he said, “we did.  It’s upstairs.”  TADA.  Early Christmas present.

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Once the spatula cooled off enough not to burn my face, I ate the toffee off it. It was lovely.

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Now we’re going to make a cinnamon butter to spread inside the rolls.  In the bowl of your electric mixer, dump 100g softened unsalted butter (I used salted, and eyeballed it to be somewhere between 1/4 cup and 1/3 cup — this isn’t an exact science), 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon.

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Whip those silly for about 5 minutes, until all pale and fluffy and heavenly.  Set that aside.

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Now take your dough, which should have doubled in size, and slap it between two sheets of parchment or waxed paper.  Roll it out into a rectangle that is about 60cm x 25cm (2 feet by a little less than 1 foot).

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Spread your cinnamon butter all over the rectangle, leaving a 1cm border all around.

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Sprinkle that with 1 cup toasted pecans (I had no pecans, so used raisins instead. I like raisins).

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Take your dough by the long side and roll it up tightly into a happy tube.

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Trim the edges of the bun so everything is even and cut it into 12 equal disks.

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Place the pieces cut side up in the maple glazed baking tin, cover with another damp tea towel, and leave somewhere warm to rise for another 45-60 minutes or until they’re doubled again.

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I took advantage of a cold day to sit them in front of the fire. This is the proofing stage.

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Here they are all puffed up.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and place your baking tin on a baking sheet (to prevent burning sugar spillovers).  Bake for 20 minutes, cover with aluminum foil, then bake for another 15-20 minutes, until all golden and lovely and fully cooked.

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I erred on the side of caution and resisted the urge to continue to bake mine after 35 minutes. The dough around the sides was soft and pale and I wasn’t sure it was cooked but it totally was and made a nice moist bun.

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Let those stand in the pan for 2-3 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool (you might want to line your rack with some parchment to catch drips).  I think I may have cooked  my maple glaze a bit long because it hardened quite a bit.  It was still super good, but not as sticky as I thought it should have been.

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Final step: EAT THEM.

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I love me some Granola

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My morning meal usually consists of coffee, juice, yogurt, and granola.  Like I could eat that stuff every single day.

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Until now, I’ve been buying our granola, but it’s quite expensive for the amount you get and it’s full of all sorts of weird additives and the like that I don’t really want to put in my system.

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My mother used to make granola for us sometimes when we were kids, so I figured that I could probably do it myself if I tried.  And it’s easy.  And you can use what you’ve got in your cupboards, or what you can scoop up at the bulk food store.  Which means you can customize each batch.

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So preheat your oven to 350°F and get out a large rimmed baking sheet.  I took the precaution of lining mine with parchment paper, so stuff wouldn’t stick.

The majority of granolas start with a base of oats, about 4 cups.  I used four double handfuls, because I measured my tiny hands once and put together that’s about what they hold.  And thus ends my list of measurements for this recipe.  Because you can do whatever you want.  So what else have I got going on here?  In addition to the oats, I have bran, ground flax, shredded coconut, sliced almonds, nutmeg, cinnamon, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, lavender flowers (yes), and then a selection of dried fruits: apricots, mango, and raisins.

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Take all your happy dry ingredients (minus the fruits) and plop them in a bowl.

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Mix ’em up.

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In another bowl, add about 1/2 cup runny honey,

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about 1/2 cup maple syrup,

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and about 1/2 cup melted butter.

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*** EDIT: If you’d like granola that forms clumps (and that’s my favourite kind), whisk 1 or 2 egg whites into a froth and add them to the mixture as well.  The protein in the whites will stick everything together during the baking process.  Just use caution when stirring mid-bake, as the amount you stir will affect the size of the clumps you create. ***

Pour that golden loveliness into the dry mixture and stir until all the dry ingredients are coated.

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Spread that stuff out on your baking sheet and chuck that in the oven for about 40 minutes.

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Make sure to stir with a spatula every 10-15 minutes or so to keep the stuff on the bottom from burning.

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While that’s on the go, get your dried fruit ready. I chopped up the apricots and mango slices a little to make them easier to get on a spoon.

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Remove from the oven and let it cool in the pan, stirring it occasionally to break up the chunks.  The finer grained your ingredients are, and the more sticky wet ingredients you use, the chunkier your granola will be.

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While it’s still a little warm, stir in your dried fruit.

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Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks, and enjoy whenever you want!

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