Chex Blox

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I thought the name I had come up with for these was pretty cute but one of my coworkers objected and decided they should be called “Chexicans” instead, because of the tenuous (maybe) connection of almonds to Mexico. Then he came up with Chex Yo Self, Chex-o-Slovakia (because Nutella was invented in the Czech Republic), and Early Chex Out (“like early check out, because if you eat too many you’ll die at a young age”). Then he arrived at “Dirty Chexican” because it made his fingers sticky. So I told him I would let you guys decide on a name because you are way smarter than he is. Annnnnnd GO!

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In any case, these little blocks of whatever-they-are are well-received wherever you want to take them. Aside from a wee bit of butter (that could be replaced with margarine), they’re dairy free, and the rice cereal makes them totally gluten-free as well. For nut-free folks you can easily skip the almonds. I totally made this recipe up as I went along so there’s no reason for you not to play around with it too!

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I started with a big-ass bowl and into it I dumped a whole box (about 5 cups) Chex cereal. It was the honey-flavoured but you could use plain too. Then went in about 1/2 cup sliced almonds (use any nut you like – these were on-hand), 1 cup unsweetened dessicated coconut, and 1 cup chocolate chips. Or about those amounts. I didn’t measure anything. I gave that a good stir.

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Into a small pot on the stove went about 3/4 cup Nutella and 3/4 cup peanut butter. The one picture I didn’t take doubles of is of course the one that turns out blurry.

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I stirred that around until it was fully melted and amazing.

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… okay so this one’s a little blurry too.

In another pot I melted about 2 tablespoons butter.

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Then tipped in a whole package (about 5 cups) marshmallows.

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Stirred that up until it melted. SO GOOEY.

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Then I added the hazelnut peanut butter to the cereal and stirred it for a little while.

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Then went in the marshmallow and that got stirred around.

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I plopped it into a high-sided baking sheet lined with parchment paper and pressed it down into place. You can shove it in the fridge to speed up the hardening process but it will happen on its own on the counter if it’s not too hot outside.

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When it’s hardened you can cut it into blocks.

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Store whatever doesn’t get eaten in an airtight container. Enjoy!

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Nutella Blondies

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For the end-of-year potluck for our softball team, the Pie elected to make these ooey-gooey sticky-sweet masterpieces. If you’re in the mood for a serious sugar overload, then this one is for you. The original recipe makes one 8″ x 8″ pan of thin squares. We doubled it to create a slightly thicker version in a 9″ x 13″ baking pan, so the recipe below reflects that.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and butter your pan. Line it with parchment paper and butter it again. Because of course you need the extra grease in this recipe.

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Now, melt 1 cup butter (I know, that’s a lot of butter) and set it aside to cool a bit until it’s not molten.

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Pour the slightly cooled butter into a big bowl with 2 large eggs, 2 cups brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons vanilla extract. Whisk that together until smooth.

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Plop in 2 cups flour and stir until combined.

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Next add in 2 cups peanut butter chips, or half peanut butter chips and half chocolate chips (we ran out of peanut butter ones). Stir that up.

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Spread your dough/batter into your pan. It’s easiest to spread into the corners if you butter your hands and press down.

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Next, heat up 2/3 cup Nutella (or comparable chocolate hazelnut spread) and pour it in long lines on the surface of your blondie batter.

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Use a skewer or knife to drag the hazelnut spread horizontally across and through the batter to create a marbled pattern.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, and then set on a wire rack to cool completely. These will look slightly underbaked, but they’re supposed to be gooey. So when it’s cool, cut it into small squares and enjoy!

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Spider-Man Spice Cake

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A couple of weeks ago my sister-in-law Ryder winged a banana coffee cake that had me drooling — alas, Rusty refused to share.  So when the Pie requested a spice cake for his birthday I figured I’d wing something similar of my own devising (it’s actually his birthday today, but we celebrated on Saturday).  For the basic cake, I used this one from Dinner with Julie, and it’s excellent.  As for the rest … well, you’ll see.

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Start by preheating your oven to 350°F and butter two 8″ round cake pans.

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In a bowl (or a measuring cup, as I prefer), stir together 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 3 teaspoons cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg.

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In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together 1/2 cup softened butter with 1 1/4 cup brown sugar until light and fluffy.

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Add in 3 large eggs, one at a time, and keep beating.

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Stir together 1 cup buttermilk and 1 tablespoon vanilla.

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Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture to the eggs and sugar, beating on low speed. If you don’t beat on low speed you will get flour in your face. Consider yourself warned.

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Add in half the buttermilk, followed by another third of the flour, then the rest of the buttermilk, and then the rest of the flour.

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In a separate bowl, mash 2 large ripe bananas.  In another, mix 2 tablespoons instant coffee in with 1/2 cup water (or cold coffee as I used here) and 1/3 cup Nutella (or hazelnut spread).

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Divide your batter in half and mix one with the bananas and the other half with the coffee.

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Pour into your prepared pans in bits, and give it a bit of a swirl with a fork to combine but not fully mix.

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Bake for 30-35 minutes until solid on top and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Set those aside to cool completely.

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While that’s on the go you can make this truly amazing icing.  It might be my new favourite. I doubled it from the original to enable me to do what I had to do and only had a little bit left, but I’ll give you the real proportions here.

In a small saucepan melt 1/4 cup butter over medium heat.

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Keep cooking, stirring occasionally, until it gets all nice and foamy, and when you look beneath the foam the butter has turned the colour of caramel (this is, of course where the colour in caramel comes from).

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Pour that into the bowl of an electric mixer together with another 1/4 cup butter and set that aside for now.

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In the same saucepan, still over medium, combine 1/4 cup half and half cream with 1/2 cup brown sugar.

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Dissolve the sugar in the cream and keep stirring.

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Remove the mixture from the heat when it gets smooth and foamy, like this:

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Pour that in the mixer bowl too, and let the whole thing cool a bit.

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Slowly mix in 2 cups icing sugar, give or take, until you achieve a consistency that you like.  Now, if you’re a normal person, you can go ahead and just ice your cake to your specifications and enjoy it for what it is.  Me? Nope.  I had to go and make a Spider-Man themed cake for my husband, because I like him a bunch.

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So I divided up the icing into four batches.  One was my control, and would go in the centre between the two halves of cake.  The others were getting dyed with gel paste food colouring.

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I like to do this in glass containers because then I can look through the bottom to see what I’ve missed.  Glass is also way less likely to stain on you.

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The finished concoctions.  Euch.

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Here’s a trick I learned on the internet somewhere for when you need to pipe different colours of icing and don’t want a huge mess.  Not that I’m capable of doing anything neatly.  But anyway.  Plop your icing onto a sheet of plastic wrap.

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Roll the ends of the plastic wrap together, making a tight seal.

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Keep rolling until you run out of wrap to roll.

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Grab the ends of the wrap and swing them around so the icing twists further into a tight little sausage.  Because it was hot as Hades’ hoo-ha in my kitchen I chucked these little sausages in the fridge while I put the cake together.

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Icing in the middle …

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Now you take your sausage of icing and tie a knot in one end of your wrap.

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Then you shove the other one into your icing bag and cut off the end.  Screw on your tip and ice as usual.

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At the end you just pull out this wizened piece of plastic and you are good to switch!  No fuss no muss!

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I think I put too much icing sugar into my icing, so I ended up pressing the top part on with my fingers.

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Then I piped on the best approximation of the Spider-Man logo that I could do with my unsteady hand.  Not bad!

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Have You Tried Banana “Ice Cream”?

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No?  You probably should.  It’s like all the good things about ice cream, but it’s also gluten-free, vegan, and pretty darned good for you.  I feel like world peace could be achieved if everyone could have some of this ice cream (except for people who are allergic to bananas — they will just have to negotiate peace on their own terms).

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So basically, you take some bananas.  Ripe ones, with a few brown spots.  You want them soft and squishy and very sweet.

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Then you peel them and slice them into disks.  And then you freeze those.  In the freezer.  Or outside, if you live in Central or Eastern or Atlantic Canada.  Or Northern Europe.  Or Siberia.  Or Antarctica (actually, then they’d probably be too cold.  Your freezer is probably warmer than Antarctica).

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Then you take them out of the freezer.  And you plop them in your food processor.

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AND YOU GIVE IT A WHAZ.  Which is what Jamie Oliver would say.  And the Pie and I love him, so that’s one of our new favourite phrases.

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And when it’s all gooey and soft and smooth, you can eat it!

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If you prefer your soft serve a little more firm, you can chuck it back in the freezer for a bit.  I like the fact that when it thaws, because it’s banana, it doesn’t get all soupy.

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And you can flavour it as well!  Add peanut butter, Nutella, chocolate chips, cocoa, vanilla … you name it (I added Nutella and vanilla).

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The only limit is your imagination — and what you have to stuff in there.  GO BANANAS!

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Treats Week: MacGyver Balls

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I would like to officially take credit for turning “MacGyver” into a verb.  It was about ten years ago, I think.  Since then, I’ve used it pretty much all the time.  And now it seems to be entering the general lexicon.  So that’s a win for me I think.  Or for whoever actually coined the term.  MacGyver, if you’re not aware, was a fantastic show from the late eighties about a dude who could save the world by solving science and physics problems with what he had at hand.  The joke is that he can defuse a nuclear bomb using only a paperclip.  And he probably did.  Macgyver was one of my heroes when I was a child.  I tend to “macgyver” a lot of things around our house, as I’m sure you’ve noticed.  It’s another form of “half-assed halfassery,” which is also a coinage of mine.  Anyway, I’ve heard it being used as a verb on TV now so I would like to take the credit while I can.  Although if you also invented the word then good on you too!

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Well, today I’m taking the term into the kitchen.  There’s a certain round chocolate confection of which I’m sure we’re all aware.  It comes wrapped in gold paper and commercials for it usually involve swanky parties of well-dressed demigods surrounding a pyramid made of the little shiny balls.  While what I’ve made below isn’t quite the version you can buy in the store, I think it’s a pretty decently-macgyvered version of the same.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Take 2 1/2 cups hazelnuts (filberts) and spread them on a baking sheet.

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Toast in your oven, shaking a couple times, for about 10 minutes, or until the skins start to blacken and bubble. Remove the nuts from the oven and plop in the centre of a clean tea towel.  Wrap the towel around the nuts and allow them to steam for a few minutes.

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Then rub the towel briskly over the nuts to remove the skins and allow the nuts to cool completely. If you don’t get all the skins off, don’t worry about it.

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When they are completely cool, pour them into a food processor to crush them into small pieces.

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Take about 3 cups Nutella (or store-brand alternative).  I am using the name brand because other versions are hard to get here in St. John’s and, well, it’s made by the company who makes the bon-bons I’m sort-of copying so I figure I’m on the right track, right?  Anyway, the jar contains approximately 3 cups of the stuff, so I’m going with that.  Scoop all that out into a bowl.

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Pour in 4 cups crisped rice cereal (AKA Rice Crispies) and mix those into the Nutella, making sure to get it all evenly combined without breaking too many of the rice bits.  In the real thing, there’s a ball of soft chocolate in the middle with a crunchy shell around it, but this is my version.

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If you wanted to be authentic you could make little spheres of frozen Nutella and roll them in the cereal. But that sounds hard.

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Take a spoon and start scooping balls of chocolate rice onto a sheet of waxed paper.  When you’ve got them all scooped, pop them in the freezer for an hour or two.  Mine I froze overnight.

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In the meantime, chop up 20 ounces dark chocolate and melt it in a double boiler or heat safe bowl suspended over a pot of simmering water.

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Allow the melted chocolate to cool to almost room temperature.  You want it cool enough it won’t melt the frozen Nutella balls, but not too cool that you can’t work with it.

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Spear a frozen Nutella ball with a skewer and dip it into the cooled chocolate.

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Roll the ball in the crushed hazelnuts until completely covered and lay on a sheet of waxed paper to cool completely and harden.

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The recipe above makes exactly 48 golf ball sized MacGuyver balls, so I’m sure you can use any fraction of this to make a smaller amount.

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