Happy Windfall Handpies

Handpies 1

There’s this tree in the green space where I walk with Gren and LongJohn in the mornings. It’s a beautiful old apple tree. I know it’s old because the apples on it are tiny and REALLY sour. But that doesn’t stop people from picking them – no sir. All the apples within a reasonable reach have been removed, so I scoured through the windfall after a recent storm and brought home about 15 or so more or less unscarred apples (because as you know I can’t resist stealing fruit from public places). I wanted to make turnovers, or handpies.

Handpies 2
Holy Hannah are strollers ever handy for carrying crap. And babies, I suppose.

This is the first bit of baking I’ve done while solo in the house with an active and demanding baby on my hands, so it was a challenge to test both my rusty cooking skills and my son’s patience threshold. All in all, it worked out for the most part. I also cheated and used puff pastry but can you really blame me?

Handpies 4
We didn’t cut the lawn for a long time and the long grass killed our mower. So now we REALLY need to cut the grass.

First, you need to peel the apples. I used about 15 of these tiny sour things but if you’re using regular apples maybe 3 large apples would suffice. Actually, before you peel the apples, you need to install the baby in his swing chair with Raffi for company. This will buy you about fifteen minutes.

Handpies 5

It takes a while to peel 15 tiny misshapen apples.

Handpies 6

Avoid the wormy ones.

Handpies 7

Chop the apples up roughly and sprinkle the pieces with lemon juice, both to keep them from going brown and to add some tartness to the mix (not that you really need tartness with sour apples). Wrap them up and set them aside.

Handpies 8

Next, whisk together 3 tablespoons cornstarch with 1/2 cup water.

Handpies 9

Tip your apple pieces into a pan with some liberal dashes of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and some sugar. Use about 2 teaspoons sugar for each regular apple – for the sour ones I went a bit more generous and added about 6 tablespoons for the whole lot.

Handpies 10

Re-install your baby in a new location with new focal points. You’ve got another fifteen minutes or so.

Handpies 11

Cook the apples on medium heat until they’re bubbly and the liquid is starting to cook down.

Handpies 12

Tip in the cornstarch mixture (you may need to re-whisk it because it’s not a solution and the cornstarch will likely be sticking firmly to the bottom of your dish).

Handpies 13

Stir quickly in and watch the juices thicken.

Handpies 14

Remove from the heat and spread in a thin layer on a plate to cool. Attempt to put your baby down for his nap.

Handpies 15

After failing to put your baby down for his nap (strange how a logical argument does not work on a three-month-old), grab some thawed puff pastry (this stuff comes in a box with two rolled out squares in it) and use a rolling pin to gently expand the sheet. You want the pastry a little thinner than it comes standard.

Handpies 16

Cut the square into 9 equal(ish) pieces.

Handpies 17

Place a dollop of the cooled apple goo on each square.

Handpies 18
Mmm, cooled goo …

Carefully peel the pastry off the paper and fold it over itself to form a triangle. Pinch the seams closed.

Handpies 19

Puff pastry objects to being handled so roughly so they look a little demented.

Handpies 20

Give your baby a different toy to punch. Encourage him to yell obscenities at the toy (I don’t speak baby so that’s what I’m assuming he’s doing) to buy yourself some more time.

Handpies 23

On the second sheet, I didn’t roll the pastry out as much, and it was easier to remove it from the paper. They looked less demented.

Handpies 24

Crack and beat an egg and brush each of the pastries with a bit of egg goo. Set them on a sheet of parchment on a baking sheet.

Handpies 22

Bake your pastries for about 20-25 minutes at 375°F and eat them as soon as they’re cool enough to hold in your hand. The demented ones stayed together better than the non-demented ones – just keep that in mind.

Handpies 26
Non-demented …
Handpies 29
Demented …

Enjoy!

Handpies 28

Advertisements

Half-Baked Turtle Brownie Cheesecake

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 27

While I was waiting for the kid to show up I was getting pretty bored and pretty desperate, but I didn’t have a lot of energy. One of my former colleagues recommended cheesecake as a way to start labour and I figured, why not? I had nothing to do, and an easy cheesecake recipe would be doable given my lack of energy. This one from Sprinkle Some Sugar seemed to fit the bill. It involves using store-bought brownie mix, fudge sauce, AND COOL WHIP, so it’s the ultimate in cheater recipes for me. And given that the day I baked it the temperatures skyrocketed again for a roller coaster June, I was happy to be able to chuck this in the fridge instead of hanging over a hot oven.

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 20
The belly bump may have accidentally encountered some caramel during the making of this recipe.

The original recipe is a bit of a misnomer, as it states that there is no baking involved whatsoever with this recipe. That is a bold-faced lie – you gotta bake the brownie bottom. But it’s worth it.

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 2

Find a round springform pan, about 8″ or 9″ (this one is 9″ I think), spray it with cooking spray, and whip up some brownie batter. You can use your favourite recipe but I used this boxed stuff (hey man, I was really pregnant at the time, gimme a break).

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 3

I figured the salted caramel would add more panache to the finished product.

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 7

Plus I love the ridiculous measurements of the wet ingredients. So simplistic!

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 5

While this is baking, work on your caramel sauce (you can buy caramel sauce, of course, but this one is easy and a good way for caramel newbs to get started).

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 8

In a small pot over medium-high heat, whisk together 1 cup granulated sugar and 1/4 cup water. Whisk and swirl the pot until the sugar is all dissolved, then keep swirling the pot (but no stirring or whisking!) frequently until the liquid turns a nice dark amber colour.

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 10

When you get the colour you like, carefully pour in 3/4 cup heavy cream – watch out, because it will fizz up like crazy – and whisk that until smooth. Then tip in 3 tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla and stir until those are all melted away. Set the finished caramel sauce aside to thicken up and cool completely.

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 12

Once the brownie bottom is ready and baked according to whatever instructions you have, remove the outer ring and let it cool completely as well and start working on your filling.

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 9

In the bowl of a mixer, beat together 16oz softened plain cream cheese, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup brown sugar until smooth and creamy. I mean, it’s gonna be creamy anyway because it’s cream cheese but you get what I mean about the texture, right? Man I need more sleep …

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 13

Stir in about 3/4 cup of that lovely caramel sauce you made (or squeeze it from the bottle you purchased you philistine) and add in as well 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg.

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 15

Then I want you to do something totally foreign to me: grab 4oz Cool Whip and fold that in as well.

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 17

Put the outer ring of your springform pan back on and smush all that Cool-Whipped creaminess into the pan.

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 18

Give it some smoothing out so it *kind* of looks like you baked it, then chuck that in the fridge for 3-4 hours.

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 19

Before serving, crush a bunch of pecans and spread them over top.

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 23

Grab some fudge sauce (I bought it, don’t judge) and whatever’s left of your caramel.

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 25

Pop off the outer ring and drizzle liberally with fudge and caramel. The fudge I bought didn’t drizzle, so I have fudge poops drizzled with caramel but you get the general intention here, at least. Keep the leftover cheesecake wrapped up in the fridge for up to a week. Enjoy!

Half-Baked Turtle Cheesecake 24

Warm Vanilla Apple Cider

Warm Vanilla Apple Cider 4

When we were on vacation at the Landmark Inn in Cooperstown, they had warm apple cider from the Fly Creek Cider Mill simmering in a crock pot in the dining room all afternoon and it was heaven to come back to at the end of the day. Why not do it at home too? I modified this from a Martha Stewart recipe and it’s so easy I wonder why I don’t do it all the freaking time.

Warm Vanilla Apple Cider 1

I doubled the recipe to accommodate my massive family so don’t let the pictures scare you. Start with some apple cider of your choice. This stuff from Farm Boy doesn’t QUITE match up to the Fly Creek stuff but it’s pretty darned good. Tip about 6 cups apple cider into the bowl of your slow cooker and put it on low heat. You have the option to add some brown sugar to the mix, about 2 tablespoons. This cider is pretty sweet as it is, so I didn’t bother.

Warm Vanilla Apple Cider 2

Grab 2 whole nutmeg seeds and a vanilla bean. Split and scrape the bean and dump all that goodness into the pot and give it a good stirring. Leave it be. Do this first thing in the morning before, say, a lunch party, and just let it do its thing all morning while you do other more important things.

Warm Vanilla Apple Cider 3

When you’re ready to imbibe, whip up some heavy cream in a chilled bowl. Add a bit of maple syrup for sweetness. Scoop out all the solids in the slow cooker with a mesh spoon and ladle the delicious cider into a heat-proof mug. Add a dollop of whipped cream and you’re all set for amazing!

Warm Vanilla Apple Cider 5

Apricot Oatmeal Loaf

Apricot Oatmeal Loaf 10

I’m always looking for new ways to put more fibre into my baking that don’t necessarily involve bran (I feel like that sentence alone puts me in the “grown-up” category.  And you know what’s good for you if you’re not getting enough fibre? APRICOTS. So I made an apricot loaf. And if you like apricots you can make one too.

Apricot Oatmeal Loaf 1

Preheat your oven to 350°F and spray or butter a loaf pan in preparation. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar. I don’t even have a picture of it because it’s just a bowl of white (and because maybe I forgot). Sprinkle in 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon nutmeg for colour (and flavour).

Apricot Oatmeal Loaf 3
Because I forgot, you get a slightly more interesting picture of chopped apricots instead.

In a small bowl, scramble together 2 large eggs.

Apricot Oatmeal Loaf 4

Then tip in 1/2 cup melted butter, 1/2 cup plain yogurt (or fruity yogurt, maybe apricot yogurt, it’s up to you), 1/3-1/2 cup apricot jam, and 1/2 cup milk.

Apricot Oatmeal Loaf 5

Pour that wet stuff into the dry stuff and stir until combined. Then pour in 1 cup oats and 3/4 cup chopped dried apricots. Stir stir stir!

Apricot Oatmeal Loaf 7

Smooth that into your pan and then bake for about 1 hour, until a deep caramel brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let it mostly cool in the pan and tip it out onto a rack to cool completely.

Apricot Oatmeal Loaf 8

I’m really enjoying it toasted, with butter, for breakfast.

Apricot Oatmeal Loaf 12

Baked Oatmeal

Baked Oatmeal 9I modified this recipe from Babble and made a great easy breakfast that can easily be played with and served in many ways. If you like the idea of an easy hot breakfast these little baked oatmeal squares are going to be a new staple for you. Plus you can reheat the squares later on for breakfast on the go. Feel free to play with the sugar amount if you want to take this dish from a breakfast to a nice dessert with ice cream! Start by preheating your oven to 375°F and butter up an 8″ x 8″ baking dish. In a bowl, mix together 3 cups rolled oats (not instant), 1/2 cup sugar1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, and the zest of 1 lemon. Baked Oatmeal 1

In another bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons melted cooled butter, 2 cups milk, and 2 eggs.

Baked Oatmeal 2Spread half the oat mixture into the bottom of your dish. Spread 1 cup berries or fruit of your choice, fresh or frozen (I used 1 cup frozen service berries) over the oat mixture. Baked Oatmeal 4

Spread on the other half of the oat mixture, and then an additional 1 cup berries. Press the berries into the mix a little.

Baked Oatmeal 5Pour the milk mixture over the oats and berries and pop it in the oven for 35-45 minutes, until the centre is set and everything is starting to get lovely and golden. Baked Oatmeal 6

Let it rest for about ten minutes before you scoop out a piece and eat it because it will be molten.

Baked Oatmeal 7I bet these would be good with butter and maple syrup … Baked Oatmeal 8

Egg Nog?

Egg Nog 19

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

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

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

Egg Nog 1

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

Egg Nog 2

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

Egg Nog 3

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

Egg Nog 5

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

Egg Nog 7

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

Egg Nog 8

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

Egg Nog 10

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

Egg Nog 11

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

Egg Nog 12

Whisk that whisky right in there.

Egg Nog 13

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

Egg Nog 14

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

Egg Nog 16

Then fold that gorgeousness into your eggnog.

Egg Nog 17

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

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

Egg Nog 18

Bees plus Booze: Making Krupnikas

Krupnikas 50

This recipe popped up on Global Table back in January 2012 and I have been positively itching to make it ever since. The problem is that in order to make lovely, lovely liqueurs, you need grain alcohol. And there are very few provinces in Canada where you can legally purchase such things. Fortunately one of my lovely friends picked some Everclear up for me when he was in Michigan and brought it across the border for me for my birthday.  And this lovely warming sipper will make a fantastic gift. Did I mention it makes your house smell lovely as you’re making it, and also that it’s ridiculously easy? LOVELY.

Krupnikas 51

First, though, you have to do your due diligence regarding what you’re going to put your finished concoction in. I searched high and low, in second-hand stores and restaurant supply stores, to find appropriate bottles for a reasonable price. Finally I found these 200mL flasks at Terra20 (sorry non-Ottawans, it’s a local store, but they do have online shopping). Now, you can put your bottles through a run in the dishwasher if you like, but I don’t trust my dishwasher fully because I have never cleaned it. I am my father’s daughter and as such he has taught me to properly sterilize things you’re going to put booze in. So first you wash them thoroughly in detergent and hot water.

Krupnikas 1

Let them drip dry.

Krupnikas 2

Then grab some Star-San if you can get it from a local home-brew place.

Krupnikas 3

Follow the instructions carefully, and wear gloves! Let your bottles air dry while you prepare your ingredients.

Krupnikas 4

I love that this recipe uses whole spices.

Krupnikas 19

In fact, it uses WHOLE turmeric, which was tricky for me to find after trolling through several health food stores. But it was super cheap. When the cashier asked me how much I wanted to order, I said, “Oh, 200g or so,” not knowing how much that would be. It was a lot. And it cost me about $4. I only need one of those weird little ginger-like knobs.

Krupnikas 6

You’ll need about 1 1/2lbs of honey (organic and local if possible, naturally). This works out to about 550mL liquid honey.

Krupnikas 10

Peel 1 orange.

Krupnikas 11

Krupnikas 29

And peel half a lemon.

Krupnikas 12

Grab 3 or 4 cinnamon sticks.

Krupnikas 9

And 5 allspice berries.

Krupnikas 13

And a nutmeg. (A nutmeg? A meg nut? I dunno.)

Krupnikas 14

And 8 cloves.

Krupnikas 15

And 10 cardamom pods.

Krupnikas 16

And 1 teaspoon fennel seeds.

Krupnikas 17

And 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper.

Krupnikas 18

You will also need 1 vanilla bean, sliced and scraped. Except for some reason I totally forgot to include that in the recipe. It’s still amazing, but I bet a vanilla bean would make it even more amazing.

Grab yourself a 3″ knob of ginger, and slice that into four pieces.

Krupnikas 7

And grab a 2-3″ knob of turmeric, and slice THAT into four pieces.

Krupnikas 8

Look at that gorgeous orange. The turmeric will give a nice sort of earthy base to the booze, while at the same time keeping that lovely yellow tint you expect of something made with honey.

Krupnikas 27

Crack all the spices to let the flavour out. I used a nutcracker on the nutmeg.

Krupnikas 22

And my pestle for the rest.

Krupnikas 23

Gather your spices and plop them in a cup for now. Not shown of course is the vanilla bean I forgot.

Krupnikas 32

In a large saucepan, dump in your honey and 1L water and bring that to a simmer.

Krupnikas 30

Skim any foam off the top with a slotted spoon.

Krupnikas 38

Dump all your spices in and let that become an amazing concoction.

Krupnikas 39

Simmer that sucker, stirring occasionally, for about 35 minutes. At this point the young man who was fixing my ceiling crept up behind me and asked me what I was making that smelled so good. As he was about 16 years old I did not offer him any of it. I’m not sure if he was sad or not. But I’m sure the craftsmanship on my ceiling would have suffered.

Krupnikas 41

Remove the pot from the heat and pour in 750mL grain alcohol. Watch out, as it will fizz up and the fumes will likely make you cough a bit. While it still smells good I don’t recommend you go around huffing grain alcohol fumes. That might be bad.

Krupnikas 42

Strain out the spices and use them for something else, like a syrup or ice cream base.

Krupnikas 43

I plopped them into some applesauce I was making. It made the applesauce taste like CANDY.

Krupnikas 46

Line up your bottles ready for filling. I put them all in a dish and wedged them with a dish towel to keep them steady while I filled them.

Krupnikas 40

I filled all 8 200mL bottles exactly, just like I’d planned.

Krupnikas 47

Seal the bottles and let them cool. The mixture will be cloudy at first.

Krupnikas 52

But still gloriously cheerfully yellow.

Krupnikas 49

The cloudiness is a sediment that will settle over the next couple of days. You can drink this stuff right away and it will be unbelievably good, but the longer you let it sit the mellower and more amazing it will get. Try to wait at least two weeks.

Krupnikas 53

Even after just 24 hours most of the sediment has settled. You can stir the sediment back in if you like, or filter it out and serve it on cake or whatever.

Krupnikas 55

My true sadness is that I was hoping for a little extra krupnikas to try myself, but I didn’t get any. I am going to give all of this away. So I hope that my friends share.