Scented Pine Cones

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October hit Ottawa with a sudden drop in temperature and we were forced to turn the heat on for the first time this year, which made me sad. I don’t like the way a sealed-in house gets musty over the summer or winter, and with our massive piles of sad-looking carpet (which, no matter how much I steam clean it, still retains essence of smoker and large smelly dog, the previous tenants), our house gets musty – fast.

I’m not a huge fan of artificial perfumes or masking smells with other smells, but sometimes my cleaning regime needs a bit of a boost. I picked up these pine cones while walking Gren out on the Farm. You’ll note the dog poop bag I used to haul them home. This is often how I bring home my dog-walking finds.

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Wash them carefully in warm water to get rid of dirt and bugs and whatnot.

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Look at the fun colour they turned the water! Tannins are an interesting scientific thing.

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Shake them off and lay them on a baking sheet (if you like the baking sheet, line it with parchment paper to prevent any sap from sticking) and bake them for 1 hour at about 200°F so that they can dry out completely. Wet pine cones = mouldy pine cones, and we don’t want that.

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While that was going on, I quickly zested a lemon and an orange that had seen better days and tossed the peel into the oven as well to dry out. Waste not!

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When the pine cones are fully cooled, sprinkle them liberally with the essential oils of your choice. I went with clove and orange oils.

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Seal them (and any other scented objects you have, like the peel) in a plastic bag for 1 week to meld the scents together.

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Then display in a nice bowl and give them a good sniff as you walk by.

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Carbonated Coffee for Summer

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When I saw this coffee soda on Man Made DIY a few weeks back I thought, ew, weird. But then I thought, welp, better try it. And so here we are. This is an interesting twist on iced coffee if you’re tired of the latte version.

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Man Made has a whole system for making special double-strong cold brewed coffee.

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But I wasn’t so picky, opting instead for just brewing my favourite espresso double strength and letting it cool before straining and chilling.

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The process is pretty simple: you have your chilled super-strong coffee, a large glass, some of your favourite fizzy water, an orange, and a vegetable peeler. And some ice, but that stayed in the freezer while I took this photo.

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Fill your glass about half full with your cold coffee and plop in some ice cubes. You can sweeten the coffee if you wish (I keep a small jar of simple syrup in the fridge for this very purpose). Use the vegetable peeler to scrape up a good-sized chunk of orange peel.

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Top the glass off with soda water. Squeeze the peel over the beverage to get the orange oils in there.

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Then rub the oily peel around the edge of the glass before plopping it right into the coffee.

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And that’s it. It’s definitely different, but I think I like it. Give it a try and tell me what you think!

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SideBar: the D’Artagnan

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Let’s sit down and have a drink today to celebrate: Ali Does It Herself turns FIVE this week! Five years of shenanigans and DIY failures and a whole lotta successes and support from you, you gorgeous nearly 14,000 followers. Thanks for sticking with us through the ups and the downs – here’s to five more years!

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This light cocktail seems at first like a standard mimosa but it packs a secret punch with a touch of class. To make the simple syrup that goes into this recipe (and a whole lotta other ones), simply dissolve one part granulated sugar in one part water and store the result in the fridge. I made this to serve 6 people twice, but I will put in brackets the amounts for just one serving so you can do your own math when expanding or contracting the recipe.

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Start by grabbing 2 large juicy oranges and using a zester to pull some twists off them.

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Then you might as well juice them as well, so as not to waste all that citrusy goodness. Pour 6oz orange juice (1/2oz for one) into a container with a pour spout.

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Next, tip in some booze. This recipe calls for 1.5oz Grand Marnier (1/8oz for one), which you could substitute for another orange liqueur (though Grand Marnier is the best).

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It also calls for 1.5oz Armagnac de Montal (1/8oz for one). Armagnac is a type of brandy from a particular place (Armagnac), but you can substitute with another type of brandy if you find Armagnac a little pricey.

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Then you need to tip in 6 teaspoons simple syrup (1/2 teaspoon for one).

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Give it a good stirring – don’t fret about the seeds and pulp from the oranges because you’re going to strain this as you pour. Add in some ice cubes and stir it again to chill the mix.

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Pour about an ounce each of the mix through a strainer into 6 champagne flutes (one for one), then top up with about 3oz chilled sparkling wine or Champagne.

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I used Freixenet brut because I like how it tastes and also I had an enormous bottle of it under the sink and that’s why I made this whole party beverage in the first place.

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Garnish with a twist of orange peel and serve immediately.

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Bees plus Booze: Making Krupnikas

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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.

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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.

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Let them drip dry.

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

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

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I love that this recipe uses whole spices.

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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.

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

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Peel 1 orange.

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And peel half a lemon.

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Grab 3 or 4 cinnamon sticks.

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And 5 allspice berries.

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

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And 8 cloves.

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And 10 cardamom pods.

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And 1 teaspoon fennel seeds.

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And 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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And my pestle for the rest.

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

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

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Skim any foam off the top with a slotted spoon.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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

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But still gloriously cheerfully yellow.

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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.

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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.

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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.

There MUST be a better way!

 

Today we fly from St. John’s to Ottawa, so you get a filler post.  A silly filler post.Orange Peel 1

I was browsing imgur the other day (don’t judge, it’s great), and I came across this photo of a new way to peel an orange.  Normally, I end up digging my thumb into the top of the thing, removing the peel in chunks, and I end up covered in orange oil and juice.  So normally I don’t eat oranges, because I can’t handle this complication.

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But I thought I would try this new method, in the hopes that it would improve my life. So you peel off the top and the bottom parts of the peel.

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Then you make a slit in the side of the peel, and open it like a scroll.

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But these navel oranges have really thick skins and so this didn’t really end up working.

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And then I found out that this image was of a mandarin (or clementine, or satsuma), with a super thin skin.  And I have no trouble peeling those at all.  Who has trouble peeling mandarins?  You have issues, my friend.

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So that’s my story.  It’s not as exciting as this orange peeling story, which I found as well.  And I’m still covered in orange juice.

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Orange Curd

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I had a ton of egg yolks left over from a previous project.

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And four oranges that were starting to dry out and look a little forlorn.

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And as we know, lemon curd may be my very favourite thing (it’s hard to tell, though, as I have a lot of favourite things).  So why not experiment with some orange curd?  I figure if I balance the sweetness of orange as opposed to lemon it should work out okay.

So before you start, cut up about 3/4 cup butter into tablespoon-sized pieces and pop that back in the fridge.  If you like your curd a little salty, use salted butter, but if you like it super sweet, use unsalted butter.  But either way, make sure it’s cold.

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In a medium saucepan, whisk together 8-10 egg yolks, 1/4-1/2 cup sugar (depending on how sweet your oranges are), 4 tablespoons lemon juice, the juice of 4 oranges, and the zest of 2 oranges.

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Heat on medium, stirring constantly, until the mixture starts to thicken.  If you heat it too high, too fast, you will curdle it and that’s no good.  We want the yolks to cook slowly, for about 10 minutes. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the pot often.

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It will begin to coat the back of a wooden spoon.  When it’s nice and thick, raise the heat a bit and bring it to a simmer (not a boil), stirring again, for about 2 minutes.

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Remove the pot from the heat and take your butter from the fridge.  Working one piece at a time, add butter chunks to the mixture and stir until they are fully melted.  This has the dual effect of cooling the hot curd and also adding some fat to the mixture for easy setting.

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When all the butter is finally added and melted, your curd will be smooth and thick.

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Pour it into a bowl or clean jar and place some plastic wrap on the surface of the hot curd so that a skin doesn’t form.

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Pop it in the fridge to cool completely.  This makes about 2 1/2 cups of curd.

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Raspberry Orange Crumble – In the Woods

What do you do for a potluck when you’re in the middle of Gros Morne National Park?  You make a raspberry crumble, of course!

Will.i.am and Caramía gave the Pie and me a Backpacker’s Pantry Outback Oven (available as well from M.E.C.) as a wedding present, and we’d had no opportunity to use it in the two years since.  When we found out we were going camping in Gros Morne over Canada Day weekend we figured that there was no time like the present.

The day of the potluck dawned and we considered our options.  Miss Awesome and Ranger P (formerly P-with-an-E) had come pre-prepared with felafel and crackers and cheese, but we felt we should contribute something of our own as well.  We had flour, oats (from instant oatmeal), brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter on hand — why not create a crumble?

The problem was the fruit for the middle.  It turns out that fruit is nearly impossible to come by in any of the communities within Gros Morne, and we didn’t have the time or the resources to stretch our search farther afield.  Fortunately, the fates shone on us that day (as did the sun).  Miss Awesome’s Auntie, whom we visited while in the park, happened to have a frozen bag of raspberries on hand, which she graciously gave to us and thus saved the day.

So now to the crumble. Of course, in the thick of things, I measured nothing, so I’m just going to guess here.

Because the berries were still frozen, I set them to thaw in a pot on the fire.  I thought about adding a bit of sugar to the raspberries but changed my mind.  There was enough sugar in the crumble mixture, in any case.  I think I had about 2-3 cups frozen raspberries in this.

We had a random orange floating around, so I grated the peel from that and chopped up the fruit into small pieces and chucked that in with the raspberries.

Miss Awesome persuaded me to add a few drops of Cointreau to the mix.  That’s her foot there.

In a bowl, I mixed up the dry instant oatmeal (about 1 cup instant oatmeal) with about 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup butter.  Add in 1/2 cup brown sugar and a liberal sprinkling of ground cinnamon and mix with your fingers until it’s all nice and crumbly.

Spread half the crumb mixture in the bottom of your outback oven.

Pour the raspberries (now thawed, but not stewed) on top and spread it evenly.

Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture on top.

Seal up the oven, placing the lid securely on the pan and the little tent-thing on top of that and bake for a while.  This of course depends on the strength of your camp stoveOurs only really has one setting — hot — so we had to keep turning off the flame and letting the thing cool down before starting it again in order to prevent burning.  Here Miss Awesome checks on her couscous while the crumble bakes.And the Pie relights the burner for the umpteenth time.  I can’t be trusted near fire.Keep checking that little dial!

After a while, when the raspberries were bubbling through the crumb top, I took the lid off and let the tent-thing help me crisp up the surface of the crumble a bit.  I think that had I used less gooey fruit and real oats instead of instant oatmeal it would have been a crisper thing, but it was sure tasty.