Another Slow Cooker Dip Trio – in two parts

This past weekend, we had our housewarming party – finally. Mostly because we finally had enough furniture for people to sit on. And also because it’s hard to warm a house in the middle of the winter. This way, we could use the barbecue.

Dip Trio 1

The Pie wanted to make use of our three-pot mini slow cookers and prepare some dips for our guests, so here are two of the ones we came up with. The final one involved a bit of extra prep so it’s a post on its own. The two posted today were made significantly smaller so they’d fit in our tiny pots.

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This first one, a garlic white bean dip, doesn’t really require a slow cooker, unless you want it to be served warm (which we did). I also took out some of the prep steps to make the whole thing a one-shot process. Start by glugging 1/4 cup olive oil into a small saucepan, and add in the equivalent of 6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced. Cook that on low for about 5 minutes, until garlic smells start to fill your whole kitchen.

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Grate up about 3/4 cup parmesan cheese and the zest from 1 lemon.

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Then, grab your food processor and chuck in 2 cans of cannelini beans, drained and rinsed. I used one can white beans and one can of white navy beans. Tip in as well 1/3 cup water, 1 cup ricotta cheese, your garlic and oil stuff, the parmesan and lemon zest, 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, and a generous helping of salt and ground black pepper.

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Give that a good whaz until it’s all smooth. Add a bit more olive oil if you think it looks dry (and if you’re going to keep it in the slow cooker all day, add a bit more as it has a tendency to dry out).

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Plop that in the slow cooker and leave it on low for about 2 hours to warm through. Enjoy!

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This next one is pretty good, but we actually found it a little bland and might spice it up some more next time. It’s a corn and cheese dip with bacon and pale ale and I think it has plenty of potential for enhancement. Start by tipping 3 1/2 cups frozen corn into your slow cooker. Top that with 2 minced cloves of garlic and 1 1/2 cups grated cheese (we used an extra-old cheddar).

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Dice up a red bell pepper and a de-seeded jalapeno.

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Chuck those in the pot with 3/4 cup sour cream, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, and salt and pepper to taste.

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Grab a pale ale as well and tip in about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of it. I think next time I’d use something with a bit more flavour, as neither the Pie nor myself are IPA fans (not that I’m drinking these days anyway).

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Give that a good stirring to mix things up. Then grab a package of plain cream cheese and break it up into chunks, which you can then spread over the top of the thing. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours.

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While that’s on the go, cook up about 4 slices of bacon until it’s crispy enough to crumble and let it cool (so you can crumble it). Harvest some fresh chives from your garden (it’s the only thing growing right now). Cut those up in a wee bowl and set the bacon and chives aside until the dip is ready.

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When the dip is hot, stir well to incorporate the cream cheese and then garnish with the chives and bacon. Eat!

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Herb Cheese Palmiers

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The second-to-last installment of all the stuff I made for my parents’ wedding anniversary party. The best piece of advice I can give you when planning a big shindig with lots of food is that time management is KEY. Anything that can be made ahead of time and frozen should be done wayyy in advance so that you have time on the day of to do the little things that absolutely cannot be done until that day. These little puff pastry dreams are one of those things that must be done on the day of, but they’re easy peasy and I promise you’ll enjoy them. I modified the original Martha Stewart recipe to be less salty and to make these a little thicker. I also totally forgot the egg wash at the end. I always forget the egg wash. But fortunately it’s not crucial.

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You’ll need some frozen puff pastry. I bought the stuff that comes pre-rolled into two square sheets because I am that lazy. Defrost that overnight in your fridge. Then go out into your garden and grab some fresh herbs, enough so you’ll have about 6 tablespoons of fresh herbs once they’re de-stemmed and chopped. I have here, from left to right, oregano, lemon thyme, and summer savoury.

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And these are chives.

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Chop those finely and set them in a little bowl. Gather as well about 6 tablespoons parmesan cheese, and grate up about 1/2 cup nice sharp cheddar.

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Now you can go ahead and preheat your oven to 375°F. Put your racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Lay out your puff pastry sheets and brush the surface of each with about 1 tablespoon olive oil.

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Sprinkle them evenly with the parmesan, the cheddar,

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and finally the herbs.

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Fold one third of each pastry sheet over,

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and then fold the other third over that, like you’re sending a letter. This would be goopy to send in the mail. You probably shouldn’t mail this.

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Then fold that in half so the two folded edges are touching each other. Jam that in the freezer for about 10 minutes until it’s had a chance to firm up a bit.

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I suppose if you let these get really firm you could slice them thinner, but the best I could do was about 3/4″ slices and even that was pushing it. Place the slices on their flat sides on the baking sheets.

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Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating your baking sheets halfway through, until the pastry is fully puffed and a nice golden brown. Let cool slightly and then serve!

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Five-Minute Frittata, for Two

This is my favourite quick dinner when you want something a little bit better than a cold bowl of cereal but you want to apply pretty much the same level of effort. This dish serves two but I was so hungry after all my efforts in the garden that I ate the whole thing myself.

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First I grabbed some fresh herbs out of said garden. Then I preheated my oven to broil and grabbed an oven-safe nonstick skillet. Nonstick works best for this particular eggy dish, but you have to make sure that it has been approved for use in the oven so you don’t end up killing yourself with chemicals or burning the handle off.

Five-Minute Frittata 1

I chopped up the herbs.

Five-Minute Frittata 2

Then I grabbed a tomato and chopped and de-seeded it as well.

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Now you can start heating up your skillet, with a nice big pat of butter in it to melt.

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Then I cracked 4 eggs into a bowl. I proceeded to beat the crap out of them.

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Add in a big dollop of sour cream. You can use milk or cream but I have recently discovered that sour cream in eggs makes them light and fluffy and flavourful so I like using it.

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Then I poured the mixed eggs into the hot skillet.

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Let that sit for a moment.

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Then start pulling the egg away from the bottom of the skillet. You’re not really stirring the egg, so much as exposing more of the raw stuff to a hot cooking surface.

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Stop scraping before all the wet stuff is scrambled.

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Now you can top it with all the goodness you’ve prepared. This is salt, pepper, chopped herbs, tomatoes, and parmesan cheese.

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And then go ahead and shove it under the broiler for about two minutes, until all the wet egg is now solid. Please don’t judge me for my dirty oven.

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You can see I actually overdid this one a little bit.

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Then you hold the pan over a plate and start to slowly tip it so the whole thing starts to slide out.

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Keeeeeep sliding.

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When you’re about halfway out, lift the pan so that the second half of the egg flips over and covers the first half.

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Top with more pepper and garnish if you like.

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As I said, you can cut this in two and share it. Or if you’re really hungry it makes a great meal for one!

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Mini Wonton Quiches

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I finally did get to have that finger-food brunch I was trying for. These wonton mini quiches were a big hit.

Wonton Quiches 1

I enjoyed cutting up all the vegetables super small to fit in the tiny muffin cup spaces.

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I did scoop the seeds out of the tomatoes to avoid mushiness.

Wonton Quiches 2

And I couldn’t decide on cheeses, so I went with both.

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I grabbed some fresh herbs from my very own backyard, because it’s actually spring now.

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In the end I had one set of quiches with mushroom, spinach, chives, and goat cheese, and the other was tomato, onion, cheddar, and cilantro. For amounts I kind of winged it, sorry.

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Anyway, preheat your oven to 350°F and line your muffin tins with two wonton wrappers each. Align them so they are at 45° angles to each other for the largest surface area. I didn’t do this but I would recommend greasing the muffin tins before you do this.

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Then I stuffed the tins with my vegetable-cheese mixtures.

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Then I started cracking some eggs. For 24 mini quiches I used about 14 eggs. I also added in a few tablespoons cream, some salt and pepper, and some grated parmesan. Gave that a good mixing.

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Then I ever so carefully poured the egg goo into the muffin cups.

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It’s hard to get it so it doesn’t go around the seal of the wonton.

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I baked them for about 15 minutes, until they were cooked through.

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Because I didn’t grease the pan it took some persuasion to get them out.

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But they were so good!

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And even great for a cold quick breakfast or lunch the next day!

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Sunday Scones

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Yes, yes, I know it’s WEDNESDAY. But I made these on a Sunday and I like my alliteration, okay? These are a great addition to a Sunday brunch (I know this because that’s what I made them for). I used turkey bacon in this recipe but feel free to use any bacon-like product you can think of.

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Start with 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and mix it in a bowl with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt.

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Grab 1/2 cup COLD butter and use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into the flour mixture. You can use a food processor for this if you really want, but we are going for a non-uniform texture here, so irregular chunks of butter are a plus in this situation.

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Normally I use buttermilk when I make scones because it makes them nice and fluffy. But I never have buttermilk on hand because in Canada you can only buy it in 1L cartons and seeing as I don’t drink it for its own sake that’s a lot of buttermilk to have to use up. So generally I just sour my own milk. 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to 1 cup of milk, give it a stir, and leave it for five minutes. Good enough. Here I only needed 2/3 cup soured milk so I adjusted accordingly. You can do the math. Anyway, mix the milk with 2 slightly beaten eggs.

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What you also need here is about 5 slices of cooked bacon, any kind.

Sunday Scones 1

Slice and dice that into wee pieces. You need about 1/2 cup chopped bacon at this point. You should probably do this first before all the other stuff with the flour and butter so that the bacon has time to cool down before you cut it up. Otherwise, there might be bad things that happen.

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Harvest some green onions as well. Dice them up until you have about 1/4 cup chopped green onion.

Sunday Scones 2

Then grate some cheese. Any kind you like, but you need about 2/3 cup grated cheese and then add to that about 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese as well.

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Okay so now you’ve got all your bits and pieces. Add the buttermilk/eggs mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

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Add the cheese, onions, and bacon to the bowl as well and continue to stir until it’s all incorporated.

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Turn the mix out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently just until all the bits and pieces are together and it’s a cohesive mass. You just want things all barely sticking together. When in doubt, under-mix.

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Shape it into a disk about 1″ thick. Wrap the dough up tightly and put it in the freezer for at least 30 minutes or in the fridge overnight.

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Scones cook really well from frozen, did you know that? So if you wanted to do that, cut the scones before chilling, wrap them up really well, and then chuck them in the freezer for scone-y goodness any time you want. Frozen scones make great gifts, you know.

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If you’re not freezing them, unwrap your chilled dough and slice it into wedges. I aimed for 10 wedges here. You can also flatten your dough into a rectangle and cut out squares or triangles or whatever you want. Wedges are easiest for me. Preheat your oven to 375°F.

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Plop the wedges on some baking sheets lined with parchment and brush them with about 2 tablespoons half and half or light cream.

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Sprinkle them with a little sea salt and shove them in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until they’re puffy and golden.

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Let cool only very slightly before serving warm with a dollop of butter!

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Mashed Potato and Cauliflower Gratin

It’s November.  I’m cold.  I want something warming for dinner.  This’ll do, though I made a slightly lazier version below.

Potato-Cauliflower Gratin 3

Start with 2lbs yellow potatoes, washed and cut into small cubes.  I used the thin-skinned ones as opposed to the baking ones because I didn’t want to peel them.  A little potato skin is good for you.  Plop those in a large pot, cover them with water, and boil them until tender, about 12 minutes.

Potato-Cauliflower Gratin 1

When they’re pokable with a fork, drain them and add in 3/4 cup whole milk and 3 tablespoons butter and mash that until they’re all mooshy.

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Add in about 2 cups grated Gruyère cheese and stir that around until it’s melted and glorious.

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Now you’re going to need a large cauliflower.

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And 4 cloves garlic.

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Chop the cauliflower up and smash the garlic cloves and chuck them all in a pot together.  Cover that with water and boil until the cauliflower is tender, probably another 12 minutes.

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Drain that and then huck the cauliflower into a food processor.  Add another 1/2 cup milk and another 3 tablespoons butter to that sucker and give it a whaz until it’s chunky yet totally puréed.

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Mix together your potatoes and your cauliflower in a large bowl.

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Season with salt and pepper.

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Butter a large casserole baking dish and dump your vegetable mooshiness on in there.

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Take 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese and sprinkle that over top.

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Bake in a preheated oven at 425°F for about 20-30 minutes, until the top is bubbling and brown.  Enjoy!

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Parmesan Puff Pastry Twists

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I made these for the baby shower back in September but I think they would also serve as ideal morsels to tempt your guests to the Thanksgiving table.  These are so easy it feels like you’re cheating, and that’s why I love them the most.

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First thing you need to do is thaw a 17oz package of puff pastry in the fridge overnight.  I went with the one that comes in two pre-rolled sheets so that saved me even more time.  Preheat your oven to 400°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

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Lightly beat up 1 egg and grab yourself a brush.

Puff Pastry Breadsticks 2

Grate up a helluva lot of parmesan cheese.  Like, 1 1/2 cups parmesan.  That took a WHILE.

Puff Pastry Breadsticks 1

Lay the puff pastry out on a work surface (this one comes already wrapped in its own parchment so I just used that) and slice it into 12 strips (you’ll end up with 24 if you use the whole package).

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Brush the strips with egg and then sprinkle with 1 tablespoon poppy or sesame seeds.

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Dredge the strips with grated parmesan (make sure to save half for the other sheet).

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I did another batch with parmesan and Tex-Mex spices and it was goooooood.

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Pick up each strip and twist it before placing it on the parchment for baking.

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The Tex-Mex pastry got too warm and stretched too much so I doubled the twisted strips and that worked out fine.

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Bake your strips for 15 minutes, until puffed and golden brown.  Eat warm or let them cool, but they’re best eaten the day they’re made.

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Turkey Meatball Rigatoni with Pesto

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Happy Canada Day!  Today is a holiday here in the Great White North.  Last Monday was also a holiday for those of us in Newfoundland, and I cooked this recipe up on that particular day.  We are trying to consume the contents of our pantry and freezer before we move (and we’re doing a pretty good job) so this gets rid of a chunk of the stuff in there.

Turkey Meatball Rigatoni 1

Anyway, my landlord is doing some renovations to her house, which is directly behind ours, and she needs our yard for access.  The first thing I said to the Pie when he got up and joined me in the kitchen last Monday morning was, “Oh good, you’re clothed — there’s a man in our tree.”  And there was.  And there were several in the backyard.

Morning View

And in the front yard.

Rock Collection

And in the side yard.

Gravel Road

And everywhere.  All.  Day.  Which made Gren very grumpy.

Couch Potato

And all the shops were closed so we had to make do with what was around for our dinner.  So start making up some meatballs, okay?  Preheat your oven to 375°F and grab a baking sheet. Ignore the small highway being created in your backyard.

Dirt Road

Finely grate up a medium-sized carrot.  Chuck that in a bowl.

Turkey Meatball Rigatoni 2

Slice up some green onions.

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Then dice ’em.  Chuck those in the bowl with the carrots.

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Then add a few spoonfuls minced garlic.

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Plop in 2 eggs.

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And about 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs.

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Give that a thorough stirring.

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Add in some ground turkey, seasoned with salt and pepper.

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Stir that all together, then use your hands to squish it into golf-ball-sized meatballs.

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Plop those onto your baking sheet and let those cook in the oven for 20 minutes.

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To test for doneness, cut one open and see that there’s no pink inside.

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Grab yourself some pesto, too.  However much you want.  I like lots.  You can buy it or make it yourself, it’s up to you.

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And slice up some tomatoes.  I used grape tomatoes here.

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Boil up a pot of water and cook up some pasta.  We used rigatoni, because it was something we needed to get rid of.

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Drain the pasta.  Dump the tomatoes and the meatballs into the pot with the pasta.

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Add the pesto.  Stir like there’s no tomorrow.

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Serve it up hot!

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Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese

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Ando made this for Thidz’ birthday last week and it went down so well that he suggested I put it on the blog.  So here it is, adapted to his standards.  While the whole thing takes a little while to prepare, it’s all easy stuff that you can do in stages.  I ended up having most of it ready in the morning and then just chucked it together at the end and baked it.  But we’ll work from the bottom up on this layered casserole.  Also, the recipe says it serves 8, but really it serves 4 because you are going to want seconds.

BOTTOM:

Preheat your oven to 425°F and spray a 9″ springform pan with cooking spray.  My pan was a little wider, but that’s fine.

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In a teeny bowl, mix together 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, and some salt and ground black pepper to taste.

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Peel 2 medium sweet potatoes.  I only had large ones, so I opted to just do one, but I could have used both and it would have been fine.

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Use a mandoline to shave off super thin slices.

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Chuck those pieces in a bowl, drizzle with a few tablespoons vegetable oil, and add in your spice mix.  Toss with your hands until the oil and spices evenly coat all the potato pieces.

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Layer the sweet potato slices evenly in the bottom of the pan.

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Bake for 15-20 minutes until they are softened and starting to brown.  Ando wanted to bake them longer to make them more crisp, so I tried that, but I found that once you piled the rest of the ingredients on top they went soft again anyway, so don’t worry too much about that.  The Pie hoped for a thicker layer of sweet potatoes (because I only used the one potato and my pan was wider), so next time I would go for two.

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MIDDLE:

Grab yourself some pork tenderloin.  I had a boneless pork loin rib here that was on stupid sale so I used that.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 2

You’ll need 2lbs pork, cut into 2″ chunks.  If I did this again, I would cut the chunks larger, just so your pulled pork strings end up being decently long.

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Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and add in the meat.  It goes gray almost immediately, which is kind of gross.  Reduce to a simmer and leave that on the go for about an hour.

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Drain the pork and use 2 forks to shred it into little pieces.

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Then you’re going to need some barbecue sauce.  Ando expressed concern that the sauce tended to overpower the more delicate flavours of the macaroni and cheese on top, so we picked out a milder apple butter sauce and it worked out fantastically.  The sweetness of the apple really worked well with the pork.

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So you pour 14oz barbecue sauce all over your pork and mix it in.

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Then you add in 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar and stir that in as well, then set the whole thing aside.

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TOP:

Bring another saucepan of water to a boil and add a pinch or two of salt.  When it’s boiling, add in 8oz elbow pasta (MACARONI) and cook according to your package instructions.  When it’s ready, drain the water, saving about 1/4 cup of it.  Add the water back to the pasta in the pot.

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Add to the pasta 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (I think the sharper the better), 1/2 cup grated Gruyere (we used Jarlsberg), and 1/4 cup creme fraiche (which is next to impossible to find in Newfoundland, so we used sour cream instead).  Because Ando suggested boosting the flavour of the mac, I added a few crumbles of blue cheese (Rochefort) as well.

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Stir that up until it’s all melted, then add a few drops of hot sauce (we used Tabasco) to taste.

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Season it with salt and pepper and set it aside.

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CRUST:

Melt 1/4 cup butter and stir it up with 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and 1 cup panko breadcrumbs.

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ASSEMBLY:

Smooth the pulled pork over the sweet potatoes.

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Dollop the macaroni on top of that and flatten it down a bit.

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Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture on top of that to completely cover the macaroni.

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Bake for 15 minutes, until the casserole is hot through and the bread crumbs are browned.

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DISASSEMBLY:

Ideally you should be able to pop open the springform pan and cut this puppy like a cake.  My pork ended up being supremely saucy and thus too slithery to be architecturally sound in terms of casserole structure.  Meaning I tried to pop off the frame and then the whole thing went sideways — literally and figuratively.  So we just scooped it out with spoons, hence the lack of presentation.  Didn’t matter.  Ate it anyway.  And it was awesome.  Thanks Ando!

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Mags’ Cheesy Manicotti

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

Today is my little sister-in-law Mags’ birthday and I promised her a pasta dish.  Because I’m not around to make it for her in person, perhaps she can persuade Mrs. Nice to whip it up for a birthday treat.  Her brother certainly enjoyed it.  Happy birthday Mags!

The measurements for this are approximate, and I’m going to jump back and forth between metric and Imperial because I’m Canadian and I can.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Plop about 500g thawed frozen spinach in a bowl, together with 500g cottage cheese, 1/2 cup strong-flavoured cheese, grated (I used romano, but parmesan would also be good), and 2 teaspoons dried oregano.

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

Stir it silly and then season with pepper.

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

Take a jar of chunky tomato-based pasta sauce and spread 1/3 of it on the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking dish.

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

Now take a package of uncooked manicotti shells (usually there are 14 shells in a box) and stuff them with the cottage cheese/spinach mixture. Lay them on top of the sauce in the dish.

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

This was my first one, which I tried to stuff with a spoon.  I got a little too enthusiastic and it exploded everywhere.  After that I used my fingers. And I’m still trying to figure out how to get the spinach out of my kitchen stereo speakers.

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

And then when I got to the end of my pan I found I had run out of space, so that’s why they are all spastic here.  Plus I dropped in the leftover cottage cheese/spinach mix as well.  Aesthetics are not really my strong suit.

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

Mix 1/2 cup water with the remainder of your pasta sauce and pour it over the top of the uncooked stuffed noodles.

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

Bake, uncovered, for an hour, until it is bubbling all the way through.  Then sprinkle with 2 cups grated mozzarella and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes.

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti

Let your lava-like pasta stand for a few minutes before serving.  Not the most attractive photo, but that didn’t stop the Pie from going back for seconds.

Mags' Cheesy Manicotti