Rosemary Pork Loin Roast

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I made this pork roast for a recent dinner party and it turned out so perfectly I’m still thinking about it several days later. Start with a boneless pork loin roast. This one is a little over 1kg (I was serving 6 people at the dinner). Unwrap that and give it a quick rinse, then set it on a plate for a second.

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In a small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup olive oil, 8 cloves minced garlic, a bunch of coarsely chopped rosemary leaves (I used half fresh and half dried because I’m defenestrating my rosemary plant too quickly these days), 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

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This is your delightfully garlicky marinade.

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Rub it into the flesh and fat of your pork loin (don’t be shy – get it in there good), then shove the meat into a sealed plastic bag and chuck that in the refrigerator, preferably overnight.

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Bring the pork out of the fridge at least half an hour before you’re ready to cook it. Preheat your oven to 400°F and scrape most of the marinade off the meat. I cut the little strings as well while I was at it.

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Grab a cast-iron skillet and set it on a burner at high heat. Tip in about 2 tablespoons olive oil and heat that until it starts to shimmer. Carefully place your pork into the skillet and cook it, rotating carefully, until it’s brown on all sides.

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This should take about 5-10 minutes. You may want to turn your fan on as it can smoke a bit as the garlic and rosemary burn in the oil.

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Shove the whole skillet into the oven with the pork lying fat-side-up and roast for 45 minutes or so, until the internal temperature reaches 135°F. Let the roast rest for about 15 minutes before slicing it into deliciously tender slices.

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We served ours with a dollop of red pepper jelly and it made the night!

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Oh, Crumbs!

It’s one of my resolutions this year to try to get every last ounce of goodness that I can out of the food that I buy, and that means trying not to waste one iota of it if I can help it. Carrots looking a little flaccid? Toss ’em in a soup! Apples a little bruised? Make some applesauce! Bread gone stale? Time for some custom croutons and bread crumbs!

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So you take your stale bread and you cut it up into smaller pieces. This is easy or hard depending on how stale your bread is.

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Chuck it in your food processor.

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Add some fresh woody herbs like thyme or rosemary. Dried ones are good too.

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Salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Give it a good whaz for a little bit.

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Look at those lovely crumbs!

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I sealed mine in a plastic bag and tossed them into the freezer for a lovely Jamie Oliver dish I have my eye on but haven’t gotten around to yet – stay tuned!

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Humidifying – without a humidifier

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I don’t know what winter is like where you live (if, in fact, it IS winter where you live), but here in the Ottawa Valley winter is cold. Very cold. And very, very dry. It’s not uncommon to spontaneously bleed from the nose as you battle a searing headache and croak for more water through parched lips. And that’s not even an extreme case. In our house, the Pie’s sinuses dry up and cause him to snore. My asthma acts up, meaning I cough and wheeze all the time, and, because we have wall-to-wall carpeting, Gren has been avoiding us because we static shock him every time we pet him. It’s no fun.

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We have a humidifier in our bedroom, and it helps a whole bunch. We did our research and got the one that worked the best for the money we wanted to pay and we’re very happy with our choice (remember, kids: always do your research when buying an appliance). I also picked up a travel-sized humidifier for the various hotel rooms I seem to be finding myself in these days (and Winnipeg is even colder and dryer than Ottawa, and I’m in it as we speak).

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But sometimes you don’t want to buy a humidifier. Sometimes you can’t afford one (the ones that won’t give you Legionnaires’ Disease or fester with black mould tend to run a bit expensive). Sometimes your dormitory has ruled them out (usually for mould reasons). Or maybe you just need to give a bit of extra oomph to the humidifier you have. Here are seven quick-and-dirty tips to help you humidify your home the old-fashioned way.

1. Shower with the door open.

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Yeah, so this won’t work if you have roommates or small children or larger children or children at all. But if you don’t, skip turning on the exhaust fan and get things all good and steamy.

2. Get more house plants.

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So plants, when they’re done with all the nutrients and stuff in the water they suck up through their roots, basically sweat out water vapour through their leaves. It’s called transpiration. And sweaty plants make for a more humid environment.

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3. Skip the dryer.

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When you’re doing laundry, hang your clothes to dry inside the house in a warm spot. As the clothes dry the water on them will evaporate into the air in your house, making it more moist. MOIST. Plus you save on energy costs.

4. Spritzy-spritzy.

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Grab a spray bottle of water and gently – GENTLY – spritz your curtains with a little bit of water. You don’t want them soaked or anything, but a little misting on them will produce the same effect as wet laundry – without putting your skivvies in the middle of the living room.

5. Set out bowls.

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Place shallow dishes of water on sunny windowsills or on top of heating vents and the water will evaporate as it warms. Make them pretty crystal vases and you’ll add to the decor of your home. Add a floating bloom or some pretty pebbles. Granted, if you have small children or pets, leaving a bowl of water on the floor in your kitchen is asking for trouble, so be warned.

6. Wet a towel.

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Run a small dish towel under your tap and then wring it out thoroughly. Lay it over a heating vent (make sure the fabric isn’t so thick that it blocks the warm air completely) and let the heat percolate through and humidify the air as the towel dries. Again, probably not a good idea with small children. This is why we can’t have nice things.

7. Cook!

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When in doubt, cook. Whip up a batch of chilli or soup, anything on the stovetop that will get hot and steamy. I like to make a giant pot of tea, and when the kettle whistles and I’ve poured my pot and turned off the burner, I put the kettle back on the cooling element to let it steam itself out.

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You could also try a “simmer,” which is super trendy right now. Set a saucepan full of water on your stove and heat it to a low simmer. Toss in some whole spices: bay leaves, cardamom pods, star anise, cinnamon, and allspice; or rosemary, citrus zest, and lavender – or some combination thereof – and let that sit there simmering and scenting your house while it steams it up. Just keep an eye on the pot and add more water occasionally so it doesn’t all boil away.

Aromatic Fire Starters

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These easy peasy lemon squeezy fire starters are a perfect stocking stuffer for anyone who loves to curl up in front of a nice wood fire on a cold evening. They’re great for avid campers or armchair bookworms alike, and don’t contain any of the scary chemicals you find in a lot of commercial fire starters. And you can make them as cutesy as you like. So I’m going full cutesy.

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Now, the whole point of a fire starter is that it keeps burning long enough to get the larger pieces of wood in your fire going. For that, it’s handy to have some sort of wick/candle thing going on. So we’re going to start by making our own wicks. Now that I know how to do this I’m never buying pre-made wicks from the store ever again. All you need is water, borax, salt, and cotton string. I’m going to guess that most of you have those on hand. You can pick up borax from the cleaning aisle of your grocery store. It’s a very handy item.

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Anyone else find it super meta that the Borax girl is holding a box with a picture of herself on it, holding a box with a picture of herself on it … ?

Dissolve 4 tablespoons borax and 2 tablespoons salt in 1 1/2 cups warm water. Or dissolve it as much as you can. Mine didn’t dissolve all the way.

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Now cut a length of cotton string (butcher’s twine, anything like that). I decided seeing as I had the solution going I’d make a lot of wicks ahead of time for future use.

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Submerge the string in the solution and leave it overnight. Mine started to grow a few crystals as the supersaturated solution cooled. SCIENCE. The next day, hang the wet string to dry completely.

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Now all you need to do is melt some paraffin wax, which you can find in the canning aisle of the grocery or hardware store. You *could* use beeswax for this project but I think it’s a little pricey for something you’re going to chuck in a fire.

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Melt the wax in a double boiler or heatproof bowl suspended over simmering water.

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Dip your borax string in the wax two or three times and let it harden between dippings.  Tada. You have made wicks.

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Keep that melted wax going – make sure to check your water periodically to make sure it doesn’t boil away, because that happens and it’s not very good for your pot.

Line a muffin tin with cupcake cups. I picked owls because they’re all woodsy and stuff. And hella cute.

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And I’ve been saving my dryer lint for like forever. It’s full of dog hair, which is also flammable. Yay.

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So I put some dryer lint in the bottom of each cup, together with half a cinnamon stick, a sprig of fresh rosemary, and a dried bay leaf.

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Then I stuck the wick in and added a bit of melted wax, just to get the wick positioned where I wanted it. The wick doesn’t have to be centred in this thing – this is not a candle – it just needs to be sticking up and out of the cup.

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Then I added in enough wax to mostly fill the cup. Don’t worry about submerging all the tidbits inside. They add visual interest.

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Let the wax set for several hours. Once it starts to develop a skin on top like this you can start moving things around in the cups if you can’t leave well enough alone or if the wicks fall down.

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Set the finished fire starters on your mantle in a pretty bowl.

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Or hand them out in matching gift bags to the pyromaniacs in your life.

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Fancy Baby Meatloaf

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The other day the doorbell rang just as I had my hands deep in after-dinner dishes.  The Pie answered, and I heard him speaking to someone, and then the door shut and he came back all excited to tell me that we were going to be receiving FREE MEAT!

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Are you skeptical?  I was a little skeptical, picturing some guy with a Radio Flyer wagon trundling around tossing steaks of unknown origin at people.   But I know the Pie will never turn down a free sample of anything, especially meat.

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Anyway, the next day, the Pie got a call and a lovely farmer came in and sat with us for about ten minutes and told us all about his farm in Vankleek Hill and the prospect of buying meat through Nutrafarms.  He gave us a little sheet of paper with some bullet points on it and his contact information at the bottom.  As he left, he handed us a free sample of about half a pound of frozen ground beef.

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So to test it out, I made meat loaf.  Two wee tiny meatloaves.  The Pie LOVES meatloaf.

I started out by finely dicing a small onion.

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I chucked that in a bowl with some garlic, 2 sprigs chopped fresh rosemary, and about 4 sprigs chopped fresh parsley, with some salt and pepper.

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Then I chucked the defrosted meat into the bowl with 1 egg and stirred that around.

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I bought this Brown Sauce for the Pie for Christmas and I figured now was as good a time as any to try it.

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It’s got a date base, and the fruity tang I thought would balance the sharpness of the rosemary and parsley.  So I added a few tablespoons brown sauce.

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Then I sprayed two tiny casserole dishes and patted the meat into place.

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Now all that’s left is to bake it for 30 minutes at 350ºF, then let them rest for a few minutes before eating.

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We served ours with steamed broccoli and wee roasted potatoes.  What a great comfort meal!

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Wingin’ it Wednesday: Roasted Chicken and Veg for Two

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Sometimes you want all the comfort and rustic homeyness of a roasted chicken and crackling roasted vegetables, but you don’t have the time or the inclination to go through all the bother.  In our case, we also don’t have enough people in the house at the moment to eat a whole chicken.  So here is my solution.

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Take a small roasting pan and a handful of vegetables you’d like to roast.  Here I have half a large onion, several small white potatoes, and a head of broccoli.

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I tossed those in olive oil and seasoned them with salt, pepper, fresh rosemary, and Newfoundland savoury (thanks Fussellette!).

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On top of that, I set 2 large bone-in chicken breasts.  Bone-in roasts better than bone-out, trust me. In a small bowl I mixed together salt, pepper, Old Bay seasoning, and some dry mustard.

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Then I added a little lemon juice to it to turn it into a paste.

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This paste I brushed on top of the chicken breasts.

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Then I roasted everything (in my toaster oven, no less) at 400°F for about 30 minutes, stirring the vegetables occasionally, until the chicken was cooked through and the juices ran clear.  I served it with some Vidalia onion relish that really helped to pick up the flavours. Yum.  Rustic comfort food for two!

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Cheesy Bacon Scone-Off

Om nom nom nom.

That’s all I can really say about this recipe from The English Kitchen.  And this one from my pal Caroline at The Wanna Be Country Girl.  But which one to make?

Oh come on.  You knew I was going to do something ridiculous like that.  It’s in the title for Pete’s sake.  And any excuse to make these beauties twice is a good one.

So here we go.

Bacon, Cheddar and Rosemary Scones from The Wanna Be Country Girl:

First, fry up about 6 slices of bacon.  I discovered at the last second that my bacon was still frozen, so I did something genius.  While I was doing the dishes I popped the sealed package in the sink and when I was finished with washing up the bacon was ready to go.

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Because I was so pleased with myself I made it a round 7 slices.  You’ll want to fry this up extra crispy.  Set it aside to drain and cool, then break into a million little pieces.

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Preheat your oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together 2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, a pinch of salt (if you’re using salted butter leave this out), and 1 tablespoon sugar (I actually forgot the sugar, and I don’t think it made much difference).  If you don’t have a hand sifter, you can shake your flour through a fine sieve instead.

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Cut 6 tablespoons butter into small cubes (it’s like halfway between 1/3 and 1/2 cup butter) and plop that into the flour mixture.

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Use a pastry cutter or your hands to incorporate the butter into the flour, so in the end all you get is crumbs.

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Find yourself some fresh rosemary.

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Take about three sprigs of that and chop it up so you end up with about 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary.  Add that to the flour mix.

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Find yourself some sharp cheddar.  If you have access to a Costco or you live in Ontario, make it a lovely Balderson aged cheddar.  It makes everything better.

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Gren knows exactly what the cheese grater looks like, where it’s stored, and what it does.  Unfortunately, I am not as liberal with my cheese droppings as the Pie is so he was disappointed today.  Grate up about 1 cup sharp cheddar and add that to the flour mix.

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Crumble up your bacon and add that to the flour mix.  Give the whole thing a good stir so everything is evenly distributed.

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In another bowl, plop 2 eggs and 1/2 cup heavy cream (whipping cream, in Canada).  Stir that up.

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Pour the liquid into the flour.  Stir it around as much as you can.

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Eventually you will need your hands to make everything stick together into a ball. Knead that ball once or twice inside the bowl.

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Dump the ball of dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat it down to a thickness of about 1 1/2″.  Use a cutter or a knife to divide it however you wish, and transfer it to the baking sheet.

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Bake for 12-15 minutes, checking to make sure they’re not browning too much.

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This one was pretty much fresh from the oven and the butter melted just looking at it.

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See?

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We may have eaten these for dinner one rainy night.  Don’t judge us.

Cheese and Bacon Scones from The English Kitchen:

Preheat your oven to 425°F.  Grab yourself a baking sheet.  

Fry up some bacon.  The recipe calls for 4oz of bacon (who weighs bacon?  The British, naturally), but in the interest of fairness I just used the same amount as I did in the last batch, which was 7 slices bacon.  Go for extra crispy, then let it cool and break it up into wee bits.

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Sift together 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour1 teaspoon baking soda1 teaspoon cayenne, and 1 teaspoon salt into a large bowl.  I love my sifter, but a simple sieve is easier on the hands and a mite quicker. If you think your cayenne might be extra fresh, I would recommend using slightly less than a teaspoon — that stuff can build on you.

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Use a pastry cutter, and then probably your hands, to work 2 tablespoons cold cubed butter into the mix, until you have a crumb-y consistency.  Same as the last one.

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Grate up 1 cup sharp cheddar (again, go Balderson or go home).

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Add that to the flour mixture, along with the broken bacon.

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Whisk together 1 egg and 1 2/3 cups buttermilk.  You can sour milk with lemon juice, or vinegar but it’s not quite the same.

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Make an extinct volcano with your dry ingredients (dig a crater, yo) and pour the wet stuff into the hole.

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Mix this into a soft dough with your hands while trying the whole time not to knead it.  Apparently in this recipe kneading is a no-no. Dump your doughy mass onto a floured surface and pat the sticky stuff down with your hands until you get a little square patty about 3/4″ thick.

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Then you cut it into about 15-20 pieces. I decided, for science, to do mine the same way I did with the previous recipe, to get a better idea of how each one cooks.  Sliced into thick wedges, yis b’y.

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Plop those onto your baking sheet and pop them into your oven for 10-14 minutes, or until they’re risen and a nice golden brown. Just remember that this time is for the smaller square scones. If you make them big fat wedges you’re going to need to bake them for about 20-25 minutes.

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This recipe says to let them cool on a wire rack, but I’m not sure I can wait that long.  Where’s my butter?

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AND THE WINNER IS

Okay well there is no winner.  They’re both amazing.  I loved the fluffiness and slow heat of the English Kitchen version, and the flaky rosemary-ness of Wanna Be’s was amazing.

I mean, if I make these again I’ll probably combine my favourite elements of the two, and come up with my own version.  I always thought scones were hard, but these ladies have certainly corrected that assumption for me!