Fast Tip Friday: Fancy Dip, Freaking Fast!

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You want the best dip ever, and you want to make it fast? Well have I got a solution for you! Granted, its speed is based on the fact that you have a herb garden handy, as well as some frozen pucks of puréed garlic. But if you have been visiting Ali Does It for a while then I expect that you would have both of those things already.

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So go out and grab a bunch of your herbs. Like, a BUNCH. I have some basil, parsley, lemon thyme, sage, and a million chives and garlic chives. Mince those into a bowl with your thawed garlic puck, and add a little salt and pepper to taste. Tip in a 500mL container of plain Greek Yogurt. Stir. That’s it!

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Fancy Pants Sammiches

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For my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary party I made a large number of cocktail sandwiches – those are the ones where you cut all the crusts off the bread, or you buy the long, already crustless tramezzini (which is what I did). I’m going to give you all my sandwich filling recipes in one post, and I’ll leave it up to you to do with them what you will!

Fancy Sammiches 181: Smokey Egg Salad Fancy Sammiches 6 Start with about a dozen hard-boiled eggs. Smush them up good. Fancy Sammiches 2 Mince up some chives and tip that into the eggs, together with some salt and pepper, a scoop of Hungarian smoked paprika, and a dollop of mayonnaise. Stir to combine. Fancy Sammiches 52: Lemon-Dill Tuna

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Mince up some celery.

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Grab some herbs as well, like sage, and of course dill. Mince those too.

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Add them in a bowl with your canned flaked tuna, and the juice and zest of 1 lemon.

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Add in just a wee bit of yogurt or mayonnaise for cohesion.

3: Classic Cucumber and Herb

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Grab a small handful each of fresh mint and chives. Mince those up.

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Beat those into softened plain cream cheese and season with salt and pepper. Serve with sliced cucumbers.

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4: Curried “Coronation” Chicken

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Dismantle and shred a small roasted chicken from the grocery store. Mix in a large amount of fresh chopped pineapple sage, as well as a little bit of onion powder, cumin, yellow curry, and a pinch of cardamom. Tip in plain yogurt or mayonnaise for cohesion.

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5: Peanut Butter & Jelly “Sushi”

Fancy Sammiches 24Smear your bread with the peanut butter of your choice (the all-natural stuff is a mite runny, be warned).

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Top with jelly.

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Roll the whole thing up and slice into discs.

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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.

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I chopped up the herbs.

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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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Gluten-Free Cornbread Stuffing

I whipped up this pot of savoury delightfulness for our Canadian Thanksgiving in October, and I figured with Thanksgiving coming up this Thursday in America, you might find it handy. This particular incarnation of this recipe is both gluten-free and pork-free to reflect the dietary restraints of my Thanksgiving dinner guests, but feel free to replace the gluten-free cornbread with regular cornbread (may I suggest this recipe?) and the turkey bacon with regular bacon or sausage.

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Start with your cornbread. Because I was running low on time and energy (getting sick the week before Thanksgiving is not cool), I made the cornbread from the Bob’s Red Mill mix, and it turned out just fine.

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I crumbled the cooled cornbread onto a baking sheet and toasted it at 350°F for about 15 minutes until it was a nice golden brown.

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Once it cooled I sealed it in a bag.

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Meanwhile, I dumped an entire package of turkey bacon in a pan and fried it up.

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Then I started chopping. In a large pot, I dumped about 1/3 cup butter, then chopped up 1 1/2 large onions, 4 green onions, and a whole head of fresh garlic and plopped those in as well. I heated it on medium and stirred the onions while they softened.

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Then I chopped up 1 bunch fresh tarragon and 1 bunch fresh sage and dumped those in.

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Then 2 red peppers and 4 stalks celery. I added in some pepper to taste.

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Then I chopped up the turkey bacon and hucked that in as well.

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Because I was making the stuffing the day before, I put the vegetables in a bowl to cool and then covered them and put them in the fridge overnight.

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On the day of, put everything together. In a bowl, whisk together about 3 large eggs and some salt and pepper.

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Add to that about 1 litre (~4 cups) low sodium chicken or turkey broth. Give that a good stir.

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Dump your cornbread and your vegetable mix into a large baking dish or your slow cooker pot and stir them around. Pour the eggy broth over top and give it another stir to make sure it’s made it all the way through.

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So if you have space in your oven the day of, feel free to bake this (at about 350°F for an hour or so) to make sure that it’s all nice and crusty around the edges. If not, then pop it in the slow cooker in the morning and cook it on medium until you’re ready to eat. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s incredibly tasty.

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Sausage Rolls

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I made these for our end-of-the-year softball team potluck, and despite me making four dozen of them, they were gone within five minutes of opening up the container. I’ve never made sausage rolls before, but I do love them, so it was easy to figure out what should go in them. I will definitely make them again, and probably tweak what I throw in, just for variety’s sake – you should, too!

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I started by chopping up a bunch of end-of-season herbs from my garden: a bit of sage, parsley, and chives. There is probably about 1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs here.

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Then I chopped up 1 package white mushrooms, about 3 cups minced. Ordinarily I’d probably mince up 1 large onion and do half onion, half mushroom, but one of the potluck attendees is allergic to onions so I left it out.

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Then grab some (500g) uncooked sausages. These are a little on the spicy side, but nothing too crazy.

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Slice through the casing and remove the meat.

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Chuck the sausage meat in a bowl together with your herbs, the mushrooms and onions (if you used onions and/or mushrooms), 2 large eggs, 2 tablespoons minced garlic, and about 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs. Feel free to season with salt and pepper as well. It turned out that I had bought pre-seasoned panko so I didn’t bother.

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Mix the sausage up thoroughly with the other ingredients. I found it was easier (if more disgusting) to use my hands, but you could probably get away with doing this in the bowl of a stand mixer as well.

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Now, remove from the fridge that package of puff pastry sheets that has been defrosting in there overnight.  Slice each sheet into three equal strips.

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Grab some mustard. I bought this fancy Tarragon Dijon stuff and I don’t regret it.

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Brush a line of mustard down the length of each strip of puff pastry.

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Evenly distribute all your sausage meat on top of your mustard line on each strip.

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Bring the edges of each strip of pastry together to seal the meat into a long tube. You may have to stretch the pastry a bit to do this, depending on how full it is.

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Shove your sausage tubes into the freezer for 15-20 minutes to firm up the dough and the meat and make it easier for you to slice them. You can preheat your oven now, to about 425°F. My oven cooks a little hotter (you’ll notice the finished ones are slightly charred on the bottom) so feel free to reduce the heat to whatever you need to if you have the same problem.

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Slice the now-firm tubes into 8 equal pieces – this will give you 48 sausage rolls.

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Bake the rolls for 20 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and puffy and the sausage is cooked through.

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Allow them to cool slightly before you stuff them all in your face. I don’t know how long they will last after baking them, in terms of storage, because I never got the chance to find out.

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Roasted Chicken and Red Pepper Alfredo

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This was a bit of comfort food I kind of winged and kind of cheated on (who has time to make Alfredo sauce from scratch?). It was also a great recipe for what I like to call “cooking in spurts” – when I only have a few minutes here and there in the kitchen so I do little tasks throughout the day.

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First I roasted 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. I set them in a glass baking dish and stuffed fresh sage and thyme under the skin. I dusted the tops with salt and pepper. Then I baked them at 350°F for about 45 minutes, until the skin was crispy and the juices ran clear.

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Then I turned on the broiler and roasted 2 whole red peppers, turning them every 5 minutes or so, for about 20 minutes, until the skin was blackened. I let that cool for a while.

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Then I came back and pulled the skin off and discarded the seeds and stem. Then I went away again.

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Coming back in, I sliced up half a package of white mushrooms and sautéed them in butter and olive oil on medium heat until brown and starting to crisp. I removed them from the heat and went away again. I’m a busy person.

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Then I decided to actually get on with the business of cooking dinner. So I diced up a sweet onion and chucked that in a large frying pan with some butter and olive oil.

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I sautéed that on medium heat until the little onion pieces turned translucent, then I chucked in a few teaspoons minced garlic, as well as some salt and pepper.

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While that was going on, I pulled apart the chicken thighs and shredded the meat with a fork. I saved some of the nice fatty juices that came out of them, to add flavour to the sauce. I also saved the little bits of herb I’d roasted under the skin.

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As well, I diced the roasted peppers.

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And brought a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. I used a four-cheese tortellini here, because I like how filling it is.

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While the water was starting to get its boil on, I chucked the chicken (and reserved juices/herbs), peppers, and mushrooms into the pan with the onions and garlic.

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Then I dumped in a jar of pre-made alfredo sauce. I always add a little bit of water to the empty jar and give it a swish to get everything left.

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I stirred that for about 5 minutes at medium heat until everything started to bubble and smell amazing.

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I reduced the heat to low while I cooked the pasta according to the package directions. I drained the pasta and dumped it into the pan with the sauce.

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And then we ATE THE WHOLE THING. That’s a lie. We didn’t. Not all in one sitting, are you crazy? But I had seconds.

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Spinach and Mushroom Stuffing

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We made this for our Canadian Thanksgiving celebrations, but maybe the next time you cook up a turkey (say, for American Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or various other turkey-related feast days), you could try this stuff(ing) out.  You can make it all the day before and chuck it together at the last minute, which is awesome for big dinners.  It’s also the kind of stuffing that doesn’t actually go into the bird, so you can feed it to vegetarians, too!

Start with your bread.  You can buy bags of pre-cut, pre-toasted bread chunks specifically for making stuffing, but I kind of like to make them myself, because I can decide what kind of bread I’m going to use in my stuffing.  Here I used a loaf of Italian sourdough.

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I ripped each slice up into bite-sized chunks and spread them out across two baking sheets.  Shove them in your oven and bake them at 350°F until they’re dried out and lightly toasted, about 12 minutes.  Make sure to stir them occasionally.

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Dice up about a pound of fresh mushrooms.  The wilder the better.  Unfortunately all we had around were some oyster and regular white mushrooms, but feel free to experiment.  You should have about 9 cups diced mushrooms when you’re done.

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Chop up as well 2 large onions, so you’re left with about 3 cups chopped onions in total.

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And while you’re at it, go to town on 4-5 stalks celery, ending up with about 2 cups chopped celery in total.

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Find yourself some herbs.  These were all growing in our fall garden: sage, parsley, and thyme.  I thought about adding some rosemary to add to the “Scarborough Fair”-ness of the whole thing but managed to restrain myself.

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Chop up a couple bunches of each.  You can never have too many fresh herbs in your stuffing, so just go with what feels right.

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Dump 1/4 cup of butter and a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a large skillet and melt over medium heat.

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Plop in your mushrooms and sprinkle them lightly with salt and pepper.  Sauté those suckers until they’re all squishy and starting to brown, about 8 minutes.  Dump them in a large bowl for now.

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Slide another 1/2 cup butter into that skillet and let that melt.

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Add in your onions and celery and cook, stirring, until the veggies are tender, probably 12 minutes or so.

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Sprinkle in your herbs and cook for another minute.

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Then plop in a whole package (5oz) fresh baby spinach.  Toss in the skillet (maybe use a lid) until the leaves are just wilted.

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Chuck all that stuff into the bowl with the mushrooms.  If you’re making this ahead of time, this is where you stop.  Let the stuff cool, cover it, and bung it in the fridge overnight.

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When you’re ready to get this on the go, preheat your oven to 350ºF and butter a large casserole dish or 9″ x 13″ baking pan.  Whisk 2 eggs and some salt and pepper in a bowl.

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Pour in 1 cup low sodium chicken broth (you may need more if you find it dry) and stir that around.

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Toss your bread bits with your vegetable mix and pour your broth/egg stuff over top, stirring to make sure it makes it all the way through.

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Jam that into your baking dish and bake without covering until it’s brown and crusty on top, about an hour.  Let it stand a few minutes before serving (like, take it out when you start to carve up your bird and you’re set).

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