Challenge Accepted: IMPOSSIBLE PIE

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I found this recipe in the newspaper a little while back and thought it looked tempting enough to try. It’s easy peasy and totally delectable but it looks complicated and fancy when you serve it, and it is not a totally overpowering dessert, so you can always have seconds!

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The impossible part of this pie is that you mix everything together all at once and pour the very liquidy batter into your pan for baking, and what comes out ends up having three layers: a sweet fudgy layer at the bottom, a custardy layer in the middle, and the chewy coconut layer on top. Full disclosure: I never achieved the fudgy bottom layer, but I suspect it’s because I used a huge heavy pie pan (because that was the only one I had that was deep enough). Perhaps if you use a thinner pie pan you might have better luck – if not, the pie is still pretty effing good.

Heat your oven to 325°F and spray a 10″ wide and 2″ deep pie pan.

Melt 1/2 cup butter, and let that come to room temperature. Pro tip: if you only melt the butter halfway, then give it a stir, the melted butter will melt the non-melted butter and the non-melted butter will bring the temperature of the melted butter down faster and you don’t have to wait as long for your super molten burn-y melted butter to cool down. It’s like MAGIC. Or thermodynamics. Either or.

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Grab 4 large eggs out of the fridge and bring them to room temperature by plopping them in a bowl of warm water. While you’re at it, leave 2 cups whole milk (or a combo of milk and cream) out on the counter to warm up too. HEY PRESTO!

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Take 1 lemon and zest it and then juice it. Nothing super magic about that. It’s a lemon for crying out loud.

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Grab yourself a perfectly ordinary food processor (or is it?). Or a blender. Or do this by hand. I prefer the magic of electricity. Plop in your 4 eggs, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

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Then tip in (or do this first, the order doesn’t matter – this is just how I took the photos) 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder.

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THEN tip in (or do this second, or whatever) your 1/2 cup butter, 2 cups whole milk, and lemon juice and zest.

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Give that a good whaz, THEN tip in (and this time it DOES matter the order because this has to happen after the whazzing) 1 1/4 cups shredded sweetened dried coconut (I used unsweetened. It was fine.). Stir that around.

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Pour the batter into your prepared pan. There it is, all perfectly ordinary and homogeneous-ish.

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Shove that in your prepared oven (I used my convection toaster oven) and bake for 55-60 minutes, until the top is a golden brown around the edges and you can shove a toothpick in the centre and it comes out clean (LIKE IT WAS NEVER DIRTY! AMAZING!).

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Pop that on a wire rack to cool. You can serve this warm but it cuts best if it’s been chilled first, so I recommend that. Keep any leftovers (HA) in the fridge, covered up.

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Even without that fudgy layer, this thing was still ballin’.

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Avocado Chocolate Mousse

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The other thing I made while we were in Florida was this amazingly simple (and kinda sorta almost healthy?) dessert. It was truly one of the best things I’ve eaten in a while. Now, here’s a caveat: I made it again once we got home to Ottawa and it was NOT as good.

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The avocados up here just aren’t as sweet as they were down south. So make sure you’re making this with the sweetest, ripest avocados you can find.

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But before that, rustle up some chocolate. I have here 7oz dark chocolate. This stuff has a touch of sea salt in it. If you don’t use salty chocolate I’d recommend adding a pinch of the stuff to the recipe. Bust up that chocolate and melt it in a double boiler. Set it aside for a few minutes to cool a bit.

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Grab yourself 4 ripe avocados.

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Scoop ’em out of the skin and plop them in a food processor. I had to use the baby food processor because that was all I had so I did everything in batches. If you have a normal-sized one then you can do everything in the one container. Tip in a couple tablespoons honey, to your taste. This was lavender flavoured honey and it was quite good.

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Add in as well a teaspoon or two of vanilla, just for flavour (people who think that chocolate and vanilla are binaries and can’t go together are crazypants). BLEND THE CRAPOLA OUT OF IT until you have green smooth lovely goodness.

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Now if you have a regular sized food processor, you can pour the melted chocolate into the avocados and blend, blend, blend. I only had a weenie baby food processor and I ran out of room.

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So here I am folding and whisking all that green and brown amazingness together. NBD.

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If you’re feeling fancy, before you serve the stuff, you can chill it and then whip it with a hand mixer to make it fluffy and moussey. And pipe it into cold pudding dishes.

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That missing spoonful was my uncle doing some Quality Control.

If you’re me you’ll dump giant spoons of it into room temperature dishes, top with whatever berries were in the fridge, and chill until dessert. You can see that my wee baby food processor didn’t do a super amazing job of making the pudding really smooth, but you can do better, right?

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This recipe serves four GENEROUSLY. Like, if you really like rich pudding you’ll eat your serving and love every second of it but kind of want to die afterwards. So maybe make it for six? Also keep in mind that this is best served the same day – we found that the next day the avocado flavour came through too strongly, but that was with the less-sweet avocados so what do I know?

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Salted Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread

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Banana bread freezes really well, and so it’s a great thing to make in advance for something like my upcoming shindig. Because it’s a fancy shindig, I wanted to make it with a bit of a twist on my traditional recipe. And while I’m on the bourbon caramel theme this week, I figured I might as well make me some fancy banana bread! I used my original recipe (see link above), but instead of using very ripe (pre-frozen) bananas I used yellow ones, because I wanted a few chunks in my banana bread. And of course I made up a bourbon caramel sauce, which I borrowed from the Minimalist Baker. So first we’ll make up the sauce, and then we’ll re-make our old classic banana bread.

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This caramel sauce! I’m definitely of the Keep It Simple, Stupid school of thought, so I love the 4-ingredient easiness of this recipe. And now I want to drink the stuff. It’s amazing. I doubled the original recipe because I anticipated loving it and wanting to drink it, but it makes a decent amount for a generous swirl of caramel throughout the banana bread (if you leave like half a cup leftover for yourself to eat with a spoon).

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 19Start with 2 cups granulated sugar and plop that in a medium saucepan together with 1/2 cup water (in this 4-ingredient recipe, water does not count as an ingredient. It evaporates so technically it doesn’t exist!). Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 1

Heat that on medium high for about 15-20 minutes. Don’t stir: just swirl the pot occasionally.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 5You’ll get bored, but you can’t leave. So enjoy a glass of bourbon while you’re waiting. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 4

The sugar will begin to boil, and then, as the water evaporates, the bubbles will get smaller and smaller.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 12Eventually the mixture will turn a lovely amber colour and will only be kind of fizzy. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 13

At this point, remove it from the heat (turn off the burner) and, whisking the whole time, drizzle in 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream. Don’t freak out as it fizzes and foams up around you. Just keep whisking. I usually sing a song to a volcano god while I do this. I always feel like I’m summoning a creature from the depths when I do science-y things like make caramel.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 14When you’ve got the cream all whisked in and the whole thing has calmed down, put the pot back on the still-warm burner and tip in 2 tablespoons bourbon (I used Maker’s Mark). This time it will only fizz a little bit. Add in as well a few pinches of salt – I used fleur de sel. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 15

Pour into a heat-safe container and let cool before storing in the fridge. If you want to use this for other things then just warm it up a bit and then it will become pour-able again. I kind of like the finger-scoop-y texture of it when it’s cold though.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 17I’m having a hard time giving up even a little bit of this for banana bread. But I gotta do what I gotta do. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 18

So. Let’s do some banana bread. Preheat your oven to 350°F and line two loaf pans with parchment paper.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 25Grab 5 bananas. You can use overripe or frozen bananas but this time I decided to use ones with a bit more substance to them – of course I waited too long to do the recipe and they’re a little spotty but whatever. Nobody ever said I was the proactive blogger. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 22

Mush, mush, mush ’em into a small bowl together with 1 tablespoon baking soda that has been “dissolved” in 3 tablespoons hot water. Put that bowl to one side for a minute.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 23Grab another, medium bowl and plop in 1 cup room temperature butter. Beat that silly with 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar until you get a serious case of the fluffy butters. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 24

Then crack in 2 eggs and beat that until it’s a coagulated mess. Mmmm … Line this bowl up with the banana bowl and leave those for a few minutes.

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In ANOTHER bowl (this time a decent-sized one), sift together 3 cups all-purpose flour and 2 teaspoons baking powder.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 29Now we put it all together. Beat the banana mixture into the egg mixture and then tip it into the flour mixture. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 31

Fold the flour mixture into the banana mixture until it’s all combined.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 33NOW, glop a bunch of your caramel sauce into the batter and kind of swirl it through gently. Don’t let it get too mixed in – you want streaks. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 34

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 35Tip the batter between the two loaf pans and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the loaves are cooked through and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 36

Use the parchment paper to lift the loaves out of the pans and let them cool completely on a cooling rack.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 39Freeze or cut and serve with butter. MMMMMMM!

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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.

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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.

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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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Chewy Caramel Brownies

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Some day, I intend to do this recipe right, the way that Smitten Kitchen actually did it, with DIY caramel and unsweetened chocolate.  But this is not that day.

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I had a bag of caramels I’d purchased with the intention to do something else, and I felt obligated to use them.  Plus I doubled the recipe and thus ran out of  unsweetened chocolate.  So basically this recipe is all wrong.  But it’s still edible (read: extremely tasty) so whatever.

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First you’re going to need to unwrap and cut your caramels.  Start with about 10oz wrapped caramel candies.

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Unwrap them and cut them in half.

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When you double the recipe there are a million to do.

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But finally they were finished.  I recommend keeping this bowl cold because the caramels like to stick together otherwise. I discovered this by accident. There was swearing involved in solving this issue.

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Now you can preheat your oven to 350°F and butter an 8″ x 8″ baking dish.  Line it with parchment paper and butter that again.

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Take 3oz unsweetened chocolate and roughly chop that up.

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Because I doubled the recipe I ran out of unsweetened chocolate, so I chucked in this Cadbury hazelnut bar as well.

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Throw your chocolate into a heatproof bowl with 1/2 cup butter.

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Set the heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water and melt it until it’s almost all melted away.

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When you just have little bits left solid, remove it from the heat and stir it until it’s smooth.

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Whisk in 1 cup granulated sugar.  Then whisk in 2 eggs, one at a time.

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Sprinkle 1/8 teaspoon sea salt over top and stir that in, too.

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Then slowly stir in 2/3 cup flour.

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Finally, add in MOST of your caramels (like 4/5 of them).

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Spread your batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the remaining caramels on top.

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Bake that for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  In the meantime, feel free to lick the spoon.  I won’t tell your mother.  Just don’t tell my mother.  She’s always paranoid about salmonella.

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When your brownie is cooked, put it on a wire rack to cool completely.  Mine didn’t look anything like Smitten’s, alas.

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When it’s completely cool you can cut it into bits.  It’s easier if you wait until the caramel isn’t running around everywhere.

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Seal whatever you don’t eat in an airtight container.  Who am I kidding?  You’ll eat them all.

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Big Beauty Box

Happy New Year!

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For Christmas, Teedz requested a repeat of the Beauty and the Beets package she received last year, namely, another couple jars of those luxurious shower scrubs.  So in addition to some more coffee sugar scrub and salty citrus scrub, I made a big beauty box with more aids to relaxation in it: bubble bath, bath tea, and a crowning achievement, homemade LOTION.  I’m not even kidding.  My major regret was that while every woman in my family got a jar of the luscious stuff, there wasn’t enough left over for ME.  I guess I’ll have to make some more.  Let’s begin, shall we?

Rose-Lavender Bubble Bath

We’ll start with the easiest one and get trickier, okay?

For a bubble bath, you need to start with a soap base.  You can use unscented dishwashing liquid, which is super cheap, but I like castile soap because it’s so cool and old-fashioned.  I bought a rose-scented one to use as my base.  Then you need some glycerine for slipperiness and good bubble staying-power.  I picked this vegetable glycerine up at a health food store in the beauty section, but you can also find it in the first aid aisle of your local pharmacy.  To get the lavender part of the rose-lavender scent, I also got some lavender essential oil and some dried lavender, both from the health food store.  And of course you need a container for mixing.

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Pour 1 cup castile soap and 2/3 cup glycerine into your container (I doubled this recipe because it was going to two people).

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Give those a stir, because they won’t automatically mix.

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Next, add a few drops of essential oil and stir again.

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For visual variety, add a few teaspoons dried lavender to the mix.

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Give that a stir and let it sit for a few days.  The lavender pieces will start to break down in the liquid, infusing it with more lavendery goodness.

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I decanted the resulting emulsion (you will have to shake it up a bit before using) into two glass bottles.  This is them sitting next to the new batch of salt and sugar shower scrubs.

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Bath Teas / Foot Soaks 

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These little sachets of salt are great for their versatility.  You can toss them in the tub, hang them from the faucet while it’s filling, or plop them in a little foot bath for whenever you have a few extra minutes to relax.  The epsom salts are a good healing soak for new mothers and the oatmeal and sea salt make for a skin-smoothing experience.

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I made two different flavours of these.  In the first, I started with a base of 3 cups epsom salts and 1 cup coarse sea salt.  Then a few drops lavender essential oil.

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To that I added 1 cup dried chamomile flowers and 3/4 cup dried lavender flowers.

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All stirred up!

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To the other one I started with the same 3:1 ratio of epsom salts to sea salt.

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Then I added in 3/4 cup dried peppermint leaves and 2 cups ground oatmeal.

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(To make the oat stuff simply chuck some rolled oats — not instant — into a food processor and give it a good whaz.)

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All stirred up too!

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Then I set up an assembly line.  I used some organza we’d rejected from our screen printing exercises, some hemp twine, and an old plastic easter egg as my container-holder.

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I scooped 3-4 tablespoons of the salt mixture into each little pouch and tied it tightly with the string, making a loop so that it can be hung from the faucet.  I used green twine for the peppermint ones and blue for the lavender.

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Luxury Lotion 

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This is probably one of the greatest things I’ve made.  I played around a bit with the original recipe from Girls’ Guide to Guns and Butter and came up with two separate flavours.  With the ratios I used, the resulting lotion is thick and creamy.  It will leave a bit of grease on your hands that absorbs relatively quickly, and the best part about it is that it doesn’t wash off very easily, which, during cold season when you’re washing your hands constantly, is a very good thing.  Anyway, I suggest you give the above post a bit of a read, just to understand the science of the whole thing a bit more.  I’m just going to plunge right in.

The below proportions make about three cups of lotion each, which makes them ideal sizes to give away as gifts.  If you’d like to be selfish and just make some for yourself, then adjust the amounts accordingly.

Rose Water Lotion:

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For this one I cut up a bunch of beeswax.  This is the emulsion that holds everything together.  You’ll need about 4 tablespoons beeswax.

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Plop the beeswax in a double boiler or a microwave-safe container (you can do it either way) and start adding in your other liquids.  Here I’m adding about 2 squirts of vegetable glycerine.  This is what makes the lotion all slippery-feeling.  Don’t add too much or it will be too slippery.

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Scoop out 3 tablespoons shea butter, which I didn’t realize was powdered until it got EVERYWHERE.

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Then 12 tablespoons (3/4 cup) sweet almond oil and 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) avocado oil.

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And then 3 squirts of vitamin E oil.  Not only is this good for damaged skin but it will also extend the shelf life of your lotion.

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Melt the beeswax/oil mixture in your microwave or double boiler until there is nothing solid left in it and it’s all mixed together.  Pour it into a tall narrow container (like a wide-mouthed mason jar) that will fit an immersion blender and leave it to cool for a bit.

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Basically, lotion is an emulsion of oil and water, and the beeswax is what freezes it into its emulsified state.  So now we need water for this to work.  For this first one I used 1 1/2 cups rose water (you can get this at the grocery store) and 1/2 cup filtered water (if you’re on a chlorinated city water system you’ll want to use filtered or distilled water).  The water and the oil have to be the same temperature in order to mix properly, so what I did was heat up the water to the same temperature as the cooling oil, which was about 130°F.  It just meant that I didn’t have to wait as long for everything to cool properly.  I’m not a patient person.

Now you stick your immersion blender in the oil mix and start whizzing it up until it gets light and foamy.  It will fly everywhere, which is why you should use something narrow to mix it in like a jar.  I used a bowl and things got messy.  I’ll show you a picture in a minute.  Anyway.  As you’re mixing, ever so slowly trickle in water and get it mixed in, a little bit at a time.  If you put them in at the same temperature, you can get all the water mixed in perfectly, though towards the end you’ll have to mix a bit harder to get it all combined.  I wish I had more pictures of this part to show you how cool it is, but I only have so many hands.

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It will look like rich, thick icing.  It looked so much like icing, in fact, that my mother walked past it and though that’s what it was.  So she stuck her finger in it and tasted it.  BAD IDEA.  Apparently it tastes awful.  So resist the urge to eat it.

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This is the still-warm lotion spread on my hand, so you can see the texture.

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Plop it into little jars for storage, or leave it in the jar in which you mixed it, if you’re that clever.

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But here is a dobble of the stuff after it’s cooled, and you can see how thick and rich it is.

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Orange Whip Lotion:

Here’s the mess I left after the second mixing session.  There’s lotion and oil everywhere.

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I didn’t take pictures of the mixing process for the second batch, but I’ll give you the ingredients here and you can go to town.  Just remember that the water and the oil have to be the same temperature (not exactly, but close) in order for the whole science thing to work.

In a heat-proof container, mix together and melt 4 tablespoons chopped beeswax, 2 squirts vegetable glycerine, 3 tablespoons shea butter, 8 tablespoons coconut oil, 4 tablespoons avocado oil, 4 tablespoons sweet almond oil, and 3 squirts vitamin E oil.

Add 8 drops sweet orange essential oil to 2 cups hot distilled or filtered water and drizzle into hot oil mix, blending to emulsify.

Store your lotion in a cool place, maybe in the fridge to be on the safe side.  I’m not sure how long this stuff lasts, with the antibacterial beeswax and vitamin E in it, but you’ll probably use it all right away because it’s awesome, anyway.

It’s relatively easy to clean up, as long as you wipe out your oily-waxy containers with paper towel before washing them in soapy water.

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Sponge Toffee

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I’ve discovered recently that there is no ambivalence regarding sponge toffee*.  Either you love it or you hate it.  There’s no in-between.  Well, I love it.  And so does Mags.  So I decided to include it in my holiday candy-making endeavours.

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While it’s a little terrifying to make (as is anything involving melted sugar), it’s actually pretty quick and easy to do (though you should read about Joy the Baker’s emotional journey through candy making, for a laugh).  Just make sure everything is just so and ready to go before you start.

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First, line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray it with cooking spray.  Put that near your sink.

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Then, grab a whisk and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda and put that next to your sink as well, but closer than the baking sheet.  Squash the baking soda around to make sure there are no lumps.

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Fill your sink with a couple inches of cold water.

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Plop a large, thick-bottomed pot on your stove.  Stir in 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar, 1/2 cup light corn syrup, 6 tablespoons water, 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar, and 1 teaspoon cider vinegar. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pot and heat that on medium until it starts to boil.  You don’t really need to stir it, but I like to give it a whirl every once in a while, to feel like I’m doing something.  You want the foamy stuff to reach 300°F.  I found that mine kind of stopped when it hit 225°F, so I slowly increased the heat and kept an eye on it.

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When the temperature of your sugar reaches 300°F, take the pot off the heat and gently place it in your sink full of cold water.  The pot will likely yell.  You will likely yell as your pot makes weird noises.

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Add the baking soda and start whisking like crazy.  SCIENCE WILL HAPPEN.  IT MAY BE SLIGHTLY TERRIFYING.  Keep whisking like a maniac.

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When the mixture turns slightly golden, quickly spread the stuff into your baking sheet. It’s going to set before it spreads too far, don’t fret.

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I didn’t work fast enough, so there was a lot of sugar that set in my pot, but that goes away with good soak in hot water.

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The candy will cool and set within 20 minutes.

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Break that stuff up into smaller pieces that you won’t feel terrible eating many of and plop them on some waxed paper.

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Here are some wee pieces I deemed too small to do anything with.

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Grab some chocolate (your choice as to the amount and type) and plop it in a double boiler to melt.

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Drizzle over the pieces (or dip them in the chocolate, I don’t care) and sprinkle with sea salt.  Allow the chocolate to harden, and then go to town eating them.

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Or exercise self-restraint and give them away.  It is your choice to make.

*AKA sea foam, honeycomb candy, Crunchie, hokey pokey, etc.