Happy Windfall Handpies

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There’s this tree in the green space where I walk with Gren and LongJohn in the mornings. It’s a beautiful old apple tree. I know it’s old because the apples on it are tiny and REALLY sour. But that doesn’t stop people from picking them – no sir. All the apples within a reasonable reach have been removed, so I scoured through the windfall after a recent storm and brought home about 15 or so more or less unscarred apples (because as you know I can’t resist stealing fruit from public places). I wanted to make turnovers, or handpies.

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Holy Hannah are strollers ever handy for carrying crap. And babies, I suppose.

This is the first bit of baking I’ve done while solo in the house with an active and demanding baby on my hands, so it was a challenge to test both my rusty cooking skills and my son’s patience threshold. All in all, it worked out for the most part. I also cheated and used puff pastry but can you really blame me?

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We didn’t cut the lawn for a long time and the long grass killed our mower. So now we REALLY need to cut the grass.

First, you need to peel the apples. I used about 15 of these tiny sour things but if you’re using regular apples maybe 3 large apples would suffice. Actually, before you peel the apples, you need to install the baby in his swing chair with Raffi for company. This will buy you about fifteen minutes.

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It takes a while to peel 15 tiny misshapen apples.

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Avoid the wormy ones.

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Chop the apples up roughly and sprinkle the pieces with lemon juice, both to keep them from going brown and to add some tartness to the mix (not that you really need tartness with sour apples). Wrap them up and set them aside.

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Next, whisk together 3 tablespoons cornstarch with 1/2 cup water.

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Tip your apple pieces into a pan with some liberal dashes of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and some sugar. Use about 2 teaspoons sugar for each regular apple – for the sour ones I went a bit more generous and added about 6 tablespoons for the whole lot.

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Re-install your baby in a new location with new focal points. You’ve got another fifteen minutes or so.

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Cook the apples on medium heat until they’re bubbly and the liquid is starting to cook down.

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Tip in the cornstarch mixture (you may need to re-whisk it because it’s not a solution and the cornstarch will likely be sticking firmly to the bottom of your dish).

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Stir quickly in and watch the juices thicken.

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Remove from the heat and spread in a thin layer on a plate to cool. Attempt to put your baby down for his nap.

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After failing to put your baby down for his nap (strange how a logical argument does not work on a three-month-old), grab some thawed puff pastry (this stuff comes in a box with two rolled out squares in it) and use a rolling pin to gently expand the sheet. You want the pastry a little thinner than it comes standard.

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Cut the square into 9 equal(ish) pieces.

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Place a dollop of the cooled apple goo on each square.

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Mmm, cooled goo …

Carefully peel the pastry off the paper and fold it over itself to form a triangle. Pinch the seams closed.

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Puff pastry objects to being handled so roughly so they look a little demented.

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Give your baby a different toy to punch. Encourage him to yell obscenities at the toy (I don’t speak baby so that’s what I’m assuming he’s doing) to buy yourself some more time.

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On the second sheet, I didn’t roll the pastry out as much, and it was easier to remove it from the paper. They looked less demented.

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Crack and beat an egg and brush each of the pastries with a bit of egg goo. Set them on a sheet of parchment on a baking sheet.

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Bake your pastries for about 20-25 minutes at 375°F and eat them as soon as they’re cool enough to hold in your hand. The demented ones stayed together better than the non-demented ones – just keep that in mind.

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Non-demented …
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Demented …

Enjoy!

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Momofuku’s Banana Cream Pie, only slightly butchered.

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I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix since LongJohn was born – it helps to pass the time while being forced to stay perfectly stationary for long periods of time. I figured going into this that I’d try to stick with documentaries – that way I could educate myself and if I was interrupted (which I often am) then I wouldn’t miss too much plot if they played in the background while I did something else. And so I’ve been watching a ton of cooking documentaries, and I just finished plowing through The Mind of a Chef. In the first season, the focus is largely on David Chang, owner of Momofuku in New York. One of the segments features his pastry chef, who whips up a banana cream pie like it was nothing.

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It looked so easy I figured I could do it even with LongJohn around. And then I had to think about that for a minute. This recipe involves making a custard, and uses four different kitchen appliances, some of them more than once. It really isn’t THAT easy, but it’s easy for me NOW to do. Talk to me five years ago and I would never have attempted this, or I would have addressed it as a challenge. It’s weird how much this blog has made me grow as someone who cooks things. But on to the pie, which is semi-easy if you’ve made things in the kitchen before. I set up a mis en place because I knew LongJohn could interrupt me at any time.

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I also took my butter and, because my microwave is all the way in the basement, I set it outside on my back porch in the sun to melt. I’m that lazy.

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Plus it was like 33°C, which is more than warm enough to melt butter.

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You like my squinty face?

And so it did.

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The recipe I used printed everything in weights (ounces and grams) so I’m going to use ounces here – my apologies. Get your kitchen scale ready. Start with 8 oz very ripe bananas (this is like two). These are the black ones that you chuck in your freezer. Pitch those into a blender together with 2 3/4 oz whipping cream, and 2 1/4 oz milk and blend the crap out of them until they’re lovely and smooth.

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Next, tip in 3 1/2 oz sugar, 1 oz cornflour (I’ve come to realize that this is a Britishism for cornstarch, not masa harina, which I used – butchery #1), a pinch of salt, and 3 large egg yolks. Blend that again, scraping down the sides of the blender, until the colour is uniform.

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Pour that stuff into a medium saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, whisking often, until the mixture thickens. Clean your blender while this is going on.

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The recipe says to bring it to a boil but mine never did. Eventually it will be a very heavy paste that holds its shape. Pour the thick stuff back into the blender.

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Grab 2 leaves gelatin or 1 pouch gelatin (I thought a leaf equaled a pouch and used two pouches – butchery #2) and follow the instructions to make it “bloom”. When it’s ready, chuck it in the blender along with 1 1/2 oz butter and blend until smooth (again).

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Next, drop in 1/2 teaspoon yellow food colouring (otherwise your pie will be brown not  yellow) and blend again until the pie is artificially crazy yellow (it will get lighter later, I promise).

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Pour the yellow goo into a container and chill it for 30-60 minutes.

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While that’s happening, make the chocolate crumb for your crust (I actually did this first, because it made more sense to me). Preheat your oven to 300°F and stir together 3 1/2 oz plain flour, 1 teaspoon cornflour (again, cornstarch), 3 1/2 oz sugar, 2 oz cocoa powder, and 1 teaspoon salt.

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Tip in 3 oz melted butter (yay, the sun!) and beat until small clusters form.

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Spread the clusters on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. The clusters should be still moist but will dry out as they cool. In order for this to happen they have to be a bit bigger than what you see in the picture, because these will burn (so either cook them for less time or make them bigger – butchery #3). Apparently this makes more than you need for a 10″ pie so you will only use 3/4 of it but I didn’t want to waste it or store it so I used it all in my 9″ pie plate and it was totally fine.

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Once the clusters have cooled, chuck them into a food processor and pulse until they turn sandy and there are no chunks left.

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Tip these granules into a bowl and toss with 2 teaspoons sugar and 1 tablespoon melted butter.

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Work that with your hands until the stuff is moist enough to knead into a ball (I did not do this because my poor carpal tunnel hands are killing me). Press that into the pan. I did it with just the crumbs and it was fine (butchery #4).

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Don’t forget to press it firmly into all the corners of the pan – you don’t want it to be too thick there.

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Now for the rest of the banana cream. Whisk 6 1/2 oz whipping cream and 5 3/4 oz icing sugar together until stiff peaks form (remember that it helps to chill your beater and the bowl beforehand).

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Tip in your cooled yellow goo and mix, mix, mix.

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See? I told you it would get paler.

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Tip half the goo into your pie shell. Cut up another, less ripe banana (I used two because they were kind of weenie) and spread that around on the surface. You can get fancy with the layout but nobody’s going to see it.

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Add the rest of the goo and smooth it out. Make sure none of the banana pieces are sticking out because they will oxidize and turn brown.

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Chill the pie for a little while then serve and eat within a day or two. Enjoy!

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Half-Baked Turtle Brownie Cheesecake

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While I was waiting for the kid to show up I was getting pretty bored and pretty desperate, but I didn’t have a lot of energy. One of my former colleagues recommended cheesecake as a way to start labour and I figured, why not? I had nothing to do, and an easy cheesecake recipe would be doable given my lack of energy. This one from Sprinkle Some Sugar seemed to fit the bill. It involves using store-bought brownie mix, fudge sauce, AND COOL WHIP, so it’s the ultimate in cheater recipes for me. And given that the day I baked it the temperatures skyrocketed again for a roller coaster June, I was happy to be able to chuck this in the fridge instead of hanging over a hot oven.

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The belly bump may have accidentally encountered some caramel during the making of this recipe.

The original recipe is a bit of a misnomer, as it states that there is no baking involved whatsoever with this recipe. That is a bold-faced lie – you gotta bake the brownie bottom. But it’s worth it.

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Find a round springform pan, about 8″ or 9″ (this one is 9″ I think), spray it with cooking spray, and whip up some brownie batter. You can use your favourite recipe but I used this boxed stuff (hey man, I was really pregnant at the time, gimme a break).

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I figured the salted caramel would add more panache to the finished product.

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Plus I love the ridiculous measurements of the wet ingredients. So simplistic!

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While this is baking, work on your caramel sauce (you can buy caramel sauce, of course, but this one is easy and a good way for caramel newbs to get started).

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In a small pot over medium-high heat, whisk together 1 cup granulated sugar and 1/4 cup water. Whisk and swirl the pot until the sugar is all dissolved, then keep swirling the pot (but no stirring or whisking!) frequently until the liquid turns a nice dark amber colour.

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When you get the colour you like, carefully pour in 3/4 cup heavy cream – watch out, because it will fizz up like crazy – and whisk that until smooth. Then tip in 3 tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla and stir until those are all melted away. Set the finished caramel sauce aside to thicken up and cool completely.

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Once the brownie bottom is ready and baked according to whatever instructions you have, remove the outer ring and let it cool completely as well and start working on your filling.

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In the bowl of a mixer, beat together 16oz softened plain cream cheese, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup brown sugar until smooth and creamy. I mean, it’s gonna be creamy anyway because it’s cream cheese but you get what I mean about the texture, right? Man I need more sleep …

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Stir in about 3/4 cup of that lovely caramel sauce you made (or squeeze it from the bottle you purchased you philistine) and add in as well 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg.

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Then I want you to do something totally foreign to me: grab 4oz Cool Whip and fold that in as well.

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Put the outer ring of your springform pan back on and smush all that Cool-Whipped creaminess into the pan.

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Give it some smoothing out so it *kind* of looks like you baked it, then chuck that in the fridge for 3-4 hours.

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Before serving, crush a bunch of pecans and spread them over top.

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Grab some fudge sauce (I bought it, don’t judge) and whatever’s left of your caramel.

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Pop off the outer ring and drizzle liberally with fudge and caramel. The fudge I bought didn’t drizzle, so I have fudge poops drizzled with caramel but you get the general intention here, at least. Keep the leftover cheesecake wrapped up in the fridge for up to a week. Enjoy!

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Cloud Cake

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I made this Martha Stewart recipe for one of our two Mother’s Day celebrations earlier this month, and it was easy to prepare all the pieces the day before and then assemble it with a flourish on the day of. The original recipe is not gluten-free but we had Fussellette staying with us and made one simple adjustment to make it that way – you can do it whichever way you would like.

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Start with the meringue: preheat your oven to 275°F and grab three 8″ round cake pans. I happened to have 2 8″ round cake pans and one 9″, so that’s what I used.

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Butter the pans and then line the bottom and sides with parchment. This is easier said than done as the pans are round and parchment is straight. Get creative with the folding. It’ll just add to the allure of the finished product, I promise. Now butter the parchment as well to make sure it sticks.

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Crack open 6 large eggs and separate the whites from the yolks. Put the yolks in the fridge for now and leave the whites to come to room temperature.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together 1 1/2 cups sugar, 3 tablespoons cornstarch, and 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt until smooth and powdery and when you open the lid it kind of wafts out like smoke. Don’t inhale that. You will cough.

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Now grab your 6 egg whites and beat them with a pinch of cream of tartar until soft peaks form.

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Slowly, a little bit at a time, tip in the sugar mixture and keep beating until you get lovely stiff peaks.

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Smooth the meringue amid your three pans and bake for 1 hour.

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Then turn off the oven and wedge the oven door open with a wooden spoon for another hour. Then move the pans to a wire rack to cool completely. If you’re going to assemble the cake the next day, slip each layer of cooled meringue into a separate sealed bag and suck the air out of it.

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Next, let’s work on the custard cream. In a bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup sugar, 1/4 cup flour, and a pinch of coarse salt. We made a gluten-free version of the flour by combining coconut flour, xanthan gum, and corn starch.

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In a small saucepan, combine your leftover 6 egg yolks (original recipe calls for 3 but why waste them?) with 1 1/2 cups buttermilk and a split vanilla bean pod with the seeds scraped out. Stir that over medium heat and slowly add in the flour mixture.

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With ours, because of the nontraditional ingredients, I found the buttermilk reacted with either the cornstarch or the xanthan gum and I pretty much had instant custard. So I stirred it until I was sure the yolks had a chance to cook and then took it off the heat. If you’re using regular flour you may have to work harder at it, so stir until it just comes to a boil and then strain through a fine meshed sieve.

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Pour the custard cream into a bowl, lay a piece of plastic wrap over the surface so it’s completely sealed, and chuck it in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.

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Now there’s caramel to make too. In the original, Martha used the microwave but we moved ours into the basement and that was too far away. I did this in a small saucepan on the stove. First, spray a baking sheet with cooking spray or line it with parchment.

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Then over medium heat, stir together 1/3 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons corn syrup.

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Cook, stirring often, until the mixture is bubbling and turns a light brown.

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Remove that from the heat and drizzle it over the baking sheet.

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Leave that to cool then chop it up with a knife into little tiny jagged pieces. If you’re assembling the next day, shove the pieces into a resealable bag and squeeze the air out.

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To assemble, start by whipping up some heavy cream to your taste and amount (this is going on the top as garnish so use as much as you like – I think we whipped up about a cup of it). Cream whips better if your bowl and mixers are cold, so chuck them in the freezer for a while if you can.

Plop one of the meringues on a nice plate and smother it with about half the custard cream.

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Sprinkle that with about 1/3 of your caramel pieces.

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Let some fall off artistically to the side. It’s decorative.

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Plop another meringue on and smear with the rest of the custard cream and another 1/3 of the caramel bits. Add the final layer and top that with your whipped cream and the last of the caramel. Serve immediately!

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Slow Cooker Dip Trio – Dessert!

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Basically, it’s cream cheese glazing for cinnamon buns, in a slow cooker. This is definitely a fun dip to make for parties, and there’s plenty to go around. We also served cut up fruit and there was a ton of sauce still left at the end. If you have a large slow cooker, follow the instructions in the original recipe from Chelsea’s Messy Apron for making the fondue in a separate container within the slow cooker. If you have a wee one, you can just plop all the ingredients straight in (as we did) and go from there.

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Start by grabbing a bowl and using it and an electric mixer to beat together 1 8oz package plain cream cheese (room temperature) and 1/2 cup butter (also room temperature) until mixed and fluffy.

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Tip in 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract and beat that up too.

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Then slowly add in 2 cups icing sugar and beat it (carefully) until fully combined.

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Dump that whole thing in your slow cooker and leave it on low, stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

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When you’re ready to serve it, you probably want some cinnamon buns to go with it. If you don’t have any pastries handy, but want some, grab some of those rolls of pre-fab biscuits.  The Pie did not know that the rolls kind of exploded when you opened them, and even though I warned him in advance he was still startled by it, so exercise caution. Preheat your oven to 400°F and spray a muffin tin or two with cooking spray.

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Grab one of the biscuits from the tube and flatten it into an oval.

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Dip it first in melted butter, then in a mixture of cinnamon and granulated sugar.

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Plop.

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Roll the oval into a tube.

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Then roll the tube into a spiral. Give it a squeeze in the hopes that it will stay together.

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Plop the spiral into your muffin tin. For the record, the Pie made all the ugly ones.

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Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the rolls are golden and no longer gooey.

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Serve them hot with your fondue and a couple forks.

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And some napkins!

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Brazilian Lemonade

It’s not summer yet, but you’ll be glad to have this in your arsenal when those long hot days finally roll around. The Minion and I discovered this amazing beverage while we were tooling around Salt Lake City and ended up having dinner at a Brazilian grill. The funniest part about it is that it contains no lemons whatsoever. But that is what it’s called.

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The traditional method follows the rule of threes: 3 limes, 3 cups water, 3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk, and 3 tablespoons sugar, but you can play with it as much as you like to come up with something that suits. I like it with a hint of mint added, myself.

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Take your 3 limes, washed and scrubbed, and slice off the stem and leaf bits at the top and bottom, then quarter them. If you have a really good blender, traditionalists will chuck the limes in whole, but my blender is not that great, so I quarter them. I found wedges were better than cutting rings, as the rings tended to get stuck around the blade at the bottom.

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Fill your blender with 3 cups water and chuck those limes in.

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Next, add in 3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk and 3 tablespoons granulated sugar. I thought at first I could leave out the sugar but it’s necessary. The milk is just not sweet enough. Feel free to use any sugar substitute you like, of course.

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Now this looks way less appetizing, I’m sure. If you want to add some mint, tip in some fresh leaves at this point.

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Blend for about thirty seconds, until you have this frothy goodness.

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Strain out all the solids and compost those. Your compost bin will smell amazing.

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What you’re left with is a pale green milky liquid and a bit of froth.

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Serve over a glassful of ice and enjoy how refreshing it is.

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Want a dairy-free version? Not a problem. Tip a can of coconut milk into the blender and top it up with water to equal three cups. You will need to double the sugar to six tablespoons to compensate. The result is a slightly creamier version, and I can’t decide which I like more.

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In terms of longevity, this beverage is meant to be served immediately (possibly with some white rum mixed in), but I couldn’t drink both batches by myself that quickly so I tossed them in the fridge. The one of the left is the one I made with coconut milk, and you can see that over time it separates quite a bit. That said, a quick stir and it’s back to emulsified goodness, with no alteration in flavour.

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Berry White Chocolate Scones

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Every once in a while, I get a craving for scones, and they’re so easy to whip up that there’s really no point in NOT making them. I like to use this base recipe from Canadian Living for versions where I’m adding in buttermilk, and then I just kind of wing it from there. Today we’re adding white chocolate chunks and some frozen service berries.

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Preheat your oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Grab your chocolate and roughly chop up a few ounces. Here I used 6 ounces white chocolate.

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In a bowl, dump about 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Give that a good stir.

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Cube up 1/2 cup cold butter and tip that in as well. Use a pastry blender or two knives to cut the butter up into coarse crumbs.

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Now tip in 1 cup frozen berries. If you’re using big berries I recommend a rough chop first. You can add in your chocolate chunks too at this point.

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Give them a stir until everything is coated in flour.

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Whisk together 1 cup buttermilk and 1 large egg.

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Tip that into the mix and stir until just combined.

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It will be sticky and gross.

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Form it into a rough ball and tip it out onto a floured surface.

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Dust your hands with flour and pat the dough into a flattened cylinder that is about 1-1 1/2 inches thick.

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Slice that sucker into as many pieces as you want. Twelve is always a good number.

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Line ’em up on your baking sheet – if they’re sticky then flour the parchment as well.

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Bake for about 18-20 minutes, until the scones are dry to the touch and slightly browned. If you are using extra frozen fruit, you may want to add a few extra minutes to the baking time.

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Serve immediately for breakfast, lunch, or dessert – or just a snack!

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