DIY All-Purpose Cleaner

I’m posting this here today because Wednesday’s post is a sticky one, and you’re probably going to need this by then. This is a quick way to make an effective all-purpose spray for a fraction of the cost of the ones you buy in the store. In my first mix I made the mistake of using lemon juice (a solid antibacterial agent), but the mixture curdled when I added the Castille soap and smelled terrible. So don’t do that.

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Leave the lemon juice out of the picture (though you’ll be able to see its curdling effect in my pictures below).

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Start with about 2 cups water. Add in 4 tablespoons Castille soap (this one is orange-flavoured, to go with my citrus theme).

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Now tip in about 40 drops essential oils. I used 10 tea tree, 10 lemongrass, and 20 sweet orange.

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Give it a good stirring and pour it into an empty spray bottle.

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Don’t forget to label it carefully and with style!

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Guacamole Hummus

Guacamole Hummus 9

I made this Martha Stewart dip for my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary party and it was a lovely and cool addition to the nibblies section. It’s also got all the best parts of guacamole and of hummus without the extra effort of the hummus and the non-storability of the guacamole as separate entities. I made quite a few Martha Stewart recipes for this party, as Ms. Martha sure knows how to throw a shindig. It goes well with tortilla chips or any flatbread and lasts a couple days wrapped up in the fridge.

Start by thoroughly washing a large bunch of cilantro. And by washing I mean fill your sink with a few inches of water, plop the bunch in, and swish the stalks around with more water pounding down on top.

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Because cilantro is filthy. This is the sink after I pulled it out, shook it off, and towel dried it. Chop the leaves off and shove them into the bowl of your food processor.

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Halve as well two to three ripe avocados (the original recipe called for only one but that didn’t seem like enough). Chuck those in the food processor as well.

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Then drain a 15oz can of chick peas and rinse them well. Pour those into the food processor too. I also added in one of my pucks of roasted garlic purée.

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Start the machine running and chopping all your dippy goodness up. While it’s going, drizzle in some olive oil and some water until it’s the smooth consistency that you like. A couple tablespoons of each should suffice. Tip in a tablespoon or two of fresh lemon juice too.

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Season it to taste with salt and pepper and serve with lemon wedges and all sorts of scoopable tortilla chips and flatbreads.

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Cardamom Orange Date Squares

Cardamom Orange Date Squares 25I know we’ve already done some truly decadent date squares at Ali Does It, but I wanted to do another one to emphasize how truly great dates are. They’re so underrated. And in date squares? My, my, my. Date squares always seem like some kind of old people food when you’re just looking at them, but then you bite into that crumbly, sticky, gooey-ness and you remember that they’re just pretty much amazeballs, regardless of how old you are. Cardamom Orange Date Squares 23

I was making these for that shindig business that’s coming along and I sent the Pie out to buy dates – I wanted the ones in a block, not the ones I would have to pit and chop up. Because I’m lazy. And the Pie, knowing my penchant for doubling and tripling every recipe, picked up the biggest block of dates he could find. IT’S A KILOGRAM. A whole kilogram of dates. So here’s what I came up with in order to deal with a KILOGRAM of dates.

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Start with your kilogram of dates. Unwrap them from the triple-wrapped wrapping craziness. I guess they’re pretty sticky if you let ’em.

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Then slice your block up a bit.

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Chuck that in a pot with 3 cups water. Bring that to a boil and then simmer it for like 10 minutes.

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It’s gonna be all squidgy and icky and gross. Take that off the heat and let it cool slightly. Zest and juice 2 oranges.

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Tip the juice, as well as 2 teaspoons ground cardamom and 4 teaspoons vanilla, into your date goo. Give it a stir.

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If you want, shove it in a food processor. I like my dates to be smooth but I’ll leave that up to you.

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And buzz it until it’s all super sludge.

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Now preheat the oven to 350°F and butter and line some baking dishes with parchment paper.

While that’s heating up, whisk together 3 cups flour, 3 cups oats, 2 cups brown sugar1 teaspoon baking powder, and that orange zest you have on hand.

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Cube up 2 cups room temperature butter and dump that in the flour. Mix it in with your hands until it’s all crumbly and you want to eat it.

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Scoop half that mixture into the bottoms of the dishes and press it down.

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Scoop the date mix into the dishes as well and smooth it over.

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Add the rest of the oat mixture to the top and press it down slightly.

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Shove those into the oven for 45 minutes, until everything is golden brown.

Cardamom Orange Date Squares 20Let those cool slightly in the dish, on a rack, and then lift them out to cool completely on the rack before cutting into eatable-sized squares. I won’t judge you on the size of said squares. Whatever works for you! Cardamom Orange Date Squares 24

Salted Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 41

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.

Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 27Bourbon Caramel Banana Bread 28

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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Quick Caramel Custard Croissant Bake

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 18This is yet another one of those I-bought-pastry-on-sale-and-the-Pie-bought-some-at-the-same-time-and-we-didn’t-eat-them-soon-enough-and-they-went-stale-so-what-can-I-do-with-them-rather-than-chucking-them-in-the-compost kind of situations. I’m sure you’re familiar with those. And I HATE throwing food away. I’m very proud of the fact that the Pie and I produce one box of recycling, half a small kitchen bag of garbage (mostly plastic and styrofoam), and two 1L bags of compost (this includes used tissues and meat bones) a week. My luxury is the paper newspaper, which I know I should give up, but I just can’t, and I can always find uses for old newspaper. But I digress. Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 5

Trav was over concocting the most recent SideBar and the Pie was stirring up some of our famous meatballs so I decided to take a moment to chuck some things together. I had 9 stale chocolatines that needed taking care of.

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 2So I buttered up a baking dish and crumbled them in. Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 7

Then I grabbed a small pot and filled it with 1 cup granulated sugar and 4 tablespoons water. I put that on medium high heat and resisted the very real urge to stir it.

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 4Eventually it started to bubble. Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 8

And then turned golden. You can swirl the pot around but avoid stirring.

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 10When it was this lovely caramel colour I removed it from the heat and tipped in, whisking all the while, 1 cup heavy cream and 2 tablespoons bourbon (you can use whisky too). Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 11

Don’t freak out when it fizzes up and you feel like it’s going to explode.

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 12Just keep whisking, and when it calms down you’ll have a lovely caramel. Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 13

Beat up 4 eggs.

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 3Then whisk those eggs slowly into your caramel and pour the whole thing over your crusty baked goods. Let that stand for 10 minutes and preheat your oven to 350°F. Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 14

Shove the dish in your oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the egg mix is solid (perhaps slightly less time than I did it as you can see it’s a little more than brown).

Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 17Serve immediately with whipped cream or ice cream or caramel sauce or chocolate sauce or custard … Caramel Chocolate Custard Bake 19

SideBar: Frosted Whisky Root Beer

Root Beer Cocktail 19This popped up on my Facebook feed recently and Trav and I decided it was interesting enough that we wanted to try it. That, and root beer is a favourite amongst our set. Root Beer Cocktail 15

First, grab yourself some oranges. You’ll need about four large juicy ones.

Root Beer Cocktail 2Juice those suckers until you get 1 cup fresh orange juice. Root Beer Cocktail 4

Next in the recipe is 1/2 teaspoon cherry bitters, which we didn’t have, so we improvised. I pitted about 5 fresh cherries and mushed them up with a fork. You can use any other kind of bitters you like. We think that it would have enhanced the flavour, but the cherries were a nice touch.

Root Beer Cocktail 7Then we chucked those things in a 1L bottle. Root Beer Cocktail 9

Add in 1 1/4 cup Canadian whiskey (we actually used Maker’s Mark, which is a bourbon, but Trav says it’s a better choice) and 1 cup water. Give it a decent shake and then shove it in the fridge for a couple hours.

Root Beer Cocktail 10When you’re ready to serve, grab some pint glasses, run them (inside and out) under cold water, and chuck them (gently) in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes. Grab yourself some of your favourite ice cold root beer. We were trying to find Harvey & Vern’s, because it’s local, but this was the stuff they had at the store. Root Beer Cocktail 11

Grab one of your frosted glasses and pour in 3oz of your orange juice/whiskey mix.

Root Beer Cocktail 12Top with root beer and serve immediately. It’s subtle, but it’s quite nice. Root Beer Cocktail 18

Gelatin Plastic

Gelatine Plastic 21This is the beginning stage of a pretty major undertaking I’m … undertaking. But it’s taking some time to get all my pieces in order so I thought I’d start with a bit of a teaser post for you. Did you know you can make plastic out of gelatin and water? I kid you not. And once you start playing around with all the different things you can do with it, it opens up the possibility for lots of super fun crafts, and it’s totally something you can do with kids. To start, you need some gelatin (I used powdered), some food colouring (optional, if you want your plastic tinted), something to cut your plastic with (I have a cookie cutter for big circles and a straw for little ones), and a smooth, relatively flexible, shallow plastic or silicone dish. Many people use the flexible lids to margarine containers and the like. Gelatine Plastic 1

For every little pouch of gelatin you use, you’ll need 3 tablespoons water.

Gelatine Plastic 3I used 4 pouches in my experiments so I needed 12 tablespoons water, or 3/4 cup water. I plopped that in a small saucepan with food colouring and turned it to low heat. Gelatine Plastic 4

Tip in your gelatin and stir it gently to dissolve all of it.

Gelatine Plastic 5Don’t feel the need to whisk it or start a stirring frenzy as this will cause your gelatin to foam and you won’t have a nice clear result. You’ll get a bit of foam at the edges but nothing serious. Gelatine Plastic 6

Once you have heated the gelatin water enough that all the gelatin is dissolved and the liquid is clear again, pour it into your little dishes (I used two 6″ x 8″ dishes) and smooth it out with a spatula so that all the surfaces are covered. Try to pop any bubbles you see, but a few are okay.

Gelatine Plastic 7Now leave that puppy alone for about 45 minutes. After that time you will have gelatin that is set but is still flexible. You can peel it out of your dish super easily, but do it slowly as it can tear. Gelatine Plastic 8

I used a cookie cutter to cut out large circles, and a shot glass to cut out smaller ones.

Gelatine Plastic 9Then I used a straw to cut out hanging holes from all my circles. Gelatine Plastic 10

The excess is weird and floopy.

Gelatine Plastic 14But cool to play with. It’s totally edible (but doesn’t taste that great) and you can chuck it in the compost. Gelatine Plastic 12

Then I set the circles to dry. I did a lot of trial and error with drying these things. There’s a school that wants you to set them on a paper towel, under another paper towel, sealed just under the lid of a tupperware container, but I didn’t have much luck with that, nor did a bunch of the people who have already done this project and posted it on the internet. In this picture you can see I set the circles on parchment paper to try, but of course paper wrinkles when wet.

Gelatine Plastic 11So I ended up with these wrinkled chip things when these were dry (which takes a couple days). Gelatine Plastic 17

I had also laid a second piece of parchment over top to help hold the drying circles down and prevent them from warping, but it only helped a little, and the paper’s surface got copied onto the circles, leaving a matte finish.

Gelatine Plastic 18I found when I left them on a smooth surface (in this case, plastic wrap taped to my counter) then they warped more but they were totally clear, and I preferred that. Gelatine Plastic 20

I also let some dry completely inside the dishes, and ended up with a big sheet of (still warped) plastic.

Gelatine Plastic 19You can cut this stuff easily with scissors. Gelatine Plastic 23

And it’s also compostable.

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It’s going to take me a while to get all the little circles made that I need but I have a due date of September so stay tuned!