Slapdash Souvlaki

May was an INTENSE month here at the Ali Does It household. LongJohn went to daycare a month earlier than scheduled and I had a whole four weeks to get all the stuff done on the house I hadn’t had an opportunity to do when we moved in … because of the whole having-a-baby thing. Some of those projects are still in progress but I have SO MUCH to show you when they’re ready to be shown. If May was intense, then June is even more so. I went back to work full time AT A NEW JOB. And on my first day, I had HAND surgery. Today I’m having hand surgery on the OTHER hand. So things are a little nuts, to say the least. Luckily I have a bit of a backlog of posts for you guys. Let’s start with this one for the barbecue, now that we’re officially into grilling season.

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The Pie is a huge fan of souvlaki. We’re fortunate that some of the best souvlaki in town is only a short drive away. But it’s actually pretty easy to make your own souvlaki at home, provided you have some time to prep. Here’s how you can do it.

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First, let’s start with that most essential of condiments: tzatziki. You can always buy this but it’s easy to make as well. I rarely measure my amounts because I find they vary depending on my mood but here’s an approximation for you. Start off by grabbing about 1/2 cup plain yogurt and plopping it in a few layers of cheesecloth in a colander. Wrap it well and put something with a bit of weight on top. Place the colander over a bowl and shove it in the fridge for a few hours. I use Balkan style yogurt for this, but if you have Greek yogurt you can skip this step.

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After your yogurt has been pressed and some of the water has drained out, you can unwrap it and give the cheesecloth a bit of a rinse. You’re going to need it in a second.

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Grate up about half a cucumber. Plop the cucumber bits onto the cheesecloth, wrap it up, and give it a good squeeze over the sink and get rid of excess water.

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Now, tip that into a bowl together with the yogurt, some minced garlic, chopped fresh dill, salt, pepper, a few drops of lemon juice, and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Stir, stir, stir! Shove that back in the fridge for a few hours (preferably overnight) to let the flavours mingle.

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For the souvlaki we’re going to create a marinade. Start by finely chopping up a small red onion. I’m being smart here and using a large red onion because I’m making the recipe twice and chucking half of it in the freezer.

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Throw the onion bits in a large Ziploc freezer bag and tip in about 1/2 cup olive oil,

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2 tablespoons red wine vinegar,

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and 4 tablespoons lemon juice.

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Next plop in about 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 teaspoons dried (or fresh) oregano, and of course salt and pepper to taste.

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Wrangle yourself a decent-sized pork tenderloin (you can do this with chicken breast too). Don’t be tempted to use a pork shoulder or any other cut for this, as they’ll be too gristly when cubed. Trust me. I did it once when they were on sale and I regretted it. Pull the tough membrane off the tenderloin and trim any excess fat.

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Cut it into cubes.

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Chuck those cubes into your freezer bag.

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Seal the bag carefully, give it a good smushing together, and bung it in the fridge for several hours. While you’re waiting, grab some wooden skewers and plop them in a tray of water to soak for at least thirty minutes before you grill.

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When you’re set to start, shove the cubes of marinated meat onto your skewers (I like to use two skewers per so that they’re easier to flip) and grill until cooked through and at an internal temperature of about 145°F.

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Serve over rice with a hefty side of your fresh tzatziki and enjoy the summer!

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Creamsicle Pops

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These pictures are terrible. But the results are amazing, I promise. I have quite a bit leftover of that creamsicle pudding I made a few days ago. To be honest, I find it a little oversweet for my tastes at the moment. So I thought I’d tone it down a bit by swirling it with unsweetened cream in a frozen treat. I know that it’s January, but I’m trying to clean out my fridge before we move and I have a TON of whipping cream leftover from the holidays. And I have these super cute popsicle moulds that I haven’t had a chance to use yet.

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Now, if you didn’t know already, the best way to whip cream quickly is to start by chucking your bowl and whisk in the freezer for a while.

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Then it’s a simple matter to whip up that cream.

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Then I kind of alternated globs of pudding and cream in the moulds. I wasn’t too concerned about neat and tidy layers. I was more going for a swirl in any case.

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In fact I’m also terrible at measuring globs so some are bigger than others.

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But you do get a bit of colour contrast. Remember you can do this with juice and yogurt and other kinds of pudding and all sorts of fun stuff.

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Then I chucked them in the freezer. And when they were done they tasted amazing.

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I’m going to pull one out in the morning when the sun is up and add in a beautiful finished shot below, I promise. Stay tuned!

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Pretty Pomegranate Parfait

Merry Christmas!

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I remember as a kid on Christmas morning it took my parents a Herculean amount of effort to peel us away from the treats in our stockings and get us to eat a half-decent breakfast before our day of gorging ourselves on candy and chocolate. With the promise of that in store, plain cereal or toast just seemed too … BLAH to eat, and we ended up picking at our food and being cranky later on.

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This quick dish might tempt even your most stalwart refusers this morning. Pomegranates are in season now and they’re an amazing superfood, full of antioxidants, vitamin C, and a satisfying crunch. The whole thing is just yogurt, pomegranate seeds, and granola, but you can assemble it in seconds and it looks like a fancy treat.

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Grab a pretty glass (it is a special occasion after all) and scoop in a bit of granola, followed by some pomegranate seeds. Layer in a bit of yogurt and smooth it so it touches the sides and sort of “seals” in the layer.

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Repeat until you get all the way to the top, and garnish with a sprinkling of granola and pomegranate seeds (maybe a sprig of mint if you’ve got it handy).

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Scarf it down and have the energy to start your day!

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Deadly Mashed Potatoes

Last Friday was Mrs. Nice’s birthday, and so yesterday, once Mags and the Dutchman had returned from their honeymoon, we had a little lunch party to celebrate. I have tons of great recipes to show you from that lunch, but I’m going to start with the basics here. Now, you KNOW how to make mashed potatoes. And I KNOW that you know now to make mashed potatoes.

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Bu there are a million ways to add a little bit of extra WOW to your mashed potatoes. And here’s one of them. Once you’ve got your potatoes peeled (optional), cut, and boiled, start your mashing. Tip in a bit of milk and some plain yogurt (or cream cheese, or sour cream), and give it a whaz with the hand mixer to make them extra smooth.

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For presentation, smooth them into a large bowl and form a depression in the middle. Add a generous hunk of butter and a dash of pepper and let that butter melt absolutely everywhere. If you put it in the oven to keep warm at this point the butter will ooze all down the sides (best seen in a glass dish like this one) and everyone will be clamouring for seconds. I rarely end up with leftovers. Today was no exception.

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Apricot Oatmeal Loaf

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I’m always looking for new ways to put more fibre into my baking that don’t necessarily involve bran (I feel like that sentence alone puts me in the “grown-up” category.  And you know what’s good for you if you’re not getting enough fibre? APRICOTS. So I made an apricot loaf. And if you like apricots you can make one too.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and spray or butter a loaf pan in preparation. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar. I don’t even have a picture of it because it’s just a bowl of white (and because maybe I forgot). Sprinkle in 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon nutmeg for colour (and flavour).

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Because I forgot, you get a slightly more interesting picture of chopped apricots instead.

In a small bowl, scramble together 2 large eggs.

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Then tip in 1/2 cup melted butter, 1/2 cup plain yogurt (or fruity yogurt, maybe apricot yogurt, it’s up to you), 1/3-1/2 cup apricot jam, and 1/2 cup milk.

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Pour that wet stuff into the dry stuff and stir until combined. Then pour in 1 cup oats and 3/4 cup chopped dried apricots. Stir stir stir!

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Smooth that into your pan and then bake for about 1 hour, until a deep caramel brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let it mostly cool in the pan and tip it out onto a rack to cool completely.

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I’m really enjoying it toasted, with butter, for breakfast.

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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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Apple Streusel Muffins

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A couple weeks ago, in the beginning stages of November, I had a strong hankering for apple muffins. I was reading a book where one of the main characters kept making them and I just couldn’t resist the temptation anymore. I found this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction and the rest is really history.

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Let’s start with the streusel crumb topping, shall we? It’s what elevates these simple muffins into items of historic greatness. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a bowl, then dump in 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Give that a good stirring.

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Then add in 2/3 cup all-purpose flour and mix it up with a fork or your hands.

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You’re going to get a lovely crumbly mix. Set that aside for a minute.

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Now, preheat your oven to 425°F. I know that seems high, but don’t worry, we’ve got a plan. You might want to grease or butter a muffin tin while you’re at it. I also set 2 large eggs in a bowl of warm water to bring them to room temperature. Because I didn’t plan ahead.

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In the bowl of your mixer, cream 1/2 cup room temperature butter until all fluffy and amazing. Then add in 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup granulated sugar and beat that up again.

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Why yes – that granulated sugar IS pink. It’s a long story.

Then add in your 2 large eggs and beat until fully combined. Don’t forget to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

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Now add in 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 1/2 cup yogurt (any flavour). You can use sour cream if you have no yogurt. I had neither sour cream nor yogurt, so I used buttermilk. Well, I had no buttermilk either, so I used milk that I had soured with lemon juice.

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Now, peel and chop up 2 medium apples – you want about 1 1/2 cups diced apples for this. Can you peel your apple all in one piece? It’s one of my special skills.

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In another large bowl, whisk together 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour with 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. The original recipe also calls for a teaspoon of baking soda but I found I could really taste it in the muffin so I would leave it out.

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Add your wet ingredients to your dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

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Plop in your apples and 1/4 cup milk (any kind) and mix that up again.

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Scoop that glorious stuff into your prepared muffin tin, filling the whole cup.

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Sprinkle generously with the streusel topping and shove that in the oven. Bake for 5 minutes at 425°F, then reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for a further 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the centre muffin comes out clean.

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While the muffins were baking, I glanced out the window and the bright sunny day had suddenly become a blizzard.

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And then the sun came out again. Though the snow kept falling.

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Set the hot muffins on a wire rack to cool down and start on your glaze.

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Whisk together 1 cup icing sugar with 3 tablespoons heavy cream and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.

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Drizzle that insanity over your still warm muffins.

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Eat these glorious gems within a couple days, as they will tend to get soggy over time.

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