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Compost Bars for the Little Ones

I volunteered to make a dozen of some sort of baked good for The Kid's christmas party at school tomorrow and he requested the compost bars. The only problem is that these have to appeal to kids from the age of 3 to 13 so I had to rethink them a tiny bit to make them more kid friendly. They also had to be nut free since you can't take anything with any nuts in them anywhere anymore. I took out all the nuts and seeds and subbed in milk chocolate to make them a bit sweeter. I also kept the salty toppings to a minimum and only used to some crushed up bugles although, potato chips would have worked well too but I saw the bag of bugles in the store and was instantly transported back to my childhood. I used to LOVE bugles and quite frankly, I didn't even know you could still buy them. I couldn't resist. I love the look of the whole kernels of caramel corn on there too. The toppings you can throw on these things are pretty endless but I thought I would share another version that worked really well.

EggNog Cookies

It was either drink that damned eggnog or cook with it and the last thing I need to do right now is drink a container of eggnog so I had no choice. I know that might sound weird because you would think eating a ton of cookies with eggnog in them is worse than drinking the stuff, but i rarely eat much of my own baking so it's kind of like putting it away in the back of the closet where I will forget about it.

Chocolate Truffle Cake with Chocolate Glaze

I recently wrote about a cookbook, Grace's Sweet Life , a book full of amazing Italian desserts, pastry and other sweets. I knew that this would be the first recipe I tried as soon as I took my first look at the book but I needed to wait until an occasion was upon us because I just don't make desserts like this for just the three of us. Last night, The Neighbour's had a big, holiday dinner party and I volunteered to make the desserts so, of course, I made Grace's Truffle Cake with Chocolate Glaze. It came together surprisingly easily although I skipped a couple of the steps that would have rendered a more refined end product because I didn't really need it to be perfect, just delicious.  Oh boy, was this thing delicious. It really did taste like a slice of chocolate truffle in a yummy chocolate cookie crust. I usually do a flourless chocolate cake when it's a cake night but this might become my new, go to show stopper.

Compost Cookie Meet Crunch Bar

It's time for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap again! I participated last year and not only was it fun to  bake a new kind of cookie and send them to other people, but I received three different kinds of cookies in the mail myself. I had actually not even considered the cookies I would be getting until the first batch of cookies arrived. The best part of a cookie swap was the one part I hadn't factored into the situation - THE SWAP ASPECT. It's always wonderful to get delicious cookies that someone else baked for you and there is something about getting a care package of treats in the mail that is still so exiting.

So, this year I wanted to make something different a bit from all of the traditional christmas cookies. To be honest, I would have loved to make my compost cookies because I am all about those babies but it has to be something you haven't featured on your blog before so they were out. Because I made some oatmeal bars last week, I had bars on the brain. My friend, Dianne, is the bar queen and I was going to steal her recipe for dulce de leche bars when my new Bon Appetit came in the mail and, lo and behold, Dori Greenspan had a bunch of cookie recipes featured. I opened it up and as fate would have it, the magazine opened to the page with the recipe for these crunch bars. 


Tandoori Salmon Cakes

We are still Shackless as it seems like his movie is never going to end and he is never coming home from Montreal. The only thing we can do to stop ourselves from crying ourselves to sleep every night is to continue to dine on the creatures of the sea. It is our cross to bear.

sticky salmon and braised red cabbage

Shack has left to work in Montreal for a week or so and do you know what that means? Oh sure, it means we  miss him and we both fall asleep on pillows wet with fresh tears.

Chocolate Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookie Bars

Christmas season is upon us and, as always, I have a couple of cookie exchanges coming up and  have been combing the internet for inspiration so I can make something shiny and new. I also wanted to enter the cookie contest over at Manitoba Canola Growers but the deadline is today at 4pm so that put me on a bit of a deadline. I tend to procrastinate until it's almost too late and then I fly into action - I enjoy working under pressure. I have been told that all that stress will burn away the pounds but I have yet to find this to be true. It probably doesn't help that my stressful energy is spent baking things that must be tasted I suppose.

It's Friday So It Must Be Soup! Roasted Cauliflower Jalapeño Soup

It's finally time to throw in the towel and admit that it is now winter. Despite the fact that nature has been teasing us with sunny, springlike weather for the last week, the end is nigh and that means we are going to need some soup so It's Friday It Must Be Soup is resurrected.

I am not sure how I came to make this soup because I went to the store with a different intention altogether. It started out as an idea to make a kind of mexican potato leek soup using some roasted jalapeño peppers and cilantro but then I saw the lovely cauliflower calling to me. "Hey lady! Don't I look delicious? Why are you ignoring me over here? I am just as boring looking as a potato. Have you no heart?"

You know, it certainly did look delicious so I grabbed it up, still thinking I would stick to the plan but then I didn't like the look of the leeks and they were way too expensive. I thought about how delicious roasted cauliflower is with some cumin and then I could roast the jalapeño and garlic right along with the cauliflower and that would be nice. I was planning to roast the peppers anyway and it seemed like a waste to turn on the oven for nothing but a couple of measly peppers.

Shrimp and Arugula Risotto

I am kind of in super mom mode right now after a week of big wins in the dinner department so I decided to cap my week off with something that was sure to make me look like a total superstar. This kid would be happy if I made him a risotto of dog poop and toe nail clippings so I have to be honest about that right upfront. That said, this risotto is waaaay better than rice with dog poop.

There was a big container of baby arugula in the fridge and I was going to buy scallops when I realized that we haven't used shrimp in anything for ages so shrimp, arugula risotto was born. It was delicious, everyone was very happy and I pretended that it was sooooo much work and owww my arm is killing me from the nonstop 20 minutes of stirring and all that cheese grating but they are worth it, yadda yadda yadda.
 Oh, one note here - if you can get a decent quality parmigiano reggiano over just any old parmesan, please use that. Risotto is a dish that really benefits from nice cheese and I think it's worth the extra expense to buy a little chunk of the good stuff for it.

Some nights dinner just kind of makes itself.

Grace's Sweet Life

Grace Massa Langlois might have been born in Belgium but she grew up in London, Ontario where she remains with her family. I was born and raised in London, Ontario so we have a connection in that regard but when it comes to baking, our paths diverge. I am a decent, simple baker and dessert maker and I make a few things quite well but Grace is a real dessert master. I was already familiar with her food blog, Grace's Sweet Life , and loved to peruse all of the delicious looking desserts while daydreaming that someone else would make these things for me.

When I was offered a copy of her new cookbook, I jumped at the chance.  I read the entire thing, cover to cover and was incredibly impressed with the huge array of Italian sweets. Cannoli, Tiramisu and Panna Cotta are all fairly familiar but there were other things like Italian Peach Cookies, Boccanotti  and Celletti which were all new to me. I have to admit, that as a lazy baker, many of these recipes are far too complicated for me to tackle but for those of you who are real bakers, this book is chock full of show stoppers. I have a couple of friends who are hard core and I am going to bribe them so that they will make some of this stuff for me.

Cannoli Siciliani

I really liked the section with all the basics that are used in Italian dessert making like the various pastry creams used, ricotta cream, italian meringue and sweet pastry doughs and can see incorporating those elements in other desserts as well.  Most importantly, this is a book is clearly a labour of love and her dedication to replicating the sweets of her childhood, preserving her family's traditions and her Italian heritage really shines through on every page.

When I was a kid, I went to school with mostly Italian children, with a handful of Portuguese and Polish kids thrown in - I was almost always the only girl in my class who had a name that didn't end in A. I loved to go home with my classmates and help their mothers and their nonnas cook, bake and jar tomatoes and I often fantasized about living in a big, boisterous Italian family who would eat desserts like these instead of Jello 1-2-3 and pudding cups. This is a book full of the desserts that I dreamed about when I was that kid with the name that didn't end in A and a perfectly lovely, but not very exotic (in my young eyes),  mother. It was so weird to me when I realized that my Italian friends were eager to trade their delectable meatball or nutella sandwiches on crusty, fresh bread for my boring balogna on WonderBread - the grass is always greener, right?


I haven't actually made anything yet mostly because there are only three of us and so I don't make big desserts often - everyone gets a fancy pants dessert for their birthday (none of us like cake all that much) and when we have a big holiday dinner and none of those opportunities have come up but I do plan to make the Crostata al Cioccolato con Glassa al Cioccolato (Chocolate Truffle Tart with Chocolate Glaze) and Panna Cotta al Cocco e Vaniglia con Gelatina de Melagrana (Vanilla Coconut Panna Cotta with Pomegranate Jelly) over the Christmas Holidays when we entertain so that I can justify making big, elaborate desserts.


This recipe for Dark Chocolate Donuts with Salted Caramel Glaze on her blog is enough to make me go out and find myself a donut pan but that would mean I would start making donuts all the time and then I would have to stress over not eating all those donuts and then I would end up hating the donut pan when I really don't need another kitchen gadget. What I really want, is for a friend to buy a donut pan and make these for me and then just bring me one and then she can deal with not eating the rest of them her damn self.

The book is available on , , Chapters/Indigo and Barnes and Noble

Fig Chili Glazed Pork Tenderloin and Colcannon My Way

I love fig jam so much. I love it with cheese and I love it straight off the spoon but I really love to cook with it. The high sugar content means lots of yummy caramelization and that makes it a wonderful thing to baste roasted meats with. I kept seeing this recipe everywhere. I sweat to god, if you google pork tenderloin fig jam, this comes up on a bazillion web sites so I figured it must be pretty good. Since it was also Halloween, I made colcannon to go with it and although it might not be the first side dish that comes to mind when making a spicy figgy bit of pork, it was actually quite delicious together and was happily gobbled up and gave some nice, starchy substance to line the tummy in preparation for a candy assault after dinner. Just because I can, this was what left my house after polishing off a big plate of pork and colcannon. I don't know you, but I like to keep my evil demon necromancers happy. He looks pretty cheery, no?

French Toast with Muesli Morning Pitas

I love getting sent free stuff to try but I don't like it when I get sent stuff and then I don't like it. Do I write about how much I didn't like it? Do I just pretend I never got it? Do I tell them the dog ate it and she seemed to enjoy it very much but I didn't get a chance to taste it myself and offer to let my dog write about it?

Ozery's Pita Break sent me a box of stuff to try out last week and luckily, I love their breads. We already buy the morning rounds, the regular pita and the thin buns that they call OneBun. Not only are they preservative free, low in sodium and generally full of good things, they are made right here in Toronto by a family run bakery. They are also Kosher and although I am not Jewish myself, you can never be too safe, right?
Since it is pretty much only me and The Kid right now while poor Shack works around the clock in and out of town to support the lifestyle to which we have become accustomed, it will take me a while to get around to using all the stuff - I have popped some of it into the freezer for later use but I have some good ideas rattling around in my head.

Smoky Dijon Crock Chops

Okay, I am a self admitted food snob but I am also a bit of an inconsistent food snob. The bottom line is that I like delicious food and for the most part, that also means real, whole foods. Blah blah blah
I also love McDonald's fries, Nacho Cheese Doritos with a hot , white passion and don't even think about getting me to promise that I will never eat doctored up ramen again. So, admitting that I do love selective crappy foods, I have been feeling a bit guilty about my rantings and railings against the use of "cream of cack" in dishes that are , otherwise, composed of yummy ingredients.

I also have to admit that I have lots of time to cook things from scratch during the week because I work freelance (which often means that I don't work for days on end and can sit at home on my butt, playing Candy Crush Saga on facebook and soak great white northern beans for soup) and I only have one kid who is gone from 8:30am to 6pm because, unlike his mother, he WORKS after school most days.

So, I have been gently lectured by some busy, working moms with lots of kids and crazy schedules. They say that sometimes a crock pot and a well place can of cream of mushroom soup can save the day and it's often the only thing standing between a meal with meat and veggies and a take out pizza or drive thru.

This has been weighing on my mind lately as it is and then I saw this recipe for Slow Cooker Pork Chops in Dijon Paprika Sauce on The Cooking Photographer. For some reason I really wanted to make this. Perhaps it reminded me of something my mom would have made (she had no problem throwing cans of cream soup at anything that moved), I don't know, but I kept craving it and trying to figure out ways to get around the whole cream of cack thing. Today I was going to make it and was thinking that I should make a béchamel and then use cream and some stock and wondering if that would work. I looked up and found myself in the soup aisle of the grocery store and there it was, staring me in the face. Campbells cream of chicken soup in a can.

Why couldn't I just pick it up? What is going to kill me about using a can of soup? I could get the healthy choice stuff with less sodium and that wouldn't be that bad. I have no problem using Campbells low sodium chicken stock in the tetra pack all the live long day but I have a mental block when it comes to this stuff.

I finally decided to confront my fear and I grabbed a can and ran out of the store before I could change my mind. Okay, I didn't run right out of the store because that would be shoplifting, but I did go straight to the cashier before I could change my mind.

I made a couple of changes, used smoked paprika and grainy mustard and stock instead of cooking sherry - I can't get on board with cooking sherry even if I did just use a can of cream of cack. A girl has to draw lines in the sand at some point.

I KNEW that Shack would like it and he did. I have to admit that it was really good, it took about five minutes to assemble, including the browning of the chops, it was tastier than I want to admit AND it was reminiscent of something my mom would have made us growing up and that is never a bad thing, is it? She would have never used the mustard or smoked paprika though and you couldn't really taste the soup - it was really more for substance and texture and ease.

Shack had a lot of opinions about it and how to make it even better next time and they were good ideas. He suggested using a pork roast or pork butt that would actually fall apart and shred into the sauce and instead of putting potatoes in it, make it more like a stew with root veggies and then serve it over rice. RICE!
He never wants me to serve rice but, there it is. They both really liked the flavour of the sauce but they didn't love the actual chops (they aren't big chop people in the first place so if you and your people are chop people, carry on with those).

Am I going to use canned cream soup all the time now? No, but even I have to admit it was fast, easy and really tasty and way healthier than ordering in pizza.

Smoky Dijon Crock Chops
adapted from The Cooking Photographer

1 1/2 lbs red and white potatoes quartered
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 onion, sliced
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/4 + 2 tbls chicken stock
1/4 old fashioned grainy dijon
a few sprigs fresh thyme
2 tsp smoked paprika
glug olive oil
approx 650kg (or about 1.5 lbs) center cut bonless pork chops
salt and pepper

Oil the inside of the crock pot with a bit of olive oil and cover the bottom with your potatoes. Sprinkle the garlic and sliced onions on top of that.
Now, mix together the chicken soup, 1/4 cup chicken stock, mustard, thyme and the paprikas and pour that over the potatoes.
In a frying pan, heat a little glug of olive oil over med high heat, salt and pepper your pork chops and brown them. When they have a nice bit of colour on both sides, lay them on top of the potatoes and sauce. Add a couple tbls chicken stock to the frying pan to deglaze it and scrape all of that on top of the pork.

Cook over low heat for about 7 hours or on high for about 3 1/2 hours.
To serve, put a couple pork chops (mine were small so if you got fewer, bigger chops, divide it up accordingly) and some potatoes on each plate and spoon some sauce over both.

White Bean, Kale and Sausage Soup

Well, as much as I want to pretend it's not happening, the cold weather is closing in which means it's probably time for my weekly Friday, So It Must Be Soup feature. It's actually Monday but I also have to post this as my submission to Gastropost this week as my ode to the fall bounty so let's just pretend it's Friday and you go make this soup.

Kale. We all love kale and I thank my lucky stars every day that I own a son who loves kale. He lets me put kale in his smoothies, he likes it in soups, he likes it sauteed with garlic and olive oil, he likes it in stews and he even likes kale chips. I don't know what sort of evil person I was in a past life that has made it possible to own a kid who loves food this much, but I choose to not ask too many questions and just keep cooking.

I make white bean, kale and sausage soup fairly often but I always use those little canned Italian white beans and italian sausage. Since I had all afternoon to make this soup I really couldn't come up with a good reason NOT to just quick soak some white great northern beans and go old school, so I did. I mean, I could have told myself "self, you are way too busy playing Candy Crush on Facebook to soak those damned beans" or "self, how are you going to actually take an extra hour out of your busy day watching Wolf Blitzer say the same thing he said yesterday but for some reason you still watch to soak these beans?" I would way too embarrassed to admit that I spend my precious time doing stuff like that so I just went and pre soaked the stupid beans.

Also, I still had a big link of Portuguese chorizo in the fridge that I was afraid would not get eaten and so that went into the soup this time in place of my typical, fresh Italian sausages that I normally bake and slice. This was way easier than cooking and slicing the raw sausage and they have a much denser, chewier texture that is really nice. I will also admit that the texture of the soaked beans is much nicer than the texture of the canned beans and really is worth the bit of extra effort it took to use quick soaked, dried beans. All in all, tasty, easy and nutritious and you can't beat that.

Kale, White Bean and Sausage Soup

from 1 cup dried beans - pre soaked white great northern beans (either overnight or quick soaked) , drained and rinsed
1 onion, finely chopped
1-3 clove garlic (if you really like garlic, use 3)
couple sprigs of fresh rosemary
couple sprigs fresh thyme
olive oil
7 cups of broth (I used turkey but chicken is great)
1 quart (4 cups) of water
1 parmesan rind (optional but really adds a good flavour if you have one lying around)
salt and pepper
2 bay leaf
1 cup of diced potato
1 parsnip, finely diced
1 medium bunch of kale, washed and chopped (about 1/2 lb)
1 lb of cooked Portuguese Chorizo sausage (I used mild),  sliced into coin sized slices

Pull out a big soup pot and start heating it up over medium heat. Cook the onions over medium heat in a glug of olive oil for four or five minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and cook that for another minute. Add the beans , water, stock, cheese rind if you are using it, salt and pepper, rosemary,thyme and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Let cook for about an hour, until the beans are tender. Keep checking and if they are not soft enough after an hour, keep simmering until they are but it shouldn't take much longer.

Add the parsnips to the soup and cook for about ten minutes before you add the potato, sweet potato, kale and chorizo and cook, simmering, for another 20 minutes or so, until the potatoes are tender and the kale is cooked. If you need to top the soup up with water or stock, do so after the kale has fully wilted so you can get a better idea of how thick the soup is going to be.

Ooey Gooey Cinnamon Apple Upside Down Cake

Canadian Thanksgiving is upon us and so we are getting ready to make our annual trek to spend the holiday with my sister and her family.

First of all, let us discuss the merits of having Thanksgiving fall so early in the year, as opposed to the American holiday which occurs right before Christmas. If you are a turkey lover, and we are huge turkey lovers, you want to partake of a big turkey dinner as many times a year as you can possibly manage, no? This means that we like to do turkey for Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter. I am thinking about making Shack a huge turkey dinner for his birthday in May as well but don't tell him, it's a surprise. Don't worry, he says he reads my blog but he really doesn't so he will never know if you don't tell him.

So, back to the merits of an early Thanksgiving. Canadian Thanksgiving has been held on the second Monday of October since 1957. This means it can be as early as Oct 8th, like this year, or as late as the 15th or so. I like a holiday that moves around like that. I like knowing I am going to eat turkey but I never really know WHEN I am going to eat it so every year is like a surprise. Canadian Thanksgiving is nobodies bitch. Also, if you eat a big turkey dinner in early October, you are totally jonesing for another round by the end of December but if you eat turkey at the end of November, you find yourself pondering the merits of prime ribs and hams come Christmas. This means that you are going to consume one less turkey spread.
Not acceptable in my world.
Thanks god I am Canadian.

So, I am bringing a dessert to go with my sister's pumpkin pie. When my mom was alive, she would have made an apple pie to go with that but I don't want to make another pie. At the same time, I want to honour my mom so I want to make something with apples. My mom also made a mean pineapple upside down cake and my peach upside down cake as my favourite dessert this year. That is how a gooey, cinnamony apple upside down cake was born.

Apple Upside Down Cake
adapted from Abra Bennet at Food 52

1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
about 4 apple, sliced thinly
1 tsp cinnamon

3 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 cup AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
5 tbls apple juice or cider
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350F

Melt the butter in a 9" cast iron skillet and add the brown sugar. Mix it well until the sugar is totally combined with the melted butter and is pretty much dissolved and turn off the heat. Arrange your apple slices artfully (or not if you don't care about such things- again, I don't judge) on top of the melted butter brown sugar in the bottom of your skillet.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and set aside.

Beat the egg yolks at med speed until they are thick and yellow and then gradually add in the sugar, beating at med speed the whole time. Turn the speed to low and slowly start adding the flour mixture in there. Lastly, add the apple juice or cider.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form and fold them into the cake batter. Pour the batter over the fruit/butter/sugar and make sure it's evenly spread and covers all of the fruit.
Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes. Cool the cake on a rack in the skillet for about half an hour before inverting it onto a serving plate. Don't panic if some of the sugary apple chunks stay in the skillet because you can just scoop them up with a spatula and plop them back on the cake in the spot that now has a hole. Once the cake cools, it will have melted back in with the rest of the topping and nobody will care.
Amaze and wow your friends.

Lazy Crockpot Ribs

I really love ribs and in the summer time we often make them in the smoker. It takes all day and it's truly a labour of love but well worth the effort if you have that kind of time. Unfortunately, we don't always have an entire day to babysit meat in the smoker and in the winter, even if we COULD smoke ribs all day out in the snow, we won't because we are not nuts and it's way too cold to spend the day outdoors cooking. I used to cook them slow and low for hours in the oven and then broil them but I always feel like I should be home when I have the oven on all afternoon - it's the paranoid old lady channeling my mother I guess. Next thing you know, I will refuse to drive on rainy days, on really sunny days, in rush hour or at night... oh wait, I already don't drive at night if it is raining. Never mind.

My Favourite Chili Stuffed Baked Potato

It's a rainy day out there and even though it's not actually cold yet, it looks cold out there from inside the house so that's a good enough excuse to make chili. Actually, Saturday is technically the first day of fall so it really is time , isn't it?

Tonight we will eat it over baked potatoes with chipotle cream and cheese and then I can send some in The Kid's lunch tomorrow and alleviate my mom sandwich guilt for the week. I am also taking a container of it over to Jen's house (Piccante Dolce Jen) who is hugely pregnant and due this week so she won't have to cook tonight. So many birds killed with this one chili stone.

This is a tasty, basic chili with no fancy surprises or anything. The addition of masa harina at the end thickens it up a bit and since we are eating it over baked potatoes, I wanted a thicker chili as opposed to a soupier chili. It's not spicy either so that it can please all of the people in the house - the chipotle cream adds heat for those who want it. The best thing about the chipotle cream is that I use 0% fat greek yogurt and light Hellman's so it's almost kind of good for you - better than a big old dollop of full fat sour cream and way tastier.

Apple Pulled Pork

Who doesn't love pulled pork? Crazy people, that's who.
Making pulled pork in the crockpot is such a no brainer, easy meal that requires almost no time, skill or finesse that I wonder why we don't eat it every single day to be honest. I have still never found THE ultimate pulled pork recipe so I am always tinkering and trying new sauces, new rubs and one day I will find that pulled pork love of my life and I will shout from the rooftops. The best thing about pulled pork is that there is almost no such thing as bad pulled pork. Even if you just throw a pork butt in the slow cooker with nothing but some salt, pepper and a slurp of chicken stock or soda pop or apple juice and then toss it with a good bottled sauce afterwards, it's going to be good enough that your family will still think you are a rock star.

Sticky Tandoori Rotisserie Chicken

One of my absolute favourite ways to do a roast chicken is slow and low in the oven. You end up with a delicious, fall apart bird with really dry, crispy skin - it's kind of like the best possible version of a bubble chicken from the rotisserie at the grocery store. I am not ashamed to admit that a Loblaw's bubble chicken is one of my favourite stand by dinners and that it also provides enough meat for chicken quesadillas on night two and the bones make a delicious sopa de lima that we enjoy on night three.

When I was a kid, roast chicken was always a cheap meal that could feed our big family but somewhere along the line, chicken slowly became more expensive and a full priced, medium sized whole chicken can now cost well over $12. That is one of the reasons why we often just spend $9 and get one that is already cooked and ready to eat.  The fact that it also comes home in a handy plastic bubble pack is just a bonus if you ask me.

Vietnamese Meatballs with Pickled Veggies

I have made these meatballs before using ground chicken and we loved them but this was more of a pork kind of day. I usually serve them with rice noodles, bun style, and then sent the leftovers with the Kid for his lunch the next day. Since I have sent the poor wee street urchin to school with a sandwich two days in a row, I was having some mom guilt. A lovely lunch of vietnamese food with a friend made me think of these meatballs and so I hopped across the street to the magical asian grocery store and bought all of the ingredients I would need. Don't be scared of the little roll in the sugar bowl that these babies take just before baking because it gives them that sticky, sweetness of asian bbq meats. You could probably skip it and still end up with a tasty meatball but you would definitely be missing that little extra bit of something that makes these really special.

Indian Spiced Salmon

Shack is working late and won't be home for dinner so I promised The Kid that I would cook salmon since his crazy whackheaded father doesn't like it and we both adore it. Along with David Bowie, The Legend of the Seeker and egg salad, salmon has become one of those things we indulge in when it's just the two of us. It's best this way.

For some reason, salmon really lends itself to indian spices and I often make a proper tandoori salmon but today I wanted to do something just a little bit different. I also didn't want to bbq it and tandoori is best bbq'd but after my failed attempt to start the charcoal last night armed with nothing but an old electrical bill envelope, a nascar lighter,  charcoal and some fondue pot fuel

Almond, Apple and Cream Cheese on a Croissant

I am reposting an old post from no reEATS onto this blog because I want to make it again and it deserves to be seen again.

I can't stop thinking about this sandwich that I used to make when I first moved to Toronto at 20 and was just learning about food. For me, this sandwich was the height of fancy pants food snobbery and I always felt very smug and proud when I would make it for someone using an fresh croissant from a french bakery and cream cheese not from the grocery store but from the cheese shop in the market. It made me feel very continental and sophisticated and it was unlike anything I had ever eaten growing up. Of course, by the end of that year, I was actually living in Paris, eating real, mind blowing croissants and endless wheels of brie and other exotic, stinky cheeses and this sandwich faded from memory.

It was exactly as I remembered it. The creaminess of the cheese is balanced perfectly with the tart, crispiness of the green apple and then that crunch of the toasted almonds all wrapped up in a buttery, flaky package.

Honey Lime Chops

We are still on our no carbs (read no wine, no fries, no sandwiches, no pizza or pasta prison diet) thing and I am really getting sick of chicken. On the plus side, Shack seems be back down to his fighting weight and I am finally showing some signs of improvement in and about the muffin top area so we are sticking to our guns - just please, no more chicken. It was clearly time to bust out some pork chops and although I love a good thick cut, bone in chop, these thinner centre cut loin chops are easier to cook and they are very lean. I took pity on The Kid and made him a bit of basmati rice since he actually needs his carbs now that he is 5'9" and still about 120 lbs and I worry that I am starving him as well. Mother's do worry.

This was a tasty marinade and I think the buttermilk helps keep the meat nice and tender - it works for chicken so it must work for pork too, right? I left them overnight in the marinade which is always the best option if you can swing it. I ate mine with the last of the buttermilk crema and some MVP sauce but, then again, I am eating EVERYTHING with buttermilk crema and MVP sauce right now.  Curried roasted cauliflower were a perfect side along with a green salad and some basmati rice for the kid who is not on a stupid no carb diet.

Honey Lime Pork Chops

juice and zest from 1 lime
pinch kosher salt
2 tbls honey lime mustard (or honey dijon would work too or 1 tbls honey and 1 tbls dijon)
2 tbls buttermilk
2 tbls olive oil
1 clove garlic chopped

6 center loin pork chops

mix all of the marinade ingredients and add to a container big enough to hold your pork chops.Mix it all around until your chops are all totally covered in the marinade and put in the fridge for at least two hours or overnight.

Take the pork out of the fridge at least 40 minutes before you are going to cook them to let them come to room temperature.

As far as grilling them, it all depends on the thickness. For thinner chops like these, you want to go hot and fast. Get the grill as hot as you can and grill them for a minute or so with the lid on before you flip them and turn down the heat (or if you are using coal like we do, pile the coals on one side so the other side is going to be a bit cooler for the second side) and cook them, lid on, for another three minutes. Remove the lid, flip them one more time and cook them another 3 or 4 minutes with the lid off, still on the cooler side.

Once they are cooked (they should feel solid but have a bit of spring under your finger when you poke them), remove to a plate and tent with foil and let sit for 5 or 10 minutes to rest before eating.

Curried Cauliflower

This is not rocket science but it is one of our favourite ways to eat cauliflower and I am always surprised when people tell me they have never roasted cauliflower. Even people who think they hate the stuff will eat it if it's roasted. We do it all sorts of ways, with different herbs and spices but my favourite is most simple - olive oil, curry powder and garlic.

I always make a huge batch because I snack on it cold the next day and if you puree it you can add it to some mashed potatoes or turn it into soup or mix some of it with quinoa for a salad.

Roasted Curried Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower
Olive oil
1/2 tbls curry powder
kosher salt
a handful of garlic cloves

Preheat the oven to 400F
Wash your cauliflower and chop it into florets - if you are in a hurry, chop them up small but they cook better if you leave them a bit larger and roast it for a longer period of time.

Put it in a big bowl and drizzle with some olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and the curry powder and toss until it seems to be evenly coated. You might have to drizzle a bit more oil on it but not too much - There shouldn't be tons of oil pooling on the bottom of the bowl. Add in the peeled, whole garlic cloves and mix once more.

Here is the secret: if you have a big cast iron skillet, use that. If you don't, use a metal cookie tray but this stuff isn't the same if you try to cook in any sort of pyrex, glass or ceramic. It won't brown up as nicely at all. The other secret is to make sure it's in a single layer - if you pile it up on top of each other, it will sort of steam and only the very bottom pieces will brown up.

Roast it for about 45 min to 1 hour - keep an eye on it and check from time to time after the first 30 minutes to make sure you don't burn it. You can stir it around at the 30 minute mark if you are afraid of burning it. I like to leave it be so the bottom is sure to get nice and brown.

Cocktail On A Stick

This week's Gastropost mission was to explore food on a stick. Everybody loves food on a stick and we have enjoyed some awesome examples of this in the last couple of weeks. They do deep fried breaded things like quail and pork at Gushi at Market 707  in Scadding Court - in fact, the word gushi means skewer in Japanese so if you want to try a bunch of deep fried things on a stick, get over there.
pork on a stick from Gushi

I also had an incredible grilled skewer of niagara peaches with scallops and a honey drizzle at the Supper Market at Niagara on the Lake a couple of weeks ago. What I hadn't had all summer was a cocktail on a stick, one of my favourite things of all.

Last week I made Shack some boozey watermelon lemonade with gin and recall thinking that they would make great booze pops at the time. I was out of lemons but lime goes even better with gin so I switched it up a bit and added some rosemary to the simple syrup - I figured the smell of rosemary and gin would keep the kids away from these babies. How many you get depends on the size of your molds.

Watermelon Rosemary Lime Pops with Gin

1 1/2 cups watermelon juice
1 1/2 tbls *rosemary simple syrup
5 tsp gin
1 tbl lime juice

Puree enough watermelon to get you 1 1/2 cups of juice after you strain it into a measuring cup. Add in the simple syrup and lime juice and taste it. Adjust if needed. If your watermelon is really sweet, you won't need more simple syrup or maybe you want them more tart - then add more lime.

Put 1 tsp of gin in each popsicle mold (I got five popsicles in my PC mold) and then top each one up with the watermelon mixture. Give it a bit of a stir with a skewer or something before putting in the sticks and putting the mold into the freezer and leave overnight (or make them in the morning to enjoy that evening)

*rosemary simple syrup:
Put 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water into a saucepan. Add a few sprigs of rosemary and heat it over medium heat until the sugar is completely melted and it is almost just starting to bubble. Remove from heat and let it sit until it comes to room temperature ( at least one hour). Remove the rosemary and store in the fridge.

Breakfast Taco Fit For A Prince

Back when I used to work on set doing makeup for tv commercials, I enjoyed a thing called Kraft Service. The Kraft Service people are responsible for feeding us all day and at the time, I didn't always appreciate them as I should have. The one thing I always loved though was our morning breakfast burrito (as long as they were using real eggs and not egg beaters. No offence to the fine people who make egg beaters but they are just not for me). I apologize to every Kraft person I have gave the gears to over the years because now that I no longer have people who make me breakfast and snacks and soup and cheese trays and cut up my fruit and put out trays of M&M's and jube jubes, I realize how wonderful you all were. My ass, on the other hand, never wants to see you again.

Anyway, I had three corn tortillas left over from last night's calamari tacos and couldn't bear to throw them out so I made the Little Prince, which is what we call The Kid when we realize we are catering to his every whim, some nice breakfast tacos. It's no secret that my child is, perhaps, a little bit spoiled in the food department but I also take advantage of the fact that he will eat pretty much whatever I put in front of him so I can make pretty little dishes like this and not have to eat them all myself. This is the only way I manage to NOT weigh 600lbs. That, and the fact that I am no longer fed like a christmas goose by the lovely Kraft people 6 days a week.

Breakfast Tacos
serves one

3 corn tortillas
2 eggs, whisked with a pinch of kosher salt
1 tsp butter
2 tbls finely chopped tomato
juice from half a lime
1 tsp minced shallot
1 tbls chopped cilantro
kosher salt
1/2 half very ripe avocado
drizzle of hot sauce (MVP sauce)
drizzle of buttermilk crema
2 tbls grated old cheddar

Mix the chopped tomato, shallot and cilantro in a small bowl. Squeeze in the lime juice, add a tiny pinch of salt and stir and set aside.

grate the cheddar in another small bowl.

warm the corn tortillas on the dry pan that you are heating up to scramble your eggs and then wrap them in a tea towel until you are ready to go.

Add the butter to your hot pan and pour in the eggs to make some scrambled eggs. When the eggs are cooked, get ready to assemble:

Lay out your three warm tortillas on a plate.
Scoop out a spoonful of avocado and smear it on a tortilla - repeat for the other two.
Divide the eggs into three portions and one to each tortilla
Top that each with 1/3 of the cheese
Drizzle the MVP sauce and the buttermilk crema to taste
Top all three with a few pea shoots.

Calamari Tacos with MVP Sauce

Anyone who likes to eat tacos knows that anything you can think of putting in a taco shell is going to work so don't get bogged down with only using "mexican" taco fillings. You can use any kind of seafood or meat or chicken. If you are some sort of crazy vegetarian, feel free to use some tofu or some sort of chickpea thing - whatever. The Kid's favourite tacos are greek tacos where we use tzatziki and leftover shrimp from  Garides me feta. Asian flavours lend themselves to the flavour of the corn tortilla as well since they also use lots of lime, cilantro, garlic and hot chilis. Oh, and don't get me started on the delights of a breakfast taco full of fluffy scrambled eggs, pico de gallo, a bit of cheese and a dribble of buffalo chipotle sauce.

I always like to say that I would eat dog poop if it came in a fresh corn tortilla and although I don't really advocate eating dog poop, I think you get the idea. I really like all manner of food wrapped up in a little corn tortilla.

I had a taco from La Carnita last spring that had calamari and some sort of crazy yellow sauce that I think might have been pineapple habernero or something and I still daydream about it. My friend got it for me at a food truck event while I lined up at another truck (the line up was almost 2 hours long for La Carnita) so by the time the taco got to me, it was cold and you know what? It didn't matter - it was that tasty. Instead of trying to replicate their hot sauce, I made one using mango and some aji amarillo paste instead and it was really delicious. We have some good friends are Peruvian and they use this hot and tasty yellow pepper in many of their dishes and I have been dying to find ways to use the paste that they gave me so I am especially happy with the end result. I am calling it MVP sauce in honour of Gino, the giver of the paste who is our Most Valuable Peruvian. The buttermilk crema idea came from a fish taco The Kid ate from Hooked at the Leslieville farmers market this morning. The cool, creamy buttermilk is the perfect foil for the spicy hot sauce. Add some fresh, crunchy pea shoots and you have yourself a delicious little taco.

I will admit one thing right now - just between you and me and the dog. I will totally make these again because they were the bomb, but, when I do I will buy good corn tortillas from La Tortillaria instead of making my own because I have a really tiny kitchen and it was just kind of overwhelming to try to make fresh tortillas at the last minute while I am also trying to deep fry squid at the last minute. You might be super comfortable deep frying but I am slowly overcoming an irrational fear of burning down my home and I am a bit of a nervous deep fryer and need to give 100% of my concentration to that vat of boiling oil to ensure that I don't kill everyone I hold dear.

Bottom line is that this is a total winner and both boys said it needs to go into the regular dinner rotation. Hank added smashed up avocado to his and then Shack added some pickled golden beets to his so feel free to mix it up.

Way better than dog poop any day.

Squid Tacos
corn tortillas
deep fried squid
mango aji amarillo sauce or MVP sauce
fresh baby pea shoots (you can sub in anything green and crunchy - shredded cabbage is the norm)
buttermilk crema

on a warm corn tortilla, lay out a few pieces of calimari. Drizzle some MVP sauce and some buttermilk crema over the squid and then plop on a bit of pea sprouts.
Eat it.

Corn tortillas
2 cups masa harina
2 cups warm tap water

mix together the masa  harina and the water and cover and let it sit for about 15 minutes while you prep the other ingredients. When it's time to make your tortillas, check it and if it feels a bit dry, add more water, a tbls at a time until if feels like soft cookie dough.
Preheat a dry cast iron griddle or pan over med high heat.
 Divide it up into about 16 golf ball sized balls and cover. Take one ball at a time and either roll it out really thin or use a tortilla press (wrap the two discs in plastic wrap) to press out each tortilla.
Cook the tortillas for about 30 seconds per side (they should puff up) and wrap them in a clean tea towel until you are done all of them. You can let them sit, wrapped in the warm tea towel for 10 or 15 minutes as well.

*if you don't want to make that many tortillas, just always use equal amounts of warm water and masa since these tortillas don't really hold all that well so only make as many as you are going to eat for dinner.

Calamari/Fried Squid

about 1 lb cleaned squid, cut into rings like for calamari (great photo tutorial on how to clean squid)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tsp cumin
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
enough vegetable oil to reach about 3" deep in your pot of choice

Rinse the squid thoroughly and pat dry. Cut the tentacles in half lengthwise and the tubes into 1/2-inch rings. Set aside.

Place the flour ,cornmeal and cumin into a medium mixing bowl and stir to combine. In small handfuls, dredge the squid in the flour mixture and shake off the excess. Another cool trick I remember seeing on a youtube video was to put the flour and cormeal mixture into a baggie and then throw the squid in there, shake it around and then set a strainer over a bowl and dump the calamari into the strainer. Give the strainer a few shakes and it will dump the excess flour mixture into the bowl and you can just grabe the breaded squid out of the strainer to throw into the hot oil. I haven't tried that method but I keep meaning to.
In batches, gently lower the squid into the hot oil. Cook for 1 minute. The squid will not be really browned, but lightly golden in color. Remove the squid and transfer to a cooling turned upside down set over a newspaper-lined cookie pan or on a plate lined with a couple layers of paper towel. Season with salt and pepper, as desired. Repeat until all of the squid is cooked. Make sure to check the temperature of the oil before each batch to ensure it is 375 degrees F. Serve immediately.

Mango Aji Amarillo sauce or MVP sauce 
adapted from Bobby Flay

1 tbls veg oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 mango, chopped
3 tsp aji amarillo paste
2 tbls honey (or to taste)
1/2 cup white vinegar
salt to taste

heat oil in a small pan over med heat and sauté the onion and garlic until it's soft. Add in the chopped up mango and the pepper paste and cook, stirring often, for about five minutes. Add in the honey and vinegar and cook over low heat for another 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and pour that  mixture into a blender and puree til smooth. Strain it through a strainer over a bowl and taste. Add salt to taste

Buttermilk Crema

1/4 cup buttermilk
2 tbls greek yogurt
1 tsp lime juice
pinch kosher salt
1 tbls chopped cilantro

mix together the all of the ingredients and taste and adjust seasonings if you wish.

The Supper Market - A Weekly Gem in Niagara on the Lake

I just learned about this Wednesday night Supper Market at the Market at the Village in the last few weeks and thought it sounded like a perfect thing to do on a hot summer night - drive out to Niagara on the Lake, eat some great food and then drive back to Toronto with the top down just as the day starts to cool off while the sun is setting. Today turned out to be that perfect day.

It was actually a totally perfect day because it started with a trip to the AGO to see the Picasso exhibit and if you are from the area and you haven't seen it yet, you should hurry up because it's gone at the end of August!

Jerk Chicken Take 1

So, Shack and I have been living a little too large since spring. He has taken a ton of time off work to hang out with us and so there have been lots of lunches out and late night pizzas,  too many pub nights and lots of afternoon movies with huge buttered popcorns. Now, he has to go back to work and I have to make sure that I can still fit into actual pants by TIFF in September so we have spent the last 10 days going clean - no pasta, no pizza, no rice, no bread, no wings and poutine, no wine or beer. Somehow, we have managed to have lots of fun together and nobody is dying of malnutrition. HE, of course, has already dropped at least 12 lbs and looks much slimmer. I, on the other hand, have not lost one ounce although my mother in law told me that I look MUCH less bloated.
Thanks for that.

Buttermillk Beet Slaw

Shack loves coleslaw and I love to make things that he loves a bit healthier. Over the years, I have settled on this basic buttermilk dressing that is based on one I found in Cook's Illustrated,  but I do play with additions to the cabbage. Sometimes I add sliced fennel and some carrot, sometimes I might throw in some radish and use honey dijon or another flavoured mustard. The bottom line is that buttermilk is much healthier than a heavy mayonnaise based dressing and it's tangy and delicious and I do prefer it. Sometimes we like a vinegar based dressing but those are loaded with sugar so they aren't all that good for you either so I don't really make that at home.

Baked Greek Fish

I am not sure I actually ever ate a fish dish like this in Greece but if they don't make fish like this, they really should. I make it exactly the same way I make Garides me Feta and just sub in whatever white fish I have on hand for the shrimp. If shrimp is delicious baked with wine, tomatoes and feta then it stands to reason that fish will also be delicious cooked this way. Honestly, I am going to have to find a Greek person to put this in the Greek suggestion box because there is no reason to only use shrimp.

 If I was cooking this only for myself and not having to feed my stinky family, I would totally add a handful of chopped, greek black olives and some hot peppers but they have to eat it too so I leave those things out and just add some to my portion after I plate it but it's not the same as it would be if the olives and hot peppers were cooked with the rest of the dish. If you like black olives and chili peppers then, by all means, add those things in the tomatoes and you can eat the actual dish I WISH I were eating and you can tell me about it and make me jealous and I might want to hurt you for a minute but then I will get over it because it's still really good without those things and it's not your fault that you might have a family that will eat black olives in their food.

Peachy Upside Down Cake

Gastropost this week is all about the peaches. I didn't think it was peach season yet but the folks at the Post said it was so we set off to Niagara to find some. As things often happen in our little family, we had good intentions but instead of Niagara, we meandered over towards Caledonia, where we had a really tasty lunch at the Cornerstone Tap and Grill thanks to Restaurantica and Urban Spoon. If you are ever in Caledonia, make sure you stop here for lunch - the food was really quite good, the portions were generous and we were very pleased with our pulled pork crostini, various salads and fish and chips for The Kid.
With full bellies we set off to continue our drive. Of course, I am NOT the navigator so I had no idea where Caledonia sits in relation to Niagara so I just sat back and enjoyed the lovely scenery as we continued on our way to find peaches. Eventually, just was I was thinking that it was taking a very long time to get to Niagara I noticed a sign letting us know that not only were we about to enter Port Dover, Ontario, but that it was Friday the 13 weekend and all bikers were welcome! Great! Maybe they will have some fresh peaches at the Harley Davidson belts and boots stand!

Cinnamon Bun Ice Cream

As I have mentioned, I am trying to participate in the weekly Gastropost challenges and have managed to keep up so far and have even made three out of four of the weekend roundups published in the Saturday National Post. My Oh Canada Pops , boozy cherries and rhubarb simple syrup have all made it to the paper but that is not nearly as exiting as seeing my mug in a pencil drawing looking all journalistic and legit. I will overlook that they gave me an actual jowl in my pencil drawing since they were the only people to ever do that for me. A jowl is a small price to pay.

Funny story, when I was checking to see if the boozy cherries made it to the paper, I happened upon two pages of book reviews by kids and there, thought "Oh, that looks interesting. I should read these and see if there is anything I should get for The Kid" and on page WP17 was a book review written by The Kid himself!  His classmates had all been given a book to read and review a while back but I thought it was just a class assignment. We had no idea this was going to happen and if I hadn't been looking for my own thing in the same section, we would have never even known that he also made the paper, along with a bunch of his classmates. Frankly, we are disappointed in his father for not whipping something up for, perhaps, the Wheels section and dropping the ball. Way to make the family look like slackers Shack.

This week's challenge was to make or taste a frozen treat. I was going to make boozy pops like my mojito pops but I am still pretty hopped up on the condensed milk ice cream and wanted to try another one. If I wasn't so lazy, it was going to be a healthier mango/mint but that would have entailed a trip to the magical asian produce stand so cinnamon bun ice cream prevailed. 

Kevin and Amanda's Recipes has all kinds of great ideas for flavouring the condensed milk/whipped cream base and I loved the sound of this one - I also think it would be great in an ice cream sandwich with oatmeal cookies, no? Once I started mixing the condensed milk part up, I realized that I wanted way more cinnamon and I also wanted a bit of crunch and since lots of cinnamon buns have some sort of nuts on them, I settled on some chopped walnuts. The dulce de leche adds just a little more caramel goodness to the finished ice cream but next time I am thinking of cooking the condensed milk until IT turns into dulce de leche and using that for ice cream base so stay tuned for my next batch. You know I had a moment's hesitation over the addition of the melted butter and then I thought "what, are you afraid that your ice cream made entirely of condensed milk and whipped cream is going to become fattening if you add that butter?"

Thank god my kid is a skinny rail and loves ice cream because this stuff is as high calorie as it is delicious but it is also easier than making toast, so there you go. You can't have everything and delicious always trumps fattening in this house which is probably why I have that jowl in my pencil drawing.

Cinnamon Bun Ice Cream
adapted from Kevin and Amanda's Recipes

1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups (500ml) whipping cream
3 tbls melted butter
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 tbls PC dulce de leche

Whip the whipping cream until stiff. Meanwhile, stir the melted butter, cinnamon, vanilla and walnuts into the condensed milk. Fold the condensed milk mixture into the whipped cream and then gently drizzle in the dulce de leche and very gently fold a few times. If you can't find actual dulce de leche I am sure you could use any good, thick caramel sauce.

Put in a 1 litre container in the freezer and leave it for at least 6 hrs.

Minty Blackberries

My new Bon Appetit came in the mail today and it was chock full of delicious things I really want to make but that I will most likely never actually get around to cooking. There was a segment on no bake desserts that really caught my eye because I have been invited to lots of bbqs in the next month and I usually bring dessert but since I now live in the sixth ring of hell, the thought of baking just kind of makes me want to curl up in a ball in the corner and suck my thumb. Understandably, I am more into making fancy cocktails than baking cakes and other sweet confections but I can't serve a Pimm's Cup to a bunch of four year old kids now can I?

A recipe for cheesecake with ginger-lime candied raspberries caught my eye although I chose to not make the cheesecake this time around but the berries are perfect. They didn't require the oven to be turned on and spent only a minute on the stove and they would be incredibly versatile. These babies are just as delicious on a bowl of french vanilla ice cream or some maple sweetened greek yogurt as they are over cheesecake so as long as I got the berries made, I could totally flake out and buy something to go with them at the last minute, which is exactly what I did. PC cheesecakes were on sale and since I know that lots of my chef/caterer friends use them on a regular basis and just add their own sauces, I serve them guilt free to my guests.

As luck would have it, there was not a raspberry to be found but there were some beautiful blackberries at my little produce stand. The recipe called for a 6oz container of berries but I used two and I would certainly not use less because the berry to sugar ratio was perfect this way.

Minty Ginger Blackberries
12 oz of blackberries
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbls grated fresh ginger
1 tbls chopped fresh mint
juice from a lime
more fresh mint to garnish

put the berries, the sugar, ginger, lime juice and 1 tbls mint in a pot. Bring to a simmer and then remove from the heat. Let it sit and cool in the pot and then pour it into a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for at least an hour and up to one day.

I drizzled it over some cheesecake but next time I am going to just pour it over vanilla ice cream. I can't imagine anything that wouldn't be improved by these babies.

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