Puddin’!

Okay this one is quick – I just had to tell you about it. 

Sometimes, when we have no dessert (a sore day at our house) I turn to instant pudding. Not often, I’ll grant you. But there it is. 

Today, I said to myself, I says, what can I snack on that I have? The grocery list is getting steadily longer so our options are limited. And then I realized it was puddin’ time, but alas! No milk. And yet:


Guys, it’s coconut milk and instant  pudding. It whipped so fast! Josh doesn’t like banana too much and he’s down. The one note we have is that it’s pretty rich, so we recommend it in trifle or in a parfait with fruit (citrus or more bananas?) and granola. 

Make your pudding by the package directions but use 2 c. full fat coconut milk in place of dairy. Whisk that bowl of goodness and refrigerate briefly. 

You’re probably going to feel like you’re eating whipped butter on this one. It is so worth it. 

๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ˜˜

Afterthought: betcha you could make light cake icing out of that, like if you did a chocolate or a strawberry pudding? Nomnomnom.

We All Scream…

I’m running out of time, so fasten your seatbelts – lots of ice cream coming out of this kitchen in the next week – we’re in crunch mode for the catering gig!

Like I mentioned in my last post, I found that infusing the milk/cream mixture changed the consistency of the end result – it’s almost like the heat separated the fat from the milk solids. I’m not sure “lumpy” is the right word, but that’s how I felt about it. Of course, I’m overly critical of my own work (to the point where I’m irritated if it didn’t turn out just so), so I am grateful for the King/Glazebrook clan & friends for their completely unbiased opinions. If you missed the last post, nearly the whole batch of ice cream went in one sitting. This, of course, could be related to their numbers at suppertime, but I like to think they liked it all the same. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Today’s ingredient list and most of the method will remain the same as You Scream, I Scream, with the exception of the “heat on the stove” step.

I would also like to add that I found the end result of the first trial to be a little too sweet for my taste – this could be a combination of things, but I think I used too much vanilla and too much sugar. Vanilla beans give off much more flavor and sweetness than vanilla extracts, comparatively, so I think this time I’ll forgo the vanilla bean and use a touch of vanilla extract with the same amount of sugar. Like I said before, this is trial and error, so bear with me while I figure it out! I’m confident this go-round will yield a result just slightly more to my liking.

We’ll start by grinding our lavender buds. Initially, I tried to do it in our mortar and pestle, but it was taking too long for my liking and my arm was getting tired. Must remember to grind less at a time. I switched to the electric grinder – I was trying to avoid cleaning it (it’s mainly used for coffee) when I chose the m&p – and it went like stink. There are still a few twigs and bits that probably won’t be nice to eat, so we’ll just strain them out later.

So really, all we’re doing now is whisking all our ingredients together – in a bowl, I have milk, cream, ground lavender, vanilla extract, sugar and a pinch of salt. Whisk until it’s combined and throw it in the fridge for a while, if it’s warmed slightly. You want your base to be as cold as possible, and the same for the bucket for your machine – cold cream and a cold bowl makes the process go faster. Pro-tip! As I mentioned before, we’re going to strain it just before churning to get the sticks out.

Same instructions as last time, now that it’s churned – into a bowl or a bucket or a mason jar, and into the freezer for a couple hours.

The reviews on this one were a little more balanced than the last. I took the tub to work and pawned it off on my unsuspecting coworkers. A good handful enjoyed immensely (I sent the tub home with Laura at the end of the day), and another handful gave constructive feedback – a few thought it was too floral (this opinion came with a disclaimer – “I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten anything lavender before!”), and the sweetness was still a little high for some, but overall I think it went well. One more try, this time with essential oil. I’ll keep you posted!

xo

R

 

Mango Madness

Summer is here! Huzzah!

I’ve been looking for homemade popsicle ideas lately. This is mostly due to the fact that processed summer treats (like freezies and other frozen fruit concentrates) are packed with extra sugar and preservative-like substances that I can’t pronounce (not my favorite). The second reason is that I am living in an incredible area of BC for fresh fruits and veggies, so why not make my own? I’m not even going to justify that question with an answer.

The first time I experimented with this recipe, I realized that without all that extra sugar, and with the addition of coconut milk to real fruit, they turn out like a treat fused with a snack that has some belly-filling substance. Word on the street is that fruit is best consumed as a snack, anyway, so here we go!

I’m making 4 popsicles at a time, so my measurements are lesser, but you could certainly make this en masse if you have the freezer space. We, unfortunately, do not, so we do small batches. At our house, the term “measurements” is used very loosely. I create food using the fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants method.

I’m using mangoes today, but realistically you could use any fruits for this, frozen or fresh. I would also like to attribute my mango madness to my pal Tyler, whose obsession with ataulfo mangoes knows no bounds. These are the smaller, yellow mangoes, as opposed to the huuuuuuge red and green ones. I find those to be a little bitter, and their after-flavor isn’t quite as nice. The yellow ones are sweeter, and the fruit itself has a smoother texture.

Every time I get the chance to buy mangoes at a decent price, I will. If they’re good, I go back and buy cases of them for a myriad of purposes; previous cases of mangoes have gone into jam and chutney. In this scenario, we let them ripen on the counter until they’re perfect (during this time frame we consume as many fresh as we can) and at this point, if they’re ripening faster than we can eat them, I chop whatever is starting to pass its prime, and freeze in a single layer on a parchment lined sheet pan. The parchment is there to help prevent the fruit from sticking to the pan – not entirely necessary, just helps clean up. After they’re frozen, the mango chunks are tossed in a ziplock bag in the freezer – they’re awesome for smoothies, with your yogurt and granola, and just such occasions as summer, since mangoes are usually April -May (in Vancouver, anyway).

If you’ve never chopped a mango before, you should know; they’re devilishly slippery little bastards but they are so worth the work. Best part about chopping mass amounts of mangoes is eating whatever’s left on the pit, since most times, with a paring knife, you can’t quite get all the meat off there. Be ready for a tooth-flossing session after, though, for real, and be careful with your paring knife – I usually take some skin off my fingers if I’m doing a large pile at a time, and today is no exception. I’m also extraordinarily clumsy; either way, knife safety is nothing to sniff at.

Let’s get to it, then, shall we? This 29 degree weather says yes!


This is actually the most simple process: add your 3 ingredients to a food processor or blender (in my case, magic bullet) and blend until smooth. I’m not joking, it’s that easy.

For 4 Popsicles in the plastic mold I have, I use about half a bullet cup of fresh fruit. Today’s cup is 2 medium sized mangoes. If you’re using frozen, I suggest filling the cup with frozen fruit and letting it thaw in the fridge overnight. If you like fruit chunks, you’re welcome to skip blending, or you can even blend part-way. They’re yours – you choose.

It’s worth noting at this point that fresh fruit is better than frozen, but you know my other philosophy – use what you have. Frozen fruit is good too but if you can use fresh, I promise it’s better. You won’t use as much extra sweetener this way. 


These mangoes are perfect ripeness, which means they have enough of their own sweetness that the coconut milk won’t dilute their flavor too much and added sweetness isn’t necessary. Depending on the kind of fruit, you may need to add extra maple syrup, but it’s fully up to you how much you use. To begin with, I only put in about a quarter can of coconut milk (as much as I needed to cover the fruit). I like to blend the liquid in gradually so you can be sure to fully puree the fruit. Do it in two additions, about a quarter can at a time, and then taste and add more liquid if your blend is a little on the stiff side. This won’t affect the consistency at the end, really. If you like scooping thick fruit puree into small molds, be my guest. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Too messy for me! This is a good spot to note that it’s going to be pretty hard to screw these up.

If you don’t like too much coconut flavor (I promise the flavor is subtle without any added liquids, but again, it’s up to you what you prefer), you can add some other kind of liquid as well, or instead. If this is the case, I’d suggest an almond milk or something similar, since adding too much juice or water-based liquid will freeze differently, giving your popsicles a less creamy texture. If you like less cream and more ice, that’s cool! Popsicle pun?

So I’ve blended mine all the way (I like smooth texture rather than chunks) and poured then into the molds. If your molds are separate like mine, they probably come with a little tray. Once your mold is full, you should make sure there are no air bubbles – just tap the tray on the counter gently. If yours doesn’t have plastic handles, and you’re using wooden sticks, you can give them a little stir. Air bubbles make Swiss popsicles. No can dosville, babydoll.


That’s it’s. We’re done. Freeze these babies and enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • roughly 1 1/2 c. fruit of any kind*, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 can full-fat coconut milk**
  • 2-3 tbsp. maple syrup

If using frozen fruit, thaw overnight. Blend all ingredients in blender and freeze in molds. Run under hot water to release popsicle from mold. Yum!

*Fruit suggestions: mangoes, peaches, nectarines, melon, berries…use your imagination! I have used mangoes, but I’ve also done a blueberry/strawberry combo and they were delicious. Depending on your fruit choice, you may need to add more sweetness. Dragonfruit! Kiwi! Papaya! Pomegranate might be tricky but you could always strain any leftover seeds out. Or, if you like crunch, don’t blend at all and leave the seeds whole??  Shoot, if you’re going to do pomegranate seeds in there, you might as well go all out and put some chia in…more on that later. (A little stream of consciousness for you! This is how my brain works sometimes.)

**The brand I like best so far is Aroy-D. I have used others in the past but so far this is my favorite. You can also use coconut cream for these, as it’s even thicker, but I haven’t seen any in the stores recently. It’s probably easier to find in smaller markets and specialty stores, but we shop at Superstore so we take what we can get. The brand of coconut cream (they also have good coconut milk) that I liked was Savoy. Some tinned coconut milk I’ve found tends to be thinner – the stuff right from Thailand has a tendency to separate if it’s left to sit for a while (this is a good thing, I reckon), but if you shake the can before opening, it’ll thicken up nicely. Stirring works too.

You scream, I scream…

I’m not even going to address my hiatus, past this first paragraph. You know how life just seems to…happen. But in no way should this hiatus signify that we’re DONE in the kitchen. I mean, come on. I just moved to the Okanagan, for goodness’ sake – the region of BC in itself is a culinary smorgasbord.

My latest focus has been coming up with local and seasonal things to play with. Today’s find and conquer ingredient is lavender. There’s a fresh herb farm here that is actually called Okanagan Lavender Farm. This piqued my interest a while back but wasn’t open when we moved. It is now…

We’re making ice cream – this particular adventure started with Josh and I being asked to cater a party for a coworker’s sister-in-law. The whole menu is set, now, and I’m just trying to find the best possible option for creating lavender ice cream to go with the dessert (that flourless chocolate cake I taught you oh-so-long-ago). I went to the farm and came back with culinary grade lavender essential oil and with dried lavender buds. I did my reading and my research and our first test run with the ice cream goes a little something like this…

I’m not a custard-based ice cream maker. I never made ice cream before I had my Cuisinart, and my first few attempts went swimmingly: mainly, the to DIE for chocolate ice cream with natural peanut butter swirls (*swoon*), and the plain ol’ vanilla that was so fantastic just by itself. These two options are easier than tempering eggs and heating milk and so forth – just mix your milk and cream and flavorings and dump ‘er on into the machine, then let it go til it looks like ice cream. I like this method MUCH better. I also think the end result is a lighter, airier cream that doesn’t necessarily give you the butter-slick on your tongue the way some custard-based creams do.

Okay, enough talk, let’s do this thing!

I was a little hesitant about steeping the cream/milk mix, but since we’re going for trial and error, I suppose we’ll see how it goes, no? The trick with lavender is that the dried buds aren’t the most fun to eat, so you’re either supposed to a) grind them and THEN mix them in or b) heat your milk/cream mixture with the buds in it to just barely a simmer, then pull it from the heat and let it steep before straining and cooling completely. We’re trying option number two today.


So, I’ve got my whipping cream and milk in a pot on the stove, and I put 2 teaspoons of dried lavender buds in a loose leaf tea bag (you can just toss the buds in, really, I was just going for easy clean-up, but realistically you’re going to strain it anyway). Josh found vanilla beans in his chef coat pocket the other day (yes, that’s a common thing – last time it was rennet tables for making cheese – scavenger hunts make laundry fun!) so I’m using one of those as well.

If you don’t know how to use vanilla bean (if you’re like me and spent your whole life using vanilla extract), it’s easy! Use the tip of a sharp knife to cut the bean in half lengthwise, then scrape the insides out. Since we’re going to be straining the milk, you can toss the actual bean in as well – adds flavor!


Set this on the stove, over a medium heat – be careful with your heat levels because milk will burn, and quick. You only want to bring it up to a simmer and then immediately cut that heat off. Now’s the time to add your sugar and your salt – I cut down my sugar levels since I find the vanilla’s given it quite a lot of sweetness already. I’ve left mine to steep for about 20 minutes after removing it from the heat, as I found that the lavender flavor took a little while to come through. Stir frequently – hot milk creates a skin, which isn’t the end of the world either, because strainers.


If you’re using a tea bag like I did, make sure you squeeze all the cream out of it before discarding – we don’t want to leave any of that awesome flavor behind. Also, keep in mind that your cream will be uber-sweet at this point – don’t worry, as soon as you churn it, the air mixed in will bring the sweetness down.


Don’t mind the flecks – everyone knows that good vanilla bean ice cream has bits of real vanilla in it. Once your cream is strained, put it in some sort of vessel for cooling. The internet will think I’m a dirty hipster because I put everything in a mason jar. Deal with it.

This is going to go into the fridge for as long as I can stand. Technically, the standard is 6-8 hours, or overnight. We’ll see how I feel after 6 hours, and if my ice cream bucket is frozen, I’ll finish this tonight. If not, it’ll be after work tomorrow.


So, now that we’ve waited an excruciating amount of time, we’re gonna churn this baby! Your cream should be really cold, and the machine’s bucket should be also. Turn the machine on and slowly pour your cold cream in. Churn until it starts to look like ice cream…

Scoop into a bowl or bucket or whatever vessel you find appropriate for ice cream, and throw that bad boy in the freezer for a couple hours to harden up.

See? You thought fancy-pants ice cream was hard, didn’t you?

Enjoy! xo

** this last photo was taken by the lovely Sarah, after she and her family (and dinner guests) devoured it. Sounds like they enjoyed it!

I feel less confident about the heating and infusing method, for the record. Tonight’s round two will feature ground buds and no heat, as I found heating heavy cream to change the chemical makeup of the liquid and leave just a touchย of butter-slick that I was trying to avoid. Back to the original, even easier method for the next two trials. Stay tuned! Do not switch off!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup milk (2% of higher fat content)
  • 2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 small vanilla bean, halved and scraped
  • 2 teaspoons dried lavender buds (loose or bundled)

Combine milk, cream, vanilla bean and pods, and lavender in pot over medium heat. Bring to simmer and immediately remove from heat. Stir in sugar and salt. Let steep roughly 20 minutes. Strain. Leave in fridge 6-8 hours or overnight. In electric ice cream maker, churn until desired consistency. Freeze another two hours and then consume large quantities.

 

The Freezer Purge Continues…

Yep – digging out the remnants of things that used to be food from the freezer is actually really enjoyable. I can’t quite believe how many good meals we’ve had in the last few days, just from frozen bags of question mark.

I’ve been spending the last every-spare-moment packing and cleaning, and defrosting random things. Today’s is pumpkin. I know, I know, it’s not fall anymore, but I’ve got to get rid of it, so suck it up.

The other deciding factor is EVERYONE at work with their knickers in a twist that I’m a) leaving Vancouver and b) not baking every weekend anymore. They keep asking, “Do you not like us anymore?” I’ve set myself a dangerous precedent, but I’ve only got a few weeks to keep it up so I think I can probably swing it.

I also like to switch it up a little, since I’ve only done a few baking posts. Don’t get me wrong, I love dinner, but sometimes I need sweets. My depravity knows no bounds.

This pumpkin bread recipe has been slightly modified from a Weight Watchers recipe for muffins, given lovingly by my cousin Jamie, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (Calgary, again). I’ve changed it today more so than usual, as the pumpkin from the freezer is slightly under the required amount. We’ll get to that later.

Pumpkin Bread!

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See that cup of pumpkin? It’s just a teeeeensy bit under a cup. Like I said, we’re modifying it from the original Weight Watchers, and to make up the missing pumpkin, we’re using some melted butter (no shame!). The original recipe was lots of pumpkin and a tablespoon of oil. We’re changing that to about a quarter cup melted butter and that amount of pumpkin (I don’t have numbers for this).

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We’re missing our buttermilk, since it’s sitting off to the side becoming, well, buttermilk. If you don’t have store-bought, you can use lemon juice. One teaspoon of lemon juice to a cup of milk. Mix your brown sugar, pumpkin, melted butter, one egg and the buttermilk.

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Mix your dry ingredients separately. You know the spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves. The standard pumpkin pie spice.

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Dump the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir ONLY until everything’s combined. You don’t want to overmix.

Be sure to grease your pan. Bake in 350 degree oven for anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour. As you know, I start low and continue baking in roughly 5 minute increments if it’s not quite finished. Use a skewer to poke the middle, to make sure it’s done.

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If it starts to look dark and still isn’t finished, you can cover the whole thing with tin foil and keep baking – that will keep it from getting too crusty on top.

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I like to let my breads (banana, usually, but one time I made mango and it was AMAZING) cool upside down on a rack, since the top will stand up to the rack better than the bottom.

I’ll have to keep you posted on the final word – I’m saving it for studio breakfast on Monday. I’m sure they’ll let everyone know on Facebook!

Enjoy!

Pumpkin Bread

  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. cloves
  • 1 c. pumpkin puree
  • 1 tbsp. oil (or melted butter – your call!)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c. buttermilk
  • 1 c. brown sugar

Mix wet ingredients and dry ingredients separately. Stir only until combined. Pour into greased loaf pan and bake at 350 for 45 minutes to one hour. Cool upside down on wire rack.

That’s a Wrap.

Ba-dum-tiss! Right?

Ahem, lettuce wraps. We’re doing those today.

Josh and I have set ourselves a new adventure goal. It’s super lame, but I guess it’s what people who cook do…? We’re trying to eat our way through the freezer. I know this sounds kind of weird, to begin with, since that’s usually what you do, right? You eventually plan to consume all the things you’ve frozen. I, however, get a little overzealous with it sometimes, especially because we have an apartment sized freezer, meaning there isn’t exactly room for ALL the leftovers.

So last night, I sat down with a notebook and a bucket and diligently pulled out every ziplock bag and plastic container, looked at it for a minute, and decided whether or not a) I knew what it was and b) it was edible. If it wasn’t, it went in the bucket, and if it was, it was documented and put back.

Back to the part about having a plan. So we’ve figured out we can probably eat for the next month without actually purchasing protein. It’s actually going to be kind of fun, but it’s also going to be a gamble. Some of the things in there are questionable but in such large quantities I can’t consciously throw away with out at LEAST giving it a try…

Tonight’s dinner is butternut squash soup – it’s pretty fantastic but no recipes until I’ve tweaked it the way I like. Plus, the original recipe is vegan, and we certainly can’t have that! I made apple butter crustini. Here, look!

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Yeah, it’s amazing. That’s coconut milk on the top. Yeah.

But really, this post is about lettuce wraps. It started with this recipe from Sunny Anderson on the Food Network but I added rice.

I didn’t pay attention to the amounts, since I figured I only had 500g. ground beef, so I kinda just…pretended. Look, pretty!

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Just wanted to show you how pretty they were – totally worth the day-later blog.

Enjoy!

Beef & Rice Lettuce Wraps

  • 500g ground beef
  • half shallot
  • 1/4 c. hoisin sauce
  • 2 tsp. grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 small cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flake
  • salt & pepper
  • cooked white rice
  • large leaf lettuce
  • whole wheat wraps (optional – good idea for work lunch!)
  • crispy wonton strips/chow mein noodles
  • chopped peanuts

Brown beef with shallot. Add sauce and cook for a minute, until the sauce is hot. Pile on lettuce, with rice and crunchy bits. Quick, easy, and SO GOOD.

xo.

The Season is Upon Us

Good lord, I wrote this, and then we ate the stuff so fast, there was no time!

Ahem, as I was saying…

Hi guys! I must apologize again for my absence – everyone knows that once December hits, any idea of schedule goes out the window. I had this idea to buy my Christmas presents ahead of time, and of course, that didn’t go over well. I ended up at Metrotown last Saturday and I must admit it was a grievous error on my part. I used to love shopping…I wonder what happened…

Today, we’re making Christmas treats, or so I’m going to call them, as I’m getting bored of the standard shortbread or mince tart (although I do possess a weakness for both). The one thing I’ve never made on my own is my mother’s fruitcake. Before you get your knickers in a twist, and cries of “that awful, dry, fruit and nut bread stuff” go up, I promise you that this particular fruitcake is nothing like the grocery store kind.

The only similarity between the two is the fruit content, I suppose. Mum’s is heavy and rich and so packed fulled of candied fruit and nuts that sometimes it seems there isn’t enough batter to hold it all together. It is then wrapped in cheesecloth and soaked in brandy (who can say no to that?!) and left for weeks to let the flavors hang out. My guess is that the alcohol content doesn’t allow it to go bad, or something? Realistically, I don’t care. It’s delicious. I could eat it ANY time, not just at Christmas.

Back to today’s crock pot party. We’re making a snack mix that I will admit has an odd combination of things, but we’re trying it anyway.

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Motley crew of snacks, right? I know. Technically, my recipe has called for some things I wasn’t able to find, such as oyster crackers. I’ve never had these before, so I went to my friend Google and found out that Cheese Nips would do, so here we are. The pretzels were questionable for me as well, as I’m not a big fan, but I chose sticks rather than twists nonetheless. It also called for bagel chips and I didn’t see any in my travels so I chose Twistos – they’re a kind of crustini with flavor. Finally, I picked rice Chex to bring the gluten content down just a touch.

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I’ve mixed all the components (save for the sauce) in the crock pot and grated some parmesan cheese over it. Stir gently.

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Melt some butter and mix in some dry dressing mix – I’ve used ranch for this go round but I think next time I’ll try this Italian one instead. **Update – used Italian the second time and liked it better than the ranch!

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I’ve added some garlic powder as well, but I’m not sure it was necessary as the Twistos are parm-garlic flavored. **Update here, too, because I used Asiago flavored Twistos with the Italian seasoning – yum!

3 hours in the crock pot, and the verdict is as follows:

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Niiiice and crunchy. Couldn’t keep Joshua’s sticky paws out of it, either! Requires wine. Or rum-nog. Your call.

I considered writing a real recipe for this but I’ve done it a few times now and I’ve had success every time, and I have honestly and truthfully used whatever I could find. Any kind of nuts, any kind of cereal (regular Cheerios, Shreddies, honeycombs, even!), some kind of cracker, I have dried chickpeas in that last photo…

Keep in mind, while you’re creating YOUR version of beer-nuts (seriously, it’s good stuff to eat while enjoying alcoholic beverages), that if you use really buttery crackers, for example, that the drying process won’t exactly be the same. I usually check the pot every 45 minutes and give it a stir…and maybe eat a few bits. And by “a few” I mean a large handful.

Don’t stint on the cheese.

Happy New Year!