Two Tasty Sandwiches

I have been MIA pretty much all summer. It isn’t that I haven’t been cooking; quite the opposite. I have been doing a lot of barbecuing, and a lot of baking as well. I have helped feed some family events including a graduation party, my birthday and a mini family reunion.

The problem is that I didn’t have a good camera until about 2 weeks ago, so most of my summer pictures are from cell phones. Not good quality. I am getting caught up now, however, and will muddle through, trying to keep you interested even if the pictures are less than stellar.

The food in this post is from way back in April. I remember because we bought some more expensive items with our grocery order. Items we couldn’t normally afford, but because we were shopping late Saturday night before Easter, much of the perishable goods were half price! Yay for discounts!

One of the more expensive items we bought was a loaf of cheddar jalapeno bread. It is made in store, and costs about 4.99 a loaf. 5 bucks for bread is too much for my budget, but at 60 percent off, it was a more affordable treat.

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I used it in my Giant’s sandwich, along with jalapeno havarti (can’t get enough spiciness!), hot hungarian salami (half off in the deli), some italian cold cuts (also half off) and some turkey breast. Tomato, pickle and lettuce plus mayonnaise and mustard and my Giant was a happy man!

I served it with something we never buy, but did this one time. Tater tots.

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I used to get these in our grocery orders all the time: 10 years ago! When I was still married and my nephews stayed with me I used to buy these for them. They loved them, and I really enjoyed the hashbrowny taste and texture. On his plate you can also see a giant dollop of sztaziki. I think he dips more things in it than in ketchup!

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My sandwich was made on dark rye bread, also made in store. The rye bread is usually only 1.99 a loaf, (very reasonable), but we are never able to finish an entire loaf. When this was marked down 30% (what is with all the different dicounts?) I thought it was worth it, even if some went to waste.

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Here you can see the thick sandwich I am rocking. It is cheddar cheese, pickle, hot hungarian salami, montreal smoked meat, sliced red onion, lettuce and of course, mayo and mustard.

I loved this sandwich. There is something about smoked meat on rye that makes me weak in the knees. Since these were monster sandwiches, we didn’t bother with soup but instead had a couple cookies after (not pictured). I guarantee no sandwich lover could turn either of these down!

This also started a week long love affair with sandwiches. In an effort to use up all the bread, I made the Giant breakfast with jalapeno bread, (you can see it in the first picture here), and sandwich after sandwich with it. I was tempted to make a savory french toast, but the morning I got up to do it the bread had started to mold. There were only a couple pieces left, so no tears need to be shed for the wasted food.

I hope you liked the look of these sammies. What is your favorite kind?

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Diaper Party Time!

It’s that time in my circle of friends’ lives. Everyone seems to be getting married, having babies, and really growing up. I’m childless by circumstance as well as choice, but My Giant and I do get excited when our smart, intelligent, wonderful friends have babies.

A big trend in showers is the diaper party. Around here, they are traditionally a male only party where the guests bring bags of diapers. The idea is that the dad-to-be gets drunk and has fun with his friends who need to do no more than grab a pack of diapers off the grocery store shelf.

A couple of very dear friends were married last year and the following summer they were expecting their firstborn. Bankrolled by a couple of his best friends, I provided the food for the dad-to-be’s diaper party. And I got to be the only female invited! What an honour.

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What a layout! And please, ignore the pile of old mail on the corner of the table. The party was held in an apartment belonging to 3 bachelors. You can imagine the clutter! I made a lot of things that could be eaten at room temperature; the party would be going late into the night, and they wanted things they could come back and snack on all evening.

You will notice plates of sliders; there were three types. Greek mini burgers with red onions, feta cheese and sztaziki; classic cheeseburger with tomato, lettuce and onion; and these:

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Mini pulled pork sliders! The pulled pork was super easy to make. I put a small piece of pork loin in a heavy pot, covered it in smokey barbecue sauce, and let it cook slowly on the stovetop. After a few hours of cooking at low heat, I used two forks to pull it apart. Then, layered on mini buns with lettuce and jalepeno havarti cheese. Delicious.

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This is an amazingly delicious and yet weirdly disgusting looking hot taco dip. The bottom layer is ground beef cooked with taco seasoning (the easiest way is to add a packet of store bought seasoning), then a layer of sour cream, then a layer of salsa and on top a layer of shredded cheese. The dip can be eaten uncooked, but it is better when baked in the oven until the cheese is bubbling (see the first picture). The second picture is the carnage after the guys dove in.

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These are homemade boneless chicken wings. The chicken is made from the filet of the chicken breast, also sold in the grocery as chicken tenders. Beware: frozen chicken tenders are usually gross breaded formed chicken things and are not worth eating. The reason I used chicken filets is that they were cheaper than chicken breast, but were still nice white meat.

All I did was marinade the chicken in a mix of chili-garlic paste, siracha and olive oil. After a couple hours, I threaded them on bamboo skewers (making sure they were nicely coated in the marinade) and grilled them on a rack in the oven. They had the taste of hot chicken wings, with none of the bones. The guys loved them.

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Along with the taco dip I served homemade guacamole, store bought salsa and sour cream. The guacamole was super easy to make: I peeled, pitted and mashed two avocados with a tablespoon or two of salsa, as well as some fresh lime. Normally, I would used fresh tomato, onion and garlic as well as hot peppers, but I was in a rush and the guys didn’t seem to care. It turned out pretty tasty.

The salsa and sour cream were also good for dipping the empanadas in.

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Empanadas you say? Whaaa? So much work! Do not worry, these were frozen appetizers. I had an unopened bag of these left over from a jumbo box of mixed mexican style appetizers. Why not share them with the guys! My motto is you can never have too much food at a party. These were stuffed with cheese and jalapeno peppers.

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I can’t forget a favorite party food with my male friends. Hot pepperoni with spicy mustard. The chunks of pepperoni were served with old chedder, and were gobbled up extremely fast.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get pictures of two things: a giant plate of breakfast wraps I had for the guys as late night munchies/early morning breakfast. Remember this post? I made simple ones, with salsa, eggs, cheddar and bacon. I was later informed that the guys forgot that the wraps were in the fridge, and the guys who lived in the apartment ate them after everyone left! Oh well, as long as they were eaten.

The other thing that we didn’t get photos of were two batches of the most delicious brownies ever. I will be devoting an entire post to these amazing things, as I have never eaten a more perfect brownie.

So the guys loved the food. I didn’t stay too long, as even though I do enjoy being one of the guys, I wanted my good friend to be able to man-out with his buds without any estrogen hanging around. The activities of the night? Online quizzes, debates about comic books and RockBand. A helluva night, I do believe.

And congrats to Pete and Jen, who as of this post are new parents! Their little bundle was a healthy, happy baby boy. Mazel tov!

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Sloppy Joes, FINALLY.

It was a while back I wrote about Sloppy Johns, a fancier Sloppy Joe I made for my Giant. Well, these aren’t those steak and gravy messy but delicious sandwhiches.

No, these are your traditional, cheap, sauce from a can Sloppy Joes. I in fact used Manwich brand sauce, which has all the flavours that I remember from elementary school. Manwich is a tomato sauce, with onion and peppers diced up in it. You cook the ground meat and then add the sauce, then serve on hamburger buns.

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I use a thin spread of mayonnaise on my hamburger bun, but the Giant likes a bit of spice (Manwich Original is not spicy) so I added some sriracha sauce to his bun.

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I also grated some cheddar cheese onto each Joe as well. It melted just slightly; since this meal I have made Sloppy Joe’s many times and have found that grating the cheese makes all the difference. A slice of cheese works, but it won’t melt as well and sometimes has a tendency to slide off the bun. Grated cheese does no such thing.

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Don’t they look delicious? I served them with oven fries. I had a mix of sweet potato (the orange fries) and regular shoestring cut potato (the white ones). With a bit of ranch dressing, the fries were yum.

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Here is the Giant’s plate. He does not like sweet potato fries and so does not get any!

Also, you’ll notice we used white, spongy buns. If you are going for that classic, grade school style Sloppy Joe, then you need to embrace the white bread bun. It is the only time we ever eat white bread.

These are an insanely fast meal, and leftovers keep well in a sealed container in the fridge. Unassembled, goes without saying. (Or maybe it was safer to say it?)

Do you like Sloppy Joes? Or do you have another embarrassing food love?

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Sugar sugar…

Oh Honey honey.

Sometimes we take for granted some of the staples of our cupboards. One thing almost everyone has is sugar. Plain old white sugar, used in baking, in coffee and teas, is cheap and plentiful.

Until you need it, that is.

I remember wanting to bake something and finding the only bag of sugar I possessed had dried and hardened in the damp basement. Sounds weird, right? Well, apparently when granulated sugar becomes damp (but not wet) it will harden and cake together. Then it dries into a lump.

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See what I mean? This sugar was a 2 lb bag, and I peeled the paper bag off like a candy wrapper. Then I placed the brick of sugar into the plastic bag so I could pulverize it. Many websites informed me that you could just break up granulated sugar back to its original consistency. This was not one of those times. The brick was solid as a rock.

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Here I am holding it up in its bag. That is how hard the brick was.

If you have brown sugar that hardens, it has lost it’s moisture. If you add soft bread to the sugar in an airtight container, the sugar ‘steals’ the bread’s moisture. Just replace the bread as it dries out until the sugar as regained its proper moisture level.

I decided to try a similar solution with this granulated sugar.

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Here I stuffed two slices of fresh bread into the bag and sealed it. I left it on the counter for two days, then replaced the bread. After another day I was able to crush most of the lumps out.

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I did leave it in the bag with bread for another day, just to see if I could soften it any more.

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And the final result! If you noticed that it wasn’t as smooth as a ‘fresh’ bag of sugar, you are right. It was of a drier consistency. I did find that this type of sugar made a chewier cookie, and needed extra liquid in a chocolate sauce I made. It was worth saving, however. Frugality never goes out of style.

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Homemade Corn Tortillas

I promised I would update about making the tortillas in the last post from scratch. Handmade. It was easy, but without certain tools it becomes labour intensive.

Where to begin? Corn tortillas are a type of flatbread used in Mexico and Central America. They are unleaven, and made with corn flour that has been treated with mineral lime, which causes the skin of the kernals to peel off, as well as enriches the nutritional value of the corn. Read all about it here in the Wikipedia article. The treated corn is then ground into a fine meal and turned into a dough called masa. Although fresh masa can be bought in some specialty mexican markets, the dried form called masa harina can be purchased in most supermarkets. Even here in Saint John.

I found a recipe for corn tortillas on Rick Bayless’ website. Rick is an American who has published cookbooks on Mexican cuisine. I remember seeing him years and years ago on Martha Stewart Living, and falling in love with his gentle demeanor and fine skills in the kitchen.

The recipe had two ingrediants. Masa Harina and water. That is all. He called for 1 3/4 cups of the dried masa harina (or 1 pound fresh masa if you are lucky) and 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of hot water. Now I know he is the expert, but the dough was much to dry to handle. I had to add warm water by the tablespoon until I had a properly mixed dough. Not wet, by any means, but a firm dough that will roll into a ball and stay in a ball.

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See how dry it was with the recommended amount of water? This was where I added a tablespoon of water at a time, until I had a consistency like a firm cookie dough.

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See the difference? Even though it is still a drier dough than a yeast bread, it is still much more moist than the original picture.

Allow the ball of dough to sit for 15 minutes, then break into 15 pieces and roll those into balls. If the dough is too stiff, add water a bit at a time. You can always add more water, but taking it out once you have added too much is nigh impossible.

Meanwhile you should have a cast iron skillet heating up. If you don’t have a cast iron (which I don’t, not yet) then a normal pan will have to do. It worked for me! Get your tortilla press ready.

What’s a tortilla press, you ask? It is a device that makes presses flat, thin tortillas easy. It is not needed, however. I don’t have one, and mine turned out tasty. All you need is a rolling pin and some plastic wrap or parchment paper.

Take one of the small balls of dough and press it with your hand between two pieces of plastic or parchment. Then use the rolling pin to flatten it out to about 1/8th” thick.

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Something like this. The thinner, the better the texture after cooking, although I must say I made a few thick ones and snacked on them while I was preparing supper. Delish.

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This was thicker than I prefer for actual fajitas, but if you wanted to make this into a tortilla chip, it would be the perfect thickness.

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The tortilla goes into a hot, dry pan. I tried it with a bit of bacon grease in the pan as well, but it made a crispy tortilla. I wanted a pliable corn tortilla for our fajita meal.

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Here is after the first flip, when the bottom side has just browned. This only takes a minute or two so once you start frying stay close to the pan!

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Ah, all ready to come out of the pan. The toasted bits add extra flavour, and don’t taste burnt at all.

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A plate of finished corn tortillas, all made without a tortilla press. All made with a rolling pin. The tips? Watch that your plastic or parchment doesn’t tear while you are rolling. Also, working from the middle out on the tortillas seem to work better than rolling long strokes from one end to the other. A slightly damp paper towel under the plastic wrap will help keep your dough from drying out.

Once your tortillas are cooked, use right away. I kept them warm by wrapping their plate in foil and keeping it in a warmed oven.

I suggest using a tortilla press. I wish I had one. Hint hint, nudge nudge.

Hope you guys enjoy! Let me know if you try making them on your own.

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Fajitas with Friends

It has been a long time. I have been a little crazy here, and have missed posting. I have even had a friend ask if I’d given the blog up. No, faithful readers, I have not given up. Even though it has been a bit difficult.

What with camera issues (as in, NOT HAVING ONE), as well as some health issues and the passing of my Nanny (she was 91 and awesome, and we were all sad to lose her but happy she had a peaceful goodbye), I have not been able to post. I do have some pictures I’ve been saving to write about, and my Giant has been very good about letting me use his phone camera to take more pics until I can afford a new digital camera, so lets get started on getting caught up!

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Fajitas!

I had been craving corn tortillas like a maniac. Something about the toasty flavour of corn and the texture of the tortilla that was different than a flour one was calling to me. I couldn’t find any soft ones at the grocery, so instead I picked up a bag of special corn flour called masa harina. I’ll make another post about that process with photos.

Back to the meal.

We invited another couple over since the feast I prepared was way too much for two people. The spread was amazing.

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You can see the veggies were all cut up to pretty much the same size and shape. I chose to sort of julienne them, I prefer this style for fajitas, but if you like to dice (or it is easier) then do it. I really think the most important aspect is making them all relatively the same size, so that each bite has some of everything.

I cut up green pepper, tomato, red onion, and even fried up some white onion. I like the two different types together, the bite of the raw red, and the sweetness of the caramelized whites. I love squeezing lime on my fajitas, so I added some lime and lemon wedges.

Also, the cheddar cheese was grated at a medium texture. I just find it melts the best, as finer shred starts to stick together, and too large won’t melt well.

The chicken was all breast meat, grilled on my favorite cast iron pan with packaged taco seasoning used as a dry rub. Then it was sliced into strips for easy serving. It turned out so delicious.

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I know that feta and stzitziki are not traditional fajita condiments, but we like to improvise around here. And we like any excuse to eat stzatziki! There was also ranch, salsa (my favorite from President’s Choice), and you can see to the side a bowl of taco beef. I couldn’t decide what I wanted more, chicken or beef, so I made both! (See why we had to invite some friends over?)

In the front of the photo you can see a big bottle of red siracha sauce. Siracha is no longer a secret, but is becoming a standard spicy condiment to most households. Haven’t heard of it yet? It is a hot sauce, much like Tabasco, but from Thailand and in my opinion, much more flavourful in its spiciness. The bottle we have is actually American, but probably the easiest to find.

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My homemade tortillas! They don’t look too pretty, but they taste so good. Like I said, I’ll do an entire post on the steps it took to make. Let me just say this: it was worth it!

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Here are two of my fajitas before I added cheese. I only used a few veggies and some meat, a sprinkling of cheese and… Heaven!

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I think this was my third one. Oh I was a piggy that day. We all enjoyed the meal, and best of all, the Giant and I got to visit with our dear friend and his girlfriend. Sometimes the food isn’t the only treat!

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Snickerdoodles!

Have you ever had Snickerdoodles? Since they contain no chocolate, I assumed I would have no interest in a cinnamon-y sugar cookie.

Boy was I wrong.

My mother had been hounding me to make her some. As payment, she claimed, for loaning me her kitchenaid.

Oh the kitchenaid stand mixer. I love it. And it is sitting on my counter right now, beckoning me to create something. This is about the snickerdoodles, though, so back on topic.

I searched for a recipe and found two. One was from the Martha Stewart website, the other was based on the Martha Stewart recipe, but had substituted a mix of baking powder and baking soda for the cream of tartar. I had no cream of tartar so it was the one I used. By RachelleB, and found on her blog, rachelleb.com.

So here are all kinds of photos from start to finish.

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I suggest using rachelleb’s conversion. She calls for a lower oven temperature in addition to the cream of tartar change, which I agree with. Also, undercook is always better than overcook. The point is a chewy, soft sugar cookie. If you don’t pay close attention then you’ll end up with cookies like this.

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Luckily the Giant doesn’t mind a burnt cookie. Good thing, because I can’t stand them!

Enjoy! And stay tuned for my cheesecake post. I have almost completed my recipe, and it is DELICIOUS!

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A Giant’s Sammich

Feeding my Giant is no small task. He is a lanky fellow, but tall and I swear his legs are hollow. It is frustrating when I can feed his bottomless pit of an appetite and he gains NO WEIGHT, whereas I look can’t stomach full portions of anything and yet I still can’t drop a pound!

Enough griping; I love feeding him. Why? Well, food for me is not just sustenance, food can be a way to show someone you care. When you put the effort to make someone a meal, it is like a gift to them. My Giant always makes me feel appreciated, and he loves EVERYTHING. I can experiment to my hearts content and he gobbles it all up, even the burnt offerings. We make an excellent pair.

Am I being too sappy? I can’t help it. I’ll stop, though, and move onto the food. What food? A tasty sandwich, made on a half a garlic loaf with sundried tomatoes, cheese and STEAK!

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Looks good huh? I started with a store bought garlic baguette; I try to always keep one in the freezer, as they are super easy to pull out and bake when a quick meal is needed. And who doesn’t love garlic bread? Scott Pilgrim does

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On the toasted bread, I put some sliced sundried tomatoes. These are by President’s Choice, a Canadian store brand. I keep them in the fridge for pasta and pizzas, and now it seems for sandwiches as well! I normally drain all the oil from the tomatoes before using them, but I thought the extra bit of oil would add flavour, and since the bread was toasted it shouldn’t become too soggy.

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Then came the fried onions. This was just a peeled yellow onion, sliced thinly and fried in a bit of bacon grease. I grew up in a house where we kept the bacon fat after cooking in a can by the stove so that there was always a bit of fat for the pan. Now that I have my own place, I still reserve the fat and keep it for later use. Practical? Yes. Crazy? Perhaps.

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Then the steak. I grilled up a striploin steak on our cast iron pan to medium rare. It turned out perfect. Then sliced and placed on top of the onions. Oh, and I added some hot mustard on top of the steak.

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Cheese time! This was a mix of mozzarella and cheddar. Grated on the fine grate in order to melt more uniformly. Pop into a hot oven until the cheese melts. If your broiler works (which mine does not) then turn it on and watch carefully. It is way too easy to go from toasted to burnt when you turn your back on a broiler.

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Voila! Melted cheese, warm steak, garlicky bread and carmelized onions all meld together for a great sandwich. And my Giant loved his sammich!

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Chirashi Sushi

I am a huge fan of rice. I love so many different types, each one with a distinct taste. I also love the vinegary flavour of sushi rice; it is just a little annoying to roll sushi at home. That is why chirashi sushi is so great!

Chirashi is a type of loose or scattered sushi. There are lots of different styles of chirashi, some with 5 ingredients, some with 9 ingredients, but at the heart of it is a bowl of vinegared rice covered with toppings of your choice.

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I had some dry garlic pork, spicy thai chili tuna, some nori that I cut up into strips, vinegared sushi rice (made with a recipe from justhungry.com), as well as thing slices of cucumber and some pickled ginger.

I love pickled ginger. I loved this whole meal! It was a super quick way to feed the sushi craving without spending mucho yen on eating out.

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Mochas at Home

I am a fan of a Cafe Mocha. Coffee, chocolate and cream? Who could say no?

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Around my little city of Saint John, we have a couple options for mochas. First is the Canadian classic Tim Hortons. Timmy’s mochas are great, just not really a mocha. They use half coffee and half hot chocolate and put a layer of whipped topping (I am not sure whether or not it is real whipped cream). This is what I get when on campus, as it is (relatively) cheap and the only option while at school.

Other main options are Starbucks (ick) and Java Moose (yum). twice I have had mochas from Starbucks, and twice they have tasted burnt and bitter and were extremely overpriced. Java Moose is a locally owned purveyor of fine coffee, and they have a delicious selection of mochas. Yes, selection. Not only can you take a classic mocha (Espresso, steamed milk and chocolate syrup with a topping of whipped cream) but they have variations like Vanilla Toffee Mocha, White Chocolate Mocha, Reese’s Piece Peanut Butter Mocha, and Nutella Mocha Dream. Amazing.

Unfortunately, mochas are expensive. I can’t afford a daily five dollar drink, not even a two dollar one from Tim’s. So I started experimenting at home. This is what I have so far.

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In a coffee mug (the bigger the better, a cafe latte mug would probably be best), mix two tablespoons of milk with a a table spoon each of sugar and cocoa powder. Not chocolate milk powder, but actual cocoa. It should make a thickish pastey sauce. Then fill with hot fresh coffee. Add a dollop of whipped cream on top, and voila! Rich, cocoa-ey mocha.

If you are making for more than one person, I suggest the Tim Horton’s way. Brew a big pot of coffee, a pot of hot chocolate and do half and half with some whipped cream on top.

Enjoy!

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