Along the Grapevine


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Savoury Ramps Pastries

DSC03053This is turning out to be a great year for ramps (aka wild leeks or wild garlic). The cool weather has prolonged the season and I had the good fortune to have access to a bonanza of this seasonal delicacy on the property of a kind and gracious friend. If you don’t have access to them, you are likely to find them at good markets in any area where they are grown. For information on how to identify and pick them refer to this post here.DSC03059.JPG

I used a good bunch of them to ferment, perhaps my favourite use of them, but with so many I had the perfect opportunity to devise a new recipe. Sauteed ramps mixed with eggs and bechamel baked in a puff pastry made a simple yet elegant appetizer. No need for any extraneous ingredients – the ramps work just fine on their own.

Savoury Ramps Pastries

Ingredients

3 Tpsp olive oil

6 cups ramps, chopped

2 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp flour

1 cup milk

4 eggs

1 tsp salt

black pepper to taste

1 pound puff pastry dough

Method

Sautee the ramps in the oil until just cooked – about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool. Melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour and gradually add the milk, continuing to stir and cook over a medium heat until the sauce thickens. Set aside to cool.

Divide the pastry in two and roll out each half on a floured surface to fit a pan measuring 9 x 12 inces (or equivalent). Line the pan with one half. Beat three eggs, then add the cream sauce, sauteed ramps, salt and pepper. Pour this mixture onto the pastry and cover with the second sheet. Secure the top edges to the bottom layer to prevent the top layer from shrinking. Brush the top with 1 beaten egg. Bake in a 400 degree F. oven for about half an hour, until the pastry is puffy and golden.

Cut the pastry in serving size pieces with a sharp knife.

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This can be served warm or at room temperature, as a side, appetizer or main dish. It also freezes well and makes a perfect picnic treat.

Linked to Fiesta Friday, Safari of the Mind and Fabulous Fare Sisters.

 


12 Comments

Rhubarb Tart

Now that rhubarb is in season, here is a novel way you can serve it. Baked in a vegan custard and a puff pastry it is a simple recipe to add to your answers to “what do I do with all this rhubarb?” DSC03045.JPG

I developed this recipe in response to a recipe challenge set by one of my favourite food bloggers, Sonal of Simply Vegetarian. If you are not familiar with her blog, do pay her a visit. Her reliable, delicious and exotic recipes are a credit to the food blogging community.

The conditions of the challenge were to make a vegetarian semi-homemade, that is homemade with a store bought pastry base of any kind. So I purchased a package of puff pastry.

It is really just the beginning of rhubarb season here, and my rhubarb was not quite ready for picking when I baked this. However, a couple of weeks earlier I had started an experiment to force the first shoots. I covered one small patch with a ceramic chimney (actually our well cover) and placed a stone on top – any tall opaque vessel would do. Two weeks later I uncovered my experimental patch and this is what I found.DSC03026

The covered patch was much taller and ready to pick while the other rhubarb was close to the ground as seen in the above picture on the right. The leaves were smaller and yellowish, but the rhubarb was bright pink or red with snowy white interior.DSC03030

This variety of rhubarb is usually green inside with only streaks of red on fairly green stalks – fine for cooking but not the prettiest. This was much prettier. It was also sweeter and a lot less fibrous. Of course, any rhubarb will work, but the redder the variety you get, the better the appearance. I will definitely be doing this again next year and more of it.

I also wanted to make a vegan custard. As the challenge is for a vegetarian dish, though not necessarily vegan, I wanted to make it appealing to as many readers as possible. Also, I was running low on eggs. This was definitely another experiment for me, and again one that worked. For the custard-like consistency, I simmered some flax seeds and strained them. A little sugar, cardamom for flavouring and almond milk for bulk, it really couldn’t be easier or more fool-proof.

Rhubarb Tart

Ingredients

500 grams puff pastry

a few stalks of rhubarb

flax seed liquid+

2 cups almond milk

3 Tbsp thickening flour (I used tapioca flour)

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp freshly ground green cardamom

1 Tbsp rhubarb or other fruit bitters (optional)

Method

+ To make the flax liquid, bring 2 Tbsp flax seeds to a boil in 1 cup of water. Turn the heat down and simmer for 30 minutes, uncovered. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve. Use the seeds in the strainer to add to a smoothie! For a lighter colour than I achieved, use golden flax seeds rather than the dark ones.

Roll out the puff pastry to fit a pan 12 inches by 9 inches and prick all over with a fork. Mix the flax seed liquid, milk, flour, sugar and cardamom and heat gently, stirring frequently, until it thickens and the flour is cooked. It will still be more liquid than the final product since the flax seed won’t set until cooled. When semi-cooled, add the bitters if using them.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and place rhubarb pieces of about 3 inches in length and slit lengthwise if very thick neatly on top. Bake in a 350 degree oven until the crust is golden and the rhubarb is cooked, about 30 minutes.

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The custard will be very liquid when it comes out of the oven, but will set as it cools. Serve as is or with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar or drizzle of syrup. I used honeysuckle syrup.

Many thanks to Sonal for her initiative and for inspiring me to try something new! I enjoyed every bit of it.


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Dandelion Blossom Madeleines

Here is a seasonal and tasty take on the classic French madeleines. Just add a few petals from everybody’s favourite spring flower to a simple cake recipe and voilà!DSC03042.JPG

I have made many variations of madeleines in the past. A simple batter of butter, eggs and flour, plus whatever flavouring you like, be it vanilla, lemon, lavender or chocolate makes a perfect treat to have with your tea. As I’ve recently come across recipes using dandelion flowers in muffins and quick breads, I thought why not make something just a bit fancier.

A couple of pointers on this recipe. You will need just the petals of the flower. Snip off the base and remove as much of the green as possible. Usually I find a few specks remain, but that is not a problem. If you have a madeleine pan, all the better. If not, small muffin tins could be used. The batter should be well chilled before baking, as should be the baking tin. This will give you a better shape with the distinctive hump which gives it its form.

Dandelion Blossom Madeleines

Ingredients

1 cup fresh dandelion petals

2/3 cup sugar

1 cup flour

2 eggs

1/2 tsp vanilla

4 oz  melted butter plus butter for greasing pan

Method

Mix the petals and sugar in a food processor. If not using a food processor, chop the petals as finely as possible. Add the flour to the petals and mash with the back of a spoon to avoid any clumps forming. Beat the eggs and vanilla well and add to the dry mixture. Blend in the melted butter. Cover the batter and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour and up to 24. Grease the baking tin liberally with butter, then place in the freezer to chill it well.

Spoon the batter evenly into the pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes. When ready, the centre will be firm and bounce back when pressed. Best eaten warm, and within two days of baking. Serve plain or with a light sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar.

Makes 1 dozen.DSC03035

You may be wondering about the flavour. There is no bitter taste at all – just an aromatic floral flavour. It is comparable to the delicious scent of a spring lawn covered in dandelions – something that I experienced this afternoon as I happened to be cavorting in the garden.

Linked to Fiesta Friday #118, Life Diet Health and GFLife 24/7.

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32 Comments

Spicy Maple Pinwheels

DSC02939The sap is running from our maple trees, the buckets are hung, and we are keeping one eye on the pot (and the other up the chimney) when boiling the sap. I am also busy using up last year’s stock which gives me lots of opportunity to experiment with new recipes, and I am trying to come up with new flavour combinations. Maple syrup is such an icon in Canadian cooking we sometimes prefer to stick with the tried and true, but I felt adventurous with this recipe. Since I discovered that hot spices are the best addition to chocolate, why not do the same with maple syrup? Sweet and spicy are a good bet for me, and to experiment I used two flavours, ginger for half the recipe and chili peppers for the other half. If you choose to go with one, then double the quantity of that spice in the filling.DSC02943

These “cookies” are made with a yeast dough – neither very sweet nor rich. I also deliberately made them not too pillowy or sticky. I used spelt flour which has a delicious nutty taste, although regular wheat flour would work too, and I kept them vegan by using coconut oil just because. I expect butter would be just as good.DSC02945

Spicy Maple Pinwheels


Ingredients for the dough

2 tsp instant yeast (or the equivalent of fresh yeast if you have it)

1 1/2 cup warm water

2 Tbsp maple syrup

4 1/2 cups flour (approximately)

1/2 cup coconut oil, softened

1 tsp salt

Ingredients for the filling

1 cup coconut oil

1 cup maple syrup

1 tsp chili pepper flakes

3 tbsp chopped candied ginger

1/2 cup granulated maple sugar (or other granulated sugar)

Method

Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of the water. Add to it the 2 Tbsp of maple syrup, 1 cup of warm water and 1 cup of spelt flour. Cover with a cloth and set in a warm place until it becomes spongy, about 2 hours.

Mix in the softened coconut oil, salt and the flour, a little at a time. When the dough comes together, turn it out onto a floured board and kneed for about 5 minutes. Place in a bowl and allow to rise for a second time until it has doubled in bulk. Meanwhile, make the filling by beating the coconut oil and maple syrup with a beater. Add the spices, chili to half the mixture and chopped ginger to the other half.

When the dough has risen, divide it in two and roll each piece into a rectangle of about 20 x 12 inches. The dough should be quite thin. Spread the filling evenly over the dough and sprinkle the granulated sugar on top.  Roll up from the long (20 in.) side. Slice the roll into 1 inch pieces and place them on a parchment lined tray to rise covered with a tea towel – about 1/2 hour.

Before baking, press each cookie down to flatten somewhat. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 to 35 minutes. Makes 24 cookies.

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The pepper ones are pretty hot, but I was correct in supposing that spice and maple syrup is a winning combination for those who like a little piquant to our snacks. The ginger is also very good, and might be better for those who are not great fans of chili. DSC02947

Linked to Angie’s Fiesta Friday #110, Jhuls’ The Not so Creative Cook and Apsara’s Eating Well Diary.

 

 

 


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Applejacks

DSC02909I have been wanting to make this recipe for some time now ever since I saw it on one of my favourite cooking shows on PBS, A Chef’s Life with Vivian Howard. Her recipes are very straight forward, and her attention to ingredients, always local and usually inspired by her own regional cuisine of N. Carolina is what draws me to her programme.

You can see her original recipe for applejacks, a sort of fried apple turnover, here. My original intention was to make the same recipe except instead of using dried apples, I planned to use dried crabapples. I never did locate the crabapples I was sure I had, so went for the apples after all. However, instead of using 2 cups of cider, I diluted a bit (about 1/2 cup) of crabapple preserve in the required amount of liquid. I’m sure her recipe is excellent, but I found that the preserve did add a lot of fruit flavour, to say nothing of the deep red colour. If you don’t have crabapple preserve, I feel quite confident in suggesting you just use the 2 cups of cider with 1 cup of water for the liquid as she does even though I haven’t tried that myself.

I fully intended to follow the original recipe by frying the applejacks, but I lost my nerve once I had them all assembled. I really don’t enjoy frying things, so I just brushed them liberally with butter and baked them.  The crust is very easy to make, and because it’s made with hot water it is resilient and very crisp. You can roll these out super thin, making them less rich than a regular pie crust. DSC02904

Applejacks

For the filling:

2 cups dried apple pieces

1/2 cup crabapple preserve diluted in 3 cups of water

OR 2 cups of cider and 1 cup water

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

zest of 1 organic lemon

juice of 1 lemon

For the pastry:

2 cups all purpose flour

1/3 cup lard

2/3 cup hot water

butter for brushing the tops

Combine everything except the lemon juice in a saucepan and simmer until the water is absorbed and the mixture is the texture of a thick applesauce. Remove from the heat and mix in the lemon juice. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile make a well in the flour and put the lard in the centre. Begin by pouring about half the hot water into the bowl and mix it all together with your hands. Add water as needed until you are able to form a ball with it. Wrap it in a damp towel and set aside for about half an hour.

Roll the pastry very thin on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin as the dough is quite wet. Cut out circles of about 4 inches in diameter. Place about 2 Tbsp of filling just south of the middle, fold over and seal with the tines of a fork. Brush with some melted butter. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for about 25 minutes or until the pastry browns.

Makes about 24 applejacks.DSC02923

Linked to our Fiesta Friday host Angie at Fiesta Friday, co-hosts Su at Su’s Healthy Living and Margy at La Petite Casserole.

 


17 Comments

Mushroom Puffs

I came across this recipe from About Food for something resembling popovers made with mushrooms. It looked like the perfect base for a recipe using some of my dehydrated mushrooms and dried puffball mushroom flour. You can use any dehydrated mushrooms, and if you don’t have mushroom flour, simply omit that and increase the use of flour to 3/4 cup, as in the original recipe.DSC02888

Using the puffball flour meant I had to change the method a bit, but nothing too complicated, and the use of the flour, mushrooms and the stock made by soaking the dried mushrooms intensified the flavour.

Mushroom Puffs

1/2 cup finely chopped dried mushrooms (I used maitake)

1 3/4 cups boiling water

1/2 cup puffball mushroom flour

4 oz butter

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

4 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup flour

1 1/4 tsp baking powder

Soak the dried mushrooms in boiling water for ten minutes in a saucepan. Add the mushroom flour and simmer, stirring it with a whisk to incorporate the flour. Remove from the heat and add the butter, which will help cool the mixture. When it is cool enough not to cook the eggs, add the rest of the ingredients. The mixture will be the consistency of a crepe batter, and you will have about 4 cups.

Grease your pan/s liberally with oil. Place them in a preheated 400 degree F. oven until the oil starts to smoke. Pour in the batter leaving about 1/2 inch at the top.

I used a muffin tin for 6 muffins and 1 loaf pan. The ones in the muffin pan took 15 minutes to cook, the loaf 25 minutes. The batter will puff up and brown when it’s done.

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They don’t stay puffed for long, but unlike popovers or Yorkshire pudding, there are no big air pockets. They can be eaten hot or cold, on their own, buttered or to accompany a main dish, omelette or salad.

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They keep well, and are delicious with just a little butter and sumac powder – for example.

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Linked to Angie at Fiesta Friday, Steffi at Ginger and Bread and Andrea at Cooking with a Wallflower who are making this week’s Fiesta Friday possible.

 

 


30 Comments

Crabapple Whisky Cake

Recently I was thinking of baking with some of my store of applesauce, when it occurred to me I should also use some of my crabapple sauce for a change. Quite by chance I came across a recipe which did exactly that, thereby saving me a lot of time and effort by not having to create my own.

I had been picking crabapples even after the frost, so I was relieved to learn someone else does it, and it really is OK. They don’t look that great on the tree, but for cooking purposes it is quite safe to do so. So if you have some of these shrivelled little fruits to pick, here is a perfect way to use them.

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I followed the recipe which you can find here   (as well as some interesting facts about crabapples), using the cinnamon and nutmeg instead of spice berries, regular walnuts instead of black walnuts, and the whisky which I thought made it suitable for a Robbie Burns dinner this weekend, but it is delicious enough you can forego the liquor all together if you wish.

The crabapples give the cake more fruit flavour than regular apples would, and the spices and nuts add even more to the rich flavours.

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I baked it in a large bundt pan which took about 75 minutes to bake, longer than the recipe calls for, but times will vary depending on the shape of your pan.

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If using a pan like this, it is important to grease it very well to make removing the cake easy.

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It would be delicious served with whipped or clotted cream, but we chose to have it neat.

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Now that I know just how good crabapple sauce is in making, I might just have to work on more recipes, but I doubt I could beat this one. Easy to make, delicious, keeps well, it is a keeper.

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Linked to Angie at Fiesta Friday, Sonal at Simply Vegetarian and Petra at Food Eat Love.


15 Comments

Crabapple Rolls

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This is a good year for crabapples, unlike last year. This means I am busy preserving these delicious little fruits for use all winter long and perhaps beyond – depending on our luck next year.

As I was experimenting, I ended up unintentionally with some crabapple jam. I was aiming for jellied candies, but in total frustration, just turned it into jam. This is uncannily similar to my crabapple paste – just as easy but less concentrated.

To do this, I used 6 cups of crabapples and covered them with water. After boiling them long until soft, I strained them through a food mill, ending up with 6 cups of juice. To this I added 3 cups of sugar and cooked it until it was the consistency of liquid honey.

Crabapples have so much pectin in them, there is really no need for any other ingredients other than sugar and water. The flavour is much heftier than regular apples, so it is ideal for mixing into marinades, sauces and baking where you want that tart fruitiness to come through.

I decided to use some of the jam I made to make a filled cookie inspired by the ever-popular fig newtons. The apple flavour is strong enough that I did not need to add any other flavourings, keeping pretty much to local ingredients. If you don’t have crabapples, you could substitute any fruit jam or paste. In the case of jam, you will need to thicken it as I have done in this recipe, but a fruit paste probably won’t need any.

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Crabapple Rolls

Ingredients

2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp softened butter (or substitute)

2 Tbsp liquid honey (or equivalent)

1 egg

1/2 cup applesauce

2 cups crabapple jam (or other preserves)

cornstarch for thickening

Method

Mix the flour and baking powder in a mixing bowl. Combine the butter, egg and applesauce and add this mixture to the dry ingredients. Combine thoroughly and knead it into a ball. Cover and refrigerate for about one hour.

While the dough is resting, mix the cornstarch with the jam and heat through until thickened. I used about 6 Tbsp of cornstarch, but this will vary according to the consistency of the jam used. It should be thick like peanut butter. Allow to cool.

Divide the dough into four pieces and roll each one on a floured surface into a rectangle about 5 inches wide.  Spread the jam mixture down the middle and fold each side over the middle and seal. Place in a 350 F oven for about 15 minutes or until the dough is cooked.

Remove from the oven. Allow to cool and slice.

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Linked to Fiesta Friday #93


10 Comments

Apple and Grape Pie

Version 2

I was invited to pick apples from a neighbour’s tree this year. They were Mcintosh apples, considered one of the best for making pies, and the untreated tree was full of perfectly formed fruit. Were I taller, or able to climb a ladder, I would have had several bushels, but then there just aren’t enough hours in the day to process and consume that many apples. Still, I managed to get a good load from the lower branches, and we have been enjoying these delicious fruits in so many ways. Especially when you can find apples which have not been contaminated with pesticides and such, they are so worth picking. Now that the frost has come, I am sorry at the thought of all the rest going to waste, but I did my best.

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One recipe I made I want to share with you because it has all the qualities of a fine apple pie, but mixed with another seasonal fruit which is seldom found in pie recipes. I recently found some seedless purple grapes at one of my favourite markets in Toronto, and I knew these would be perfect with my Mcintoshes. If you have never tried adding seedless grapes to a pie, either red or purple ones preferably, you are in for a surprise. They add a good bit of sweetness, and they keep their form and texture even after baking. You will notice that for 8 cups of fruit, I only used 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, and the result was every bit as sweet needed without overpowering the flavour of the fruit.

Apple and Grape Pie

Ingredients

pastry for one 9 inch pie

6 medium sized apples, pealed, cored and sliced

2 cups seedless grapes

1 tsp cinnamon

2 Tbsp cornflour

Method

Line your pie dish with half the pastry. Mix all the other ingredients in a bowl and fill the pie dish. Cover with the remaining pastry. Brush the pastry with a little milk, and make a few cuts in the pastry to let the steam out. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for about 1 hour or until the crust is golden brown.

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Because these apples were not sprayed, I didn’t want to waste the beautiful skins. As I peeled them, I put the skins and cores in a pot, added a little water, cooked and strained them for the reddest apple sauce ever.

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You can also make an excellent scrap vinegar with them following this method I used in a post on pears. Or dehydrate the skins and when completely dry, grind them into a fine powder and use as a sweetener, also as described in the same post.

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To store the excess fruit, I have found the best ways to preserve them are dehydrating them and storing them in plastic bags.

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To freeze, I slice them as for a pie, dump them in salted water (1 tsp of salt for 6 cups of water) to prevent them from browning, remove them with a slotted spoon and bag them. The same water can be used several times.

Linked to Fiesta Friday #92


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Nannyberry Cake

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At this very time last year I posted a recipe for a sauce using nannyberries or viburnum lentago. It was my first experience with this berry, and I was surprised at just how easy to use and tasty it was. In that post, I give some description of the plant which I won’t repeat here, but if you think you might have access to this plant, you might find it interesting.

This year the trees are producing even more than last year, and I hope to try a few recipes with them, starting with one for a cake. There are no nannyberry cake recipes I can find, so here is my chance to create a ‘first’.

It is a pretty standard, old-fashioned sort of cake recipe, using butter, eggs and buttermilk, but the subtle fruit flavour of these berries, something like that of plums, mixed with cardamom, makes a super aromatic dessert appropriate for an autumn menu. If you don’t care for or own any cardamom, cinnamon could be substituted.

Nannyberry Cake

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups nannyberries

3/4 cup water

3 egg yolks

1 cup buttermilk

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup butter

1 cup lightly packed brown sugar

1 1/2 cups flour

2 Tbsp ground flaxseed

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground cardamom

3 beaten egg whites

Method

Cook the nannyberries and water in a covered pan until soft, about ten minutes. Strain the berries, pressing out as much pulp as possible. This will make about 1/2 cup of juice. When cool, beat in the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Measure the flour, flaxseed, soda and cardamom and mix well. Blend one third of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture at a time, alternating with half the liquid. When it is all blended, fold in the egg whites.

Pour the batter into a ten inch spring form pan lined with parchment paper. Bake at 325 degrees F for fifty minutes. Allow it to sit for ten minutes, then remove the cake from the pan and allow to cool on a rack.

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This is a cake which can be served just as is, with cream or ice cream, or if you like given a full regalia.

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Linked to Fiesta Friday #87.