cooking

No enchiladas in the icebox, and the television’s broke

(Bonus points if you recognize the title of this post as being from Pat Boone’s 1962 single “Speedy Gonzales”.)

Today, I come to you not with a decadent dessert, but with a quick and easy entrée. I’m pretty sure my junior-high Home Ec. teacher wouldn’t classify this as food, and I secretly kind of agree with her (purely hypothetical) assessment, but when you’re hungry but also unmotivated, this does the trick.

I first spotted this “recipe” on Buzzfeed, which of course sources its content from Reddit, whose original poster saw a video for this on TikTok. This feels a bit like the 21st century version of passing a recipe down through the generations, albeit at warp speed.

Preheat your oven to 400°F, grease a baking dish, and let’s get started.

Start with some frozen Taquitos. I used plant-based ones from my favourite independent grocery store, but any kind will work. Once your oven is up to temperature, pop them in there for 10 minutes.

Once your 10 minutes are up, turn them over and pour a can of enchilada sauce over the works. I used verde sauce which admittedly looks a bit nasty in photographs but smells and tastes heavenly. Sprinkle some shredded cheese over the top (my designated shopper brought me old Cheddar), and put them back in the oven for another 10 minutes.

Crispy shells and melted cheese? Check and check.

Et voilà, lazy enchiladas in 20 minutes. Like I said, maybe it’s not food-food, but it’s quicker and cheaper than hitting up the local drive-through. It’s also no slower than making Taquitos the usual way, so for 20 minutes the choice is yours. I made these a couple of times over the holidays, and they hit the spot.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

cooking

I am not a…salad?

Earlier this summer when the temperatures were high and my motivation to do much of anything was low, I spent a few consecutive evenings camped out on the couch and watching DVD’s from my collection. One night’s feature presentation was Dick, which is a fictional take on the Watergate scandal. High cinema? Hardly. But it had a recognizable cast and a good soundtrack, and there are worse ways to spend an hour and a half.

Some time after that, I was leafing through my mom’s copy of Retro Recipes from the ’50s and ’60s: 103 Vintage Appetizers, Dinners, and Drinks Everyone Will Love (this was a Mother’s Day gift from me, and 100% worth it just for the photos, even if you don’t ever plan on making liver and onions or beef Wellington), when I came across Watergate Salad in the “Side Dishes” section. Reading through the ingredients, I thought that calling it a side dish might be stretching it a bit…but also, I really wanted to make it!

I assembled my ingredients…

Kraft created this recipe to showcase their new-at-the-time pistachio pudding mix, and originally called it “Pistachio Pineapple Delight” before a newspaper columnist gave it its more infamous name. I call it a misnamed dessert.

The pineapple, pudding mix, and pecans get thrown into a mixing bowl along with the marshmallows.

It’s still not a salad, but at least it’s still fairly benign-looking at this point.

Not for long, though…

What the heck, Kraft? This looks like one of those queasy-making dishes you see at Halloween. (“Zombie Brains”!) Folding in the Cool Whip helped a bit.

By the time I was spreading it in the pan, it looked like the picture in the book.

The recipe called for an 8″ baking dish; I went larger than that after looking at how much was in the bowl. (I think my problem might have been a larger container of Cool Whip than the recipe called for, but in my defense it was not labelled as being 8 oz and was also the only size available at the store, so…)

Also of interest: the recipe said it could either be scooped or sliced for serving, and I had my doubts at first. Until…

I’ll be darned! That stuff really held its shape, and I’m not sure if that’s a selling point or not.

By the way, if you’re wanting to try this for yourself, here’s a very similar recipe to the one in the book.

I’m not sure what it is, but it’s definitely not a salad. Even Ambrosia salad feels more salad-like, somehow. Perhaps it’s best enjoyed with shlocky 70s-by-way-of-the-90s nostalgia. It’s cool and light, though, and my mom loved it – so I guess the book was a good investment.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

cooking

*Slightly* less magical than Disney…

Last weekend was supposed to have been hot as all get-out and since turning on the oven to bake sounded less-than-appealing, we decided this was our opportunity to try one of those copycat Dole Whip recipes that proliferate on Pinterest. Who needs a passport and a plane ticket when one can recreate all the magic of a Disney park in one’s own kitchen?

If you search out “copycat Dole Whip” online, there are tons of recipes to choose from. I went for this one, which seemed the most true to the recipe released by Disney a couple of years ago and didn’t include any weird add-ins like sugar (the pineapple and ice cream are full of it already, thanks) or lime juice (just…what?).

I had no idea that frozen pineapple even existed until I sought it out for this recipe. We used about half the package (or 2 cups-ish), plus a “big scoop” (~3/4 cup) of vanilla ice cream, and 1/4 cup of pineapple juice.

This view of the blender holds promises of infinite riches, of creamy, tropical bliss. Now, the recipe says that the frozen pineapple chunks should be set out “a few minutes ahead of time”, without really specifying what “a few minutes” is. Diligently photographing my packaged ingredients and then measuring them all out and adding them to the blender surely took “a few minutes”; what the recipe did not tell us is that that was not nearly enough time, and that trying to blend everything now would result in a solid, seized-up frozen chunk that would need to be poked with a stick like some sort of dead body in the woods in order to start moving around the blender.

I feel like if the four kids in Stand by Me had been on a quest to look at frozen pineapple, the movie would never have been a success. Ahem.

After much poking and pulsing, everything more or less came together and looked like the pictures I was seeing online. The recipes almost unanimously agree that to get a classic soft-serve look, this should be spooned into a piping bag and swirled into your cup or bowl.

What they don’t tell you, however, is that any pineapple chunks that escaped the blender’s blades will block the piping tip, resulting in more poking with a stick (a chopstick this time, and not a wooden spoon).

Me: Do you want to just spoon this into the bowls and eat it?

Him: Yup.

It might not have been much to look at, but it was cool and refreshing. Shockingly, the stick-poking didn’t deter us from wanting to try it again – albeit with slightly thawed pineapple next time.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

cooking

Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere…

Pop quiz: What’s this?

Is it:

a) a really slapdash Green Man Halloween costume?

b) a rejected prototype for the Angry Sun from the Super Mario franchise?

c) my very first piece of kindergarten artwork?

Actually, it’s d) the start of something really fun. Take a look!

Last year, the employees from the west side of our floor had a bit of a Halloween party and didn’t invite the east-siders. I discovered it by accident when I went to file something and walked into a table covered in sharable finger food. When I ran into one of the west side denizens later on in the shared kitchenette, she bade me come over and grab something to eat. That’s where I first encountered Rice Krispies treats in the shape of pumpkins, and I’ve had to wait a whole year for them to be seasonally appropriate again.

I used this recipe, and started by cutting two pieces of green Twizzlers (from the rainbow pack) into 1″ pieces, like you see above. I’m glad I cut the full 16, because that’s exactly how many pumpkins I got, not the 12 the recipe indicates. They’re watermelon-flavoured, which is normally not something I’d go for but which is less gross than it sounds, especially in small quantities like this.

I really dug the tie-dye aesthetic the marshmallow got when I added my red and yellow food colour – if I thought it would stay swirled and separate, I’d try making a batch in a different colour, but even if I hadn’t dutifully blended these to a solid orange beforehand, stirring in the cereal would have done the job.

Every recipe I’ve seen for these recommends greasing up your hands with butter or oil before rolling each pumpkin (or donning food-handling gloves, which boast Teflon-esque properties), and oh, that is one step you don’t want to mess around with. I think I managed to form my first two with one coating of oil, but after that stray pieces of cereal began to stick. A few seconds oiling your hands will save a ton of frustration later on.

Rather than wait until I had rolled all of my pumpkins before adding stems, I created a little indent on each one with my thumb as I went along, and found it much easier to get the licorice in while the mixture was still soft.

And there you have it! These were really quick and easy to make, and taste great. So far, they’re proving to be a hit with anyone who’s tried one.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

cooking

Hello, I’m Jell-O

This is how I envisioned my self-isolation when authorities everywhere told us to stay home and flatten the curve:

This is what it’s actually been like:

Ha! Just kidding! I’d kill for a paper file right about now. But seriously, I’m working from home, yanked from my extremely paper-based environment and plunked into a paperless wonderland. And I’m not complaining, because hey, I have a job, I and those I care about are healthy, and I’m helping people. But it’s hard not to be a little jealous of those who have all the time in the world to bake and craft and create all day, every day, or who can undertake some great project. Apart from saving the commute, my routine really hasn’t changed. The grass is always greener, right?

Because my weekdays are filled with PDFs and occasionally wonky network connections, I took the opportunity over the weekend to try something deliciously retro: Ribbon Jell-O. I don’t have deeply-rooted memories of this being made for family dinners (but a classmate’s mom made it once, I think?), so I wasn’t in danger of ruining the nostalgia. Also, it’s a) bright and colourful and b) pretty straight-foward and simple, which was reason enough to give it a try.

(A word to the wise: I was a heck of a lot happier before I started reading nutritional information on things. There’s a whack of sugar in this, so, you know, proceed with caution.)

I’m not going to rewrite the recipe here – the original is quite simple enough to follow – but offer some insight for those who might want to follow in my footsteps.

  1. Be aware of the capacity of your kitchen implements. The recipe called for “six small bowls” to mix the Jell-O. I used soup bowls, figuring they’d be more than enough – but by the time I added my one and a half cups of water to each flavour, those babies were full. Ditto the “small saucepan” for warming the milk. Luckily, I decided while the milk was still in the carton that a small saucepan couldn’t hold a litre and sized up. Also: some of the comments complained that all the layers wouldn’t fit into a 9″ x 13″ pan as promised, so I bought a deep (3″) disposable one just for this project.

2. One of the comments asked whether it was necessary to grease the pan. The author swore she never did, but I didn’t feel like taking that chance. I gave my shiny new pan a couple of quick spritzes with PAM and spread it around with a small wad of waxed paper. It’s a really easy insurance policy (and I promise it doesn’t make your dessert greasy).

3. The layers take about 45 minutes each to set up, which adds up when you’re adding 11 of them in total. This is actually a great isolation dessert, because really, where are you going to go?

4. Remember the 3″ pan I procured just for this? Holy heck, am I ever glad I had it! That puppy was almost full to the top when I was finished. Oh, and heavy, too! I had decided to store this in the basement fridge for the duration, and had the foresight to realize I didn’t want to have to carry it upstairs each time I wanted to add a new layer. Because there’s no way those soup bowls were going to make it downstairs without spilling, I emptied each one into a 2-cup measuring cup when it was time to add it and took that down instead. (For the white mixture, I measured out my cup-and-a-half in another 2-cup measuring cup.) An added bonus: because my last few colours were gelling even at room temperature, it was easy to pop the measuring cup into the microwave for 20 seconds or so to loosen everything up again.

5. I’ve blocked out a lot of high school physics class, but I can tell you that there’s a lot of pressure working on this structure from all sides. The adhesion of the white to the colours isn’t absolute, and in serving, the layers start to slide a bit.

6. It fares slightly better if you lay it on its side, although it will also collapse from this position. If I ever make this again and really want it to stay intact, I’ll do individual parfaits – but as it is now, it’s still delicious and fruity, even when it’s a slippery mess.

Thanks for looking – hope everyone’s staying safe! 🙂

baking, cooking, craftmas

On the second day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: a really easy recipe!

Who couldn’t use one of those in his or her repertoire, especially at this time of year?  There’s so much to get done, and anything that doesn’t involve preheating, rolling, cutting, frosting, etc. can’t be all bad.

And so I present to you my recipe for Cuban Lunch.  They’re based on a defunct chocolate bar (which was apparently resurrected earlier this year, but I haven’t seen it anywhere), and are a crowd-pleaser if ever I saw one.  You can make a lot quickly, and they’re perfect for gift-giving or cookie trays.  A few years ago, I gave little care packages to the management team at work, and within half an hour everyone had IM-ed me to say thank you – except for the men in the group, who IM-ed me to say thank you, and also that they had eaten all six in one shot.

What you need:

  • 2 cups each of semi-sweet chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, and butterscotch chips.  If you buy these things in bulk and actually want to measure, great; I find that your standard 300g bags found in the baking aisle give you what you need
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed ripple potato chips
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped peanuts
  • Optional, but nice: a kind person to help you set out your mini cupcake liners, and to set out more when your hands are occupied by chocolate-coated utensils and you realize you’re getting way more of these from the recipe than you anticipated

Set out your mini cupcake liners.  The recipe I found has a yield of 75, but whoever wrote it must have filled their liners fuller than I do.  This may take some experimentation on your part, so keep a few extra nearby.  Also, the tinfoil is not strictly necessary, but prevents you having to wash your cookie sheet when you drop chocolate on it – and you will drop chocolate on it.

Chop your peanuts and crush your ripple chips.  I like to use a mini food processor for the chips, but if you have some holiday rage to work through, a sturdy Ziploc bag and a rolling pin make a wonderful substitute.  Set them aside for now.

Put your 6 cups of baking chips in a microwave-safe bowl.  I like to fold them all together to prevent weird pockets of one kind or another in the finished product, because I’m like that.  Once you’re satisfied that your mixture is as homogeneous as it’s going to get, microwave it on high for 30-second bursts.  After each round, take it out and stir it before putting it back in for another 30 seconds.  Yes, this is a giant drag, but chocolate likes to hold its shape even when it’s at a melting point, so check and stir, every single time, until everything is completely melted.  No one likes scorched chocolate.

Once the baking chips are completely melted, fold in your potato chips and peanuts.  It can seem like a lot to integrate, but keep at ‘er.  Your mixture should look something like this.

Spoon the mixture into those mini cupcake liners you so painstakingly peeled apart and placed on your cookie sheets.  Once they’re all filled, they’ll need to set.  They will set up at room temperature, but some time in the fridge or freezer helps immensely.  If you live somewhere cold, use nature’s freezer!  (Just make sure you don’t have any neighbourhood wildlife creeping around.)

These can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature or in the fridge, and look so cute in a little cellophane treat bag tied up with a bow.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

baking, cooking

Strawberries, cherries, and an angel’s kiss in spring…

…my summer jam is really made from all these things.  (And a lot less likely to leave you hung over and robbed of your silver spurs!)

The very first year the cherry tree in the front yard yielded fruit – honestly edible fruit, and not the kind you leave for the birds to peck at – I was thrilled.  This isn’t exactly the Okanagan, so this was a novelty to me, one that elicited fantasies of making jam and…well, I didn’t make it much past jam.  And when I first tried it using a Jell-o jam recipe a couple of years ago, the results weren’t great.  (What did I expect?  Jell-o is not and will never be a proper substitute for pectin.)

Jam and Crisp 1

It’s not a huge tree, but it’s got spirit and bursts forth with cherries like it’s going through some sort of weird tree puberty.

Last year yielded another large crop.  Since the idea of “real” canning terrifies me and has me convinced I’ll give someone botulism, I looked for a recipe for freezer jam, and found this.  Even though the recipe specifically calls for sweet cherries, it works wonderfully with my tart little harvest, too.  It’s remarkably similar to the one found inside the Certo package, with the small addition of microwaving the fruit-and-sugar mixture for a few minutes to increase the saturation point and help the sugar dissolve for non-grainy jam.  (There’s something a little disturbing about a recipe using so much sugar that the fruit can’t absorb it all on its own, but even the Certo box calls for the same amount.  In any case, that brief heating works like a charm.)

And, sure, the cherry jam was good, but I sighed that I wished I had my late grandmother’s recipe for strawberry jam.  Hers was the best, bar none, and I had spent the entirety of this millennium to date without tasting it.

“She just used the recipe from the Certo box,” my dad pointed out.  Wait.  The same recipe that I had just more-or-less used with great success?  “The very same.”  Suddenly, memories of her retrieving a new jar from the freezer, not the pantry/basement flitted past my mind’s eye.  I could have been enjoying this stuff for the past 15-plus years.

It was past strawberry season when I had that epiphany, but this year, there was no way I was going to miss out again.  Farmers’ markets may or may not be a giant rip-off (case in point: the cherries that proliferate unbidden in the front yard cost $5.49/lb at the market, and they’re tiny and mostly pit, and tart to boot), but there’s no denying that fresh, local strawberries taste only about a million times better than their pale, flavourless California cousins.  It was a challenge to not eat them all before I could puree and mix and jar them.

But I managed it, and was rewarded with this:

Jam and Crisp 6

Keepin’ it real with mismatched and repurposed jars, there – yet another perk to freezer jam.  Even tasting the mixture as I went along to make sure the sugar was dissolved was like a trip down memory lane.

Of course, it’s hard to justify spending $7.49/pint and not use the fruit you can get for free, right?

Jam and Crisp 5

The freezer is full of unlabelled reddish jars now.  But don’t worry; I can tell them apart.

Jam and Crisp 7

(Editor’s note: I could have sworn the line, “I can’t see the difference.  Can you see the difference?” was from some sort of margarine ad, but a quick Google search confirms it’s ABC laundry detergent.  The more you know!)

I still had half a bucket full of cherries after the jam, so I baked the Bourbon Cherry Crisp from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Jam and Crisp 3Jam and Crisp 4

Warm from the oven, it was a bit like a cherryish hot and sour soup.  But ah, at room temperature – heaven on Earth!  The topping is crisp and lovely, and the sliced almonds complement the fruit perfectly.  I’ve still got some cherries in the freezer, pitted and ready to go, so a second batch may be in order.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

cooking

It’s like Violet Beauregarde in a jar

Quick confession time: I tackled cherry jam again this year.  After last year’s attempt, I tried making proper freezer jam using the basic instructions from the Certo box, and wow.  Wowee wow.  This stuff is good.  Not nearly as sweet as last year’s, and actually (ta-daaa!) a proper, jam-like consistency.  No more holding my toast perfectly level!  I did not, however, document the process in photographs, since the hour and a half leading up to jam-making found the two of us with red, juicy hands and increasingly cranky temperaments as pits kept shooting onto the floor.  (There must be a market somewhere for pre-cleaned fruit.)  Ah, well.  Suffice it to say it was worth the struggle.  And now on to today’s adventure.

I had fully expected the cherry jam to be my swan song for the summer.  How much jam does one need in one’s freezer, anyway?  But then this happened:

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A big ol’ box of blueberries for $8.99 seemed too good to pass up.  And with the holiday weekend, well – that could have meant blueberry waffles, blueberry-oatmeal bar…did I mention waffles?  Unfortunately, the bathroom was being redone that weekend, and the neighbour’s cats were being baby-sat, and so it wasn’t quite the lazy weekend I had in mind.  By the time I rescued them from the basement fridge the following Saturday, they were still holding up really well, but I wanted to get them dealt with while that was still true.  Did you know they make pectin especially for freezer jam?

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Well, they do!  And look at how simple it is:

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So, I got to a-washin’, a-crushin’, and a-measurin’.  Note my extremely sophisticated berry-crushing station.  I bet Smuckers hasn’t got a set-up like I have.

After adding my crushed fruit to the sugar-and-pectin mix, and stirring for three minutes, I got this:

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I left the fruit fairly chunky on purpose, figuring that if the pectin didn’t gel up the way it was supposed to, the fruit would give it some body.  I just noticed now that there’s a lot of vintage Tupperware gracing my pictures here – this is what happens when you have two former dealers in the family.  (Dealers?  Representatives?  Oh, holy spirit of Brownie Wise, what do you call those ladies?!)

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My jars are Dollarama specials – at $3 for a pack of three-250 ml jars, they’re slightly more expensive than the flats you can find in all the grocery stores at this time of year – but darn it, check out those adorable gingham lids!

I wasn’t sure how non-Certo pectin would work, but this turned out really well!  Because the recipe uses less sugar, it tastes pretty much exactly like fresh blueberries – like summer (or Violet Beauregarde) in a jar.

As always, thanks for looking! 🙂

baking, cooking

“M” is for “May” and “Mother” and “Meringue”…

Note: This post was originally written and meant to be posted on Sunday; however, because of some technical issues with WordPress first obscuring my photos and then abruptly deleting my entire text, there has been a slight delay.

My neighbours, who are DINKs (to clarify: very nice people, who happen to be Dual Income, No Kids), made the rookie mistake of going out for breakfast this morning.  The restaurant, they reported later, was absolutely packed.  You people have no children!  That’s a free pass from having to do the Mother’s Day brunch mob!  That’s one big advantage to not having kids!  Of course, the advantage to having children who are old enough to use the stove without summoning the local fire department is that you also get to avoid the crowds, and enjoy a home-cooked breakfast, possibly still in your pajamas.

I had mulled over a few ideas for what to make for breakfast, but decided to go with an old standby: giant(ish) baked apple pancakes, which I’ve posted on here before.  They come together really quickly, and yet look so impressive – because whoa, that thing’s the size of my plate!

Just after coming out of the oven, all puffed-up and golden at the edges.

The butter and brown sugar create a built-in syrup of sorts as it bakes, no maple required.  Fun fact: I once forgot to add the brown sugar to the pie pans before baking, and although they released super-easily, they were a little dry and not…quite…right.

I also wanted to make something for dessert, but not the same-old.  Cupcakes are nice, and all, but it’s been done.  While flipping through my collection of cookbooks, I found a recipe for flapper pie in the Kitchen Magpie’s book.  (Hardly surprising, since said book is titled Flapper Pie and a Blue Prairie Sky.)  The recipe took me a little bit out of my comfort zone, but seemed fairly simple, so I thought I’d give it a go.

Did I say “a little bit out of my comfort zone”?  This thing had me tense.  It was only the second time I’ve had to make a thick, pudding-like filling using cornstarch and heat as my catalysts (the first time was the pudding for my Brooklyn Blackout Cake), and I thought it was never going to thicken.  When it did, though, did it ever.  One minute, I was stirring what was in essence a pot of liquid, and the next it was producing a diabolical plopping sound as it came to a boil, and I’m pretty sure I could have gotten my spoon to stand up in the middle of it.  Also, I had never had occasion to make meringue before, and was convinced I would never get stiff peaks out of what seemed like fairly benign ingredients.  But lo (and behold!), the Kitchen Magpie did not fail me, and before long I was topping my pie and popping it into the oven to brown up.

It didn’t come out of the pan quite as neatly as I would have liked, but it did stay more-or-less intact, and tastes like it’s supposed to.  Certainly the Woman of the Hour was impressed – and that’s what matters, right?

Thanks for reading – Happy Mother’s Day! 🙂

baking, cooking

What rhymes with “glass”?

“Glass…glass, hmm…I’ve got it: ‘alas’!” – Linus Larrabee, Sabrina

With Easter approaching (or, ahem, upon us), I wanted to make something light and springy – in taste and appearance, not texture.  No one likes rubbery cake.  Years ago, my grandmother used to make a dessert we called “Broken Glass”.  A quick Google search reveals that yes, this is still something that people know about, and recipes abound.  I used this one, but I think I’ll re-write it for myself to better order the steps.

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If you decide to make this, you really ought to consider making your gelatin first.  The recipe calls for strawberry, lime, and orange, but I opted for a cherry-lemon-berry blue combination.  You’re limited only by your imagination, your personal preferences, and what’s readily available in your local grocery stores.  (There, that’s not very limiting, is it?!)

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Although the crust is the first step in the recipe – and the second, if you count “chill” as a step – I held off on making it until my gelatin was nice and firm.  The crust really doesn’t need to chill for that long, and you want to make sure you’ll have sufficient fridge space for everything.  If you’ve got a gloriously large and/or empty fridge, good for you; feel free to shove everything in there at once to chill and/or firm up.

A word about the dreadfully ambiguous eighth step “Set aside until slightly thickened”: I have no idea what “slightly thickened” means, especially since at no time are we told to put it in the fridge to start the thickening/setting process.  At last, something that doesn’t go in the fridge!  When I made this, I let it cool to room temperature so that it wouldn’t completely dissolve my formerly-frozen, now-thawed whipped topping.

And a quick word about pineapple juice: make sure it’s pure pineapple juice, unsweetened, and untainted by other “filler” juices.  My friend made this recipe using a pineapple/apple/pear blend, and it left a funny taste to the filling.

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You should wind up with something that looks like this.

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Isn’t it pretty when it’s cut?

This makes a light, fruity dessert that goes down easily.  It’s also a great recipe for summer because there’s no oven involved – and no stovetop, either, if you boil your water and pineapple juice in the microwave.

Thanks for looking – and Happy Easter! 🙂