Cheese and Onion Pie, a Treat for My Husband

“Oooh, I do like a bit of cheese” as Wallace likes to claim.  It’s a sentiment we agree with.  Maybe a bit too much but hey, we all have our vices!  One of my husband’s favourite crisp flavours is cheese and onion so I thought as a treat I would make a cheese and onion pie.  As I thought it was a treat from his childhood I wanted to get this right!

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This is not overly difficult but there are a lot of steps to this.  You’ll need a few hours to get this done.  I researched several recipes and decided to use this Foodie with Family recipe as a guide.  I did change a few things.

I had two very large onions which I sliced thinly.  Oh the tears!  In a skillet melt 4 tablespoons of butter to start with.  Add more butter as needed as the onions cook down.

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The onions will mound up in the skillet but after several minutes of slowly cooking the onions will soften and cook down.

As the onions cook, add 1/2 cup of veg bouillon and about 5 teaspoons of coleman’s mustard.  Feel free to add a bit more if you like the heat.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Simmer for a few minutes to reduce the liquid a bit.

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Remove from the heat and let cool.  Grate 1 1/2 pounds/675oz of sharp cheddar cheese.  Yes, it’s a huge amount of cheese!  In a large bowl beat two eggs and add 1/2 cup/4oz double cream.  Add the onions.

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Mix in the cheese completely.

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Set that aside.  Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.

Next prepare the hot water pastry, though in this case it’s hot milk pastry.  In a mixing bowl sift together 3 cups/12 3/4 oz of all purpose flour and 3/4 tsp of kosher salt.  Make a well in the flour.

In a saucepan, melt a cup/1/2 pound of butter, 1/3 cup/2.5oz of whole milk and about 4 teaspoons of coleman’s mustard.

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Simmer but don’t boil.  Pour into the flour well.

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Mix well until the ingredients come together in a ball.

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On a lightly floured surface knead the dough for a couple of minutes to work the gluten.  This is a pastry where you don’t have to worry about overworking which is a nice change.

Line a 10″/25cm springform pan with parchment paper.  Divide the dough into two balls, roughly in a 60/40 ratio.  Now this dough is very fiddly!  There were some words spoken as I rolled it out and tried to get it into the pan.  Forget having it done in one piece!  Use your knuckles to press it into the pan and up the sides.

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Fill the pastry with the cheese and onion mixture.  Top with the remaining pastry.  As best you can pinch the seam of the top and bottom together.  Use a knife to cut vents in the top.  Beat an egg and add a tablespoon of the whole milk.  Brush this over the top of the pie.

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Bake 60-75 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.

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Let it cool and allow the cheese to set a bit before serving.  I found I prefer it served cold but it’s good warm or cold.

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My husband loved this.  Turns out this was the first ever cheese and onion pie he had!  So instead of an old tradition it’s become a new one.  🙂


Losing the Battle with Ice and Lemon Thyme Cheese

It’s become a bad joke that something goes wrong right when tax season begins.  Usually my back goes out, once I was really ill, and this year I was up against the ice.  And I lost.

Temps were hovering round freezing this weekend and it rained.  Not a good combination.  I tried to get my son to his snowboarding lessons only a couple of miles away.  There were detours and accidents and we never got there.  We had to turn round and make our way back.  We were lucky.  We weren’t in the numerous pile ups and we weren’t stuck for hours.  Just a miserable day.

The next morning it was sunny and the ice was glaring.  We have stone steps off our porch.  The top step was clear.  As I took the next step I started to say to my husband that it was good when suddenly I found myself flipped up in the air like Charlie Brown when Lucy takes away the football.   Two things happen.  First time speeds up and there is nothing you can do.  Second, time slows down.  Enough to think of every curse word ending with the thought “this is really going to hurt” before landing.

I landed on my back hip and arm.  On the plus side, nothing broke and I didn’t crack my head.  Thank goodness my husband was there.  He was able to get the dogs, though Guinness took the opportunity to lick me, a lot.  Dog slobber cures all.  I was on the right side and I realised how cold it was so I carefully rolled over onto the left to let the ground ice the hip.

It is absolutely fascinating how colourful bruises can be.  Ah well, it will heal. Maybe next tax season I’ll have better luck!

The other weekend we were on a cheese making kick.  My husband made more camembert and I wanted to make a quick cheese.  I chose to make a lemon cheese with thyme.  This is super easy to make and a great beginner cheese to try.  Again we use raw milk.  Flavour is better and the proteins are still in the milk.  Ultra pasteurized kills the protein.  And we have a local source that is safe.

The recipe I use comes from Home Cheese Making from Ricki Carroll.

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In a large heavy bottom saucepan heat the milk to 185-200F/85-93C.  Keep stirring so it doesn’t catch on the bottom.

Turn down the heat and add about a 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice.  You should see the separation of the whey and curds starting.

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Cover and leave be for 15 minutes.  Then check to see how separated it is.

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You want the whey as clear as possible but I’ve found that sometimes the whey will stay milky.  Add a bit more lemon juice and set a few minute more if it is too milky.

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Once you get as much curds as possible spoon the curds into butter muslin and drain.

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Wrap up and drain over the sink or large pot until the whey stops.

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Break up the cheese and add cheese salt and fresh thyme to the cheese to taste.

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Serve over salads or fresh bread like ciabatta.

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This will keep in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.  And better than store bought.  🙂

Wine, Cheese and the PTA

I sometimes, ok a lot of times, put my foot in it.  I’m good at saying the wrong thing.  I think I offended the cheese guy at our local grocery store yesterday.  I was looking at the cheeses, most of them generic and mass produced, and he asked me if I was finding what I was looking for.  I said yes though I lamented the fact it is so hard to find a large variety of cheeses.  I mean go to Europe and they all have personality and variety.  Of course he said we have lots of cheeses.  I paused and said yes for America I suppose we do.  He got huffy and said well we’re in America.  Yes, yes we are.  I quickly moved on.

I was able to find a few good cheeses for our PTA meeting of the officers to go with the wine we had.  Had a lovely bottle of Cotes de Rhone.  There were a few tomatoes in the garden ready to be picked so I grabbed a few with some basil to balance it all out.  Pleased to say the meeting went well and the cheeses were left with huge dents!  🙂

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Ricotta Cheese made from Whey

In my previous post about making swiss cheese I mentioned saving the whey for another recipe.  When making various cheeses you may find yourself with a good amount of whey left over.  Not wanting to waste this we make ricotta cheese.  It is a very simple cheese to make.  For this we used the book “Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking” by Gianaclis Caldwell.  It is an excellent book if you are moving beyond beginner cheeses.

Again it is important to make sure everything is sterile.

While continually stirring bring the whey up to 195-200F or 91-93C.  It is important this does not boil!

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Once the temp is reached let it cool back down to 190F/88C while stirring.  Now it is time to introduce the acid.  You can use lemon juice or vinegar, usually white or cider.  To do this 1 tablespoon is added at a time until the curds separate enough.

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Have a colander lined with cheese cloth or butter muslin over a large bowl to drain the cheese.

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Once most of it has been drained hang in a spot that is not drafty to let the rest of the whey drain.  This takes about an hour.

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Salt to taste if you like and then store in an airtight container in the fridge.  It keeps about a week.   I didn’t salt this as I wanted it for a recipe.

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What to do with the leftover whey after this recipe?  Compost pile or the garden.  🙂


Making Swiss Cheese part 1

We were in a cheese making mood this past weekend and made a few kinds of cheeses.  The first we made is a Swiss cheese.  This was our second batch as the first batch had a bit of a learning curve.  Though I have to say the first batch my husband made had a great flavour.  The rind came out a bit thick but we think that was because of old rennet.  Other than it was great.  So we were ready for another go.  With new rennet.  🙂  We also use Ricki Carroll’s book “Home Cheese Making” for this.  She also sells the starters and supplies needed for most cheese making.  I know there are more and more sources now as more people are into making their own cheese.  We’ve just stuck with her store.

This is what the cheese looked like from the first batch.

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Before starting sterilise everything!

As we’ve made our previous cheeses we only use raw milk.  Pasteurization breaks down the proteins needed to make great cheese.  Especially the ultra-pasteurization.  That is pretty much useless.  When buying raw milk just make sure the farm does regular testing so it is safe.

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Pour two gallons into a large pot.  Heat the milk to 90F.  Stir as the milk heats so it is consistent and doesn’t catch on the bottom.  We usually have the heat at medium for this.  You don’t want it to heat rapidly.  Once the milk is at 90F then the thermophilic starter is added.  We buy the pre-portioned packets but if you prepare it then 4 oz is needed.  Stir well.

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The take 1/4 milk of the milk with the starter mixed in and add 1 tsp of Propionic shermannii to the 1/4 milk and mix well.  Add back into the milk on the stove and mix well.  This needs to ripen for 10 minutes.

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The next step calls for the rennet.  We purchase organic vegetable based rennet.   The directions on the back are a bit strange.  It says it is double strength so use 1/3 the amount called for in the recipe.  To me if it is double strength then it should call for using 1/2 the amount in the recipe.  Right?  So about a minute before the milk is done ripening prepare the rennet.  Use 1/4 cup of spring water because you don’t want any chlorine in it.  The recipe calls for 1/2 tsp rennet to be dissolved so we used 1/4 tsp plus a couple of drops.  Pour into the milk and stir up and down.  If you are using raw milk like we do then it needs to be top stirred for a few minutes to keep the butter fat down.  To do this, use the bottom of your spoon and stir 1/2 inch to and inch down from the surface.

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At this point the milk needs to rest at 90F for 30 minutes.  The thermophilic starter generates heat so if it goes a few degrees above 90 don’t panic.  If it drops just turn the heat on a bit to bring it back up.  After it sets and the curds pull away from the sides it is time to cut the curds.  Her recipe states 1/4 inch cubes.  In a large pot that is impossible.  Use a curd knife for the blocks by cutting straight one way then cutting lines 90 degrees from the original lines.  Then you need to cut at an angle to cut the interior of the curd.  Then gently use a whisk to cut them into the small curd.

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Now get ready for a ton of stirring.  The first bit is for 40 minutes.  You stir gently while keep the temperature at 90F.  According to Ricki’s book this is called foreworking.  It helps expel the whey from the curds.

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Then to add a bit of a challenge the next bit calls for raising the temperature a degree at a time until it reaches 120F.  You need to keep this as close to 30 minutes as possible as this extracts the whey from the curds.  You’ll notice the curds getting smaller through this process.

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At the end of the 30 minutes the curds should be smaller and squeaky if you eat them.  This stage is called the “proper break”.  A way to test them is to take a small handful and press into a ball.  This ball should easily break apart into the little curds again.  Turn off the heat and let it rest for five minutes.  While it is doing that prepare some cheese cloth or butter muslin in a strainer.  You’ll want a couple of large containers to catch the whey.  Don’t throw out the whey!  You can use it to make fresh ricotta cheese.  Stay tuned for that post.  Pour into the strainer.

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At this point you want the mold set up.  My husband made a great contraption so we can press the cheese.  This recipe calls for a two pound mould.  Place the curds into the mould still wrapped in the cheese cloth or butter muslin.

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Fold in the cloth and place the pressing part into the mould.  Place the top of the press over this.  It is important to do all this before the curds cool.  For the first pressing you need 8-10lbs on top and let it stay there for 15 minutes.

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You should see whey being pressed out.  At the end of 15 minutes remove the curd and gently unwrap the curd.  Turn the curd over and put it back into the press.

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Up the weight to 14lbs and press for 30 minutes.  Turn the cheese and press for 2 hours.  Turn again, increase the weight to 15lbs and then press for 12 hours.  We usually leave this overnight.  Once the pressing is done the cheese needs to be soaked in brine for 12 hours.  To make the brine you want to dissolve 2 lbs of cheese or kosher salt in a gallon of spring water.  Let the cheese soak in the fridge during this step.  The exposed side needs to have some salt sprinkled on it.

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At the end of 12 hours pat the cheese dry, place on a clean board and place in the “cheese cave”.  Now some have a real cheese cave.  We haven’t gotten that far so we use a wine cooler.  The temp needs to be 50-55F and the humidity should be around 85%.  For the first week the cheese needs to be turned every day and wiped with salt water.  Do not soak the cheese.  You do not want wet cheese!

Part 2 will be posted when the cheese is done and will have the final steps to it.  This cheese needs to age at least 3 months.  It is very hard to wait!  🙂

Lovely Cheesy Pinwheels

Stephane seems to be a bit of an inspiration this week with fellow bloggers as I also am blogging about something he posted.  On Monday I came across his mini appetizers as I was planning my dinner.  I wanted something to go with the mushroom soup I was making.  As I had different ingredients in my pantry than what was in Stephane’s recipe I came up with these cheesy pinwheels.  It was perfect for using up the last bit of puff pastry I had in the freezer.

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I grated some Jarlsberg, Cheddar, and Parmesan Cheese.  You want enough to cover the puff pastry once it is rolled out.

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Roll the pastry firmly all the way lengthwise.  If you have time chill in the fridge to make it easier to slice.  If you don’t have time then just use a sharp knife and nice even cuts.

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Have the pinwheels about 1/2 inch to an inch thick.  Place evenly on a cookie sheet and pop into the oven at 400F for about 15 minutes.

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Once they are golden brown they are ready to serve.  You can make these ahead of time but they are so quick to make that they are great right out of the oven.

Baked Brie with Apple Compote

So this morning we woke up to -11 F (-24 C) temps.  To say the dogs walked quickly was an understatement, I had trouble keeping up!  Plus, to keep my face warm, I wear a scarf around the lower part of my face but that causes my glasses to fog up.  So I end up stumbling around a bit while trying to stay warm.  It was a short walk.  🙂

For New Year’s Eve our friends had a finger food potluck so I decided to make baked brie for the first time.  My inspiration came from a local restaurant called Luca’s.  I took the flavours of a starter they have and converted it into something different.  I didn’t quite get the flavours the same but I came up with a delicious version nonetheless.

I roasted two cipollini onions in a small dish with olive oil.  I covered the baking dish with tin foil and roasted at 400 F.  They roasted for nearly an hour.  They need to be soft when done.

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In the meantime I chopped two apples and sauteed them in melted butter.

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Once the onions finished I chopped them and added them to the apples.  Then I used about 1/2 cup of tawny port and simmered it until it was reduced.

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I preheated the oven to 400F and I used convection bake for this as you want the puff pastry to cook evenly.  I rolled out the pastry and placed the brie wheel in the centre and topped with the apple compote.

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The tricky bit is not to have the pastry overly thick when folding it around the cheese.  Bake for about 15 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.

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Let cool for a few minutes before cutting into it otherwise it will ooze out.  I served this with crackers but it would be wonderful with fresh bread.

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I apologize for the photo quality but the lighting wasn’t good with my phone.   But it was a hit and I made it again the next day for our kids.  They loved it as well.

My Husband’s Amazing Mac and Cheeese

A great memory I have is from way back in the mists of time when I could barely see over the dining room table.  We would go to my Grammy’s for Thanksgiving and the table would be groaning with wonderful food including her mac and cheese.  And it was all at my eye level!  It is a traditional dish for us at the holidays.

I have to say my husband makes the best mac and cheese.  Full of flavour and a wonderful comfort food quality to it.  His inspiration comes from the Betty Crocker New Cookbook but he changed it a bit and added some ingredients.  And it was even more special this Thanksgiving as our daughter helped him make it.  🙂

Before the sauce is made get the pasta cooking and set aside when done. It needs about 2 cups for this recipe.

In a large saucepan melt a 1/4 cup of butter.

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Chop up some onions and garlic.  About half an onion and a few cloves of garlic.

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Saute until onions begin to soften in the butter.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Next add a tablespoon of stone ground mustard and a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce to the mixture.  Stir well.

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Add a 1/4 cup of flour to make the roux.

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Once the flour is mixed in with the butter add 2 cups of milk to the roux and stir well.  Keep stirring while it comes up to a boil.

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For the cheese, shred about 2 cups of cheddar.  We also add some jarlsberg and parmesan to give it a few layers of flavour.

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Once the milk has come to a boil, reduce the heat and add the cheese.

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Once the cheese is melted and is mixed in thoroughly pour it over the cooked pasta in the baking dish.

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Top with more shredded cheese.

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This was made the day before so it was covered and left to cool down.  Once the turkey was out of the oven then we popped it in and heated it through and let the cheese on top brown.

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As I said this is my favourite and I could just eat bowls of this!

Sourdough Bread Stuffing

I came up with this recipe years ago.  I wanted to make something simple, delicious, and a step up from the stove top stuffings.  As much as I like those, this is Thanksgiving!  The bar has to be raised.  🙂

It is important to start the day before with the bread.  I bought a Sourdough Boule ( I know I didn’t bake it, but this is a huge time saver with all the cooking we have to do!) and it gets torn up the day before to turn it a bit stale.  This allows the absorbing of the broth without making it super soggy.

On the day of I slice up some cranberries and celery leaves.  I usually use celery but right now all I have left in the garden is a few small stalks and a ton of leaves.  I’m amazed I have that!  Turns out the leaves are a better choice for colour and flavour.

I toss the cranberry and the celery into the bread and set aside.  Next I chop up some garlic and onions and saute in olive oil.

Once the onions have softened a bit then I add about 4 cups of veg broth.  Several of my family members are vegetarian so it is important that all the sides are vegetarian so they can eat.  🙂  Bring the broth mixture to a boil then simmer for a bit.

Now it is time to put it all together.  Add a bit of the bread mixture to the baking pan and then add a bit of broth.  It’s important not to add the broth all at once otherwise you will have  really soggy spots.  At this point I also add in shredded Italian cheeses.  I usually get the 4-6 cheese variety.

Make sure you have plenty of bread as it will shrink down as you add the broth.  Once it is filled up I top with cheese.

We had an oven already heated at 350 F so I covered the stuffing and baked for about 15 minutes, then I uncovered it until it browned on the top a bit.

It works really well with the turkey and I like putting a bit of the gravy over the stuffing.  🙂



I’m not a fan of cooked kale by itself. I normally have to hide it in something like I do with my chili. A few weeks ago my mum made colcannon and we all loved it so I asked for the recipe as we have an abundance of kale to eat.  This is my version of her version of colcannon.  As I have said before we aren’t very good at following recipes exactly!  🙂

I start the potatoes for the mash at the beginning.

In an oven safe skillet I pour olive oil to cover the bottom.

I then chop up celery, onion, and garlic to saute in the olive oil.  The celery in our garden seems to be more leaf than stem this year but the flavour is still really good.

Saute for a few minutes.  In the meantime, boil some water to make 2 cups of broth.  I use the veg broth that we have.  Pour into the skillet and simmer. Add a bit of mustard, we used stone ground mustard to taste. Add the kale.

Simmer until the kale cooks down.

For the mash I add salt and pepper, butter, and milk.  Spread it over the kale mixture and top with cheddar cheese.  We used Kerry Gold that says it is from Ireland.  Wonder if it is actually sold in Ireland.  Either way it is tasty.

Pop the skillet under the broiler until it is a melty lovely golden colour.

We cooked up some Irish bangers to go on the side.  I have to say both went really well with the HP brown sauce.  🙂

This took about 30-40 minutes total to put together.  It’s a great meal for autumn and the kids love it.  Though when I mentioned we were having kale for dinner to my daughter’s friends they decided to eat at home.  Their loss!