Monday, August 31, 2009

The Last Monday in August




Today is the last day in August! Do you know what that means?

It means its our anniversary! No, our anniversary is not the 31st. A few years back B and I were trying to remember when it was he became so blessed as to have me as his main squeeze. Yes, I just said "main squeeze". Its late and we just drove in from Sacramento, I can't be held responsible for cheesy sayings. Anyway, finally it came to him. It was the last Monday in August! Ever since then we have celebrated on the last day of August... whatever date that may be.

In honor of our 5 years together I'd like to share a story of love at first sight. The moment the world stopped turning, darkness turned to light and the angels sang in heaven.

It all started at Roy's Restaurant in Rancho Mirage, California. I had gone there for the management training a week earlier. B was a line cook there. He had been on vacation and arrived back while I was still in the kitchen portion of the training.

We both remember the exact moment we saw each other.

I was standing by the broiler getting directions from my trainer. I heard some of the guys greeting him as he came in. I looked up and watched him turn the corner into the kitchen. He was wearing his blue chef's pants, a white t-shirt, Roy's hat and he was holding his knife bag. He was tan from vacation. His walk was confident. He was quiet.

I was standing there watching him when he turned my direction.

Our eyes met...

I flashed my biggest, sweetest smile....

and then he.....

just continued to walk to his station.

He completely ignored me.

He actually made eye contact with me and didn’t even say hello. Who does that?!

Don't you make excuses for him, either. He can mimic the smile I gave him so I know he saw me. I will not be ignored!

I guess I showed him. Hmmph.

The courting process was more like me making a decision and him waking up wondering what heck happened.

B! I will not be ignored! I am not an animal! We laugh about it all the time.

The big jerk.

Anyone out there have that magical moment of mutual adoration? Please do tell.. I'd like to believe it isn't a myth.

And here is to 5 more years with my big jerk. I guess I'll keep him.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Smoky Skies

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I live in Orange County but I commute to LA 3 days a week. This week I've been marveling at the smoke line I drive towards on those days. I was telling B how its not nearly as bad as we've seen before and I wasn't actually getting any ashes on my window. Then I realized how horrid that is. Its bad enough we can see and smell the smoke. With temperatures in the 100's all week the fires are spreading like... well, wildfire.

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These aren't award winning pictures. I had my camera sitting on my dashboard.

These pictures were taken Friday morning. I always think about all the lives affected by these fires and how odd it seems that I'm just heading to work for another normal day.

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This was taken shortly after the first two from the street by my work. I am always amazed by what the sun looks like through all of the smoke.

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Here is a closer look. Its eerie, scary and beautiful at the same time.

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When I left work I thought the fires had cleared up a bit as the sky seemed so much bluer. But when I turned around I could see the smoke billowing up still. If you look closely you can see the hills that are burning.

We are actually in Sacramento today but I'll still keep those fire areas in mind. I have friends out there fighting those fires. There are people I know with homes and businesses in harms way.

Quick... someone do a rain dance!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Mochi Ice Cream

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Ah yes, mochi ice cream. These are a favorite summer treat for me. The outside is mochi, a Japanese confection that is made out of pounded sticky rice. Its coated in rice flour to prevent it from sticking to your fingers.

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In the early '90's someone thought to create ice cream filled mochi. You can even find it in the frozen section of some markets and places like Trader Joe's.

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It comes in a variety of flavors like strawberry, chocolate, kona coffee, mango, green tea and vanilla.

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The mochi itself doesn't have much flavor. So basically you get ice cream with a soft, slightly chewy exterior.

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Have you had mochi ice cream before? Did you like it?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Spreading the Obsession

The following pictures have absolutely nothing to do with the post. :)

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My blog obsession needs to be controlled... and yet I am here passing on the disease to you.

I work from 2 different offices and rotate between 2 laptops at home (mine and B's, depending on which is hooked up) and the computer at my laundromat (which is still my parents house). In total, I am on 5 different computers regularly.

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While its easy enough keeping track of new blogspot posts, I was tired of trying to keep track of non-blogger blogs. Besides, I still haven't figured out how to search Blogger for different types of blogs. You probably all already know how to do this. How do we find each other out there in the blogosphere?

Then I found Bloglovin'. It is a site that keeps track of your blogs. You register with Bloglovin, entering an email address and password. Then you pull up your favorite blogs and become a follower much like you would here. Whenever your blogs put up new posts they pop up. I use it for all my non-blogger blogs.

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As long as a blog has an RSS feed it can be linked to Bloglovin. If you can't find the blog you want to add then you simply cut and past the URL into the search in the corner.

My favorite part about Bloglovin is how incredibly easy it is to find new blogs of your interest. You can search Top Blogs, Blogs by Category, Hot Blogs Right Now and it will even suggest Blogs You Might Like. Oh and I almost forgot the Save feature which allows you to store your favorite posts.


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You are probably all going to come back to me and tell me we can already do all that here. Feel free to leave constructive criticism whenever you see me floundering.

Whats up with the "ghost dog" picture? Can someone tell me what I did there?

How do you keep track of your blogs? Or is noone as demented as I am when it comes to reading them? Yes I know, turn off the computer and pick up a book. I hear you.


I had to add this on. Just for kicks and because I saw Halloween stuff at Target today click here to see a creativ poodle grooming costume contest of sorts.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bacon-wrapped Dates

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Well, its good because its wrapped in bacon. In my book, anything wrapped in bacon is worth making.

Here is the entire recipe: Cut 1 lb of bacon in thirds. Take date, stuff with almond, wrap with bacon, secure with toothpick, bake at 375 for about 15 minutes or until crisp and brown.

Thats it. The rest of this post is fluff. But I like fluff so I'm throwing it up anyway.

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You start with some almonds. We had raw almonds and roasted them. You could really use any kind. I'd like to try some spicy ones.

There is something to be said about natural light. Although I had to hold the bowl over the garbage disposal to get this picture.

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Grab a bunch of dates. I bought these at Costco for $5. Now a lot of stores will carry the fancy, plump Medjool dates. Those are great for eating plain but the simpler, dare I say drier-looking ones are better for this.

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Now I need more recipes with dates in them. I'll have to go search. But really these things last forever and I eat them as a dessert of sorts. They are also a great source of fiber. How old am I? Shall we talk about prune juice next?

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Then you have the magic ingredient. Bacon. Cut it into thirds. Here you see the thick cut but I actually prefer the regular as it wraps around easier and you get more dates wrapped. Not to fear though, I used this whole package and a whole package of regular. If you could get your hands on peppered bacon that might be good too.

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Grab a date. Get yourself aquainted. Make sure it doesn't have any rogue stem attached.

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Now stuff an almond in it! Don't be gentle, just get to it. If the date breaks we don't care a bit.

This would be condsidered torture by a Fruitarian. The heartless murder and post-mortem torture of this innocent date.

William: And, ahm: what exactly is a fruitarian?
Keziah: We believe that fruits and vegetables have feelings so we think cooking is cruel. We only eat things that have actually fallen off a tree or bush - that are, in fact, dead already.
William: Right. Right. Interesting stuff. So, these dates...
Keziah: Have been murdered, yes.
William: Murdered? Poor dates. How beastly!

OK, I admit they weren't talking about dates but its my blog and I'm taking some artistic liberties here.

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Wrap that puppy up in a piece of bacon. Make it nice and cozy.

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Eeeeeeeekkkkkkkk! About the 34th time I walked into the living room to turn up the music I noticed this thing on the ground. Gah! Gross! He was dead on the rug. I apologize for post in the middle of our appetizer making but it couldn't be ignored.

I writhed in the kitchen for a few minutes wondering if I had inadvertantly stepped on it... multiple times... in my bare feet. Then I cursed the world of men and mountain biking and the things they drag into the apartment.

But I never dropped the date in my hand. Lets not lose our head here.

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When I stopped feeling creepy crawlys all over my body I resumed the date prep. Secure the bacon with a toothpick thru the bacon and the date. Line 'em up on a cookie sheet covered in foil. Ok its actually a jelly roll pan. You need that lip or you'll end up with an oven full of bacon grease.

Don't over crowd or you'll end up with bacon braising in grease instead of getting crisp and brown.

To save time you can actually do this ahead of time and bake them off the next day.

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Bake 'em up at 375 until they are brown and crispy. Usually about 15 minutes. Now the date does give off some sugar so the bottoms will get pretty dark. If you are OCD you can flip them and brown the other side.

This was the only clear picture I got because the first batch went so fast I had to make another one.

Thank you mom for the recipe!

Variation: You can also fill these with goat cheese and basil as my friend Tina does. So good. They are a little more time intensive and the texture will be softer.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Japanese Bridal Torture

A.K.A. 1001 Cranes


Weddings are really all about traditions. They can be old traditions, new traditions, religious traditions, cultural traditions, traditions that you look forward to or traditions that drive you mad.
I love traditions. I really looked forward to this particular wedding tradition because of its cultural significance and meaning. I'm half Japanese and half Puerto Rican and B is Chinese so I wanted to infuse some of our culture into our wedding.

My friends, I introduce you to 1001 Cranes!

A little history lesson for you:
It all started in ancient Japan with the Sembazuru also known as the folding of 1,000 cranes. Legend said that if you have a wish you could fold 1,000 cranes and your wish will come true.

In many asian cultures cranes are a symbol of luck and prosperity. They represent longevity because they were said to live 1,000 years. Did you know cranes also mate for life? They stay together always taking turns caring for their little cranettes.

Eventually it became a tradition for the bride-to-be to fold the Sembazuru to wish for a long, prosperous marriage full of chocolate souffles and world-travelling and personal libraries. I'm pretty sure thats what they had in mind in ancient Japan.


As the world became more of a melting pot the folding of cranes (or paying of people to fold them) became a tradition in many other asian cultures.

And then the Chinese stepped in and said, "Gold represents prosperity and wealth, we will make the wedding cranes in gold."

And then the Hawaiians said, "Eh bra, add one mo da crane, make dat mo bettah luck."
Translation: Hello friend. If you add one more of the cranes and you will recieve more luck.
And then the Hawaiian said "How fo use?"
Translation: How exactly do you use those 1001 cranes you just folded?
And then the Hawaiian said "My ohana, dea make one picture wit dem buggahs"
Translation: My family creates a beautiful master piece with the folded cranes.
And then the Hawaiian said "Wea akamai."
Translation: We are a very intelligent people.

Thus began the artwork of 1001 cranes. Most family traditions include the cranes being formed into the husband's family crest (aka Mon). It is displayed at the wedding and then hung in the house. Unless you happen to marry my brother and realize we can't find our family crest.

And then there are the difficult people like me. You know the ones. We want to be different. So I searched high and low for inspiration. I didn't really think that we would end up hanging a picture on our wall. But I found Alan at 1001cranes.com. I saw that bonzai and knew it was what I wanted. I could see it on a shelf in my library.

Isn't it Awesome?! All the above pictures are of creations by Alan from 1001 Cranes.

Do you see how your short history lesson turned into a novel?

So Alan and I made arrangements which involve me folding the cranes and sending them to Hawaii to be made into a bonzai. I practiced folding my crane at home. Then Alan sent me an email saying that I should be using 2" gold foil. Two inch?!! And then I cried.

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Here you see a comparison between the standard 6" crane and the 2" crane.

To add to my sadness my sister-in-law told me that they had to fold like 1,400 to make sure they had 1,001 that would be presentable enough to use. You see, gold foil origami paper is one-sided. You can't see too much white or it can't be used. And if you crease it too much the white shows through as well.

One of my bridesmaids (who is a saint) has been folding for me as well. She is waaay better at this than I am and has already folded like 200. I mailed my niece Kayla in Illinois a packet to fold too. I'm about 5 weeks and hundreds of cranes away from my deadline.

Yes, I've known that I needed to have these done. No, I have not been diligent about folding. Yes, I regret my actions thus far. I've decided to throw some folding parties and see how those go.

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Ms. MimiRickets also offered up her services.. and we've never even met in real life! The conversation went something like this:
It started with MimiRickets posting one of her crafts on her blog.
Me: Wow, you are so amazing and patient and I am not and I have can't even fold the cranes I need for my wedding.
MimiRickets: I can fold cranes for you, just send them over to me!
Me: No, no, I couldn't impose on you.
MimiRickets: No seriously, I'll help!
Me: Give me your address. Now.
A week after she got them she already folded 90. Thanks MimiRickets you are a folding machine! Is the internet not amazing?! I have met some incredible people on the great interwebs.

Do you remember when I said I looked forward to this?

I have some vague recollection of that. I think I've already failed this basic test of becoming a wife. B? Will you still marry me?


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My closing thought: I wonder if Sembazuru really means Japanese bridal torture?

Did anyone else out there have something tedious to do for your wedding?

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Letter B

Today's post comes to you from the letter B!


Does anyone remember this episode?!

B is for B's Bachelor Weekend

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B is for Bycicles, there were 28 here yesterday. 28?! There were only 8 guys. I compare it to bringing different shoes for different outfits. They bring different bikes for different trails. Only you know, my shoes aren't custom made Manolo Blahniks which would be more price comparable.

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B is for Beer, cases of beer actually. I almost died of shock when they got up and rode again this morning. They are probably sweating nothing but alcohol and bacon fat.

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B is for Bacon Wrapped Dates. Recipe coming soon, although its painfully simple. I used up 2 lbs of bacon making these things and there wasn't a single one left over.

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B is for Battered and Bruised (and blurry). Ouch.

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B is for Birthday and Balloons! Even though none of the guys noticed the balloons until after they had eaten all the appetizers, gone down to the pool and came back in a second time. B might also stand for blind.

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B is for BBQ Chicken, it was delicious but B could not remember what he put in the marinade besides garlic, ginger and soy. B, can you pause between each step so I can take a picture next time?!

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B is for Blood on my new couch. Any removal ideas? It was already dry when I found it. I knew I wouldn't make it through the weekend without blood on something.

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B is for Bicycles, yes I know I covered this but the repitition is necessary for you to understand the weekend. :) These pink bike parts are by Chris King in their Pretty and Strong line. Not only do they donate a part of these proceeds to Komen they also encourage their customers to skip a ride and bring themselves or someone they love into the doctor for a mammogram.

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B is for Beef, Corned Beef with a brown-sugar mustard glaze, followed by taters, cabbages and carrots. FYI/TMI: When contemplating what to serve a room full of guys that will be spending the night in your apartment.... skip the cabbage.

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B is for Big Trucks. I couldn't even see into the windows. I could break something if I fell out... which wouldn't be surprising at all.

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B is for Beautiful trails. I like to see these pictures because I'll never put in the effort it takes to get to these spots. Beeeautiful.

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B is for Bike Shop Talk. Many of them met when they worked at a bicycle shop years ago. They spent a long time reminiscing over an old album B had put together. I heard comments to each other like... "Were you taller then or are you fatter now?" and "Remember that one time you flipped over the front of your bike and the neighbors thought you were dead". Each comment was followed by a roar of laughter. Men.

B is also for Best Friends. They are a really good group of guys, even if they are stinky and sweaty. Most importantly, B had a great time and spent the last several days grinning from ear to ear.

OK, I'll leave it at that or I could go on and on forever and ever.

May your Monday be filled with Beauty and not a lot of Bull...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Can I come stay with you?

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My apartment has been taken over by mountain bikers. I think I may need a safe place to escape to. A few weeks ago B mentioned some of his friends were coming in from Sacramento to ride. Some came in the evening, some around 1:30 am. They ate, they drank beers and they crashed out. They were back up at 7am and ready to ride. How do they do that?

The picture was taken last night in our garage. I went down to do a quick bike count. You see most of those bike are ours. I have found that 'round here bicycles mutltiply like rabbits. B loves bikes like most women love shoes.

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B and all the sweaty, stinky, dirt-caked guys will be coming back here after their ride. I'll be ready with some treats to make up for intruding on their male bonding. Instead of a bachelor party B wanted to do a series of rides. I did not know until yesterday that this was one of them.

Me: What trails do your friends want to ride this weekend?
B: I already know where we are going. I get to pick, its my bachelor ride.
Me: Your bachelor ride?! What the heck am I doing here?
B:
Me: Oh B, I really wish you would tell me these things, I could head to my parents house, I could've made plans.
B: No, I want you here. Besides, who would make the appetizers?

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So, they've loaded up and headed out and I'll start the prep. He also neglected to tell me it was one of their 40th birthdays. I'm not up to throwing together a cake but I know a great bakery down the road....

I'm thinking something pink, with flowers on it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Lemon Bars Deluxe

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I love these lemon bars. These are constantly requested for parties and events.

I took pictures of most of the steps but not all of them. Its pretty easy. If I can handle it, you can too.

Go now and preheat your oven to 350 F. Don't forget and realize when you go to bake...not that I would ever do that.

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In a medium bowl stir together 2 cups of all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup of sifted powdered sugar. Yes, it looks like a small amount but thats because I'm using a huge bowl. I can't seem to follow directions.

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Pull out 2 sticks (1 cup butter). I use the regular salted kind. Cut it into little pieces and throw it in the flour mixture.

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Pull out your pastry cutter and start cutting the butter in. This means you press and press until the butter breaks up in the flour.

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Lets talk for a moment about pastry cutters. I love this one, it is solid and easy to use.

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I used to have this one and HATED trying to cut butter into flour. Its something akin to using a whisk. If you don't have either you can do a few things. Many food processors have a pastry attachment that is plastic. You can use that just until the mixture clings, put it back into a bowl and cut it up with a knife a bit. Or you can buy a pastry cutter. Or you can try and use your whisk. OK, don't do that.

Don't just throw it in a regular food processor. The blades will break up the butter too much. We want pieces of butter as that will create a more flakey crust/ base.

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Keep pressing until the mixture clings together.

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Toss the whole mixture into a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan. Press it down into the pan. No need to make it perfect or pack it into a brick.

Put it in the oven for 20-25 minutes. If your oven runs hot or uneven start checking at about 15 minutes. We want it lightly browned.

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Clean your bowl out, dry it and throw in 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 4 eggs and 1/3 cup of lemon juice. Beat it.

Where is the lemon juice? Oops.

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Zest a few lemons until you have 1-2 teaspoons of zest. I usually do a large 2 teaspoons.

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Juice those nekkid lemons until you have 1/3 cup of juice. I like when my one third cupeth overflow-eth.

Lets take a moment to admire my moms old school lemon juicer.

Throw that in (like you should have already) with the eggs and sugar and beat it again. I meant the juice, not the juicer. OK, not the seeds either.

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In another cup mix together 1/4 all-purpose flour and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder. Add it to the egginess and mix it in. I just put my handmixer on the lowest setting.

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Toss in the lemon zest and mix it in. The mix gets a bit frothy, its the reaction of the baking powder with the acid don't worry about it.

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Pull out the crust and inhale. Ah, yes. Those little holes are from the butter. They are holes of love.

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See how its lightly browned? We don't want it too done because its going back into the oven.

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Pour the eggy, lemony mixture over the top while the shortbready crust is still hot.

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Now put it back into the oven for another 25 minutes. Don't forget to turn the timer back on. You wouldn't want to over cook it....

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Like some people do. Actually it was just fine. The parts that look burnt on the side are actually just the bits that sloshed up as I was putting it in the oven.

See how the top has a nice "crust" on it. If you touch the top of yours and its a bit smooshy or slushy underneath its just fine. I actually prefer it that way. Of course I play with it, like a water bed or jello under there. It'll solidify as it cools.

Place it on a wire rack to cool. If you can't wait, put it in the fridge.

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I cute mine into squares first and then go across it at a diagonal to make triangles. You know how I like leetle pieces. Your friends and family will eat 10 each.

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Now sift some powdered sugar over them. Don't be shy friends. You want to be able to tell who has been eating them by the powdered sugar all over their shirts.

Enjoy!
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