Passover Charoset

 

 

Charoset for Passover, or Wine Apple Walnut Conserve for the rest of you. Call it a “wine jam”, if you will. Made from Kosher for Passover concord grape wine, apples, walnuts and accented with ground cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, charoset (the “ch”pronounced like you’re clearing your throat), is a traditional part of the Jewish Passover Seder. It is supposed to remind us of the mortar used to cement the bricks made by our ancestors, who were slaves in Egypt. It is also delicious.

Passover Charoset: Wine Apple Nut Jam

Nearly every family has their own version of this traditional spread. Some like it chunky, some like it smooth. Some like it burning hot, some like it sweet and mild. During the seder, it is meant to be spread on matzo with horseradish, also known as a “Hillel Sandwich” (named after a Rabbi Hillel, who began the practice). That was always our favorite part of the seder. Besides dinner.

This version is patterned after the charoset we always made in my Askenazic (Eastern European) family, but with a twist: I’ve added sugar, lemon juice, and Pomona’s Pectin, and boiling-water canned it, making it shelf-stable!  Of course, if you don’t want to preserve it, you can simply put it in a sealable container and refrigerate. This recipe also makes a whopping 8 cups of charoset, but if you have a large family and/or making two seder dinners, that may not be such a bad thing. :-D

Charoset (Wine Apple Walnut Conserve)

Ingredients:

  • 3 – 4 large apples, peeled, cored, and quartered
  • 2 cups walnut halves
  • 1  750 ml bottle of kosher sweet wine (your flavor of choice)
  • 6 tsp. Pomona’s Pectin calcium water * (see Recipe Note, below)
  • 4 Tbs. bottled lemon juice
  • 2 cups cane sugar (divided)
  • 1 Tbs. (or 3 tsp.) ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbs. (or 3 tsp.) ground ginger
  •  2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 5 tsp. Pomona’s Pectin pectin powder

Preparation:

Place 2 small freezer-safe dishes in the freezer before beginning.

Place the apples and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 10-12 pulses, until they are well chopped (pulse fewer times for a chunkier charoset).

Place the chopped apples and walnuts in a large non-reactive pot along with the wine, calcium water, lemon juice, and one cup of the sugar. Heat over high heat until boiling. While boiling, add the cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Reduce the heat to medium-high and allow to boil for 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix the pectin powder with the remaining cup of sugar until well combined.

Raise the heat under the pot to high and bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Sprinkle the pectin/sugar mixture over the contents of the pot, then stir vigorously to dissolve the sugar and pectin. Allow to boil another 2 minutes. If canning, remove the pot from the heat and proceed to gel test.

Perform a gel test by placing a teaspoon of the mixture on one of the frozen plates and return to the freezer for 2 minutes.  If the mixture wrinkles when pushed with the tip of a spoon, proceed to canning, if desired.

*(Recipe Note:  I only use Pomona’s Universal Pectin in my jam and jelly recipes. Each box consists of 2 packets: one smaller packet that contains the calcium powder to be mixed with water – 1/2 tsp. calcium powder mixed with 1/2 cup of water  (that’s the “calcium water”), and one larger packet that contains the pectin powder.)

Small-Batch Canning Instructions:

  • Place a stock pot filled about 2/3 with water on the stove and bring to a boil. Make sure that there is a rack or a pot holder in the bottom of the pot, so your canning jars do not come into direct contact with the bottom of the pot, itself.
  • Sterilize the appropriate number of jars by placing them in the boiling water. Boil for 10 minutes.
  • Heat the jar lids in the boiling water for a minute or two.
  • Empty the water out of each jar, then fill with the hot jam, leaving 1/4″ to 1/2″ headroom at the top. Place a hot lid on top of the jar and screw on the lid ring, finger-tight.  Place the filled jar back into the pot of boiling water and boil for 10 minutes.
  • Remove the jar(s) from the boiling water and place on a towel or newspaper-covered surface to cool and seal. You should shortly hear the *ping* or *pop* of the lid sealing. When completely cool, store on a shelf or in a cupboard, away from heat and direct sunlight. If a jar does not seal within 24 hours, refrigerate and use within 2 weeks.

** Traditionally, charoset isn’t cooked. If you’re not canning it, you may omit the pectin (and calcium water), lemon juice, and sugar. Simply mix all of the other ingredients together in a large bowl, leaving the wine until last. Then mix in just enough wine to form a paste. You won’t need the whole bottle.

Of course, you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy this delicious conserve. Have it as a spread on toast, or with cheeses, such as brie or bleu. I’m sure you’ll find your own wonderfully inventive uses!

Don’t feel like making it yourself? Get it directly from Freakin’ Flamingo! Only 7 4 jars in stock, and you must order by Tuesday, March 31st to get it in time for Passover! (Made with Kosher for Passover ingredients in my kosher kitchen, but not certified KP)

Charoset for Passover on Punk  Domestics

All opinions, recipes, text, and photographs are my own and original to RJ Flamingo and her real-life alter-ego, and are copyrighted materials, not to be reproduced in any form without express permission from the author. Links contained in this post may be affiliate links to my Amazon store. If you start here and buy anything on Amazon, I get a small commission. This does not increase your price, but does help me pay my web host. And buy food. Thank you for your support!

By RJ Flamingo ~ 1 Comment

Curried Tuna Sauce and Hot Madras Curry Powder

 

 

I thought I’d start off the New Year with a recipe that is one of Mike’s specialties: Curried Tuna.  I know. I don’t like fish, but I’ll eat tuna from the can. And, I’ve never been wild about “hot tuna” – unless you’re talking about the ’70’s band that was a spin-off of Jefferson Airplane (there – I’ve dated myself). Go figure.

But you know, when you’re young and in love, you’ll even let your boyfriend feed you an improbable-sounding pasta sauce made with canned tuna and an Indian spice mixture called “hot madras curry powder”.  You’ll even pretend that you like it. Except for one little thing. I really did like it! It’s another one of those concoctions that doesn’t sound like it should work, but it does!

Curried Tuna Sauce | Flamingo Musings

Here we are, over 25 years later, and when Mike cooks, this is one of his go-to’s. I can’t believe I haven’t pried this recipe out of him before now, but it’s appropriate to start a New Year with a fish recipe (fish is good luck food – they can’t swim backward!), and share something from the heart.

This recipe can be made days ahead of time, making it the perfect “cook it on Sunday to eat for dinner on Wednesday” dish. It also makes a vat of sauce, but it will last a week in the refrigerator and freezes beautifully, so even though you could easily cut the quantities in half, go ahead and make the full recipe and freeze some for a later time. You can easily reheat it, with no loss of quality or flavor, in the microwave or on top of the stove. Your choice.

Curried Tuna Sauce | Flamingo Musings

Curried Tuna Sauce

(makes 6-8 hearty servings)

Ingredients:

  • 2 large (or 3-4 medium) yellow onions, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2  28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 2  4 oz cans mushrooms, drained (optional)
  • 2  7 oz cans of solid white albacore tuna in water, drained
  • 3 Tbs dried basil
  • 4 Tbs Hot Madras Curry Powder *
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp garlic powder or to taste -or- 2 to 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs salt
  • 1 tsp sugar (optional – see Notes)
  • 1 ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 4 Tbs butter (may substitute olive oil)

Preparation:

Pour crushed tomatoes into a large bowl. Drain tuna and put the contents of both cans into the bowl, breaking the tuna up into small, irregular pieces. Add basil, hot madras curry powder, garlic powder, salt, sugar, bay leaves, and black pepper to the bowl. Stir until well mixed. (You can also add a tablespoon of dried parsley and/or a ½ tbs of dried oregano if you want to vary the flavor a little).

Heat a 6-quart pot or 6-quart capacity deep frying pan over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions and sauté for about ten minutes (until soft and translucent).

Add chopped fresh garlic to the pan at this point (if not using garlic powder). Add the mushrooms (if using) and sauté the onion-mushroom mixture for another 2-3 minutes.

Add the tomato mixture to the same pan, bring it up to a slow-boil, and then turn down the heat to simmer. Cover the pan and let simmer for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking, and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes.

Serve over your choice of pasta and top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. If you require gluten-free, it’s equally delicious over rice, or try one of the gluten-free pastas. While it is a thick “meaty” sauce, we prefer to eat it with something long and thin, such as vermicelli or angel hair.

Curried Tuna Sauce | Flamingo Musings

Notes:

For best flavor and aroma, snap the dried bay leaves in half, but don’t crumble them; bay leaves are not really edible (and really unpleasant to try to eat), and you want to be able to pick them out before serving— or, at least, make it possible for your guests to extract them easily.

Mike said that he’s been making this sauce since he was in high school, and can’t remember where he got the original recipe. The one thing he does remember is that the original recipe contained raisins, but he didn’t like the sound of that, so he omitted them. I swear – this is the first time I’ve heard this – and I think raisins would probably be delicious in this sauce. So if you’ve a mind to experiment a bit, go ahead and throw in a handful of raisins or golden raisins or currants for the last 10 minutes of cooking, just to plump them up a bit and heat through.

Most pasta sauce recipes that call for sugar, including this one, add it for the purpose of countering the sometimes bitter acidity in the tomatoes. Try this trick: Instead of adding sugar, add a large pinch (about 1/8 tsp) of baking soda to the sauce and stir well. It will foam up a little as the baking soda interacts with the acid, but will then subside. Do this with all of your pasta sauces – you’ll never miss the sugar!

You can find Hot Madras Curry Powder in any Indian grocery. However, if you can’t get it where you are, you can make it yourself. Here’s Mike’s recipe:

Hot Madras Curry Powder

Ingredients:

  • 2 dried red chili peppers
  • 5 Tbs coriander seeds
  • 3 Tbs cumin seeds
  • 2 pinches dried ground curry leaves (omit if you can’t find these)
  • 1 Tbs black mustard seeds
  • 2 Tbs ground turmeric

Put all ingredients into a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder, and grind until the ingredients are a fine powder. Makes about ¾ cup, so you’ll have plenty left over to use in soups, stews, or other meat or chicken dishes that you want to perk up a bit. Store the curry powder in an airtight jar or container, away from heat and light, just like your other spices.

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From our home to yours, Happy New Year!

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By RJ Flamingo ~ 2 Comments

‘Tis the Season for Spiced Honey Pine Nut Brittle

 

 

This is, sadly, my fourth and final post of the season for our little band of holiday cookie bakers, affectionately known as the Cookie Freaks. This week’s theme is: Quickies. These are treats you can make at the last minute for party favors, snacks, classroom parties, gifts in those pretty little cello gift bags, and so on.

Okay, so technically, Spiced Honey Pine Nut Brittle is not a cookie. But it is a sweet treat that you can throw together in a snap, and I promise that everyone will be impressed. Even if you’re kitchen-challenged.  And you don’t even need to turn on the oven!

Let’s get moving – you don’t have the time!

Pine Nut Brittle | Flamingo Musings

Spiced Honey Pine Nut Brittle

(makes about 8-10 oz. of candy)

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup Honey Ridge Farms Spiced Honey
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 1 cup Frieda’s Pine Nuts
  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

Preparation:

Prepare a cookie sheet by lining it with a silicone baking mat, parchment paper, or by buttering the pan directly. You don’t have to butter the silicone mat. Another good reason to own one. Or more.

Put the sugar, spiced honey, salt, and water into a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan (about 2 quart size) on medium heat. Use a good quality non-stick pot, if you have one. You’ll thank me later. Stir with a wooden or silicone spoon (don’t use metal utensils) until the mixture is smooth and all the ingredients are well incorporated. Stir in the pine nuts.

cooknuts_6033_400

Cook, stirring often, until the mixture turns a golden, caramel color and the temperature on an instant read thermometer or candy thermometer reaches 300º F. This should take about 5 to 10 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter. When the butter has melted and is incorporated completely, stir in the baking soda. The mixture will foam up after you stir in the baking soda, so don’t be alarmed! You’re actually adding tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide into the candy, which will make it easier to break up. Also, so you don’t break a tooth.

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Pour the hot brittle onto your prepared baking pan and spread it out to an even thickness (about 1/8″). Once the hot brittle hits the cold pan, it will begin to set up, so work quickly. Don’t worry about making a nice rectangular shape. You won’t get one.

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The brittle should be completely cool after about 15-20 minutes, after which you can break it up into pieces and serve. Or gift bag. Or store in a zip bag or airtight container. For awhile. It hasn’t lasted long enough around here to figure out its shelf-life.

Pine Nut Brittle | Flamingo Musings

*Recipe Notes:

Don’t bother toasting the pine nuts first. They’ll take on that glorious golden color as they cook in the “syrup”.

Seriously. Invest in a couple of good silicone baking mats. They might look pricey upfront, but you can throw ‘em in the dishwasher, and they’ll last you for years and years for literally thousands of uses. Unless you do something stupid. Like put one under the broiler, like I did that one time. *Cough!*

You can double or even triple this recipe, according to how much you need.

Try this with other seeds and nuts, too, like sesame seeds, cashews pieces, almond pieces – whatever you like. Ooo! Pistachios!

Pine Nut Brittle | Flamingo Musings

Thank you for stopping by. You’ll love this brittle – both making it and eating it – and people who receive it will love you, too!

Happy Holidays!

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cookie_badge_2014

Please visit the rest of the Cookie Freaks crew and see what delights they’ve made up for you, this week!

Diana Cannone, To Di for Bakery, http://todiforbakery.com/news/

Judy Chiappini, No Fear Entertaining, http://www.nofearentertaining.blogspot.com/

Mandee Racer Pogue, The Kitchen Wife, http://www.thekitchenwife.net/

Marye Audet-White, Restless Chipotle, http://www.restlesschipotle.com/

Sandy Smith, Eat Real, http://www.weeatreal.com/

 

I was sent the Spiced Honey from Honey Ridge Farms (currently on sale, 10% off! – check out their online store) and the Pine Nuts from Frieda’s Specialty Produce (ask your store’s produce manager), as part of packages from previous posts. This is not a sponsored post, but I love their products and find all sorts of different uses for them. All opinions, recipes, text, and photographs are my own and original to RJ Flamingo and her real-life alter-ego, and are copyrighted materials, not to be reproduced in any form without express permission from the author. Links contained in this post may be affiliate links to my Amazon store. If you start here and buy anything on Amazon, I get a small commission. This does not increase your price, but does help me pay my web host. And buy food. Thank you for your support!

By RJ Flamingo ~ 7 Comments

‘Tis the Season for Salted Dulce de Leche Cookie Tarts

 

 

This is my third post for our little band of holiday cookie bakers, affectionately known as the Cookie Freaks. This week’s theme is “Fancies: Your cookie tray stars.”  I think you’ll agree that these Salted Dulce de Leche Cookie Tarts fill that description to a tee!

Coincidentally – or maybe not so much – it is also posting day for the Food Bloggers Cookie Swap, partnering with Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. For the swap part of the FB Cookie Swap, I sent a dozen Salted Dulce de Leche Cookie Tarts to each of three other food bloggers. I hope they enjoyed them as much as I enjoyed creating them!
The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2014

I took this recipe for my favorite no-chill sugar cookies, reduced the sugar a bit, and combined it with this “recipe” for dulce de leche, topped them with my favorite finishing salt, and was absolutely delighted with the combination! I think you’ll love them, too!

Dulce de Leche Cookie Tarts | Flamingo Musings

Salted Dulce de Leche Cookie Tarts

Yields about 2 dozen cookies.

For the cookies:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup lemon or orange juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350º F.  Prepare a cookie sheet by your choice of (a) lining it with parchment paper; (b) lightly greasing it; or (c) lining it with a silicone baking mat.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center. Add the egg, sugar, oil, juice and vanilla to the well. Stir together, then switch to using your hand to combine thoroughly into a firm dough.

Roll out the dough to ¼” thick and cut into 1-1/2” discs. Tuck each disc into the bottom of a muffin tin and press down with a juice glass to form a rimmed cookie. Bake for 17-18 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden brown. Remove the cookies from the pan and allow to cool on racks.

cookie mold

I used the bottom of my 1/4 cup measure to mold the cookies, but a juice glass, or whatever fits the cups of your muffin tin, will work.

Dulce de Leche:

Ingredient:

  • 2 cans of sweetened condensed milk

Preparation:

Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Remove all labels from the cans of sweetened condensed milk, and put the unopened cans  in the pot of boiling water. Cover the pot and reduce the heat slightly so that the water continues to boil a bit less violently. Allow to boil for 2 hours, taking care to keep the water level over the tops of the cans at all times. Keep a kettle of hot water available to top off the pot when the water level drops. You can even go 3 hours, if you like it darker.

Remove the cans from the water and allow to cool before handling. If not using right away, you should probably mark the contents on the can. I keep mine in the refrigerator, just to be on the safe side (see previous paragraph regarding “paranoia”). Once opened, you should transfer it to a sealable container and refrigerate. It’ll keep for months unopened, and weeks after opening… if it actually lasts that long!

When you want to use some, open a can of your now-dulce de leche, spoon some out into a microwave-safe bowl. It will be really thick. Microwave on high for 15 seconds, give it a stir, and microwave for another 10 seconds. Repeat if necessary to get the spreadable or drizzly consistency you need. It will set up once cooled, so save this step for the last moment before serving.

Assemble:

Spoon or pipe a small amount of the dulce de leche into the “cookie tart”. Sprinkle each with a pinch of Wild Hibiscus Flower Pyramid Salt Flakes or your favorite finishing salt.

filling the cookie tarts

I used this fun decorating kit sent to me by OXO, one of the cookie swap’s partners to fill the cookies, but you can use two spoons – one to scoop up the dulce de leche, then another to push it off into each cookie.

You will have leftover dulce de leche, but since when is that a bad thing? If you haven’t eaten it with a spoon, just transfer the unused portion into an airtight container and refrigerate it until you do. ;-)

Allow the cookies to sit undisturbed for several hours, or overnight, so the filling will set up. Then you can store them in a container for at least a week.

If they haven’t all disappeared before then.

Dulce de Leche Cookie Tarts | Flamingo Musings

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Thank you for stopping by – you’ll love these cookies and there’s more coming up! Visit often – surprises are in store!

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Please visit the rest of the Cookie Freaks crew and see what delights they’ve baked up for you, this week!

Diana Cannone, To Di for Bakery, http://todiforbakery.com/news/

Dianne Simmons, Dianne’s Dishes, http://www.diannesdishes.com/

Judy Chiappini, No Fear Entertaining, http://www.nofearentertaining.blogspot.com/

Mandee Racer Pogue, The Kitchen Wife, http://www.thekitchenwife.net/

Marye Audet-White, Restless Chipotle, http://www.restlesschipotle.com/

Sandy Smith, Eat Real, http://www.weeatreal.com/

Sherri Jo, The Adventures of Kitchen Girl Jo, http://kitchengirljo.blogspot.com/

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If you’d like to learn more about the Food Bloggers Cookie Swap, or would like to participate next year, visit here and sign up to receive notifications!

All opinions, recipes, text, and photographs are my own and original to RJ Flamingo and her real-life alter-ego, and are copyrighted materials, not to be reproduced in any form without express permission from the author. Links contained in this post may be affiliate links to my Amazon store. If you start here and buy anything on Amazon, I get a small commission. This does not increase your price, but does help me pay my web host. And buy food. Thank you for your support!

By RJ Flamingo ~ 3 Comments

Paté de Hibiscus, Cheese, & Girls’ Night In Wrap Party + Jarlsberg Giveaway

 

 

Chanukah begins next week, with Christmas and the New Year not too far behind. It’s the perfect time to have a “just us girls” evening, and wrap up the kids’ (and significant others’) gifts, away from those snooping curious eyes,  don’t you think? Well, Jarlsberg, Wild Hibiscus Flower Co., and Honey Ridge Farms thought so, too. They’re sponsoring this post and a fun giveaway, so you can make it happen. Oh, and *bonus* – Frieda’s Specialty Produce will be sending the lucky winner a box o’ yum, including just about all the fruit you see in this post, plus some other goodies, too!

jarlsberg | Flamingo Musings

We all love the Holiday Season and can’t wait for it to get here, right? And then it finally gets here and everything revolves around the rugrats kids and out-of-town visitors and family obligations. And we all promise our friends that we’ll get together after the New Year. Why wait?  With a few simple ingredients that take virtually no time at all (really!) to make it our own, and some help from the cheese counter and produce department at the store – and maybe a case of couple bottles of wine –  just have the girls over to dish and get “wrapped up” in the spirit, together!

I’ll be sharing more easy and quick recipe ideas over the next several days, but for now, let’s get started with the easiest one of them all: Paté de Hibiscus. Actually, it’s a much firmer version of my Wild Hibiscus Jelly recipe, especially prepared so it can be sliced or cut into fun shapes to go with cheese plates or just snacking. Sort of a paté de fruit, but made from Wild Hibiscus Heart-Tee herbal tea! Fine. It’s more like really firm jello. But vegan. Also, it sounds better in French.

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Paté de Wild Hibiscus

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • 3 Wild Hibiscus Heart-T herbal tea bags
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 4 tsp. Pomona’s Pectin calcium water*
  • 1/2 cup pure cane sugar
  • 3 tsp. Pomona’s Pectin pectin powder*

Preparation:

Place a small dish in the freezer for gel-testing, later.

In a small saucepan (2 quart or so capacity), bring the water to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat, remove the tags from the tea bags and place the tea bags in the hot water. Stir, then cover and allow to steep for about 3 minutes. Remove the tea bags from the water.

Hibiscus Paté Gel

Bring the tea back to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the lemon juice and the calcium water.

Mix the pectin powder thoroughly with the sugar, and add it to the pot gradually, stirring vigorously until the sugar and pectin are completely dissolved.

Continue boiling for another 2 minutes.  Take the dish out of the freezer and place a small amount of the liquid onto it. Return the dish to the freezer for another 2 minutes. At the end of that time, remove the dish from the freezer. If the liquid is firm and moves intact when pushed with your finger or the tip of a spoon, it’s ready.

Pour the liquid into an 8″ x 8″ or 9″ x 9″ square heat-proof glass casserole dish. It will start setting up almost immediately. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use – at least one hour, to make sure that it’s cool enough to handle.

Hibiscus Paté Gel

Here’s where we have some fun! Run a dinner knife or thin-bladed spatula around the edges. Now, flip the dish over onto a cutting board. If you have small (1-inch) pastry cutters, just press them into the jell and cut out your shapes! *Hint* – After pressing the cutter all the way through the jell, tilt it slightly before lifting it out. Your cut-out shape should come out with the cutter and you can gently push it out. If your shape stays in the jell, just take that same dinner knife and slide it under the shape and gently push it up. It’ll pop right out!

Don’t have itty-bitty cutters? No problem. Just use that dinner knife to slice squares into the jell. Surely you can do a better job than I did. ;-)

Hibiscus Jell Cutouts | Flamingo Musings

Hibiscus Jell Shapes | Flamingo Musings

*(Recipe Note:  I only use Pomona’s Universal Pectin in my jam and jelly  – and now, vegan jell and paté de fruit – recipes. Each box consists of 2 packets: one smaller packet that contains the calcium powder to be mixed with water – 1/2 tsp. calcium powder mixed with 1/2 cup of water – that’s the “calcium water” – and one larger packet that contains the pectin powder.)

jarlsberg | Flamingo Musings

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Ready to put it together? Get a head start by entering to win all of this deliciousness! The winner of this giveaway will receive: A coupon for FREE Jarlsberg cheese, a very cool slate cheeseboard, a cheese plane, a whole range of Wild Hibiscus Flower Co. products, and a variety of Honey Ridge Farms honey products!

prize package

~~PLUS~~

A gift box from Frieda’s Specialty Produce, including the best seasonal produce, Pine Nuts, sweet and delicious Raisins on the Vine, crepes, and much more!

Friedas_PRIZEBOX

Just click into the Rafflecopter box, below, and get your entries in by Monday night (December 15th) at midnight!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

While this post was sponsored by Jarlsberg, USA, Wild Hibiscus Flower Company, and Honey Ridge Farms, all opinions, recipes, text, and photographs are my own and original to RJ Flamingo and her real-life alter-ego, and are copyrighted materials, not to be reproduced in any form without express permission from the author. All fruit used in this post and its photographs, was provided by Frieda’s Specialty Produce. When I write about a brand or product, it’s always something that I personally love and would recommend to my own mother. Sponsored posts help me pay my web host. And buy food. Thank you for your support!

Vegan Hibiscus
By RJ Flamingo ~ 58 Comments

‘Tis the Season for Chocolate Cut-Out Cookies

 

 

(Dear Readers:  The photos for this post are just awful. I’m sorry. I can’t dwell on it. It’s too depressing. Please don’t judge the recipe on the basis of the pictures. The cookies are delicious!  Thank you.)

This is my second post for our little band of holiday cookie bakers, affectionately known as the Cookie Freaks. This week’s theme is: Formed and Decorated. Among the group, you’ll find shortbreads, spritz, sandwich cookies, rolls, maybe even a gingerbread house, if the rumors are true!

Chocolate Cut-Out Cookies | Flamingo Musings

Not here, of course.  I will start out by informing you that I am cookie-decorating-challenged. I’m of the “drag it through some sugar and be done with it” school of decorating. So, I’m keeping it simple this week, and because I think we’re all feeling a bit of a yen for chocolate, I thought it might be fun to take my usual sugar cookie and infuse it with deep, soul-satisfying, chocolatey (is that a word?) flavor. It’s also a wonderful blank canvas for decoration, whether with sparkly sugars, shiny dragees, or even frosting. This is a sturdy, crispy cookie that will travel well and will stand up to the decorating excesses of the most enthusiastic toddler without breaking!

Chocolate Cut-Out Cookies | Flamingo Musings

Chocolate Cut-Out Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 cup dark cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350º F.  Prepare a cookie sheet by your choice of (a) lining it with parchment paper; (b) lightly greasing it; or (c) lining it with a silicone baking mat.

In a large bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center. Add the egg, sugar, oil, juice and vanilla to the well. Stir together, then switch to using your hand to combine thoroughly into a firm dough.

Roll out the dough to ¼” thick and cut into shapes with your favorite cookie cutters. Place each raw cookie on a plate of decorative sugar or cookie decor of your choice (sprinkles, jimmies, whatever you like), then place the cookie on the prepared baking pan.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the edges are set and you can smell chocolate.  Allow the cookies to cool in place on the pan for about 5 minutes, then remove them to racks to cool completely.

Chocolate Cut-Out Cookies | Flamingo Musings

*Recipe Notes:

Use a flavorless vegetable oil (generic vegetable oil, sunflower, safflower, canola, etc.) not olive oil.

You may substitute soy or almond milk, or dairy milk for the orange juice. I wanted to keep this non-dairy.

If you want to decorate the cookies with frosting, just skip the sugar or decor dip prior to baking, and bake them plain. Decorate when the cookies are completely cool. I’m just not that talented. :-)  I’m not sure where I’d put iced cookies to dry for 24 hours, but if you have the time and space, try this (relatively) easy recipe and technique from TheKitchn.com – a simple milk and powdered sugar icing for us non-pros.

Chocolate Cut-Out Cookies | Flamingo Musings

 ~~~~~~

Thank you for stopping by – you’ll love these cookies and everything else I’ve got coming up in the next few weeks! Visit often – surprises are in store!signature

cookie_badge_2014

Please visit the rest of the Cookie Freaks crew and see what delights they’ve baked up for you, this week!

Diana Cannone, To Di for Bakery, http://todiforbakery.com/news/

Dianne Simmons, Dianne’s Dishes, http://www.diannesdishes.com/

Judy Chiappini, No Fear Entertaining, http://www.nofearentertaining.blogspot.com/

Mandee Racer Pogue, The Kitchen Wife, http://www.thekitchenwife.net/

Marye Audet-White, Restless Chipotle, http://www.restlesschipotle.com/

Sandy Smith, Eat Real, http://www.weeatreal.com/

Sherri Jo, The Adventures of Kitchen Girl Jo, http://kitchengirljo.blogspot.com/

Chocolate Cut-Out Cookies | Flamingo Musings

By RJ Flamingo ~ 9 Comments

Cranberry Oat Cookies & Nutri Ninja | Ninja Blender System #Review

 

 

The Holidays are well and truly upon us! To celebrate, a group of us – eight of us, to be exact – decided to bring back one of our old traditions, a Holiday cookie roundup. We’re calling it “Cookie Freaks”. Which, you know, is right up my alley. This is Week One, and of course, I’m already late. But I have an excuse, Teacher! I had to try out the new Nutri Ninja | Ninja Blender System that the nice people at Ninja sent me to review. I swear – there really is a cookie connection!

Cranberry Oat Cookies | Flamingo Musings

Yes, I know. It’s a cookie. Bear with me.

You’ve seen all the commercials on TV, right? But, all they show you is smoothie-making. So, okay, I made a few smoothies. Not green ones, ’cause you know I can’t stand green ones. And yes, the Nutri Ninja | Ninja Blender System makes fabulous and smooth smoothies. And it comes with three different sizes of blender cups.

ninja_smoothie_400

Which, by the way, I used mostly to chop nuts and grate Parmesan cheese. The Auto IQ pulse function counts the number of pulses, which all but prevent you from overdoing it. But this bad boy comes with a food processor and huge blender pitcher together with double blades. The husband and I put those functions through their paces over Thanksgiving weekend, and I admit that I was impressed.  We chopped chunks of stale bread and veggies for the turkey stuffing, made frozen beverages and more. The double stacked blades made sure that the food on top got chopped as well as the food on the bottom, and we rarely had to scrape down the sides of the work bowl. And, there were no chunks of unchopped food hiding in the mix! For me, that’s a big deal. We also really liked the Auto IQ functions. The base knows which attachment you’re using, and only the appropriate functions for that attachment are activated. And when you select one of the IQ buttons for, say, Food Puree, it times and pulses itself, to make sure every bit of food is pureed perfectly. That is one smart appliance!

The only thing that kind of disappoints me, is that it doesn’t have the ability to shred food. So if you want to shred potatoes for hash browns or cheese for tacos, you’ll either have to use a box grater or another food processor. On the plus side, however, you can use every bit of the work bowl’s capacity. The bowl sits on a narrow pin, rather than a large post, so there’s no big hole in the center to allow seepage of liquid (or liquified) ingredients, and you don’t have to try to hold the blade in place with your finger when dumping the contents into another bowl. That’s also a big plus, from where I stand.

Those yellow stickers are there to remind me how to put the top on and remove it again. Which is easier than my old food pro. Just till I get used to it.

We’re coming to the cookie part, now. The food processor attachment also comes with a dough blade. And the recipe booklet that came with it, contains a recipe for Cranberry Oat Cookies, which falls right into this week’s Cookie Freaks theme: Fruit and Nut Cookies! Perfect for one last test!  Alas, once you add the dry ingredients to the wet ones, the dough blade and function don’t really work any better than the ones on my old Cuisinart, so I had to finish the process by hand. *Sigh*

On balance, however, the Nutri Ninja | Ninja Blender System is definitely worth your consideration, either for yourself or as a holiday gift for someone you love, and has earned its parking space in my appliance garage. The old “11 cup” Cuisinart and its multitude of dangerous blades are leaving the building. I think I’ll hang onto the small one though, for shredding cheese.

Now, for the cookies! I did have to make a couple of modifications, however. First, the original recipe calls for coconut oil. I found that the flavor could have benefited from using butter instead – I made it both ways, so it’s completely your choice. The original recipe is also gluten-free and calls for “gluten-free flour blend” instead of flour. I used all purpose flour. The original recipe calls for dried cranberries, which I didn’t have, so I chopped up some fresh ones.  Once I added all of the dry ingredients, I found the mixture to be a bit too dry, so I added 1/4 cup of almond milk, and that made it the perfect texture. The original recipe says that it makes 16 cookies. I got 30. Go figure.  The recipe that follows is my modified version. Use a regular electric mixer.

Cranberry Oat Cookies | Flamingo Musings

Cranberry Oat Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (or butter)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup almond milk (or regular milk, or soy milk)
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1-1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal (uncooked)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup whole cranberries (fresh or frozen), chopped fine (may substitute dried cranberries)

Preparation:

Preheat your oven to 350º F.

In a large bowl, blend together the coconut oil, egg, and vanilla extract. Add the brown sugar and white sugar, and blend thoroughly.

In a separate bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients, except the cranberries.  Add half of the dry mixture to the wet and blend completely. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then mix in the rest of the dry mix. When completely blended, add the cranberries and mix (or fold by hand) into the dough until distributed evenly.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper (or your favorite silicone baking mats), and scoop the cookie dough by tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets, 2 inches apart.

Bake for 14 – 16 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are golden brown. The hot cookies will be very soft, so leave them on the cookie sheets for several minutes. They’ll set right up and you can then remove them to a rack to finish cooling.

Thank you for stopping by – you’ll love these cookies and everything else I’ve got coming up in the next few weeks! Visit often – surprises are in store!

cookie_badge_2014

Please visit the rest of the Cookie Freaks crew and see what delights they’ve baked up for you!

Diana Cannone, To Di for Bakery, http://todiforbakery.com/news/

Dianne Simmons, Dianne’s Dishes, http://www.diannesdishes.com/

Judy Chiappini, No Fear Entertaining, http://www.nofearentertaining.blogspot.com/

Mandee Racer Pogue, The Kitchen Wife, http://www.thekitchenwife.net/

Marye Audet-White, Restless Chipotle, http://www.restlesschipotle.com/

Sandy Smith, Eat Real, http://www.weeatreal.com/

Sherri Jo, The Adventures of Kitchen Girl Jo, http://kitchengirljo.blogspot.com/

I was sent a Nutri Ninja | Ninja Blender System by the manufacturer for the purposes of review. I was not compensated in any way for writing this post. All opinions, adapted recipes, text, and photographs are my own and original to RJ Flamingo and her real-life alter-ego, and are copyrighted materials, not to be reproduced in any form without express permission from the author.

By RJ Flamingo ~ 5 Comments

Wild Hibiscus Jelly, Trifle Shooters Dessert and a Giveaway!

 

 

If you know me at all, it should come as no surprise that I will try to make jam or jelly out of nearly any edible plant life, these days. I love the challenge, and when it works, there’s no greater rush! I’m also into multitasking my jams and jellies – that is, using them for more than just toast at breakfast –  and am always encouraging people to “think outside the jar”.

When I had the opportunity to work with the Wild Hibiscus Flower Company, I knew I had to come up with something unique. Something that you would want to share with your family and friends on any special occasion.  This is – bar none – the easiest jelly recipe on the planet. If you can boil water, you can make this Wild Hibiscus Jelly. And if you made it that far, you can throw together these Wild Hibiscus Jelly Trifle Shooters in just a few minutes. No one needs to know that you didn’t break a sweat!

Did I mention the giveaway? No? Well, Wild Hibiscus Flower Company wants you to join the fun! You’ll find all the details after the recipes. I keep telling you that I’m sneaky that way.

Wild Hibiscus Jelly Trifle Shots | Flamingo Musings

Even if you’re not a canner, this jelly is so easy to make, it could turn you into one! You can pour it into pretty canning jars, tie them up with a ribbon, and have truly unique and delicious hostess gifts, or whenever you have a “gifting emergency”.

Wild Hibiscus Tea Jelly

Wild Hibiscus Jelly

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups water
  • 5 Wild Hibiscus Heart-T herbal tea bags
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice -or- 1/2 tsp powdered citric acid
  • 5 tsp. Pomona’s Pectin calcium water*
  • 2-1/2 cups pure cane sugar
  • 5 tsp. Pomona’s Pectin pectin powder*

Preparation:

Place a small dish in the freezer for gel-testing, later.

In a 4 quart or larger saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat, remove the tags from the tea bags and place the tea bags in the hot water. Stir, then cover and allow to steep for about an hour. Remove the tea bags from the water.

Bring the tea back to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the lemon juice (or citric acid), and the calcium water.

Mix the pectin powder thoroughly with the sugar, and add it to the pot gradually, stirring vigorously until the sugar and pectin are completely dissolved.

Continue boiling for another 2 minutes.  Take the dish out of the freezer and place a small amount of the liquid onto it. Return the dish to the freezer for another 2 minutes. At the end of that time, remove the dish from the freezer. If the liquid is firm and wrinkles when pushed with your finger or the tip of a spoon, you’re ready to jar up!

*(Recipe Note:  I only use Pomona’s Universal Pectin in my jam and jelly recipes. Each box consists of 2 packets: one smaller packet that contains the calcium powder to be mixed with water – 1/2 tsp. calcium powder mixed with 1/2 cup of water  (that’s the “calcium water”), and one larger packet that contains the pectin powder.)

Small-Batch Canning Instructions:

This recipe may be doubled if you want to make more to give as gifts or for future use.

  • Place a stock pot filled about 2/3 with water on the stove and bring to a boil. Make sure that there is a rack or a pot holder in the bottom of the pot, so your canning jars do not come into direct contact with the bottom of the pot, itself.
  • Sterilize the appropriate number of jars by placing them in the boiling water. Boil for 10 minutes.
  • Heat the jar lids in the boiling water for a minute or two.
  • Empty the water out of each jar, then fill with the hot jelly, leaving 1/4″ to 1/2″ headroom at the top. Place a hot lid on top of the jar and screw on the lid ring, finger-tight.  Place the filled jar back into the pot of boiling water and boil for 5 minutes.
  • Remove the jar(s) from the boiling water and place on a towel or newspaper-covered surface to cool and seal. You should shortly hear the *ping* or *pop* of the lid sealing. When completely cool, store on a shelf or in a cupboard, away from heat and direct sunlight. If a jar does not seal within 24 hours, refrigerate and use within 2 weeks.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Okay, what else can I do with it?

I’m so glad you asked!  Here’s that easy peasy, but elegant dessert I was talking about earlier. These Wild Hibiscus Trifle Shooters take only a few minutes to put together, and make a light counterpoint to the heavy meals and other rich foods we always seem to indulge in, this time of year. Displayed with your pies, cakes, and cookies, these will be the little jewels of the dessert table! You can make as many or as few as you’d like, so there are really no measurements – just assembly.

Wild Hibiscus Jelly Trifle Shots

Wild Hibiscus Trifle Shooters

Ingredients:

  • Store-bought or homemade pound cake
  • Wild Hibiscus Jelly
  • 1 (or more) jars of Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup (your choice of Original or Rose Syrup)
  • Whipping cream (your choice of regular or heavy)
  • *Optional – Wild Hibiscus Flower Pyramid Salt Flakes
  • Tall shot glasses (glass or plastic from your local party store)
  • Several dessert spoons
  • Pastry brush

Preparation:

Drain the Wild Hibiscus Flowers, reserving the syrup.

Whip the cream until very soft peaks form. Add one tablespoon of the Wild Hibiscus Syrup per half-cup of cream, and continue whipping for another few seconds until firm. Set aside.

Slice the pound cake into 1/2″ slices, lengthwise. Take one of the shot glasses that you’re planning to use, and use the rim to cut circles out of the slices of cake. You’ll want 2 circles per shooter. Set the circles aside.

cake circles

Ready? Let’s put it together!

Brush each cake circle with some of the reserved syrup and use a dessert spoon to help push it to the bottom of a shot glass.

With another dessert spoon, put a spoonful of Wild Hibiscus Jelly on top of the cake.

Trifle Shots - Assembly

Put a spoonful of the whipped cream on top of the jelly.

Repeat with the next layers: cake circle brushed with syrup, jelly, whipped cream. Garnish with a Wild Hibiscus Flower.

*Optional: Sprinkle each with a bit of Wild Hibiscus Flower Pyramid Salt Flakes just before serving.

Wild Hibiscus Jelly Trifle Shooters | Flamingo Musings

Wild Hibiscus Trifle Shots

 ~~~~~~~~

I want you to make this fun and fabulous jelly and dessert, so Wild Hibiscus is going to send one lucky winner a gift package containing one jar of the original Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup, one jar of Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Rose Syrup, one box of Wild Hibiscus Heart-T (herbal tea), and one package of Wild Hibiscus Flower Pyramid Salt Flakes – a $45 value!  You’ll have everything you need to make my Wild Hibiscus Jelly and elegant looking Trifle Shots. Except the cake and whipped cream. But you can handle that, right?

This is a quickie – it ends Monday night (November 24) at midnight – so don’t wait! Just click into the Rafflecopter box, below, to enter! (U.S. addresses only, please)

Wild Hibiscus Products

signature

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

While I was compensated to write this post, all opinions, recipes, text, and photographs are my own and original to RJ Flamingo and her real-life alter-ego, and are copyrighted materials, not to be reproduced in any form without express permission from the author. Links contained in this post may be affiliate links to my Amazon store. If you start here and buy anything on Amazon, I get a small commission. This does not increase your price, but does help me pay my web host. And buy food. Thank you for your support!

Wild Hibiscus Jelly on Punk  Domestics
By RJ Flamingo ~ 40 Comments

Mushroom Jam

 

 

I originally called this, “Oyster Mushroom Jam”. Predictably, people went a little nuts. “Eewww! Oysters in jam???” No. I used the variety of mushroom called oyster. They look like this:

Oyster Mushrooms

While slightly sweet from the small amount of honey, this is more of a savory, tangy condiment that’s meant as a topping or go-with. Like a pickle. Almost. It goes particularly well with poultry and beef, and even adds depth to soups.

You can certainly use portobellos or even white button mushrooms in this savory, tangy “jam” – or even a combination of your favorites.

Mushroom Jam | Flamingo MusingsMushroom Jam

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 medium Sweet Onion (such as Vidalia), chopped coarsely
  • 2 – 3 cloves Garlic, smashed then chopped coarsely
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 tsp. Pepper (preferably freshly ground green peppercorns)
  • 8 oz. Oyster Mushrooms, chopped coarsely
  • 1/2 cup White Wine
  • 1/2 cup Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 2 Tbs. Honey

Preparation:

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the sweet onion and garlic, followed by the salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and translucent.

Add the mushrooms (you may need to add them in batches) and cook until they have softened and reduced in size.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the wine, cider vinegar, and water. Simmer, stirring frequently, until nearly all the liquid has been absorbed.

Keeps in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

** For the experienced canner: If you wish to water-bath can this delicious condiment, chop the mushrooms a little finer (smaller), simmer for 15 minutes and make sure liquid covers the mushroom mixture in your jar(s). Do not allow the liquid to evaporate, as above. Leave a good 1/2 inch of headspace, and boil the jars of jam for 20 minutes. Do not increase the amount of oil, if increasing the quantity.**

Try it as a burger topping or as a table condiment with your turkey – sooo good!

signature

Mushroom Jam on Punk Domestics
By RJ Flamingo ~ 6 Comments

Easiest Homemade Dulce de Leche (Milk Caramel)

 

 

Today’s “project” is making Dulce de Leche (Milk Caramel). That’s right – I’m making my own. Of course, I’m cheating – and you can, too, and still wind up with an end result that’s as sweet, caramel-ly (yes, I know that’s not a word), and infinitely satisfying as if you’d stood over the hot stove stirring milk and sugar together for hours. There’s no excuse – or reason – to buy the commercial brands in the store. They’re full of additives and preservatives that you don’t need. The only ingredients listed should be milk and sugar!

If you’ve got a can or two of sweetened condensed milk in the cupboard, do this right now while you’re watching The Game. Then you can tell everyone that you really accomplished something today! It’ll be our secret.  ;-)

Dulce De Leche

Ingredient:

  • 1 or 2 (or more!) cans of sweetened condensed milk

Sweetened condensed milk, pre-dulce de leche
Preparation:

Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Remove all labels from the cans of sweetened condensed milk, and put the unopened can(s)  in the pot of boiling water. Cover the pot and reduce the heat slightly so that the water continues to boil a bit less violently. Allow to boil for 2 hours, taking care to keep the water level over the tops of the cans at all times. Keep a kettle of hot water available to top off the pot when the water level drops.

Notice I said “when the water level drops.” It will. Check on the pot every 15 – 20 minutes (maybe during commercial breaks while you’re watching The Game) and top off the pot when needed. Do not allow the pot to boil dry, as it’s possible that the can(s) could explode. I’ve never had it happen to me, but I’m paranoid. A little paranoia is never a bad thing.

Remove the can(s) from the water and allow to cool before handling. If not using right away, you should probably mark the contents on the can. I keep mine in the refrigerator, just to be on the safe side (see previous paragraph regarding “paranoia”). Once opened, you should transfer it to a sealable container and refrigerate. It’ll keep for months unopened, and weeks after opening… if it actually lasts that long!

When you want to use some, open a can of your now-dulce de leche, spoon some out into a microwave-safe bowl. It will be really thick. Microwave on high for 15 seconds, give it a stir, and microwave for another 10 seconds. Repeat if necessary to get the spreadable or drizzly consistency you need. It will set up once cooled, so save this step for the last moment before serving.

What can I do with it?

Alfajores – South American Shortbread Cookies filled with Dulce de Leche

Alfajores filled with Dulce de Leche, Argentinian Sandwich Cookie

Apple Cream Napoleons with Dulce de Leche – easy and quick to make with Freakin’ Flamingo Apple Ginger Jam (or your favorite), cream cheese, and frozen puff pastry sheets!

Apple Dulce de Leche Napoleon

If you have Dulce De Leche on hand, you’ll never be at a loss for a last-minute dessert. And with the holidays approaching, expect the unexpected!

Okay Caramel and Dulce de Leche fans – What do you like to do with it?

 

By RJ Flamingo ~ 7 Comments
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