How To Train Your Dragon Day

My kiddos are really weird about movies.  They have a few they like to watch (over and over and over) but have a very hard time watching something new.  The most successful method we have to get them to watch a new movie is to sit down and watch it ourselves. About a year ago, my partner and I put on How To Train Your Dragon, which I had never seen and which he loves.  The kids, predictably, didn’t want to watch and spent the first ten minutes in the hallway, “peeking” at it.  Then they were coaxed over to the sofa to watch with us.  Again, not unexpectedly, they loved it and were eager to watch it again, over and over.  They were excited for both sequels and even went so far as to join us at an actual movie theater (a rare occurrence) to watch the third.

As we were planning our summer, the kids came up with the idea of “How To Train Your Dragon Day.”  The first rainy day of the summer, we would watch all three movies, in a row, complete with dragon snacks.  I admit, I maybe thought of the dragon snacks- google is a wonderful thing.

A few days ago, our time had come.  It was a dark, pouring, gray day.  It was time for How To Train Your Dragon Day.  Now, I will freely admit two things:  one, none of these snacks are even remotely good for you.  They are stomachache inducing, heartburn causing, leave you feeling slightly sick to your stomach-ing snacks.  Two, only one of these snacks was our own idea which struck us in the grocery store while we were looking for- but couldn’t find- cheese balls.  By the way, cheese balls?  Super hard to find around me.  Who knew?  Also hard to find?  Bugles.

At any rate, I give you our dragon snacks.

First we needed dragon food.  And what do the dragons eat?  Fish!

For the savory side, we used a combination of goldfish crackers (plain, cheddar, pretzel) . HipstamaticPhoto-585589048.636815

On the sweeter side, we used fudge brownie goldfish crackers and Swedish fish.

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We decided we needed dragon fireballs.  That consisted of cheese balls (so hard to find here!) with red and orange m&ms and (our own idea because we saw them at the grocery store) pretzel bites covered in orange cheese sauce.  (I have to say, the cheese sauce was pretty salty and gross, but the kids liked it!)

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So the first round of snacks were a hit.

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Another savory snack that works with this theme is bugles.  You can call them dragon claws and serve them as is.  My kids don’t like them (yes, there’s some junk food that even my kids won’t eat!) so we didn’t serve them this time.

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For the second round, I made viking helmets.  Both were from sweet items and both simply required some assembly.

One kind of helmet was made from oreo cookies and bugles- a weird combo to be sure.  To assemble, I melted a little bit of white chocolate and used a toothpick to get it on the bottom edges of the bugle.  HipstamaticPhoto-585590112.798194

Then I pressed it into the oreo, sort of between the cookies.

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Repeat on the other side and viola, you have a viking helmet.

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Sort of.

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The second viking helmet was made up of cupcakes, brownie bites, and white chocolate.

I used mini-cupcakes but in retrospect, regular would have been better.  I had to scrape off the frosting from the cupcake, saving it on the side of the plate.  Then I experimented with the brownie bites (mine came frosted which I used like glue to keep it on the cupcake)- I used one as is and another cut in half.

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Place one brownie bite on top of the cupcake.  Then add white chocolate viking horns, using frosting and gentle pressure to get them to stick.

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I made the white chocolate horns by melting some white chocolate wafers in the microwave (heat at 50% power for 30 seconds, stir, and heat an additional 30 seconds at 50% power if needed).  I poured the white chocolate out onto parchment paper and spread it out to make a thin layer.  After it hardened up a bit, but while it was still somewhat pliable, I used a knife to cut horn shapes out.  I let it harden a bit more and then separated the shapes from the layer.

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Freehand means that they weren’t uniform.  Not even close.

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But they still seemed to work!

Happy How To Train Your Dragon Day!

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Stuff Yourself*

I suppose I’ve posted here about November Project before.  I mean, I think I have.  If I haven’t, oh, man, there just isn’t enough space.  Go to the website, read it and get back to me.  It will 100% change your life for the better.  Aside from the fitness, the best part about NP is the people and the community.  I’ve met so many amazing, wonderful people and I’m so lucky to be able to call a number of them friends.

So, an NP friend came over today to help us bake cookies.  We’ve been discussing them since we decided to try it, looking at recipes, debating pros and cons.  We landed on peanut butter cup stuffed chocolate chip cookies.  And, oh, am I glad we did.  I used this recipe from The Kitchen Magpie and it was perfect for, well, stuffing.  The Kitchen Magpie points out that these cookies do not really spread and that they are substantial enough to hold the peanut butter cups in place.  It has something to do with the butter amount being less than in traditional cookies.  She suggests using the snack size peanut butter cups but we used minis which worked just as well.  We also found that making the cookies bigger helped.

Finally, we have also decided that this is the summer to experiment with stuffed cookies.  We’re thinking rolos or buncha crunch, maybe?  What are your thoughts?  What would you use to stuff your cookie?

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup (one stick) butter (unsalted)

3/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup white sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

2 cups chocolate chips

1 bag mini peanut butter cups

Directions

Whisk the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda) together in a small bowl.   In a larger bowl, cream the butter and sugars until smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well.  Pour in the flour mixture and combine.  Add the chocolate chips.

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Now for the fun part.  Stuffing.  Start with a walnut to golf ball size of dough.

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Place the peanut butter cup in the middle.

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Wrap the dough up around it, sealing it in tightly.

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Repeat until you have a full cookie sheet.  Don’t worry too much about placement as these cookies don’t spread as much as traditional cookies.

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Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size.

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Let them cool on the sheet for a few minutes and then move them to a rack to cool completely.

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The verdict?  These are good.  Really good.

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Sweet, crunchy and chewy and a lovely peanut butter surprise in the middle.

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So, go ahead. Get stuffed.

*Oh yes.  So many, many innuendos and dirty jokes throughout.  What can I say?  It’s summer.

 

 

 

Ugly but Tasty

(I know, I know, two posts in two days?!  The excitement!)

Yesterday, January 27, was National Chocolate Cake Day.  I wasn’t feeling all that well so couldn’t celebrate this holiday appropriately.  But today?  Today we made a cake.

I used Ina Garten‘s cake and frosting recipe.  It was all going well.

My helper was fascinated.

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We measured and mixed and preheated the ovens.  We poured and leveled the batter into pans.

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This is where perhaps I went wrong.  I decided that rather than two cakes (which is what Ina did), I wanted to do three.  Keep that in mind, because I think that’s why it ended up… ugly.

While they baked, we did some clean-up.

It is important to lick all spoons and bowls shirtless.  Easier clean up later.

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The cakes cooled and we made the frosting.

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We talked about what to put in between the layers and agreed on the chocolate spread I’d just bought the day before, in a fit of homesick for Israel-ness.

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(When we lived there, my friend Heather and I couldn’t believe that parents gave this to the kids for breakfast, spread on toast.  It’s really just chocolate frosting.)

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Looks okay, right?  Yeah, well the next two cakes were really hard to take out of the pan so that they started crumbling at the edges as I took them out and frosted them.

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So, in the end, we had an ugly, crumbling, lopsided cake…..

That was really, really delicious.

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I mean dark, chocolaty, sweet, dense but moist.  My husband cut into it and said, “Your cakes are so much better than box cakes. I can tell just looking at it.”  My kids ate it and declared, through chocolate-stained teeth, “Mumma, you make the best cake.”

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Go forth and celebrate National Chocolate Cake Day.  Even if you’re a few days late.  It’s the kind of holiday I can absolutely get behind.

 

 

South African Sweet

When I lived in Israel, I met people from all over the world. Some of my favorites were from South Africa. Something about the accent in general and then the specific people I met. Through the wonders of Facebook, I have managed to stay in touch with many of them and I hope that someday I can actually go to South Africa to visit. I think it would be fun to travel around to see each of them and the country. Until then, I satisfy myself by looking at their photos on facebook- of the places, the people and the food. Oh, the food. Recently something called “milktart” came up on my newsfeed.

Do you know what this is? I did not. But I was intrigued. I did a little google research and found a number of recipes- some more complicated than others. I improvised with one fairly simple one and what I ended up with was a sweet dessert unlike anything else I’ve ever had. I made it on a Thursday evening. We cut into it on Friday and it was gone by Saturday night. You must make this. It is so good. Creamy, smooth, sweet and a touch savory/spicy from the cinnamon on top.

If this is what the food is like, I should book my ticket now.

South African Milktart
(as improvised based on a number of recipes by me, with apologies to the entire country of South Africa)
Ingredients
1 can of condensed milk (sweetened)
2 cans (use the empty can of condensed milk) milk (I used 2% but I’m sure whole would taste even better)
1 can (use the empty can of condensed milk) hot water
2 Tablespoons of butter
4 eggs
6 Tablespoons corn starch
pinch of salt
1 package of Biscoff cookies (you could probably use vanilla wafers or oreos or graham crackers too)
2-4 Tablespoons melted butter

Cinnamon for sprinkling over top

Directions

Put the cookies into a food processor or smush them up with a hammer.  Add two tablespoons of the melted butter and mix.  Put some into your hand and squeeze.  If it stays together, press it into a pie or cake pan.  If it doesn’t, add a bit more butter. Once all of the cookie crumb/butter mixture is pressed into the pan, put the pan into the fridge while you do the rest.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the condensed milk, regular milk, water and butter. Add the eggs and cornstarch, whisk all together. I was a bit concerned about the eggs scrambling but they didn’t. Cook over medium to high heat until it thickens. Which it will do.  Be sure to whisk well and to scrape up the bottom and sides so that there are no lumps.
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Pour it into the prepared crust.  Sprinkle the cinnamon over the top and then put in the fridge to set.  We left ours overnight but I did sneak a small taste before then- it was still slightly warm and it was delicious that way.

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Seriously, it was so good.  The kids loved it, the husband loved it, I loved it.  I have the ingredients to make another sitting in my pantry but…  I’m afraid if I do, I’ll hide it in my basement fridge and eat the whole thing myself.  Yum.

On an other note, I have about three posts started and in various stages of completion.  Work is slowing down now so perhaps I’ll eventually get to them….

Middle Eastern Night

One of my favorite nights of the summer comes when my friend C. and I get together to cook.  We did it three years ago to celebrate Julia Child’s 100 birthday.  We did it last year and focused on Italian food and Lidia Bastianich .  This year, because I was given a great cookbook and she was given a beautiful tagine, we focused on Middle Eastern food.

The menu was:  stuffed grape leaves, a number of Israeli salads (roasted eggplant dip, Israeli salad, cabbage salad, corn salad, taboulegh, hummus), marinated grilled lamb with tzatziki, a chicken tagine, couscous with a lemon vinegrette, ptitim (pearl or Israeli couscous) and pita.  For dessert we had baklava and a Cake of Kohevet (Chocolate Nut Cake).  My HipstaPrint 987039433_39C. made the tagine and I’m hoping to get her over here to blog it out for you.  Meanwhile, I’ll toss you a few photos of it:

My HipstaPrint 987039433_92 My HipstaPrint 987039433_60She also made an amazing lamb chop.  Amazing.  She plated them as well, in a very professional manner.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_62 My HipstaPrint 987039433_83 My HipstaPrint 987039433_8 My HipstaPrint 987039433_71The salads all came from either my memory of working in Israel or from the Ballabosta cookbook I was given in April.  I feel a bit uncomfortable providing those here since I feel like it’s somehow a copyright violation but I encourage you to check out the cookbook.  It’s really fantastic.  And I’ll provide you with some photos of the salads.

First up is the eggplant salad that I’ve blogged about before as well as the traditional Israeli salad.

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My HipstaPrint 987039433_23My HipstaPrint 987039433_58From the cookbook I made a traditional corn salad:

My HipstaPrint 987039433_47 My HipstaPrint 987039433_68 My HipstaPrint 987039433_56 My HipstaPrint 987039433_77I also made traditional taboulegh.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_64The last recipe from the cookbook was for a cabbage salad.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_87 My HipstaPrint 987039433_12 My HipstaPrint 987039433_33Plus the couscous (small and large- I apparently forgot to photograph the large):

My HipstaPrint 987039433_50Oh, and I threw together humus, because why not?

My HipstaPrint 987039433_73The second couple that joined us brought homemade stuffed grape leaves and baklava.  So good, both of them.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_19 My HipstaPrint 987039433_81What I can give you the recipe for, however, is the amazing cake I made.  It is a cake of Kohevet and it was, once again, delicious.  Whenever I make one of her cakes, there is always a moment in which I doubt her.  I push through and she has never failed me.

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A reminder that when I work from her recipes, this is what I have:

My HipstaPrint 987039433_59So, this cake is in three stages.  The base dough, the filling and the topping.  Ingredients are organized accordingly.

Kohevet’s Chocolate Cake With Nuts

For the dough:

1 1/3 cup of flour

1/3 cup of sugar

100 grams (a touch more than 7 tablespoons) of salted butter (I used unsalted but added a pinch of salt to the dough)

1 egg yolk

Special equipment:  springform cake pan

For the filling:

200 grams (about 7 ounces) bittersweet chocolate

100 grams (a bit more than 7 tablespoons) butter (I used unsalted)

1/4 cup cold water

1 packet of plain gelatin (you won’t use all of it, maybe a teaspoon or so)

4 eggs separated

2 tablespoons brandy (I only used one)

2 teaspoons of instant coffee powder

1 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts, pecans and almonds)

2 tablespoons sugar

For topping:

2 cups heavy/whipping cream

2 tablespoons of confectioners sugar

Directions:

Make the dough.  Preheat your oven to 180 Celsius (356 Fahrenheit).  In a medium bowl, mix together the flour sugar, butter and egg yolk.  It helps if the butter is soft and cut into small pieces.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_26I mixed in the butter with a fork, a pastry cutter and then my hands.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_3I then added the egg yolk.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_24It will be a dough that sticks together if you press it- kind of like a shortbread.  Grease your springform pan.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_57Press 2/3 of the dough into the pan to form the bottom.  If the dough isn’t stiff enough, add another spoon or two of flour and then press it into the sides of the pan to form the crust.  I didn’t need to so you’ll have to eyeball it yourself.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_67Bake for 15-20 minutes or until it is a golden brown.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_44Set aside to cool.  Meanwhile, in a double boiler, heat the chocolate and butter.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_34While it is melting, combine the gelatin and the cold water in a small bowl.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_76When the chocolate and butter are melted, smooth and combined,

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add the water/gelatin and cook for about two minutes.  Then take it off the heat.

In another bowl, mix the egg yolks, brandy and instant coffee powder.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_1Once it is combined, add a few spoonfuls of the warm chocolate mixture and whisk.  You’re bringing the eggs up to temperature so that you don’t scramble them.  Once it’s up to temperature, add the rest of the chocolate and whisk until combined.

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Add the nuts and stir.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_9In (yet another) bowl, whip the egg whites and sugar, until they reach stiff peaks.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_18Fold the egg whites into the chocolate nut mixture by hand, so that it becomes mousse-like.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_28Take the ring of the springform pan off the base.  If you can, remove the base cake from the base of the pan.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_70Place it on the cake plate you plan to use for serving.  Pour the chocolate mixture into the base.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_91Cover and put it in the fridge.  Let it set for an hour or two.  About an hour before you want to serve it, whip the cream with the sugar until it is a lovely whipped cream consistency.  Spread it over the cake. My HipstaPrint 987039433_85

 

My HipstaPrint 987039433_10If you want to be fancy, you can grate some chocolate over the top of the cake just before you serve it.

My HipstaPrint 987039433_52This cake was so good.  It was just sweet enough with a hit of salt from the dough at the bottom.  One bite and I was back in Kohevet’s kitchen in Israel, at her table, on a Saturday afternoon, eating cake and laughing.

Kitchen Fail: Adorable Food

diy-mini-caramel-apples(photo from athomeinlove.com)

These mini-caramel apples have been making the rounds on facebook, pintrest, cooking blogs and various other parts of the internet. They don’t seem all that hard, really.  And yet….  I could not make them work.  No matter what I did.

I started out easy- scooped out the mini apples from a whole apple using a melon baller. photo 1 photo 2I melted the caramel and got my toppings ready.

photo 4I speared an apple with a toothpick and got to dipping.

photo 2But then this happened.

photo 4Back to the blog posts.  I tried freezing the apples first.  I tried drying the apples first.  I tried hotter caramel. I  tried cooler caramel.  I tried dipping in caramel and then sprinkles.  No good.

photo 3I have been bested by mini caramel apples.  Never fear.  I will conquer this.  Someday.  Maybe.  To help me, feel free to leave any suggestions in the comments.

5774

L’shanah tovah!  Happy new year!  Once again, Rosh HaShanah is upon us.  This year it came so very early.  So early, in fact, that it is still 80 degrees and no one feels like eating fall food.

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Family photo for the new year.

Which is handy since this year, for the first time in at least ten years (probably more), I did not host a gathering for the holiday.  I started adjuncting (is that a word) at a new college yesterday and was not able to either cancel my class (first one of the semester) or manage to cook for all.  I had thought maybe a brunch today but most of those who would attend were working (naturally).

So it was just a small family dinner this time.  I made a roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, sautéed greens (leeks, kale and spinach with garlic), cole slaw (I had some cabbage to use up) and cauliflower. Not really holiday food.  But the desserts…. those involved the apple and honey that the holiday requires.

My HipstaPrint 995575301_15I made individual upside-down honey apple cakes and a honey walnut apple crisp.  Neither were particularly fancy or pretty but both were pretty delicious and homey feeling.

I used Mark Bittman’s recipe from his How to Cook Everything book– but I have the app on my iphone– it was free or very, very discounted at one point- and it was ok.  Kind of bland so if I were to do it again, I’d probably up the apples and maybe incorporate them into the batter as well.  The apple crisp was a total improvisation.

Either way, I wish you all a new year filled with joy, laughter, happiness and love and free from pain, sorrow and hardship.  Happy 5774!

Mini Honey Apple Upside Down Cake (Mark Bittman)

Ingredients

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup brown sugar

2-3 apples, peeled, cored and chopped

1 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

1/2 cup white sugar

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

a few tablespoons of honey

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 F.  Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter and use it to liberally grease the muffin tins- along the sides as well as the bottom.  You may not use all the butter but there should be a good amount in the tin when you’re done.  Sprinkle the brown sugar in the bottom of each muffin slot.

Peel, core and chop your apples.

My HipstaPrint 995575301_14MIx them with the honey so that they are coated.  Sprinkle these into the muffin slots on top of the brown sugar.  Set this aside.

My HipstaPrint 995575301_13In a medium bowl, mix the salt, sugar, flour and baking soda.  Technically, Mark suggests to mix the wet ingredients in a separate bowl and to add them gradually to the dry ingredients.  I did not do this.  Instead, I dump the wet, unmixed, into the bowl and then mixed it all that way.  Either way you choose, add the buttermilk, eggs, and the rest of the butter (melted) to the dry ingredients and beat until combined.

My HipstaPrint 995575301_11Pour the batter into each muffin tin, ensuring that all the apples are covered.  Bake for 15-25 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

My HipstaPrint 995575301_6Let them cool in the pan for 5 minutes.  Run a knife or soft spatula around the sides of each muffin to loosen them.  Then, place something large, like a sheet pan over them.

My HipstaPrint 995575301_4Flip this over.

My HipstaPrint 995575301_3Each little cake should release.  If it doesn’t, sort of wiggle and shake the pan and if that still doesn’t work, use the soft spatula to scrape out the rest and sort of put it back together with your fingers.

My HipstaPrint 995575301_1Let them cool a bit before you eat them as the sugar/butter/apple combo is the temperature, roughly, of molten lava.

I had lots of apples leftover and so made a sort of shallow dish apple crisp.

Improvised Apple Crisp

Ingredients

1-2 peeled, chopped apples

few tablespoons of honey

dash or two of cinnamon

1/2-1 cup toasted walnuts

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar (white)

1 stick of butter, cool, sliced into cubes

Directions

Toss your apples with the honey and cinnamon.  Add the walnuts and place into a shallow-ish baking dish.  I used a pie plate.  (Full disclosure- I forgot I had walnuts and added them in on top of the apples but under the topping.  If I did it again, I’d mix it in with the apples so this is a case of do as I say, not as I did!)

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In a small bowl, mix the flour and sugar. You can add some cinnamon here, if you like.  Cube your butter.

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With clean hands or a pastry cutter, add the butter.  Mush it around until it’s sort of sandy and pebbly feeling.

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Spread/sprinkle the topping over the walnut-apple mixture.

My HipstaPrint 995575301_7Bake at 425 for 10-20 minutes or until the top starts to brown.  Turn the oven down to 350 and bake until the apples are tender.

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