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Santa Claus brownies

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Are you looking for the perfect holiday dessert? Children and adults alike will enjoy this playful and seasonal twist on traditional brownies.

Start to finish: 1 hour (30 minutes active)
Servings: 24 brownies

Ingredients

For the brownies
• 1 cup butter, room temperature
• 2 cups sugar
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 4 eggs
• 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1 cup flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the icing
• 1/3 cup butter, room temperature
• 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 2 cups icing sugar
• 3 tablespoons milk
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 24 strawberries, hulled

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Set aside.
2. Using a whisk or hand beater, blend the butter, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Add the eggs and mix well. Incorporate the rest of the brownie ingredients and blend until the mixture is uniform.
3. Pour the brownie mixture into the baking dish and bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool.
4. In the meantime, whisk the butter, cocoa powder, honey, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla in a large bowl. Slowly add the icing sugar and milk while blending the mixture at low speed until it reaches the desired texture. Set aside.
5. In another bowl, mix the heavy cream, sugar, and the rest of the vanilla. Blend at high speed until the whipped cream is firm.
6. Once the brownies are completely cool, spread a thin layer of the chocolate icing on top. Cut the brownies into 24 equal portions. Place 1 strawberry upside down on each piece of brownie. Using a piping bag, create a circle of whipped cream around the base of each strawberry and top the fruit with a dot of whipped cream.

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Food

5 reasons to buy bulk food

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From coffee, flour, and pasta to nuts, legumes, and grains, a wide variety of staple ingredients can be purchased by weight rather than a package. Here are five great reasons to scoop up bulk food.

1. To reduce waste
Since bulk food is stored in reusable containers, you’ll reduce the amount of packaging that ends up in landfills. You’re also less likely to throw out spoiled food if you can buy the exact quantity you need.

2. To save money

Bulk food tends to be less expensive than the packaged kind. Also, being able to choose the amount you want of each ingredient means you’ll only pay for what you need.

3. To enjoy fresh ingredients
If you buy food in the exact quantities you need, you’ll avoid having to store half-empty containers in your pantry for months. Buying bulk food also encourages you to use simple, unprocessed ingredients.

4. To protect the environment
In addition to reducing waste and plastic pollution, buying bulk food shrinks your carbon footprint. This is because it doesn’t have packaging that needs to be manufactured. Plus, bulk food is more efficient to transport.

5. To try new recipes
Whether you want to try baking with spelt flour or cooking with cardamom, bulk food makes it easy and affordable to sample new ingredients since you can buy whatever amount of the product you want.

COVID-19: is bulk food safe?
The risk of contracting the coronavirus from eating or handling food is considered low. Additionally, bulk food and grocery stores have implemented safety measures such as mandatory handwashing and using clean scoops to handle food.

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Minestrone soup

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This hearty soup is classic comfort food. Feel free to eat it from a bowl, drink it from a cup or sip it from a Thermos if you’re on the go.

Start to finish: 40 minutes (20 minutes active)
Servings: 6

Ingredients

• 1 tablespoon olive oil

• 1 tablespoon butter

• 1 onion, chopped

• 2 carrots, diced

• 2 celery sticks, diced

• 1 small turnip, diced

• Salt and pepper, to taste

• 2 cloves garlic, minced

• 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

• 1 can diced tomatoes (28 ounces)

• 1 can green beans (14 ounces)

• 1 zucchini, diced

• 1 teaspoon basil

• 1 teaspoon parsley

• 1 teaspoon oregano

• 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

• A few fresh basil leaves

Directions
1. In a large pot, pour the oil and melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and turnip, and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for another minute. Salt and pepper to taste.

2. Pour in the broth and tomatoes, then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer for about 15 minutes or until the carrots are tender.

3. Add the green beans, zucchini, dried herbs, and Parmesan cheese. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes. Add seasoning as needed.

4. Garnish with fresh basil to serve.

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Slow-cooked vegetarian curry

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One of the best parts about using a slow cooker is the tantalizing aroma that fills your home as food simmers. Sit back and let the anticipation build — this mouthwatering dish is well worth the wait.

Start to finish: 4 hours 20 minutes (20 minutes active)
Servings: 8

Ingredients

• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• 1 onion, diced

• 4 cloves garlic, minced

• 2 tablespoons ginger, grated

• 2 tablespoons ground coriander

• 2 teaspoons ground turmeric

• 1 teaspoon yellow curry powder

• 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

• Salt and pepper, to taste

• 2 cans chickpeas (19 ounces), rinsed and drained

• 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced

• 1 can of coconut milk

• 1 cup vegetable broth

• Juice of 1 lemon

• A few fresh mint leaves

Directions
1. In a pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, and cook until it’s translucent. Add the garlic and spices, then cook for another 2 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

2. In a slow cooker, add the chickpeas, squash, coconut milk, broth, and the onion mixture. Mix carefully.

3. Set the slow cooker to low heat for 4 hours. Add the lemon juice, and adjust seasoning as needed.

4. Serve alone or with rice, and garnish with fresh mint.

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Food

Cinnamon buns

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For brunch, dessert or simply to treat yourself, there’s never a bad time to indulge in a cinnamon bun. All the better if they’re homemade!

Start to finish: 3 hours (30 minutes active)
Servings: 12

Ingredients

Buns
• 2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/4 cup white sugar
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 packet instant yeast (or 2-1/4 teaspoons)
• 1/2 cup whole milk
• 1/4 cup water
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1 egg

Filling
• 2/3 cup brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
• 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

Icing
• 1 cup icing sugar
• 2 tablespoons whole milk
• 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions
1. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Set aside.

2. In a heat-resistant bowl, mix the milk, water, and butter. Using a water bath, double boiler, or microwave, heat the mixture until the butter melts and the ingredients are incorporated. Pour over the dry ingredients, then add the egg. Mix with a whisk or an electric beater until the batter has a smooth texture.

3. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Place it in a clean, greased bowl, and cover it with a damp cloth. Let sit for about 30 minutes.

4. In the meantime, mix the brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.

5. After the 30 minutes are up, place the dough on a flat surface and roll it out into a rectangle (about 8 by 14 inches). Using a rubber spatula, spread the butter evenly over the dough, leaving half an inch uncovered around the edge. Use your fingers to sprinkle the buttered dough with the filling mixture.

6. Roll up the dough to create a tube. Use a knife to cut 12 even rounds. Place each round face up in a greased cake pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap, and let sit for about 90 minutes.

7. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 375 F. In a bowl, add the icing sugar then mix in the milk 1 tablespoon at a time. Once the icing is smooth and creamy, add the vanilla extract and mix well. Set aside.

8. After the 90 minutes are up, the buns should have doubled in size. Bake them in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Let the buns cool completely, then ice them using a spoon or piping bag.

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A brief guide to gourmet hot chocolate

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Nothing takes the chill off a cold day quite like a hot cup of cocoa. For a creative twist on this winter classic, here are a few sweet suggestions.

Spices
If you want a simple way to liven up your hot chocolate, add a dash of vanilla extract or a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, or cayenne, depending on your taste.

Rim trim

Dip the rim of your mug in melted chocolate or caramel, then roll it in graham cracker crumbs, crushed candy cane, rainbow sprinkles, or whatever else suits your fancy.

Toppings
Take your hot chocolate to the next level with a scoop of ice cream, a swirl of whipped cream, or a toasted marshmallow. Top it off with chocolate shavings or maple flakes.

Finally, if you want to turn your hot cocoa into an adult beverage, you can add a splash of orange, coffee, or Irish cream liqueur. Cheers!

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Hawaiian Butter Mochi sweetens up the party

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This classic Hawaiian treat is made with canned coconut milk, evaporated milk, and mochiko sweet rice flour, which is available in just about any Asian grocery and in the international aisles in many American grocery stores. Make sure not to swap out for other types of flour–use mochiko sweet rice flour only.

Despite the name, butter mochi is actually a leavened cake, with a bouncy, chewy texture that will be unlike anything you’ve ever tried before.

This rich dessert is also gluten-free, and the stir-together process is fast and incredibly easy. The recipe yields a large pan of mochi, making it a great option for a group.

This recipe makes regular butter mochi, but it’s easy to experiment and add your own twist. Try three tablespoons of matcha powder for green tea butter mochi, or about a third of a cup of cocoa powder (or more) for butter mochi brownies. You can top it with shredded coconut or mini chocolate chips. Have fun!

1 stick unsalted butter (melted)
2 cups granulated sugar (or 1 1/2 if lower sugar is desired)
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
16 oz. mochiko flour (1 whole box if using Koda Farms brand)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 can evaporated milk (12 oz.)
1 can regular (not lite) coconut milk (14 oz.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a 9″ x 13″ baking pan.

Mix melted butter and sugar until combined. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Stir in vanilla.

Add mochiko flour and salt and stir until mostly combined. The batter will look thick and dry.

Add coconut milk and evaporated milk, making sure to shake cans well before opening. Using a whisk to break up lumps, mix until batter is totally smooth.

Pour into a greased baking pan and bake for one hour.

Mochi is done when a sharp knife or toothpick comes out clean. Allow mochi to cool completely and then remove mochi from the pan and cut into small squares. Store in a sealed container.

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