Good Cop Bad Cop…

It’s truly been eye opening the past few days in the aftermath of the KSC rioting.  Not the pumpkinfest rioting as that didn’t happen but because the students participating have hijacked #pumpkinfest people nationwide have connected the two.  Including the media.  Good Morning America is one example of the outlets continually saying that Keene State College had the pumpkinfest.  They didn’t.  I did tweet @GMA saying they need to get their facts straight but no response.

I also tweeted @drgoddess randomly.  I was just trying to clarify that they were two separate events and how I found it upsetting that #pumpkinfest was turning negative.  It led to a very interesting exchange.  Which is extremely difficult to do on Twitter when you are limited to 140 characters and when you add in tag names it gets limited even more.

I was coming from the point of view that the cops did a fabulous job stopping the riot from spilling into the festival.  I didn’t realise until the middle of the exchange that people are comparing this with Ferguson and the police response there.  It was basically if white kids riot they get tear gassed, if black kids riot they get killed.  This rocked me back.

As a disclaimer, I don’t have much faith in police as a general rule.  My experiences with them have not been positive.  Ranging from them royally screwing up my Grammy’s murder investigation, to not caring that my car along with several others got broken in, to here in Keene when one cop stood with me in my front garden with my kids looking on and basically saying it was on me to come up with solutions against those breaking the law, not him.  I’ve seen two incidences where cops stepped up.  The first was again in our front garden in the middle of the night when a drunk guy was beating his girlfriend.  They came quickly and dealt with it.  The second time was this past weekend.

This is a video taken by, I think, a student.  There are a few examples of why this is different from Ferguson.

First, in this country there is a gross disparity between how blacks are treated and how whites are treated.  This is a valid argument that needs to desperately be resolved.  Stealing cigarettes and causing trouble by walking down the street should never end in a death sentence.  And if a young man is put into the back of a cruiser and for some reason does go crazy, instead of shooting him, leave the cruiser.  And the Ferguson police lost further credibility by trying to arrest journalists for reporting on the story.  Sadly this scenario happens too often in our big cities.

However, I honestly don’t see that happening here.  Even though we are a very small city we are quite diverse.  Not only do we have whites and African Americans we also have Indian, Asian, African, and European.  We have poor and rich folk going about our business without too many incidences.  The vast majority of us look at character and how you treat others rather than what you are wearing or what you look at.

In the video the cameraman seemed to start off by trying to show that the police were being excessive as the police were lined up in riot gear.  He asked one student about it and the guy said no there were people throwing things which is why the police were there.

Then it shows an African American man approach the police.  He did put his hands up briefly which is smart for anyone approaching riot police.  He went up to the police, spoke then shook hands with one of the cops.  He turned round and said that the cops need people to leave the street.

There are a few minutes when the cops went and shot off some tear gas and pepper balls.  There was a white guy taken down, then a bunch of drunk kids bemoaning the abuse.  Honestly these kids wouldn’t know reality if it hit them.  Then you see some of the cops taking the time to talk to those who asked them questions about why they are doing what they are doing and what they are using.

This is hardly an over the top abuse of power.  In fact, they did an awesome job keeping the injuries to a minimum and preventing a bigger disaster that would have happened if the riots spilled into Main St.

This has provided many teachable moments to our children as well.  I was talking about my twitter exchange at dinner with the kids.  My 10 year old son was confused.  He couldn’t understand why blacks would be treated so differently than whites.  In our household we don’t tolerate racism or bigotry against anyone who is different than we are.  And at school he has friends of all colours and a few different countries.  So we had an interesting conversation that has continued since with him trying to wrap his head around the fact we aren’t all treated the same.  A lot of adults wonder the same thing.

Pumpkinfest 3 2014

Keene PumpkinFest vs Keene State Rioting

It was a tough weekend in our town and many of us are very upset and hopped up as they say.  We host the annual Pumpkinfest on Main St.  Many people put in long hours to make this work and there have been several world records for the number of lit pumpkins including last year with a count of 30581.  It’s a point of pride.  Two years ago we had HGTV in town and the world got to see what a fabulous community event it is.

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Every year the school kids carve pumpkins at school as well as home, local businesses donate pumpkins as well as carve their own, and families wheel their pumpkins downtown and find good spots for them.  Friday there were good spirits as we set up our creations.  I found a good spot for ours.

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They set up the student pumpkins in Central Square.  Of all the places that you don’t mess with, that is the spot.  Problem is there has been a growing problem with the college kids in town.  Please understand when I talk about the college students I do not mean all of them, in fact, some were hunkered down in their rooms too scared to leave.  But there is a growing faction of those that think it’s fun to cause trouble.  It started Friday night with drunks smashing pumpkins.

We like to take the dogs down the morning of when the streets are blocked off and it’s quiet.  We noticed a few pumpkins here and there smashed.  Even the top of my husband’s pumpkin was missing.  One woman was very upset because she saw that her 5 year old grandson’s pumpkin was destroyed in Central Square.  It didn’t bode well.

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The best that I can see the perfect storm happened this way.  First, the college is spineless in holding the students accountable for their actions.  I’m not surprised at how bad it got.  They set up a town-gown committee after incidences last year and all that is happened is the decision to take another year to work on this before deciding what to do.

Second, there is a company in Boston that searches out colleges to bring people in to rave.  It’s called FinnaRage that sets up concerts and parties at colleges.  There are videos showing things getting out of control at previous events but the CEO insists that is not what they are about.  For me the proof is in the pudding.

Third, our town councillors knew they were coming but didn’t prevent it.  They were pretty toothless to be honest.

By 3pm the police had to be in riot gear and had the tear gas out as the students and their out of town guests were drunk and throwing cans and bottles at people.  By the end of the night there was a helicopter, swat teams, and responders from 3 states up against the mob raging, smashing pumpkins, destroying cars including flipping one over.

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Here are a few things I want to clear up because social media, the national news, and yes the international news have the facts wrong.

First of all Keene State College does not host the PumpkinFest.  The town of Keene does and many hours of hard work are put into making it safe. And it was safe, there wasn’t any rioting during PumpkinFest.  In fact I was downtown at 3pm and none of us knew what was happening a few blocks away.  The police and fire departments kept them away from the families and visitors.  The kids got to check out the pumpkins in their costumes and have their fill of cotten candy and fried dough.

Second, Keene State has a lot to answer for.  Their first response was that it was out of towners.  Yes there were a lot of out of towners but they were invited by the students.  The college is trying to say it wasn’t on campus.  The streets that this happened on included the campus.  It’s time this stops, it gets worse each year.  Not only is it unfair to the residents of our town but unfair to the students that are actually there to learn.

Third, no it is not cool to flip cars and rage.  However, it is cool the idiots keep posting with their names fessing up to what they did.  Will make it easy to catch them and hopefully get them charged? I hope so. I mean really, how did these people get into college?

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It upsets me that these hooligans highjacked the #pumpkinfest to use on the social media as it sullies all the good that happens.

While we didn’t get a new world record this year I would call the festival a success.  There were fabulous and creative pumpkins, adorable costumes on the kids and some scary ones on adults, and loads of volunteers who love our community.  That’s what I want #pumpkinfest to be full of.

Roasted bananas 2 2014

Roasted Bananas With Caramel and Chocolate

We still have a crazy amount the salted spiced rum caramel that I used for the apple bars.  So I have to either freeze it or use it.  The kids would of course vote to use it up as quickly as possible then have me make more.  :)

While watching an old season of Top Chef last week I saw that one of the chefs did a dessert that had roasted bananas.  I was sucked in with my iPad so I was playing games at the time and didn’t really get what they made but the roasted bananas stuck with me.

I don’t eat bananas because of the texture.  It makes me gag but I like the flavour of bananas in things such as banana bread.  My family likes bananas so I thought it would be fun to try something new.

This dessert was super easy because the caramel was already made.  Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.

Slice the bananas and brush with peanut oil and top with brown sugar.

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While these are roasting heat up the caramel and melt some chocolate.  When the bananas have softened and the brown sugar has caramelised a bit remove from the oven.  Drizzle caramel on the dish and place the bananas on top.  Drizzle the chocolate and some more caramel over the bananas.  Sprinkle chopped peanuts and top with whipped cream.

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This was a huge hit with the kids.  And then I put them over the top by giving them some more caramel straight up.  I loved the flavour but I can’t get round the texture of the banana.  Sigh.

Roasted mushroom and parsnip soup 5 2014

Roasted Mushroom and Parsnip Soup

The gluten free experiment is going well.  I’m starting to feel better with a few bumps along the way but I figure that is normal.  I am discovering there are some missed opportunities  when searching out gluten free snacks and the like.  It is not a guarantee that you will get something that tastes good.  I tried a breakfast wrap at a local bagel place and the gluten free wrap could be best described as wet cardboard.  Some of the tortilla chips aren’t much better.  I tried one type of cracker that said right on the box how important taste was.  My husband said I made quite the face trying to eat those!

I have found a couple of things I like and fortunately we’re having success at home.  Otherwise I’d starve or at the very least be very cranky.  And that just won’t do!

With the cooler weather settling in I was in the mood for a quick soup with a lot of flavour.  Roasted mushrooms and parsnips fit the bill.

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Slice up mushrooms of your choice and a few parsnips, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Roast in an oven at 350F/175C until parsnips are cooked and golden.

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Melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and add 3-5 cloves of garlic chopped and some fresh thyme.

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Once the garlic has softened add the mushrooms and parsnips.

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As I was only making this for two I added 2 cups of veg bouillon and 1/2 cup of dry white wine.  Bring to a simmer.  Add salt and pepper if needed.  Serve with fresh grated parmesan cheese.

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Of course if you aren’t doing gluten free then cheesy toast would be perfect with this.  :)


Sweet potato apple puree 3 2014

Sweet Potato, Apple, and Pork

With trying to branch out in our cooking and the gluten free experiment I have to get creative in how I use the ingredients.  That includes trying to use veg that I really don’t like.  Being a supertaster I’ve been limited because things like squash, sweet potato, zucchini, etc can be bitter to me.  Fortunately I’m having success in making these ingredients palatable for me but still letting some of that flavour that my family likes through.  Which is great because I’d love to be more seasonal with the local foods.  Kind of makes me wish I tried this before!

There was some sweet potato and rutabaga in the fridge that needed to be used up plus a bin full of apples.  I chopped up the sweet potato and rutabaga and covered with two cups chicken stock and 1 cup water.  Cook on a high simmer until they are about half cooked.

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Add some sage and lemon thyme and one chopped apple.  Finish cooking the sweet potato and rutabaga.

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While this is cooking, brown the pork in a skillet and finish it by baking.  Mix some olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper.  Set aside and chop up some mustard greens.  In a food processor spoon in the sweet potato, rutabaga, and apple leaving the liquid in reserve.  Add 1/4 cup of dry white wine.  Pulse while adding the cooking liquid a bit at a time until you get the consistency you want.   Layer the pork over the puree and top with the mustard greens.  Dress with the olive oil and lemon.

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Next time I would use a little less rutabaga but we had to use it up.  Other than that I can say I like sweet potato.  In some things.  ;)

Salted caramel apple bars 12

Salted Spiced Rum Caramel with Apple Bars

I have always said I couldn’t give up bread amidst the whole gluten-free fad.  I say fad because I don’t think everyone who gives up gluten needs too.  I have no doubt that once the dust settles only those who have gluten issues will stick to it.

However I had been doing research because of chronic pain and inflammation which I’ve had enough of.  I did get bloodwork done but I have the family trait of not presenting the normal way for medical issue so they came back negative.  My doctor, who is normally really good, said that some people are just built this way and are weaker.  Given that I was a 3rd degree black belt I don’t accept that.  So I am on a 30 day experiment to go without gluten to see what happens.  I’ve done it for a week now and I think I’m making progress but it’s too soon to tell.

Right now because I am being strict with it I have to be creative with the recipes as I don’t want to do two sets of meals for all of us.  Someone I know who loves to bake has also gone gluten free and she suggested finely processing oats and use that as flour as a substitution for certain desserts.  I thought this would be perfect for my date bars or this week apple bars given that we have a massive amount of apples.

And because I was baking with apples I thought I would try my hand at salted caramel.

For the caramel you will need:

2 cups sugar

12 T butter

2 tsp sea salt (some recipes call for fleur de sel but that’s crazy expensive)

A cup of heavy cream

Spiced rum to taste

Brown sugar to taste

This will make a lot so you can half the ingredients.  In a saucepan heat up the sugar.

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You need the heat to be medium, medium high and stir constantly while the sugar melts.  It will get chunky then will smooth out.

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Turn off the heat when the temp reaches 350F/175C and add the butter a bit at a time.

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Stir until the butter is fully incorporated.  Then add the cream and stir well. This is where it almost went wonky for me.  When you are cooking the sugar you have to be very careful not to burn it. I had a slightly burnt taste so I needed to fix it.  I incorporated some brown sugar and a couple of tablespoons of spiced rum while adding the sea salt.  Turned out to be similar to toffee flavour and everyone gave it a thumbs up.  A happy left turn!

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Let that cool while working on the apple bars.

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Cut up 4-5 apples into smallish pieces and start to heat in a saucepan with 1/2 cup of apple cider.

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Add 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Add cinnamon and nutmeg to taste and simmer until the apples soften.

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Pulse enough oats to give you 1 1/2 cups of oat flour to replace the flour.

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Mix this with 2 cups of oats, 1 cup sugar, and 1 tsp of baking soda.  I added 3/4 cup of melted butter like the original recipe but I think next time I would add a cup to keep it moist.  Spread out half in a 8 x 11 pan then spread out the apple mixture.

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Top with the rest of the oats and bake for 25 minutes.  Drizzle with the caramel and serve.

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The caramel can be kept in the fridge for a few weeks.  To soften just microwave for 10-15 seconds.  I’ll have to come up with a few more desserts to use up the caramel!

Mushroom mustard 7 2014

Mustard and Mushrooms

I had high hopes for our kale because every other year we’ve had an abundance of it from just a few plants.  Alas, not this year.  Which I think my husband is thrilled about as he is not a huge fan of what he refers to as rabbit food.  :) I succeeded in growing tiny kale, most of which I used for this dinner.  For two, mind.  Pretty pathetic if you ask me.

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The kale was the base of the dish with pan browned pork and a mushroom mustard sauce.  Because I’ve recently done a couple of dishes with bacon I had bacon fat on reserve which I used to brown the pork.  Season the pork with salt and pepper and brown on both sides.

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Remove from the pan and finish cooking by baking.  I had the oven going for the roasted parsnips so I popped the pork in with the parsnips.  For the mushroom sauce pick a mushroom of your choice that is on the lighter side, not meaty like portabellos.  Chop up the mushrooms and saute in the bacon fat used for the pork.

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Add about 2 tablespoons of stone ground mustard and 1/4 cup of dry white wine and continue to saute.  Add a few pinches of sea salt and a bit of pepper.

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When the pork is nearly done add a bit of bacon fat to another small skillet and lightly cook the kale.

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Reduce the sauce by about a 1/3.

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Place the pork on the kale then spoon the sauce over the pork to serve.

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A simple dish that has loads of flavour.  :)

Jalapeno relish 4 2014

Jalapeno Relish – Think It’s Finally Hot Enough!

Before we rolled up our sleeves and tackled the house we had to contend with frost warnings.  After a flurry of pepper picking I had to do something with them so they didn’t go to waste.  Because we have a lot of hot peppers, jalapeno relish sounded like a good idea.

Not only was a it a good idea it is a really quick relish to make when you list is long.  In fact it is faster to do it than this post!  I followed this recipe for the most part to make my relish.

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This is all done in the food processor.  I sliced about 12 jalapenos and 1-2 Ring O Fire peppers.  I figured I was going to make this really hot for my husband.  I keep trying with the heat but while he enjoys the hot stuff I make it doesn’t seem to blow him away like it does me.  He likes things spicy!

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Add 4-5 cloves of garlic, half a small onion, 1/4 tsp cumin, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp sea salt, 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar, and a large handful of cilantro.

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Pulse away until you get the consistency you want.  Freeze or can the extra relish.

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And yes this blew him away.  :)  Finally!  It’s hot enough to use sparingly on dishes.

Apple picking 6 2014

Such a Lovely Day to Pick Apples…

The past two weeks have been go, go, go.  My husband took a week off so we can do home improvement projects.  On the list was to completely redo our small bathroom and replace the floors of the back two porches.  I’ll follow up with a post on before and after photos but I am so excited about getting these projects done.  And I’m exhausted!  We both are.  I went about two weeks without doing much cooking and no time to post.  Things are starting to get back to normal now thank goodness.

We went yesterday on our annual apple picking outing with our friends.  Couldn’t have picked a more gorgeous day to get together.

I was worried if there would be much to pick given how harsh the winter was.  The two trees in our front garden gave us a grand total of 2 apples and our peach tree never flowered.  Usually this time of year the trees are groaning with all the apples at the orchard and a lot of trees looked very bare.

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We had to go deep into the orchard to find apples.  I even found an optimistic apple flower.

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Because the pickings were so slim they had bins set up with apples so you could just fill your bags.  We did it the “hard” way keeping up with the kids running through the trees.  Much more fun that way!

I always enjoy the colours on display around the small shop with the flowers, apples, and pumpkins.

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The displays wouldn’t be complete without the giant pumpkins, some of which I’m sure, will find their way to the Pumpkin Festival in a few weeks.

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When we got married four years ago we considered this place for our wedding.  The costs were a bit much but it is such a beautiful spot.

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We now have enough apples to sink a ship.

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The kids are looking forward all the baked goodies.  Can’t let them go to waste after all.  I will have to come up with gluten free dishes as I am doing a month long experiment eating gluten free.  More on that later!

Raspberry meringue nests 14 2014

Raspberry Meringue Nests Ooh La La

Yesterday I was really in the mood to create in the kitchen.  Part of it was I’ve been watching cooking shows this week plus we went to see Hundred Foot Journey this past weekend.  What a great movie!  Our son really wanted to see it and I’m so glad he suggested it.  Aside from the fact Helen Mirren is a fabulous actress the scenery and food was just glorious.

I wanted to make a special dessert for my husband just because.  A get us through Wednesday treat.  This called for more than Bird’s custard, it was time for crème pâtissière. And because I love meringue this had to be the other main component.

I was faced with the whole hot dog/bun dilemma.  You know how they put 12 hot dogs in a package and 8 buns in a package so you are doomed to never match it up?  The meringue recipe calls for 3 egg whites and the crème pâtissière calls for 5 egg yolks.  Sigh.

Because I needed a smaller recipe for the meringue then I usually use for the pavlova I found this recipe to use.

For the meringue you will need:

3 egg whites

1/2 tsp of vanilla extract

1/4 tsp of cream of tartar

3/4 cup white sugar

In an electric mixer with a whisk start beating the egg whites.

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On medium speed add the vanilla and cream of tartar.  Beat until soft peaks form.  Then gradually add the sugar while beating on high until the meringue forms and is stiff.

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Because I was making nests I spooned in the meringue into a pastry bag with a star tip and piped it onto parchment paper in the shape of nests.  I do recommend working quickly so the meringue stays firm.

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Bake at 275F/135C for 45 minutes then turn off the oven.  Leave the meringue in the oven with the door closed for an hour before removing.

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I turned to Julia Child for the crème pâtissière and you will need:

1 cup granulated sugar

5 egg yolks

1/2 cup flour

2 cups boiling milk (careful you don’t scald it)

1T butter

1 1/2 T vanilla extract

Place the yolks into the mixer with the whisk and beat on medium.

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Gradually add the sugar as you beat the yolks.  The colour will be pale yellow and once the sugar is added continue to beat 2-3 minutes.  What you are looking for is it to “form the ribbon”  This happens when the eggs lose the granular texture. This bit is tricky as if you beat to long it will turn back to being granular.

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Then beat in the flour.

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Once the flour is incorporated carefully and slowly add the boiling milk in a thin stream to the egg mixture while you are beating at medium speed.

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Add the mixture to a saucepan and bring to a boil.  This is where the the elbow grease comes in. You need to keep whisking as it comes to a boil.  It will get lumpy then it smooths out as it boils.  It will be really thick.

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Once it comes to a boil cook it for 2-3 minutes so the flour is cooked.  Then remove from the heat and add the butter.

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Blend it in and then cover the pot until ready to use.  You can refrigerate it or freeze it if you aren’t using it right away.

I found some Ghirardelli semi-dark chocolate that I thought would be a nice flavour for this dessert.

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I melted it and added a few pinches of sea salt. To assemble fill the nests with the crème pâtissière and top with fresh raspberries. Drizzle with the melted chocolate and add fresh mint leaves.

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I was very pleased with how this came out.  It was a great way to get through a Wednesday!