Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

A few months ago, I was looking at an old cookbook published by a church in Ontario, Canada, back in the early 1900’s. Like many books from the time, it came with a list of cooking times for assorted fruits and vegetables, including some advice that would be shocking for today’s palates (like cook spinach at a hard boil for 45 minutes).

One entry on the list struck me as particularly strange, though. It was for a food I had never heard of before: Pie plant. What an adorable name for a plant! Pie plant! Did it look like a pie? Did it grow pies? Do you make pies out of it? What kind of pies would you make from a pie plant? (Well, pie plant flavoured pies, of course).

Before having Internet, I probably would have filed the knowledge of “pie plant” somewhere in the back of my brain, and gone through life always wondering what it was, content in the knowledge that somewhere out there existed the perfect plant for making pies. But without the Internet, would I have ever found out what pie plant was? It’s hard to say, and I suspect the answer would have depended entirely on finding an elderly enough farmer at the farmer’s market…in Ontario…which is currently thousands of miles away from me.

Thank God for the Internet. Pie plant is rhubarb.

To be honest, I have never been a big rhubarb eater. I have had strawberry rhubarb pie maybe three times in my life. I think I ate raw rhubarb once years ago, and it would mostly likely have been with my friend Ashley who is a fiend for tart flavours (She would happily take that hard-boiled spinach and eat it with vinegar. I have seen her do this.) Given my sweet tooth and rhubarb’s propensity towards tartness, it’s no wonder I hadn’t become better acquainted with rhubarb. Until this weekend.

I had gone to the market in search of some green vegetables, but what caught my eye were these vibrant pink stalks of the biggest stalks of rhubarb I have ever seen. I ended up buying several which were as long as my arm.

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With these and a pint of strawberries in hand, it was time to make pie.

I should insert a quick safety note in here before I continue on to the recipe: The stalks of rhubarb are edible. The leaves are not. Don’t eat the leaves. They are so high in oxalic acid that you’d get kidney stones and be in so much pain that you’d end up cursing me for letting you know that pie plant existed in the first place. So don’t eat rhubarb leaves.

But anyways. On to the recipe.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit

Filling:

1 pint of strawberries, washed and chopped
3 stalks of rhubarb, washed and chopped (about 4 cups worth)
1 yellow apple, grated
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour

Mix the strawberries, rhubarb, apple, vanilla, and sugars in a bowl. Let this sit while you prepare the dough. The juices will start to come out of the strawberries. Before using the filling, stir in the half cup of flour.

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Dough:

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup of hard vegan margarine, chilled
1/4 cup of shortening
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup ice water

In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour and salt together. Use a pastry blender or a fork to cut the margarine and shortening into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.

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Add in the ice water and mix only until you have a smooth, pliable dough.

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Pie:

On a floured surface, use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough out until it is large enough to overlap your pie plate. Transfer the dough to the pie plate and use a sharp knife to trim away the overhang.

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Take the dough trimmings, knead them back into a single ball, and roll this into a rectangle slightly longer than the width of the pie plate. Using a ruler or the side of a cutting board as a guide, cut this dough into long narrow strips.

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Pour the filling onto the pie crust and use the back of your spoon to flatten and smooth out the filling as much as you can.

Now to make the lattice top:

Place strips of pastry on the pie in one direction, so that it looks like you have a striped crust.

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Now, fold back every other strip. Take another pastry strip and lay it across the pie, so that it is resting across the pastry strips that you haven’t folded back. Now unfold the folded pastry strips back across the pie. See how pretty and easy that is? Now keep doing this all across the pie. You have just made a beautiful lattice top.

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If you have any more dough scraps remaining, you can re-roll them and cut out decorative shapes to decorate the edges of the pie with. Use water or melted apricot jam to adhere the shapes to the pie.

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You can leave the pie unglazed or brush it with soymilk or melted apricot jam before baking. Mine is brushed with melted apricot jam.

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Place a foil-lined baking sheet in the lower rack of the oven to catch any drips, and place the pie in the middle of the oven to bake until done. Tent the pie with foil if it starts to brown on the top too much before it is cooked on the bottom. It should take 50 – 60 minutes to bake.

Allow to cool before slicing. I served mine with vanilla flavoured almond ice cream.

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Chocolatey Puffed Wheat Squares

I think many people are probably familiar with rice crispy squares, but I don’t know how many people are familiar with it’s chewy and indulgent cousin, the puffed wheat square.

Puffed wheat squares are a very Canadian treat. They are most popular in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, although they occasionally appear in other parts of Canada as well. I’m not sure when they became part of Canadian cuisine; they don’t appear in my tattered old Five Roses cookbook from the 1930s, but by 1981 they appear in 150 Delicious Squares by Jean Pare of the Company’s Coming books. If anyone has found an earlier reference to them in a cookbook, can you please tell me which book it is in?

To make these, you’ll need puffed wheat.

Just look at how wholesome puffed wheat is. This might be the healthiest cereal on the market. And like all healthy things, they are simply crying to be drenched in chocolate, so let’s get on that, eh?

To make my squares, I referred to the blog Mennonite Girls Can Cook. They tripled the recipe to serve to a bunch of kids. Meanwhile, I halved the recipe for just my partner and I. It’s a very easy recipe to do that to. Here is my halved version:

Puffed Wheat Squares

1/4 cup of hard vegan margarine (I used Earth Balance)
1/2 cup of dark corn syrup
1/2 cup of white sugar
2 tbsp of brown sugar
3 heaping tsp of cocoa powder
1 tsp of vanilla
5 cups of puffed wheat

Prepare an 8 x 8 inch pan by greasing it. For easy removal, you can line the pan with parchment or waxed paper before greasing.

Combine the margarine, corn syrup, sugars, and cocoa in a large heavy pot. Stir occasionally. Bring to a full boil. This is important! It will start to bubble a bit as it approaches the boiling point, but don’t make the mistake of taking it off too soon. You want a full rolling boil. Let it boil for a few seconds, then remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour over the puffed wheat, mix well, and press into the pan. The Mennonite Girls blog suggests using wet hands to press the cereal in; I used greased hands with no problem. Just be sure to press firmly so that the bars are as condensed as you can get them, that way they won’t fall apart when you go to slice them.

Allow to harden at room temperature before slicing into squares. They’ll be easiest to cut the next day, but if you simply can’t help yourself and cut them before they’re set, you can use your hands to smoosh them back into a square shape. Don’t ask me how I know this 😉

Enjoy!

Compost Cookies

I’m not sure if this happens to anyone else, but every once in awhile I will come across a recipe that seems so unusual that I just have to try it. This occasional urge has been the impetus for some very different foods occasionally showing up in my kitchen; a “turkey” made out of carefully moulded tofu, a cake with tomato soup as the secret ingredient. So when I saw these cookies, I knew I had to try them.

They look normal enough, right?

Compost cookies

The secret ingredients: Potato chips, pretzels, and coffee.

I know, right?

These are Compost Cookies, an unusual cookie which first appeared at the Momofuku Milk Bar in New York City, and which was adapted and veganised by the author of the Runner’s Kitchen blog.

Incidently, and hilariously, I just noticed that I photographed my cookies on the exact same type of plate as the Runner’s Kitchen did. I photographed mine while I was staying at my brother’s home in Ontario and I’m not entirely sure if he inherited those plates from our grandmother or from our neighbour, but I have a theory that everyone in North America gets assigned a set of those plates once they reach a certain age.

Compost cookies

I’ve adapted the recipe from RK’s adaptation, so I have no idea if it’s anything at all like the Momofuku cookie at this point. But it is delicious. I’ve made it twice, once in a thin crunchy style and once in a soft chewy style. Here’s how it’s done.

Vegan Compost Cookies

1/2 cup hard margarine, such as Earth Balance (for chewy cookies)

OR 1/4 cup shortening and 1/4 cup soft spreadable margarine, such as Becel Vegan (for crunchy cookies)

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp instant coffee powder
1 Tbs ground flax seeds
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup oats
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 BIG handful of chips, roughly crushed
2 oz. pretzels, roughly crushed
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (Can double this amount if desired)

Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

With a mixer, cream together the margarine, sugar, and instant coffee powder. In a small bowl, whisk together the ground flax and the water until smooth, and add the vanilla extract. Fold the flax mixture into the margarine & sugar.

In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients (oats through chocolate chips). Slowly add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until incorporated. If the batter isn’t holding together well, try chilling the batter for about 20 minutes

Scoop rounded Tablespoons of batter on to the cookie sheet and bake for about 10-13 minutes or until golden brown. (Note: I moulded my cookies by hand, using wet hands to keep the dough from sticking).

The cookies made with becel and shortening will spread so make sure they have plenty of spreading room or they will all join together. The cookies made with earth balance will more or less hold their shape, so make sure they are flat enough before you put them in the oven.

Cool on the baking sheet for a minute or so and then transfer to a wire cooling rack

My brother’s dog Katie was checking out the cookies as I tried to take photos:

K-dawg checking out the cookies

She’s really a pretty dog but it’s hard to tell from the photo! Here she is playing with a Halloween gourd she swiped off the front porch.

Katie and her gourd

Apple sauce

When I stepped outside after work this morning, the first thing I noticed was the chill that seemed to cut right through my coat. The second thing I noticed was the steam of my breath lingering in the air. As I walked to the bus stop, all I could think about was how I needed a nice hot bowl of something to warm up my body and soul. So I stopped at the grocery store on my way home and picked up ingredients for soup. Oh, and I bought apples. Lots of apples.

I haven’t made the soup yet, but I did make this:

Apple sauce

Lovely and delicious apple sauce. I used McIntosh apples which are well known for cooking down into a soft mush – not quite the thing for pies but absolutely perfect if you want to make a sauce.

Apple Sauce

6 McIntosh apples
1 – 2 cups of water
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar, optional

Cut the apples into quarters and remove their cores. Place the apples into a pot with a cup or so of water. Turn the heat to high, and as soon as the water starts to boil, turn the heat down to low and place a lid on the pot. Simmer the apples until they break down completely, stirring often. As the apples break down and become more saucelike, they may sputter as they simmer – try to stand back and use a long handled spoon to stir them so that you avoid being splashed with scalding applesauce*. When the apples have cooked down completely, strain out the skins and any pulpy bits remaining by passing the sauce through a food mill or using a spoon to push it through a seive. Discard the skins and return the sauce to the pot, seasoning with the sugar and cinnamon to taste. Enjoy warm or cold!

By the end of the cooking time, the lid was doing double-duty for me as a shield.

Tutti Frutti Cookies

Tutti-frutti Cookies

Back when I was surfing the net, trying to find uses for my giant can of custard powder, I happened upon a bunch of lovely Indian cooking blogs. It seems that there are a lot of varieties of custard powder over there and they make their way into all sorts of baked goods, such as cookies and cakes. Another ingredient that kept showing up on the Indian cooking blogs was a mysterious one called tutti frutti.

I think I first saw tutti frutti as an ingredient sprinkled liberally on top of a loaf cake. The name “tutti frutti” made me think at first that it must be a brand of candy, and it was so colourful it did look a little like it could have been finely chopped gumdrops. But when it started to show up in fruitcake recipes, I thought that tutti frutti must be glace fruit, those little colourful bits of cherries and citron peels that sometimes make their way into North American baking.

I was wrong on both counts. Tutti frutti, it turns out, is dried papaya.

I’ve never baked with dried papaya before. My only previous experience with it was as the tiny bits of ultra-sweet papaya that are sometimes found in trail mixes. I remember loving it but only in small amounts since it was too sweet even for my taste buds – which is saying a lot, since generally I have the sugar threshold of a five year old.

I went to the Indian grocery store in my neighbourhood in search of tutti frutti, but was unable to find any at all. Chinese grocery store to the rescue:

Papaya

Not one, but two brands of dried papaya. I bought both, since each was a different colour and the multi-colours of tutti frutti appealed to me. I was going to make tutti frutti myself!

Papaya chunks

The orange papaya slices on the left are the Dan-D-Pak brand, and the yellow chunks are the R&M brand. The main differences seem to be that the Dan-D-Pak papaya have food colours and sulphur ingredients added, which some of the health foodies may be averse to. But I’ll eat pretty much anything if it isn’t an animal, so I tasted both to see if I could determine any other differences.

I was surprised by how mild both brands of papaya tasted. Neither were as sweet as the type I used to get. I was also surprised by how much softer the R&M papaya was than the Dan-D-Pak – I thought the chunks would be chewier, but they were soft and easy to slice with a knife. The Dan-D-Pak papaya was chewy, though, and kept sticking to my knife as I tried to dice it.

But I managed:

Papaya bits

Mixed papaya bits

Now that I had my “tutti frutti”, it was time to bake something. I had the perfect thing in mind, too. Eggless Tutti Frutti Cookies from SailusFoods. I altered the recipe just a little.

Tutti Frutti Cookies

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup custard powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup liquid (water or soymilk, etc)

Chopped bits of papaya or other dried fruit

Preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit. In a bowl, mix all dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and mix into dough. If the dough is too dry, add a bit more liquid. If the dough is too soft, chill it for a bit. Using hands, form the cookies by rolling between the hands and flattening slightly.

Garnish with the dried fruit; I brushed the cookies with almond milk first to help the fruit stick better.

Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, until lightly browned on the bottom. Cool on a wire rack. Nom happily.

Yielded 24 small cookies

Tutti-frutti Cookies

Custard Powder Snack Cake

Custard powder snack cake

By now you may have figured out that I have quite a sweet tooth. I also have a huge can of Bird’s Custard Powder in my pantry, and when I spotted the recipe for Eggless Custard Powder Snack Cake over at Easy Cooking: Divya’s Cookbook Blog, I knew I had found the perfect thing to do with it. Divya, by the way, found the recipe at Aparna’s Blog, My Diverse Kitchen. This cake is making the rounds.

Custard powder snack cake

Now, I tend to think that custard powder is a very under-utilised ingredient in North American baking. And perhaps it is with good reason; all it is is a mixture of cornstarch, salt, food colouring, and perhaps some artificial flavouring. It might not sound very exciting and perhaps you could just add those ingredients separately to your baked goods, but I find the flavour to be unique and I am in love with the colour-change magic that happens when you use custard powder; you take the white powder, stir in some liquid, and boom! Sunny bright yellow happiness.

In fact, I wish I had better lighting and a better camera, or at least some better photoshop skills, so that I could share with you just how vibrant this cake really is.

Custard powder snack cake

Imagine this is bright yellow. And in focus.

Anyhow, if the thought of using custard powder squicks you out (or if you simply can’t find it, wherever you are), simply replace it with cornstarch and add a dash more vanilla. You’ll have a white cake, but I suppose you could dump in some food colouring if you really wanted to.

I cut the recipe in half to make a petit little 6-inch round by 2 inch high cake, which is the perfect size for two or three people who just want a snack. I also tweaked it a little bit for my vegan sweet tooth tastes. Check out the full size recipe at the other blogs if you’d rather feed more people and/or have leftovers.

Custard Powder Snack Cake

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp of custard powder (vanilla or “original” flavour)
1 heaping tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
75 grams of Earth Balance or another hard vegan margarine (or I guess butter, if you swing that way), melted
1 cup of soymilk, with 1/2 tsp vinegar mixed in to thicken it
1/2 cup of sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 6 inch wide cake pan.
Mix all of the dry ingredients in one bowl. Mix the wet igredients in another. Combine the two and stir until just mixed, then pour into the cake pan and bake until a toothpick or skewer poked into the cake comes out clean. This took 30 minutes for me, but may take longer if you use the full-size recipe.

Cool on a rack. Serve. Be happy.

Custard powder snack cake

Gumdrop Cookies

I baked another batch of cookies last night.

I know, I know, I just baked cookies, but those peanut butter cookies were such a disaster that I had to make up for it by baking something actually delicious. I had the perfect recipe in mind, too.

I was surfing the Internet when I happened to stumble onto Hungry Happenings’ recipe for gumdrop cookies. They looked so bright and cheerful, in a retro sort of way; like something maybe my grandmother would have baked for a church bazaar once upon a time.

Gumdrop Cookies

Thanks to these cookies, I learned a lot about candy over the last day or so. I bought a bag of jujubes at the grocery store, and only thought to google “gumdrops” AFTER I got home with my groceries. That’s where I learned that apparently gumdrops and jujubes are not quite the same thing, but that they are fairly close. Actually, it might be that the only difference is that gumdrops tend to be coated in sugar, but jujubes generally aren’t.

Either way, both gumdrops and jujubes are chewy candies which may be soft or quite firm, and they are typically fruit flavoured, although they can also come in licorice, spearmint, and cinnamon flavours. Apparently in the USA, it is possible to get a gumdrop variant called a spicedrop, and these come in flavours like cardamom, cloves, and ginger. They’d be a good addition to a fruitcake or a gingerbread. The other thing I learned is that Jujubes in the USA refer to one specific brand of candy. Here in Canada, a jujube is pretty much any gummy fruity candy.

Vegetarians and vegans, take note; these candies may contain ingredients like gelatin (connective tissue), or food colourings such as carmine and cochineal (red insects, both!) Take care to check ingredient labels and hopefully you can find a candy made with pectin (fruit) or carnauba wax (palm tree).

All right, on with the recipe!

Gumdrop Cookies

Gumdrop Cookies

8 oz of gumdrop/jujube/fruit slice candy
1/4 cup of sugar to coat the candy, plus 3/4 cup for the dough
1 3/4 cup flour
2 tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer Powder
Pinch of salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup of vegan margarine (I used half Earth Balance and half Becel Vegan)
Enough water to make a smooth dough, about ¼ cup

Pre-heat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit.

Measure 1/4 cup of sugar into a bowl. Use a sharp knife or kitchen shears to cut the candy into pieces, and mix the candy pieces in with the sugar to keep them from sticking too much to one another.

In another bowl, mix together the flour, egg replacer powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix in half of the gumdrop candies, along with any sugar in the bottom of the gumdrop bowl.

Measure the 3/4 cup of sugar, the margarine, the vanilla, and half of the water into another bowl. Mix until smooth. Add the flour mixture, and continue to stir or mix with the hands until smooth, adding the rest of the water if necessary to get a smooth dough.

The cookies won’t spread out well in the oven, so roll the dough into small balls and then press them down with the palm of your hand until they are as flat as you like them. Use the remaining gumdrops to fill in any bare spots on top of the cookies.

Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, until very light brown on the bottom.

Makes 24 cookies.

Veganised and adapted from Hungry Happenings. Go take a look at her blog more information about these cookies and for some very lovely photographs! She has great ideas for decorating them, flattening them, and storing them.

Cutie Vegan Bento Sugar Cookies

Penguin :)

Not a recipe today, but some fun ideas and photos.

It all started when I was shopping at Yoko Yaya, a Japanese store in Vancouver where you can buy most things for a twoonie (or for two dollars, as Non-Canadians would probably say).

That’s where I found these adorable bento food cutters:

Bento thingies

These are for making children’s lunches; the idea is that you use the cutters to cut lunchmeat, cheese, egg, or seaweed into fun shapes to decorate rice balls, sandwiches, etc.

See? The back of it gives instructions;

“It is completion if it decorates it with the ham and the cheese. etc.”

Anyhoo. I have a sweet tooth. And while I may someday try to use these to make fun vegan bento lunches, a much sweeter idea popped into my head…

Cutie Vegan Bento Sugar Cookies

I found my copy of The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur by Kelly Peloza and opened it up to her recipe for amazingly soft sugar cookies. I mixed up a batch of dough and divided it, massaging a different food colour into each portion except for one.

I made my kitchen a mess

…making a huge mess of my kitchen in the process.

I used the un-coloured portion to cut rounds out of.

Cutting the dough....

And then I rolled out portions of the coloured dough. Now comes the fun part, if you’re anything like me. But if you aren’t someone who enjoys creating elaborate sweets in the kitchen, this is the tedious part.

Mmmm food colours

As you can see, I roll my dough out on wax paper to make it easier to clean the flour off of my work surface when I am done.

I used the cutters to make little animals for the cookies. It only took a bit of water to make them stick. Here they are before I baked them.

Before baking

I didn’t give all of them pupils because the placement of the sprinkles was tricky. I need to buy a pair of tweezers to use specifically for placing decorations on baked goods. I placed those ones with my hands because I knew my friends would not appreciate me using the tweezers from my bathroom – as you can see, I gave up after putting pupils on two cookies.

Now, the thing about this sugar cookie recipe is this; they do make soft and chewy sugar cookies that aren’t too sweet and roll out beautifully, and they hold their shape while baking. All of these are good things, of course, but they aren’t terribly flavourful on their own. This particular recipe needs frosting to really make them shine. So with that in mind, I also baked a batch of plain round cookies, and then sandwiched the animal cookies on top of them using the basic “buttercream” frosting recipe, with lemon zest added. The finished cookies were so much fun to twist apart and eat!

Here is the batch I baked for my friend Rhean.

A gift for a friend

I hope she enjoyed them! What creative things do you do with sugar cookie dough?

Doughnuts and tiny bundt cakes

Howdy! I’m Kayleen, and this is my brand spankin’ new food blog. I’m awkward at introductions, so I’m just gonna go ahead and put this out there:
get it in me

Oh yes.

So, last year, I found this handy dandy doughnut pan  at a thrift store, and immediately put it to use trying out all sorts of recipes for vegan doughnuts. The ones pictured above are ones I packaged up to sell at a bake sale.

Despite the doughnuts being deliciously awesome, my poor little doughnut pan stayed untouched in my cupboard until the other day, when a doughnut craving hit me so badly I knew I just HAD to dust off my pan and get baking.

That’s where this blog comes in. It’s the very thing I was reading that touched off this doughnut craving.

Now, the blog author does mention that her doughnuts turn out pretty much like cake, but I think I’m okay with that. Sometimes a little cake doughnut is all a girl needs.

Actually, sometimes three large cake doughnuts is all a girl needs.

I made her recipe almost as directed (well I HAD to add a splash of vanilla), and had just enough batter for 6 doughnuts. Oh, and these:

 Adorable

Two teeny, tiny bundt cakes.

I bought these tiny bundt cake pans recently and have been dying to try them out. Look at how small they are next to my regular bundt cake pans:

(yes, I'm aware I have an unhealthy obsession with bundt cake.)

Anyhoo, the doughnuts (and miniature bundt cakes) were delicious. My girlfriend gave one to her classmate and she said it was the best doughnut she ever ate. I love omnivore praise….

And doughnuts.