DIY Glitter Sunglasses (Mod Podge Project)

My dad has this thing that he does that he thinks is the Most. Hysterical. Thing. Ever. 

At Christmas time, he goes through his desk and office, pulling out random things he's received in gift bags and events. Not the good stuff, mind you.

I mean the promotional items like brochures on "heart health."

Or an old unsharpened pencil.

Perhaps even a lovely highlighter set from an event at CUNY.

He then proceeds to fill our family's stockings with this crap, and sits back and laughs and takes pictures when we sit pulling out one piece of garbage after another.

Hysterical!

This year, among other choice items, I found a cheap pair of plastic sunglasses with the NISSAN logo imprinted on the temple arms. When we got back home after the holidays, I was going to throw them out, but then decided it might be fun to use them for some kind of craft.

A little Mod Podge and glitter later, and I'd created a cute pair of sparkly sunglasses!

Here's how you can make your own:

You need:

1. Super Cheap Sunglasses--I used the free ones I got from my dad, but you can also find cheap ones at stores like Target, Old Navy, or Payless.

2. Mod Podge--I use the Original Mod Podge in Gloss, but you can use matte if you prefer.
3. Fine Glitter--I use the Martha Stewart Glitter Multipack, which has a range of gorgeous colors at a great price...after buying this I had to stop myself from putting glitter on everything! For this project I used the Rose Gold shade. (Whatever brand you choose, use a fine glitter as the bigger "elementary school" type glitter is too rough for this project.)
4. Clear Nail Polish (optional)
5. A small paintbrush

Process

1. Combine 1/4 cup of Mod Podge with about 2 teaspoons of glitter. Stir together well.

2. Brush the arms of the sunglasses with a thin coat of the glitter-Mod Podge mix, making sure to coat the front and back. Repeat on the other arm. Let dry 5 minutes, and then repeat 2 or 3 times until the arms have a thick, even coat of glitter. Fill in any dry spots.

3. Let dry completely for at least 2 hours. (Be sure to leave them open so that the wet arms don't stick to each other.)

4. Brush over dried arms with clear nail polish to seal and let dry again for another 2 hours.

Your new glitter sunglasses are now ready to wear!

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Dark Chocolate Lime Truffles

Just before my birthday, a PR company sent me a package that included a bar of dark chocolate from Chocolat Moderne studded with bits of lime-infused toffee. I'm not usually a fan of dark chocolate bars (yes--I prefer milk chocolate. How plebeian of me.), but the combination sounded incredible, and so I saved it for after dinner, when I broke off a small piece to taste.

I was surprised. It was wonderful!

Deep, slightly fruity chocolate with tiny bursts of bright, tropical lime throughout. In a rare bout of restraint, I savored the bar for weeks, indulging in just one tiny square each night before bed.

Once I was down to my last bite, I decided I needed to recreate these flavors at home. I figured a truffle would be the easiest way, and so I began by infusing heavy cream with fresh lime peel.

I then stirred this into bittersweet chocolate chips until they melted into a thick, luscious ganache.

I wanted more even lime flavor and so I shaved in a couple more tablespoons of fresh zest, stopping to admire the gorgeous contrast of bright green on the dark silky brown.

Once cool, I scooped the ganache into balls that I rolled in various toppings--shredded toasted coconut, cocoa powder, and dark chocolate with a tiny sprinkle of ginger-infused salt.

The truffles were delicious as is, but I found that my favorite way to eat them was as hot chocolate. I'd drop one or two into my hot chocolate pot along with some steamed almond or coconut milk, and mix until frothy and thick. Topped with a few tiny marshmallows, I sipped it nightly for most of this frigid month.



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Dark Chocolate Lime Truffles
Makes about 45 truffles

Ingredients
2 cups Heavy Cream
Peel from 2 limes, cut into strips
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate between 60 and 70 percent cacao (or chips), chopped
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh lime zest
Unsweetened cocoa powder, shredded coconut, chopped nuts, etc. for toppings

Directions
Place the chopped chocolate in a large bowl and set aside.

In a medium size saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, lime peels (not the grated zest), and salt until it just starts to steam and bubble slightly on the edges. (Do not let it boil). Remove from the heat immediately and let steep for one hour.


Remove the peel then reheat cream just until it starts to bubble again.

Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and stir until the chocolate is completely melted and the chocolate is incorporated into the cream into a thick mixture. Stir in the grated lime zest.

Let the ganache cool to room temperature and then place in the refrigerator to chill for at least two hours until it is completely cold and firm.

Use a melon baller or small ice cream scoop to scoop 1 tablespoon sized balls of ganache. Use your hands (dusted with cocoa powder first) to quickly shape them. Don't worry if they aren't perfect; they're supposed to look a little rustic. Set these on a lined baking sheet until you use up all the ganache. If it starts to soften a bit, just pop it into the fridge for 5 minutes before continuing.

Roll each truffle in cocoa powder (chopped nuts, shredded coconut, and confectioner's sugar also work!). 
Serve immediately or store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week.








Meet Hudson Riverton!

I'd like to introduce you to the newest member of our family. His name is Hudson Riverton and he's a 2-year-old shih tzu that we adopted from a rescue in New Jersey called Second Chance Pet Adoption League.

You may have seen his cameo in my Angels on Horseback post a couple days ago, but I figured he deserved a proper introduction.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of our 3rd week with this little guy and we couldn't be happier. He was already house-trained when we brought him home, so save for a couple isolated accidents, he's been pretty easy breezy to take care of.

While he's happy and healthy right now, he has a sad story. Hudson was found wandering around Prospect Park in Paterson, NJ, where he'd been living for at least a few weeks. He was brought to an area shelter, but nobody claimed him so it seems he must have been abandoned.

When they first found him, he was all overgrown and matted with fleas and worms and a host of other things.  He also had a nasty case of kennel cough (aka a doggy cold). The rescue had to shave him down and give him medicine to nurse him back to health. They named him Furby and put him up for adoption. The minute I found him on the Petfinder.com, I knew he was meant to be our little guy so I filled out the application and sent it in.

I was told that somebody else had an appointment to come get him, but that they would let me know if that fell through. A week later, I emailed again asking for an update and was happy to learn that the other couple had decided against him (they thought he was too active for their older dog).

"He's ours!" I excitedly told Eugene, who told me to temper my enthusiasm just in case it didn't work out.

"Nope, he's definitely ours," I said. I went ahead and ordered all the supplies we needed and proceeded to set up his new home.

On the big day, we drove to NJ to meet him and it was love at first site. The adoption process was quick, and within 2 hours we were back in the car driving over the George Washington Bridge (and his namesake river!) with our new dog.

When we brought him home, he was still getting over his cold, which meant that he was constantly coughing and sneezing. (I admit that it was kind of adorable, although I felt bad for him.) The rescue gave us antibiotics for him, and within a week he was good as new!

It's been a lot of fun getting to know him.

So far, we've learned that he's not really a morning dog. During the week, he waits patiently until Eugene is ready for work and calls him for his morning walk. During the the weekends, he likes sleep in as late as possible, and even then it takes some coaxing to get him to go out.

He then proceeds to stretch and yawn for a few minutes before he lets us put his harness on.

He is also NOT a fan of the rain. (I don't blame you, little fella! I don't like getting my hair wet, either.) So we put this little jacket on him to keep him dry.

He's definitely a little bit of a beggar (see above), so we're trying to train him out of that habit with a 100% no treats during mealtime rule.

It's pretty tough when you hear him whimper and look at you with those big brown eyes, but we're sticking to it.

As you know, I'm adamantly against processed food for humans, and feel the same way about doggies, so I'm transitioning him into a homemade food regimen, slowly phasing out the kibble in favor of a fresh concoction of grass-fed beef, veggies, herbs, yogurt, and supplements. I'm still working out the exact perfect formula for him, but will be sure to share more once I hit upon it.

(I'm also making him homemade doggy treats, and will share those recipes, too.)

Hudson is a big fan of healthy snacks. He loves cucumbers, cheese, and baked sweet potatoes. His absolute FAVORITE thing ever is oranges. He goes absolutely crazy for them, hopping around and wagging his tail.

The other day I was taking some cocktail photos for my next story in Cosmo for Latinas, and when I looked away for a second, he slipped into the set and stole the orange garnish from my glass like a tiny hairy little magician.

He's also a pretty nosy little guy. I noticed that he loves to look out the window, so I built him this little lookout perch. By "built" I mean that I stacked a couple heavy boxes and draped them with a towel. There were no actual tools involved.

He now spends hours up there just watching people and cars drive by like he's Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window. It's cute to watch his little head move from side-to-side as he keeps an eye on things.

At night, he sleeps in a little bed next to ours, snuggled up with a little blanket and his favorite toys.


But occasionally he hops up onto our bed and stretches out provocatively hoping for a belly rub.

(He always gets it.)

We love our little Hudson, and we're looking forward to years and years of adventures with him.

If you're looking to adopt a dog in the NY/NJ/PA area, I highly recommend Second Chance Pet Adoption League. They have so many wonderful dogs available and are really lovely and easy to work with. The adoption process was easy breezy and they were very honest and upfront with all information. They sent Hudson home with us with a new leash and collar, as well as a coupon for a free first vet visit.

You can visit their Facebook page here for more information.

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Love Always Order Dessert? Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!

Angels on Horseback (Bacon-Wrapped Oysters with Horseradish)

There is a little seafood restaurant in the West Village that has become a favorite of ours. It's named FISH, and is a low-key sort of place with wooden tables, chalkboard menus, and peanut shells on the floor.

I've been going there regularly since I moved to New York a little over 5 years ago, and with few exceptions, I always order the exact same meal:  a heaping pile of lobster cob salad for my main (try this similar rock shrimp cob salad recipe here) and Angels on Horseback to start.

If you've never tried them before, Angels on Horseback--especially as they are prepared at FISH--are a revelation. Shucked oysters wrapped in crispy double-smoked bacon topped with cocktail sauce and horseradish.

The perfect combination of salty, briny, smokey and sweet, these tend to disappear within minutes of touching the table. I love them so much that on one visit with a friend, I ordered a second round as my "dessert."

I highly recommend it if you're ever in town.

For Valentine's Day this year, Eugene and I decided to keep it low-key with an easy (but still decadent!) dinner at home. I've found that most restaurants are terrible at Valentine's Day, rushing everyone through and serving a menu that replaces all their usual best dishes with silly themed items (pickled rose petals?!) served at a premium price.

I was having none of that, and instead planned a meal freshly baked sourdough bread with Cypress Grove Truffle Tremor cheese, kale and roasted sweet potato salad with anchovy dressing (recipe coming soon!), broiled lobster tails, spicy roasted red pepper potatoes, and (the pièce de résistance!) homemade Angels on Horseback to start.

Dessert was a big bowl of chocolate-covered strawberries. We stayed in our comfy pajamas, opened a bottle of Champagne, and ate our feast on the couch while catching up on our favorite shows.

It was perfection. (Hudson thought so, too.)

The Angels on Horseback were something of my gift to Eugene, who is a fan, and was absolutely delighted to be presented with an entire platter of them. They're very easy to prepare, and are wonderful for entertaining since they can be prepped almost completely in advance and then simply call for a couple minutes under the broiler to heat before serving.

They pair perfectly with Champagne or crisp white wine, so would make a wonderful Oscar viewing party appetizer if you're so inclined.

(Never mind if your "viewing party" is just you on the couch!)

I have a couple tips that I figured out when making these at home that will make this as easy as possible for you:
  • Start with pre-shucked oysters. You can usually get a container of them at the seafood counter or just pick oysters and have the fishmonger shuck them for you. (I got mine from Fresh Direct.)  
  • If you have the option, ask to keep the shells as you can then serve them on the shell (I didn't, but that's how they do it at the restaurant and it's quite lovely.)
  • Use good quality, thick bacon from the meat counter. I love Schaller & Weber's Black Forest, but any kind of good double-smoked bacon will do.  You can use the one in the packets, but it's a great place to show off the good stuff so do it if you can.
  • Cook the bacon on a skillet or on the stove before wrapping the oysters. This assures that you get crisp bacon without overcooking the oysters. 
  • Wrap the oysters and prep everything in advance, then broil and garnish just before serving. 

Don't like or can't find oysters? You can also use scallops or shrimp. (Though this is technically called "mock rumaki," a retro appetizer that I served at my 1960s cocktail party) I would avoid clams as they can be a bit too chewy.

For a seafood-free version, try making my Bacon-Wrapped Dates, which are known as Devils on Horseback.

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Love Always Order Dessert? Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!

Angels on Horseback (Bacon-Wrapped Oysters with Horseradish Appetizer Recipe)
Makes 12 appetizers. Multiply recipe as necessary.

Ingredients
6 strips smoked thick-cut bacon
12 shucked raw oysters
1/2 cup cocktail sauce (homemade or store-bought)
3/4 cup freshly grated horseradish (or use prepared horseradish for a tangier flavor)
Lemon wedges, for serving

Special equipment: 12 toothpicks

Directions
Cut bacon slices in half. Place a skillet over low heat and add the bacon, cooking on both sides until slightly cooked but still pliable (do not let bacon get completely crispy or you won't be able to wrap it around the oyster).

Let bacon cool, then place on oyster on the end and wrap so that the bacon completely overlaps it by at least one inch. Use a toothpick to secure in place.

When ready to serve. Preheat your broiler and arrange prepared bacon-wrapped oysters on a baking sheet. Broil about 3-5 minutes, or until the bacon is crisp on top and oysters have shrunken slightly. Remove from oven and and place on serving platter. Top each one with a dollop of cocktail sauce and a generous pile of horseradish. Serve immediately with lemon wedges on the side.


 


Broke on Sundays (Homemade Corn and Flour Tortilla Recipe)

Sundays were always an exercise in creativity during my days in culinary school. Before I moved to Italy, my dad and I had made an arrangement that he would deposit $100 worth of food and spending money into my account on Monday mornings. My tuition and housing were completely paid for, and the city was small enough to get around easily on foot, so it seemed like a good amount in theory.

Unfortunately, the exchange rate at the time turned that $100 into about 70 euro, which swiftly disappeared one scoop of gelato or bottle of wine at a time.

Image via
I was never particularly good about budgeting and the glass cases piled high with assorted panini that I would pass on the way to and from school each day proved irresistible.

As did the cheese in the market.

And the nutella-filled crostatas.

And the $10 brick oven margarita pizza and wine special at the cafe near my school.

image via Walks of Italy
By the time the weekend rolled around, my roommates and I usually found ourselves pooling together our crumpled bills and euro coins to make it through until our next allowance arrived.

I used to joke that if I ever wrote a book about our time in Italy, it would be called Broke on Sundays.

I remember one evening when my roommate Susanne and I invited a couple of chefs we'd been dating over for wine (they were bringing it, along with leftovers from the restaurant where they worked since we didn't have food, either), only to realize that our sink was overflowing with dirty dishes and plates that we couldn't wash because we had no soap.

Yes. We were literally too poor to afford soap. (Well, I mean, we had shampoo, but we weren't about to waste that on dishes.)

We spent 2 hours digging through seat cushions, emptying out pockets, and even searching the sidewalk in front of our flat for enough coins to buy a bottle of the cheapest dish soap available--a dusty, 60 euro cent bottle of generic neon green slime. I still remember the shopkeepers look of horror as we poured our pile of coins onto his counter to pay for it.

One of my favorite discoveries during these days were homemade tortillas. When I arrived in the flat for the first time in January, I was pleased to discover that the previous renters had left a large container of flour.

Without a recipe (or even the internet!) I combined the flour with water, a bit of salt, and some stolen olive oil (a story for another time) to make a simple dough. I used one of our many leftover wine bottles to roll out the circles of dough and fried them on a hot skillet.

They were hot and just a little bit chewy--perfect for rolling around scrambled eggs or spreading with soft cheese (purchased during the lush early days of the week).

A few years after we got back to the US, I got an email from Susanne asking me if I had the recipe for those tortillas I used to make. I didn't because I had really just winged it, but jotted a note to myself that I really should make them again soon.

Last night, I found myself craving shrimp tacos--one of my favorite weekday recipes. I had everything I needed except the tortillas, but it was cold and raining, and I had no desire to venture a few blocks to the store to purchase some.  But I did have ingredients, and so I got to work in the kitchen mixing a dough, rolling out circles and frying hot, fresh tortillas on my cast iron skillet.

The whole process took less than an hour, and the results were absolutely incredible. This recipe is for tortillas made with equal parts flour and cornmeal (much fancier than what I ate in my impoverished Florentine days).

The combination produces a particularly wonderful tortilla that's both soft and deliciously flavored. The taste is reminiscent of arepas or huaraches, and pairs beautifully with your favorite taco toppings.



Read more about my life in Florence here

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Love Always Order Dessert? Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!
Homemade Corn and Flour Tortillas
Makes 10-12 taco-sized tortillas

Ingredients
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
1 1/4 cup stoneground yellow cornmeal (preferably organic)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon melted butter or bacon fat, plus more for greasing pan
3/4 cup whole milk

Directions
Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking powder until evenly combined. Mix in the butter and milk, beating until a dough forms. Turn out and knead by hand for 5 minutes until dough is no-longer sticky (if too wet, add a bit more flour a tablespoon at a time). Divide dough into 10-12 even sized balls and arrange on a baking sheet. Cover with a damp cloth and let rest 15-20 minutes.

Heat a heavy skillet or griddle pan over medium heat. Sprinkle counter with flour, then working with one ball of dough at a time, roll out until it's about 1/8" thin. Grease the skillet and fry the flattened circle of dough for about 30 seconds on each side. Transfer to a plate and repeat with rest of dough.

Serve tortillas immediately with your favorite toppings. They're best fresh, but leftovers can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated 1-2 days, then reheated slightly in a warm skillet or microwave. Tortillas can also be wrapped and frozen indefinitely.

Chocolate Pear Custard Tart with Almond Shortbread Crust

Last fall, I was invited by the folks at Walker's to participate in a blogger bake-off. Walker's is, of course, the amazing Scottish shortbread company with the bright red tartan boxes.

You know them. They're everywhere!

The challenge was to use one of the varieties of Walker's shortbread to create a unique dessert recipe that a panel of judges would then taste to declare a winner.

I'm always up for a challenge, and so I accepted, soon receiving a box filled with about 20 boxes of shortbread (!!!) for recipe development purposes. The competition was supposed to take place in early November, but then... Sandy happened.

As the hurricane raged on and half of New York City was essentially turned off for several days, the challenge was postponed. I ended up donating the majority of those boxes of shortbread to a Sandy food drive and waited to hear back about the challenge.

(In the meantime, Eugene did his part by eating through the few boxes that remained.)

We finally heard that the challenge had been rescheduled for mid-February and more boxes of shortbread were sent our way. It was finally time to figure out my recipe!

Since I'm obsessed with almond recipes (obsessed!) I decided to use the almond shortbread cookies to create a buttery, salty almond-flavored tart crust. Once I had that part done, I needed to figure out what to put inside (if you remember my Braised Pork Mofongo Tart, you'll see that this is generally how I approach my tart making).

I think pear and almond are brilliant together, so I sliced up some pears and layered them into the crust. And to tie it all together?

A custard.

No, no...wait! A CHOCOLATE custard. With hints of almond, naturally.

Once I pulled the first test tart out of the oven, I knew I had a winner. It smelled absolutely incredible and looked gorgeous. I snapped a quick photo to post on Twitter.

And then Nigella Lawson (who follows me on Twitter; a mind-boggling fact on its own) happened to see my photo and commented that my tart was on her "wavelength."

THE Nigella Lawson!

So I figured I was definitely onto something good.

My pear tart recipe ended up winning 2nd place in the competition--not bad at all!

The winners! Lisa Sherman from Walkers, Kayle (1st), Me (2nd), and Esther & Emily (3rd)
And I got to spend an afternoon sipping wine and eating cured meat with some of the other amazing competitors, including Esther from Ambitious Deliciousness--who made a gorgeous Fluffy Green Tea Cheesecake--and Emily Hanhan from Nomnivorous--who made a luscious boozy banana cream pie (they tied for 3rd!). I was also excited to see Jessie Oleson from Cakespy (who made these crack-like butterscotch cashew bars that I can't stop dreaming about).

The winner was Kayle Blogna from The Cooking Actress with her Vanilla Honey Shortbread Pie.

All the competitors were sent home from the event with two giant tartan bags filled with shortbread and other goodies. I actually had been invited by a friend on Nigella's publicity team to attend a talk she and Mario Batali were giving in Union Square after the event (talk about full circle!), and so I showed up there with my not-at-all subtle tartan bags filled with cookies.

As I took my seat, an English woman sitting next to me excitedly asked "Oh! Are they handing out biscuits for everyone?"

"Um...no," I replied, pulling my bags a bit closer. "These are just my personal biscuits."



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Love Always Order Dessert? Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!
Chocolate Pear Custard Tart with Almond Shortbread Crust Recipe 
The pears below are simply tossed with a bit of sugar, but if you'd like to up the flavor, feel free to gently poach the pear slices before layering into the tart crust. Here is a great basic poached pear recipe
Serves 8

Ingredients
For the Crust
1 package Walker's Almond Shortbread
1 large egg, cold
4 tablespoons salted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

For the Filling
2 ripe Bartlet pears, halved, cored and sliced into 1/2" thick slices (do not peel)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
3 tablespoons granulated white sugar
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions
First prepare the crust. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place shortbread cookies in food processor and process until finely ground. Add the egg, melted butter, flour, sugar, salt, and extract, and process again until a soft, buttery dough forms. Remove dough and roll into a ball. Wrap in plastic and chill in refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Press the chilled dough into 13” x 4” rectangular or 9” round tart pan and score all over with a fork. Place tart pan on a cookie sheet and blind bake in the oven for 7 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Toss the pear slices in a bowl with the cinnamon, sugar, and lemon juice. Set aside.

Combine the butter and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring until completely melted. Stir in the milk, almond, and salt. Set aside.

Combine the egg, egg yolk, sugar, flour, and cocoa powder in the food processor or mixer bowl and process for 2 minutes. Pour in the milk and chocolate mixture and continue to process until smooth and completely incorporated.

Arrange the pears in the tart pan, peel side up, and then pour mixture so that it reaches the very top of the crust (depending on the size of your pears, you may have some custard leftover).  Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees, or until filling is set and crust is slightly golden. Let cool completely before serving.
 
Disclaimer: Walker's provided complimentary product samples for recipe development purposes. I was not otherwise compensated for this post or my participation in this event. Nigella Lawson is in no way affiliated with Walker's or this blog. All opinions and recipes are my own.

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