Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bûche de Noël 2012

I've been meaning to try the flour-less chocolate cake roll from Smitten Kitchen since I spotted it on Deb's blog, then I decided that it would be perfect for our annual Bûche de Noël. We've been doing them for about five years now, and the kids love to help (especially with the candy decorating...) 

The verdict? This "Heavenly Chocolate Roll" is divine – rich chocolate that's light as air, delicious cream filling with just the right amount of sweetness. Really nice, much less rich than other recipes from year's past, and it turned out looking like a pretty log without any frosting at all! 

Heavenly Chocolate Roll 
(adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen)

1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 Tbs. hot water
6 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt

Spray parchment-lined jelly-roll pan with baking spray, preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Melt the chips in the microwave on 1/2-power for about 90 seconds, stir, 30 seconds more with hot water, stir and let sit to cool slightly. Beat egg yolks until pale and creamy, then slowly add in sugar and keep beating until "pale and ribbony." Eventually, add the melted, cooled chocolate. 

Meanwhile, beat the 6 egg whites with the salt until stiff peaks form, then add 1/4 into the yolk/chocolate mixture. When combined, fold the rest of the whites into the yolk/chocolate mixture, then pour into prepared pan. Bake for 15-17 mins. until soft and dry, but pick comes out clean. May seem undercooked. 

Remove from oven to cooling rack (in pan) and cover with a damp towel (I sprinkled mine with 360-degree Double Chocolate vodka), and let cool 10 mins. Remove towel and sprinkle with:

1 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder (sift over the cake), cover with towel and flip over, then sift another 

1 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa over the other side 

Then, use the towel (re-sprinkled with water or vanilla or... Double Chocolate vodka) to roll the cake up. I rolled it lengthwise to get a longer, thinner roll, but rolling from the short side would be excellent with this recipe). Let cool (rolled up in the towel) until you're ready to fill.  


1 c. whipping cream
3-4 Tbs. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbs. Double Chocolate vodka

Beat all ingredients until it holds stiff peaks.

Carefully transfer the cooled roll to a serving plate, fill with cream and decorate festively! Happy New Year!! 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What's For Dinner?

An amazing recipe from Joy, and I only changed it a little... added a little more oil and brown sugar since I was adding more chicken than she uses, and I used chicken thighs instead of breasts. My mom recently used this marinade on pork and says it was fantastic!

Joy's (slightly altered) Rosemary Grilled Chicken

2 Tbs  stone ground, whole grain or Dijon mustard (preferably Plochman's) 
1/4 c. coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 c. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbs dark brown sugar
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
10 chicken thighs

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the mustard, chopped rosemary, lemon juice, brown sugar, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Toss the chicken pieces in this marinade until thoroughly coated. Refrigerate covered for 1 to 2 hours. Grill or bake the chicken in the marinade (baked lends more juiciness and extra sauce for rice or potatoes - or bread-mopping). Cook 10 to 15 minutes per side.

Servings: 6-8

Preparation Time: 2 hours
Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Of Mice and Men...

*Nearly wordless... I tinted the dough for the mice to be light brown this year, tinted the crowns gold and rolled yellow colored-sugar into them before cutting out. We did white cotton-candy (strawberry flavored) or white & pink non-pareils for the Santa beards since Joy is allergic to coconut, and most of the kids don't like it anyway.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Choose Your Adventure...

Remember those great "Choose Your Adventure" stories from the 80's? I loved those books as a kid. I also adore recipes that are flexible that way, and this one is; my friend Jamie made this for my bridal shower (back in 1995), and we've made it countless times since. It shares a name with a yummy dessert, but this Mississippi Sin is a savory (and delicious) appetizer.

Go forth and create!

Jamie's Mississippi Sin Dip

2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 - 8 oz. brick of softened cream cheese
1.5 c. sour cream
1/2 c. chopped, cooked ham
1 can chopped green chilis (mild, medium or hot - your choice)
1/3 c. chopped green onions
1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Round loaf of sourdough or french bread
Additional bread, crackers, etc. to serve

Set the bread round aside, and combine all other ingredients in a bowl. To prep bread, slice the top off of the loaf, and hollow out the inside to make a bread bowl (leave 1/2-inch edge). Cut up remaining bread "insides" for serving. Next, fill the bread-bowl with dip, replace top, wrap in foil and bake at 350-degrees F for 1 hour.

* You can go with "light" on the sour cream and cream cheese, but don't go non-fat. Just don't do it. Non-fat cream cheese and cheese are just wrong; they are alien-like substances that should not be ingested. Ever.

** If you double the recipe (a good plan), you can bake the extra 1/2 of the dip in a covered casserole to refill the bread bowl with during your event.

*** Instead of ham, chilis and green onions, I've tried these variations with success:
  • Artichoke hearts, green onions, garlic (fresh tomatoes stirred in when taken out to serve)
  • Smoked salmon, minced fresh jalapeno, and replace cheddar with white cheddar
  • Chopped chicken, red onion, jalapeno, replace cheddar with jack cheese (cilantro and mango stirred in at the end)
  • Chopped up (cooked) Shrimp Scampi (frozen-box from Costco), plus fresh chives tossed in at the end.
  • Feel free to add whatever you think would be tasty!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Use It Up!

Leftover Halloween candy? Candy "buy-back?" Make Halloween Bark... Ours was 1/2 a package of Trader Joe's Halloween Joe Joes (crunched up), one small bag of Halloween pretzels, about a 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts, and about 6 mini (assorted) chocolate mini candies, plus mini bags of M&M Peanut and regular. Spread in a 9/13 pan (sprayed, or lined with parchment.
Then, melt 1 bag of Ghiradelli white chocolate chips and one bag of Wilton white Candy Melts, and pour over the candy/cookie/nut mix. Then, chop another handful of Halloween-sized treats (more M&M's, Three Musketeers, Snickers, etc.), and sprinkle over the top with a healthy amount of pepitas thrown in for good measure (and protein + saltiness), and you get...
Halloween Bark! Cut into pieces, package, and give to your friends!! Happy Fall. Ours made five sandwich-sized bags full.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sweet, Beautiful Gnocchi - My Nonna would be proud...

So, I'm on a mission to make homemade gnocchi sometime before the end of this month. I've even talked to a girlfriend about doing it together one weekend afternoon... and, I've found the perfect sauce to go with it. Ragu. No, not the kind in a jar, but the real ragu. I recently watched a late-night Channel 9 "Create" cooking show hosted by Nick Stellino, featuring Seattle's Jason Wilson, of Crush fame. They did his Pork Ragu with gremolata, and it looked amazing.

I was recalling the ingredients at the grocery the next day, and missed a few, so made the recipe my own, and it was fantastic. Especially with the packaged gnocchi from Trader Joe's.

I did a lot of things differently, including using a fantastic white wine in place of the red... and carrots instead of fennel and leeks, spicy peppers and green olives. I went with what I had — sweet onion, diced; celery and carrot, diced (all from Yakima Fruit Market); pork shoulder, sliced fresh garlic, white wine, chopped canned tomatoes... and the gremolata was Italian parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic and Spanish olive oil. Fantastic.

You'll have to trust me that it was phenomenal - the photo is terrible, but I plan to try it again this week!

4 pounds fresh pork shoulder large-chopped
1/2 c Spanish olive oil
sea salt and Johnny's seasoning (bad, I know)
1/2 large sweet onion, small dice
3 medium stalks celery, small dice
2 medium carrots, small dice
2 stalks celery, cut into small dice
6 cloves garlic, sliced
1 c Portugese white wine
1 quart canned chopped tomatoes

Italian parsley, chopped fine (about 1/2 cup)
Garlic cloves, chopped fine (about 6 cloves)
juice and zest of one large lemon
Spanish Olive Oil (until it looks right)

Gnocchi package from Trader Joes (with red label)

And, we did some ginger cut-outs with Elsa when she came for a sleepover on Thursday last week. Love the fun decorations!!

Friday, September 23, 2011

First Bentos...

Fairly uninspired for me, but I'm short on time, and it's what they like at the moment, so...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Angry Birds for lunch...

My children adore Angry Birds; Joel got them hooked on the game. And, recently, while looking for back-to-school lunch ideas, I came across the following recipe for Angry Birds bagels (on Babble), that made the kids chuckle with delight.

My salami and bagels weren't close enough to the same size, so I had to alter the design. I also made some yellow birds with slices of cheddar and my round cookie cutter (carrots for noses on the yellow Angry Birds. The eyes on all the birds was Laughing Cow spreadable Swiss cheese (which I also used to stick things on, and to spread the mini-bagels with first).
This lunch-with-friends was a hit, and I think those grouchy birdies had a lot to do with it!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Apple Pie (but not the eatin' kind...)

A few weeks ago, I was offered a taste of Apple Pie at a BBQ get-together a ways out in the country. Now, if you watch Justified on USA, you'll understand why such an offer might give me pause. But, the pause only lasted a brief second since these folks aren't the poisoning sort, and it looked tasty. It was, and they happily shared the "recipe." Our batch turned out delightful as well.

Apple Pie Liqueur

1/3 bottle of Everclear or vodka
1 can frozen Apple juice concentrate (100% pure apple juice only)
1/2 cup sugar
1 hefty pinch cinnamon
1 small pinch nutmeg
(and I added)...
1 pinch ground cardamom
1-2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

You could heat the sugar and a bit of the apple juice concentrate up to melt the sugar down. My method was far less civilized, as I poured the sugar into the Everclear bottle 1/4 cup at a time (using a funnel), and shook the ever-loving heck out of it. Then, I added the can of defrosted apple juice, the spices and the extract and shook some more. The pretty bottle of Apple Pie is now sitting on the shelf in our cool pantry... melding.
The cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom settle to the bottom of the bottle, so you really don't need to even worry about straining.

It is especially fabulous mixed about 1/2 and 1/2 with some excellent, pure apple cider as a tasty cocktail, and we tried ours after just 24-hrs. Enjoy!!

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Birthday Cake Fudge

Yes, you read that right. Birthday-cake Fudge. Fudge that looks and tastes like... birthday cake. Tasty and fun; which is just the sort of thing that we love around here. I found the recipe right here. Obviously, I used pink candy-coloring, rather than blue, and all the recipients thought this was fan-tabulous.
Thank you to Becky at Mrs. Bettie Rocker for the great idea and for posting the recipe! Here's the recipe to print:

Birthday Cake Fudge
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 sticks margarine (yes, I did use margarine - which I'd not purchased in many years... but candy is fickle and so I stuck to the recipe for once!)
5 oz can (2/3 cup) evaporated milk
12 oz chopped white chocolate chips
7oz jar marshmallow creme
3 or 4 Tablespoons yellow cake mix (just the powdered MIX, not batter)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Blue (or red, pink, orange, yellow...) candy coloring (oil-based color, not regular food color)
Rainbow sprinkles

Line an 8 or 9 inch square pan with foil, leaving the ends hanging over the edges of the pan. Spray foil thoroughly with nonstick spray. Place the sugar, margarine, and evaporated milk in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly, and let boil for 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

Add chocolate chips, marshmallow creme, and cake mix, stirring until chocolate chips are melted. Add vanilla and mix well. Working quickly, pour about 1/3 of the fudge in a bowl and add a few drops of blue candy coloring, mixing and adding until you achieve the desired shade. Pour white fudge into prepared pan, spreading evenly. Spoon colored fudge over the top, spacing it out. Using a sharp knife, draw swirls through the blue and white to create a marbled effect. Sprinkle the top generously with rainbow sprinkles before the top sets up.

Let sit at room temperature until cool, then place in the refrigerator until firm.
Recipe via Confessions Of A Cookbook Queen

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Madeline Cookies

So, when your parents name you Madeline, it comes with all sorts of great perks. Like, you just might have three hardback copies (and one paperback) of the original "Madeline" storybook. Plus, all the other Madeline tales by Ludwig Bemelmans.

And, there are also these great cookies called Madelines! Well, some people spell it Madeleine, but really, tuh-may-toe/toe-ma-toe! If you are little, and there is a cookie the bears your name, it must be named after you, so it's a Madeline Cookie, or "Madelines Cookies." And, it's a very handy end-of-the-school-year Thank You gift!

Which is why we baked up a batch this evening, and Miss Madeline herself wrote out as much of the recipe as her little Kindergartner-hand could take, before bedtime. Really, you must get yourself some sweet Madeleine pans and get baking, because these are fabulous.

(continued from 1st page) Add flour to whipped egg mixture 1/3 at a time, gently folding to combine. Then, add lemon zest (or orange zest), and pour melted (cooled to room temp) butter to batter and fold.

Spray Madeline pans with Pam Baking Spray (with added flour), and spoon batter into molds (mini molds = slightly more than a heaping Tablespoon). Bake 8-10 mins. for mini Madelines, and 12-14 for regular-sized Madelines, or until cakes are golden and the tops spring back when touched.

Invert onto cooling rack and immediately sprinkle with some of the 2/3 cup sugar (for decorating – ingredient # 8).

You don't need to know how to store them, because they'll disappear almost immediately.

***We have mini Madeline pans, and this recipe makes 30 of those. There are standard-sized Madeleines (you'd likely get more like 17 cookies...) and ultra-mini sized (so, you'd maybe get 4-dozen of those). You can get Madeline pans at most specialty kitchen-supply shops.

Other variations:
Chocolate: increase the sugar to 1 cup, and instead of 1 cup of flour; use ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder + ¾ cup flour. Leave lemon zest out as well, but dust with powdered sugar when mostly cool.

Cinnamon: Add 2 teaspoons of cinnamon to batter with the flour.
Lemon: Replace vanilla extract with lemon, and drizzle with lemon icing (powdered sugar and lemon juice) when cool.
Fancy: Dip 1/2 of each cookie (the top of the shell) in melted chocolate or candy-melts and then sprinkles or colored sanding sugar.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Orange Delicious

A delicious and refreshing accompaniment to a Summer Brunch get-together, from Jamie's sister-in-law, Anne... Enjoy!

Anne's Orange Yogurt

2 pints plain yogurt (strained for 3 hours or overnight) = 4 cups
1/4 c. raisins
1/4 c. chopped, toasted walnuts
1.5 t. vanilla
1/4 c. good honey
1 orange, zested
1/2 to 1 c. freshly squeezed OJ

Mix everything into the thickened yogurt, thinning with OJ until desired consistency. Garnish with orange sections, orange zest, raisins or walnuts if desired.

Long, lost recipes...

I do not understand the desire to hoard recipes. In my opinion, not sharing a fabulous recipe is just wrong. And, just to prove that their is Karma in such things, I recently recovered three recipes that I'd lost track of over the years. How did I get them back? Well, from the good friend I shared them with of course! Thanks Jamie...

This one is a very tasty salad dressing, and I recently discovered that while Benihana serves it with green onion and carrot on lettuce, the sweet and sourness of this recipe goes amazingly well with strawberries and mandarin oranges!

Oh, and if you're going to go to the trouble of chopping, peeling, and then whizzing this up in your food processor, triple the recipe below (like I do) and make three cups instead of one, then give some away to friends (with the recipe of course!)

Benihana of Tokyo's Sweet & Sour Salad Dressing

1/4 c. chopped onion
1/4 c. peanut oil
2 T. rice vinegar
2 T. water
1 T. chopped ginger
1 T. chopped celery
1 T. soy sauce
1 t. tomato paste
1.5 t. sugar
1 t. lemon juice

Blend all ingredients together with salt and pepper to taste, until smooth. Makes 1 cup.

Now, this is one that I was thinking about a few years ago and wishing I had the recipe again... I'd totally forgotten that I'd put it in Jamie's bridal-shower cookbook that we gave her. Jen and I used to whip up this dough when we (and Jamie) roomed together up at Western in the Cambridge Square Apartments. It's a super-speedy and tasty dough.

Cambridge Square Pizza Crust

1 pkg. yeast
1 c. warm water
2.5 c. flour
2 T. oil
1 t. sugar
1 t. salt

Dissolve yeast in water, stir in remaining ingredients and beat vigorously for about 20 strokes. Let rest for 5 minutes. Top and cook at 450-degrees F.

And, last, but not least... the punch that Jamie served at my bridal shower, and we served at the wedding. And, countless weddings and showers (baby and bridal) ever since. Technically, this one wasn't lost, since I posted it to years ago, but still, it was fun to see it and have it here.

Tart & Bubbly Wedding (and Shower) Punch

2 cans frozen cranberry juice (or 1 gallon in bottle)
2 cans frozen pink lemonade
1 large can pineapple juice (or 2 cans frozen pineapple juice - Hawaii's Own)
2 liters ginger ale (and cranberry ginger ale is great too)

In a large punch bowl, mix concentrates and juices. Add ice and slowly pour in the ginger ale.

From Kathy, With Love...

John's mom makes some of the very best food ever, and has many famous treat recipes... luckily, she (and Jamie, who I got these recipes from) are willing to share their recipes! Enjoy!

Kathy's Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Sift together:
2.5 c. flour
1/2 c. cocoa powder
2.5 t. baking powder
1.5 b. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon

Cream together:
3/4 c. softened butter
2 c. sugar
3 eggs
2 t. vanilla
2 t. orange zest

2 c. shredded zucchini
1/2 c. milk
1 c. chopped nuts

Alternate dry ingredients with milk. Add zucchini last, and fold in nuts (if adding). Bake in a greased and floured bundt or loaf pan/s at 350-degrees F for one hour. Cool in pan for 15 mintues, then turn out on plate.

Drizzle with glaze if desired: 2 c. powdered sugar mixed with 3T. milk and 1 t. vanilla.

Kathy's Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 c. butter
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
4 c. flour
1 c. quick oats
1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
2 c. chocolate chips

Cook at 375-degrees F for about 8 mins. Underbake, as they still cook as they are cooling.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Pear-y Cute Bear Muffins

Fun little critter muffins, very appropriate since the class's Zoo field trip is coming up soon...
I made these muffins (from Parent's magazine) last night for Madeline's Kindergarten class's snack. Being me, I altered them slightly (pineapple juice rather than OJ, and I added about an 1/8 tsp. ground cardamom too). Even though the pear slice "ears" sunk down into the muffins, Miss M still thought they were dandy, "That's OK, Mom, they can still be bears, or even gophers or walruses or something."

M's teacher emailed me to tell me that the snack was a hit today, and sent me a direct quote from one of the students, "If I grow up and end up being a storekeeper I would definitely put these in stock!" Adorable. And, Madeline tells me that her friend Drew needs me to print the recipe for his mom.

They really are as tasty as they are cute. And, of course, now that I've made them once, I know how I'd do the ears next time... I also added the faces right out of the oven, and put them back in for a minute or so, then tapped the melty chocolate-chip nose to "set" the almond mouth on the muffin. None of the faces came off before snack time either!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Happy Pi Day: Key Lime

Happy Pi Day!! 3.14159... we love both Pi and pie around these parts, and always enjoy both on March 14th. Today, we had lunch with our buddies Karen and Alex at 1:59 because we're math geeky like that, and we made our own pizza pies. We followed this up with Key Lime Pie topped with strawberries, and whipped cream on the side. The Pi symbol on the top was the cut-out part from the top of the apple Pi(e) that I made too. It's sprinkled with Vanilla sugar.
I've been making this Key Lime Pie for years and it is beyond easy. You mix one can of sweetened condensed milk (I used the fat-free kind with the green and white label), 3 egg yolks, 1/2 cup Nellie & Joe's Famous Key Lime Juice, and (my addition) the zest of one lime. You mix it up (by hand is fine) and pour it into a pre-made graham cracker crust. Bake at 350-degrees for about 15 minutes. Then, cool, top and eat!! A homemade crust and fresh-whipped cream would be extra-special, but this way (whipped cream in the spray can), works too.

These three pie (and pi) - loving kiddos all agree on the greatness of this pie! Enjoy!!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sous Saturday

They were beyond excited to get some knife time in tonight, and were very good at listening and minding. They also zested, pressed, stirred, juiced, toasted, buttered, drizzled, snapped, and set. Good team effort on an awesome dinner.
Gremolata for the Osso Bucco; delicious, and because he made it, the E man even tried the parsley-full (Green!) stuff. Love it!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sous Chef Erik

When it comes to the kids helping in the kitchen, Erik is far and away the more enthusiastic helper. Madeline can be recruited, but Erik seeks out the sous-chef position on a regular basis. And, I say "You're welcome," to his future spouse, partner, and/or roommates. The boy knows what fondant and pesto are... and the difference between Miso and Phở , and he's four. This can (hopefully) only bode well for the future.

Here's the boy rocking some old-school English Muffin pizzas (that were a huge hit at our Dr. Seuss party this week)...
And, using gum paste to apply flowers to Sophia's castle birthday cake...
Amethyst luster dust? He approves!
Happy 6th Birthday to cousin Sophia! Erik loved pasty chef-ing it up with this fun creation. Especially the fondant. And, I was very pleasantly surprised by how easy and fun fondant was to work with too... easy to mold and shape, and much less messy to transport this cake on a 2-hr car ride when covered with sweet, smooth fondant rather than Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

Monday, February 14, 2011


I LOVE Family Fun magazine's crafts and ideas... so fun! We made a few of these iLove Valentine's for ♥-day! You just need conversation hearts (in boxes), Reese's mini-size peanut butter cups, paper, string, foil, glue/tape, scissors and their cut-out template... easy, fun and sweet!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Hey, Jelly Man!

Our fabulous buddy, Gavino turned 6 last Monday, and today we're celebrating with him and his family. His cake-request this year? Jelly Fish. And, so...
I started out by looking at ideas online, then showed three cakes to Madeline and asked what she though we should do. She wanted to combine two styles into what we have here (which was my idea too, although she didn't know that). And, of course, we added our own flair as well, with all the decor ideas. The kids had a blast helping decorate... (all that candy, fruit leather and licorice)
And, in the end, Madeline said that it needed "bubbles from the jelly fish swimming," so voila!
The cake is 9x13-inch vanilla bean, frosted with tinted vanilla buttercream. The "Mama" jelly is a slice of cream-filled chocolate roll (from the QFC bakery), and the baby jellies' bells are each an end-slice of a Twinkie! The white tentacles are vanilla-sugar-sprinkled pie dough strips, and the other tentacles are Nerds ropes, fruit leather, slices of red licorice (Madeline's idea), and frosting. I hit all the jellies with a little Wilton tinted spray (purple) at the end.
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

Really? Cookies, again?

Yes, because they are fantastic, and with Aunt Peggy's jam, they are heaven.  Recipe is from Deb at Smitten Kitchen, right here. You're welcome!

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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Bûche de Noël - 2011

Key-lime filled, tinted-whipped-cream frosted jelly-roll Bûche de Noël this year for 2011. I decorated it solo, since the kids were busy playing games with Grammy, Ukki and Papa.
It really is the very best recipe for a jelly roll, is from Daisy Martinez, and rolls nicely from either the short or long end (I used the long end for the Yule Log). I also trim the sides before rolling, which makes everything nice and neat.
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