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Archive for August, 2011

Our sweet baby, Seri.

Pooch Friendly Ice Cream

This is a little bit different of a post. It is still gluten-free, unprocessed and healthy, but this one isn’t for humans, it’s for our little furry baby, Seri, who turned one yesterday! I decided as a little treat, I had to make her something special to celebrate. In the past I used to bake different goodies for our last dog, Derby, like whole wheat peanut butter treats and one time I even made her a special dog-friendly birthday carrot cake. I decided to do something a little different this time because Seri is on a grain-free diet. Yes, even my dog is gluten-free. Also like me, she doesn’t eat any processed foods. In addition, she eats a fully raw meat diet all of the time. Seri has had some minor itchy-skin/allergy issues in the past, nothing major at all, but enough for us to want to make sure she was eating THE very best. After consulting with a holistic vet and our breeder and some trial and error with different foods and ingredients, we have found the things that work for Seri and those that don’t. We always make sure to avoid anything that could upset her little body, whether it be her daily food, an unnecessary medication or even a little treat. It’s incredible how much unnecessary processed junk is in most dry kibbles and biscuits, even the best brands are loaded with useless fillers and crap that they just don’t need. Just like us, it’s so bad for their health. Dogs are carnivores and they need meat.

Since Seri eats raw bison for breakfast and dinner every day and her treats are usually some other type of dehydrated raw meat, it was really hard to think of something super special for her birthday as a treat. Since I couldn’t really bake any treat from grain, I decided to experiment with ingredients that I knew were safe for her.

I didn’t want her to get a large portion of whatever special treat I was going to make, so I made small little muffin-cup sized portions, so I could control how much fat she would consume, since we all know what can happen if a dog gets a lot more fat than usual.

Since dog’s are unable to process the lactose in milk, I made the base of the ice cream from almond milk. (If you know your dog has a sensitivity to nuts, or you aren’t sure, you can just go with a simple chicken or beef broth.) I included the coconut oil because in moderation, it is so great for your dog’s health. There have been many studies and countless articles written about the healthy benefits of coconut oil, for both humans and dogs. Additionally, it is great for dogs with allergies and itchy skin. It can also be used topically on any hot spots they may develop. We alternate the coconut oil with salmon oil on Seri’s food each night. If your dog is sensitive to fats, consider skipping the oil or going with a very small amount. Seri goes absolutely nuts for coconut oil, she loves it! That and peanut butter. She rarely gets peanut butter so it was another nice treat for her birthday ice cream.

Seri absolutely loved her birthday ice cream. She couldn’t eat it fast enough! I love now that with having the individual servings, ready in the freezer, whenever I want to give her a little treat, they are ready.

I realize this post may make me seem like a crazy dog person, but in our family, our pets are our life, we would do anything for them and we are willing to make sure they get the very best. I know not everyone is like that, so you may think I am insane. I am pretty ok with that.

Pooch Friendly Ice Cream

Pooch Friendly Ice Cream
makes approximately 8 muffin-sized frozen dog treats

2 cups organic unsweetened unflavored almond milk (you can certainly use homemade here, just skip the sugar and vanilla when you make it)
1 tablespoon organic unrefined virgin coconut oil
2 tablespoons organic natural creamy peanut butter
(you could have fun with other dog-safe ingredients like shredded carrots, beef or chicken broth, pieces of their favorite unflavored/unspiced meat, etc)

Line a regular sized muffin tin with foil or paper muffin cup liners. Depending on how full you fill them, you can make more or less than this recipe calls for.

Combine all of your ingredients in a large mixing bowl. If the peanut butter was in the refrigerator and is a bit solid, microwave it for about 10-15 seconds to soften it up a bit, to make mixing easier. Using a hand mixer or stand-up mixer, thoroughly combine the three ingredients. Ladle the ice cream mixture into each muffin cup, filling to about 3/4 of the way full. (Again, if you want more, smaller treats, fill them up less or use a mini-muffin tin. If you want less, larger treats, fill them up more.) Place the entire muffin tin in the freezer and allow the mixture to freeze until solid, about 8 hours or so.

When the ice cream treats are frozen solid, you can pop one of out of the tin, peel of the paper muffin cup and give it to your dog. You can remove the remaining treats from the muffin tin and put them in a freezer safe ziplock bag or plastic container.

** Obviously I am not a veterinarian, so please don’t take any of what I am feeding our own dog as a medical advice for your pooch. We just know what works and what doesn’t with Seri. Every dog’s sensitivities are different. If you know your dog cannot have one of these ingredients, go with something else **

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Gluten-Free Crispy Zucchini Rounds

I have seen a number of crispy oven-baked zucchini recipes floating around online and in cookbooks, some as rounds, some as “fries”, but obviously all were made with regular wheat flour and breadcrumbs, so they weren’t gluten-free. However, with my insane love of zucchini, every single time I would see a photo of one of these recipes, I would instantly salivate, how couldn’t crispy oven-baked zucchini slices be delicious? I decided to experiment with making my own gluten-free version and I have to say for the first attempt, they turned out perfectly. I am so excited. I love when that happens.

The outside was so incredibly crispy, the inside was tender. Topped with a bit of freshly shredded parmigiano-reggiano and some fresh basil from the garden, each and every bite was full of flavor. I only sliced up one of the large zucchini we grabbed from the farmers market, but it was more than enough for the two of us as a side dish, with plenty leftover. It would be enough for 4 people, but if you like this as much as we did, it is actually a perfect sized side dish for two. We ended up eating seconds, since they were so delicious. I served this alongside some gluten-free penne with a delicious mint pesto .

These crispy zucchini rounds would also be wonderful as an appetizer. You could create a delicious creamy dipping sauce or even serve them with some hot marinara sauce. Though a dipping sauce would be delicious and fun, we went nude and enjoyed them as is. They were so full of flavor, they didn’t really need anything more.

Gluten-Free Crispy Zucchini Rounds
I ended up using my mandoline slicer to make sure each round was cut evenly, so they would cook evenly, but it isn’t necessary. You could simply cut by hand, doing the best to keep them generally at the same thickness.

Gluten-Free Crispy Zucchini Rounds

Gluten-Free Crispy Zucchini Rounds
serves 2-4

1 large zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch to 3/8-inch thick rounds
2 large farm fresh brown eggs *see below note about making this vegan*
1/3 cup tapioca flour (sometimes called tapioca starch)
1 cup gluten-free bread crumbs, plus more if needed
1/4 cup shredded parmigiano-reggiano cheese
Olive oil for drizzling
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 450º and lightly grease a large baking sheet (or two smaller) with olive oil . On 2 separate plates, add tapioca flour and bread crumbs. Lightly beat 2 eggs in a medium bowl.

Dust both sides of zucchini rounds with the tapioca flour, dip in egg, and pat onto the plate of gluten-free bread crumbs. Place in a single layer on the baking sheet(s). Drizzle olive oil over the top, sprinkle with sea salt and a very small amount of the parmigiano-reggiano cheese. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes on the first side, using a spatula flip each zucchini round over (you can drizzle a bit more olive oil on this side, if you wish) and bake an additional 10 minutes until crispy and lightly browned on both sides.

Remove the baking sheets from the oven, sprinkle the remaining parmigiano-reggiano cheese and the fresh basil overtop of the rounds and serve immediately. Salt and pepper to taste.

*To Make This Vegan: After a request on Facebook, I decided to make these again, but this time I attempted to make them vegan. In place of the two eggs I used 3 teaspoons of Ener-G Egg Replacer with 1/4 cup of warm water. Stir together until fully mixed. You may find you need to make a bit more depending on how large your zucchini is, but that is a good starting point. Substitute the egg replacer for the eggs in the above recipe, do everything else the exact same and just skip the parmesan cheese. That’s it. They turned out just as delicious, with a perfectly wonderful crispy brown outside.

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Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction

This recipe is a fast and simple twist on the original, with no accurate measurements needed. It’s all about taste. I grabbed a quart of colorful local heirloom tomatoes at the market and I couldn’t wait to pick some of the beautiful heirloom black cherry tomatoes from my own garden to make a big tasty salad with. Since the tomatoes themselves had so much flavor and the basil from our garden was abundant, I decided to not go crazy and put the full 8 oz of fresh mozzarella into the salad, it just didn’t need it. I also decided that by saving half of it, I could use it to add to an omelette with the next morning.

I wanted to get a nice sweet and tart punch from the balsamic, so rather than just pouring it on as is, I made a simple reduction syrup to drizzle over top the salad when serving. It is incredible how the concentrated flavors from the vinegar reduction really sing with the subtle sweetness. It is one of my favorite, simple kitchen tricks that works for so many dishes. In addition to drizzling over top salads like this one, the balsamic reduction is also wonderful drizzled over a steak, grilled fruit and so much more.

There is something about a good insalata caprese that just screams summer to me. But much like the balsamic, it is bitter-sweet, by the time the tomatoes in our gardens are ripe enough to start picking for the beautiful salad, summer is on the down-swing and definitely more than half over.

Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction
serves 4

Approximately 1 quart of mixed heirloom tomatoes, any variety. (Mine were all smallish – cherry and grape sized, some from our garden)
4 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes (you can use the full 8oz, but I was attempting to keep this light and much more about the tomatoes)
1/4 cup tightly packed fresh basil, roughly chopped
1/2 cup high quality balsamic vinegar
3 teaspoons brown sugar
A few tablespoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

In a small saucepan over a medium-high heat bring the balsamic vinegar and sugar to a boil, constantly whisking to prevent burning. Continue cooking until it is reduced by half, stirring often. Remove from heat, allow to cool. (The sugar is optional as the vinegar has a natural sweetness when reduced, but I find that just a little is nice to compliment the tartness of the vinegar)

Meanwhile, half or quarter the tomatoes and place in a large serving bowl. Add the fresh mozzarella and basil. Toss lightly to combine. Season the salad with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Serve individual servings of the salad on small side plates, drizzle both the olive oil and the balsamic reduction over top each serving. Serve immediately.

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Fruit Infused Liquor

I came across this super easy how-to on the Bon Appétit blog this Spring and I couldn’t wait to start playing around with different flavor combinations. My very first batch was strawberry vodka that I made at the end of June when the strawberries were at their peak ripeness and I couldn’t get over how incredible the flavor was. Since then I have made blueberry, rhubarb, cherry and apricot. In the next week or two I plan to make some cucumber, pepper and basil infused vodkas (separately of course) with the lovely goodies growing my garden. I also want to play around with other liquors like rum and tequila. The sky is really the limit on what you can do.

I have yet to play with other liquors, since vodka tends to be my first pick. Since the vodka itself is fairly tasteless, it can really let the flavor of the ingredient that you are infusing with, shine. Also, FYI, no reason to buy Grey Goose or Ketel one, but don’t buy that cheap crap on the bottom shelf either. I have been buying a nice middle of the road vodka like Svedka or Smirnoff.

I tend to like the fruit infused vodkas with a bit of soda water, a wee bit of simple syrup and a sprig of fresh mint or basil. I keep a jar of homemade raw sugar simple syrup in my fridge at all times which can be made very easily with 1 part sugar to 1 part water, bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan; simmer until the sugar is dissolved, 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.

The strawberry vodka was great with some fresh squeezed lemon juice. Tonight I plan to experiment with an apricot martini of sorts. I cannot wait to make the pepper vodka with the super spicy heirloom Korean peppers growing in our garden, it will be perfect to make delicious homemade bloody marys with.  The beet infused vodka that BA suggests is also super intriguing, I think I will have to add that to the list, too.

Cocktail Made from Cherry Infused Vodka

This is a simple cocktail made with my cherry vodka, just a tad bit of my homemade simple syrup, soda water and a fresh sprig of mint. So refreshing!

Step 1: Choose your liquor
Vodka is an obvious choice, but why not use white rum or tequila, brandy or grappa? Don’t go for the really cheap stuff, but don’t splurge either. A middle-of-the-road, neutrally flavored liquor will produce the best infused spirits.

Step 2: Choose your produce
Use what’s in season. Go to your local farmers’ market or, better yet, pick berries from your own berry patch, and bring home the most beautiful produce you can find. The super-ripe peach that dribbles juice down your chin is a perfect candidate. Also try raspberries, strawberries, pears, figs, lemons, cherries, blueberries, even beets and chiles, as long as they are ripe, ripe, ripe.

Some of Bon Appétit’s favorite fruit-and-spirit combos are:
Apricots + Eau de Vie
Figs + Bourbon
Jalapenos + Tequila
Pineapple + Rum
Beets + Vodka

Step 3: Prep your fruit
Wash it well and cut it into pieces. Remove peels and skins plus any part of the fruit that you wouldn’t want to eat: Stems, pits, cores, and seeds should all be tossed into the compost pile. As the liquor infuses, bitter flavors from citrus pith and seeds can leech into the liquor, so you want to avoid that.

Step 4: Bottle & Wait
Fill a clean resealable glass jar or bottle with fresh, cleaned fruit. Top off with liquor and screw on the lid. Place in a cool, dark place (like a fridge) until the flavors infuse (anywhere from a week to a month, depending on your taste and the strength of the fruit). Shake the jar every few days. When you’re happy with the flavor of the hooch, strain out fruit* and pour infused spirits into a clean resealable glass jar or bottle; store in the fridge.

Step 5: Drink Up
Use your freshly infused spirits in place of plain spirits in your favorite cocktail or serve up on its own as a Martini.

One caveat: This process requires a little patience. I generally start one mason jar of infused spirits per week throughout the summer. Depending on the type and ripeness of the fruit, infusions can take 2 to 3 weeks, so plan accordingly if you’re making it for a party (or use a fresh batch as an excuse to party). A pretty jar of rosy strawberry vodka is the perfect hostess gift, and it’s a lot more appealing than neon-green Margarita mix.

* though eating the fruit may be tempting, don’t bother. After the infusing process, the fruit is merely a ghost of its former self. All of the flavor has been sucked out and infused into the liquor so the fruit is left bland, soggy and tasteless.

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Vegan Chocolate Mousse

I plan to keep this post short and sweet, much like this recipe. It may sound a bit bizarre and hard to believe, but you really need to trust me and make it yourself.

After making some no-bake cookies for Mark in the afternoon yesterday (recipe coming soon), I was having a major sweet craving last night. Since I try not to keep too many sweets in the house for myself, I was feeling a bit bummed out that I couldn’t satisfy my sweet-tooth. I have seen many takes on vegan mousse that involved silken tofu, but I don’t really love tofu since it often bothers my tummy and I wanted to play around with the two very ripe avocados in my fridge that needed to get eaten up.

This mousse is so creamy, it is unbelievable that there is no dairy in there. It is decadent, rich and so satisfying. I was actually dancing around the kitchen and swearing with the spoon hanging out of my mouth on the first bite, I couldn’t get over how delicious it is. This mousse is naturally gluten-free, vegan and raw, it takes only 4 ingredients and you can make it in less than 5 minutes, so you can enjoy every last bite of it, guilt-free.

If it needs a bit more moisture when blending, try adding a little splash of almond or soy milk. You could also play around with adding peanut butter, chunks of your favorite chocolate bar, or simply just topping the mousse with your favorite vegan whipped topping and/or fresh berries. You could also play with adding in a dash of cinnamon or even cayenne for an extra little kick!

Now I need to do a little research about avocado fudge, a fellow food-loving friend, Kate, mentioned it to me on Facebook last night after I was carrying on about how amazing this was.

Vegan Chocolate Mousse
serves 2

2 ripe avocados, pitted and chopped into large chunks*
1/2 cup organic fair trade baking cocoa
1/2 cup agave nectar (you could also use maple syrup or honey)
2 teaspoons organic vanilla

Add all of the ingredients to a food processor or heavy-duty blender, process until smooth and creamy. Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve cold.

*your avocados need to be very ripe and very soft to be able to get that just right smooth silky texture.

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IMG_5265

This may seem a bit off topic, but I have a massive obsession with Pinterest. Holly, a friend of mine sent me an invite a few weeks ago, since she knew I would love it, and she couldn’t have been more right. Basically, as you come across images on the web, you can virtually “pin it” onto your different boards on Pinterest. The appeal is that not only does it act like virtual inspiration boards, but it also works as a way to remember and store links to projects, recipes and other fun things you want to try out. I like that I can access my pins and boards from any computer or device. I have been coming across some super fun images for inspiration and a ton of exciting and easy to do DIY projects for both work and for fun. Not that I don’t already have enough to do, but I love a good crafty project, especially once the weather cools down. You can also see other people’s boards and you can repin their items into your boards. It is so addicting.

This recipe is one that caught my eye on my daily internet travels a week or so ago, but when I had come across it, I didn’t have the time to make it, but I really wanted to remember it. Rather than print the recipe out, waste paper and have it get lost in a sea of papers in my office, I “pinned it” to my recipe related board on Pinterest. A few days later I hit the farmers market, grabbed some cherries and was ready to get baking.

These muffins were bursting with flavor and were so easy to make. I have fallen in love with almond flour, it is so easy to bake with, you don’t need to add tons of other flours or any gums, and on top of it, it has a lovely nutty taste. The other bonus is that almond flour is protein packed and low in sugar. I love by keeping the cherries in halves you get a big burst of tart, sweet flavor in every bite.

If you are on Pinterest you can follow my boards here. If you are looking for an invite, post your email address and I will send you an invite.

IMG_5271

 

Cherry Almond Flour Muffins
makes 6 large muffins
Adapted from So Good and Tasty

2 cups blanched almond flour*
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 local farm fresh large brown eggs
1/4 cup honey (or maple syrup)
1/4 cup grape seed oil (or olive oil)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup fresh sweet cherries, pitted and halved

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.

in a medium bowl, whisk together the almond flour, baking soda, and salt.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Add in the honey, vanilla and oil and whisk until well combined.
Add the dry mixture to the wet, stirring until combined. Carefully fold in the cherries.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tin, filling to the top if you want a nice muffin dome, or as us ladies know it “muffin tops”. Bake for 25 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the muffin pan on a wire rack for five minutes. Gently pop the muffins out to continue cooling on the rack (don’t cool them longer than 5 minutes in the hot pan they’ll definitely get soggy). Enjoy a muffin after they have cooled 10 minutes, you know you want to.

I find storing muffins covered tightly in the refrigerator or freezer to be the best, especially in the heat of summer. Just pop one out as you want it, heat slightly in the microwave if you want to take the chill off and go.

* Something I have learned from baking on my own and from reading Elana’s Pantry, is that not all almond flour (or meal) is created equal. Bob’s Red Mill makes an almond flour, though easy to find, that doesn’t seem to react quite the same as other almond flours. It doesn’t seem to rise as much and it just seems to leave recipes flat. On Elana’s recommendation I now buy Honeyville brand almond flour in a 5-lb bag from their website.

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If you are gluten-free you NEED this book!

I came across Elana Amsterdam’s blog, Elana’s Pantry, quite a while ago and I have been playing around with many of her recipes ever since. They are all so wonderfully simplified, not loaded with tons of strange flours or gums. Just simple and healthy gluten-free adaptations of classic recipes, many times featuring almond and coconut flours. After making many of Elana’s recipes and always being impressed, when I found that she was releasing a Gluten-Free Cupcakes cookbook I knew  I had to have it. I preordered the cookbook so I would have it the minute it released. I went through every single page the minute it showed up this spring and made a game plan for which recipes I would make first. With it being such a busy spring and summer I haven’t been doing nearly as much baking as I would like, but every single time I passed Elana’s book on my shelf, I salivated thinking about making gluten-free cupcakes from scratch, in my kitchen. I am not one of those people who freak out over cake (like my husband, Mark), even before being gluten-free I almost always passed it up at birthday parties, but there is something about a deliciously made and adorable little cupcake that always gets me. It’s the perfect amount of cake for me. Whenever I am in NYC I always make it a point to travel out of my way to Babycakes, for that very reason.

Since it had been so long since I had made a cupcake or any cake for that matter, I decided I wanted to go with the classic, chocolate cupcake with vegan chocolate frosting. Elana’s book has all of the sweet classics as well as some really fun new twists on cupcakes like Raspberry Cheesecake, Vanilla Fig, Pina Colada and so many others, there is even a section of savory treats like Scallion Goat Cheese Muffins, Chive Pepper Muffins and more. All of the recipes in this book feature coconut flour, almond flour or both. So no need to buy strange flours that you’ve never even heard of.  Elana’s book also has vegan versions of many of the cupcakes as well as a variety of frostings both vegan and not. I decided to try the vegan frosting since it sounded easy to make and I was very curious to taste it. Not surprisingly, it was some of the best frosting I have ever had, super-rich and very chocolatey. I may have had a spoonful or two (or 5) of the frosting right from the jar, it’s that good.

The cupcakes were so chocolatey, moist and fluffy, I couldn’t believe that the only flour in the entire recipe was a 1/4 cup of coconut flour. When I read the recipe, I was convinced this had to be a mistake. I went to the front of the book to read more about coconut flour where Elana explains that coconut flour absorbs all of the moisture in recipes, which is why the ratio always seems off. Coconut flour is really quite amazing and unique, it rises so nicely in recipes and a little goes a long way. Most people assume that coconut flour will cause a recipe to strongly taste of coconuts, but this isn’t the case. The little bit of experimenting I have done with coconut flour has always yielded wonderful results, I cannot wait to keep playing and baking with it.

I’m gonna tease you with this recipe from the book, but you really really need to go buy the book yourself and start baking from it, you won’t regret it. I myself need to keep baking from it and start practicing my cake decorating skills. I attempted at first to use an icing bag to pipe the frosting on for the photos. Wow, what a mess, it looked like a 5-year-old did it. So, I stuck with what I am good at and decided to just take an icing knife and swirl it on.

Besides this wonderful book, Elana has an array of beautiful and tasty looking cupcake recipes on her blog, which you can access here.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcake with Vegan Chocolate Frosting

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes 9 cupcakes*

1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup unsweetened organic cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 large farm fresh local brown eggs
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1/2 cup agave nectar

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line 9 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a large bowl, combine the coconut flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, grapeseed oil and agave nectar. With a hand mixer, blend the wet ingredients into the flour mixture in the large bowl, until thoroughly combined.

Scoop 1/4 cup of batter into each prepared muffin cup.

Bake for 18 to 22 minutes (mine actually took more like 25 to 28 minutes until they were done), just watch them and test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of a cupcake, when it comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, they are done. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for an hour, then frost and serve.

* Looking for more than 9 cupcakes? Elana notes in the book that rather than doubling the recipe, it is best to just make a second batch.

 

Vegan Chocolate Frosting

6 ounces dark chocolate chips (73% cacao) (about 1 heaping cup)
1/2 cup Spectrum all-vegetable shortening
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoon water
Pinch of sea salt

Heat the chocolate in a medium saucepan over a very low heat, melt until it is smooth. Allow the pan to rest on the counter for 5 to 10 minutes to cool the chocolate to room temperature.

With a handheld mixer, blend in the shortening, then blend in the agave nectar, vanilla extract, water and salt until smooth. Place the saucepan in the refrigerator for 3 to 8 minutes, until the frosting is spreadable.

If the frosting gets too stiff to work with, reheat the pan very briefly over a low heat and stir until it is softened. If the frosting is too runny, place it back in the refrigerator until it firms up.

Use the frosting immediately or store in a glass Mason jar in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

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