a work in progress

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Things I have learned writing this blog:

Baking is easy. Writing is hard.

Eight months of the year in Vancouver, daylight is terribly difficult to come by.

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People like stories about life, not just about how delicious the cookie is going to be.

They do not like posts about circus.

I don’t really care what people like. I just blog-vomit whatever’s willing to be sucked out of my brain (see #1).

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I might be in love with the Oxford comma.

I should always bake before getting dressed to go out, as I will inevitably end up with a light dusting of flour all over me.

Trampolines are scary (okay, that particular bit of knowledge may not have come from this blog).

Coconut and cupcakes are an underrated combination.

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Coconut Cupcakes

Adapted from the Food Network

Ingredients

three quarters of a pound butter, room temperature
two cups sugar
five eggs
half tablespoon vanilla
half tablespoon almond extract
3 cups pastry flour
one teaspoon baking powder
half teaspoon baking soda
half teaspoon salt
one cup buttermilk (or one tablespoon of lemon juice and enough milk to make a cup)
three cups unsweetened, shredded coconut

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a muffin pan and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating between each addition. Add vanilla and almond extract and mix until fully combined.
Sift dry ingredients into a separate bowl and measure out the buttermilk (or lemon juice and milk). Alternate adding and gently folding one third of the dry ingredients with half the wet into the butter mixture, and then stir in the shredded coconut. Try not to overmix.
Spoon into prepared muffin pan and bake until an inserted toothpick comes out clean; about 25 minutes. I didn’t frost mine, but if you’re into that I would suggest a coconut frosting like this one.

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beautiful chaos

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These last few days have been an adventure in tone. Without a kitchen of my own I feel slightly unanchored, and am aching to create. I can’t wait to press my palms into bread dough and to roll grains of salt between my fingers.

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Instead, I am writing.

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A Better Analogy

A large team of people has spent inordinate amounts of time choreographing an elaborate fireworks display. The sizes and the colours of the fireworks are lined up in pre-determined orders and directions to complement a pre-selected piece of music.

The engineer runs around checking the angles are just right and the electronics are functioning. The sound technician tests the speakers, and keys up the track. The artistic director settles back into his lawn chair to watch the show.

The piano begins softly, and the financiers smile to each other, ready for a beautiful, predictable show. Smatterings of white starlight at first, and, as the music builds, crackling blues and greens.

Then, miles away, lightning strikes. The power surges, and the reds explode.

The oranges and reds and yellows and golds take over the sky, while the blues and greens slowly build to keep up.

It doesn’t match the music; it doesn’t follow the plan.

It is beautiful.

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I will be back in the kitchen soon.

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Chicken Pot Pie (gluten-free)

Ingredients

Biscuits

four eggs, separated
half cup coconut flour
half teaspoon baking powder
half teaspoon salt
half teaspoon cream of tartar
quarter cup butter, cold, cut into pats

Filling

two chicken breasts
one and a half cups diced carrots
one and a half cups diced celery
two tablespoons oil
one and a half cups sweet onion, chopped
three tablespoons cornstarch
one teaspoon salt
half teaspoon black pepper
half teaspoon dried thyme
one and three quarters cups chicken broth
three quarters cup milk
three quarters cup frozen green peas

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Drizzle some olive oil over a chicken breast and dust with some salt and pepper. Bake it until it’s cooked through (this will depend on the size).
While it’s baking, chop your carrots, celery and onion. Keep the onion separate for now (or don’t – I forgot and mixed mine all together and they turned out fine).
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium and sauté the onions until they go translucent. Add the carrots and celery and keep cooking. Add the cornstarch, salt, pepper, and thyme and stir. Then add your chicken broth and milk – keep stirring and try to get the cornstarch lumps out. Add in the peas. Shred your chicken with a fork (or dice it, but that’s not nearly as fun) and stir that in too.
Bring to a simmer and keep stirring occasionally until it has thickened.

In the meantime, prepare the biscuits. Combine the coconut flour, baking powder, salt, and cream of tartar. Cut in the butter with a fork, a pastry cutter, or your hands until the largest pieces left are about pea-sized. Put this back in the fridge.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are very frothy and about doubled in size. Then whisk in the yolks. Fold in the butter and flour mixture, and stir well. There’s no gluten so there’s no risk of over-mixing. Keep stirring and don’t panic – coconut flour absorbs a ton of liquid, but it takes time. Don’t add extra flour!

Lightly grease a casserole dish (I used the same one I baked my chicken in) – and some ramekins, depending on the size of your dish. Pour the filling into whatever you’re using. Scoop out chunks of batter and press into biscuit shapes, and place them on top of your filling.

Bake until the biscuits are completely cooked through (check that a toothpick comes out clean, but make sure you’re not poking all the way through and getting wetness from the filling). Mine took about 15 minutes.

Serve immediately – but you can also store extras in the fridge; this dish reheats well in the oven.

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spring is coming

“Life is unpredictable,
It changes with the seasons,
Even your coldest winter,
Happens for better reasons,
And though it feels eternal,
Like all you’ll ever do is freeze,
I promise spring is coming,
And with it, brand new leaves.”
– e.h

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Things are changing around here, so my posts may be less frequent over the next little while. In the meantime, may all your shortbread cookies be covered with caramel and chocolate.

team nerd (happy pi day)

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Usually I think my nerdiness flies under the radar.

I’m probably wrong.

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I was scanning through my Outlook calendar at work to see what I had coming up, when I found a meeting invite for Saturday, March 14, 2015, at 9.26am. (If I could have scheduled in the time down to 54 seconds, I would have.)

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Intuitive people will realize that this is pi day.

Fellow nerds will appreciate my uncontainable joy that it is not only 3.14, it is 3.1415…926…54 (I know, I know, 5359, but I had to round at some point).

Anyone who knows me will not be surprised at all that I bullied my coworker into creating this Outlook event and stood there watching until he invited me.

And anyone who knows me well will be knocking on my door on Saturday morning to get a slice of this pie.

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Pumpkin Pie (vegan)

Ingredients

Crust:

one and a quarter cups all-purpose flour
quarter teaspoon salt
one and a half tablespoons sugar
quarter cup margarine, cold (I use Earth Balance)
quarter cup shortening, cold
one and a half tablespoons cold water
one and a half tablespoons vodka
half tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Filling:

800 mL canned pumpkin (plain; not pumpkin pie filling)
three eights cup (I’m sorry… that’s about 90 mL or three ounces) maple syrup
two tablespoons molasses
half cup unsweetened almond milk
four teaspoons canola oil
one teaspoon cinnamon
one teaspoon ginger
half teaspoon nutmeg
pinch cloves
half teaspoon salt
two tablespoons cornstarch
one teaspoon agar agar powder

Directions

Prepare crust first: sift dry ingredients into a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter (and/or a fork), cut in margarine and shortening. In a separate glass, stir together water, vodka and vinegar. Pour into flour/margarine and mix with a fork until the dough comes together into one big ball. Wrap in Saran wrap and throw in the fridge (or freezer, if you don’t want to make the pie right away).
For the filling, throw everything in a blender together. Turn it on. Turn it off.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grab a 9-inch pie plate.
Pull out the ball of dough. On top of parchment paper or a silpat, roll it out (use lots of flour so it doesn’t stick) so it will cover the entire pie plate (don’t forget the sides slope down, so you’ll need to make it a bit larger than 9 inches). Flip it over (this is where the parchment comes in handy) onto the pie plate. Load it up with your filling.
Bake for about 55-60 minutes or until the filling looks set and the crust is browned. You’ll need to let this pie cool completely, then throw it in the fridge overnight before you can eat it, unless you want to dig straight in with a spoon.

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time savers

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Sometimes Pinterest does not act in my best interests.

I clicked on a pin of a cute ponytail and wound up at a gorgeous lifestyle blog‘s post on how good it is to give your hair a break from washing it. The girls took pictures of how they styled their hair over 5 days. Their hair looks super cute, and not greasy at all. Apparently the secret is dry shampoo.

I’ve experimented with this before.

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Not to be deterred (anything for a few extra minutes in bed each morning, right?) I decided to try again. This time I consulted with friends who are more girly than I, and was steered towards Klorane. (For anyone who is also thinking of trying a dry shampoo, spray way more than you think you’ll need, and try not to panic when you go grey. Wait 30 seconds and brush it out; the grey will go away.)

Normally I wash my hair every second day. With a little dry shampoo, my hair on day three looked fine, but felt a little crunchy. By day four, I was starting to lose sanity and had to go home and wash it at lunch.

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While it’s no longer something I’ll purposefully avoid, there are probably better ways to save time in the morning. Like making these almond butter cookies in the evening, and eating them for breakfast. (I promise they taste better than they look.)

Totally legit.

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Almond Butter Cookies (vegan)

Adapted from Thug Kitchen

Note: I made these a while ago, so for those of you checking up on me: I didn’t cheat on the Whole Life Challenge. The great news is that I’m now in the last week of the Challenge, so my sugar-filled life (and therefore blog) can go on as normal from here. I think we can all appreciate that.

Ingredients

one cup flour
half teaspoon baking powder
half teaspoon baking soda
half teaspoon salt
two thirds cup natural almond butter
one third cup coconut sugar
one third cup sugar
half cup almond meal
two tablespoons ground flax
three quarters cup unsweetened almond milk
half tablespoon vanilla
chocolate chips – as few or as many as you’d like. I, um, used a lot.

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In a small glass, vigorously whisk together flax and almond milk. Set aside.
In the bowl of a standmixer, mix almond butter, sugars, and almond meal. Add milk/flax mixture and vanilla and mix well.
Sift in flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir until all the flour has been combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
Spoon out large spoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets. If it’s too runny, throw the batter in the fridge for 20 minutes or so. Bake about 15 to 20 minutes, or until they look like they’ll hold together when you pick them up (don’t burn yourself).

exactly the same but better

This past week I went back to Toronto.

That means I spent a few evenings drinking wine (from a glass) and eating finger food (from waiters in uniforms) in pretty outfits in hotel ballrooms with other real people, instead of my usual Friday nights drinking wine (from the bottle) and eating ice cream (from the tub) in my sweatpants on my couch watching Netflix by myself and tearing up over Garden State and online shopping for cats.

Did I just admit all that on the internet?

Whoops.

Toronto is a very happy place for me.

Recommendations

Nota Bene
Volos
Pizzeria Libretto

getting it right

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So most days I’m a total mess and I have horrible anxiety that I don’t know what I’m doing with my life because I have no career goals and all I really want to do is hang out at the circus.

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But every once in a while, I realize I’m actually a genius.

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Sugar-free, gluten-free, gelatin-free, agar-free, cream-cheese-free, Whole Life Challenge friendly cheesecake. Cheesecake.

And it’s not even made out of super expensive cashews.

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As one would expect given that it has no sugar, it’s not sweet at all. It’s slightly tart and coconutty and the hazelnut crust is to die for. It’s thick and it’s creamy and I topped it with berries and it might be the best thing to ever happen to me.

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Oh man… This cheesecake.

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Please make it.

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Whole Life Challenge Cheesecake

Note: You’ll have to prepare ahead for this one… The Greek yogurt should be drained overnight. Put a sieve over a pan or bowl and then line it with cheesecloth or muslin. Dump all the Greek yogurt into the cheesecloth and let the whey drip out overnight.

Ingredients

Crust

one cup hazelnuts, toasted
one cup almond meal
one cup unsweetened shredded coconut
six tablespoons butter, melted

Filling

one 500mL container of Greek yogurt, strained overnight (see note)
about half a 400mL can of coconut milk – mine had separated (if you keep the can upright and try not to shake it too much when moving/opening the top it should separate. Unfortunately I don’t know how long this takes) so I skimmed all the cream for this recipe and used the rest for something else.
half tablespoon vanilla powder (this is expensive, so it’s optional. I would highly recommend it though.)
one egg

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Blast the hazelnuts, almond meal, and coconut in a food processor or blender until they’re crumbs. In a small bowl, combine the crumbs with the melted butter. Press it into a pie plate and bake for about 10 minutes. Take it out and throw it in the fridge.
Combine all the filling ingredients in a medium bowl, and stir gently until the egg is fully incorporated and everything is well mixed. Pull your crust out of the fridge and pour the filling into the centre. Throw it back in the oven for about 40 minutes – you want the edges of the cheesecake to brown and the middle to look set.
Let the cheesecake cool completely in the fridge for a few hours before serving so it has time to set. Serve with berries for some added sweetness.

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