Sometimes when I get writer’s block, all I can come up with is to make a list. This is one of those times.
Things that give me anxiety that shouldn’t:
That there are currently no jellybeans in my house.
There are currently no jellybeans in my house because I tried to hold a self-intervention and stop eating so much sugar, but then I saw the jellybeans and ate them all “to get rid of them so I won’t eat so much sugar.”
Reading my horoscope in the Metro paper. If it tells me I’m going to have a bad day, I can’t stop thinking about it.
Reading my horoscope in the 24 Hours paper. I know. It’s a guilty pleasure.
Coming up with a clever hashtag for my future wedding. (Some personal favourites from friends and friends-of-friends and people I follow on the Internet: #MarshallLaw #ForeverMoore #RichGetsMaryd.) I’m not even engaged.
Things that don’t give me anxiety:
Mint chocolate meringue kisses. So easy. So delicious.
Mint Chocolate Dipped Meringue Kisses
- 2 egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 2/3 cup berry sugar (or superfine or caster sugar)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup mint chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until fluffy – about a minute. While whipping, slowly add berry sugar. Add in vanilla. Keep beating until the meringue is shiny and white. When you pull the whisk out of the bowl, the meringue should come out with the whisk to a point, and hold its shape.
- Scoop the meringue into a pastry bag fitted with a star-shaped icing tip (I used a Wilton 1M). Squeeze out in a spiral (start with the outer circle and move inwards. Note that these won’t spread in the oven, so make them the size you want the final cookies). If you don’t have icing tips, pastry bags, or patience, just scoop it by spoonful directly onto the baking sheet.
- Put into the preheated oven and turn the oven off. Let sit in the oven for at least 2-3 hours, or overnight.
- Once they’re cooled completely, melt the mint chocolate in a small saucepan over very low heat. Make sure to keep stirring while the chocolate melts – chocolate burns easily!
- Dip the meringues into the melted chocolate and set on a lined baking sheet to cool. I put mine in the fridge to solidify the chocolate faster.
- Store in an air-tight container.
It’s a surprisingly short journey between green juice, protein shakes, and abs to sitting on the couch on a Saturday night, missing your out-of-town boyfriend and eating Trader Joe’s cookie butter out of the jar.
Not long ago I was on the Whole Life Challenge, being all responsible and stuff. And, let’s be honest, a little pretentious. I mean, I had abs. Now I’m in full on bake-all-the-things mode (also known as Christmas is coming).
The abs are still there, they’re just hiding underneath a layer of mint chocolate nanaimo bars.
It’s okay though. Can we all just agree that the rest of 2015 will be for eating, and 2016 can be for setting resolutions and abs?
Chocolate Mint Nanaimo Bars
I just used the recipe from the back of the package (though I left out the green food colouring). Sometimes it’s the simple things in life.
I have a secret to tell you.
I made cookies out of a box.
I don’t know what you and your best friend do together, but my best friend and I curl up under blankets on her couch and drink tea and eat turkish delight and sometimes I bake things. It’s a solid arrangement.
I was over at my best friend’s house earlier this week to hang out / await a furniture delivery / chat, when she mentioned that she needed to make brownies for a work-related event the next day. She then pulled out a small glass mixing bowl and a boxed gluten-free brooksters mix.
Despite appearances, to the trained eye (i.e. mine), this was not a subtle request for supervision, or even a meek sorry-you-have-to-watch-me-bake-while-we-hang-out apology.
So I did what any good friend (or compulsive baker) would do, and made the brooksters for her. With the caveat that I got to try one (or two).
For a gluten-free treat, they were chewy and delicious. For a boxed mix, they were mind-blowing. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’m a convert, but I now am a slightly more optimistic skeptic.
Here’s to friendship, caffeine, and cookies. For the next few months, I’ll be hibernating in and around the corners of the earth that include these things.
Brooksters made using Williams Sonoma Baked Brookster Mix, which I’ve just learned is apparently no longer available online. Go forth and be better than me: make your own!
The internet is obviously taking over our lives, and, for the most part, it’s incredibly convenient.
I find it helpful that Google can pull up my search history across devices, and moderately successfully target their advertising.
On a good day, I’ll see ads for clothing (beautiful jackets, stunning heels, and vintage jewelry) and kitchen utensils (do I really need another stand mixer? Don’t answer that; I’m keeping the dream alive).
On a worse day, I’ll see a lot of ads for glasses (to be fair, I am erring on the side of blind), dating websites, and, paradoxically, diapers (Honest diapers, no less).
Earlier today, I was doing research for a school paper I’m writing on The Divorce from Hell.
We all know where this is going, right?
Next they’ll be showing me advertisements for cats.
A super easy side dish for the healthy at heart (even I can only cycle through gingersnap cookie after gingersnap cookie so many times before I need something green in my life).
- 1 cup kale, washed and torn into small pieces
- 1 cup mushrooms, sliced (I used a mix of white, cremini, and shiitake)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- In a large frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Sauté mushrooms for about 10 minutes – they’ll let out water and shrink quite a bit.
- Move mushrooms to a small bowl, and let the pan heat up again for a minute or so. Add the kale, and pour a scant quarter cup of water over the leaves. As the water evaporates, the kale will lightly steam. Once the water is gone, add the kale to the bowl of mushrooms.
- Stir and season with salt and pepper to taste.
I served this with Smitten Kitchen’s roast chicken for a quick and easy weeknight dinner.
Today, I don’t have a witty anecdote for you.
(To be fair, I usually don’t. I just fool myself into thinking I do.)
Instead, I’m going to tell you about cinnamon buns. You’ll probably enjoy that more than a mildly witty anecdote anyway.
Guess who found the perfect warm spot to nap…
I feel like I only ever make three things on this blog: cinnamon buns, gingersnaps, and s’mores cookies.
It’s a good life.
The only issue I take with cinnamon buns is that they’re not a quick and easy Sunday morning breakfast (have I told you how much of a grouch I am in the morning?) But the geniuses at America’s Test Kitchen promised me that cinnamon buns could be made quickly. Without yeast. Without rising.
Just knead and roll and bake and go.
Who am I to challenge that?
Speedy Cinnamon Buns (no yeast!)
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Full disclosure: they’re not as good (in my mind) as the traditional yeast-using, hours-of-rising-requiring cinnamon buns. But they’re fast and they’re good for a Sunday morning brunch date.
- 2 1/2 cups bread flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 cup buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 3 tablespoons melted butter, divided
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves
- pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons cream cheese
- 2 tablespoons buttermilk
- 1 cup icing sugar
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9″ square pan and set aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the bread hook attachment, add all of the dough ingredients. Let knead on a low speed for about 5 minutes. This dough is incredibly sticky – you can do this by hand if you don’t have a stand mixer, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
- On a heavily(!) floured surface, spread out dough into a large rectangle (mine was about 15″ by 12″). Brush with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter from the filling ingredients.
- In a small bowl, mix another tablespoon of melted butter with the remaining filling ingredients (brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt). Spread over the dough, leaving 1″ clear along one of the long edges.
- Roll the dough lengthwise until it’s one long cylinder. Slice into about 2″ buns, and place into the prepared square pan. These won’t be given time to rise, so you can squish them all up together in one pan. Brush with the remaining tablespoon of butter.
- Bake for about 25 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.
- Whisk icing ingredients until well mixed – I did this by hand, and ended up with a few ugly cream cheese lumps (luckily it still tasted good). Pour on top of baked buns and serve immediately.
I’ve recently taken up a slightly more regular (that is, more than once per year) juggling practice. The funny thing about juggling is that if you let any minor thing creep into your head, you drop all the balls.
There’s an irony in there somewhere that makes my inner geek very happy, though I can’t quite put my finger on it.
Apparently I take the instruction not to let anything into my head very seriously. So seriously that even my tongue cannot stay in my mouth.
One day, I will be the star of a juggling show, and my tongue will be sticking out the right side of my mouth as I do super fancy tricks.
Actually, that is probably never going to happen, because I am terrible at juggling, and am incredibly uncoordinated.
Luckily, I can bake.
I know I just made these, but it’s fall, and I do what I want (the perks of being an adult). I also wanted to see what would happen if I made these without freezing them first. Spoiler alert: they turned out just fine.
- 1 cup butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup molasses
- 2 1/4 cups bread flour
- 1/2 tablespoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease or line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg, and beat until well mixed. Add molasses and beat some more.
- Sift in all the remaining ingredients and stir until the dry mix is completely incorporated.
- Scoop by the spoonful onto the prepared baking sheets. These spread a lot, so I left a couple inches between each scoop (and some still came out stuck together).
- Bake for about 6-8 minutes. Because they’re warmer when you start to bake them, they take almost no time at all! Check them often so they don’t burn.
These are made of butter, so they’re best eaten the day they’re baked. If you have more self-restraint than I do, however, they also freeze well (in batter form or in final cookie form).
Another blog milestone in the books – this is my 200th post!
As in the last three milestones I’ve celebrated (one year, 100 posts, and two years), I meant to do something festive. Something like fluffy little cupcakes with piles of icing and pink and purple sparkles.
One of the reasons that didn’t happen is my dirty little secret: I hate cake.
Not all kinds of cake. I like cheesecake, carrot cake (or, at least, I like cream cheese icing), and the occasional strawberry shortcake. But plain old vanilla or chocolate or red velvet cake? I could take it or leave it.
So instead, you get pumpkin muffins made from crickets.
There is a moderately high likelihood that if I have given you some of my baking, I have secretly made you eat bugs. This is on account of an obsession I developed from a chance reading of a Men’s Health article. The good news is you can’t taste them (or feel their spindly little legs crunching between your teeth… Too far? I’m sorry). The other good news is that they’re high in protein (I know, that’s boring).
The best news is that they’re delicious.
- 4 eggs
- 3/4 cup canola oil
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 can (398 mL or 14 oz) pumpkin – not the pre-spiced kind, please!
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cricket flour blend (I use Bitty)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- dash of cloves
- 1/4 cup water
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a muffin tin with paper liners and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, oil, sugar, vanilla, and pumpkin until well blended.
- Sift in dry ingredients (all-purpose flour through cloves) and give a few light stirs. Visible flour is still fine at this point.
- Pour in water and stir until just combined. The flour streaks should be gone.
- Spoon into prepared muffin tin. I like my muffins to be on the larger side, so I fill the cups until they’re almost full – about 1 cm (0.5″) below the edge of the paper liner.
- Bake for about 22 – 24 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. If you’re making smaller muffins, I’d check on them at 18 minutes.
These can be served immediately, though I found they tasted the best the next day.
Happy 200 posts to me; happy cricket-eating to you!