How to regress to childhood in a baked good, or pb&j muffins

I’ve been having a very peaceful and lazy Sunday. It’s been great actually – slept in a bit, had a leisurely breakfast, got some homework accomplished (cleaned my house so my parents wouldn’t take my head off when they get home today…)

Since I was on a pretty good roll with getting things done, I decided I was making too much progress and had to interrupt myself somehow.

Yeah, that means mini-muffins. Yes, I have an obsession with taking perfectly normal-sized things and miniaturizing them.

I wanted to make something but I wasn’t quite sure whether I wanted to try to make something relatively healthy or whether I should just give in and make something heart-stopping and drenched in chocolate. I compromised with peanut butter and jelly muffins, telling myself that technically they do have nutritional value. I love peanut butter – I could probably eat a whole jar of the stuff in one sitting. I was going to make a simple peanut butter cookie, and then it occurred to me that there must be some way to put the second-best peanut butter combination (chocolate being the first) into a baked good. Hence, I fiddled around and made pb&j muffins that have the magical ability of turning you into a five-year-old. The peanut butter flavour is pretty light, but in a good way because the jam’s sweetness sets it off well.

These are not going to last long.

Peanut butter and jelly muffins 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Roughly 1/3 cup of whatever jam you like; this is a very rough estimate because I was just spooning it out of the jar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375. Grease your muffin tins well, because the jam tends to leak out the sides and make them sticky.
  2. Mix flours, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Cut in peanut butter and cold butter with knives until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs (just like you were making scones). Add milk and eggs, and stir until just combined. It’ll be lumpy.
  3. Fill half your muffin tin with batter – for normal sized muffins, this is probably a few tablespoons, for mini muffins, one small tablespoon. Add a teaspoon of jam on top of the batter. Spoon more batter on top until the muffin cup is full (this way you get nice tops).

    Before adding more batter

  4. Bake for about 13 minutes for mini muffins and about 17 minutes for normal-sized muffins. I made 24 mini muffins and then 3 normal-sized because I had some leftover batter and I was too impatient to wait for the first batch to finish. I would guess this should make around 12 normal-sized muffins. Let them cool a bit and then take them out of the pan and stuff your face.

 

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Running after the sun

Today is – wait for it, wait for it – a day where the weather is supposed to hit a high of ELEVEN DEGREES. Yes, you heard me right. ELEVEN WHOLE DEGREES. After weeks and weeks of trudging through snow at SFU, I almost cried with happiness when I woke up this morning to sun pouring through my blinds. Sun? Warmth?! These things still exist and are not just figments of my imagination? And – dare I say – does this mean the mythical entity of  spring might be coming? (Now that I’ve written that, the weather gods are going to laugh cruelly and snatch my sun away).

It’s been a sleepless week, but I had a great Friday night and I woke up this morning energized and happy. I decided to take advantage of our fleeting spring weather and go for a run along the sea wall of downtown Vancouver. It was the best idea I’ve had all week. When Vancouver is sunny, it really is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and as I ran along the sea wall and looked at the mountains and the water I couldn’t help but grin like an idiot. It was a super endorphin high compared to my usual drag-my-butt-to-the-treadmill feeling of running. I wore shorts – shorts. (And yes, my legs got really red and cold once I stopped running, but that’s okay). I saw a heron! I saw ducks! I honestly finished with my run with the biggest exercise high I’ve ever had in my life.

These are pictures taken at the end of my run – the scenery around Stanley Park where I was running was much prettier, but I was too busy running to pull out my phone. Kind of throws off the flow, y’know.

One of my posts wouldn’t be complete without a small rave about food, so I should mention that I tried out Hapa Hour at the new Hapa Izakaya in Coal Harbour (formerly Hapa Umi). It was a pretty good deal – they had a list of tapas that were half price between 3 – 6 PM. Hapa can be pretty pricey, though their food was amazing, so it’s worth hitting up for those three hours.

Beef tataki, ebi mayo

Polenta fries

Karaage

Between two people, we had ebi mayo, beef tataki, chicken karaage, polenta fries, the spicy tuna roll and ika (squid) for $30 overall. The dishes are tapa-sized, so you would typically eat a couple of them. Yum.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go stare out my window like a puppy in love and try to imprint the sun into my memory before it goes away on Monday.

Starting my countdown

Despite a lack of sleep and too much homework (what else is new? I should really just assume that this is my default state until end of April), I’m happy to say that I’ve been having a pretty good week. It feels like it’s been pretty hectic, but in a good way – always on the go, meeting someone, eating something, that kind of jazz. It’s funny how the sympathy seems to flow when your family jets off to the Caribbean and leave you. I’ve had more offers of company this week than I know what to do with. I feel pretty loved, not going to lie.

It’s the first sunny day we’ve had in a while, so I’ve been in a good mood all day. SFU had to go and ruin it by snowing, but the sun returned pretty soon afterwards so I’m going to consider it a win. It’s the third week of March – I honestly feel like I should be able to wear t-shirts by now, but nope, it’s still layers and layers of clothing for me.  My city seems to be pretty resistant to this whole idea of spring.

I came to the realization yesterday that I have about a month left until I’m done this semester (including finals), which is exciting for two reasons. One, this semester has been a ton of work and I’m really, REALLY excited to have no more homework or studying to do. Second, the faster this semester ends, the faster I will be going to California! I’m finally settling my housing up, so things are starting to fall into place, and I can’t wait to see everyone I met last summer and to meet even more amazing people. Plus, the sun and I have some serious catching up to do. I love Vancouver, but the sun doesn’t seem to share my feelings.

I’m also going to a information session for the field school in Italy I want to do in the fall, so my year of travelling seems to be coming together. I really can’t wait for both of my trips – I will definitely miss my friends here and my family, but I always think that the best time to travel and experience things is during university. Besides, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, right?  (Er, I’m neither Jack nor Jill, but whatever). I have such a travel bug – there’s so many places I want to go and not enough time (or finances), but I will eventually get everywhere I want to go!

I’m feeling inexplicably happy and optimistic. I’m not going to question it. :)

Jet lag without the jet

I don’t think it’s fair that I’ve been feeling really jetlagged without having gone on an actual trip. Whoever invented DST was a jerk (a quick Wikipedia entry reveals it was George Vernon Hudson – damn you, George). It’s probably a combination of DST and just general staying up too late, but my circadian clock has been completely off this entire week. For example, I was tired earlier and am now extremely awake, hence not wanting to do homework and blogging instead.

Perhaps it’s the sleep pattern disruptions, but my week feels like it’s been all over the map. I think there have just been a lot of smaller things that have added up to make me feel slightly insane. (As my friend put it, “I want to write a book about your life.”) When I think about it, though, it all seems to boil down to one thing – communication. My entire week has been a series of miscommunicating, not communicating, and wondering what the other person means when they attempt to communicate. Whether it’s someone just rubbing me the wrong way, failing to carry out a message that they were supposed to send, or just being generally enigmatic, I feel like I’ve been walking around with this large sign saying “Hey! You should make my life complicated today!”

Thinking about it more, though, I am not really sure I can really say where the fault lies. Sure, it’s easy to point fingers and say that this person wasn’t listening, that this other person said something they shouldn’t and consequently I deserve to be mad, etc etc. But knowing myself means I know that I can also be guilty of failing to pick up on cues that I should. It’s totally possible that I took things the wrong way or that the person had completely good intentions.

After ranting to my best friend and letting my stress out at the gym, I’ve come to the realization that I tend to let things build up, which in turn influences how I interpet other people’s actions. Actually, this is a lie. I knew it already, but I need to remind myself once in a while. I think the fix for this is to try to see the cues that people are throwing at my head and I’m letting bounce off, and to stop getting so worried about smaller things.

This will probably last all of a few days, but it’s worth a shot! And now with a clear head, I am going to toddle off and work on deciphering some Chaucer. Exciting life I lead!

Oh herro, Shannon-sized apple crisps

My friend mentioned to me recently that most of my posts are about food. This is true. It is also true that I love food, so it makes sense that my life centers around it. Wait, did I say that out loud?

I always have such a hard time motivating myself to do work on Saturdays – hence blogging instead of homeworking. Friday nights too, for that matter. It’s something about how I work all week and so I want my day off, so I want to be useless on Saturdays – but then again, the less I do on the weekend, the more I have to do during the week. It’s a weird balance. My week has been pretty uneventful – quite a bit of homework (what else is new) and nothing much more than that. I did buy a really cute t-shirt yesterday from a friend of a friend – it says “herro?” on it in a speech bubble. Living in an extremely Asian city (and having Asian heritage) means I think it’s hilarious. All it needed was a smiley face and it would be me down to a T.

It was pouring rain yesterday and by the time I got home and had dinner I was exhausted. What I really wanted was dessert, but the terrible weather and lack of any energy on my part made me reluctant to venture outside. So I made do with what I had on hand.

I love individual sized things. Or maybe it’s because I think they’re cuter when they’re mini. I’ve decided to call these Shannon-sized apple crisps because .. well … they’re small, I’m small, you get the picture. They were really easy to make though with things you have in your cupboard. I made four – one for each of my family members – but they’d be great if you’re home alone and are really craving something warm, apple-y and droolworthy.

Individual Apple Crisp

Ingredients:

  • 1 apple, peeled and sliced into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons quick cooking oats
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon of butter

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Place the apple in a small ramekin, or small serving bowl. Anything really you have on hand.
  3. Mix together the rest of the ingredients. I found it easier when the butter was soft. Sprinkle over the apple.
  4. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the apple is soft.

Yum. Best served with ice cream and eaten voraciously. I think next time I might toss the apples in a bit of brown sugar first before putting the topping on to make them a bit sweeter.

 

Onion rings and macaroons make for a successful weekend.

I’ve had a really nice weekend for once, and I actually got to forgo the mad scrambling to do homework that Sunday usually brings. Today it was more like a quiet fumbling. A nice change.

I went to go see the Secret World of Arrietty yesterday. It’s based on The Borrowers, which I read about a million years ago, so I don’t remember the details of the novel all that well – just that I enjoyed it. The movie was really well done though. It’s by Studio Ghibli, so it’s almost guaranteed to be good, and they didn’t let me down. The animation was gorgeous and the story was well told. All in all, I’d definitely recommend it :) I also finished the Hunger Games trilogy. I won’t give anything away, but I was actually kind of disappointed with the ending. It seemed like a bit of a letdown after all that buildup. Nonetheless, it was a good story and a really easy read; I finished the third book in all of two days, and that’s only because I had school and other things to do. There’s a ton of hype about the upcoming movie and I think I might actually see it now that I’ve read the books. I’m always disappointed though when they turn books into movies. There’s just so much more you can do with your imagination that you can’t do on-screen and I’m invariably sad because they missed out one of my favourite scenes or something. But hope springs eternal. Maybe this one will be good.

What else do I do when I’m not super stressed out about things? I cook!

These coconut macaroons are possibly the easiest cookie I’ve ever made. They’re egg whites, coconut, almond essence and sugar. That’s it. And they’re delicious! A bit sticky and quite sweet, so next time I might tone down the sugar a little, but if you love coconut like I do you’ll love these. The recipe is from fitsugar.

Coconut Almond Macaroons

Ingredients

2 egg whites
2 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup Sucanat (or turbinado sugar) – I used raw sugar cubes and smashed them until they were fine. Quite therapeutic. I can’t see why these wouldn’t work with regular sugar though.
Pinch of salt
1 tsp almond extract
Sliced almonds (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Separate the egg whites and place them in a bowl.
  3. Pour in all the other ingredients into bowl with egg whites and mix them well.
  4. Drop spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet, about an inch or two apart. If you want to add some almonds, sprinkle them in the middle of each cookie and gently press them in.
  5. Bake until light brown, about 12 to 15 minutes.
  6. Allow them to cool on the pan for at least five minutes before removing with a spatula (if you try to remove them right out of the oven, they’ll break apart). I made about 18 cookies.

Inspired by my cookies, I decided to make dinner too.

I made healthy onion rings – yes, it’s possible! Admittedly, they don’t have the grease and glory of their deep-fried cousins, but they also won’t cause clogged arteries and you can eat as many of them as you want. I didn’t mind them at all for a baked onion ring. I also made browned butter balsamic vinegar asparagus, which I think is one of my favourite vegetables ever. They’re so delicious.

The recipe for onion rings can be found here. The asparagus, which I started eating before I could take a picture of it, is really easy to make. Simply put your asparagus on a baking pan, drizzle with salt, pepper and olive oil, and stick in the oven at 400 for twelve minutes. While they’re cooking, melt two tablespoons of butter in a saucepan for about three minutes until it starts to turn brown. Remove from heat and add a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar and two teaspoons of soy sauce. Drizzle over the asparagus when they’re out of the oven. Drool and inhale.

It’s gonna be a busy week! Good thing I now have macaroons to keep me going.

I’d fight through The Fray for a sandwich

Midterms = complete! After this week, all I had energy for tonight was a huge dinner with my family and my butt settled comfortably into my couch. I’m now very happily full and enjoying a very lazy Friday night.

I went to go see The Fray last Sunday. I like their music quite a bit so I had high expectations, and they met them for the most part. It was a great show, lots of energy in the audience and the band put on an excellent performance. I think I was a little disappointed because my favourite songs by them are mostly slow ones, and they performed a lot of the higher-energy ones. But overall it was still a really good show and I’m glad I went.

Other than that, I’ve had a relatively unexciting week. I did have one of the best sandwiches of my life on Thursday at Meat and Bread, on Cambie and Hastings. They only offer four different sandwiches a day. I had the porchetta – it was this amazing concoction of bread and pork roast and I am practically drooling just thinking about it.

So good. I’m feeling sleepy, so I’m going to end this post and enjoy the rest of my Friday night doing absolutely nothing before I have to start working again tomorrow.