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.

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Green Monsters Galore

Apparently, “no pain, no gain” applies to comp sci homework as well – my head hurts from staring at my screen and praying for the right numbers to come up in Terminal. Who knew CS was so similar to [insert violent sport where they use that saying here]. Or really any of those sports with the big burly men who roar about how if they’re not in agony, they’re not doing it right. (In my opinion, they’re doing it very, very wrong, but what do I know?)

What makes up for it? I had two green monsters enter my life today :)

ANDROID PYJAMAS YO!

God, I’m such a Google fangirl. I think I actually disgust myself sometimes.

I’m part of a mentorship program for Google, so they sent me some pretty sweet pjs for helping them out. I may work for the best company ever. And nobody could ever deny that the little green android robots are freaking adorable. (Should I mention I have two sitting on my desk..?)

My second monster of the day:

My first green monster smoothie! I’m trying to be a little more conscious of what I eat during the day – mostly so that when I go out I don’t feel so guilty about it – and jumping on the smoothie bandwagon seems to be a good way to get more fruits and veggies in my diet. Despite the fact that it looks like something Frankenstein might drink, this was actually really delicious! I guessed at my ingredient proportions, but this is roughly what I put in:

Green Monster Smoothie

2/3 cup chocolate almond milk

1 frozen banana

1 tbsp chia seeds

1 tbsp peanut butter

2 handfuls spinach

Smoothies are pretty easy to tweak – I used chocolate almond milk because I happened to have some on hand, but you could probably throw lots of things in there: any type of milk, yogurt, berries…the key seems to be banana and spinach though. Nom. My new breakfast. Plus, I’m usually a zombie in the mornings, but I had a ton of energy this morning despite poor sleep. Coincidence? Or green monster superpower? Or perhaps I was simply all energized because I was excited that my pjs were arriving today. Knowing me, that’s totally plausible.

“Twee” just seems appropriate.

I think I’ve discovered my new obsession: mini muffins!

When I was down in Seattle I bought a mini-muffin tin. I love muffins but they’re essentially like eating cakes, so I figured that having them in smaller form seems to be a better way of practicing portion control than my usual method of eating half a muffin, then really wanting the second half and capitulating ten minutes later (unless I get carried away and inhale multiple because they’re so small.) Also, as soon as anything goes mini, it gets way cuter. Trust me.

As per usual, my procrastination often takes the form of baking, so I decided to take a break from my homework and try out my new pan. As I said, I tend to devour muffins like they’re the last food on earth, so I wanted to make something a bit healthier so that I at least reaped some nutritional benefits while shoving them into my mouth two at a time.

Enter: banana chia nut mini muffins!

This was a super easy recipe, but I don’t feel too guilty about eating them because they have some pretty good stuff in there – chia seeds and nonfat greek yogurt being my personal all-stars. And even better – they are absolutely DELICIOUS. Nommmmmmmmmm.

I found the recipe online at Ingredients Inc, but I’ve pasted it here for your viewing pleasure.

Chia Banana-Nut Muffins

Makes 48 mini-muffins – not sure about regular sized

Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt – I just used normal salt
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 large eggs
11/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1 (6-ounce) container nonfat Greek yogurt (I used vanilla because that’s all I had, but plain would be fine too)
1 to 2 tablespoons chia seeds
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, butter, eggs, bananas, yogurt, chia seeds, vanilla and walnuts, if desired, in a large bowl, mixing well. Pour batter into lightly greased muffin pans coated with cooking spray. (My note: She says to mix well, but muffins tend to get hard if you mix them too long. Personally, I mixed all the wet ingredients in one bowl, the dry ingredients in another, and then folded the two together until it was just combined.)
3. Bake at 350° for 22 to 25 minutes for regular muffins and 13-15 minutes for mini muffins or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.

Which one is not like the other?

My peace-sign of a mixing bowl.

Proceed to devour.

The only thing I can think of when I look at these things is the word “twee.” They are just so damn cute. It’s ridiculous.

Me Day

This past week has been absolutely horrendous in terms of everything. A combination of many factors, including too much homework and too little sleep, means I have been cranky all week long (so sorry to those of you who had to put up with me. That blank look on my face should not have been interpreted as anger, but rather as the zombie face of someone who is about to pass out.)

I culminated my week with a terrible Friday, so I was really glad that I had plans to go out with my girls for the last Dine Out of the season. Tear, tear. We went to Mills Marine Bistro, down on West Cordova by the water. It was pretty delicious actually – I had mussels, salmon and chocolate torte. I would definitely recommend it. I was also very amused by how they renamed their shots – for example, they called a “dirty hooker” shot an “unkempt street corner pro.” Someone making the menu had some fun. I also tried Shizen-ya on Thursday for lunch. They had an interesting menu, but I was really craving noodles, so I had udon and salmon with black sesame. Nom.

When I rolled out of bed this morning, half heartedly thinking of the homework I should do, the little workers in my brain held a rebellion. Essentially, they picketed off the section of my brain that does homework, and held up signs saying: “TAKE A DAY OFF OR YOU ARE GOING TO DIE.” Well, what can you do when the teeny workers in your head revolt? You gotta listen to them, right? (I mean, who knows what damage they could do.)

So, what do I do when I’m not sitting in my room glued to my homework? I had a nice long breakfast with my mom. It was beautiful outside, so I went for a run (“ohgodthankyousomuch” said the little brain worker who takes care of how fat I feel). I did some of my easier homework (reading for English) – and then I cooked. I love cooking, I really do – I just rarely have time. One of my favourite food blogs is smittenkitchen.com (which everyone should check out), so I made some pretty awesome brownies:

They’re white and dark chocolate brownies, made by cutting out the middles of brownie squares and swapping them. The white chocolate ones actually taste a lot like tapioca, for some reason. It made less than the recipe said because I had to cut them bigger in order to make room for my cookie cutter, since I have some serious accuracy issues. Regardless, nom! The recipe is at http://smittenkitchen.com/2011/02/white-and-dark-hearted-brownies/. I also prepped buttermilk roast chicken and beer mustard cheesy pull apart bread for tomorrow. Hopefully they turn out.

I’ve pretty much tired myself out now, but it’s a good kind of tired, as opposed to the tired where I want to lie down in the fetal position. I think I forgot how important it is to take some time once in a while to do things you love to do. We hear it all the time, but despite our busyness we still need to occasionally stop and smell the roses, so to speak. Maybe I’ll be back to being super stressed out tomorrow – it’s very possible, since now I have do all my work tomorrow – but I just feel better today than I have all week.

Plus, I just got a mental image of the little workers in my brain wearing sunglasses and big straw hats as they laze by a pool (a pool in my brain…er…don’t think about it too much). Lucky little dudes.

In Which Maple Bacon Ice Cream is Made and Devoured

I seem to have had a very food-filled week. Actually, that can be said about a lot of my weeks, so let’s rephrase. I have had a deliciously food-filled week, in which I have probably gained five pounds – but have also restrained myself from succumbing to an emotional maelstrom of general down–in-the-dumps-ness, due to the several stress points in my life at the moment. You know those people who use food as a crutch? I happen to be guilty of having one underneath each arm. Hey, it keeps me upright.

I would like to focus on one of the highlights of my week, and my oddest and most delicious concoction to date: maple bacon ice cream.

I got the idea from a maple bacon doughnut I had in Portland, Oregon. I was fully expecting it to be disgusting, but it turned out to be amazing – and so when my friend came over today with her ice cream maker, we decided to take a leap of faith in the magic of my doughnut and attempt to replicate it in ice cream form. We got a lot of disgusted looks from my family … until they tried it.

It was a pretty easy recipe, actually. All you had to do was caramelize the bacon with a glaze of maple syrup and brown sugar and stick it into the oven for about half an hour, turning every ten minutes and reglazing. The ice cream we made was pretty simple as well. I was using good ol’ Aunt Jemima’s, which isn’t really that strong in terms of maple flavour, so we upped the amount it called for in the recipe to make it more maple-y. We probably ended up using a bit over half a cup.

Once the ice cream was made, and the bacon bits were chopped, we mixed it all together for something absolutely AMAZING.

We made a whole bowl of it, thinking that it’d be dessert for the next few days. We are funny people. The entire bowl vanished in about fifteen minutes once I introduced my father and sister to our ice cream’s glory and magnificence. If you have a ice cream maker and even the slightest inclination towards salty-sweet combinations, you have to make this.

Maple Bacon Ice Cream (adapted from food.com)

Candied Bacon

  • 8 slices bacon
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

Maple Ice Cream

  • 2 cups half-and-half cream
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup vanilla sugar
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
(My notes: We upped the maple syrup to a little over 1/2 a cup, and substituted vanilla sugar for 1/3 cup sugar and 1 tsp. of vanilla extract.)

Directions

  1. Bacon: Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix the 1 tablespoon of syrup and the 1/4 cup brown sugar to form a paste. Lay the bacon out on a cooling rack on a lined sheet pan (lining the sheet pan will save you some nasty clean up.) Spread the paste on one side of the bacon and then bake for 10 minutes. Pull out bacon and turn each slice over. Spread the paste on the other side of the bacon and put back in the oven for another 10 minutes. Pull bacon out and turn it over again, then bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until bacon is evenly glazed. Cool completely and chop into little pieces.
  2. Maple ice cream: Combine all of the ingredients except for the bacon in a medium sauce pan and heat to 170°F. Let cool completely and add to ice cream maker. Follow the ice cream maker directions for your particular model. When the ice cream has the consistency of a soft serve, stir in the bacon and freeze for a few hours. Devour.

To follow up my ice cream extravaganza, I went to my aunt’s for a belated Chinese New Year dinner with my family. We had one of my favourite new year dishes, crispy pork – can you tell I’ll never be a vegetarian? We also had stuffed duck, chicken with ginger, jai (which I have no idea how to spell, but it’s basically glass noodles and veggies), salmon…and finished it up with tiramisu, banana bread, and this really delicious Chinese dessert that I have no idea how to spell or describe. It sounds something like lai go, but I’m probably bastardizing it in writing. Like many Chinese words I know, I can say them but writing them is a stretch. Essentially, it’s almost like mochi – it’s very starchy and sweet and sticky. For some reason, the packaging looked like a fish.

As a result of today, I am currently lying in bed in a food coma.

My other honourable mention of the week: I fulfilled one of my Dine Out wishes and went to Beachside Forno in West Van on Friday night. I had onion and chicken soup, parmesan gnocchi and a strawberry cheesecake parfait for dessert. The portions were a bit small, but the flavours were delicious. I was a little disappointed by the “flan” in my soup – it turned out to be this small square in the middle of the bowl, no bigger than my thumb (though yummy despite its size deficiency). But the strawberry parfait completely made up for it – it was heaven in a glass.

Somehow I have managed to fill up this entire blog post with food: I’m sorry for making you hungry. But somehow, I think a post on food is preferable to my trailing thoughts about what I should write about in my essay on a medieval poem called the Confessio Amantis, written in middle English. Just my opinion.

Year of the Dragon

Happy Chinese New Year everyone! Unfortunately, due to my complete lack of obvious Asian features, nobody outside of my family remembered that I was Chinese and wished me a happy new year. Nonetheless, it’s the year of the dragon, and I feel like that makes it a good year for travelling. Dragons are all adventurous and such, right? (Mind you, they also have the advantage of being able to torch anybody who pisses them off, so that probably helps with the bravery factor.)

I had a pretty busy weekend, which was probably a good thing, as it kept me from lying on the couch and devouring cookies. Speaking of which, though, I discovered the perfect cure for a bad day on Friday night:

My friend and I made some pretty spectacular ginger-ninjas, and they were delicious and the perfect cure for sadness. I tried a new recipe that had butterscotch pudding mix, and the cookies turned out only mildly gingery but very soft and just yummy in general. I prefer soft cookies anyways, so if anybody wants the recipe (from http://www.food.com):

Gingerbread Men

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 egg
  • 100 g butterscotch pudding mix
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, cream together the dry butterscotch pudding mix, butter, and brown sugar until smooth. In a separate bowl, stir in the egg. Combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, and cinnamon then stir into the pudding mixture until dough forms. Cover bowl and chill dough until firm, about 1 hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 175°C.
  3. Grease a baking sheet. On a floured board, roll dough out to around a 1/4 inch thickness and cut into man shapes using a cookie cutter (can also use Christmas trees, Santas, circles etc). Place cookies 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.
  4. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, until cookies are golden at the edges. Cool on wire racks. Pipe royal icing to detail the men once cookies are cool. Can be stored in a container in the fridge for a week.

I think next time I make them I’ll put extra ginger in to spice them up a little. Also, if you want more than 15 or so, I’d double the recipe.

I may have eaten a few too many of them though, because I had an interesting experience Saturday morning. I had to volunteer at a leadership conference for school, so Saturday morning I duly got up, showered, put my contacts in, fed my bunny, and was standing in my bedroom when I happened to glance at the clock and discover the first clue of my insanity. It was 3:00 in the morning.

The second clue was when I suddenly realized it was still very dark outside. The third was when I thought a little more, and really couldn’t remember getting out of bed and into the shower. In fact, as I stood dazed and sleepy in the middle of the room, I could barely remember how I had gotten there. For a girl who hates getting up early, it is a very disorienting thing to have taken a shower in the wee hours of the morning. After standing there for about five minutes trying to force my sleep-drugged brain into figuring out what the hell I was doing, I took out my contacts, put my pjs back on, and crawled back into bed. My only theory is that I was sleepwalking, or something, which has never happened before. At least it makes a good story.

I made up for my poor start by going for Dine Out on Saturday night at the Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. on Main Street, where I had the best salad of my life: it was fig and goat cheese, and it was AMAZING. I’m going to try really hard to reproduce it. The pizza was delicious too – it wasn’t greasy and everything tasted really fresh. Om nom nom. I love good food. It was probably the highlight of my weekend, as I spent the rest of it fighting battles with Scheme for my AI assignment. (And like the dragon, I conquered! Take that, Scheme.)