Cupcakes and Carolina BBQ sauce (weekly recap)

We’re wrapping up a long weekend here in Canada, and it’s been glorious. A bit of twenty degree weather, celebrating a friend’s birthday with a (physically distanced) bonfire on Saturday night, and a nice run along the river this morning.

The recipe highlight of the week was definitely our mother-daughter recipe club pick: these Raspberry Ricotta cupcakes from Food52. We ate them for dessert with whipped cream to top, but calling them muffins and having them for breakfast would also be completely acceptable. I had to bake them for around 24 minutes and mom confirmed a 25 minute bake time. They came out light and the M-word and fluffy. I think they’ll be a staple in our house.

And a dark horse: these apple bran muffins, recipe from Robin Hood flour. So much sweetness from the apples and raisins. I’ll absolutely be saving this recipe for future use.

I also tried my hand at Saag Paneer for the first time, using this recipe from the Food Network. Used store-bought paneer. Flavours were spot on, and the spinach made me feel virtuous. However, I found the recipe a bit time consuming for a weeknight dinner.

The husband and I biked up to a local brewery yesterday afternoon — not to burn off the aforementioned indulgences, but to make room for their fried chicken poutine, with Carolina BBQ sauce. We took it (along with some beers) to a bench overlooking a golf course and chowed down. YUM!

I’m on what I hope to be the second last (or even the last) set of revisions on my novel before I send it for a manuscript review. It’s been slow going, but each time I get to the end, I feel like my protagonist’s wants and needs start to crystallize a little more in my mind. The main issue at this point is the word count: coming in just shy of 130k words, it’s well above the ~80k acceptable word count for a YA novel. Time to get ruthless with my darlings.

Three things I’m thinking about right now:

  • This Instagram thread from Gretchen Rubin. Some of mine are: a made bed, the gallery wall above my desk, and the first sip of coffee after a long run on Saturday morning.
  • Because we always have leftover tortillas
  • A thoughtful list of ideas for making people feel loved from afar. I especially like the idea of the Spotify playlist.

Honorable mention, this cake. On that note, have week!

Life-changing cookies (weekly recap)

I know I keep saying this, but seriously, Alison Roman’s salted butter and chocolate chunk shortbread cookies are life-changing. I can’t stop eating them. They’re perfect.

The cookies were this week’s mother-daughter recipe club pick, and my parents loved them as well. My mom made half of her batch with butterscotch chips, but declared chocolate victorious. That’s because Alison knows (see the stew for another recipe from her hall of fame).

I also tried this avocado banana toast (yes, you read that right). It was…not as weird as I expected, but I probably won’t make it again unless I serendipitously have a ripe avocado, a ripe banana, and some of my husband’s homemade bread just begging to be toasted. And even then…

Saturday night was homemade pizza with fresh dough from our local grocery store. After years of trying to wrangle our dough off of a cutting board and onto a pizza stone — nights that have always ended in cursing and sometimes even threats of divorce — my husband and I discovered that we haven’t been using enough flour for rolling and transfer. Marriage fixed! Then I cut his hair, and things were ruined again. I mean, I think the bald spot looks nice, but it’s an agree to disagree sort of scenario.

I tried this kale salad to go with our pizza last night (starting to work my way through this list of the 20 supposedly greatest recipes of all time), and did not find it life-changing. Although, I subbed in parsley for basil, so this might have been why.

It snowed today, which called for a simmering bolognese sauce (also from above list) which was, um, also not life-changing (but still good!). I think my palate has been ruined by the cookies.

There’s really not much else to report, except lots of wonderful little things. Biking to a local brewery to fill up a growler on Saturday afternoon, then cracking it on a secluded bench overlooking the city on Saturday. Skyping with my parents on Mother’s Day. Zoom workouts. Making daily improvements on my malasana squat. Reading Eleanor & Park in bed each night. Slowly getting through the fifth draft of my novel. Oh, and watching my husband feed peanuts to the friendly neighbourhood squirrel.

Three things I’m thinking about this week:

Happy Mother’s Day, and have a wonderful week!


Reading in bed (mundane delights)

I had forgotten how much I love reading for the love of reading. Not with the explicit purpose of learning or taking notes to come back to later, just for the pure joy of it.

I usually try to get in a few pages of fiction before bed, but I’ve been completely out of my usual reading routine for the past several months, instead scrolling through the news, social media, saved self help articles before I doze off into COVID dreams. Or some nights I just work until after my bedtime and then fall straight into sleep.

Last weekend, one of my writing buddies recommended I read Eleanor & Park…which I actually received as a gift from a close friend years ago (side note: can we talk about how great books as gifts are sometime??). I decided to start reading it last year, then got busy at work and never got back into it. So, it’s just been collecting dust in my nightstand since then.

I opened it up on Sunday night and gave myself thirty minutes to get back into it. SO MUCH JOY! It’s hilarious and also devastating, and I’m only a quarter of the way through. I’ve been looking forward to joining the book in bed every night, which has also had the benefit of keeping me on track with my 10pm bedtime.

What are you reading right now?

Biking and baking (weekly recap)

Short and sweet recap this week.

I made these halloumi eggplant burgers from the Kitchn (on pretzel buns leftover from last weekend), and they were delicious. My mom made them too, but she added meat patty. Yes. Yes, she did. Legend.

For our formal ‘recipe club’, mom and I tried these caramel slices from Recipe Tin Eats this week. I’m not a huge fan of caramel slices — if I’m going to eat something with the caloric density of butter then Nanaimo Bars 4 Life — but they turned out exactly as advertised and have been well received by recipients!

Last night we cooked up some Cheemo perogies (boiled then pan-fried, if you’re wondering) along with BBQ’d bratwursts and the first cabbage dish from this blog post. I’m here for cabbage’s fifteen minutes of fame and can’t wait to try the other recipes from the post.

I got out on my bike for the first time this year, and used it to make a (contactless) beer and baked good delivery to a friend.

I’ve been keeping up well with my daily exercise, my stretching, and my malasana squat attempts, and this has me motivated to work on improving other aspects of my physical health. Like many others, I wake up every morning with back pain…quite possibly related to my sleeping position. Any other side sleepers out there? My husband says my neck and shoulders always look like they’re contorted into impossible positions whenever he wakes up and stares at me — Bridget Jones Style — in the middle of the night. So, I’m going to try and train myself to sleep on my back.

We’ll see how that goes.

Now, without further ado, here are three things I’m thinking about this week:

  • An interesting read. I came for the wolves, and left musing over the following (reminiscent of Life of Pi for me):

“Does an event have to be true in order to be accepted as true, or does belief in the truth of an event already make it true, even if the thing that supposedly happened did not happen?”

Have a great week and don’t forget to call your mother (or anyone you look up to) next Sunday!

New recipes (mundane pleasures)

Seven weeks into quarantine and I’m still gaining confidence in the kitchen and getting a thrill from trying new recipes. It will probably end at some point (when the food runs out at the grocery store?), but for now why not keep riding the wave?

I have yet to try any of the alleged ‘20 Greatest Recipes of All Time‘ posted on Cup of Jo today!

Anyone else up for cooking their way through the list? The Alison Roman cookies are already on my radar for next week (as part of the weekly recipe club I’m doing with my mom).



Tofu, solved (weekly recap)

I have figured out how to make tofu palatable for my husband.

I’m a bit remedial when it comes to experimenting with tofu. I’ve just recently started pressing it aggressively — as all of the recipe websites tell you to do — but I wasn’t finding that it made a huge difference. Why wasn’t it getting all nice and crispy like at the restaurants?

Cue this recipe from Minimalist Baker (adapted from the Kitchn). I didn’t actually make the full recipe from the post, but I copied Dana’s strategy: pressed my tofu under a massive stack of cookbooks, marinated it in equal parts maple syrup, soy sauce, and chili garlic sauce for ~1h and then dredged in cornstarch and pan fried in some Canola oil.

“This is the only good tofu you’ve ever made!” my husband exclaimed, and I knew we had a winner.

I didn’t use much cornstarch for the dredging (it was more of a light douse), and I’d probably use more next time to make it even crispier (or try the OG Kitchn method, which does not involve a marinade), but the flavours were great. 

Now I just need to find a recipe for peanut sauce that tastes like it does in the restaurants. Any recommendations? 

While I’m raving about recipes, my mom suggested we try these no-yeast cinnamon buns, made with 2-ingredient dough (from Big Man’s World) for our recipe club this week. I was skeptical. So skeptical. And surprisingly more because of the ingredients list than because the recipe was from a site called ‘Big Man’s World’. But mom wanted to make them, so off I went, mixing flour and salt and Greek yogurt (yes, it is actually a three ingredient dough, but I’ll let it slide because you know what, these were effing delicious!). The dough was easy to work with (I only swore once while rolling it out), the whole thing took less than an hour, including baking and clean-up, and if you’ve ever made traditional cinnamon buns then you probably know that it’s a bigger undertaking than trying to get a large family to Disneyland (not that I’ve ever tired to get a large family to Disneyland, but I imagine it’s both labour- and time-intensive).

Anyway, if you’re craving cinnamon buns and want them quick, I HIGHLY recommend this recipe. I had leftover (store-bought) icing from Easter carrot cake so I didn’t make the icing, but the buns themselves stand up even without icing. We had five of them in a tupperware on the counter as of noon yesterday, and they were gone by 8pm. I will now remind you that our household consists of two adult humans with no children, and no pets.

Last week’s culinary adventures also involved this chickpea curry with fried halloumi, which, for us, was just so-so. Obviously you can’t go wrong with halloumi, but otherwise it felt pretty bland.

Finally, tonight we made shrimp po’boys on pretzel buns, using Alton Brown’s failsafe (and delicious) pretzel recipe. It was…quite possibly the best thing we’ve ever made. I mean, I’m sure it wasn’t, but it was delicious.

In other news, the snow finally relented, and it got up to 19 degrees this week! I hit the trails for three glorious outdoor runs while listening to My Dark Vanessa on audiobook (creepy and icky but keeping me entertained so far), and the lighter days have just generally had me feeling more positive.

On that note, here’s three things I’m thinking about for this week:

  • This has been said by many people and in many different ways, but it bears repeating: if you want your work to be good, figure out what you give a damn about.
  • I have not been taking care of my mind garden, or ectopic grey matter as one of my medical school preceptors once called it.
  • Maybe we’ll just have a snack plate for dinner one night. That peanut chutney looks gooood.

Have a delicious week!

Longer, warmer days (mundane pleasures)

It’s been up above zero for the past three days! I went for a run at 5:45am yesterday and it was already getting light and 10 degrees Celsius!

I’ve become hyper aware of weather and circadian rhythms during COVID (I’m sure I’m not the only one), and it’s making these first signs of spring seem even sweeter.

Have a happy (and mundane) Wednesday!

Home brew pubs and recipe clubs (weekly recap)

Food and exercise (okay, mostly food) has reigned supreme again in our household this week.

After my husband smoked two chickens last weekend, we had a lot of leftovers, so I made this simple taco soup, subbing in shredded smoked chicken for pulled pork. The recipe uses mostly pantry staples and it comes together quick and without much fuss. Tasty too (especially with alllll the toppings), although I’d like to try adding some chipotle peppers with adobo sauce next time for a bit more depth.

On Friday, my husband made jalapeno cheddar stuffed burgers with sweet potato fries (SO GOOD!), and we ordered donairs from what is quickly becoming our favourite take-out joint on Saturday night. We had a few beer deliveries from local breweries throughout the week, and had some fun trying a few of them on Friday and Saturday night. I’m loving all of the sessionable options out there right now.

I started a recipe club with my mom, and we made these Blueberry Maple Bran Muffins for our first recipe. Mom said hers turned out great. I used oat milk instead of regular milk and may have overbaked mine, but for whatever reason they came out a bit on the dry side. We’ve got no-yeast cinnamon buns are on the docket for this week.

For dinner tonight, I tried this crispy chickpea and halloumi curry, which was meh (except for the bites of halloumi, which are always delicious), along with my staple recipe for homemade naan. We found out that tomorrow is our neighbour’s birthday, so some cookies were in order. I tried these rather finnicky but genius ones from Sally’s Baking Addiction. So. Worth. It. Even if they did take half the day to make. The neighbour probably doesn’t need any…

Some non-food highlights from the week were getting to run outside today because it finally stopped snowing (and got up to 13 celsius!), my midweek pilates class (who knew 45 minutes of basically stretching could make one feel so good), and catching up with two of my closest doctor girlfriends over Zoom on Thursday night (with wine, of course).

As we head into a new week, here are some things I’m thinking about:

  • This quote about how not everyone needs to do pandemic-related work during the pandemic, from Conor White-Sullivan, founder of a cool note-taking app called Roam Research (full interview available here):

“Instead, I think it’s a crazy opportunity for people to do deep work, because a lot of the other normal distractions of daily life have been removed. Isaac Newton basically invented calculus when he was in quarantine, Shakespeare wrote King Lear. There are lots of good precedents of people being able to do wild work because they had the time alone with their thoughts. So I don’t think right now is a time for people to just suddenly be like, “I’m going to address this plague.” But I do think it’s a time where people can think about what comes after this. The world is going to look really different.”

  • A reminder that learning requires focus…I know this, but it’s so easy to get caught up in multitasking, so I need constant reminders
  • I’m pretty sure I have the world’s tightest hips, so one of my goals is to be able to do malasana pose (i.e. a deep squat) by the end of this pandemic. I’m practicing every day and making very slow process

Have a wonderful week!

Pelvic tilts (mundane pleasures)

This is my thing where I post every Wednesday about something mundane that has delighted me this week.

I hit up a virtual pilates class (offered by my wonderful gym…anyone can sign up for a drop-in) today at lunch. It felt so indulgent to lie on my yoga mat doing pelvic tilts and hundreds throughout the noon hour in the midst of a busy (virtual) clinic day.

I never thought I’d be a pilates person, but I’m loving it right now.