Training to Live

living and learning, one day at a time

aaaaaand we’re back

hopefully to regularly scheduled programming. the end of 2009 was a whirlwind, and sadly i guess that sharing some of it now seems pointless (like what i baked for christmas this year) but. maybe not! maybe a picture or two and a list will be helpful, even if just helpful for me for next year! plus christmas cookies are pretty.

baking this year went sort of out of control. i was a madwoman in december. usually when i get an idea into my head, i cannot be stopped. i see an interesting recipe or project on the internet and. i MUST MAKE IT. this is one of the major reasons that i bite off more than i can chew and have problems simplifying. the project did not go without a few lessons though. next year i will make a short list and stick to it as closely as possible. i will try to focus more on taste than on perfect appearance (because really, the gorgeous sugar cookies and gingerbread people that i spent hours decorating were hardly noticed as people were just popping the cookies into their mouths. it wasn’t until december 29 that my mother realized that all my gingerbread girls had a beachy theme!). this is part of my overall goal to reduce stress and become a more easy going, happier person. i also learned that dipping truffles in a chocolate shell, while really yummy, is not worth my time/frustration. next year i will make less fudge and more gingerbread, more shortbread jam cookies and more candied orange peel. i will make fewer sugar cookies and decorate them less crazily (because although the icing is gorgeous, it is a little hard and makes the cookie less enjoyable to eat). i will make molly’s peppermint bark again, because it was beautiful, a bit hit, and not very time consuming. remind me.

here is the final tally:

  • fudge, peanut butter and dark chocolate
  • sugar cookies – christmas trees, santa hats and stockings (which i also personalized with names for my work goodie bags) – martha stewart cookie book
  • gingerbread boys and girls – martha stewart cookie book
  • jam thumbprints (a last minute add on, but a HUGE hit. helped that i used homemade jam) this recipe is awesome
  • peppermint bark (see above)
  • candied orangettes (so good i plan to make more this month) these were a lot of work – many steps and much time but worth every minute
  • mocha truffles (which were not terribly mocha though – my fault – they were delicious. next time i will try for a bigger buzz boost)
  • chocolate sugar cookie stars – martha stewart cookie book

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ok so that was more than just a picture or two! aren’t the gingerbread people cute?

next posts up will feature some travel stories and how i will be spending many sunny winter afternoons.

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January 11, 2010 at 9:07 pm Comments (8)

chewy chocococoa craziness

i learned an important lesson this evening: do not try to do math in your head on the fly as you go between laptop in the living room (where the recipe is) to the kitchen (where the baking happens). this can only result in disaster. today i decided to make up a batch of these chewy double chocolate cookies for snacks and to take to a party we’re going to on saturday. i intended to double the recipe (because it’s pretty small and only yields about 20 cookies. i always double it), but right after the first step of combining the butter with the sugars, i realized i had accidentally quadrupled the amount of butter. so i decided to suck it up and just quadruple the whole thing. i do not recommend this. somewhere the math got fuzzy. when i got to the yogurt, i doubled the amount required. then i doubled that. and then i doubled it again as i was mixing the batter and it seemed too dry.

disaster, right?

wrong. it seems to have actually worked out ok. i baked two cookie sheets worth of cookies (and have at least 4 more in the bowl in the fridge). the cookies look super chocolatey and quite moist. they are soft, but structurally intact. i haven’t tasted yet (since i had more than my fill of tastes from the batter and am quite chocolated out), but this recipe has not failed me yet in over two years of baking it regularly. as you can see, it is quite forgiving. i have made all kinds of variations on it, sometimes putting peppermint extract instead of vanilla, sometimes using white chocolate, sometimes semisweet (tonight i used milk chocolate chips that i got on sale), sometimes i substitute some chocolate for dried cherries or cranberries, sometimes i use chopped up chocolate bar (snickers, mars, etc) after halloween, sometimes i decorate with m&ms. sometimes i don’t. this is the little black dress of cookies, i think. they also require only 1 bowl and 1 wooden spoon. (when you make a quadruple batch, the stirring is a workout for your arms!)

i got this from orangette back in 2007 and i never looked back. i’ve never been disappointed by anything molly makes! i still have her delightful new book, sitting on my shelf, waiting to be devoured, just like my cookies will be when jon gets home tomorrow ;-)

Chewy Cocoa Cookies with Chocolate Chips
Adapted from Alice Medrich

(i’ve gone ahead and doubled the amounts for you. you’ll definitely want more than 20 cookies)

2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1 cup. unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup plain yogurt, preferably not low- or nonfat
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1cup chocolate chips or other mix in

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. (i usually just dump these into a strainer above the bowl with the wet ingredients to cut down on dirty dishes. sifts and mixes in one step)

Place the butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl, and microwave briefly, until just melted. Add the sugars, and sift in the cocoa. Stir to blend well. The mixture will be somewhat thick and pasty, like wet sand. Add the yogurt and vanilla and stir to mix thoroughly. Add the dry flour mixture, and stir to just combine. Add the chocolate chips and stir to incorporate.

Drop the dough by generous tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheet. (I use my tablespoon-size measuring spoon to scoop and shape the dough into little domes. Rinsing the spoon regularly helps to keep the dough from sticking, and leaving the spoon slightly wet after each rinsing helps too.) Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies have crackled slightly and look set. Transfer the sheet pan to a wire rack, and cool the cookies on the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer them to the rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

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i couldn’t resist tasting! they are super super moist, very brownie like, and extremely chocolatey (i love the milk chocolate chips! will definitely repeat). they are somewhat on the soft/fragile side, so i will have to be careful with transportation, but i am confident that everyone at work will be my friend when i take these in tomorrow.

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November 19, 2009 at 9:33 pm Comments (0)

when only a piece of pie will do

remember this from yesterday?

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the interwebs lied! i came home with a splitting headache after a long long day of conference attending. why can’t our conferences be more fun-like. like blogher or the healthy living summit? i missed my bus stop coming home (am not used to taking the bus home in the pitch dark and just did not see my street) and had to walk an extra half mile. not cool.

only a piece of pie will do. (i know i know, this doesn’t really go with the principles for happiness from yesterday, but i probably would have had some pie regardless of how crappy i felt anyway, since i have pie, and it needs to be consumed before it goes bad!)

i am particularly proud of this pie. sure, it’s just another step on my journey to making better pies, but it was my first time doing a lattice top and i think it turned out pretty awesome. recipe from bella eats. the filling wound up ridiculously sweet, but i suspect this was my fault for straight substituting brown sugar for turbinado. silly me. i skipped the raisins (i don’t have that stupid raisins shirt for nothing!) and used dried craisins instead. aside from the supersweet (which i have discovered pairs very well with a scoop of plain greek yogurt. nice and tart), it was a good pie. i used tapioca flour instead of the quick cook tapioca, and used 50% more, as per my google search. in future, i will use a little more tapioca, because i had more liquid than i’d like after cooking. still, i was mostly thrilled with the results (and very happy with the appearance!) martha’s pâte brisée recipe pulled through, once again!

really. doesn’t this just scream holiday? so tasty

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i should have submitted this for the BSI: dried fruit instead of the nothing that i actually submitted (it was on my google task list, too! i just didn’t get around to it. bugger). i still have about a quarter bushel of gala apples left in my cold store to use up before we buy another half bushel. i smell many more pies in my future. better stock up on butter!

yoga two mornings in a row is awesome, but now my muscles are really feeling it from all the utkatasanas (chair pose) and twists. also. i am on day 4 of nablopomo and still at it.

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November 4, 2009 at 10:01 pm Comments (7)

eat local challenge and other weekend adventures

this week’s meal was kind of the opposite of last week, in that it was sadly shared with no one. i tried to make it every bit as delicious though, even though i was just cooking for myself, as too often when it’s just me, i will supper on the random ingredients of what would be a meal without bothering to properly assemble anything onto a plate.

this ended up taking longer than i planned, but i didn’t have much else to do so i didn’t mind a time-intensive meal. i also made a whole pile of dirty dishes!! thank goodness for the dishwasher.

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yikes.

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the map: green pin on the right – Brockville (onions), dark blue pin – Markham (raspberries), turquoise pin – Richmond Hill (me! bell pepper), yellow pin – Guelph (eggs, zucchini), green pin on left – Innerkip (corn), purple pin – London (wheatberries), red pin – Jordan Station (heirloom tomatoes, peaches)

the raw materials:

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red bell pepper, heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, onion (with dirt from the field!), wheatberries, corn on the cob, another tomato

an “extra gros” (extra large, en français) brown free run egg, peach, raspberries that we picked last weekend

process: sautéed veggies (all except bell pepper) until soft and cooked, grilled corn and simmered wheatberries until satisfactorily chewy. shaved corn into pan of veggies, stirred in wheatberries.

dropped the hollowed out bell pepper into some boiling water for a few minutes until it was soft. preheated the oven (well. it was already on from another project), filled the pepper with the stuffing (and topped with some canadian “parmesan” cheese shavings) and put it into the oven to warm through and have the cheese melt.

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meanwhile: i peeled and sliced up 6 peaches (no easy task!) and cooked them on the stove for about 10 minutes with some (non-local) sugar, water + some ginger for zing. puréed in the blender, chilled in an ice bath, and then threw into the ice cream maker to create some sorbet.

when you’re as much of an ice cream maker as i am, you often find yourself inundated with egg whites. there are only so many omelettes you can handle (though i may have to have one for an eat local meal!) and angel food cake is a fantastic way to use up a whole bunch (12) at once. only the eggs were local, but i figured since they comprised the biggest volume of the entire recipe, the cake could kind of count as a local dessert. i used this recipe. after the cake had cooled, i cut myself a piece, scooped some sorbet on the side, and sprinkled a few of my remaining unjammed, unfrozen freshly picked raspberries. what an end to my meal! (low fat to boot plus LOADED with protein. this makes up for the lack of protein in my main)

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last weekend, in the midst of all our labour day relaxing (a much much needed weekend of rest from a summer’s worth of running around madly), we decided to have another mini farm adventure. we got up bright and early, stopped at our local chez cora’s for some breakfast waffles and hit the u pick farm as soon as it opened for picking (9am). on weekends, the picking rows tend to get really crowded and if you get there too late, you could be out of luck for finding good berries. plus you have to deal with lots of people in and out of your rows and this can sometimes make me cranky!

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i tried to get a picture of my awesome picking getup, but apparently clearly failed (see top right). i had a rainbow belt on my (belt-loop-less pants) holding up a white 4L basket with two quart plastic ziploc containers inside the basket leaving both my hands free for picking. i was advised to do this by my expert picker (top left) who managed to get at least twice as many berries as me (hey, he has had more practice!). this is a fantastic trick and i highly recommend you try this out for any kind of berry picking that involves standing up (i’m not sure it would work so well for strawberries). i remembered my ipod, and rocked out to some feist and imogen heap while i piled my baskets full of fruit.

we got about 12 pounds of berries. i froze 5, made a raspberry pie, 7+ jars of jam (4 all raspberry, 3 raspberry/ginger/peach, inspired by bella eats) and kept a couple quarts out for eating (in smoothies, on yogurt, with granola, on top of angel food cake). yum! at $3.50 per pound, this was a whole lot cheaper than buying raspberries from the farmer’s market, where a pint (approximately half a pound) can go for $4-6 depending on the month. frozen raspberries and the jam will keep me happy through the winter until we can go pick again. it was the perfect way to spend a sunny morning.

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September 13, 2009 at 4:09 pm Comments (9)

R&R

for an only 4 day week, this one was intense! just when i thought it was at the peak of insanity, work got just a little crazier. i cry a little* when i think of all i have to do in the next month or so.
i did get an awesome voicemail message on my phone. it went something like this “hi. we need our report from you. we’ve got our contractor and are ready to go. thanks. bye”. it was golden! she didn’t leave her name, her number or give any indication of the title of the project she was referring to. as far as i know, it could be one of at least 10-15 different reports.

in addition to all the work crazy, my week was also pretty exercise-heavy:
monday – 13km long run
tuesday – pyramid speedwork
wednesday – 45 minutes of biking on my new pedals
thursday – bike 16 miles + 8km tempo run
friday – 30 minutes of swimming
saturdays are supposed to be the day for my long run, but i’m giving my muscles a rest. besides, it is COLD. and also very windy. i’ll wait till tomorrow to bang out the next 15km.

swimming was fantastic. i discovered an olympic size swimming pool a 5 minute walk away from work. admission ranges from 2.50-3.00$ which is a whole lot cheaper than for me to pay $52 a month for the gym membership of which i was only interested in the pool (since i loathe working out at the gym on machines. i just can’t make myself do it) which turned out to be silly small (18 metres??) and not that nice. a 50 metre pool is far more awesome AND there is a lovely big hot tub/jacuzzi thing and a sauna (which i didn’t have time to check out). it melted all of the friday morning stress right away. i plan to go at least once a week from now on. this will be good for cross training and also for any potential triathlons i decide on a whim to do.

i am finally happy and safe with the clipless pedals. if you bike a lot, you should really give these serious consideration. it seems scary at first (and you’ll fall off a couple times, like i did) but once you get it, you’ll have twice as much power! thumbs up.

the boy requested coconut sorbet and roasted pineapple for dessert tonight, so that’s what i’m working on, in addition to the weekly batch of cookies (martha oatmeal/chocolate chip/skor bit) and some granola. we got a bunch of not-so-jumbo pineapples on sale for $2 this week, so i’ve got the dehydrator stacked, and the rest in the fridge waiting for roasting time. i piña coladaed-up the sorbet recipe with a little malibu rum.

the recipe made approximately 1 quart

even though we’re going back into negative celsius territory this week, we’ll be able to pretend we’re in the tropics. coconut sorbet is so freaking easy. 3 ingredients! no ice cream maker required (though i will obviously use mine). i have made it no less than 10 times to varying degrees of fancyness/whimsy (like here). when coconut milk was 57 cents a can, it was by far the cheapest, creamiest treat we could have. cans are up to $1, but for at least 5 servings of delicious sorbet, that’s still pretty good.

my grocery challenge is not going so well. it seems like every time i go to the store, things are more expensive than they were the last time. sticking to $30 has been hard! i am keeping it close to 40 though, which i think is not too bad.

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they turned out a little thin this week. maybe i’ll up the flour and dial back on the butter as per these instructions

dried pineapple rings waiting to be used in homemade meusli, coconut rice, more muffins, or just eaten plain!

*it’s not because i don’t love my job, it’s just that there’s only so much one girl can handle. you know?


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April 4, 2009 at 12:34 pm Comments (6)