Thursday, December 27, 2012

Right Now... & Chocolate Mint Thumbprint Cookies

Right now, I’m living the high-school-senior-life. I go to school, I go home, and I go to work. I’ve stopped going out with friends. I’ve stopped blogging, save for the occasional post, mostly because I’ve stopped baking. Not only do I lack the time, but I generally bring home morethan enough baked goods from work to satiate my sweet tooth.

Right now, I’m in the midst of applying to university. It’s terrifying to think that in half a year, I will be graduating from high school. I remember being in seventh grade thinking that I had years and years and years to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I wasn’t sure then and I’m still not sure now, but after three and a half years of high school, I have a better idea of what I want to do.

But I’m not worried. I have the grades to get me where I want to go right now and I know I’ll figure out the rest along the way. I’ve just received my first offer of admission and I look forward to receiving at least four more (should I actually get around to finishing all my supplementary applications...)

Right now, my mind is shot. I feel stretched thin in all directions, unsure of what to tackle first despite knowing that everything needs to be done, um, now. I’m feeling scatterbrained and unorganized, though I have all the lists in my Moleskine to tell me what to do. 

Right now, I’m contemplating whether or not I should bake another batch of these Chocolate Mint Thumbprint Cookies. They’re kind of hard to resist, especially so because they’re intensely chocolate-y and just the right kind of sweet—bittersweet—and oh-so buttery. Yum.

Click below for the recipe.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Gluten-Free Brownies

noun. A crippling disease that strikes high school seniors. Symptoms include: laziness, an over-excessive wearing of track pants, old athletic shirts, sweatpants, athletic shorts, and sweatshirts. Also features a lack of studying, repeated absences, and a generally dismissive attitude. The only known cure is a phenomenon known as graduation.  

Senioritis has hit me hard... I’ve yet to stoop to wearing sweatpants to school (though they’re the first things I change into when I get home...) and I’m still studying (because I actually want to get into university), but going to class is beginning to require a little bit more motivation.

During the week before winter break, I skipped nine classes. It was somewhat legitimate on Monday, when I figured that I’d use the morning to finish up some assignments. I did get some work done, but somehow, I spent the majority of that time reading The Scarlet Letter (which, by the way, is an amazing book).

On Thursday I woke up feeling gross, kind of headache-y and tired and sniffy. I had been feeling ill on Wednesday, so again, skipping my first three classes was mostly legitimate. After I slept in for another two hours and ate a leisurely lunch, I felt much better.

Then, somehow, I decided it was a good time to make Gluten-Free Brownies for a recently celiac friend since I’d see him the next day—Friday—when we would go rock-climbing. Don’t judge. Mustering up the energy to go to class during that last week before the holidays is incredibly difficult, especially when you’re not actually doing anything important in class.

(Unfortunately, I will not be posting the recipe as it  was passed along to me by my boss, who would rather not share the it online.)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Classic Pumpkin Pie

I love sleep. Unlike all my insomniac teenage friends who can sleep at 3AM on a school night and still stay awake through fourth and fifth period the next day, I tend to feel like crap if I haven’t gotten enough sleep the night before. My head throbs, my eyes sting, and getting out of bed and staying awake becomes a physical challenge.

This year, I’ve made a solid resolution to go to sleep at a respectable hour. I can’t extol enough just how wonderful it is to wake up after a good night’s sleep. The changes are immediate and visible: I no longer sleep through fourth period, I’ve stopped feeling tired all the time, and I don’t snack for the sole purpose to keep myself awake (that often) anymore.

The rest of my family still sleeps late. At 11:30PM when I’m getting ready to hit the hay, my brothers are playing their guitars, my dad is watching a movie downstairs with the surround sound system, and my mom’s clinking the dishes around in the kitchen. Every night, I make the rounds and inform all my family members that it’s late and that they’re loud and that I really want to get some shut-eye.

Being a light sleeper sucks.

One night, I go to sleep particularly early because I have a morning meeting the next day. My brothers stop playing guitar. Within twenty minutes, I’m mostly asleep when the clinking of the dishes from the kitchen downstairs rouses me from my slumber.

I wake up. I’m angry, because whoever’s in the kitchen (my mom) has essentially woken me up from a power nap and I know that it’ll take hours, if not the whole night, to get back to sleep. I know my sleep patterns.

For the next couple hours, I drift in and out of sleep. It’s 4:30AM now. I feel tired, but I still can’t fall sleep. An hour later, I crawl out of bed and go downstairs to eat comfort-eat a slice of Pumpkin Pie. I’m in a bad mood. I accidentally forget to be quiet. My older brother storms down the stairs and yells at me to be quiet.

Click for the recipe below.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Perks of Being an Employee at a Bakery

It was bound to happen sooner or later.

A couple weeks ago, I got a job at a bakery. It’s even a paid job this time, unlike the summer co-op program I had participated in the summer between sophomore and junior year. Sure, it’s a minimum wage job, but the work environment is amazing.

Not only do I get hands on experience in the kitchen, forming croissants and making other baked goods, but I also get to talk to customers on the retail front. The owners are so incredibly kind and instructive and patient. They are passionate about baking and using natural ingredients to create quality products, so it’s no surprise that the pasties and breads are beyond delicious. (Double chocolate croissants? Yes, please!)

I like half an hour walk away from the bakery, but so far, I’ve never had to walk. My mom drops me off and picks me up, and when no one is using the car, she lets me take it to work. I almost feel as though I’m playing adult, “driving” to go to “work”.

My parents are worried about the hours. They worry that I don’t have enough time to study, that my marks will drop during my oh-so-important senior year, that this job could affect the prospects of university (as if).

But what they don’t realize is that having a job inspires responsibility and good work ethic and that between the monotony of learning at school and studying at home, I rarely go out, so seeing friendly faces at the bakery is something I actually look forward to.

Not to mention that I need money to finance my university education. So far, I’ve been good about saving it, unlike many of my other job-holding friends who blow their money on food and entertainment. Again, I don’t go out much these days.

My least favourite (or perhaps most favourite) part is closing up shop because this is the time when unsold goods are thrown out. Of course, I can’t bear to see all those delicious pastries and muffins go to waste, so I take home as much as I can. It’s a really good thing that I don’t work there full-time, otherwise I’d be a billion pounds overweight.

The second time I bring home a bag of day-old pastries (probably worth more than my paycheque of three hours of labour), my mom tells me not to bring any more. “Please,” she begs, in between bites of a raspberry Danish, “no more. We’re all going to gain weight.”

Scrumdidilyumptious” is what my younger brother Kyle says, grabbing a double chocolate croissant, a cheese croissant, and a caramel apple Danish. Obviously, I didn’t eat dinner that night (because a spanikopita and a croissant hardly count as “dinner”). 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Green Tea Ice Cream

Yesterday, there were no classes at school. Like all the other seniors in my class, I was pretty ecstatic for an extra day off. But unlike most of the other seniors, I was excited not because I would be hanging out with friends, but because I would finally have time to catch up on English assignments.

This is my life—I’ve accepted it. Since baking those Chocolate Maltball Cupcakes for the sole purpose of bribing friends to help me with math homework, I’ve come to terms with the fact that senior year isn’t always going to be fun (contrary to what TV shows and books have told me).

I’ve already cut out most of the inessential activities (which sadly, includes blogging), but I still feel overwhelmed from time to time. I know I’m doing the best that I can, but oftentimes I feel as though there’s so much more I could have done, had I more energy and time.

But this Green Tea Ice Cream? There’s nothing more I could have done to make it taste better; it’s perfect the way it is.

Click below for the recipe.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Gluten-Free Vegan Cinnamon Buns

You know a cookbook is good when it can convince a diehard fan of butter, eggs, and white flour that she wants to try baking gluten-free and vegan. Oh, hi there, I’m that diehard fan of all things rich and creamy. I’ve long abandoned any hope that something truly delicious can be healthy—whole wheat and half-and-half just don’t taste as good as white flour and heavy cream.

Instead, I go all out. I slather on the butter like I will live forever. I swallow 803 calorie burgers (scroll down to The  Priest) on a regular basis. I go out for the sole purpose of eating pie with my friends (follow me on Instagram kyleensixteenbeans). I consume poutine and chocolate croissants like there’s not tomorrow. As long as I eat well most of the time, I don’t mind indulging myself every once in a while. (I blame my youthful outlook on life. I know it’s going to catch up with me in twenty years. I’ll cut back next year, I swear.)

After the success of the Gluten-Free Vegan Strawberry Banana Pancakes, I felt compelled to try another gluten-free and vegan recipe from Babycakes Covers the Classics. Pancakes are pancakes; they’re pretty simple to make gluten-free and vegan. But Gluten-Free Vegan Cinnamon Buns are harder to fake. They are definitely harder to make. I read the recipe multiple times and carefully measured all the ingredients, but somehow, my cinnamon buns just didn’t look turn out quite the same as in the picture.

Considering that the cinnamon buns are gluten-free and vegan, they taste pretty good. They’re definitely not as buttery as these cinnamon buns, but pretty amazing nonetheless. These are the perfect breakfast snack, something sweet that you don't have to feel guilty about.

Click below for the recipe.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Chocolate Chip Blondies

Kids say the darndest things. I’d like to say that as a mature, level-headed teenager, I’ve stopped saying things that my parents might retell for a laugh, but as it turns out, I still have my moments.

The other day, the family and I were gathered around the dinner table. I had finished eating earlier than the rest of my family, so I went to the fruit drawer in the refrigerator and pulled out an apple and an orange.

After washing the fruit, I returned to my seat and began peeling the orange. When my younger brother Kyle saw me peeling the fruit, his eyes lit up. Out of courtesy’s sake, I asked if anyone would like some orange segments.

“ME!” Kyle exclaimed. I gave him a look; that “ME!” seemed to have escaped his mouth just a little bit too quickly. I continued peeling my orange.

“Okay,” I replied facetiously, “so why don’t you go to fridge, get an orange, and then peel it?”

My dad burst out laughing and proceeded to choke for a good minute on whatever he happened to be swallowing at the moment. My mom smiled, holding back her laughter. “Kyleen!” she admonished. “That’s not nice!”

I handed Kyle half of the orange. After my dad regained his breath, he chimed in to the conversation. “So that was a very good lesson. Next time you kids ask me for something, I should say the same thing to you.”

Well, if you make these Chocolate Chip Blondies, you don’t have to worry about giving them away because treats like these are best shared.

Click below for the recipe.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Chocolate Maltball Cupcakes

Senior year is kicking my ass.

Over the last two months, life has taken a backseat to academics, those oh-so important marks that will get me into university. Even though I’ve refocused my energy, sometimes I still feel as though I’m stretched to the point of breaking. Every week brings another test, another presentation, another assignment, another tribulation. It’s exhausting, really.

But I enjoy being busy. Four tests, three essays, two presentations, and one book later, I realize that I’ve completely neglected my math homework for the whole unit. It’s a good thing that I have so many friends who are good at math and are suckers for Chocolate Maltball Cupcakes.

The Sunday before our chapter four math test, I invited a few of my smartest friends over for a math party, as in we all got together for the sole purpose of doing math problems together. Math parties, study groups, homework sessions—I’ve accepted that sad fact that this is my life now. It could be worse.

Click below for the recipe.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Spiced Macarons with Pumpkin Brown Butter Cream Cheese Buttercream

My affinity for macarons began when I was sixteen. One biteand I was in love. It was like heaven had descended in my mouth—the crackle of the crisp shell, the chewiness of the macaron cookie, held together with the richest, deepest caramel buttercream.

I’ve travelled far and wide in search of delicious macarons. Like croissants, they are of the impossibly-difficult-to-make-at-home variety. I’ve heard the horror stories: the lumps, the oil stains, the flat cookies.

French pastries and desserts, in my opinion, are best enjoyed over a cup of coffee with a friend, sitting on the patio of a bustling bakery in a quaint neighbourhood on a beautiful spring day. That was what I thought, anyways, until I actually tried making macarons at home.

I had avoided the inevitable for as long as possible. I had tried to stop making custards and crème brulee and other egg yolk based desserts. I had eaten rather flavourless egg white omelettes. I had used up leftover egg whites to make Swiss meringue buttercream.

But then then it happened. A couple Fridays ago, my younger brother attempted to make a custard for a chocolate ice cream base. I came home later to Kyle dejectedly standing over the stove, stirring an unsalvageable curdled chocolate custard.

“We can still use it, right?” he asked hopefully, as if the ice cream machine could turn the lumpy mixture into a light, smooth ice cream. I shook my head and told him that I would take care of throwing out the curdled custard if he would separate some more eggs to make a new one. With ten egg whites in my fridge, I knew it was time to attempt the infamous macaron.

My first tray of macarons ended up spreading and cracking, but surprisingly, my second tray of macarons, which had rested an additional twenty minutes on the counter, came out rather well. In the end, I was able to produce eight decent-looking macarons. Beginner’s luck, perhaps...?

Click below for the recipe.

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