Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Prosciutto-Wrapped Cantaloupe Salad

The first time I ever ate prosciutto was in a subway train, speeding downtown to the college where I took bread-baking lessons with my best friend Jenny.

“Most people eat fast food or fruit on subway trains. But we, we are those kind of people who casually whip out a roll of prosciutto layered with parchment paper. It’s totally normal.” I told Jenny as I saw the woman sitting opposite of me staring at the thin, almost translucent strips of salty meat. I stared back, and finally she averted her eyes. It’s amazing how I didn’t feel the least bit embarrassed.

Lest you formulate the idea that polishing the better part of a two-pound roll of prosciutto in a subway train is a regular practice for us, let’s back up the story. That Friday, I left my last period photography class half an hour early to bus to Jenny’s school with my school’s dragonboat team, where we use their pool. Pool practice usually lasts until five something in the afternoon, but I left a little bit earlier to meet Jenny, who was coincidentally still at school rehearsing for her school’s talent show.

We hightailed it to her house, where she dropped off her school bags and frantically looked through her kitchen for baking tools. “Want some prosciutto?” Jenny yelled from the kitchen?

“Um, okay,” I replied. Prosciutto was kind of random, but hey, I was so hungry from practice that I would have eaten anything. Jenny opened the fridge, grabbed a roll of prosciutto from her fridge, and shoved it at me. “Wait, are we eating the whole thing...? Where did you get this?”
“They were going to throw it out at work because they’re closing down for renovations.” Jenny works at a restaurant. “You can bring this one home actually.”  

We polished off most of the prosciutto. (When I say "we", I really meant "I". Food is food and prosciutto is pretty delicious.) The next day, I made myself a Prosciutto Wrapped Cantaloupe Salad with the seven strips of prosciutto that were left.

This is definitely my kind of bacon.  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Lemon Yogurt Olive Oil Honey Cake

There’s nothing quite like old friends. You know, the people that you’ve known since childhood: the people who you grew up with, fought with, and laughed with until you cried. The ones who knew you when you were uncool and stuck by you nonetheless.

When I was four, my mother became really close friends with a couple other mothers at my alternative school. By default, their children and my siblings and I became friends as well. Over the years, our parents lumped us together in the basement for play-dates, brought us to crowded restaurants for lunch, and took us on vacation together countless times.

After elementary school, we split up. Our parents remained close friends, but we kids went to different to different middle schools. We made new friends. We grew up a little bit and started becoming who we are today.

When we all began to attend the same high school, it was almost like a reunion of old times. I realized that even though we went to the same school and that a few of us were in the same grades, we had other lives now, and that we couldn’t just pick up where we’d left off in elementary school. We were like strangers that needed to be reacquainted.

So a couple years ago, I started what has now become a tradition among our families: a bakefest. Every  month or so, the girls and I would get together to bake something. Our bakefests inadvertently lead to our mothers gathering for coffee and a huge group dinner with all the families in our group of friends that always last into the wee hours of the morning.

For our last gathering, I decided to bake a Lemon Yogurt Honey Olive Oil Cake for our parents to snack on while drinking coffee. Honestly, this is a cake for the parents: it has the illusion of being healthy because it doesn’t contain any butter of sugar. The yogurt keeps the cake moist while the olive oil and honey lend body and sweetness. A pretty good coffee cake, according to all my mom’s friends.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Baked Kale Chips

I used to swim a lot when I was younger. Up until middle school, I took weekly swimming lessons, at the request of my mother, until I told her that I just wasn’t that into it. Besides, by the time I’d turned twelve, vanity had settled in and broad swimmer’s shoulders were the last thing that I wanted with my already athletic frame.

It would come as a surprise that I would eventually join my high school’s dragonboat team junior year. I’d never joined a school sports team before—cross country hardly counts—and I was pretty much the weakest person I knew. But over the months of gruelling practices and sore muscles and aching backs, I gradually saw improvement in my fitness.

A couple weekends ago, a couple friends and I went to the local YMCA to workout. By workout, I mean to say that we went there for the sole purpose of lifting weights. Let me paint you a picture. I’m five-foot-six and weight about 113 pounds. I’ve never lifted weights except during dragonboat practice. I have a fear that I will develop muscular arms and broad shoulders. The only heavy lifting I’ve ever done previously was lifting my stand mixer from the cupboard to the counter.

The bicep curls were relatively easy. Bring the weight up; slowly bring it back down. The benchpress was decidedly scarier for someone like me, who had never done it before. I won’t lie: towards the end of the fifty reps, I was a little worried that my shaking arms would fail me and that my head would take the full brunt of the weight. I would have never attempted it if the captains hadn’t been spotting us.

At the end of the workout, my friend Justine and I had a bicep curl competition. Using a 20 lb weight, we tried to outdo one another. She set the bar at ten, so I did fifteen. She did twenty-five reps, so I did forty. At this point we were already pretty worn out and not to mention SORE from all the lifting we’d done before, but Justine managed to hit sixty bicep curls. Not to be outdone, I aimed to beat her, by at least one rep. There’s nothing like competition to motivate you to power through sore muscles; I managed to do eighty reps before one of the senior captains realized that he was late to meet someone and we left.

When I got home, I realized that my arms muscles were really sore and that they would most likely seize the next day. I had almost forgotten that I had made plans to go biking that day, to fulfill one of the items on my bucket list. Already my hands were red and my arms smarting from lifting weights all morning, but I was adamant that we follow through with our route. For two and a half hours, we biked from my house to Edwards Gardens to the Lakeshore. My initial plan had been to bike east towards the lake, but by the time we reached the Lakeshore, we were exhausted, tired, and hungry. Not to mention the fact that my butt was sore from the crappy bike seat. The only thing I was thankful for was that I didn’t have to use my arm muscles while biking. (Although the tender areas of my palm which had chafed from the weights that morning were definitely not enjoying the contact with the abrasive bike handles.)

One of the things that definitely powered me through the physically exhausting day was the idea of consuming whatever I wanted after working out. That hot dog that I ate after reaching Habourfront has to be taken in context, after all. If I were to go for healthy snacks, I definitely would have eaten these kale chips. They’re thin and crispy and incredibly delicious, and a lot less-guilt inducing than a greasy hot dog topped with crushed chips.

Click below for the recipe. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Honey Cornmeal Muffins

So, remember that chemistry test you thought you aced? Perhaps it was the test stress (you did, after all have a biology unit test and an accounting quiz on the same day) that deluded you into thinking that you did well on the test, when in truth, it brought your average down. (By you, I mean me. Obviously.)

How my parents were so misguided as to not like these preposterously delicious Honey Cornmeal Muffins I don't quite understand, much like my chem test; stoichiometry, after all, does tend to require a little more brain power and calculator work than gobbling up warm, buttery muffins and registering it's deliciousness. The latter should be a piece of cake (or muffin) in comparison.

I almost stopped mid-chew when they told me they didn’t enjoy the cornmeal muffins because I wasn’t sure what they meant. Confusion will do that to you, especially when you're pondering something so profound as whether or not my parents and I were consuming the same golden yellow morsels of heaven. (Again, we're talking about me, not you.)

My mom immediately backtracked and explained that they muffins were “tasty” but not her or my dad’s “favourite”. “But I like the cornmeal,” she added lamely. Somehow I was still convinced we were not eating the same muffins. The second I had bit into mine I felt a burst of happiness, like I was biting into a ball of sunshine and daisies. (Maybe it’s the obscene yellow colour getting to me...?) But how could I trust her taste buds when they couldn't taste happiness?

Test stress makes me overly melodramatic and touchy. (Of course.)

But make these muffins, and you'll understand.  

Click below for the recipe.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Cookie Ninja: Brown Sugar Snickerdoodle Cookies

Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.
Princess Diana
 *          *          *

Dear Owner of House of Which I Placed a Box of Cookies On the Porch, Rang the Doorbell, and Then Ran: 

You’ve been cookie-ninja-ed! It’s not every day one receives a box of cookies from a complete stranger, so I understand if you’re a little bit wary. Just know that I hope that these cookies made your day a little bit better, a little bit brighter, a little bit sweeter. I don’t know you and you don’t know me, but that’s just part of the whole concept of the random acts of kindness.

It would be supremely awesome if you could return the favour and cookie-ninja one of your friends, or relatives, or coworkers, (or go the adventurous route and present a stranger with a box of cookies) just to let them know that there are kind people out there. It’s a crazy life and I feel like sometimes, we need a little reminder to do something thoughtful.

Because the world would turn just a little smoother if we all had more cookies.

Your friendly neighbourhood Cookie Ninja,


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Peanut Butter, Banana, Date, Oat Bran Muffins

I’m a compulsive list-maker. I make lists for things that I want to do, things that I want to eat, things that I want to buy, things that I have to do, and things that I want to bake. My Moleskine day planner is filled with lists and lists that make up my life.

Several months ago, I started a new list: an eighteen before eighteen bucket list, a list of eighteen things I want to do before I turn eighteen next year. Eighteen, after all, is a pretty special year. It’s the year that you become a legal adult. It’s the year that you can vote and sign your own field trip permission slips. It’s the year that hospitals stop giving you child priority when you’re in ER, as my mother frequently reminds me. Her underlying sentiment if you’re going to cut your finger with a steak knife get injured, do it now don’t escape me.

 A couple weeks ago, I finally, finally finished watching Lost and crossed it off the list. I hate watching TV shows on TV—commercials are such a bad waste of time. Usually, I wait until my brothers download the episodes and then watch them on the computer, at one-and-a-half speed of course. Passive multitasking is my forte. (Watching Lost while completing an English project? No problem. Just don’t ask me to text and walk at the same time or I might fall down a staircase.)

During the first couple of seasons, I was gripped. I sat through hours and hours of Lost willingly, forsaking homework, meals, and sleep. (After all, it’s on my bucket list; I’m not just mindlessly watching a TV show for no reason.) But towards the fourth and fifth season, I felt compelled to watch Lost as if only for the reason of finishing something that I’d started.

After I finally finished the series, I baked these Peanut Butter, Banana, Date, Oat Bran Muffins to celebrate. Stomaching the last two seasons, which were overly redundant and a little bit ridiculous, is definitely a feat which requires a reward. These peanut-buttery, banana-y, and healthy muffins definitely fit the bill.

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