Failures Happen: Graham Cracker Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ahh, the sweet, sweet defeat of the Pinterest Fail. I have been an avid user of Pinterest over the past four years and have even made some of the recipes. “Look at me!”, you say. “What a perfect ~domestic goddess~.” Or, back in reality, the most common question is, “did it work?!”

What came first, Pinterest or the Pinterest fail? There is something that ties Pinterest so closely to failures it’s hard to even have hope. But after trying over 120 Pinterest tips, trick, recipes and crafts, I’ve had an alarmingly high success rate! But when they fail, they failll. Visions of confused Girl Guides with bottles of Mountain Dew filled with hydrogen peroxide and my hands stained for weeks in nail polish, trying to get a “super cute watercolour flower pot!”, fill my mind, but a recipe I can follow. A recipe is a recipe. Straightforward, follow the directions, eat.

Until these cookies.

As a wanna be domestic goddess, I have a pantry that rivals most actual grown up adults (I guess I’m not one). But, with a tiny room, I lack the storage. Recipes often call for a part of an ingredients, and the leftovers sit abandoned at the back of the cupboard, taking up space and severely annoying me. I had most of a box of graham crackers, and I found a recipe from Get in My Belly, called Graham Cracker Chocolate Chip Cookies. “Perfect! So easy and will be great for the gang! What good luck I thought!” It was a simpler time.

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“Use up ingredients,” I say, “it will be wonderful.” I say. 

 

What went wrong? I only have my speculations. One friend suggested I should have used graham cracker crumbs, instead of crushing them myself. I also was impatient and microwaved my butter to soft it (hey it didn’t melt all the way!). But even with these in mind, it felt like the batter was missing a binding ingredient, as I pretty much has to knead the chocolate chips in. The picture posted on the website shows thin, crispy cookies while mine didn’t spread at all. None of my 3 batches baked in 7 minutes; the average was 15 minutes, and the 2nd and 3rd batch I cooked at 375F. The taste is okay, but I don’t think I would make them again. I’ve been burnt bad.

Does the plate make them look any better? 

Graham Cracker Chocolate Chip Cookies 

Recipe exactly from Get in my Belly (see my adjustments above)

Yield (mine): 24 misshapen beasts

  • 1/2 cup Butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup Brown sugar
  • 2 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 1/2 cups Graham cracker crumbs
  • 3/4 cup All purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp Baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1 cup Chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until creamy.
3. Beat in the vanilla and egg until well combined.
4. In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, flour, baking soda, and salt.
5. Gradually add to the butter mixture until just combined.
6. Stir in the chocolate chips.
7. Grease pan with cooking sray.
8. Bake for 7 minutes.
9. Cookies will look slightly underdone, but should set up nicely as they cool.
10. Enjoy!

 

Stealing Ingredients: Blueberry Oat Muffins

This past week, I enjoyed one of the best vacations I’ve had in years; I hung out at my parents house for a week. My dad turned 60 on Monday, and my older sister and I surprised him and brought the whole family together. My dad had three (!) days of parties and celebrations, and then, princess that I am, forced my family to celebrate my birthday early on Wednesday.

Along all of the birthday celebrations, I was lucky enough to visit some friends. One of these friends (actually, old Pathfinder leader turned friend), is about to have her second baby any day now, so I brought the two things all new parents need for their new baby; food and books. Paddington was my poison of choice of the newest member of the family, and I brought a batch of a family’s favourite Blueberry Oat Muffins. I live in the North, where blueberries grow wild and many a summers were spent in the scorching sun filled an old ice cream pail with blueberries. Ah, child labour at it’s finest. I now actually enjoy picking, and making this recipe for those I love (aww, I’m so cute and domestic). But seriously, these are the best damn muffins you’ll eat and never go back. #trust.

Another fun kitchen hack is that these muffins taught me I don’t need buttermilk in my life! Dairy is  a ~luxury~ I could barely afford in Ontario and now in Newfoundland I almost shed a few tears when I bought whipping cream. My mom always taught me to make my own sour milk with 1 tablespoon and filling the rest of the cup up with good ol’ 2% milk. You are welcome.

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I miss you very much, milk from a bag. 

Blueberry Oat Muffins

From a very old Sudbury Blueberry Festival Cookbook 

Yields 12 muffins

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup buttermilk or sour milk (1 cup milk with one 1 tbsp vinegar)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ c melted butter

    Combine oats and sour milk in a small bowl, let stand. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar in mixing bowl. Stir well to blend. Add egg and melted butter to oat mixture. Mis well. Add oat mixture all at once to dry ingredients. Stir just until all ingredients are moistened. Gently fold in blueberries. Fill lined muffin cups ¾ full. Bake at 400 F for 15-20 minutes.

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Also, because I am an amateur, I totally forgot to take a picture of the BAKED muffins. Whateves, here is my parents adorable kitchen. 

 

Travel Days: What I Ate Today

 

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Everything packed up and ready to go on an adventure! 

To understand how I eat, it is important to know two things; I hate being hungry and I’ve got the #studentbudget problem. I am quite good at controlling these two aspects of my food personality while at home, but travelling can throw a wrench into these particulars of my diet. The summer months are a whirlwind of travelling back and forth, from home to home, home to fun, home to work. I’ll be taking three major flights over the summer months, and I am lucky to say that I’ve honed my airplane food skills over the years. Today I’m flying home (yay!) and other then some measly snacks on the plane, the flight doesn’t provide a full meal. Again, because of my #studentbudget, I am careful not to fall into the trap of expensive and generally nutrition low food at the airport.

I tend to bring A LOT of food while travelling, for a few reasons. One, is that I need variety or I will get bored. There is no way I will eat all of this food, and if I do, at least I’ve saved some money. The second is that I have a long day, and long days sometimes make me hungry and sometimes leave my bored. I might as well pack my own nutrition dense food to save me some money. Today’s food is a pretty typical menu for a travel day. Lots of sturdy fruits and veggies, because honestly, on vacation who takes the time to track down a salad. A main, a sweet treat and some non perishable snacks that can travel with me throughout the trip if uneaten to prevent future cases of hanger!

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Never forgot to pack in cute storage containers (owls=tortilla chips, big whales=veggies, small whales= all mighty almonds) 

  • Hearty Salad: Have you ever tried Sweet Kale Vegetable Salad (aka the 7 Superfood Salad?). I swear this thing can create world peace because everyone I’ve ever met who has tried it has loved it! Even me, the salad dressing hater. This salad is great because its hearty greens can stand up to a bumpy ride. Just remember to pack the salad dressing in your liquids and keep it under 3 ounces.
  • Hummus and whole grain tortilla chips: I can never remember what is and is not a liquid, so I also pack my hummus in a 3-ounce container and toss it in my liquids Ziploc. Honestly, it just saves me any possible hassle.
  • Carrots and peppers: Whenever I travel, the fruits and veggies I bring fall under the title of “what is left in my fridge.” That was today’s combination.
  • Almonds: Because protein is important in preventing hanger, people.
  • Dried mango: Don’t you keep a stash of 20 packages in your house? No? Moving on…
  • Kashi bar: It scares me how much I love these bars. I know granola bars are pretty much a candy bar, and the worst, etc etc. However, I am not a calorie counter and I look for two things in my food; is is nutritional dense and does it taste good? Kashi fits my bill. No time for granola bar haters.
  • An apple: Because I ate my delicious pear yesterday and had to settle for a boring apple 😦 Plus they are good for you and all that boring stuff.
  • Also, an Oh Henry bar that I paid 24 CENTS for at the grocery store yesterday, to keep me calm in times of stress.

I don’t ever bring any drinks other then my empty water bottle to be filled up. The one thing airlines still offer is complimentary beverages and I will take whatever is free (Porter offers free wine and beer; sign me up!). Beverages are the only thing I will buy in an airport because I often take a morning flight and need a tea to wake up with once I’ve rolled on through security. I also like to save my Starbucks free rewards drink and order the most expensive beverage I can.

 

 

Halfway there: 52 new recipes in a year

cupcake may 2016

 

Feeding yourself in one thing, creative cooking is another.

After the thrill of being able to cook whatever I wanted wore off in my first semester living alone (can you say stir fry four times a week?), I knew that heading into 2016 needed to be different, or I eventually was going to get bored with cooking and *gasp* start, ordering in (the horror!). I’m an avid goal setter, and this year I set myself the goal to make 52 new recipes over the year, ideally once per week. I had no rules past that. Big or small, savory or sweet, as long as it was new to me (cooking wise, that is), it would count.

This past week, I finally hit my half way mark, ahead of schedule. Overall, I’ve been pretty consistent at making one new recipe per week, but some weeks were more about cooking (study week) and some were not (finals time). I’m glad it’s balanced itself out and I’ve tried so many amazing recipes that I cannot wait to share. To celebrate my half way mark, I made something I’ve surprisingly never attempted; homemade vanilla cupcakes. My mother, queen of homemade herself, never bothered herself with making homemade vanilla cupcakes and if she made them, they were from a cake mix. Essential cooking hack from my mother: if you make homemade icing and put it on cake mix cupcakes, they will taste amazingly homemade. For future reference 🙂

I used the recipe from Pastry Affair and even though the recipe was from 2012, it obviously has stood the test of time:

Vanilla Cupcakes
Adapted slightly from Pastry Affair 

Yields about 18 cupcakes

1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup sour cream (or plain, non-fat yogurt, I used sour cream)
2 tablespoons vanilla extract (I used artificial because #studentbudget, but  I would recommend true vanilla for a stronger flavour)

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Line a cupcake pan with baking cups.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the sour cream, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract. Gradually add in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the milk, mixing until batter is uniform and smooth.

Fill baking cups about 2/3 full and bake for 12-14 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. I checked mine at 14 minutes and they were not ready. Another 5 minutes and they were perfect! Remove from the oven, transfer cupcakes to a cooling rack, and allow to cool to room temperature before frosting. When cool, frost and garnish with as many sprinkles as you can!

Vanilla Frosting

Yield: a perfect amount to ice 17 cupcakes (because I got hungry and had to try one)

Slightly adapted from Pastry Affair (this frosting is very common and exactly what my mother taught me as a child. The problem is it was always eyeballed, so if I was truely writing a frosting recipe, it would have measurements such as “a few scoops of butter” and “enough milk.”)

2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until combined. Add the milk and extracts. Keep beating until the mixture is light and fluffy.