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I’m working with international students this summer in Montreal, and decided to make a batch of “Canadian” cookies for a farewell ceremony. I love when I can find a good reason to bake cookies and cover them in a layer of sugar. I always see cool things online that I want to try, but I myself am not actually a fan of eating sugar cookies and royal icing. But I do love decorating them, so this was the perfect opportunity. I replaced the agave in my cookie dough recipe with maple syrup for that extra-Canadian kick.

I drew out an outline of a loon shape and piped a whole bunch of birds onto sheets of waxed paper the day before baking. I always make LOTS of extras since they are quite prone to breakage. Especially with small protruding bits like the beaks and tails on these.

loons - steps

I mashed together a whole bunch of sugar cookie recipes to make one that I liked and went on a late-night baking spree. Without air conditioning in the apartment, I always like to avoid turning on the oven during the day. With the loons dry and ready to go, the rest of the decorating was a breeze: I just flooded the cookies with a 10-second icing (#3 tip), and drew the maple leaf outline with a #1 tip wet-on-wet, then placed the loon right on top. (Click here to read about royal icing consistencies.Once everything was dried, I personalized the cookies with all the students’ names.

I always find making these types of cookies to be a simple, almost therapeutic way to kill some time. No part of the process is particularly difficult, it just takes time and patience and it definitely pays off in the end to see a group of happy folks with tasty treats in hand.

loons 1

Maple Cookies
I really liked this recipe since it doesn’t need too long in the fridge and I had absolutely no sticking issues when rolling it out and transferring the cut out pieces. I used a mason jar lid as a make-shift cookie cutter and got about 35 cookies from one batch.

1 cup (225 g) butter, softened at room temp
1 1/2 cup (300 g) sugar
2 eggs, room temp
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
3 1/2 cup (437 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder

With a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment to cream the butter and sugar on medium-high until fluffy. This should only take a couple minutes, scrape periodically. If you have a hand mixer, that will work also. Add eggs individually and mix thoroughly after each addition. Add maple syrup and vanilla and mix to combine.

Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Add to bowl and mix on low until dough just pulls away from the sides. If using a hand mixer, only use to incorporate the dry ingredients, and continue mixing by hand.  Do not overmix.

Divide dough in half, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. You could easily make the dough one night and bake the next day (just make sure it is really sealed in that plastic so it does not dry out).

Preheat oven to 350 F. Roll out dough on floured parchment to about 1/4″ – 1/5″ thick. Cut out cookies and place on lined baking sheets, leaving about an inch between them. Bake for 9-12 minutes or until edges are a light golden brown. Rotate the pans halfway through baking. I like to check the bottoms to make sure there is a bit of colour on there (for a slightly crisp bite). Cool completely on rack before decorating.

NOTES: I used two pans when baking these and alternated between the two to let the pan cool down a little so the next batch doesn’t go straight onto a hot pan. I will also add a little more maple next time to get a stronger flavour, although I will have to test it out to see how it affects the texture of the cookie.

Vegan Tacos

I came across this Lentil-Walnut Taco “Meat” recipe over at Oh She Glows (a wonderful vegan food blog – lots of desserts too), and just had to give it a go. Turns out, it is absolutely delicious and packs a lot of protein so it fills you right up. It’s also incredibly easy to make: cook the lentils, and throw them into a food processor with some mixed beans, toasted walnuts, and taco seasoning – and that’s all there is to it.

As pictured, I also threw in spiced black beans, pico de gallo, shredded lettuce, guacamole and cheese. Although there are several components, they don’t actually end up taking all that long to prepare. And if need be, almost everything can be done beforehand – the “meat” and beans can simply be reheated before serving. In terms of guacamole, I will forever be loyal to this Alton Brown recipe. I tried it once years ago and I have yet to find anything else that compares. I realize guacamole is really quite a simple thing and different recipes can only vary so much, but the cumin in this one seriously kicks it up a notch. Anyways, however you fancy your guac, you should whip up a batch and throw em onto these burritos. It would be great for a sort of DIY Dinner Party and leftovers are perfect for making a taco salad.

Now on a completely unrelated note, and due to my procrastination in posting, here are some photos from earlier in the summer:

Mother's Day 2013

Mother’s Day Cookies: That cookie box was surprisingly challenging to make but a fun project nonetheless. If you’d like to give it a shot, check out this tutorial from SweetAmbs.

Phineas and Ferb Cookies

Phineas and Ferb cookies for a friend’s birthday. Yes, I know it’s a kids’ show, and my friend did turn 20, but Phineas and Ferb is some seriously good television programming that I highly recommend to everyone (psst, it’s on Netflix).

Cream Puffs

Cream Puff Swans – filled with a very tasty mixture of whipped cream folded into creme anglaise. My mom used to make these swans all the time when I was a kid and I finally got to learn how to make them. The next opportunity I find a reason to fill up on custard and choux pastry, I’ll be sure to take some photos and upload a recipe. Until then, knock yourself out with this delicious creme anglaise recipe from Bon Appétit.

banana oat muffins title

Well kids, it all starts with a craving. Then just mix in a google search and a quick trip to the store, and that’s how these banana oat muffins were born. They are quite delicious and extremely quick and simple to make. You probably already have most of the ingredients on hand, and it certainly wouldn’t be hard to come up with an excuse to make these. They’re also a great way to use up some of those over-ripe bananas you have sitting on your counter. Muffins are delicious at any time of day, and this goes for all “breakfast” foods, in my opinion (or if you need Amy Poehler to convince you, click here). It is easy to substitute ingredients or throw in a little somethin’ extra. I made this batch with toasted walnuts, chocolate chips, cinnamon, and applesauce in place of the oil. Hope you enjoy these as much as I do. Happy Saturday!

Banana Oat Muffins

(original inspiration from here)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar (white, brown, or a mix)
1 egg
1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk, I think creme fraiche or sour cream would be a lovely substitute as well)
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 teaspoons vanilla (extract, paste, what have you)
1 cup ripe bananas, mashed

Optional Add-Ins
chocolate chips, or mini chocolate chips if you’re feeling fun and adventurous
toasted nuts, chopped up
a pinch of cinnamon and/or nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400F and line a 12-cup muffin pan.

Mix all the dry ingredients (flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, optional spices) in a bowl, and give it a good stir with a fork or a whisk.

In a separate bowl, gently beat the egg, and mix in the rest of the wet ingredients in succession (milk, applesauce, vanilla, banana).

Stir the flour mixture into the banana mixture until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips and toasted nuts, if using. Divide batter into pan and bake for 16-20 minutes, turning the pan half-way through baking. They are done when a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes then turn out to cool completely (or to consume immediately, for the impatient and hungry).

NOTE: My muffins really stuck to the lining right after they were baked, but after sealing them in an air-tight bag/container overnight, they loosened up and were much easier to eat. This often causes problems with cupcakes, in that the lining will separate from the cake if left in an air-tight container, but it proved helpful with these muffins.

These have been in a sealed ziplock bag on my counter for 2 days now and they are still moist and delicious. But probably the tastiest the morning after baking, once they’ve loosened their death grip on those liners.

I know I’ve disappeared for a while, but the baking has continued, so more posts shall be on their way soon (hopefully)! In the mean time, here’s a sneak peak at some christmas cookies. Hope everyone is enjoying the holidays!

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We took a day trip out of the city today to St.Jacob’s farmer’s market. Of course, there are farmer’s markets in the city as well, but everything is always crazy expensive and often not all that fresh to begin with. You always have to be careful with these kinds of things: one stand could be selling berries from a farm around the corner, and two metres away you’ll find produce from California.

In any case, delicious food was certainly had, and here are some photos to share with you all. Hope everyone gets a chance to get out of the city, especially in this beautiful sun, whether it’s for a farmer’s market, a canoe trip, or even just a scenic drive.

All the jams and jellies you could imagine. Feast your eyes.

They may not be the prettiest looking cinnamon buns, but damn were they delicious.

Definitely can’t go wrong with these amazing apple fritters.

A short drive out of town and into the fields led us to the home of a lovely lady who makes beautiful quits. I picked up this tote with an adorable little house on it.

And to wrap it all up, some wonderful farm fresh eggs. Just $1.25 for the carton! Definitely looking forward to tomorrow’s breakfast :)

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