lemon blueberry scones.

Wow, I’ve been a bad blogger.

When I started this blog, I had a plan. Post at least twice a month, switching between baking posts, travel posts, and general thoughts. Unfortunately, real-life has gotten in the way of my strategic planning and I’ve been a tad disengaged with my hobbies due to school, travelling, and planning a move. However, I really do believe that it is important to make time for yourself and feed your creativity (or whatever else makes you happy) in order to keep other aspects of your life running smoothly. So, with that, the excuses end here and I shall continue with scones.

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Scones. What are they anyway? A biscuitish thingy? A muffinish thingy? I don’t really know what bakery domain they fit into best. All I know is they are one of my favorite baked goods to get at a bakery (especially when the sign is preceded by “white chocolate raspberry”). 

Scones are also one of my favorite things to bake, and I have picked up some tips and tricks along the way to make them SO GOOD. The most crucial aspect in baking scones: COLD INGREDIENTS. I make every effort for everything to be cold: the flour, the butter, the milk…even my hands and mixing bowl. I am no scientist, but I think it is the coldness-factor that results in a flaky, crumbly scone (aka the best kind of scone, not the overly moist kind that venture into bun territory). 

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Although raspberry white chocolate is by far my favorite combination, this time I went with another classic for the summertime: blueberry lemon. And because the overarching aim with baking (in my opinion) is producing an indulgent, soul-feeding treat over and above a healthy, body-nourishing one, I went ahead and covered them in a lemon glaze. Drool.


Lemon Blueberry Scones

Yields: 8 scones

Recipe: Sallys Baking Addiction

INGREDIENTS

Scones

  •  2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour

  • 6 Tablespoons (75g) granulated sugar

  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon zest (about 1 lemon)

  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, frozen

  •  1/2 cup (120ml) heavy cream (plus 2 Tbsp for brushing), very cold

  •  1 large egg, cold

  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  • 1  cup (180g) fresh or frozen blueberries (do not thaw)

 Lemon Glaze

  • 1 cup (120g) confectioners’ sugar

  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)


DIRECTIONS

  1. Whisk flour, sugar, lemon zest, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. 

  2. Grate the frozen butter (using a box grater, like for cheese) into the flour mixture and combine with a pastry cutter or your fingers until the mixture comes together in pea-sized crumbs. Place bowl in the freezer.

  3. In another bowl or medium measuring cup, whisk 1/2 cup heavy cream, the egg, and vanilla extract together. Drizzle over the cold flour mixture, add the blueberries, then mix together gently until everything appears moistened.

  4. Pour onto the counter and, with floured hands, work dough into a ball. If the dough is too sticky to work with, add a little more flour. If it is too dry, add 1-2 more Tablespoons heavy cream. Press into an 8-inch disc and, with a sharp knife, cut into 8 wedges.

  5. Brush scones with remaining 2 tbsp heavy cream.

  6. Place scones on a plate or lined baking sheet and place in the freezer uncovered for 30 minutes.

  7. While the scones are chilling, preheat oven to 400°F 

  8. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Once oven is ready, arrange scones 2-3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet(s).  *Instead, you can continue to freeze scones for about one hour, and then place in a freezer-safe bag to bake at a later day. Bake from frozen, adding a few minutes to the bake time. 

  9. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until golden brown around the edges and lightly browned on top. Remove from the oven and cool briefly while you make the glaze.

  10. Whisk the glaze ingredients together and drizzle over warm scones.

  11. EAT because scones are best served a fresh and warm. Baked scones can also be wrapped in plastic once they are completely cool and stored at room temperature for 2-3 days. 


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bucharest.

In 2013, I traveled alone for the first time because I was speaking at a conference in Amsterdam. I remember being an absolute bundle of nerves, afraid to trust myself and anxious about what it would be like to experience a foreign city alone. It turned out that I had nothing to fear, and I have since traveled to many countries by myself (Italy, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Taiwan) for both work and pleasure. 

Solo travel has been one of the most fulfilling, liberating, and rewarding things I have ever done, and I would highly recommend anyone going abroad alone at least once. Although I have always been a very independent person, it truly took that first step off of a plane into a foreign city for me realize my capabilities. To state it simply: solo travel has made me a stronger and more confident person. 

Pasajul Victoria

Pasajul Victoria

So, once again, I find myself travelling the world without anyone I know and trust by my side. Conferences and other work-related responsibilities have brought me back to Europe. The first stop: Bucharest, Romania. 

Old Town

Old Town

Before arriving in Bucharest, I knew very little about the city, its history, or its people. Apparently, I have connections to Romania through my maternal side, but I sadly know very little about my European roots. 

Bucharest is the capital and largest city in Romania, and it has a difficult history associated with a communist regime established in 1947. When I had time away from the conference, I made the most of my time by seeing all the sights recommended by various guidebooks and bloggers. These included the Romanian Athenaeum, Lipscani Old Town, and Palace of Parliament. 

Palace of Parliament

Palace of Parliament

One of the most interesting places that I visited as part of a walking tour was the Memorial of Rebirth on Revolution Square. On Dec 21, 1989, the Romanian dictator Ceaușescu gave his final speech in what is now Revolution Square. The speech was a pivotal moment in the Romanian Revolution, and it was powerful to be standing in the same place as the brave people who revolted right in front of Ceaușescu’s eyes.

Memorial of Rebirth

Memorial of Rebirth

Although there were some interesting historical spots, my most enjoyable moments in Bucharest were spent visiting cafes. Before my trip, I read that Bucharest is known for “limonadă” (lemonades), which are made with all natural ingredients. Indeed, I had some delicious and surprisingly beautiful lemonades on street patios. I was also thrilled to find a cafe that served vegan and vegetarian options (M60) – a saving grace in a city that has heavy emphasis on meat – and a bakery that made the most beautiful and delicious eclairs that I have ever had (French Revolution).

Strawberry Lemonade from the Urbanist

Strawberry Lemonade from the Urbanist

Being candid, I must admit that Bucharest was not my favorite city that I have visited. However, I did not spend enough time in Romania interacting with locals to find out more about the culture, which I’m sure would have helped me to better appreciate and understand the city and its people. 

Eclairs from French Revolution - Paris-Brest (my fav!!) and Choco Lait Noisettes

Eclairs from French Revolution - Paris-Brest (my fav!!) and Choco Lait Noisettes


Recommendations:

Eat and drink: Artichoke, M60, the Urbanist, French Revolution

mind your own plate and bod, please.

Today I wanted to take a little break from the fun of writing about cake and faraway places to talk about something that I have been thinking a lot about: how I let my interactions with other people affect the way that I feel about myself. With that in mind, I wanted to share some thoughts about how people talk to one another about the food they eat and the way they look.

 1.     Commenting on other people’s plates.  

 Please don’t comment on what I am, or am not, eating. 

Think about the last time you were at a dinner, or at a party. Did anyone comment on how much food you were eating, or not eating? Did they push you to eat more, or suggest you eat less? I hope not, but I also wouldn’t be at all surprised if they did.

In our culture and society, we are constantly policing one another’s eating habits, whether it be commenting on calorie content or portion size of someone’s chosen foods, or overall “healthiness” or “unhealthiness” of someone’s diet. When we make comments about what other people are eating, we position ourselves as being an authority on their health, wellness and lives. But do we ever have the right to be in that position?

In my own work in the health promotion field, I recognize that there are a wide range of interconnected factors that influence what people eat. These include individual factors (like personal knowledge, skills, and beliefs), social factors (like family norms), and physical and macro-level environments (like distance from stores, food marketing, and government policies). The point is that you never know why someone is eating what they are eating unless you are that person (okay, or maybe that person’s parent if they happen to be really young!). 

With respect to eating disorders, this is a particularly sensitive and tricky subject. When a loved one is afflicted with any form of eating disorder, it must feel extremely hard, frustrating, and scary for their family and friends. To my knowledge, there is no “right” way to comment on what someone is eating. However, there is definitely a wrong way. Questions and comments about how much or what a person is eating can not only very embarrassing, but also extremely triggering. 

My advice? Talk about literally anything else during meal time.

2.     Commenting on other people’s bodies. 

Please don’t make comments about my body shape, size, or appearance. 

My body – like many women’s – has changed a lot over my lifetime. This is to be expected as we age and develop. When I think back, I was actually quite happy with my body in my younger years. I ate what I wanted, moved as I pleased, and was generally content with how I looked and felt. However, I can distinctly remember many body-specific comments made to me in my teens that made me look in the mirror and question if my body was acceptable. As an adult woman, I wish I could say that others’ comments about my body have stopped, but they have only become more frequent.

Unfortunately, I highly doubt that I am alone here. In our society and culture, it has become quite normal to make comments like the classic “you look great, have you lost weight?” We are hardwired to view weight loss as an inherently good and admirable endeavour, and we regularly comment on how other’s bodies look. The problem is that unless you are that person, you have no idea how they truly feel about their body. Someone that looks “too thin” to you might agree, but be having a tough time putting on weight. They might even have a serious illness that is beyond their control. Alternatively, someone who looks “too big” in your opinion might be the healthiest and most confident they’ve ever been. You just don’t know, and quite frankly it’s none of your business anyway.

I recently became aware of how easily comments about other people’s bodies slip out of my own mouth, whether it be complimenting someone that I perceive as having lost weight, or a man that has appeared to gain muscle. No matter how well-intentioned, it is never anyone’s place to comment on other people’s bodies. Commenting on body shape and size can be quite upsetting and damaging to others self-esteem and wellness. For example, when someone like me hears “you look skinny,” I hear “you look good, keep losing weight to look better.” On the other hand, when I hear “you look healthy,” I hear “you look so much bigger, start losing weight to look better.” 

My friend Mel is a dietitian with an incredibly healthy and admirable approach to this subject. She recently explained that she makes it a point to never comment on other people’s bodies. Ever. Even in her practice, when people look to her for a pat on the back for losing weight (“see, I lost 5 pounds!”), she will shift to a topic that is not related to the person’s physical appearance (such as how they feel and how much energy they have). Mel’s approach is a revelation to me, and it has made me reflect on how I, and others, should complement others on features that have nothing to do with their body. 

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday; a day when many friends and family get together to share in a meal and be with one another. At my family dinner, I know I will avoid commenting on anyone’s body or how much – or how little – they put on their plates. I hope you will consider doing the same. 

cupcakes: 3 flavas.

Life is absolutely crazy right now. As a more-than full-time PhD, a part-time research assistant, the owner of a high maintenance dog, and someone trying to recover her health, coordinate international travel, plan a major move, AND maintain relationships…this year has been quite something. Now, this may sound like complaining but I swear that is not my intention. It may even sound like bragging,…but I am also not trying to “busy brag” as is so damn common in Western culture. You know…when you ask someone how they are and they reply “I am sooo busy.” It makes my eye twitch. I have willingly taken on my workload and know that it is entirely unremarkable. Plus, I fully admit that I enjoy and thrive off of going from one activity to the next.

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The problem is that I have a hard time creating boundaries and often feel that I need to commit more time to “me” and to non-work-related hobbies to balance the scales. So, in spite of my other time commitments, when a co-worker asked if I would be up for making some cupcakes for her daughters baby shower I jumped at the opportunity.

Baking is something I do as a hobby because it is enjoyable. It is also a challenge, and I find it is a great way to escape my own mind. Baking takes precision, and I find myself being less focused on my to-do list when I am in the kitchen with bags of flour and sugar.

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For the cupcakes I could have just gone with 3 dozen vanilla but where’s the fun in that? After a search on one of my most trusted baking blogs - Sallys Baking Addiction - I settled on a combination of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. Ok, just realized I made Neapolitan. Huh.

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The cupcakes took a lot longer than I expected, but I figure that time away from work was the kind of mental health retreat that we all need now and then. It also warmed my heart when I got a text after the shower telling me the cupcakes received rave reviews and that my co-workers daughter wanted me to do the cupcakes for her wedding. Ok, now I am bragging. Apparently, her daughter also proposed that my co-worker and I go into the cupcake-making business together. Hey, what’s one more job?


Cupcakes: Vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry.

Each recipe yields 12-14 cupcakes

Recipes from Sallys Baking Addiction:

  1. Vanilla cupcakes

  2. Chocolate cupcakes

  3. Strawberry cupcakes

For the frosting, I made a triple batch of the following:

  1. Vanilla buttercream