oatmeal chocolate walnut cookies.

how do you show love and appreciation?

There are many ways that you can say I love you; not only by what you say, but also by what you do. If we are going by the popular book the 5 love languages, people show emotional love through: 1) words of affirmation, 2) acts of service, 3) gifts, 4) quality time, and/or 5) physical touch. I myself am pretty big on receiving #1 and #4, but I think I show love in different ways.

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As an avid baker, I like to bake something for people to not only say I love you, but also to say “I was thinking about you” or “thank you”.

Recently, my pup Farley came home from a walk and was acting really strangely. She was, for lack of a better word, “woozy” and just was not acting like herself. With hesitation, my husband and I texted a friend who is a vet to get her take on Farley’s odd behaviour. I say with hesitation, because I’m not sure everyone with specialized knowledge wants to be called on to do their job for free late at night. But sure enough, our pal FaceTimed with us right away (and our dog), let us know her opinion, and told us we could follow up if anything changed.

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Our friend didn’t have to answer; she could have easily told us to go to the emergency or to come see her at her clinic the next day. I wanted to do something to show that we appreciated her, so I asked what kind of cookies she liked. Anything with chocolate and nuts. Done.

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Oh, and Farley? She is fine, but might have been high after eating “something” in a parking lot. If that was the case, she was probably really craving one of these bad boys that night.


“Thank you” oatmeal chocolate walnut cookies

Yields: 20-24 cookies

Recipe adapted very slightly from Sallys Baking Addiction, the place for everything cookie.

INGREDIENTS

Dry:

  • 1 and ½ cups (190g) all-purpose flour 

    1 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 1 tsp baking soda

  • 1 tsp salt

Wet:

  • 1 cup (230 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1 cup (200 g) light or dark brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar

  • 2 eggs, at room temperature

  • 1 tbsp molasses (I used this one)

  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Add-ins:

  • 3 cups (240 g) old-fashioned whole rolled oats

  • 1 cup (180 g) semi-sweet chocolate chips

  • 3/4 cup (95 g) walnuts

Vegan options (disclaimer: have not tried myself): sub vegan butter (like earth balance) or solid coconut oil for butter; organic sugar for the sugars; and flax eggs (2 tbsp ground flax + 5 tbsp water) for the chicken eggs.


DIRECTIONS

  1. Whisk the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.

  2. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until smooth (about 1 minute).

  3. Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar and beat on medium-high speed until creamed, (about 2 minutes). Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl as needed to make sure the butter and sugars come together nicely.

  4. Add the eggs, molasses, and vanilla and beat on high speed until combined (about 1 minute). Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl and beat again as needed to combine all that good stuff.

  5. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix on low until combined.

  6. With the mixer running on low speed, beat in the oats, chocolate chips, and walnuts. Cover and chill the dough for at least 45 minutes in the refrigerator (if longer than a few hours, allow to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes).

  7. Preheat oven to 350°F and line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

  8. Scoop about 3 Tablespoons of dough per cookie (yes, they are large and in charge), and place 4 inches apart on the baking sheets.

  9. Bake for 13-14 minutes or until lightly browned on the sides. The centers will still look very soft, but they will firm up as they cool.

  10. Remove from the oven and allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

  11. As usual, try to actually wait until completely cooled and fail miserably.


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blueberry muffins.

the perfect blueberry muffin.

Lately I have been having a serious craving for a really great blueberry muffin. The problem: great muffins are hard to come by in Edmonton, Alberta. Part of that problem is that I am admittedly a bit of a snob when it comes to baked goods. Case in point: when my husband suggested getting one from Tim Hortons I looked at him in horror. Tim Hortons? Look, it’s a good stop when you need a road-trip vanilla dip; but I imagine the ingredient list of their blueberry muffin including plenty of hydrogenated/coagulated/other-e’d things I can barely pronounce*. *Sorry in advance if that isn’t true, Timmy’s

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It was a lovely -40 degree day (wish I was kidding), and my oven was begging to be turned on. I put on a podcast (bachelor recap…I don’t even watch the bachelor) and got to work. Half an hour later, I took those bad boys out of the oven and bit into one right away.

I am happy to report that these muffins fulfilled my craving in a big way. They are perfectly moist (sorry), and their blueberry-to-batter ratio is spot on. No, they are not necessarily healthy, but they do not have any fake ingredients and that counts for something.

You should definitely make some, or at least come and grab a couple from my freezer to warm up and have with your morning coffee/tea. Mmm.

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Yield: 12 lovely muffins
Recipe from King Arthur Flour

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup (113 g) butter, at room temperature

  • 1 cup (198 g) sugar

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 2 cups (241 g) unbleached all purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup (113 g) milk (any kind), at room temperature

  • 2 1/2 cups (354 g) fresh blueberries

  • more sugar, for topping *optional

Vegan options: sub vegan butter (like earth balance) for butter; organic sugar for sugar; plant-based milk (oat will likely give the best result) for milk; and flax eggs (2 tbsp ground flax + 5 tbsp water) for the real deal.


DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin (or grease with butter or nonstick spray).

  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar, scraping down bottom and the sides of the bowl as necessary so everything is nicely combined.

  3. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed and beating well after each egg.

  4. Beat in the baking powder, salt, and vanilla.

  5. Add the flour alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed. Do not overmix!

  6. Mash 1/2 cup of the blueberries and gently fold into the batter along with the rest of the whole berries.

  7. Scoop the batter into the muffin pan (they will be full!) and sprinkle 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of granulated sugar on top of each muffin.

  8. Bake for about 30 minutes, until they're light golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of one of the center muffins comes out clean.

  9. Remove the muffins from the oven, loosen their edges from the pan with a butter knife, and after about 5 minutes transfer them to a rack to cool.

  10. Actually attempt to wait to eat them until cool.


Am I doing this food photography thing OK? No? Didn’t think so.

Am I doing this food photography thing OK? No? Didn’t think so.

eating disorders.

Eating disorders: What do they have to do with baking? Or travelling?

Well, by focusing on my journey through baking and travelling, I imagine that a lot of content on this blog will be food-centered. With that in mind (and because it happens to be National Eating Disorder Awareness week!), I wanted to be honest about something: I have an eating disorder.

By the end of 2019, I expect to have a doctorate degree in nutrition. Although I am not a dietitian or a nutritionist, I still feel like this is a ridiculous juxtaposition. And it doesn’t end there. Despite being well-educated on nutrition, I create my own food rules and categories. I believe that a healthy diet includes things that nourish you not only physically, but also culturally, socially, and emotionally; and yet, I focus only on calories. I am fortunate in that I am not living in poverty and have access to an abundance of food, but still I choose to restrict. I am committed to promoting health and nutrition in my career, but I have not been kind to my own body.

Although my eating disorder has evolved and changed over the past decade, the fact is that I have not had a normal eating pattern for about ten years. In my mind, I have never looked sick or emaciated – like a person that you would see if you googled “anorexic” - but regardless of what I see, the fact is that I have been functioning well below a healthy weight and body fat percentage for nearly half my life. Living with restricted food and high activity levels became routine and normal, and for a very long time I convinced myself that I was healthy and happy (I wasn't).


A combination of factors has brought me to the place that I am now: committed to getting healthy. A while ago, I was told that I was unlikely to get pregnant or have a healthy baby at my (then) weight. Although my husband and I are not certain if and when children will be a part of our future, the thought of that option being taken away from us was heart-wrenching. In addition, when my husband got unexpectedly sick last year and lost a lot of weight in a short period of time, it really made me think: “what if that were you?” I had at least enough awareness to admit that even an aggressive bout of the flu could have killed me.

Along with those fears, I became acutely aware of how physically and psychologically unhealthy I had become, and how everything negative in my life could be traced back to my eating disorder. My hair was falling out and thinning; I was cold all of the time; and I lost the energy or desire to exercise. For about two years, I had also experienced persistent discomfort and swelling in my abdomen (which I now know is symptomatic of malnutrition and protein deficiency). In addition to the physical symptoms, I had developed anxiety; was becoming irritable and moody; and found myself dreading social situations. I couldn’t focus on tasks; lacked motivation; and had chronic insomnia (regularly functioning on less than 2 hours of sleep for days).

By nature a highly motivated person, I have managed to function despite these symptoms by pushing myself to go to see friends and continuing to complete tasks at work and school. However, I know that I have not been excelling in these areas as much as I could be if I weren’t sick. It is a lot easier to write a paper when you aren’t thinking about how you should be working out instead. It is also a lot more enjoyable to have a meal with a friend when you aren’t stressing about how many calories are on the plate in front of you.

(You may have noticed that I keep switching tenses. I can’t decide which to use, because unfortunately much of what I have said is still true.)


A couple of months ago, I remember walking past a café and seeing two girls around my age eating some cake. As I kept walking, tears burned my eyes because I was envious of these women. To me, it appeared that they were simply enjoying one another’s company along with what I consider to be one of life’s greatest pleasures: dessert. I couldn’t remember the last time that I did that without first thinking about how many minutes (OK, hours) I would have to spend doing cardio and/or rationalizing how much food I could eat for the rest of the day to “make up” for the cake. An eating disorder is destructive and all-consuming; it eats away your thoughts, your relationships, and your body (which quite literally starts to consume itself).

When in Rome

When in Rome


So, why am I even bothering to write this and put it out into the world? In part because I feel like it is important to be honest in a world that is now dominated by social media highlight-reels. Until now, I have told only a handful of people that I love about my problem and although I don’t owe anyone an explanation, I have still felt like a fraud at times. Did I really eat that triple-scooped gelato cone in Italy that I posted on Instagram? Yes. But know that I also did so after careful consideration and factoring in the 20,000+ steps I took that day that “compensated” for it.

I also hope that this admission might resonate with somebody else who has been suffering in silence. Despite the recent surge in body positivity movements, the fact remains that Western cultures continue to focus on a singular body type (thin!) and the problem has only intensified with the simultaneous emergence of so-called “influencers” and their #bodygoals, #fitspo, and #cleaneating posts. The struggle for many women is real, and accepting and addressing an eating disorder takes a ton of work and support.

Finally, putting this in writing makes me feel more accountable to getting better and establishing a healthy routine. I hope that this blog will become a platform on which I can challenge myself; a way to reflect on my relationship with food and a much more productive way to spend my free time than scrolling through social media.

If you made it to the end, thank you for reading. I promise it will get lighter from here (except there will be butter. Lots of butter.).