Buttercream icing breakfast biscuits

Sometimes cooking is an exercise in problem solving.

In case you hadn’t guessed by the bizarre name of this blog post, these biscuits were nothing more than an accidental experiment.

If you cook and bake enough (actually, even if you don’t I feel as though the mistake that follows is a pretty easy one to make), you are bound to mix-up ingredients once in awhile. Be it baking soda with powder, salt with sugar, they’re switch-ups you hopefully notice during the cooking process rather than the eating one. The mix-up this time around? Flour and icing sugar. Rookie Mistake (one that has happened before, in fact, almost a year ago to this day).

Here’s how it happened: Jen and I were in the midst of whipping up what seemed to be a pound of buttercream icing to use during our cake painting party. Having just moved into her and Ian’s house, I’m still familiarizing myself with where the baking ingredients are. When searching for icing sugar, Jen directed me to the smallest of baking canisters. Inside was the white powder, the likes of which I could only assume would become something sugary and delicious in a couple minutes time. So I started mixing, pouring powdery clouds of “icing sugar” into my mixing bowl, blending it with the butter and whipping cream my basic buttercream icing recipe requires. It wasn’t until Jen decided to sample the icing that I knew something was wrong (though I should have suspected something was up when the icing began to look more clumpy than smooth). I asked her if the icing was okay. She gave me a strange “I don’t know how to tell you this” look in return. The pigments in my skin got ready to paint my face a shade of “I’m sorry, I can’t really bake” red. Then, Jen said it: “so, I think that was flour, not icing sugar.”

And indeed it was. A cup of butter, about four cups of flour, and half a cup of whipping cream. All blended together to form the most rich of substances.

Now, we’re not ones to waste.

Jen tossed in a couple teaspoons of baking powder, and we were set. Buttercream icing biscuits it is.

These came out of the oven smelling like heaven and heart attacks. They were like shortbread cookies without the sugar – flakey, buttery treats that crumbled in my mouth and refused to digest without half a litre of milk.

So logically we put lots more rich breakfast food on the biscuits, and had my parents over for brunch.

Kitchen problem: solved.

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Bacon and egg stuffed crepes (indulge, you know you want to)

My parents were out of town this weekend, so naturally I made the most over-the-top breakfast I could think of. I love my family, but when it comes to eating, they are not patient. They cannot even begin to fathom why it may take longer than 30 minutes to prepare breakfast, when one can so easily opt for cereal or porridge.

My brother, thrilled to be in my presence, clearly.

They would not have tolerated the hour-long preparation for these crepes – but I’m here to tell you why you should. The short answer? Because they were freakin’ awesome. And because if you love brunch even half as much as I do, then these will blow your mind (related: since moving away from Ottawa I am so brunch deprived!).

The over-the-top description is not just because of the time they took to make, either. Oh no. The ingredients were also of heart-stopping decadence. I might have made the crepes on a pan greased with…bacon fat.

Oh god. Still here? Good. Phew. I was sure you would have jumped up and gone running away from your computer shrieking “she has turned into a fat-loving, cholesterol-raising Paula Deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen.” Or something like that.

If my dietician mom had been here on Saturday, she never, EVER would have let me serve these. She practically disowned me when I told her I fried potatoes in duck fat (STILL THE BEST THING EVER). But you know what? Indulging is okay every once in awhile. As my friend Christine put it over Facebook, this meal was “very eastern European of me.” I couldn’t help it. The bacon fat was just sitting on the counter, looking all forlorn in a little glass bowl. It brought a tear to my eye.

Well, now that the confessional is over…

Making crepes was an adventure. I’ve only ever sort-of made crepes before, back at the end of third year (two years ago, but who’s counting?) when my friend Alan (yes, the one mentioned in the recent pizza post) came to visit me in Ottawa. And by sort-of made, I mean that Alan totally made them, and I stood by the side of the stove in awe as the eggy mixture somehow formed into something that resembled a pancake.

It really wasn’t that bad, and so I will update my Twitter status in which I said that making crepes for the first time was “a terrifying experience.” Terrifying is not the right word, so I hereby revise it to instead say “exhilarating.”

Yes, crepe making is exhilarating. How do you guys get your thrills?

The first crepe was filled with unsure, jolty movements, burnt fingers and hesitation.

Not too shabby

Then I learned – crepes are not delicate. No, no, no, crepes are tough cookies that can be flipped and turned in one fluid, not-too-graceful motion. Crepes almost have a sense of elasticity to them, and in mid-flip you can let the sides hang off the spatula and jiggle about before landing on the pan again. It’s all very exciting.

Anyways, these were completely unreal. Thanks to Pinterest and this recipe for the eggs-in-a-crepe basket inspiration. A major breakfast win.

Side note: I am very excited to have been able to achieve a semi-nice brown base for these photos. Thank you, upside down place mats.

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Much-needed baking bliss: Lemon olive oil cookies and orange-raspberry muffins

As written on Thursday evening…

I was going to go to bed early tonight. I swore to myself that I was. Early these days is anything before 10:30 p.m., FYI, so that I can wake up at 6-something and listen to CBC’s morning show. I have failed to wake up before 7:20 a.m. three times this week. And tomorrow’s not looking too hot, either. Next week I’ll adapt to this full time work thing. Promise.

Anyways, how am I supposed to go to sleep when I had such an amazing evening of baking and creating things? I am on a DIY high, and no matter how tightly I shut my eyes, sleep will not come. I’ll blame the sugar – the mouthfuls of cookie batter and almond glaze that was transferred from mouth to belly this eve.

It seems as though Thursday has become my baking day. I’ve discovered that if I do not bake, I get really anxious and grumpy. Back in Ottawa I would bake at least three times a week, and it’s an activity that has been significantly cut down post-grad. No more running to the corner store in my sweatpants to buy icing sugar and cherry pie filling. Perhaps this is for the best… Anyways, my point is that baking relaxes me and makes me feel like my normal self again. Baking is something I know and am always sure of. It’s a chance to make something beautiful out of nothing, a principle that I’ll hopefully be able to apply to my journalism work over the next few months.

But enough of the personal ramble. Let’s talk food and flowers.

One half of the food-flowers super combo

I’ve wanted to make lemon cookies ever since Brittany made these delicious little cookie morsels that burst with lemony flavour. I still don’t know what recipe Britt used and, since I started making these cookies at 1 a.m. Paris time (remember? She’s on an exchange!), I figured I wouldn’t disrupt her slumber for the sake of my own personal cookie pleasure. Anywho, I used a Joy the Baker recipe because she is my favourite cookie recipe source ever. These were a little untraditional – lemon scented olive oil cookies with almond glaze. Yeah, you read that right. Olive oil. What the hell, right? Ah well, Joy knows what she’s talking about. And god knows the Greeks need me to use all the olive oil that I can.

I also made some orange-raspberry muffins.

Then, in true Hilary fashion, I had a photo shoot in my bedroom, where the 8 p.m. sun shines the brightest and my cute desk decorations serve as the perfect backdrop.

I also made a paper flower out of nine paper muffin liners. Yes, it is looped around that bottle of Marsala that I still haven’t put away. Yes, I do plan on making my own muffin liner bouquet should I ever get married. Yes, I did give this flower to my mom as a corsage. Judge. Not.

These are accompanying me to work tomorrow and shall be gifted to my hardworking, well-deserving CBC colleagues. Apparently Hilary Makes Friday Treats is baaaaaack.

Happy Thursday (well Friday now) and cheers to DIY bliss.

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Carmen’s Veranda (in restaurant & home form)

We all have our favourite neighbourhood breakfast retreats. Mine is Carmen’s Veranda, an eclectic little cafe nestled between a maternity shop and a photography studio. In the rush of Bank Street traffic, you’d miss it unless you knew where to look.

Well, I am here to tell you that you should look. Or don’t, so I never have to wait in line for a table.

Carmen’s falls under the category of “I will never be able to write a restaurant review about it because it is a sacred food space.” The heart-of-Old-Ottawa-South cafe is kept cozy in that category by my beloved Art-Is-In Bakery, Stella Luna Gelato Cafe and the Scone Witch. I would be substantially more wealthy and less happy without these four local loves.

My last trip to Carmen’s was this past weekend, on the Sunday morning after my birthday (no, I was not hungover, mom). I went with my two roommates, Freya and Shannon, Shannon’s sister Erin, and my other good friend Tara. They are all lovely people and wonderful brunch mates.

Shannon, Tara and Freya at my surprise birthday dinner (which they made!) the night before

Now, not only is the food at Carmen’s great (more on that later), but the look of the place is spot-on, Hilary-appealing.

There’s colour everywhere, and the tables (the kind like my gramps had, with the opening drawers and winged extensions) have been retrofitted with fun studs (not of the male variety) and patterned tops. Beautiful artist displays adorn the wall, colourful dishes scatter our table, and the front window where we sit fogs up in accordance with our steaming plates of brunch. A piece of plastic mounted in between the two windows is printed with a yellow “8” – something that I just realized meant the number of year’s the restaurant has been open. Happy eighth birthday, Carmen’s!

The brunch menu at Carmen’s remains generally the same, with omelette and quiche ingredients switching up every so often based on the seasonal readiness of items. My favourite item is the poached eggs, which are perfectly cooked and ooze onto the English Muffin beneath and mingle with my potatoes.

Speaking of the potatoes… they are the best. I don’t know what it is about them, but I need them everytime I visit.

Story: about a year ago I went to Carmen’s late in the morning with Freya and my then-roommate, now Paris explorer extraordinaire, Brittany. I ordered my usual poached eggs, my mouth watering in anticipation of that oh-so necessary yolk-potato tango. My conversation with the waitress (indicated as “W”) went something like this:

W: What would you like today?
H (in a sing-songy voice): I’ll have the poached eggs, please! I’m so excited for my potatoes! Carmen makes them soooooooo well!
W: Oh no, we’re actually out of potatoes this morning…
H (GASP GASP GASP): Oh my GOD! But..but.. I know, can I run down to the grocery store and buy you some more? …

I continued to beg, plead and drool until finally the waitress told me that there was, in fact, enough potatoes left for one breakfast serving. She probably just wanted to shut me up, to be honest. Regardless, the potatoes and I were united again. I went back to Carmen’s a few months later and the waitress remembered me: “Oh you’re the one who offered to buy us potatoes that one time!” she said. Guilty as charged.

This past Sunday I ordered the same thing, as did Freya, Tara and Shannon. Hey, it’s just that good, okay? Enjoyable as always.

Step 1: morning cappuccino. Eat a brown sugar cube like you're a horse.
Step 2: order the poached eggs, the best thing ever
Step 3: dessert. Yes, even after brunch. We got a lemongrass crème brûlée and a slice of apple berry pie.
A job well done

Two days later, Freya, her cousin Madé, and I recreated this brunch at home. This was after I had already eaten my usual two pieces of toast with peanut butter and apple sauce. I couldn’t resist.

There’s no recipe with this post, so I encourage you to go to Carmen’s Veranda and try the brunch for yourself. I swear on my love of potatoes that you won’t regret the visit.

At-home preparations

The breakfast-for-dinner, three egg (wannabe) skillet

As a student, I feel obliged to claim breakfast-for-dinner as one of my favourite things. Living with two roommates who make delicious-looking, healthy pancakes for nearly every meal, I’m frequently reminded of how much I’m craving early-morning food. Late last week, this craving was uncontrollable. I had no choice but to search page upon page of Tastespotting until I found some new fangled breakfast recipe.

Success was achieved in the form of this fantastic chickpea, tomato and roasted red pepper breakfast skillet. Utilizing the exact ingredients I had lying around (including a two-month-old [but still good] jar of roasted red peppers), this meal came together in a flash.

A few lessons learned:
– Parchment paper cannot be broiled. I think I almost lit it on fire.
– Like parchment paper, glass corningware is also not content with being broiled. I ended up cooking this in a wannabe skillet (hence the name), aka a metal pie pan with aluminum foil lining the base.

In other news, broiled eggs are the best thing in the universe. Maybe it’s just me, but eggs that are a little solid on the outside and soft and runny on the inside are just perfect. In fact, I wish I had covered this entire skillet with egg. I will know for next time.

This simple dinner dish ended with sliced avocado and twelve grain toast. A culmination of my favourite things.

And now, a sad excuse…
I’m lacking superb pictures for this meal simply because Mother Nature was conspiring against me. I made this meal one night when the clouds were as dark and ominous and the sun was running off for its early, 6:30 p.m. retreat. To counter this, I brought my skillet out onto the sidewalk to take advantage of the fleeting moments of light.

About two seconds and many awkward passers-by stares later and the sky opened up and the downpour began.

I bolted up the stairs and onto the porch, enjoying my breakfast as the day faded into night.

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