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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Whole-wheat strawberry and peach muffins (and my decision to finally cook for myself, and not for the blog)

That’s right – they’re packed with health.

For those of you who don’t know (which is likely everyone with the exception of my mom and my plentiful list of stalkers), I’ve recently changed student accommodations, moving from a house with one small, shabby kitchen into a house with a fairly decent sized there-is-actually-a-good-counter-per-person-ratio kitchen. Moving has also meant that I’m no longer living with five other girls (all of whom I still love, but living with that many people taunts the very best of co-operators). Rather, I’m now living with two – Brittany and Freya – the most athletically fit and enthusiastically energetic people I know. They’re a wonderful influence on me.

Brittany and Freya at this wicked new gelato place near our house

Their influence prompted the creation of these muffins. Since Britt and the Freymeister are both varsity athletes, it means that their meals are always jam packed with fruits, vegetables, healthy flours and honeys and oils that I only half like. Example: earlier in the day when I made these, Britt made red currant banana muffins with spelt flour (after trying them for scientific purposes, I can certify them as 100% delicious). I’m not sure what exactly spelt flour is or what its benefits are, but if B is using it than it must be good for you.

Point is, she inspired me to go above and beyond my basic all-purpose flour muffins and make them with whole-wheat flour. Yes, I know the use of whole-wheat flour does not automatically nominate me for the “healthy blogger of the year” award. I think Britt already has that one snagged. Rather, it’s just a tiny part of my September resolution to eat healthier at every meal.

Here’s the truth:

Although technically learning how to cook last year, I was terrible in the sense that I would only cook really healthy and good food for myself when I planned to blog about it. This being said, I was basically cooking for my blog, and not for me (my old roommates can vouch for the fact that I frequently had “blog desserts” that I would set aside and they would not be able to touch).

This year, things will be different. At each and every meal, I’m going to make the conscious effort to eat fruit and vegetables with or in said meal. And I’ll try not to snack, although snacking is my oldest and most dear friend. Hopefully from here on in we will just be friendly acquaintances.  I’ve already started out on this resolution, with stir frys, smoothies and fruit-buying galore. Lets see if I can keep it up once the real buzz of school begins.

In the meantime, I’ll just enjoy these muffins and revel in the fact that a whole-wheat something is better than a non-whole-wheat one. Heck, I’m no expert yet.

September muffins

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Sunday dinner with Ariel and Alex: Chilled guacamole soup and double chocolate chipotle muffins

…And Ariel made the fajitas (and Alex hung out with us but ate some vegetarian-friendly meal)!

There is little I love more in life than an impromptu, Mexican-themed meal.  Throw a couple of good friends into the mix, and you have the ingredients for a terrific night.

My charming friends
My fajita, served with a side of iPhone

The dynamics of my friendship with Ariel
(I’m in the mood for headings)
This past Sunday, Ariel invited me over to her house (my old house) for a taco dinner.  Obviously, I accepted.  It was Ariel’s turn to make me something anyways.  You see, the two of us have a payback system that never involves the exchange of money.  I make Ariel supper?  She makes me supper in return.  Ariel buys me an oat fudge bar from Starbucks and a fun popsicle after I forget my wallet at home?  I buy her a movie ticket at the Mayfair.  It’s a good system.  Yesterday we even had a muffin exchange at lunch.  This is why we are friends.

The appetizer
When brainstorming things to make on Sunday, I came across two recipes on Tastespotting.

The first was for a chilled guacamole soup.  I was intrigued.  I had never made guacamole before, but am passionately in love with avocados.  I figured I’d try this one out, and cart it over to Ariel and Alex’s as an appetizer.  It was super easy to make (it took 20 minutes + chill time) and gave me an excuse to buy and munch on my favourite fruit.

Please note the metal chunk that was once attached to Ariel's bicycle, Hans

But don’t get me wrong – this soup was not made without sacrifice.  Oh whatever do I mean?  Well, you know how a few blog posts back I mentioned that you need to wear gloves when you cut jalapeno peppers?  I decided to disobey my own advice, promising that I would be careful and not burn my fingers.

Good news: I didn’t burn my fingers.


Pain and agony.  Whine, whine, whine.

The dessert
Okay, I’m over the pepper burns.

I spotted these “muffins” shortly after the soup discovery.  Why the air quotes?  It’s because these were more or less cupcakes.  I’m sorry, anything with the term “double chocolate” in its name has no choice but to be excluded all together from the muffin category.  The addition of the chipotle spice was simply an excuse for me to use more of that $8 bottle of chipotle chili pepper that I bought when I made my Cinco de Mayo brownies (yes, I realize that these are the muffin equivalent of that dessert, shh).

I decided that if I was going to classify these as dessert, I might as well go all out.  I scooped out the top and plopped in a spoonful of ice cream.  Great summer dessert.  In true west coast fashion, Ariel had blackberries with hers.

Final note: the vanilla I used for the cuppins wasn’t just any old vanilla.  When I babysat for this family the other week (the girls and I made 50 cupcakes from scratch for their school classes, but that’s another story…), the mom gave me a bottle of homemade vanilla extract.  It was made with boiled down Grey Goose vodka and real vanilla beans (which were still sitting in the bottle).  So awesome.

PS: Oh old front porch, it was good to be back.  I missed standing on a chair to take photos (not).

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Morning glory muffins (made with pineapple, carrots, pecans and apple sauce)

[I was supposed to post this last week and then forgot to upload the pictures before going to Toronto this weekend – oops, oops, oops. PS: check back tomorrow for a Toronto post…]

For those too lazy to make themselves a full breakfast (translation: me), muffins* are the best.

The weather was so crummy in Ottawa this past week that I wasn’t able to partake in any of my usual fun after work outdoor activities.  Instead, I was cooped up inside eating large amounts of everything and watching way too much Internet tv (if that’s a thing).

The rain, combined with my resulting mood, contributed to my need to make muffins.  This being my first week of work, I was also in dire need of an early morning pick-me-up.  That’s how I decided on the name of the recipe.  I figured if the muffins had the term “glory” in them, I would have no choice but to be cheerful.

I’m really not sure how I decided on the ingredients for these (since I made up the recipe myself!).  I think it was inspired by a need for some sort of tropical fruity relief (hence the pineapple) crossed with my enormous craving for apple sauce.  Throw in the carrots and a few nuts and you’re set!

As my roommate Lindsay kindly informed me, these muffins could technically be considered fat free, since there was no butter (is it sad that I actually didn’t know a baked good could be produced without butter??) and no oil (it was replaced by the apple sauce).  All in all, these were a fantastic success, and supplied me with breakfast and worktime snacks for the entire week.  In fact, there is a muffin sitting on my desk right now, calling my name.

Late afternoon snack?  Don’t mind if I do.

*lazy breakfasts can also be defined by a Tim Hortons sesame seed bagel slathered in strawberry cream cheese

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