Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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Pokémon – Now In Candy Form

Look what I made!

Pokemon candy making

I’d been dying to make these Pokémon candies since Scott sent me the video of how to make them. Well, it was Cath’s birthday the other day and that seemed like the perfect excuse to try out the recipe!

Really, all you need to make these are some candy melts and silicone half-sphere mould. The former were pretty easy to find (I got them on sale at Michael’s craft store, but later discovered you can also buy them in bulk at the Bulk Barn), whereas the latter were more difficult. We checked every kitchen store in the area, plus Michael’s, Canadian Tire, Winners, and London Drugs and found silicone moulds in every shape other than half sphere. In the end, I had to resort to ordering it from Amazon!

Candy melts

Candy Melts are available in just about any colour you can imagine!

Pokemon candy making

Silicone half sphere mould

Then all you had to do was melt the appropriate colour Candy Melts, coat the mould with it and stick it in the freezer. In ~15 minutes, they popped right out and were all beautiful and shiny!

Pokemon candy making

We made two yellow half spheres to make Pikachu, two blue half spheres to make a Polliwag, and one red & one white half sphere to make the Pokéball! Then we made some ears for Pikachu1 and then, using food safe paint brushes and melted Candy Melts of various different colours, decorated them up. Then you use the remaining melted Candy Melts to glue the two halves together and you are good to go!

Pokemon candy making

The original video shows you how to make them as piñatas, but I didn’t think it would be nice to smash a poor innocent little Pokémon! Well, at least until you are going to eat it.

Pokemon candy making

Pokemon candy making

They are Pokélicious!

  1. Sadly, one of the ears fell off on the way to the party! []

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New Foods I Made in 2016

Like my book goal, I managed to achieve my goal of making 16 new food items that I’d never made before – in fact, I surpassed my goal by 1 item.

1 Cream puffs 28-Feb-2016
2 rice krispie easter nests 24 Mar 2016
3 Asparagus and Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken Breasts 14-Apr-2016
4 breaded zucchini 9-May-2016
5 macroons 14-May-2016
6 macarons 23-May-2016
7 sauteed garlic scapes1 16-Jun-2016
8 crushed salt & vinegar potatoes 17-Jun-2016
9 BBQ’d country style pork ribs 25-Jun-2016
10 grilled zucchini, green onion, and lemon salad 25-Jun-2016
11 fig sauce 24-Jul-2016
12 blueberry jam 24-Jul-2016
13 apricot jam 24-Jul-2016
14 garlic parmesan breaded chicken breasts 24-Jul-2016
15 chirizo stuffed zucchini 1-Aug-2016
16 chicken schnitzel 10-Oct-2016
17 banoffee pie 25 Dec 2016

Taking up canning this summer helped my cause, as I made three things with my new canning set: 2 successful jams and one failed jam that was re-imagined as a sauce2. I also see a trend of making breaded things, with three different kinds of breaded chicken and one breaded vegetable making the the list.

My favourites of all the things on this list are macarons (super time consuming, but so delicious) and the crushed potatoes.

Garlic scape

Why did no one tell me that garlic scapes were a thing before 2016?

  1. Also BBQ’d garlic scapes on June 25, 2016, but didnt’ think it was different enough from sauteed ones to count as a different item. []
  2. Note to self: next summer, try making raspberry and blackberry jam, jalapeño jelly, pickles, and canned spicy green beans! []

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Blogging at 30,000 ft

The following was written on a plane earlier today.

I’m on my way home from my whirlwind Christmas holidays and realized that I have to do 9 blog postings in the next 2.5 days to achieve my goal of publishing 116 blog postings in 2016. So I figure I better get writing! I have a few year-end blog postings that I typically do that will fill out a number of these, including:

  • Year in Review
  • Items I Knocked Off My List of 101 Things To Do List
  • Books I Read in 2016
  • New Foods and/or Drinks I Made in 2016
  • How Did I Do on My 2016 Goals?
  • Goals for 2017
  • Favourite tweets
  • Nerd Stats 2016

So I just have to write all of those, plus this one, and mission accomplished!

I guess before I get cracking on writing all of those, I can tell you about my whirlwind Christmas holidays! We arrived back at my sister’s after our four days in NYC on the night of Dec 23. Happily, we got in earlier than expected, as we had whizzed through security because we got TSA-Pre clearance so we made it to our gate before the previous fight to Toronto had left and we were able to get three seats on that flight. This meant that we got home before my niece and nephew had gone to bed, so I didn’t have to wait until the next morning to see them!

The next day was Christmas Eve and we woke to pancakes that were made by my nephew, Thomas. He got a cookbook from the school library on the last day of school specifically so he could make those for everyone and they were delicious (I should add that Thomas is 5 and a surprising good cook (and baker) for his age.. with a wee bit of assistance with the stove part). After that, we mostly just lounged around, though I did wrap my presents and about eleventy billion trips were made to the grocery store for various things that we remembered we needed (as the stores would be closed the next day!), each thing being remembered only after the last shopper had returned to the house. I should note that I didn’t make any of those trips because it was cold outside and I am a delicate west coast flower. Christmas Eve dinner was a cornucopia of appies – crackers and breads and spreads and jalapeño poppers and shrimp thingys and chicken fingers and various things wrapped in various pastries and we were all stuff to the gills will deliciousness.

Christmas Day was as Christmas Day should be – awaking early to see what Santa had brought for the kiddies and what everyone had gotten for each other and the biggest winners of the present getting were my niece’s three guinea pigs and my cats. That is not to say that the rest of us were deprived, as we spoiled each other rotten, but the fluffy members of our family got some pretty sweet gifts. My mom made fritattas and a hot potato salad for breakfast (I was supposed to help, but she got up at the crack of dawn while I was still in dreamland1, so my contribution consisted of the sophisticated work of toasting English muffins and crumpets.). My sister made an amazing turkey dinner and for dessert we had individual-sized banoffee pies made by my mother and I (I actually did help make those!) and they might now be on my list of top desserts ever2. There may also have been a PokéWalk3 before dinner for my niece, my nephew, and I, as I figured that I should probably leave the house at least every other day. It was cold, but worth it.

On Boxing Day, we were supposed to go to my Aunt Wendy’s place for an open house, but a combination of icy conditions and that fact that all of us had a pretty nasty cold (that we didn’t really want to give it to the various babies who would be there) kept us away. Boxing Day consisted of lounging, building Lego things, playing various games, and eating our weight in leftovers.

On Dec 27, my mom, sister, and I went to the spa for pedicures (a Christmas present to us from my mom), followed by lunch with my Aunty Eileen and Aunty Lynn. That evening me and Nancy met up with Dr. Dan, Rick, and Rob, another guy we’d all gone to high school with that Dan keeps in regular touch with but who I hadn’t seen in 20 years. We stuffed our faces with Mexican food, drank margaritas the size of our heads4, and then went to another restaurant and stuffed ourselves with more drinks and desserts.

Yesterday Nancy, Jeff, Madeline, Thomas and I went to see Rogue One. I won’t say any spoilers in case you haven’t seen it yet. My mom is not a Star Wars fan, so she stayed back at my sister’s house and made a trip to the bakery, because clearly we hadn’t food shopped enough! That evening, Sarah and Dave and their munchkins came over for dinner. Their munchkins seemed to have a pretty fun time playing with Madeline and Thomas and I had a pretty fun time catching up with Sarah and Dave!

At some point in all of that, Nancy, Jeff, my mom, and I found time to watch the first season (all 10 episodes) of The Man in the High Castle5. Or as we called it “The Man in the High Tower”, “The High Man in the Castle”, “The High Man in the Dark Castle Tower”, and “Professor Plum in the Library with the Candlestick Holder”6. If you haven’t seen it, you are missing out. I can’t wait to watch season 2, which I only just learned existed yesterday.

And now, it what feels like a blink of the eye from when I left, I’m on a plane back home! It’s always so sad to say good-bye to my family, but I am excited to see my kitties. I have a suitcase full of presents for them.

  1. You may notice a trend in this blog posting of my being a lazy SOB on my holidays. []
  2. Alongside chocolate amaretto cheesecake and espresso cupcakes with mascarpone cream. []
  3. Where one goes on a walk for the expressed purpose of catching Pokémon. Yes, I am still playing PokémonGO. []
  4. That may have been just Dr. Dan and I. []
  5. A TV show on Amazon Prime that is based on a Phillip K. Dick novel, in which the Nazis and Japan won WWII and the story is set in a post-war America in which Germany and Japan control the eastern and western parts of North America, respectively. []
  6. For some reason we kept screwing up the name of the show. It started with someone accidentally calling it “The Man in the High Tower”, and then we all started screwing it up like that and it escalated from there. []

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A visit from my mom and my niece

Hey remember that time that my Mom and my niece came to visit me? Of course you don’t, because I didn’t blog1 or tweet/Facebook/etc. any of it while they were here because we were having way too much gallivanting (and perhaps spent all of our tech-related time catching Pokémon instead).

Highlights of their trip included:

  • the New Westminster petting zoo (which I’d never been to before, despite being a New Westie for several years now!)

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    My niece holding a bunny at the Queen’s Park Petting Zoo in New West

  • the Vancouver Aquarium, where we petted rays and saw beluga whales, dolphins, otters, sea lions, and much more
  • Science World at Telus World of Science2, where we did the spy exhibit. Wasn’t really any science to it, but it was super fun! It was challenging enough to keep us engaged through all the parts of the exhibit – and my niece was the master of figuring out the clues! For the record, we totally figured out who stole the computer chip and why!
  • New West StrEAT food truck festival. It was insanely hot out, but that didn’t keep me, my Mom, my niece, Kalev, Andrew, and I from checking out all of the 88 food trucks. Among us we had an Aussie meat pie, a Japadog, bubble tea, a tacotino, pizza, hurricane potatoes, a Beaver tail, and probably some other stuff I’m forgetting!

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    My niece was inspired by a photo of a child with ridiculously placed chocolate on his face on the side of the Beaver Tails truck to place some chocolate in a similar ridiculous fashion.

  • BBQ dinners, including pork tenderloin and steaks
  • Granville Island, including Lee’s Donuts3, jewelry shopping4, looking at fancy brooms (and my mom saying “How can I fit this in my luggage?” and then not buying one because she can’t fit it in her luggage – a tradition of hers when she comes to Vancouver), sitting in hammocks (and saying “Where could I hang this?” and realizing we have nowhere to hang hammocks and then not buying them – another tradition when my family comes to town), and lunch at Edible Canada.

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    This was a menu item at Edible Canada, but we were pretty sure it is actually a Pokémon.

  • Delicious pizza from Pizza Garden. Crick became obsessed with the pizza box5, even choosing to sleep there at night instead sleeping with me like she usually does. After a few days, I decided that it was time for the pizza box to go (given that it does have bits of food in it, which will get icky) and said “I’m going to take the pizza box to the compost”, and the Crick bolted from across the apartment to the box and stood on it and looked at me as if to say “You aren’t taking this anywhere!”

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    Crick is in her happy place

  • Pokemon Go! With all the walking around we did, we had ample opportunity to hunt for wild pocket monsters. We caught an Electrobuzz at the New West petting zoo, and 3 Tauros in one day! We also collected so many Pokémon that we had a whole bunch that we could evolve, so we planned it out so that we could drop a Lucky Egg (which gives you double XP6 for half an hour) and then evolved about 40 Pokémon, which resulted in me finally levelling up from Level 20 to 21 (and getting a good chunk of the way through Level 21 to boot.)) We evolved a few Pokémon that I didn’t have before – a Persian (from a Meowth), a Wortotle (from a Squirtle), a Venomoth (from a Venonat), and a Poliwhirl (from a Poliwag) – and a bunch of ones that I already have just to get the extra XP7.

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    My mom, helping us catch a wild Hypno.

  • A very exciting semi-finals hockey game in which my summer hockey team went to an eleven round shootout to decide who went on to the finals!

Lowlights included:

  • Losing the aforementioned hockey semi-final in an eleven round shootout.
  • My mom’s triple injury – she burned her finger on the first day here, she cut two fingers quite deeply on her second day here (trying to open a package with an overly sharp knife)8, and then a few days later is poked herself in the finger with a bamboo skewer while making dinner.
  1. Other than to mention briefly that it was upcoming. []
  2. That is really its name and the ridiculousness of that name makes me laugh every time! []
  3. Hands down the best donuts in the city. []
  4. My mom bought be a gorgeous necklace as a Christmas present. []
  5. As she usually does when I have a pizza box in the house. []
  6. Experience points. []
  7. I’m looking at you, 21 Pidgey evolutions! []
  8. Needless to say, there were some “Not to be trusted with knives” jokes made. []

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Macaroons vs. Macarons

As you know, I like to cook and bake and I like to try making new things. My decision-making process for what to make usually goes something like this. “I have ingredient X that I need to use up. What can I make using ingredient X?”1 Case in point: I had leftover shredded coconut from when I made some coconut squares for a bake sale at my office2, so I decided to try making macaroons for my hockey team’s season end wrap up party. Making macaroons requires egg whites, so then I had an opened carton of egg whites that I needed to use up, so I decided to try making the thing that is sometimes confused with macaroons: French macarons – which I brought to my Arts Council Board meeting. Now I have a giant Costco-sized bag of almonds that I bought to make macarons, so I need to come up with another recipe that requires lots of almonds…. or maybe I’ll just make a lot more macarons, because omg they were delicious!

In case you are wondering what the difference is between a macaroon and a macaron:

Macaroon:

IMG_2462

Macaron:

Macaron

It’s easy to see how the two can be confused: their names are very similar and both are meringue-based pastries. I’ve only ever known macaroons to be made with coconut, though Wikipedia tells me that it was originally made with almonds and can also be made with other nuts. Macaron are typically made with almonds, but you can make a coconut macaron (though the recipes I’ve seen for this still use almonds as the base, but add coconut extract to flavour it). So I guess the real difference is that macaroons use big chunks of whatever nut you are using and are shaped in a mound, whereas macarons use very, very finely ground almonds, are shaped in small circles and have a smooth top with signature “crinkly feet”, and you make them into a sandwich with some sort of filling. As I was reading about this, I got to thinking “Well, what’s the difference between an almond macaroon and an amaretti?”, since an amaretti is a mound shaped cookies made from meringue mixed with almonds? And then I found this article, which actually gave a bit of a history of these cookies. In short:

  • original macaroons: almond meringue cookies similar to what we call amaretti today, believed to have been created at an Italian monastery
  • coconut macaroons: evolved over time from the almond macaroons (first by mixing almond with coconut, then coconut replaced almond completely); Italian Jews made them for Passover, since they didn’t use flour or a leavening agent
  • amaretti: invented in the mid-17th century by Francesco Moriondo, pastry chef of the Court of Savoy
  • French macarons: invented in the early 20th century by PierreDesfontaines Ladurée

The other interesting thing I read in that article was that “two Benedictine nuns, Sister Marguerite and Sister Marie-Elisabeth, seeking asylum in the town of Nancy during the French Revolution (1789-1799), paid for their housing by baking and selling the macaroon cookies, and thus became known as the “Macaroon Sisters”” – being a Mary Elizabeth myself and having a sister named Nancy, I found this amusing!

I read quite a few different macaron recipes to figure out what I needed to do to make them and read in a few different places that they are really easy to screw up, so I was pleasantly surprised when mine turned out well. I decided to do half my batch as just plain (i.e., not coloured cookies) with buttercream icing as the filling and the other half as pink with raspberry buttercream icing (because I happened to have some raspberry jam I could use to flavour the buttercream icing). The only issue I had was that rather than split the beaten egg whites in half and put the pink food colouring in at that stage (as the recipe suggested), I made the batter, split that in half and added the food colouring to the batter – this meant that the pink batter actually ended up being mixed beyond the optimal mixing point (the recipe specifically says to fold it 35-40 strokes!), resulting in the batter losing some of its stiffly beaten egg consistency, so that when I piped the pink batter onto the cookie sheet, it spread out a lot, resulting in much bigger cookies than I intended. They still rose and got the crinkly feet, so all was not lost. And they tasted great, so no one complained about the size.

Macaron

At any rate, I’ve now added both macaroons and macaron to my list of “new foods I made in 2016” – one of my goals for 2016 is to make 16 new food or drink items that I’ve never made before. And the macarons were so freaking delicious that I think they are going to become one of my go-to fancy desserts, alongside my chocolate amaretto cheesecake and mocha cupcakes with ganache and mascarpone whipped cream topping.

  1. Another criterion I use is: “How much do I like the taste of the batter and/or the taste of an individual ingredient?” Because I often like the taste of the batter more than the actual cooked product, so licking the spoon or eating a piece of the raw dough is part of the pleasure of baking. Or, in the case of an individual ingredient, I might want to, say, lick the lid of a can of sweetened condensed milk while my mother says “You are going to cut your tongue on that! Even if she’s not there when I’m baking, I can totally hear her say that! []
  2. Coconut squares are one of my tried and true recipes from my mom. See also: cherry squares. []

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Oh How My Garden Grows

Hey, remember that time I planted an herb garden on my balcony? Well, other than the basil, which is now completely dead, my herbs are growing like gangbusters!

Before:

My new herb garden

Now:

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Before:

My new herb garden

Now:

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And the “now” photos don’t even account for the fact that I have used a bunch of the herbs!

It looks like I’ll need to take up another new hobby in addition to gardening – the hobby of drying herbs! Because omg, how much marjoram can one woman use??1

In addition to the herbs growing, my garden has also grown by one tomato plant. My friend Tig gave me this tomato seedling, which she grew from seeds given to her by our MP’s wife (true story):

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Apparently this is a heritage tomato plant, which the Internets tells me is a.k.a., a heirloom tomato.

The Internets tells me that tomato plants grow large root structures, so it’s important to put them in big pot to allow that to happen, so planted it in this:

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I also threw in some parsley seeds to see if I could grow some parsley in there too (another suggestions from the gardeners of the Internets – grow some herbs, which have shorter root structures, around your tomato to fill in the extra space):

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I decided to forgo the potato barrel (or potato bag, as I read that you can also grow potatoes in a bag on your balcony) this year because shortly after planting my garden, I got notice from the strata that they are coming around to power wash and paint all our balconies and so when they get to your condo, you need to clear off your balcony of anything that could be damaged by power washing. I figure I can bring my plant pots inside that day (I’ll have to lock them in my growlery, so that a certain pair of green vegetable-loving cats don’t each the whole garden), but bring in a soggy bag of dirt and potatoes would be less pleasant. You’ll have to wait until next year, potato bag!

  1. In related news, if you need some fresh marjoram, let me know. I can totally hook you up! []

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I Never Promised You An Herb Garden

One of the things on my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days that I achieved last year was to make an herb garden for my balcony. But “make” in that case actually meant “buy a premade one and put it on my balcony”. Now, don’t get me wrong – it was a lovely herb garden that I got at Granville Island and it was a great deal – $13 for 5 different herbs! And while I enjoyed cooking with those herbs, the winter was not kind to them (nor was my neglect) and so now that the weather has warmed up enough for me to want to be on my balcony again, I decided to actually make an herb garden this year. Where “make” means “buy some plants, buy some dirt, buy some containers, and then put said dirt and plants in said containers”. And here is what I made:

My new herb garden

My new herb garden

This year’s herbs include:

  • rosemary
  • thyme
  • marjoram
  • sage
  • oregano
  • basil
  • chives
  • cilantro
  • and a jalapeño plant

I made this three weekends ago and I’ve already made roasted potatoes with fresh rosemary; pasta sauce with fresh rosemary, thyme, marjoram, sage, oregano, and basil; guacamole with fresh cilantro; and scrambled eggs with the chives a couple of times!

My new herb garden

My new herb garden
My new herb garden

My new herb garden

My new herb garden

My new herb garden

My new herb garden

My new herb garden

My new herb garden

Several of the plants have grown significantly since I took those photos (especially the marjoram, the cilantro, and the jalapeño plant, but the basil is not looking so hot. If anyone has tips on growing basil, let me know!

I think I’d like to also get a tomato plant, and maybe some parsley. Plus, I need to investigate a thing I learned about recently: a potato barrel.

I’m going to try to be more diligent in taking care of my herb garden this year. Speaking of which, I know that I need to water it regularly in the summer, but does anyone know what I should do to keep it alive over the winter?

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Art of Spice

On Friday, I checked out this new Indian restaurant. I was a bit hesitant to go there at first because there was no one in the place – which is generally a bad sign for a restaurant – but it’s pretty new, so we decided to be adventurous and give it a go. And it did not disappoint!

We had some veggie pakoras, chicken vindaloo, and palak paneer and they were all delicious. Plus the servings were pretty big, so despite the fact that we were full when we left, there were lots of leftovers. When I first looked at the menu, I thought the prices were a bit steep, but then I realized that the dishes included rice and naan (whereas I’m used to going to Indian restaurants where you have to order the rice and naan separate), so the prices were on par with other good Indian restaurants that I’ve been to.

They unfortunately are still waiting for the liquor license which might explain, in part, the lack of customers, but I think it’s probably also that people don’t know about them. So I figured I’d blog about them, because the food really was good and the people running the place seemed so nice, and I’d hate to see the place go under for lack of people knowing about them1.The restaurant is located at 1355 Hornby Street, so if you are downtown and looking for Indian food, you might want to check them out.

  1. Not that my blog has tonnes of readers, but every little bit helps, right? I also wrote reviews on Yelp and Zomato – those will probably be more helpful! []

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Easter Treats – My First New Food Item for 2016

Due to my immune system having gone MIA for the first 3 months of this year, I’m rather behind on many of my goals. Including the goal of “Make 16 new food or drink items that I’ve never made before” for which, up until Thursday, I have made a grand total of 0. But now that I’m mostly healthy (just waiting out the remainder of my 100 day cough – which isn’t infectious, it’s just irritated lungs), I have made my first new food item of the year, just in time for Easter!

Easter treats

Easter treats

One of these eggs is hatching!

This treat was super easy to make and combines three awesome things – Rice Krispie squares (or nests, in this case), Mini-Eggs1, and Peeps.

  1. I’m generally a chocolate snob, preferring to eat high quality dark chocolate, but for some reason the combo of milk chocolate and whatever heaven they make that candy shell from makes Mini-Eggs one of my exceptions. See also: Reese peanut butter cups. []

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New Food #1 for 2016: Cream Puffs

It’s almost the end of February and I’m totes behind on all my goals (And I just realized by looking at the date that it’s my Uncle Harry’s birthday and it’s too late (in Ontario, where he lives) for me to call him – Happy birthday, Uncle Harry!). Well, I guess I’m doing OK on one goal: bringing my lunch to work 75% of the time – I currently sit at 76%, so I’m on track for that goal so far! But I ended up being too sick to start training for the UBC triathlon and the Delta triathlon (in March & April, respectively), which means I’ve made no progress on my triathlon goal, very little progress on my run/bike/swim 1000 km goal, and no progress towards my sub-1:50 half marathon goal, plus I *gained* a few pounds instead of losing (thanks to not being able run), though the food poisoning seems to have taken care of those pounds, at least for the moment. I haven’t knocked anything off my 101 list, nor painted a room, nor done most of the rest of the stuff on my goal list.

However, today I managed to make one new food item that I’ve never made before, meaning that I’m 1/16th of the way through the goal of making 16 new food or drink items that I’ve never made before. Cream puffs!

Last night I made a steak and carrot pie for dinner, using half a package of puff pastry for the crust, which meant today I was faced with the eternal question: What should I do with the other half of the package? On Friday my business analyst at work was telling me about this place she went to that has amazing cream puffs, and I guess that was stuck in my brain so I decided to make some of those.

I know it’s a bit of a cheat to use frozen pastry dough, but I decided to make the custard from scratch, which I’ve never done before. It was actually surprisingly easy and it tastes shockingly good.

Cream puffs

The picture doesn’t really do them justice – I think they almost look like scrambled egg sandwiches! I use free range eggs and so the yolks are very yellow, which makes the custard very yellow. I guess if I’d used caged hen eggs, where the yolks are super pale, the custard might be prettier, but I much prefer free range eggs. And it tasted great, which is what’s really important. I think next time I’m going to try making the dough from scratch.

The custard required three egg yolks, which meant I was left with three unused egg whites. I used one of the egg whites for glazing the pastry, which means now I’m faced with the eternal question: What should I make with my two egg whites?