Historically, I haven’t been very good at taking care of myself. I eat well and I exercise, but I’ve never really paid attention to what I really need, which is something a little less superficial.
Because every once in a while, I feel myself slipping. It’s tempting to ignore, to pretend it’s not lurking there under the surface. A really good counselor once told me that I need to make appointments with myself. Write it in your day planner, she said. “7 pm – 7:45 pm: Read a book/watch tv/go for a walk. Whatever you want.”
Except I never did it. And here I am, six years later, still struggling with the same issues that brought her to give me that advice. So call this an early New Years’ resolution, or my own personal Happiness Project of sorts, but as of today, I’m going to take care of myself.
After much consideration, deliberation and flat-out day-dreaming, I have come to the conclusion that the key to keeping my sanity, staying cool and being myself lies within the following items/events/random compilation of things I like:
Evenings. I love ‘em. Cozy jammies, hot tea and a good book are heaven to me. For some reason, they never seem to feel as good when the sun’s out.
Cat Cuddles. If you’ve ever so much as ran into me on the subway platform, you probably gained from my fur-covered pea coat that I like to spend quality kitty time.
Writing. It should come as no surprise that writing is my therapy – there’s something cathartic about transforming the dozens of thoughts that race through my mind at once into words that I can organize into logical sense.
Water. I was born in what was literally called a “cottage” hospital beside the Gulf of St. Lawrence on Newfoundland’s north west coast. I grew up in a small town known for having the highest tides in the world. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to shake that intrinsic need to be near water, and I’ll never fully understand the sense of belonging that comes over me when I hear the sound of a tide lapping against a nearby rock.
Jodi Picoult. Yeah, yeah, she’s hardly Jane Austen, but I’ll be damned if I can put one of her books down once I’ve opened the paperback spine.
Mashed Potatoes. Only my boyfriend knows this about me, but when I’m really stressed, I’ve been known to fill a bowl with a heaping pile of mashed potatoes, gravy and as much cheese as I can rummage from the fridge – then microwave the lot until it’s greasy and bubbling. There is nothing better.
Apples. When I was a kid, I would buzz through these by the bushel. Some of my clearest memories are from visiting the apple stands that would dot the country road not far from where I grew up. The smell of the Jonagolds, Galas and Spartans would drive me into such a frenzy that my dad would have to pull over the car before we got home just to wash one off for me to eat right then and there.
Pie. What’s not to love about a flaky crust and warm juicy filling with a heaping, melting scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on top?
Cookies. There’s just something so irresistible about a dessert you can palm. I love them moist and chewy, with lots and lots of rich chocolate chunks.
So whether it’s enjoying an evening on my couch with a book (perhaps with a furry cat nestled on my lap) or taking a walk down to the lake, I’m going to make at least one of these things part of my everyday.
Which brings me to the topic of this post – to get a jumpstart on this daily task, I’ve compiled three of my absolute favourite things – apples, pie and cookies – into these adorable little treats.
I can’t take credit for the idea – they were inspired by the apple pie cookies at this cozy restaurant around the corner from my apartment called The Good Fork. If you’re ever in Toronto’s Bloor West Village, check them out. Or you can save yourself the trip and just make these pies yourself.
They’re a lot easier than they might look – once your dough is made and chilled, roll it out very thin. If it’s too thick, your cookies will be too dense, and that’s no fun. Then you punch out the circles, dollop some apple filling on top and cover with a second circle. Voila! Apple pie cookies!
Apple Pie Cookies
Makes 30 to 36 cookies.
5 1/4 cups flour, plus additional for dusting
1 tbsp plus 1/4 tsp sea salt, divided
2 tbsp plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 lb shortening, chilled
2 large eggs, divided
2 Gala apples, peeled and diced (1/4 inch)
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground clove
1. In a large bowl, whisk flour, 1 tbsp salt and 1 tbsp granulated sugar. With a pastry cutter, cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
2. In a small bowl or measuring cup, beat 1 egg and enough cold water to make 1 cup. Slowly add to flour mixture, mixing with a fork; add only enough liquid to make the pastry form a ball.
3. Turn pastry onto floured cutting board and knead until mixture is just smooth; do not over-mix. Divide into thirds and refrigerate for one hour.
4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine apples, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, cornstarch, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, 1/4 tsp salt and clove, stirring to coat. Refrigerate until ready to use. (TIP: If refrigerating for a while, drizzle with a few drops of lemon to prevent apples from browning.)
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Dust work surface with flour. Roll one-third of dough about 1/8-inch thick. The dough should be thin and pliable, but thick enough to hold the filling. With a 2-inch round cookie cutter, punch out circles and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough.
6. In a small bowl, beat remaining 1 egg. To assemble cookies, spoon about 1 heaping tablespoon of apple mixture into center of 1 dough circle. Take a second dough circle and brush its underside edges with egg. Place over top of filling, pressing edges to seal. Push the tines of the back of a fork up against edges of cookie to seal completely. Cut 4 slits in top of cookie. Repeat with remaining dough circles and apple mixture.
7. Brush tops with egg and sprinkle with remaining 1 tbsp sugar. Bake for 25 minutes, until tops are golden. Let cool on sheets for 10 to 15 minutes, then transfer to wire racks.
I love them served warm with ice cream, but they’re a great on-the-go snack, too. Enjoy!