Category Archives: Cooking

Macarons

Last weekend I took the Megabus to see one of my best friends in Chicago.  We were celebrating our birthdays; although our birthdays were last month.  My travel/vacation schedule last month and I wasn’t home long enough for her to come down or me to go up so that we could celebrate.  But anyway, I was there and she took me to the French Market for lunch.  We had noodles for lunch and on the way out, I had to stop at this patisserie that I saw on the way in.  I decided to get some macarons and got some for Sylvana also. (It was the perfect snack for Sylvana, because she has a mostly gluten-free diet now).

After having my wonderful macarons on the bus ride home (I got lemon, lichen, green tea, salted caramel, and vanilla.); I decided that I was going to try my hand at making some.  I had been very hesitant to make macarons in the past because I was afraid of failure.  I had received this book of macaron recipes as a gift.

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I had read it and drooled over the pictures, but was just too chicken-butt to make them.  I spent some of my free time this week looking at different recipes and reading other write-ups on macarons and decided I was ready.  Failure or no, I was making macarons this weekend. 

I was going to purchase almond flour because I wanted to make sure that all my ingredients were top-notch; but the price for a 16 oz of almond flour was close to $10.  One of the websites that I had read suggested you make your own almond flour because the price of the flour is pricey; after seeing the price, I ended up taking her advice.  I bought a 2lb bag of blanched almonds for $6.97.  Yeah, enough said.  I pulsed them in my food processor until they were ground up fine.

I decided to make three types of macarons; lemon cookies and vanilla, almond, and purple vanilla. I decided to make a strawberry cream cheese filling for the purple vanilla, and a plain almond filling for the lemon cookies and vanilla, and almond with blackberry jam smear for the almond. NOTE:  as I was making the almond I decided to forgo the almond and added orange extract instead.  They were delicious anyway I made them.

From everything that I read online and in the book, the time that your macarons sit to “dry out” is important.  If you let them sit for the right amount of time they will get the shiny look and the “feet” will form when you bake them.  We had had a lot of rain that morning and it was humid; I read that if it was humid outside, you were to let them sit for about an hour versus the 15-30 minutes normally suggested.  While I made the second batch (the purple vanilla) I let the first set form the skin on the first batch. 

I baked the first batch at 350 degrees in the convection setting of the oven.  This turned out not to be a good idea.  They seemed to cook too fast and my “feet” didn’t turn out so great. 

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I decided to turn the oven down to 325 and had better success. 

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I went to make the strawberry filling and discovered that I didn’t have any strawberry gelatin in my pantry; but I DID have some peach.  So I made a peach cream cheese filling instead.  Babydoll tried one of the purples and fell in love.  I’m so proud of my macarons. 

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I promised some to my coworkers and I hope they like them also.  I figured out the process (I ended up using my Magic Bullet to puree the confectioners sugar and almond flour to a super smooth consistency), and Babydoll loved them; so my confidence is way up there.  I’m going to do it again soon.  I’m thinking about making some for my girlfriends as part of their Christmas treats.

Have any of you made macarons?  What flavors have you made? 

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PS: I am going to write something real soon about how AWESOME my Magic Bullet is.

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I found it!

For months I’ve been trying to duplicate this bread that they serve at Wildfire Grill in Chicago.  I’ve posted a couple of attempts of the pumpernickel bread that had raisins in it.  It is a bread that is served that is standard for each table.  It is so awesome.

Anyway last week while in the line at the grocery store doing my usual looking through all of the food magazines I came across a recipe for Blueberry Boston Brown Bread.  The picture looked just like the bread that I’ve been trying to make.  I knew I did not have enough time to write the recipe on the back of my grocery list, so I whipped out my phone and took a picture of the ingredients.

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Yes…I took a picture of the ingredients.

The book was a book of slow cooker recipes and I briefly read the instructions, but my thought was I should be able to go online and find this recipe.  Not so. Sad smile  I found recipes for Boston Brown Bread, but not a slow cooker recipe that was the same as the one I had took a picture of.  I went through my cook books and found a recipe for the bread in my Better Homes and Gardens book and decided to go with it.  The final product was AWESOME (I say that in a sing-songy voice)!!!

Here is the break down….

First I mixed the All-purpose, Whole Wheat (I have white whole wheat), Rye flour, & Cornmeal in a bowl

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To that I added baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

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Then I remembered that I needed to soak my raisins and cranberries  in 2 tbsp of boiling water.

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I mixed all the dry ingredients than moved on to the wet.  I measured a cup of buttermilk.

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I mixed it with molasses and brown sugar that I put in another measuring cup.

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I added the wet to the dry, then folded in the raisin/cranberry mixture.

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This I placed in a loaf pan that I had sprayed with cooking spray and then placed that inside of a casserole dish.  I took a piece of non-stick aluminum foil and placed it over the top of my dough/batter.  (In hindsight, I should have done a better job of covering it, and I’ll tell you why in a sec).

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I placed this in my oven (325 degrees convection, 350 convention) and added water to the casserole dish.

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The bread is to cook for approximately 2 hours.  I think I let my cook longer than that because I was also making a cake at the same time and I didn’t reset the timer once I had taken my cake out of the oven.  Have  mentioned that I cannot wait until I get my kitchen remodeled so that I can have double ovens?

Anywho…I took the bread out of the oven and gave it a slice.  The top was a bit crunchy, that could have been a result of my not covering the top securely or me leaving it in the oven for too long.  I’m not sure, but it was still awesome and finally what I had been eating at Wildfire. No longer do I have to attempt to make that bread.  I now know what I’ve been eating.  It wasn’t pumpernickel raisin, it was Boston Brown Bread! Smile

I slathered on the butter.  Then cut me another piece and slathered on more butter and had it with dinner.

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I’m so happy to have found it. Smile  Now if I could just get the recipe for their spiced peanuts that they serve at the bar.

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Here’s the recipe.  I hope you like as much as I do.

1/3 cup raisins (or dried blueberries, cranberries)

2 tbsp boiling water

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup rye flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cup buttermilk

1/3 cup full-flavor molasses

2 tbsp maple sugar or dark brown sugar (I used light because that was all I had)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray loaf pan.  Add raisins to 2 tbsp boiling water and set aside

2) Combine all-purpose flour, cornmeal, whole wheat flour, rye flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and set aside.

3) In another bowl combine buttermilk, molasses, and brown sugar.

4) Combine the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

5) Fold in raisins, include the liquid from the soaking process.

6) Place in greased loaf pan.  Then place the pan inside of casserole dish.  Take a piece of aluminum foil that as been lightly sprayed with cooking spray and place over the batter sprayed side down. (I know you can figure that out, but I do know some people that would not know to do sprayed side down, so I had to say it.)  For this I would try my best to secure it as much as possible without actually closing it off.  Tuck it around the sides really good.

7) Place the casserole dish in the oven then add enough boiling water into dish to come up sides of loaf pan about 1-inch.

8)  Let it bake for about 2 hrs or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Slice and serve warm with butter, cream cheese sweetened with honey, or even honey butter.  I had plain butter and it was fabulous.

Note:  I believe that I got this recipe from the Better Homes and Garden Slow Cooker Recipes book, but I must emphasis that I was in the grocery store line and didn’t pay much attention to which book I picked up.  I did however confirm the recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens Dessert Cookbook.

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Crockpot Save

Today I want to share with you guys, something that I feel is vital to all slow cooker/crockpot cooking.

REYNOLDS SLOW COOKER LINERS!!!

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In the past when you had to cook something in the crockpot you were happy because you knew you could cook your meal while you were out of the house; having a completed/most completed meal ready when you got home.  Then when all of the easiness is over you would have to clean that helpful tool.  I don’t know about you, but this was always a dark cloud that came shortly after my sunshine and rainbows.

Several months ago, I had a couple of coupons for the Slow Cooker Liners and bought them because they were on sale; then tossed them into my pantry bin for my food wrapping supplies.  I forgot about them until about around December when I saw them at the bottom of my bin.  I promised myself that the next time I used my crockpot I was going to whip them out.

My parents got me a new crockpot for Christmas that has the removable pot (my old one did not come apart and boy that was an even worse nightmare to clean).  I used my liner for the first time when I made pork for carnitas for Superbowl Sunday.  The clean up was easy-peasy.  Today, I made my Asian Beef and Broccoli (it was on the menu for yesterday, but I forgot to take my beef out of the freezer early enough and it was still frozen when I woke up that morning so, it got bumped to today).

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Take a look at the space between my liner and my crockpot….

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Amazing right?

I found another coupon for the liners and I’m going to buy another box or two or three (I don’t have that many coupons, but what can I say, I love these things Smile).  If you have not already tried them and you use a crockpot…what are you waiting for?  Go to the store and buy yourself some of these awesome liners.

Until next time,

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Note: the opinions of this post are not from a paid endorsement, I’m just sharing my opinion about something I have come to love. Smile

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Menu: 2/23/14

I haven’t posted one of these in a while.  I’m still making my menu’s just haven’t been putting them out here (or even putting them on the kitchen menu board for that matter. 😦 )  I think this winter weather is making me a lazy bumb.  I’m keeping the house clean and have even given up my weekly Saturday morning grocery store jaunt just so I don’t have to get out of bed and fight the snow.   Anyway I hope you guys get inspired by my menu…please share yours, I could use ideas (especially hearty soups for the winter – but please no soups with beans I acquired a bad taste of those after one of my summers with my grandmother when I was 9.).  So here we go:

Sunday – Salibury Steak with noodles (I know you are thinking why not potatoes, but I’m having potatoes on Saturday and if you remember, my actual menu starts on Saturday so we won’t be having potatoes back-to-back :))  I think I would like to add some type of greens with this so I may pick up some on Saturday afternoon from Kroger (they have the best greens pricing) – maybe a collard/mustard mix.

Monday: Soup & Sandwich day!!! – My version of a Minestrone without beans and Rachel’s or Ham & Cheese for Babydoll.

Tuesday – Asian Beef & Broccoli…I plan to serve these with homemade egg rolls and potstickers if I can dedicate myself to make them ahead of time on Monday.  I not then we’ll have the store bought version.

Wednesday – Pasta and Sauce – Stan loves this and I will make plain pasta for Babydoll and add some smoked sausage (she stays away from tomato sauce as much as possible because it aggravates her re-flux), I’ll fix a salad and garlic bread to accompany it.

Thursday: Pan-fried Tilapia and rice and either fruit salad or steamed broccoli

Friday – Not sure…I’m hoping I can talk Stan into taking us out if the weather cooperates.  If not, I maybe make a quick taco salad.

Saturday – Pork chops with pears, Twice-cooked roasted potatoes and spinach.

The dessert that I will make for the week is an Apple Crisp/Cobbler with French Vanilla Ice Cream.

On a side note: I have been craving Rice Krispy Treats since I watched an episode of Unique Sweets (does anyone else love that show); so I will be making about 5 different versions of Treats on Saturday.  My goal is to take pictures and post how they turn out.  Look for it some time next week. Smile

Also…I have been working on post about the basement remodel.  I believe I will break it down into about five or six parts.  I’m writing the entire post and will then break it down once I’ve finished it.

Have a great weekend guys.

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Extract update

Time’s almost up on my vanilla extract making process. Here is a shot of it from the other day.

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The color is magnificent. It looks so dark and rich.

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Tasting it now isn’t going to tell me anything….have you ever tried vanilla extract? But it sure smells good. Just a few more weeks to go.

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A HomeGoods find

I went to HomeGoods to replace the 1 qt stainless steel pot that Stan burnt up trying to warm up Chicken & Dumplins. The man won’t warm up soup in the microwave to save my pots! He even warms up canned soup in a pot. I’m digressing. What I walked out of the store with is this….

Orange Emulsion…

Lemon Emulsion….

Red Velvet Cake Emulsion….

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A good size bottle of vanilla extract (I know I know I’m making some why am I buying more…I bake a lot guys and my homemade won’t be complete for another six weeks and I will run out before then)

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Now look at the prices I paid for them

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Yep, $2.99 for the emulsions and And $5.99 for the extract.  I also found this bottle of black peppercorns that I was in need of.

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And look how much I paid for it…

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Now I did get a new pot also, but it wasn’t a 1 qt.

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Still looking for the replacement for my pot; but so happy to have found these. I bought all of the emulsions that they had on the shelf. I have no idea what to do with them yet. I made citrus cookies last weekend (along with a carrot cake – still making two desserts a weekend trying to get holiday desserts right) and I was afraid to use the emulsions. I used my orange and lemon extracts instead with the zest of both.

If you’ve ever used emulsions, send me a word and let me know the best ways to use them. I could really use the advice. I make a White Chocolate Orange pound cake that I’m thinking about using the orange emulsion in but the recipe calls for fresh orange juice and zest. Don’t know how to work it. I guess I’ll need to check Google for research.

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Extract Update

It’s been a couple of weeks since I put my vodka and vanilla beans together in hope of making a super delicious vanilla extract and I wanted to give a quick update on the process.

This is it after week two….

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It smells divine.

I’ll keep you updated.

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