Raspberry Balsamic Macarons


Ah French macarons, bane of home cooks and professionals alike.

I have seen many a subpar macaron for sale, even at the big boy's places.


The thing about macarons is that they require....

CONFIDENCE.


You have to believe in them!  You have to believe in those little feet, in that cakey center!  (the ruffly bit at the bottom is called the foot).

You have to believe that they will rise.


RISE!  Like the glorious sun in the morning.

Mine are a little flat.  This is because, afraid of overbeating them, I underbeat them.


Confidence.

But!  Have you ever tried balsamic on sweet?  How about right next to fresh?


Reduce it down, down with a little bit of honey until it is thick as melted chocolate.

Strew it over the tops of your beautiful babies and their little flat feet.


Crunch it up and wow!  Sweet and fresh and sour and crunch and smoosh and a delicate buttercream together.

Glorious.


Next time:  bigger feet.

Next time:  twice as many.


You may have noticed that there is a new button on my blog.  That little fella there in the corner lets you know that I (I!) am now a content contributer for The Daily Meal.  Hooray!  That's a real thing!  I conjured up these little cookies in response to a weekly recipe challenge they issued, giving you one ingredient to play with.  This week it was raspberries, sponsored by Driscoll's berries.  Driscoll's berries!  Go buy some berries!  Follow them @driscollsberry #raspberrydessert.  Eat them fresh or, better yet, stick them in a buttercream.

(Hey I forgot to include the raaaaaaspberry puree joke!  I was singing it all day, just like Prince.  Ha!  I AM JUST LIKE PRINCE)


Raspberry Balsamic Macarons
Makes 24

Age your egg whites!  Did you know you're supposed to do that when making macarons?  Two or three days before baking, put your egg whites (about 3) in a glass dish in the refrigerator.  The night before baking, take them out and leave them on the counter overnight.  They won't go bad, I swear.  This makes a huge difference in getting successful macarons.

For the cookies:
180 grams almond meal (I prefer grams for macarons, since imprecise measurements can be the difference between life and death here)
240 grams powdered sugar
140 grams egg whites, aged
A large pinch powdered egg whites (so much for precision!)
A medium pinch sea salt

In a large bowl combine almond meal, powdered sugar, and sea salt.  Combine the egg whites with the egg white powder in the bowl of a stand mixer and whip until stiff peaks form.

Add the meringue to the almond meal mixture and beat by hand until a shiny, ribbony mass forms.  Don't be afraid!  Get it right!  A good way to test it is to make a small peak in the batter.  Does it stand stiff?  Beat it more.  Does it immediately disappear?  You've gone too far!  Does it slowly sink back into and meld with the batter?  That's it.

Pipe small rounds onto sheet pans lined with a silpat and let them air dry for 45 minutes to an hour.  The tops should be dry when touched with your finger.  If you live in a wet place, turn on the ceiling fan (Oregon, I'm looking at you).  When the drying time is almost up, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

When drying time is up and oven is preheated, turn oven down to 300 degrees and bake cookies for about 15 minutes, rotating sheet pans halfway through for even cooking.  Try not to have a heart attack as you open the oven and look for feet.

Let them cool.

For the buttercream:
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1/4 cup water
4 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 sticks butter, cubed and softened
Pinch of salt
1 cup Driscoll's raspberries

First, mash up the raspberries with a fork, making a chunky puree.

Now start beating the egg whites.  You want to get them to where they are just forming soft peaks.  In the meantime, combine the white sugar and the water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Let it heat until it reaches 235 degrees fahrenheit.  Immediately remove from heat and pour in a slow stream into eggwhites while still mixing.

Now add in the butter cubes, one at a time and mixing well after each addition.  Add the vanilla and the pinch of salt.  The mixture may look curdled, but just keep beating it.  It will come together and turn fluffy and lovely just like you want.

Once you find the texture of buttercream you like, turn off mixer and stir in about 1/3 cup of raspberry puree by hand (more or less to taste, but don't add too much it will make the mixture separate again).

Pipe buttercream onto cookie halves, sandwich together with other cookie halves.

For the balsamic reduction:
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tablespoon honey

Simmer your vinegar and honey together in a small saucepan until about 1/4 cup of it is left.  The texture should be syrupy.  Can be made several hours or even days before cookies and stored in the refrigerator, but bring to room temperature before using as it will harden when cold.  

Golden Milk


There is a thin and permeable line between cooking for health and cooking for pleasure.

There is a massive overlap between eating well and feeling well.

Lately my little kitchen experiments have started to spill out of the sustenance realm and into the realm of medicine and healing.

Homemade cough medicine!  Body butters and salves!  St. John's wort steeping in oil on the windowsill, turning it red.

This is the kind of fun I've been having.


This little wonder straddles that line between food and medicine, between health and pleasure.

I'd seen recipes for golden milk on blogs before, mainly from Indian cooks.  It is supposed to bring warmth and vitality, restore emotional balance, and work against inflammation of all kinds.

Warm and sweet and spicy and soothing.

It helps that I won a whole pound of high-class turmeric on the internet a few months ago.

Winning is awesome!


What am I going to do with all of this turmeric??

Maybe this.

I'm from a long line of auto-immune afflicted folks with various manifestations of it.  Mine is the skin rash, eczema.  It comes and goes, but mostly just stays.

I have tried everything over the years and have little hope for a cure any time soon.  Some things work for a while, then stop working, for whatever reason.

But I made this for myself today and you know what?  A particularly bad outbreak I was having on my hand is already fading.


So maybe I have a little hope, at least.

Golden Milk
adapted from Rosemary Gladstar

1/4 c turmeric powder
Almond milk (cow's or coconut are fine too!)
Honey

First, make a turmeric base by combining turmeric powder with 1/2 cup of water in a saucepan.  Bring it to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until mixture becomes a thick paste.  Cool it and store in the refrigerator - this paste will make many servings of golden milk!

To make milk:  Combine 1 teaspoon turmeric paste with 1 cup milk and honey to taste (I used about 1 tablespoon) in a saucepan, heat until steaming.  Put mixture in blender, blend until frothy.

This can also be drunk cold or at room temperature, whatever your preference.

Easter Egg Radishes and 7-Minute Mac & Cheese


It's Easter Egg radishes this year.  Can you guess why they call them that?


The first thing out of my little garden.  We pulled up the last of them today, eating with salt and vinegar.  The kids will eat them if I cut off the colored skin - they are convinced the 'spice' of the radish is in the red skin.  Suckers.


This dish is a result of having a broken car and no groceries.


This dish is a result of a half-memory I have from years ago of eating delicious, deconstructed macaroni and cheese from a $5 noodle joint while on break from my college cashier job.


This dish is delicious.


Here is a kid.  He approves this message.

7-Minute Mac & Cheese

1 cup noodles
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 - 1/2 cup shredded cheese
splash of cream (milk will do in a pinch)
salt and pepper to taste

Cook your noodles according to package instructions.  Mine required cooking for 7 minutes.

Drain noodles, stir in butter.  This is the only stirring you will do.  Put down the spoon!

Put noodles in dish.  Splash in cream to taste, just a bit, just enough to wet them.

Sprinkle with cheese.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Consume with gusto.

I'll be grading your gusto on an A - F scale so don't let me down.

My Extracts



Pour some vodka on it!

That's the new motto at my house.

It started with a homemade vanilla - fun to do, handy.


And while vanilla beans are spendy, in the end you get way more bang for your buck doing it this way than buying those little 2 oz vanilla bottles from the store for $7 a pop.

I HAVE FOUR CUPS OF VANILLA IN MY PANTRY RIGHT NOW!

Quelle richesse.

Of course, if you can make vanilla extract then it stands to reason you can make other extracts.

Almond extract!


This one takes a little longer to age, supposedly about 3 months to really acquire that amandine fragrance.

But it's getting cloudy already, and it's a good start.

And now it's really gone too far, because that third one is lilac extract.


That's right, I picked some (unsprayed) lilac flowers from a bush.  Soaked them to get rid of the bugs.  Stuck them in a jar.

And poured some vodka on it.

The color has changed from, well, lilac, to a sort of copper.  The smell is pretty extraordinary.


Future vodka goals: Mint extract.  Cocoa bean.  Rose!  Hazelnut?

Sky's the limit, people!

Extracts

Pour some vodka on it.  Cap, put in dark place.  Leave until smells like the thing you are trying to extract.

Almond Mousse Cupcakes


In a bit of a funk, lately.

We're on the edge of a big transition, but the future is unknown.

Having a hard time putting energy into things, including blogging.  And etc.


I have so much good stuff up my sleeve though, and when I start it I always think "I can't WAIT to blog this!"

Then I look at my camera a week later and I took three pictures of the process, only two of which are any good, and no pics of the finished product.


Because I already ate it.

All of it.

Oh well.  These are the last 3 of 24 almond mousse cupcakes I made for a baby shower.  The theme was nautical.


The starfish were marzipan.


Almond Mousse Cupcakes
Makes 24

For the marzipan starfish (from Emeril):
8 ounces almond paste
1 3/4 cups confectioner's sugar
4 tablespoons corn syrup

For the cakes:
2 sticks butter, softened
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon almond extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

For the almond mousse (also from Emeril, the man knows his almonds):
5 oz almonds, lightly toasted and cooled
4 tablespoons white sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon corn syrup
2 tablespoons warm water
3 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons amaretto liqueur
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the frosting:
2 sticks butter, softened
3 - 3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
3 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons almond extract

Make the marzipan starfish in advance.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat up the almond paste with 1 cup of the confectioner's sugar.  Mix until it is incorporated.  Add the remaining sugar and beat until incorporated also.  Add the corn syrup and combine well.  Mixture will still be crumbly, but should hold together if pressed.  Turn the mixture out onto a clean surface and knead until it comes together.  If it becomes too sticky, add more confectioner's sugar.  You should have a smooth dough, which you can then shape as you like.  Top with raw sugar for texture.

Make the almond mousse in advance as well.  Blend the almonds and 2 tablespoons of the confectioner's sugar into a paste in a food processor.  Beat the cream and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar together until soft peaks form.  Meanwhile, in the top of a double boiler combine corn syrup and water and whisk until smooth.  Add egg yolks and amaretto; place over the top of a simmering pan and beat with an electric mixer until very thick and ribbons form.  Continue to beat until cool.  Add in the vanilla and whipped cream and fold together.  Finally, fold in the reserved almond paste.  Chill at least 4 hours.

Day of, make your cupcakes.  Preheat oven to 350, line 2 cupcake pans with cupcake liners.  Beat your butter and sugar together about 3 minutes.  Add your eggs, beating well between each addition, about 1 minute.  Combine buttermilk and almond extract in separate bowl (I just use a measuring cup).  Combine flour, powder and salt in a separate container.  Add to mixer in batches, switching back and forth between dry ingredients and wet (I usually do 3 batches dry, 2 batches wet).  Once all are added turn off mixer and finish mixing by hand.

Bake 20 - 25 minutes, testing for doneness with a toothpick.

Finally, make frosting.  Beat confectioner's sugar and butter together for 3 minutes.  Add almond extract and food coloring  (I used 2 dabs blue gel and one dab green).  Add in milk.  Beat one minute more.

Assembly:  Fill cupcakes with mousse, piping it into the center.  Frost.  Place a starfish on top.  Ta da!

Wedding Cake


Spring weddings are always risky.


Rain?  No rain?  Is it good luck or just ironic?


The flowers, though.


The nice thing about making wedding cakes is that you get to go to the PARTY.  Yes, those are cream puff kebabs.



I only accept payment in cream puff kebabs.

Fish Sticks


I know what you're thinking.

Fish sticks? you're thinking.  Fish sticks?


Where's the pizzazz?


Well I'll tell you what, busters.  The pizzazz is feeding my family something easy and healthy that they will actually eat.

That's the trifecta.


And honestly, humble as they are, these were completely delicious.  Crispy panko, smooth cod, tart tartar (is that why they call it that??) sauce.  A few naked cukes on the side.

The pizzazz is there.  This dish is just too much of a lady to call attention to it.  (Fish sticks be a lady tonight)

Fish Sticks
adapted from a fish

2 lbs cod
2 cups panko bread crumbs
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons lemon pepper
1/2 cup flour (or more as needed)
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350.

Stir your bread crumbs, salt, paprika and lemon pepper together.  Beat your eggs in a shallow dish.  Chop your cod into sticks.

Dip sticks into flour, then egg, then roll in bread crumbs to coat.  Place on baking sheet and bake 10-12 minutes, flipping once during cooking.  Serve with lemon and tartar sauce!

Tartar Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise
6 tablespoons chopped capers
10 tablespoons chopped dill pickles
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Stir all ingredients together, chill until using.