Monday, February 28, 2011

Lavender Macarons with Honey Dark Chocolate Ganache

These turned out perfectly.  As in, I had not a single issue.  Being that these are macarons we are talking about, I say this with much pleasure and pride.  The first time I made macarons was about year ago and I tried David Lebovitz's safe, trusted and true French chocolate macarons.  I thought those turned out well.  Ohh boy, was I wrong.  They were good, but not compared to these beauties.

As I mentioned in my previous post, it is very important to weigh all of your ingredients when making macarons as the wet to dry ingredient ratio must be perfectly balanced or things could start going tragically awry, i.e. causing the batter to be the incorrect consistency.  Even once you have the right proportions of ingredients, you need to treat them like your favorite child (not like people have them or anything…).  Don't over-beat the egg whites as it could cause the macarons to be all sorts of lumpy, lopsided and misshapen.  But there is a fine line you see because if you don't beat the egg whites enough, the macarons will fail to thrive and there is a good chance you won't get the prized feet.  I am in no way shape or form a master of the macaron, so I recommend you head over to Not So Humble Pie if you have more questions.

I took this picture a few days after I filled the shells because I'm a bad person.  If not a bad person, at least a cookie neglector.  I'm surprised it's not an offense punishable by food blogger law, or if it is and I just don't know it yet, please go easy on me!  I swear, I just got side tracked and I was packing for a trip down to Eugene!

You probably noticed, and if you didn't please make an eye doctors appointment, but the shells are bright purple.  No, there is not that much lavender in them… I just got a little happy with my super fancy, super concentrated food dye.  I was a big girl and bought something other than the squirt bottles you can find at the local Safeway.  Who knew that you only need to use a little bit to achieve the same result as using half a bottle of the supermarket stuff?  Apparently not me…

Now that you're well informed that these are not in fact mutant macarons, they are in my opinion only one notch below Laudree's and 5 notches above the ordinary.  The floral lavender is an unexpected delight to the tongue with the sharp contrast of the extra dark chocolate mellowing everything out.  I would like to note that the chocolate I bought was a smidgen too dark, so I added a little honey to the ganache as I was whipping it up.  Not only do honey and lavender pair wonderfully together, but it made the dark chocolate a little less harsh.

Next time I make these,  I might try a lemon curd filling, lemon, fig, olive oil or vanilla bean filling….hmmmm, suggestions?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad

I can't believe I'm scything this, but before this recipe I never had cooked quinoa before.  Now, I had eaten plenty of quinoa, but cook it I had not.  What was wrong with me?  Not only is it delicious, but it is easy to make.  You can make your life so much easier by making it in a rice cooker, but I took the hard route and easily made it on the stove top.

I think what I like most about a quinoa salad is that it's so adaptable to what vegetables are in season… or like me, what you happen to have in your pantry.  Summer squashes?  Roast them up and throw them in.  If you're like me, use some peppers, broccoli and onion; essentially the only good produce Trader Joe's had that evening.

Also, I really think you guys deserve something good and healthy after the past few recipes.  Yes, the salted caramel peanut butter brownies are incredibly delicious but won't help you fit into those new skinny jeans hiding in the back of your closet.

Also, happy birthday to Julie McComish and Emily Arntson!!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Salted Caramel Peanut Butter Brownies

Salted Caramel Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies.  Try saying that three times fast!  If you can, I think you've earned your brownie!

Well, I guess it's only appropriate to wish the interwebs a happy Valentine's Day!  I mean, once again I am alone on Valentines Day, but only romantically.  Seriously boys, when I are you going to realize that I can bake?  Yeesh!  However, I am not alone.  I have wonderful friends here in Seattle and family back in Michigan who I know love me and they should know I love them right back.  That, and I just polished off a box of conversation hearts (and a bowl of vegetarian chili and some middle eastern flat bread and… oh, I should probably stop talking now) so I got some loving words from them.

While today is technically V-Day, I celebrated yesterday with the girlfriends.  Christine, Julie, Katrina and I had a girls day extravaganza in honor of the blessed holiday.  It started off with a walk around Green Lake and a picnic in one of the parking lots.  Next we drove on up Aurora to a unique nail salon (appropriately titled Glamour Nails) and had a three hour long manicure.  With our polished fingers and toes we trotted on over to my place where we decorated red velvet cup cakes (check back for that post later) and Julie & Katrina cooked a delicious and light dinner.  To complete the picture, we closed off the evening by watching Twilight.  All in all, it was the perfect day and definitely the perfect Valentine's Day.

However, these brownies are in no way connected to Valentine's Day.  In fact, I made them a few weeks ago for a game night that I had.  It was right after I accepted my new job (of which I just completed my first week today!), most of 'the group' was in town and we pretty much hung out all day.  After playing some 3 on 3 football with 5 people, it was as interesting as it sounds, we didn't want to stop hanging out and decided to have a game night that evening.  Being that I am who I am, I made brownies to make the people happy.  Of course they were, but they were a little rich to be paired with the soft white wines were were drinking.  Don't take this as a bad thing though, they were do delicious and the caramel perfectly melted into the brownies. 

So if you're single today, make a pan and polish the whole thing off without worrying about anyone knowing.  If you're attached, make this for your significant other and chances are, you'll make their day.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Cinnamon Roasted Almonds

I don't know about you, but I was pretty excited when the Packers won the Superbowl last night.  I mean, I guess I didn't really have a preference because the Seahawks didn't make it and the Lions will never make it, I just liked the Packers more than the Steelers.  However, now I am bedridden with some iconic form of the flu and thought "well, if I can't get out of bed, I might as well publish a blog post."  Ta da!

I've actually been doing a lot of cooking and baking recently, so be looking forward to some new recipes.  Right now I am uploading and editing photos from my camera and I forgot exactly how much food I made!  Quinoa salad, brownies, macarons… and the Superbowl food.  Oh dear, the Superbowl food.  As can be expected, I willingly volunteered to cook for the big game and did not take my task lightly.  I had been cooking since last Tuesday (making ahead as much as I could & freezing) and woke up early on Sunday (8am) to finish everything in time.

Now I feel like I'm leaving you all hanging by not posting a recipe from the Superbowl!  Alas, these cinnamon almonds are just as delicious and (hopefully) a little healthier.  When my roommate came home from Christmas break, she had a big bag of the cinnamon roasted almond you find at fairs, outside of Uwajimaya and the like.  I wanted what I couldn't have and instantly started craving almonds.  As luck would have it, I had a pound of almonds in the back of my pantry and about 3 jars of cinnamon - I was prepared.  When cooking these, make sure to stir the almonds regularly.  I found that it gives them the "crunch" that you find with more mass produced cinnamon almonds.


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