Polar Bear Macarons

peppermint macarons with a ganache filling in cute polar bear shapes. Recipe on kokocooks.com

Tis the season for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, and I’m so glad I participated this year.  I was very upset with myself when I missed last year’s deadline.  Not only does the swap connect bloggers from all over the globe, but it also raises money for Cookies For Kids’ Cancer.  This event has become well known, and this year over $7000 was raised!  That’s a lotta cookies!

peppermint macarons with a ganache filling in cute polar bear shapes. Recipe on kokocooks.com

Since I’ve become rather good at macarons, I wanted to make some for the swap.  I went with a seasonal flavor – peppermint shells with a chocolate ganache filling.  And since I have the baking mats with a bear shape already printed on them, why not go for a wintry polar bear theme as well?  The trick to making them look like polar bears is to make the ears small, and more on the side of the head than on top. I scoured pictures of polar bears (real and drawn) to figure this out.

peppermint macarons with a ganache filling in cute polar bear shapes. Recipe on kokocooks.com

The chocolate peppermint combination of the cookies was delicious! It was like eating a peppermint patty.  I used an edible food marker to draw the faces onto the shells.  I couldn’t help smiling every time I glanced down as I worked – those faces were just so darn cute!

peppermint macarons with a ganache filling in cute polar bear shapes. Recipe on kokocooks.com

Unfortunately, my macs did not fare well on the voyage through the mail.  So, if anyone has any recommendations for shipping macarons, please let me know.  I am open to all suggestions.

Polar Bear Macarons

Polar Bear Macarons

Ingredients

For macaron shells
see recipe here, using peppermint extract instead of the vanilla bean.
Chocolate ganache
4 oz. semisweet chocolate
2 oz. heavy cream

Instructions

  1. For the macaron shells: make shells according to instructions. Substitute 1 1/2 tsp peppermint extract for the vanilla bean. Pipe small circles on either side of each circle to form the ears for the polar bear.
  2. Once the shells are cool, draw a face on half the shells.
  3. For the ganache: break chocolate up into small chunks. Place in a heat-proof bowl.
  4. Warm up the cream over medium heat. Watch it carefully. Heat until small bubble start to form around the edge and it feels very warm when you dip your finger in. Do not let the cream boil.
  5. Pour the heavy cream into the bowl with the chocolate. Let sit for 5 minutes, then slowly stir until mixture is combined and smooth. Let the ganache cool to room temperature before spreading over the half of the shells without a polar bear face. Top with a face-drawn shell.
http://kokocooks.com/2015/12/polar-bear-macarons/

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Butter Chicken

butter chicken, a spicy and fragrant dish of chicken in a creamy tomato sauce. Recipe on kokocooks.com

One of my favorite keepsakes every year from the Epcot Food and Wine Festival is the cookbook.  I have seen this book evolve over the twenty years of the festival – from the recipe cards that used to be available at each booth, to the flimsy paper version, to the tall and skinny format, and now to this beautiful hardcover one.  It has many festival favorites, as well as a bunch of recipes from the new selections.

This year I decided to spotlight one of my favorite new dishes from the festival.  This dish is similar in flavor to chiken tikka masala, but with slightly differnent flavorings.  This is an easy dish to make, and tastes great when served with rice (especially basmati) or some warm naan.  One of my favorite restaurants in town serves buttered chicken in a taco, which is lovely but messy.  I toned down the heat a lot from the book because I knew my son would not like it really spicy, but feel free to adjust the seasonings to your heat preference.

a spicy and fragrant dish of chicken in a creamy tomato sauce. Recipe on kokocooks.com

adapted from Epcot Food And Wine Festival 2015 cookbook

Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken

Ingredients

For the sauce
1 Tbs vegetable oil
½ c diced onion (about half a medium onin)
½ c diced green pepper (about half a pepper)
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
½ Tbs garam masala
½ Tbs chili powder
½ Tbs cumin
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
1 c tomato puree
¼ c plain yogurt (lowfat is fine)
⅔ c heavy cream
Salt and pepper
For the chicken
4 tsp garam masala
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp paprika
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs cornstarch
¼ c chicken broth
Salt and pepper
To finish
Naan bread or cooked basmati rice

Instructions

  1. For the sauce: Heat oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and green pepper and sauté until soft.
  2. Stir in the butter, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, garam masala, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, and bay leaves. Cook for another few minutes, until butter has melted.
  3. Add tomato puree and cook another 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low, and stir in the yogurt and heavy cream. Simmer 10 minutes.
  4. Keep warm until ready to add to chicken. Remove bay leaves before continuing.
  5. For the chicken: combine garam masala, salt, paprika, and cayenne powder in a large bowl. Add chicken and mix around until chicken is evenly coated with spices.
  6. Heat butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes.
  7. Lower heat to medium-low and stir in 1 cup of the sauce. Simmer until chicken is cooked through, about another 5 minutes. Stir in remaining sauce.
  8. Form a slurry by mixing the cornstarch and chicken broth together. Add to the chicken and stir for a few minutes until the sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Serve over warm naan or cooked basmati rice (or both!)
http://kokocooks.com/2015/10/butter-chicken/

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Epcot International Food And Wine Festival 2015, My Top 5 new foods of the 20th anniversary

Epcot Food and Wine Festival 2015

Hold onto your hats, it’s my favorite time of the year!  Fall means cooler weather, gorgeous autumnal colors on trees, and a slight nip in the air.  Except, none of those actually happen here in Florida.  However!  We do have the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival to look forward to!  This year is extra special because Disney is celebrating its 20th anniversary of the festival.  I’ve been thinking, and the first time I came to the festival was in 1997, the year I did my student teaching in Orlando.  I’ve been almost every year since (there were a few years when I lived in North Carolina, and didn’t make it down.)  Here’s a quick stroll down memory lane….

I was not above posing as a bosc pear bear at the 2007 festival…

The birth of our son didn’t keep us away in 2009.  In fact, this was Tyler’s first ever Disney trip…

At the 15th anniversary in 2010, guests were given red clown noses as part of the parting gifts from the Party For The Senses.

As in recent years, I am focusing this post on what’s new around the Global Marketplaces.  Food-wise, that is.  First, the Dominican Republic makes a return with new dishes.  Second, there’s the Chew Lab and Sustainable Chew, both located in Future World and dedicated to the television show The Chew.  I spent a good deal of time tasting my way through the new food (and some of the beverage) offerings.  I even made a guest appearance on Lou Mongello’s podcast, along with Julie, as we tasted our way through many new items. Lou was so much fun to hang out with, and I was constantly amazed by how easily he can speak on the fly without any script.  Check out the podcast, if nothing else than for our unguarded reactions to eating haggis for the first time!

(haggis with neeps and tatties)

It was difficult to narrow things down, because just about everything we tried was a smash hit.  The chefs have really stepped it up this year.  I was so impressed by the quality of the food, and how beautifully everything was presented.  I’ve managed to come up with my Top 5 new items for this year.  Here goes:

 

zucchini ravioli, Epcot Food and Wine Festival 2015

  • The ricotta and zucchini ravioli, Sustainable Chew.  Ravioli sounds like it’s going to be heavy, but this dish was fresh and light.  The zucchini was shredded and mixed with the ricotta, and the ravioli was cooked perfectly.  The tomato sauce that accompanied it had a slight heat from red pepper flakes.  It was the first thing we ate, and was a perfect start to the afternoon!  And, it’s a fantastic vegetarian option.

 

Lechón asado: Roasted pork with mangú, pickled red onion and avocado, Epcot Food and Wine Festival

  • Lechón asado: Roasted pork with mangú, pickled red onion and avocado, Dominican Republic.  The pork was soooo tender, and I loved the rustic presentation of the smashed avocado.  Mangú is made from mashed plantains, and made the dish feel hearty.  This is not only delicious, but also gluten free.

 

butter chicken, Epcot Food and Wine Festival 2015

  • Buttered chicken, South Africa.  This dish shares a similar flavor profile to chicken tikka masala.  It is spiced with garam masala, cumin, and cayenne pepper, and has a fragrant tomato-based sauce.  The naan that came with it was soft and lightly buttered. It was one of the spicier dishes, but not too much.  When I bought this year’s cookbook, this was the first thing I made, and it was just as good at home!

 

Loaded mac ‘n’ cheese with Nueske's® pepper bacon, cheddar cheese, peppers and green onions, Epcot Food and Wine Festival 2015

  • Loaded mac ‘n’ cheese with Nueske’s® pepper bacon, cheddar cheese, peppers and green onions, Farm Fresh.  They had me at “mac and cheese,” but then they add bacon to it!  This was loaded with four kinds of cheese, mixed with bacon and red bell pepper, and topped with green onion.  This is definitely a dish to share with friends.  I could’ve eaten it all, but then would’ve been done for the day.  And ready for a nap.

 

liquid nitro chocolate truffle, Epcot Food and Wine Festival 2015

  • Liquid nitro chocolate almond truffle with warm whiskey caramel, Sustainable Chew.  This was my favorite dessert so far, and so much fun to watch the chef make.  First,  she dipped a scoop of chocolate mousse in liquid nitrogen.  Then, she set the frozen mousse on a plate and broke it open by rapping on it with a mallet.  After that, she garnished it with caramel and almond crumbs.  I was impressed by how long the mousse remained frozen.  And it is sooooooo good – silky chocolate, with the almond for some texture and caramel for sweetness.

 

frozen brown elephant, Refreshment Coolpost

  • Frozen Brown Elephant, Refreshment Cool Post.  Okay, I had to include one more.  Like I said, it was hard to narrow things down!  Of all the drinks I tried, this one was my favorite.  It’s kind of like a rum and coke, but frozen.  And with a cream liqueur.  It went down very easily, especially on a hot day, and when eating the spicy hot dog with kimchi slaw.  I was sharing this with Julie and Lou, but ended up drinking most of it myself.

 

Whew!  Like I said, it was hard to keep from listing everything.  There were so many dishes that were equally as good, like the miso udon, venison, loin, and meat pie with mashed yucca.  AND, this list doesn’t include any of my returning favorites like the roasted duck steamed bun, filet with truffle butter, pork belly with black beans, or tuna poke.  *Sigh*  This just means that I need to make many (many) more trips back to try them all.

 

One last tip: if children will be with you as you eat your way around the world, I highly recommend the Remy’s Hide and Squeak scavenger hunt.  You can purchase a map of the World Showcase along with a set of stickers.  A statue of Remy is hidden in each of the countries aournd the World Showcase, and as you find him you place stickers in the correct spots.  Once you fill up the map with the stickers, you can turn it in for a commemorative pin.  My son was a whiny grumble pants as we entered Epcot, up until we got the map and began the search.  Then he happily walked from country to country looking for the statues while I enjoyed the food.

 

Have you been to the festival yet?  What dishes did you like?  Are you planning on going?  What food/drink are you most looking forward to trying?  Check out my Flickr album for more pictures from Epcot.  I’ll be updating it throughout the festival’s run.  Oh, and I may manage to post a recipe or two in the next few weeks of dishes from this year’s selections!

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Glazed Donuts

Easy donuts for the chocolate-peanut butter lover. Recipe on kokocooks.com

This past summer, we took a long weekend vacation to the beach on the west coast of the state.  I specify this, because the beaches on the gulf side are much different than the beaches on the ocean side.  We’re lucky enough to be fairly close to both kinds.  I especially loved the gentle waves, crystal green water, digging up coquinas, and the daily spectacular sunsets.

I mean seriously, how can you not love that sight???  Everyone would just stop what they were doing for the half hour it took for the sun to slowly sink below the sea.  What a fantastic way to end each day.

Easy donuts for the chocolate-peanut butter lover. Recipe on kokocooks.com

While on vacation, we visited the most amazing donut shop.  They made only cake donuts, and customized them while you waited.  One bite of my chocolate and peanut butter donut and I was smitten.  I ended up eating the other two all by myself, and it was bliss every bite.  I’ve been wanting to recreate the chocolate-peanut butter heaven ever since.

Easy donuts for the chocolate-peanut butter lover. Recipe on kokocooks.com

I wanted to make this recipe fairly easy, so I used canned biscuits for the donuts.  This was the first time I tried them like that, and they were so good!  I gobbled up all the donut holes before the last biscuit was done frying.  The glaze is very easy to make.  It took a few swirls of the donut to completely cover it with chocolate, but that just meant more glaze on each one!  I dare you to save some for later – it was reeeeally hard for me to not eat them all!

Easy donuts for the chocolate-peanut butter lover. Recipe on kokocooks.com

original recipe, glaze adapted from Good Eats

Chocolate Peanut Butter Glazed Donuts

Yield: 8-10 donuts, depending on which size biscuits you use

Chocolate Peanut Butter Glazed Donuts

Note: donuts taste best warm. If you have leftovers (ha!), store them in the fridge, and then nuke for a few seconds in the microwave before eating.

Ingredients

For the donuts:
1 can biscuits
Oil for frying
For the glaze:
4 Tbs unsalted butter
2 Tbs milk
½ Tbs light corn syrup
2 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
⅓ c powdered sugar, sifted
¼ c creamy peanut butter

Instructions

  1. For the donuts: Separate biscuits onto a baking sheet. Dip a small circular cutter in flour, then cut a hole in the center of each biscuit.
  2. Pour oil in a medium sized pot to a depth of 2 inches. Heat over medium-high heat until it reaches 350°F. Use a candy thermometer to check the temperature. Fry biscuits a few at a time, cooking until golden brown, about 1 minute on each side. Remove donuts to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining biscuits.
  3. For the glaze: Combine butter, milk, and corn syrup in a small saucepan. Warm over medium heat until butter has melted. Turn heat down to low and add the chocolate chips. Whisk until the chocolate melts.
  4. Remove from heat. Whisk in the powdered sugar until smooth. Dip the surface of the donuts in the glaze, making sure that all the top gets coated.
  5. Place peanut butter in a small, microwave-safe bowl. Heat for 20 seconds in the microwave. Stir. Repeat until the peanut butter is just melted, about 1-2 times more. Place melted peanut butter in a pastry bag (or a small sandwich bag) and snip the tip. Drizzle peanut butter over the chocolate glaze on the donuts.
http://kokocooks.com/2015/09/chocolate-peanut-butter-glazed-donuts/

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Bring Your Lunch Giveaway (closed)

There are so many things that keep me from bringing my lunch to work every day.  Either I’m running late and I don’t have time in the morning to pack one.  Or I leave it on the kitchen counter.  Or I go to my next work location and forget my lunch in the teacher’s lounge refrigerator. With five schools to go to in a week, it’s no wonder some things get left behind!

I’m making a supreme effort this year to bring my lunch more often, and am hoping to help someone else do the same.  I put together a little “Bring Your Lunch, Dawg” giveaway that includes a lunch bag and salad combo container.  The bag is insulated, made from recycled plastic bags, and from the awesomely fun site, Mod Cloth.  The container is great for holding a sandwich and a snack, and comes with a cute container for dressing (like this homemade one!) and a snap together fork and knife.  One of my favorite lunches to bring is a DIY burrito bowl.

Giveaway is open to U.S. residents over 18 years old.  See the widget below to enter.  Ends September 7, 2015 at 8:00p.m. Eastern time.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Lemony Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

a homemade version of the classic ranch dressing. Recipe on kokocooks.com

School is back in session!  As with every school year, I make a very strong effort to bring my lunch every day.  Okay, four of the five days.  Maybe three.  Because driving from school to school is a regular part of my day, it is way too easy to pull into a quick serve place and grab lunch.  I have been know to eat Chipotle several times in a week.  Not good for the wallet, or the waistline.

a homemade version of the classic buttermilk dressing. Recipe on kokocooks.com

Along with bringing my lunch, I’m also trying to incorporate more vegetables into it.  It doesn’t take much time to break off a couple broccoli florets, slice some zucchini, and throw in a few cherry tomatoes and carrot sticks into a container.  If I’m feeling really motivated, I’ll toss together a salad.  My new favorite dressing is this homemade buttermilk ranch, with lots of fresh lemon zest.  Eating veggies is a lot more fun with this dressing to dip them in.

a homemade version of the classic ranch dressing. Recipe on kokocooks.com

Oh, and keep your eyes peeled on this site!  I’m giving away a little lunch set, which includes a cute lunch bag and a salad/sandwich container! Click here to enter.

a homemade version of the classic ranch dressing. Recipe on kokocooks.com

original recipe

Lemony Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

Yield: just under 1 cup

Lemony Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

Ingredients

½ c buttermilk
¼ c mayonnaise
2 Tbs sour cream
2 Tbs chopped fresh herbs (I like a combination of oregano, parsley, and dill but really whatever’s in your fridge)
½ tsp fresh lemon zest
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp garlic powder
few dashes of cayenne powder (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Place ingredients in a bowl and whisk together. For best results, cover and chill for an hour to let flavors develop.
http://kokocooks.com/2015/08/lemony-buttermilk-ranch-dressing/

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Classic Margarita

a classic margarita with homemade mix.  Recipe on kokocooks.com

When I go out, I tend to order one of three cocktails: margarita, mojito, or martini.  Guess I like my alcoholic drinks that start with ‘m.’  I don’t drink too much during the school year when my schedule gets hectic, but during these glorious summer days I definitely enjoy some beverages on the patio. When it comes to tequila, I usually just drink a shot, but lately I’ve been into making my own margaritas.  The classic lime with a hint of orange will always be my favorite flavor, especially when made with homemade margarita mix.

classic margarita with homemade mix. Recipe on kokocooks.com

original recipe

Classic Margarita

Yield: 2 servings

Classic Margarita

Ingredients

1 batch margarita mix
4 oz. tequila (I like a good blanco)
1.5 oz orange flavored liqueur (like triple sec, or Grand Marnier)
Salt (optional)
Ice
Lime slices for garnish

Instructions

  1. Stir together the margarita mix, tequila, and orange liqueur in a pitcher. Wet the rim of the glasses, and dip in salt. Pour into glasses with ice. Garnish with lime. Drink. Repeat.
http://kokocooks.com/2015/08/classic-margarita/

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Homemade Margarita Mix

You won't be able to stop making tasty margaritas with this homemade mix. Recipe on kokocooks.com

I was at the supermarket the other day, and noticed an incredible sale on limes: 12/$1.  What a deal!  I remember Shawnda’s story about scouring the city for limes at a good price so she could stock up on margarita mix.  I’ve never thought to make my own mix – usually I only drink margaritas when I’m out – but seeing all those lovely limes convinced me to try.  I filled a bag and dashed home.

You won't be able to stop making tasty margaritas with this homemade mix. Recipe on kokocooks.com

The limes I got were extra juicy – it only took six limes to make 1 cup of juice.  There must have been some bumper crop somewhere.  The margarita mix is a little strong, because I anticipated that it would dilute a bit when added with ice.

classic margarita made with homemade mix. Recipe on kokocooks.com

adapted from The Brewer & The Baker

Homemade Margarita Mix

Homemade Margarita Mix

This recipe is meant to be a little stronger, to accommodate when ice is added to the final drink. If storing the mix for a later use, add a 1/4 c of water before using.

Ingredients

1 c fresh lime juice (6-10 limes)
3/4 c water
1/2 c sugar

Instructions

  1. Place ingredients in a saucepan and heat over medium-high until sugar has melted, stirring occasionally. Let cool.
  2. Use immediately, or store in the fridge for 5-7 days. Alternately, freeze and pull out when you're ready to make margaritas.
http://kokocooks.com/2015/08/homemade-margarita-mix/

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Vanilla Bean Macarons

An easy recipe for macarons, plus a few tips for success. Recipe on http://kokocooks.com

Macarons are my culinary “white whale.”  I have well-documented my many, many, many attempts at making these delicate cookies.  I even tried the supposedly more stable Italian method, which seemed like a lot more steps than the French method.  So, when Julie invited me to a macaron class with her, I was eager at another chance to get it right, this time with some supervision.

An easy recipe for macarons, plus a few tips for success. Recipe on http://kokocooks.com

Unfortunately, I was busy the day of the macaron class.  Not surprising since it was during the school year.  So once summer hit, Julie and I spent an afternoon baking.  Well, first we made arancini – girl’s gotta eat, you know!  We weighed, ground the almonds, sifted, ground some more, whipped egg whites, and folded.  We were in a bit of a hurry towards the end of the baking process, but our macarons miraculously had feet!  It was the easiest time I’ve ever had with these darn cookies.  So, I set about seeing if I could duplicate the success at home.

An easy recipe for macarons, plus a few tips for success. Recipe on http://kokocooks.com

Every time I make macarons, I learn something else about how to be more successful.  This time around, I learned the importance of mixing in all the ingredients.  First attempt:  I forgot to add the additional powdered sugar to the batter.  They subsequent cookies were overly eggy, foamy, and flat yet grainy.  Second attempt: I only stirred in half the almond/sugar mixture into the batter.  Again, these cookies ended up grainy and cracked on top.  UGH!  I also realized that I tend to not fold the batter enough.

Tip #1:  The final macaron batter should be thick and a little syrupy.  Achieving this consistency is known as “macaronage,” as explained eloquently by Stella of Brave Tart.  It should be thick enough that it doesn’t spread once you pipe it out, but thin enough that the peak that forms when you pipe the cookies will flatten back into the rest of the batter (see below picture).  If there’s still a little lump, just smooth it out with a barely damp finger.

An easy recipe for macarons, plus a few tips for success. Recipe on http://kokocooks.com

Which brings me to Tip #2: if you live in a humid climate (like me), or if it is raining when you make macarons (like it was every time I recently mad them), then you may want to dry out the macs before baking them.  This is not a necessary step, but I was more successful when I did this.  I simply set my hairdryer on low, and went over the piped circles for a few minutes.  The tops of them started to loose their sheen, and that was enough.  The macs that I dried also seemed to result in fewer hollow shells, which may or may not have helped.  If you have always wanted to try making these beautiful cookies, or have tried and have yet to be successful, give this method a try.  It is much less finicky than other recipes I’ve used, and I (so far) have had good success with it.  Good luck!

An easy recipe for macarons, plus a few tips for success. Recipe on http://kokocooks.com

recipe adapted from Truffles & Trifles

Vanilla Bean Macarons

Yield: 40-48 cookies, 20-24 sandwiches

Vanilla Bean Macarons

Before starting: Make sure that the mixer, whisk attachment, and any utensil that will come into contact with the egg whites have been washed in the dishwasher (or washed with boiling water, which is what I do sometimes). Seriously, any bit of oil on anything that touches the egg whites may keep the whites from beating to the requisite fluffiness. Similarly, if any bit of yolk gets in your egg whites, you need to scrap them and start over.

Ingredients

3 egg whites
4 oz blanched almond meal (you can also use whole almonds)
1 ½ c powdered sugar
½ c granulated sugar
½ tsp salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, and seed scraped out of pod

Instructions

  1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. If you want to make sure your macs are all the same size, trace 2-inch circles onto the parchment paper with a pencil, keeping a good amount of space between the circles. Place the paper pencil-side down on the baking sheet.
  2. Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment set. Let the egg whites come to room temperature while you carry out the next step.
  3. Place almond meal and ½ c of the powdered sugar in a food processor. Place the remaining 1 c of powdered sugar in a medium bowl and set aside. Pulse the food processor so that the almond meal and powdered sugar combine, and form very fine grains. (If you are grinding whole almonds, this will take a good 5-10 minutes of pulsing.) Pass the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into the bowl with the powdered sugar. There may be a few tablespoons of almonds that don’t make it through the strainer, and that’s okay. You can toss them or save them for another use. Stir the contents of the bowl together.
  4. Beat the egg whites on medium until foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar and salt and continue beating until soft peaks form. Add the vanilla bean seeds and continue beating until almost-stiff peaks form. They should be somewhere between soft and stiff peaks - when you lift the whisk out of the bowl, the egg whites should stand up and maybe just start to curl over. (See photo in blog post) Knock the whisk on the edge of the bowl to remove the egg whites from the whisk.
  5. Using a rubber spatula, fold in half the almond/powdered sugar mixture into the egg whites. Fold in the remaining almond mixture until evenly combined. The batter should have the consistency of lava, although I’ve never seen lava first-hand, but I can imagine. When you lift the spatula out of the bowl, the batter should drop in a thick ribbon, and should melt back into the main batter after a few seconds. This is the trickiest part of the process, and you get the feel for it the more times you make them.
  6. Fill a pastry bag (I like disposable ones) with half the batter. Twist the top of the pastry bag closed. Cut a hole in the tip of the pastry bag, and pipe circles onto the prepared baking sheets. If you drew circles onto the parchment, fill until the batter just reaches the edges. Make a little swirly movement when you’re done piping each circle to keep a peak from forming on top of the cookie. Don’t pipe too close to the edge because they spread a tad.
  7. Tap the baking sheet on the counter a few times to bring any air bubbles to the surface. If drying, use a hairdryer set on low and gently wave it over the macs until the surface of the circles starts to dull.
  8. Bake macs one tray at a time at 300°F for 7 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake another 7-8 minutes longer. Let the macarons cool on the pan, then gently peel from the parchment. They should come off easily. Sandwich two cookies together, feet side facing in, with jam, buttercream, or whatever filling floats your fancy!
http://kokocooks.com/2015/08/vanilla-bean-macarons-2/

And, here’s a recipe for an easy buttercream to fill the macs with:

4 Tbs butter, softened

2/3 c powdered sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract (I use vanilla bean paste)

1 tsp milk

Beat ingredients in a bowl with a hand mixer until fluffy.  This is the perfect amount to fill the macaron shells.

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Spring Cleaning

Spring break coincides with my need to spring clean.  I am hosting a bridal shower in a few weeks, which is the perfect motivation I need to deep clean the house.  While Joey takes care of the outside, I’m handling the inside.  My current favorite is this microfiber duster .  Dusting is my least favorite household chore, but it is sure is more fun with a duster that reminds me of a Muppet.  Or three. How can you NOT have fun with this?

Our house is wall-to-wall laminate floors.  This means no carpets to clean, but it also means that ANY debris on the floor shows up.  And with a kid in the house, it’s amazing how much stuff accumulates under the furniture.  Clumps of modeling clay.  Parts from board games.  Cereal.  Change.  Shells (?!?)  All that stuff gets beautifully illuminated every day when that late afternoon sun streams in from our sliding glass doors.  Every few months, I end up moving all the furniture around and vacuuming up the crud. Now, I can use the swivel feature on this broom to sweep underneath the couches and cabinets.  What’s even better, Tyler loves helping.  He loves using the mini brush and dustpan to collect the garbage.

Any time I get the broom out, he’s right there with me.  He even empties the dustpan into the garbage can.  What a great helper!  On occasion, I have caught him dusting on his own.  Of course, he would love the duster even more if it were pink!

Disclaimer: I received cleaning products from OXO.  All opinions are my own. Check out more OXO cleaning products.

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