Macaron Making: I Promise It’s Not Scary

I’ve started wedding planning and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that if the word wedding is attached, it’s automatically expensive.

Cakes. Flowers. Dessert tables. Photographers. Dresses. Shoes. Invitations.

All of it = $$$$

So with dollar signs looming over my head, I’m going through a phase where anything I buy seems outrageously expensive, and I want to make everything myself.  While I don’t plan on having french macarons at my wedding, they’ve always been something I thought was ridiculously expensive.macarons1

$2+ a pop is too much for el cheap-o over here.

I was determined to make them myself but never got around to it.  I had tried a few times before and failed.  One time they turned out like meringues (with a little peak).  Another time, they just crumbled and fell flat.  After some research and reading, they turned out great.

These cookies are delicate and delicious.  I can see why they’re so pricey, but honestly, you can make them at home on your own.  They take some time, because they require a lot of sitting, but the active amount of work is actually minimal.

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Basic French Macarons

from All Recipes

100g egg whites
50g white granulated sugar
100g powdered sugar
110g almond flour, finely ground
Food coloring of choice (optional)
Filling of choice*

Weigh out your egg whites and allow your eggs to get to room temperature.  100g of eggs was a tiny bit less than 3 egg whites.  Yes, I was neurotic and weighed out exactly 100g.  I think this was part of my success.

While your egg whites get to room temperature, weigh out your remaining ingredients and set aside.  Sift together the powdered sugar and almond flour, set aside.

Using a stand mixer, beat the egg whites.  Once they start to foam, slowly stream in the granulated.  Continue to beat until they reach soft peaks.  Try not to over mix and get firm peaks.  Soft peaks are good! They tip of the peak will fall over to the side a bit.

Fold the almond flour and powdered sugar into the egg whites, along with a few drops of any food coloring you’d like (I used a few drops of red to get a bright pink).  Keep turning/folding until it’s all incorporated, but you don’t want to overmix it.  Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a round tip, then get your baking sheets ready.

Line your baking sheets with parchment paper.  If you want you can draw circles using a bottle cap so that your cookies are all the same size, I did that at first, then I just eyeballed it and it turned out fine.   You want the parchment paper to be fitted exactly to the baking sheet so it can be completely flat.

Then start piping.  Pipe some frosting onto the baking sheet.  They’ll spread a bit so leave an inch or two between each one.  Once you’ve piped enough to fill your sheet, lift the baking sheet and lightly slam it on the counter a few times to get rid of any air bubbles.  Then continue piping onto another baking sheet until you run out of batter (this recipe makes about 24 macarons, so for me that was 3 baking sheets full of cookies).  Let the unbaked cookies sit out on the counter for an hour.

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Then preheat the oven to 275F.  Bake 10-14 minutes.  This is where it might get tricky.  My first batch was underbaked and completely stuck to the parchment paper.  The second batch, I baked a few minutes longer (13 minutes) and they turned out great.

Once you take the macarons out of the oven, transfer the parchment paper with all the macarons on to a cooling rack so they can cool completely (you can put them in the freezer for a few minutes to speed up the process).  After the cookies have cooled completely you can assemble them!

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*For my filling, I used a simple chocolate frosting recipe, because I wanted to get the basics and I happened to have all the ingredients on hand.  Later I’ll try experimenting with different fillings, but I wanted something quick and easy.  And so, I used the Hershey’s Chocolate Frosting Recipe.

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Chocolate Buttercream Filling

adapted from Hershey’s Chocolate Frosting

1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/6 cup coffee (or milk)
Melt butter and mix with cocoa powder.  Using a mixer, beat in powdered sugar, a bit at a time, alternating with coffee until all ingredients are incorporated.  Beat a few more minutes until fluffy, then set aside.

Now assemble the macarons by spreading some frosting (or other filling of choice) on one cookie then putting together like a sandwich.

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Then ta-da! You have 24 beautiful macarons!  That wasn’t too scary, right?

Overall, in the macaron-making process, I learned a few key things…

Tips for Making Macarons:
  1. Sift the ingredients (and make sure you buy extra fine almond flour).  I hate sifting ingredients but these cookies are so light that it’s a must.  If you buy the almond flour at Sprouts in the bulk food section, it’s not fine enough.  I’ve tried.  Get the Bob’s Red Mill one.
  2.  Let the batter sit a bit before piping it.  I found that my last batch turned out the best, so I’m chalking that up to the fact that it sat the longest in the piping bag (a few hours really) and sat for about an hour and a half on the counter before baking (because I was working and forgot about them).
  3. You need to let them rest for 1 hour after you pipe them onto the baking sheet.  When they sit, they smooth out and develop that nice coat.  Let them chill.
  4. If you underbake your macarons, they’ll stick to the parchment paper.   It depends on your oven and the size of your cookies. Figuring out when the macarons were ready to come out of the over took some guess work.  They have to look set, but not browned.  If this is your first time, I recommending each baking sheet separately in case one gets messed up, there are still two others for you to try with.  I ended up baking mine for 13 minutes, and that was the magic number.  But remember, every oven is different and your macarons might be bigger than mine.

I’m excited to try to make different flavors now.  I’m a big believer in mastering the basics before moving on to more extravagant things or tweaking recipes.  I had a lemon macaron from Lette Macarons that basically changed my view of macarons.  I must try to recreate it!

Have you tried making macarons? or are you just an eater? What’s your favorite macaron flavor?

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Let’s Do Lunch

Lunch has always been the most boring meal of the day for me.  In school, it was something I quickly grabbed between classes while trying to catch up on last minute reading for a discussion section later that day.

Then work started and lunch was a little more fun.  I almost always packed my lunch and ate it with a few others who did the same for about 20 minutes, then back to work.

Now that I work at home, I’m trying to make sure lunch is more fun (hey, a lady needs something spice up her day).  Have you noticed that lately, we’ve all been so preoccupied with brunch that we’ve forgotten about lunch?

Let’s do lunch.

The Meal

Let’s keep the meal healthy and balanced.  Last week, I had some fish with sauteed squash.  It was all sorts of tasty.

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Today, I had tuna.

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Tuna sounds not exciting, and I have no idea how to make it look good. But when you throw it on a salad with some barley, it’s a winner.

Tuna is seriously underrated.

Now that food is set, let’s chat…

The Discussion Topics

In the World:

Aziz Ansari is hilarious and wrote a book.  Here’s a bit about it in Time.

FIFA is still being nuts, but the Women’s World Cup just started! Why can’t we be as excited about this World Cup as the regular one?

Vegetables!

 

Let’s talk about GMO foods for a minute… Fear or fact?  “The anti-G.M.O. movement, I’m afraid, risks throwing the baby out with the bathwater. What is needed is a dispassionate look at what G.M.O.s mean and their actual and potential good, not just a fear of harmful possibilities.”  <– Agreed!

In MY World:

I walked past Tartine Bakery twice this weekend and didn’t eat a croissant. Who am I?

Instead, I ate pupusas at Balompie Cafe in San Francisco, and they were all sorts of tasty.

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I hiked at Tennessee Valley in Marin yesterday and forgot to bring sunscreen.  Fail. I’m sunburnt.   But that aside, I hung out with my friend Emily for the first time in years.  She’s awesome. We talked about how much we love having girl friends.  I’m a girl girl, and I’m cool with that.

 

Do you tend to have friends of the same or opposite sex?  And more importantly… What did you have for lunch?

 

Salad Spring Rolls

One of my favorite things about living in Orange County was the plethora of Vietnamese restaurants.

Fun Fact: Orange County, CA has the largest Vietnamese population in the US.  

And because of that we were blessed with delicious (and inexpensive) restaurants.

Over the last four years, I’ve become obsessed with the Vietnamese Spring Rolls.  It’s almost a rule that I must order them any time I go to a Vietnamese restaurant.

I’m sure there have to be amazing Vietnamese restaurants here in the Bay Area, and I will do my best to discover them, but in the meantime, I’m going to keep the memory alive with some spring roll inspiration.

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These aren’t really Vietnamese spring rolls.  They don’t include rice noodles or shrimp or pork.  They’re just vegetables, which is why I call them salad spring rolls.  Despite not being like the tasty ones I get at restaurants, this has become my new favorite way to eat salad.

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They pretty quick, easy and tasty.  The other wonderful thing is you can make them with whatever you have on hand.

Here are some suggestions for filling your spring rolls:

Thai Basil
Lettuce
Cucumber
Carrots
Red Bell Pepper
Bean Sprouts

For Dipping Sauce:

1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1-2 tbsp peanut butter, natural
1-2 tbsp sriracha
1-2 tbsp water

To assemble, cut your vegetables into match tickets (i.e. carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers) and wash your lettuce and thai basil.   You’ll need to get rice paper.  You can probably find it at any Asian grocery store (or on Amazon).

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Wet your rice paper by dipping it in water for about 3 seconds and you’re ready to go (do one at a time, don’t wet them all at once, because they’re very sticky).  I have a rice paper water bowl, but it’s not essential, and shallow dish to submerge the paper in will work.

Then you can start assembling your spring rolls.   Place some of the vegetables toward the bottom of the circle, like such:

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Fold the right and left sides toward the center, then the shorter side up and roll to cover.  I couldn’t take photos of this process because it requires two hands and I only have two, unfortunately (or fortunately).  But this blog has an awesome tutorial!  Check it out!  

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Once your spring rolls are rolled and ready, make your quick dipping sauce.   Combine hoisin, peanut butter, sriracha in a bowl.  Start with 1 tbsp of each, taste it and adjust to your liking.

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You don’t have to use this dipping sauce, you can also mix fish sauce with water, a bit of sugar and chili garlic sauce and dip!  Or since these are salad rolls, feel free to dip in your favorite salad dressing.  We’re not being authentic here, so anything goes.

But seriously, this hand-held salad options is awesome.  I served it with some mustard rubbed chicken and it was a hit (to Jesse and me, that is, but I think we have ok taste).  I think this is my new favorite summer meal.

What’s your favorite salad or summer meal?

Getting Back on the Healthy Train and Starting Crossfit Again

I live and die by schedules.  I love checklists, to-dos and deadlines.

I love to know exactly what I have to done and when it has to be done.  In work, that’s great.  I get things done quickly.  In life, it means when my schedule gets thrown off, I have a hard time maintaining sanity.

Moving to the Bay Area has really thrown off my schedule.  It used to be I’d wake up at 5:30, be at the gym by 6am (or out for a run), be at work by 8:15.  My morning schedule was great.  I was used to it.  I was so productive.  Exercising in the morning makes me feel great.

Then the past few months happened.  We went to Mexico and Guatemala, we moved and got settled and all that went away, especially because I work remotely while I look for a new job up here.

Moving is hard.  It’s hard to get used to a new place and get your bearings.

So while all that was happening, I basically ate terribly and didn’t exercise.

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(Please see my Instagram for more details)

But all that said, it’s finally all coming together. But it’s not magic, it takes work (and contrary to what other blogs like to tell you, getting healthy is not always fun).

I’m figuring out my schedule.  I also found a new Crossfit.  I’ve been 3 times so far and let me be perfectly honest with you, going to a new crossfit is scary.  You’re not sure what to expect, because every box is different, and people are different.

I think I’ve lucked out, because everyone has been extremely nice.  But it’s still scary, and I miss my old box with my set of friends and coaches that I like.

I had to make myself go this morning.  I was dreading it, because I was scared.  But once I got there and did the workout, I had a great time (p.s. my back squat 1 rep max has gone down by 22lbs, I’ve got work to do).

The key for me to stick with it is to just make myself do it.  I don’t have my running buddy anymore, so I need to find other ways to make it work.  My solution: Nike it.

Then there’s eating healthy.  I’ve struggled, because cheese and cake are delicious.

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So just like how I have to force myself to exercise, I currently have to force myself to eat well.  I’m trying, because I pretty much want to eat Chinese food and cake for every meal.  I cleaned out my fridge and left only non-processed foods and made normal meals for myself trying to balance protein and carbs.

breakfast

lunch

Healthy and colorful meals can be awesome.  They just take some getting used to, because I’m convinced your palate changes after eating a certain way for a few weeks.  Being healthy is important and let’s be honest, sometimes it’s not fun and you just want to eat cake (I can’t be alone in this sentiment).

There’s a time for cake, but right now, it’s time for vegetables.  And let’s not forget, I’m getting married next year, now is not the time to start gaining weight.  I’m also not into crash diets, so probably a good idea to just maintain my weight for the next year (or lifetime?).

Do you have any tips for getting healthy after being off-track for a while?

Foodologie in April

Hi friends! I’m back after a month! Last time, I told you that fun-employment and trips were coming up, and those things came!  We’re half way through May, but let me tell you about April.

So here’s what happened… Jesse is now a doctor.  Not a medical doctor, a PhD doctor.  Because of that, we left lovely Southern California and made our way up to the Bay Area.  He finished at the end of March and didn’t start work until May.  Instead of paying rent, we decided the best thing to do would be to put our stuff in storage and travel.  All I can say is: this was a fantastic idea.

Our destinations: Guadalajara, Mexico and Guatemala.

We spent 10 days visiting Jesse’s family in Mexico and 9 days visiting my family in Guatemala.

Mexico was beautiful.

We spent some time visiting amazing churches….

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Cool sites in the city…

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With Jesse’s familly

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And eating tasty things on the street, like this waffle/crepe thingy with ham and cheese.

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We also visited Guanajuato, which was more beautiful than I could have imagined.

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And Dolores-Hidalgo, where Mexican Independence began (don’t quote me on that, but I think…)

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And San Miguel de Allende, which is probably the cutest town I’ve ever seen.

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Sadly, most days in Mexico I was sick.  As soon as we laughed, I developed a cough and completely lost my voice by day 3.  After that, Jesse’s uncle (who is a doctor) saved the day with medications!

Despite being sick, I had a great time in Mexico.  I ate tons of amazing food (one word: tacos) and got to hang out with Jesse’s family, which was great!

After Mexico, we headed to Guatemala to hang out with my family.   We mostly hung out at my grandma’s house but we managed to sneak in a few day trips so Jesse could get to know Guatemala a bit.

We went to Antigua

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Saw some beautiful sites

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One at which I almost thought would be perfect for our wedding, then I remembered all my friends are in the US and would never go to Guatemala…

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We made sure Jesse tried the national beer

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And made sure he ate some typical food, like Kaq ik (a turkey stew)

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We also did some hiking to the Biotopo del Quetzal… we didn’t see a quetzal (the national bird of Guatemala)

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And wandered around Panajachel.  And let’s be honest, pretty much my favorite thing is to walk around with my cousins

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Our times with our family were great.  Now we’re back in the US, we moved to the Bay Area and we’re trying to get settled here.

The only downside: I left my camera at my mom’s house.  No new exciting cooking adventures can be documented yet, but be sure to keep up with me on Instagram and Facebook because I post about a million picture per day.

 

What’s the last trip you went on? 

Burlap and Sage Baby Shower

Pinterest has really changed the way we throw parties.  Or at least parties with my sister.

For me, parties are about food and people.  She loves parties to be beautifully decorated and perfect.  So when it was time to throw her another baby shower, Pinspiration had to happen.

This weekend we threw a baby shower for my sister’s second child.  Baby James will be here soon, so what better way to celebrate him than with some cute decorations and tasty foods.  Normally, I would want to make a ton of foods to feed a crowd, but things have been crazy over here in Foodologie-land.

Here’s a quick update before we get into the baby shower details.  I’m currently homeless.  Jesse and I moved out of our apartment last week.  Our stuff is in storage and we’re moving from house to house for the next few weeks until we move up to the Bay Area at the end of the month.  Between moving and work and life, I didn’t have a whole lot of time to make food in advance.  Instead, I focused on decor and kept the food simple (and store-bought).

I think it worked out well and was far less stressful than trying to make all the food myself.

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We rented tables and sage green table cloths.  My sister bought a burlap runner that we trimmed to fit each table.  

The centerpieces were simple but nice.  Some beautiful hydrangeas, some small candles and some letters to spell out James.   The flowers I got at Costco that morning.

Tip: Costco is a great place for flowers if you’re throwing a party! IMG_9084

For favors, we got some little burlap sacks and put some hershey kisses and hand sanitizers in them, along with a little tag that says Thank you.

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Upon arrival, guests took a photo of themselves and filled out a “Wishes for Baby” card, with cute advice for Baby James.

Then there was food of course… IMG_9105 IMG_9106 We kept it simple with a sandwich bar and salads.  

The salads included: green salad, pasta salad, potato salad, and fruit salad.

For Dessert, we had various treats (mostly for decorative purposes) and pies! IMG_9108

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Like I said, I didn’t have a whole lot of time to bake, but Coco’s has some seriously good and reasonably priced pies.  Definitely recommended.  We had fresh strawberry pie, dutch apple pie, banana cream pie, chocolate cream pie and cheesecake pie with lemon curd.  

They all looked and tasted great!

For drinks, I did strawberry flavored water and a fun concoction I found on pinterest, a mix of pineapple juice, lemonade and sprite.  It was a bit too sweet but tasty! IMG_9095 We didn’t do any baby shower type activities.  Instead people just had fun while eating and drinking.  

Overall, this baby shower was much less stressful to plan.  Keeping the food simple made the whole event come together more easily.

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I hope the mom-to-be (aka my sister) liked it.

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I can’t wait to meet Baby James!

Coming up next on Foodologie…. Fun-employment and a few trips coming up before the big move.  Hopefully some good eats along the way.  Stay tuned!

What’s your favorite part of throwing a party?

Peanut Butter Goji Soda Bread

I missed the boat on St. Patrick’s Day.  There was no green beer or corned beef and cabbage, but I did get a little inspiration from the Irish yesterday… Soda Bread.

I’ve never actually had soda bread, but a lot of people seem to like it.  So given the Irish inspiration and some jars of peanut butter and a bag of goji berries sitting around, a great idea came.  Let’s put the two together.

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The good news is my experiment was a success!  Again, I’ve never had soda bread so I’m not entirely sure what’s it’s supposed to taste like but this one was good.  Faintly sweet and with a hint of peanut butter.

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I kind of think you could make an amazing PB&J with this soda bread, but it would be all sorts of dense and intense.

Feel free to give that a try.

Peanut Butter Goji Soda Bread

3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
6 tbsp butter, cold
1/2 cup The Bee’s Knees Peanut Butter
1/2 cup dried goji berries, rehydrated, liquid reserved
1/4 cup plain yogurt mixed with
3/4 cup water (1 cup total) or 1 cup buttermilk if you have it
1 tbsp melted butter

Take some hot water and pour it on the goji berries to rehydrate, set aside until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add butter and use your fingers to work it into small pieces.  Add peanut butter and do the same.  It’s ok if there are chunks of PB, you’ll work it in more later.
Strain goji berries and reserve the steeping water.  You’ll need about 1-2 tbsp of it.  Add yogurt mixture and goji berries to the flour mixture.  Work into a ball.  Add goji berry liquid as needed (I used about 2 tbsp).

Once you’ve got it into a ball.  Transfer it onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and form into a round thick disc shape.  Score the top in an X shape with a knife.   Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with additional sugar.

Bake 45-50 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test.  Allow to cool completely, serve and enjoy!

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This recipe makes one pretty big loaf.  It’s a lot of soda bread, but worth it.

Anyone ever tried making bread pudding with soda bread?  I think that could be amazing!

GIVEAWAY! Don’t forget to enter the Peanut Butter & Co Giveaway.  It ends this Friday!  To enter, go back to the Chocolate Peanut Butter Goji Berry Pie Post and leave a comment!  Entering is easy, winning is awesome.  Tell your friends!