Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Peppermint Macarons

Macarons are a finicky little treat.  One of the top questions on Google on macarons is why they are so expensive.  Anyone who has attempted or made these delicate meringue treats knows the answer to that question.  One wrong move and and you have a big pile of goop.

I might have had a few five fails before I was able to bring this together.  I actually checked out books from the library on macrons and I have to say, those books, which shall remain nameless here, make it way more difficult than necessary.

Last week I happened to have a couple of leftover egg whites that I let sit on the counter overnight.  I completely forgot about them and came down the next morning to find them looking sad and taunting me to give the macrons another try, after swearing them off after my last fail.  I looked up a recipe on pinterest that did not require weighing and was very simple.  Guess what?  They actually worked.  The recipe is here.

I used a basic buttercream filling, threw in some peppermint oil and rolled the sides in crushed candy canes.  The end result was delicious, although I do need to work on smoothing out the tops of the macaron shell.  Taking pictures of my work keeps me honest and those little bumps in the picture above are bothering me as I write.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Spiced Biscotti

There I was last night, swearing I would not turn on the TV.  I told myself, "Don't do this to yourself.  You can't take the heartbreak."

I cleaned half the house, did some laundry, worked on this blog...and then I couldn't take it any longer.  I had to see what was up in Alabama.  I turned on MSNBC and saw Roy Moore leading.  "Son of a B----!!!!!!  Mother of God, WHY, WHY?????"  My son came down the stairs to ask if I was ok.  "Yes, love...just mourning the end of decency, that's all."  

I flipped on Netflix to the only show that could calm my nerves, The Great British Baking Show.  I watched a group of people being helpful to one another and competing for none other than the honor of doing well.  I watched two episodes and it calmed me.  At this point, my significant other, let's just call him, Manny, because he looks like Manny Pacquiao , was home and checking his phone while I ever so dramatically mourned the end of our Republic.  

All of a sudden he said, "Doug Jones won!"  I thought he was kidding.  I checked my own phone and saw the news outlets calling the race for Jones.  Christmas came early.

Thank you to the good people of Alabama for sending an honorable person to represent them in the Senate.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Homemade Pop Tarts

Store bought pop tarts remind me of a guy in college I used to see in the library all the time.  This guy was so good looking that I assumed that he would have an amazing personality to match his gorgeous looks to fit the fantasy I had built up in my head about our marriage, the gorgeous babies we would have and the perfect life we would lead together.  

Months went by and he would smile at me and I would smile at him.  The fantasy continued to build in my mind to a point where no one could likely measure up to the very high expectations I had built up.  I mean, how many guys look like Ryan Reynolds and actually have a sense of humor, like he seems to least on Twitter?  Never.  It never, ever happens.  Plus, clearly I am not Blake Lively.

So anyway, there I was one day at the library and it happened.  The object of my fantasy came over, just like that, and sat next to me.  It was just like the movies, where the guy you admire from afar forever comes over, sweeps you off your feet and you live happily ever after.  Except, that is not what happened.  He opened his mouth, started talking and after about two minutes, I realized we had nothing in common.  So very unfortunate.

We never spoke again.  Perhaps he also thought my personality was that of a wet rag.  Who knows?  Looks can be deceiving and so is the case with Pop Tarts from the store.  They look so delicious and enticing.  Then, you bite into them and you start wondering if you just took a bite of cardboard, with some sugar on top.  So, do what you want but again, life is short to be spent eating cardboard.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

White Chocolate Oatmeal Cherry Cookies - Crazy Monday

Monday mornings are never easy but it seemed like a cloud was hanging over this house yesterday.

One of the dogs had an accident, then my son fell halfway down the stairs before school and it sounded a little like this.  I ended up having to drive him to school and on the way back my allergies decided to take a hit out on me and I ended up looking like Rocky after taking on Apollo Creed...the first time.

To top it off, I rushed into my house racing for the computer for a call I had scheduled and tripped over a pair of shoes and went flying into a chair in the dining room, doing further damage to my already blown out eyes.  After binge watching The Crown, I realize everyone has their problems but I did feel a little more jinxed than normal for a Monday. 

Oh well.  At least I have cookies.  Life is good.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Friday Cocktail - The Pink Lady

Here we are again at the end of a long week of learning just how many ways a man can make a woman feel small and powerless.  The Commander and Chief Groper of them all is still in power while heads continue to role everywhere but that office.  Just to add insult to injury, we actually have him on tape bragging about his grabbing, kissing, groping exploits.  We have a ton of women (here's the list) claiming that they were victims of his assault.  Yet, he stays...and stays...and stays.

Here, have a cocktail.  A bright, pink, creamy cocktail to celebrate being a woman.  Cheers and have a great weekend.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Viennese Whirls - U.S. version

I am a Great British Baking Show fanatic and I am finally getting around to watching season 4.

There was a technical challenge in the second show for Viennese Whirls.  Two delicate, buttery shortbread like cookies with buttercream and jam in the middle.  Since this was the rare technical challenge that did not require elaborate ingredients or construction techniques, I thought I would make a go of it, as they say.

When I went to look up the recipe, I could not find any with American oven temperatures or measuring techniques.  There was one on the PBS website but even that one said that it had not been tested.  Converting measurements is about as much fun to me as watching paint dry but I really wanted to try this bake.

I found out that grams do not translate perfectly into our cups and spoons.  So, my conversions are below but I would highly recommend measuring the ingredients with a scale.  It's also a lot easier just to dump the ingredients into a bowl until you hit the number you need rather than juggling multiple measuring cups.

Also, if you make this, do not do what I did and put the dough in the fridge overnight before piping.  HUGE mistake.  The dough must be mixed well and extremely soft in order to fit through the piping back tip.  Once you pipe, then the whirls should go into the fridge to harden a bit before going into the oven in order to hold that whirl shape.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Peanut Blossom Cookies

There are times when I am doing well with daily meditation and finding inner peace.  In a world gone mad, focusing on my breath calms me more than anything else I have ever tried.

That is, until the streets of Oak Park became a scene out of Mad Max in the early morning hours as I drove home from my morning ass-kicking, better know as Pilates.  As I was savoring the worn out but feeling stronger aura that ones gets from Pilates, some jerk swerved out from behind me, almost hit me and then swerved in front of me.  Inner peace flew out the window and I laid on my horn.  So, I am annoyed that the peace and inner calm vibe I had going was shattered and that I allowed a crazy driver to disrupt my zen state.  Should have reacted like this guy.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Blueberry Cream Cheese Cookies

As much as I think Christina Tosi is a baking pioneer and genius, I was not crazy about the Blueberry Cream cookie that I bought from the Momofuku Milk Bar in NYC a couple of years ago.  This could be because it was pre-packaged and had been baked a while ago but it just didn't grab me.  I loved the idea, though.  I thought it just needed a little punch of flavor.  Cream cheese seemed like a perfect accompaniment seeing as cream cheese on a blueberry bagel is quite tasty.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Mexican Wedding Cookies

This is rare but there are times when I think I know more than the legions of cooks and bakers who came before me.  There is not a Mexican Wedding Cookie recipe out there that instructs melting the butter before mixing with the other ingredients.  Being the brilliant master of the cookie that I thought I was (NOT), I thought I could make this cookie even nuttier by doing a brown butter version which entails melting then browning the butter.  The crumbly mess that ensued made my kitchen counter look like the cookies exploded.  So, pro tip, let the butter soften naturally to room temperature and then proceed with the rest of the recipe.  

Friday, December 1, 2017

Friday Cocktail - Frozen Apple - News, Quirks, Insights and Other Odds and Ends - November 2017

What. A. Week/Month.

Right now I am toasting not being Matt Lauer or any guy for that matter, who didn't get the memo that acting like you are on spring break in college is not acceptable in the workplace.  Just in case you thought these harassment issues were just among powerful public men, think again.  This podcast, Hollaback Girl, makes it abundantly clear that many, many more have no clue how their actions frighten and disgust women.

Some other odds and ends that caught my eye...

My son is obsessed with Stranger Things.  Apparently, he is not the only one.  Yay for a non-profit benefiting from the hoopla:  Star Tribune

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Spiced Molasses Cookies - Christmas Cookie Countdown

It's that time of year.  How many cookie posts can I do before Santa hits our house?  My goal is 24 but I realize that is ambitious.  I am also aware that Friday is December 1st, not today, but I had to leave Friday for the cocktails.  Maybe next week I will be really wild and crazy and do a cocktail and cookie post.  I don't know if I am that adventurous.  You will just have to tune in to find out.😉

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Friday Cocktail on Wednesday - Bulldog and What to Wear

Thinking the Friday cocktail should be up sooner rather than later given the holiday.  Or, perhaps this mixture would also be good on Friday to help with indigestion.  Either way, the name of this drink makes you think it would be shock to your system.  Quite the opposite.  Light tasting with citrus, a hit of gin, topped off with ginger ale.  An elixir to calm before, during and after the festivities.    

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Baked Alaska

Must wash dogs, water plants, clean up house, remove plants from outside before winter.  Hair is in desperate need of cut and color (why, hello gray hair, thanks for making an appearance 😲).  Have not worked out in a week and apparently that is all my body needs these days to completely give up.  Must wrap presents and get card for my son's birthday.    

Friday, November 17, 2017

Friday Cocktail - Grand Galliano

I love our little Oak Park bookstore, The Book Table.  I can spend all day in that place and never get board, much to my son's exasperation.  "Mom, will we ever be leaving this place?"  As if I took him to jail and lost the key.  Oh, what a difficult life he leads.  Pain au Chocolat at Léa and then the bookstore.  To me, that is the perfect day.  To him, the first part is awesome and the second is torture.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

English Muffins

Question:  How are english muffin companies able to package up cardboard and sell it on store shelves and actually make a profit?  I have this image of Thomas' executives laughing hysterically that they are actually able to sell junk to consumers who have never had a homemade english muffin and don't know the difference.  Even smothered in 10 pounds of butter, the store bought version is a mockery of the real thing.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Friday Cocktail - Apple Hot Toddy - Holiday Fun

The holidays are coming and I think it's safe to say that libations will be needed given the current political climate.

Do you have Rachel Maddow enthusiasts and family members who worship at the alter of Rush Limbaugh?

Let's say you don't have political issues in your circles of love.  Win!  Yeah, right.  No one gets off that easy.  We all have some version of the Grandmother, Aunt, Uncle, neighbor...your very own parents who love to bring up your weight (too low! too high!), the way they think you should raise your kid (tip: their way is the only way!), or thinks that talking about your dating life or biological clock are appropriate dinner conversation.  

Oy.  You might want to make a punch bowl full of this stuff and pray the serenity prayer:

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference."


Also, quick tip.  It's never about you.  It is always, always about them.  Fear, self-loathing, insecurity and a range of other negative emotions are the ingredients for being critical and nasty towards others.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Oatmeal Scotchies

I recently went to parent teacher conferences.  These would be my first for my son who is now in middle school.  Ouch.  So not fun when you have a kid who doesn't always think before acting is a free spirit.  I need cookies more than a drink and my kid certainly needs some sugar therapy after having to also sit through the criticism.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Lovely Portugal

This time, I am not going to wait a year to post pictures.

I journeyed to Portugal and Spain in mid-September, the ideal time to hit both countries for their perfect weather, tasty port wines, moist and intensely flavorful Piri Piri chicken, Sangria, Tortilla, Jamon and the freshest of fresh seafood.  Lisbon and Porto are also less touristy than the London's and Paris's of Europe, huge bonus.

A few things that make Portugal unique (this list is by no means exhaustive), besides their cuisine and port wines:

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Cooking in Bali

Last summer, I went to Bali for surfing, yoga, and cooking...and yes, I am just getting around to posting.  I went to a "Goddess Retreat" and it was everything they promised it would be and more.   To describe the experience as anything less than life changing would not be doing it justice.  Bali is an incredible place with a spiritual culture and attitude that swept me off my feet.  If it were not for my son and little dog back home, there is no way I would have come back to the U.S. 

I surfed a lot and found out that I absolutely suck at at it.  That really is the only word to describe my skills.  I would post a surfing picture to give everyone a good laugh but I am not a masochist.  
On the bright side, I loved the two a day yoga sessions and activities like this cooking class.  Outside, fresh, lovely instructors, perfect weather and of course, absolutely delicious.  I loved the use of ingredients and spices I rarely use at home, such as ginger and lemongrass.  They also use produce that I can never find at home, such as dragonfruit.  Even if I can find it at home, it does not taste as sweet as it did in Bali, thinking of papaya and mangoes.