guest post: french macarons

Emily and I have been wonderful friends for almost a decade!  Since we lived together for several years, she knows my love for baking.  Even though we don’t live together anymore, I still enjoy bringing her and “the taster” samples of my latest creation.  When I told her I had succeeded in my quest to make “perfect” French macarons, I was thrilled when she asked me to do a guest post about it.

Circa 2006?

To say that I love to bake is a bit of an understatement.  I consider baking to be one of my favorite hobbies and biggest stress relievers.  While cookies, cakes and other baked goods will satisfy my craving to bake, from time to time, I desire more of a challenge.  Having studied French for 6 years and having had the pleasure of going to France a few times, there is one French confection that I have had an infatuation with:  macarons.  Not only do I find the petite cookies beautiful and lovely to look at, but also the flavor possibilities and textures are amazing.  My favorite flavor combination that I have sampled was pistachio with chocolate ganache.  The egg white and almond based cookies literally melt in your mouth yet have an impressive chewiness to them.  The cookies are sandwiched together and typically filled with ganache or buttercream.

Since I have marveled at the intricate structure of the cookies for quite some time, I knew making them myself would be challenging.  There are several regional varieties of macaroons/macarons and one of the varieties that many of us are most familiar with is the coconut macaroon.  While both the coconut macaroon and French macaron incorporate whipped egg whites into their recipes, the coconut adds a moist chewiness that is much more dense than the French macarons which gain some of their substance and texture from ground almonds.  Well made French macarons have shiny tops with air-pocket-filled edges.  The cookies are so delicate that you can peel this top shiny layer off and it is as thin as tissue paper.

Source: French Macaron & Coconut Macaroon

No doubt you have identified multiple possible sources of frustration when trying to fabricate these fragile treats. Having had a previous failed attempt at making the delicate macarons, I did a quick Internet search for tips and tricks and was amazed at the websites, blogs and online tutorials dedicated to this sweet treat.  The recipe that finally gave me success is from Foodnetwork and is courtesy of Gale Gand.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Burgers (French Macarons)

Macarons:

  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, plus 1/2 cup
  • 1 1/2 cups, plus 1 tablespoon ground almonds
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 5 egg whites

Peanut Butter Buttercream:

  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Equipment: Pastry bag with round tip

Directions

Make the Macaroons: Preheat the oven to 300° F.

Line several sheet pans with parchment paper and set aside. In a bowl, combine 2 1/2 cups of the sugar, almonds, and cocoa powder.

In another clean dry bowl whip the egg whites with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar until medium peaks form (do not beat to stiff peaks).

Fold egg whites into dry ingredients to a make a meringue.

Fill the pastry bag with the meringue. (To easily fill the pastry bag, place it (with a clothespin holding it shut at the bottom) in a tall round container such as a coffee can, mayonnaise jar, or vase, folding the edge over the rim of the container.)

Pipe rows of kisses 1-inch in diameter (about the size of a quarter), keeping them 1/2 inch apart, onto the sheet pans.

Bake until very light brown, rotating the pans after 8 minutes, about 17 minutes. Let the macaroons cool on the pan.

Meanwhile, make the Peanut Butter Buttercream: In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the peanut butter and whip. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and whip until fluffy. Transfer the buttercream to a clean pastry bag fitted with a round tip.

Peel 2 macarons off the parchment, pipe the buttercream on 1 flat side and sandwich the other flat-side down on top. Repeat with the remaining macaroons. Keep chilled in an airtight container until ready to serve.

Thank you so much Mercedes for both the guest post AND the amazing chocolate & peanut butter macarons – they were delicious! If you are a baker, you have to try these!

korean sliders

Korean Sliders must have come to me in a dream because I can’t remember why I thought to make them or where the inspiration came from!  I had picked up some Gochujang sauce, a new sauce from Annie Chuns recently and thought pork would be the perfect way to try it out. Luckily for the sliders, it goes incredibly well with meat.

They were certainly a tasty alternative to the regular beef burgers that frequent our grill and I would definitely recommend dipping your burger not in ketchup, but in extra gochujang sauce for extra kick! Much like ketchup in our homes, gochujang is a staple in Korean homes so treat it as just that!

Korean Sliders - 2-3 servings

Combine meat and sauce together. Form into 4-6 small patties.

Grill over medium heat until meat is cooked through.

Grill buns until golden brown.

Ginger Aoili

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp fresh ginger

Blend ingredients in magic bullet or blender until smooth.

Toppings:

  • sliced carrot
  • sliced cucumber
  • go-chu-jang sauce (I used it like ketchup)

canning with lucia

I recently attended a canning event at Lucia’s Restaurant, put on by Ball and it is safe to say that I’ve officially caught the canning bug. (I also got to see Melissa!)

Lucia, the owner and founder of Lucia’s Restaurant spoke to us about canning and my appreciation and interest in canning grew exponentially. I realized that canning was what once made eating green beans in February possible, what made gifts of jam such a special treat and that the entire canning (and growing) process brings us right back to where we need to be. Making our own food. Not adding corn syrup and preservatives to everything. And most importantly, enjoying local, fresh foods and supporting the farmers that support us.

Learnings from Lucia:

  • Canning is all about “preserving local food flavors from farmers who care about the soil and the land”
  • It extends the season – salsa in January anyone?
  • Allows you to control what is in your food

Now, what to can? I thought it was only right to can something that I picked up at the farmers market so I set out to the Mill City Farmers Market with canning on the brain.

I came home with some fresh veggies, a $2 cucumber & mint springwater (excellent) and a few beets. I know most probably can in bulk but I thought it would be best to practice with a small amount. So I spent Sunday afternoon canning a whole 3 beets. :) My first canning experience went fairly well, though I’m confident next time will go much smoother – and maybe I’ll even can 10 whole vegetables!

Are you ready to start canning? Want to win a Ball Canning Discovery Kit?

Ways to enter:

  • Leave a comment about what you would can with the Canning Discovery Kit
  • Leave a comment about a family canning memory for an additional entry
  • Tweet about the give-away (including @nutritionisteat) and then leave an additional comment letting me know you did so
  • Subscribe to my blog and leave me a message letting me know you did so

I will randomly choose a winner on August 22nd. Good Luck!

Edited to Add: Congratulations Tricia! Please send me your mailing address and I’ll get the kit sent out to you!

guacamole bar

Guacamole Bar | A Nutritionist Eats

I’ve been wanting to try out a guac bar since I saw it in Eating Well last year and I knew just the event to make it for, the annual Fiesta Party. Lucky for me, my friend Anna (who happens to be a guacamole goddess) let me bring the guacamole this year!

Maybe it was the idea of adding bacon to guacamole that really sold me or mabye it is the idea of a “toppings bar” – I just love that everyone can create their own personal guacamole according to their tastes. While I’ve never been to a Rick Bayless restaurant, I know he knows his stuff and this guacamole proves just that.

The guacamole is a basic one – roasted garlic, lime and cilantro. The toppings are all up to you!

Toppings:

  • crisp bacon bits
  • queso fresco crumbles
  • pickled jalapenos
  • diced tomatoes