Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Green Tea Flaxseed Macarons with Red Bean Filling



Ahh, macarons. 

Macarons are probably one of my favorite desserts. They're delicious.. They're both chewy and crunchy at the same time. They can come in many different flavours.. Pistachio, lavender, chocolate, salted caramel.. You name em. The list never ends! They're pretty and colourful. When I walk into a macaron store, I feel like a kid at a candy store.. Or a kid in a macaron store... >_> I just want to buy ALL the colours.. Pink, green, purple, blue,.. ALL shades.. I like pretty and colourful things! They can come in many different sizes.. As big and as tiny as you want. They're easy to eat, easy to transport, they make a great gift.. Yum, yum! What's not to like about macarons ?

Oh, I know...

They're expensive! They may be little, but they aren't cheap! Those little Oreo looking and Oreo sized things can cost up to $5 for ONE. You can pretty much get 2 boxes of Oreo cookies for a macaron (But trust me, they aren't Oreos. Though Oreos ARE good too. Mmm oreos... Ahem. I digress).

They're also expensive to make (this, I didn't know until I went to shop for the ingredients). The ingredients to make macarons are generally pretty expensive. Mostly, the one key ingredient that is hard to substitute for: almond flour, which costs almost $16 for a 453g bag. Yikes! :O

Not only that, macarons are also known to be one of the hardest desserts to make:

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/3894316

Like they say, the real difficultly is getting them to look nice. They are made with egg whites so it's hard to work with..To get them perfectly shaped, smooth, un cracked, perfectly sized..

I know what you may be thinking.. So why would I want to make them myself if it costs just as much with so much more effort (Because you love baking....? Har har) Actually, everything turned out to be not that bad. I'll explain in a bit.

Nonetheless, I decided I was up for the challenge. I guess initially, I also didn't know they were that expensive to make. So I thought there would be some cost savings. Also, I wanted to have green tea macarons. As I mentioned before, it's really hard to find good Asian inspired desserts in Ottawa. I had a bag of green tea matcha at my office desk that I intended to drink but never did. I was staring at for quite some time. Let's put it to good use, I thought.

Anyways, so I was off to the supermarket. That's when I found out almond flour was $15 (Say what?!). 



I was just about to abort, but felt determined..



then figured maybe I could try substituting something else for the almond flour. Possibly another but or seed. Coconut flour was equally expensive. I didn't see any other seed flours.. Then I saw flaxseed flour.. 3 bucks? Quick check online said it was a possible substitute. Score! They also would go well with the matcha since matcha was sort of bitter. 

And to my surprise, they actually turned out and tasted pretty good! 





I decided to use red bean for the filling since Japanese desserts usually come in the green tea / red bean combo. I originally was going to mix in the red bean paste with a white chocolate ganache but I completely botched the ganache recipe (I used 3:1 cream:chocolate instead of chocolate:cream). Though it was a blessing in disguise because I tested it my dipping some of the shells in the mix and the ganache would have overpowered any green tea flavouring. Just pure red bean paste was perfect.

Without further aideau, here is the recipe:

For the ingredients, I used;

- 1 1/2 cup of icing sugar
- 1/4 cup of granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 cup of flaxseed powder
- 3 large egg whites
- 1 1/2 tablespoon of green tea powder
- 1/2 of a 400g package of red bean paste
- I dash of vanilla extract (optional)


Directions:

Prep:

1) if you do not have macaron makers with presized circles, draw circles on your parchment paper lined on your baking pan for the size of the macaron you want so that they are all consistent. Mine were about 1 1/4 inch in diameter. 



2) preheat your oven to 350 degrees

Making the macarons:

3) mix together the powdered sugar, flaxseed, and green tea powder thoroughly. Set aside.

4) beat the egg whites (with the optional vanilla extract) and granulated sugar until a stiff peak form. For mine, I beat them for 3 min on medium, 1 1/2 minute on medium high, 1 minute on high, and another minute on the highest.



5) fold in your dry ingredients slowly and carefully into the egg white mixture until it is well blended.

6) fill your pastry bag with the mixture and squeeze the mixture into your circles. Then bang the pan on your countertop (I did it about 15 times from all angles) to flatten and smooth them out.



7) stick them in the oven for about 12-14 minutes. 



8) let cool and using a butter knife, spread the paste to fill you macaron.


Overall, I was quite happy with the result for the first time making them. There definitely were some ones that didn't turn out as nice and were cracked, but they still were delicious.  Only comment I would say is that the red bean paste does dry out if you don't eat them right away, but they still tasted decent the next day. I will definitely try to experiment with some other flavours so stay tuned!



(And of course, Instagram always makes everything look better ;D)




Monday, November 10, 2014

Monday Muffins- Oatmeal Chocolate Chip




I made these last week and haven't had a chance to post them yet. They are also from the Looney Spoons Collection cookbook. They are really moist, without being greasy. There is a secret ingredient..

Friday, November 07, 2014

Cheddar Crisps



Fall is a prime time for soups. The weather is getting chilly, and there is even talk of snow in the forecast for this weekend. I like to have a batch of soup on hand, especially with all the root vegetables in season. My summer vegetable share is over but I have signed up for a different one for the fall. The baskets are much smaller but I get it every week, instead of bi-weekly. I also love that they give something home made each week. So far I have gotten frozen strawberry compote, pumpkin butter, a little kit with directions with ingredients for making homemade bruschetta..etc. it's super cute!

As much as I love soup, sometimes it is nice to have a little something to go with it. These cheddar crisps are delicious.  I got the inspiration from Salt and Serenity. I had seen Parmesan crisps in the store and they are super expensive. At that price I would have expected these to be really hard to make, but was pleasantly surprised as to how quick they were. I made these as part of my dad's birthday dinner. Because my dad is recovering from knee surgery, we made a nice dinner at home instead of going out. My sister was visiting for the weekend, and we put together this menu:



I love making menus for home made meals.  It makes it feel that much more like a special occasion.

Anyway, back to the crisps

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tiramisu Cake Balls / Cake Pops







Yep, I know... Cake pops and cake balls are a bit 2011. But they still are (relatively) easy and fun to make. Not to mention still delicious. So even they are no longer really the “trend” nowadays, I brought them back and decided to make them last week. Besides, it’s not out of style as long as Starbucks keeps selling them. And they still were last time I checked :-D

Last week, I made Tiramisu Cake Balls. Surprisingly, there aren’t actually a lot of Tiramisu cake balls recipes online when I researched them. There were a few, but I didn’t really like how they were made. A lot of them were mostly regular cake balls with a tiramisu twist.

I wanted my cake balls to taste as close as tiramisu as possible. So, I decided to be creative and come up with my own recipe by using just the ingredients for a classic tiramisu recipe (basically, lady fingers, mascarpone, whipped cream, kahula or expresso with rum, chocolate (optional)). What would be more authentic and can taste most like tiramisu than using the actual tiramisu recipe?



For the Cake Balls recipe, I used:

-          1 package of Vicenzi ladyfingers

-          1 ½ package of Milano ladyfingers

-          1 container (250g) of Mascarpone Cheese

-          125 mL of Kahula

-         3-4 heaping tablespoons of Starbucks Moka flavored coffee grounds (more of less depending on your preference)

To make the cake balls:

1)      Using a magic bullet or another type of food processor, ground your Vicenzi and Milano lady fingers into a fine powder. Add the Starbucks coffee grounds into the mixture and set aside.





2)      Mix the mascarpone cheese and kahula together in your magic bullet. Add mixture to the lady fingers powder.




3)      Using a mixing spoon first, mix together ingredients. When the ingredients are mixed together, you can start kneading them with your hands until it turns into a dough-like consistency, like so.



4)      Using your hands, break or spoon off chunks and roll them with your hands to make the cake ball. Set them aside in a pan covered with parchement paper (this is important so that the cake balls can be removed without running or sticking later on). Put them in the freezer for about 30 minutes to form the shape.


During the time when the cake balls were being chilled, I used the opportunity to make the chocolate coating for the cake balls.

For the chocolate coating, I used:

-          4 packs of Bakers Dark Chocolate (170g)

-          2 packages of Presidents Choice white chocolate chips (226g)

To make the chocolate coating:

Typically, you melt the chocolate using either a double boiler or a microwave. As I did not have either, I simply placed a bowl that fit just over a pot and used boiled water to melt the chocolate. It was a bit tougher to handle, but it worked just fine.

Once the chocolate coating is ready, you can take the cake balls out of the fridge to coat them. Once they are coated, put them back on the pan with parchement paper (or cake pop stand if you are making cake pops) and put them back in the fridge to chill until the chocolate becomes harden. This part takes about 15-30 minutes.


Once they have cooled, you can either leave them as is, or use the remaining chocolate to play around with designs. This part is entirely up to you and you can be as creative as you want. I made but cake balls and cake pops, and experimented with various designs on both.



You can also have the option of not even dipping them in the chocolate. Here, I tried to serve them another way but putting them in a martini glass and toping it off with some homemade whipped cream, cinnamon, and chocolate shaving. They were also quite delicious and fancy as well.


Package them in a box or display cup. They make a great gift for those who love tiramisu :)

Monday Muffins- Blueberry Banana

I know, I know, it's Tuesday. But Monday muffins sounded so much better. Besides, if you think of today as Monday, the weekend will come that much sooner!

I feel like muffins got a bad rep a few years ago, as all of a sudden people started saying that muffins were full of sugar and fat and were worse for you than donuts. I am prone to being influenced by these things and laid off muffins for quite some time. Although this may be true for store bought muffins (for example, say, triple chocolate muffins from Costco that are bigger than your face), home made muffins can be a lot healthier.

So,  I am back on the muffin bandwagon. And, they are super convenient for snacks. With my dad recovering from his knee surgery, I have been trying to make some regularly to bring over. This recipe is based on the Banana Berry Boms muffin recipe from the Looney Spoons Collection cookbook. Bill got it for me for me and I have been wanting to try more of the recipes. A friend recommended some recipes from it, so I got it off my shelf and now I have a whole bunch of recipes flagged to try.


I really like these leafy muffin wrappers ( thanks P) - perfect for fall! I believe they are from Michaels

Monday, October 20, 2014

Meatless Monday- Cauliflower Pizza



I had cooked cauliflower in the fridge,  leftover tomato sauce and mozzarella, and then Juliet sent me the link to a tutorial for cauliflower pizza. I wasn't overly excited about it, as I have made cauliflower pizza a few times and it hasn't always turned out well.  Well this time it turned out a lot better, so I thought I'd share the recipe with you.

It's perfect for when you have cooked cauliflower leftover and ready to use. If you don't,  I recommend following the tutorial. That is, if you can bare watching this video. The recipe is great but the guy just drives me crazy. It is so sing-songy that I found it nearly unbearable. He actually says "press this in-around the outside, around the outside, around the outside.."

Anyway here is what I did- I grated 1 full cauliflower, using my attachment on my food processor. It can be done by hand as well. This makes cauliflower "rice". I then stir fried it with 1 onion. Easy as that. It made a ton! I then put it in Tupperware in the fridge to have to eat with meals throughout the week, instead of traditional rice.  After eating it as rice a few times I used what was left for this pizza. It actually reminded me a bit of the Cauliflower Fritters we made last summer.

Ingredients:
- cooked cauliflower- as described
- 1 egg
- goat cheese
-Parmesan
- tomato sauce
-grated mozzarella
-fresh basil
- toppings of choice

Instructions:
- preheat oven to 400 F
- Combine cauliflower with egg, goat cheese and Parmesan. Flatten down into a patty on a baking sheet or round pizza pan.
- Bake  for about 10 minutes. Flip over
- Add toppings and bake for another 10 minutes or until crispy and cheese is melted.

Enjoy!



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

So I'm home again, I had my wisdom teeth pulled and I'm bored which has got me baking some Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins mhmmmm..

I got the recipe off of twopeasandtheirpod.com, not following it fully as I never do and didn't have all the ingredients available..

So what you'll need is:
2/3 cup sugar
Grated zest and juice of one lemon (The lemon I used was too squishy and I wasn't to grate it so no zest for me..)
2 cups of Flour (this I sifted so it's nice and fluffy)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt 
3/4 cup sour cream or plain greek yogurt (I used greek yogurt)
2 large eggs (not sure mine were large, then again I do live in Europe and the sizes tend to be smaller here)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
113 grams unsalted butter
2 tablespoons poppy seeds


First off you're meant to mix the sugar with the zest, obviously that didn't work for me so I just mixed all the dry ingredients (sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt) together in one bowl and all the wet ones (melted butter, vanilla extract, eggs, greek yogurt and lemon juice) in another. WAIT with the POPPY SEEDS!! 




Then I added the liquid ingredients to the dry ones and mixed those together, when that was done I added the two spoons of poppy seeds and dished them out into the baking tray (I used cupcake cups as I don't have a baking tray spray thing) then I shoved them into the oven and voila.











The oven I preheated to 200°C and the muffins I put in for 13 minutes..

Twopeasandtheirpod.com also gives and icing recipe, not sure yet if I'll be using it or not but incase you're interested here it is:

1 cup sifted confectioners sugar
2-3 spoons lemon juice

You mix the two together and dribble it onto the muffins. 

Bonne Apetit!























Tuesday, October 14, 2014

6 Things Thanksgiving

Here is a round-up of a few of my favourite things from Thanksgiving dinner at my parents'.

1. Pretty Dishes

Serving appetizers in these pretty blue dishes.

appetizers

2. Napkin folding

I found really easy instructions on how to make these. This site also has other easy ones that look nice.

napkin design

3. Place cards

Cathy made these adorable place cards.


4. Table decorating

Gail decorated the table so beautifully. I love this arrangement, perfect for fall.


5. Turkey- and all the rest

I couldn't leave this out.


Not pictured- all the other delicious food and side-dishes (thanks to all of the Chefs!)

6. Family, and friends who are like family

It wouldn't be the same without these wonderful people.



Happy Thanksgiving!

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