Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

History Lesson // French Macarons

The macaron, a confectioner's sweet and airy delight is a merengue-based cookie that hails from the fashionable streets of Paris, slowly and surely charming its way into parties and baking books all across the world. 

If you've ever tasted one, you surely understand the macaron's trending popularity. A dainty sandwich that melts in the mouth with seemingly endless flavor profiles, and possibly the fact that they are French (we just can't help it) all contribute to the welcome spread of these tasty treats. 

They are the perfect companion for just about any activity. Waking up with coffee and the paper (a more accepted version of "cake-for-breakfast"), accompanying an afternoon tea (or nap), or a post-dinner dessert all suffice for consumption of this marvelous little cookie. 

So, as I commonly ask in the History Lesson, where did they come from?

As usual, there's a little confusion and debate on exactly where and when macarons first appeared. Fortunately for us, the most reported version is also the most glamorous version (as in, it involves royalty). 

According to many-a-source, the macaron first appeared in Italy at the hands of Catherine de Medici's (yes, of the banking and art-collecting Florence Medici family) personal chef around the time of her marriage to the Duc d'Orleans in 1533. Not long after he became the king of France as Henry II, thus moving the macaron to the country it's currently so commonly associated with.

It's important to know that the macaron did not start out as a sandwich, but simply as a single light cookie with no filling, topping, or what-have-you. Another fun fact: 'macaron' and 'macaroni' are unsurprisingly from the same origin, a word meaning "fine dough."

Their popularity spread during the French Revolution when two sisters baked and sold them to support themselves during the troubling time. Thus, a staple was born.

The sandwich version was created in the 20th century by the grandson of Louis Ernest Laduree of the Laduree pastry salon in Paris, still one of the most celebrated macaron bakeries today. He had the idea to fill two shells with a chocolate panache, and it stuck.

You may recall my two attempts at making macarons- delicious yet ugly here, and still delicious but slightly less ugly here. They take a skillful and steady hand- something I've not quite acquired. I've been known to eat multiples (and multiples) of macarons in one sitting, so perhaps it's good and well I'm not procuring the perfect little pastries right and left.

I'm going to go ahead and apologize for any cravings this little dabble has spurred on.


Image Source: Gilt Taste

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Key Lime Pops


These Key lime and Greek yogurt popsicles are my absolute favorite. The acidity of the lime juice cuts the "Greek" taste of the yogurt perfectly, so for those of you who aren't fans of Greek yogurt, these are for you! Best of all, they can't get any simpler- prep took less than five minutes, excluding freezing time of course. Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Introducing: Summer Popsicle Project

Some days (or all) require a just little bit of sweetness, but it's a bit indulgent financially and calorie-wise to eat dessert every day. That, combined with the fact that it's miserably hot here, got me to do something that I've been seeing floating around on Pinterest and other places for a while now: making my own popsicles. 

So, every week starting now until summer ends, I'm going to make a delicious Greek yogurt-based popsicle and put up the recipe. Delicious, easy, and for the most part, healthy. 


Obviously, you can add or take away whatever you want. Also, for those who aren't the biggest fans of Greek yogurt, I would consider using regular vanilla yogurt, because these are... well, very Greek. I like the Greek yogurt (Oikos from Dannon is my favorite) because it adds a lot of protein, which I know I don't get enough of on a day-to-day basis.

So since I used yogurt, I can justify having a popsicle for breakfast, right?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pepper Jack Cheddar Grits

Cheese and peppers and grits. Honestly, a perfect South-meets-Southwest combination. My mother has been making us this hearty (read: not healthy) little dish for years, always whipping it up as a staple at family brunches. It's not some super secret family recipe, in fact, I think she pulled it out of a cooking magazine many a year ago. The best part? It's cheap and extremely easy. A short little prep, then into the oven for fifty minutes, and you've arrived at one of the delicious hallmarks of Southern cuisine.



Each serving has about 165 calories, which doesn't sound terrible, but my guess is that you will indulge a little more than that (I always do)! Bon appetit, y'all.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

More Macarons

After being semi-successful on my first venture making macarons, my sister and I decided to make another foray into the expansive and complicated field of French macarons. With this recipe by Annie's Eats in tow, an appetizing combination of hazelnut macarons with Nutella filling, we quickly made our way to the kitchen.

Disaster struck rather early into the process. In fact, the oven hadn't even been turned on yet. While pulsing the nuts in the food processor, I noticed that the almond/hazelnut flour was clumping up. Due to freezing the nuts, they were attracting moisture and forming into little pellets. I decided to put the mixture through the sieve, and while some dry flour made it through, most of it stayed clumped up in the sieve. My sister likened it to cleaning the litter box (ummm, ew). Thus, the process was further delayed while I set out the moist mixture in a flat glass bowl to dry out.

Finally, we got the mixture to be even, and it was relatively smooth sailing from there on out. We made the shells broader and thinner, and let them sit out for a whole two hours. I think that's what made all the difference. A firm coat was able to form on the shells, which allowed for feet to form. Yes, they had feet! I've never been so proud.

Let's compare the two batches.


Needless to say I'm rather embarrassed of my first attempt. I'm so glad I was able to redeem myself. Lesson learned: broader and thinner shells, and DO NOT pulse the nuts while still frozen. Recipe for disaster. And almond flour dust everywhere

Maybe next time will offer an even more varied flavor profile? I'm thinking something with fruit. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Macaron Mishap

Yesterday afternoon I took it upon myself to make my first batch of French macarons. I've always heard about how difficult the technique is to achieve, and I must say that I agree with that sentiment. They turned out delicious, but not at all in the right shape. My almond cookie flavored macarons with white chocolate vanilla ganache resembled a dirty snowball more than anything else.


The macaron shells were too small and fat, while the ganache was entirely too thin and ran completely out of each miniature sandwich. We ended up taking the shells apart and just dipping them in the leftover ganache (shhh, don't tell). Still, my family ate them all up, and the batch of about 34 mini macarons is nearly gone. Sweets are a treasured (yet still probably all too common) treat around here. 

I used Epicurean Mom's recipe (here), and must have done something completely off. Hers look absolutely stunning! And I know it's not just from that nice little snowflake adornment. Most of my mistakes were probably in the dispensing of the batter from the (handmade) pastry bag. 


Despite my disappointment with their un-glorified appearance, I plan on doing a little bit of studying up on technique to try my hand again at macaron-making in the future. They are so light, so delicious, perfect for so many occasions, and I love how there are so many fun and interesting flavor profiles out there to make and to try. 

So tell me. Is there something I missed? Have you ever made macarons from scratch before?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Have a Tomato

Unfortunately, I will not have access to a kitchen until this summer. Thus, Tuesday's posts will be a little lacking as far as content goes. My apologies!

Here are a couple snack recipes that incorporate fresh tomatoes. I didn't include exact amounts, so you can add however much of each ingredient you want. It shouldn't be too difficult to eyeball it!

a

A Traditional Antipasto Dish

  • sliced tomatoes
  • fresh mozzarella
  • fresh basil
  • drizzle of balsamic

Mediterranean Vegetable Salad
  • tomatoes
  • green bell peppers
  • cucumbers
  • Kalamata olives
  • feta cheese
  • balsamic vinaigrette

Quick Open-Faced Sandwich
  • sliced tomato
  • hummus
  • whole-wheat English muffin

French Sandwich
  • French bread
  • tomatoes
  • goat cheese spread
  • fresh basil
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Now that summer is quickly approaching, these fresh and tasty treats will be the perfect complement to a hot afternoon spent relaxing at the pool. Enjoy!

A Dark Indulgence

As a delicious luxury for those of us who are weight-conscious, it’s hard to believe that something as decadent and seemingly sinful as chocolate can be beneficial to our health. Of course we’re going to be skeptical. It’s the thing we cut out of our diet when we’re counting calories, what we allow ourselves to have only on special occasions, what we give up for lent (it’s over, eat up!). Luckily, we don’t always have to spare ourselves the pleasure of consuming the creamy delectable treat. In fact, chocolate can actually be beneficial to your health.

There are two caveats that you need to keep in mind with this little tidbit of information: dark chocolate and moderation. For it to be most effective, the chocolate needs to be at least 70% cacao and have as few ingredients as possible. The Ghirardelli variety pictured fits this mold perfectly. For those of you who aren’t huge fans of dark chocolate like myself, try biting off small pieces and letting it melt in your mouth. This undercuts the intensity and makes it very manageable. Make sure that you eat only one square a day, which equates to about 11 grams and 60 calories.


So what about the health benefits? A number of studies have shown that dark chocolate’s special antioxidant properties help protect the cardiovascular system, including:
  • Widening blood vessels
  • Modest effect on lowering blood pressure
  • Reduces platelet action- reduces blood clotting


While these revelations may seem like excellent news to your cardiovascular health, remember not to get too carried away. Over-consumption of both of these can decrease their beneficial effects and also cause weight gain. Yet, in a way, you can have your cake and eat it too. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Passionate

One of my favorite warm-weather drinks at Starbucks is the Tazo passion tea-lemonade (Venti, please). For such a brightly-colored concoction, it has relatively few calories, only 70 if unsweetened or with Splenda. Of course, it's not financially logical as a college student for me to buy a four dollar drink that I can down in ten minutes a couple times a week. So today, I did a little experimenting and found a way to replicate it and make it (almost) as good!

image via


What you will need:
  • 1 Tazo Passion Tea bag
  • 1/2 Crystal Light To-Go in Natural Lemonade (the size for water bottles)
  • 1/2 packet of Splenda
  • 12 oz water (give or take)
There is really no exact science to this. You can adjust the amounts if you like more lemonade or if you want it to be sweeter. First, steep the tea for about 5-6 minutes as the directions say. It does not need to be hot. Like I said before, you can steep it as long as you like, but be careful about leaving it in too long as it often turns bitter after a point. Next, add about half (or all, if you like) of the lemonade mix to the tea. Then add the Splenda and you're done! Not only is this much cheaper than the Starbucks version, but it has essentially no calories!

It you're absolutely not concerned about cutting calories, here's the full sugar homemade version. It sounds delicious and would be a wonderful party drink (if you feel like doing a lot of steeping)!

Now playing: Piano Man by Billy Joel

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mama Mia

After watching Eat, Pray, Love, I was reminded of my love for real Italian pizza and the wonderful trip to Italy I took a number of years ago. My absolute favorite place we went was Florence, where we unfortunately had much too short of a stay. It's such a beautiful city with all the classic old world architecture you expect to see in Europe and excellent shopping as well.

View of the city and the Arno River
So I looked up another recipe from MyRecipes.com, this time looking for a rustic-style pizza to bring back memories of eating in a quaint pizzeria in Naples. I decided that the white pizza with tomato and basil sounded perfect, and it was indeed. Also from the quick and healthy menu, since my mom has no affinity for cooking and I am such a newbie, it took about fifteen minutes to prepare and was very light- unlike the typical delivery pizza you see now-a-days. If you like the traditional pizza margherita, this is very similar, just kicked up a bit with ricotta and pesto (which we were lucky enough to have some homemade).


Gustare il cibo!

Listening to: Postcards from Italy by Beirut. Hear it.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Fresh


Now that it's getting warmer it's time to revert back to the wonderfully delicious smoothie. Of course, I'm not suggesting going to Smoothie King and getting a large sugar-and-syrup disaster that will set you back by upwards of 500 calories. As a personal favorite of mine, I love to make my own and I have a very simple and healthy way to do it. You have to have a blender, but I prefer to use a  Magic Bullet, which even though sold widely on the info-mercial market, actually works very well. So get your magic bullet cup, put about four ice cubes in it, then fill it nearly to the top with your frozen fruit of choice. Personally, I prefer strawberries and peaches, but whatever you like works just fine. Then, add two packets of Crystal Light, the kind that you put in water bottles. There's a ton of different flavors, but my favorites are lemonade, raspberry lemonade, or orange. Fill it up almost all the way with water, shake, blend, and you've got yourself the most tastey and easily made smoothies yet. You can replace the water with milk if you prefer, but I like mine with just water, more crisp. Obviously, any of these steps and ingredients can be adjusted accordingly to your taste. If you don't want a ton of flavor, then add only one packet of Crystal Light. Enjoy!

Now playing: Far Away by Ingrid Michaelson. Hear it.

For now.
Elizabeth

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Les tomates

I think my producivity today has left me dry for inspiration. I've been a domestic gal, doing four loads of laundry, dusting, cleaning the bathroom, and vacuuming. So enough of the physical work, and now for some blogging. As much as I would like to write about clothes and fashion the whole time, I won't, because then my page will be just like everyone else's, trying to prove to be some fashion guru, which, let's be honest, I'm not. I'm not a fashionista, a socialite, a photographer, or a profound music expert. I just like to think, to write, to explain and inform. So now to inform.


I was reading some articles today from the American Dietetic Association and came across an article about tomatoes. Tomatoes are one of my favorite vegetables, aside from the potato which really doesn't count since it's starch. But it turns out that they are more than just a delicious and low-cal snack. They are the largest source of dietary lycopene, which is a powerhouse antioxidant, and isn't as easily destroyed when cooked like others. Now I'm sure that everyone has heard of antioxidants, and if it weren't for taking nutrition and health I wouldn't know what exactly they were. They are molecules that are capable of inhibiting oxidation. Without getting too chemically descriptive, which is something I'm really not fond of, oxidation reactions can produce free radicals, and free radicals cause damage to cells. AKA, it aids in aging, which is something that I don't think anyone really embraces. Additionally it helps in lowering certain cancer risks and cardiovascular disease. So enough terminology. Tomatoes are one of the most consumed vegetables, in pasta, ketchup, salad, and other things. Some of my personal favorite tomato snacks:
  • tomato and mozerella salad with vinaigrette
  • tomatoes and cucumbers with light ranch
  • tomato and bacon (without the fat!) pasta with parmesan cheese
  • fried green tomatoes, of course! Although, not one of the healthier options
All these options are pretty light, and equally delicious if I must say. Eat up!

Now playing: Measuring Cups by Andrew Bird. Hear it.

For now.
Elizabeth