Chocolate Nutella Macarons

11 Feb

Guys! I’ve missed you, I really have.

But after the immense success I had in my kitchen tonight, I had to share it with you. I’ve been wanting to try making macarons for a long time, but it seemed so intimidating. Instead, I’d pay out the nose for mediocre macarons from the French bakery. And then a few weeks ago, the only bakery near me that made reasonably priced and delicious macarons closed. It was tragic.

I asked for a couple things for Christmas so that I could finally try my hand at macarons. I got new air-bake baking sheets, I got a digital kitchen scale, and I got a piping bag. With supplies in hand, I knew it was my time.

Some people spend their Friday night out on the town…I went for an hour long jog down to the National Mall and back and then donned my Scripps sweatpants and sweatshirt and got down to business. I was fully prepared for complete failure.

After I had folded in the dry ingredients…things were looking funky. It seemed too thick, kind of lumpy…but I decided to just go with it. Amazingly, as I piped it out, it settled into perfectly smooth rounds. To get them the same size, I counted quickly to five while squeezing the piping bag. I let them sit while I heated up some frozen lasagna and watched Big Love. Then, it was the moment of truth.

When I opened the oven and pulled these out, I literally spent the next five minutes doing a really ridiculous dance around my kitchen. It went something like this “punch punch punch kick kick punch punch kick punch kick kick jump clap cap jump kick punch punch punch.” Pulling a sheet of macarons out of the oven and realizing they have perfect feet and look exactly like the pictures you see makes you feel LIKE A GOD.

Also, I’d like to state for the record that I did not age my egg whites ONE SECOND. I let them come to room temperature for about 10 minutes before using them. Seriously, don’t waste your time. I think the French just made up a bunch of unnecessary steps and rules for making macarons so that we Americans don’t realize that we, too, can have access to these delicious treats.

My boyfriend and I then proceeded to eat half the batch…(oh yeah…this blog’s name is no longer completely accurate…but I still mark “single” on tax forms, so roll with it). Happy early Valentine’s Day!

Chocolate Nutella Macarons
Makes 16

Print this recipe!

Adapted from Live, Bake, Love and Cake & Allie

Macarons
1 cup (100g) powdered sugar
1/2 cup (50g) slivered, blanched almonds
3 Tbsp (25g) unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large egg whites at room temp
5 Tbsp (65 g) granulated sugar

Use the weights! Macarons are about precision, so while there are cups and tablespoons listed, I HIGHLY recommend getting a kitchen scale for these.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and prepare your piping bag with a fairly large, plain tip.

In a food processor, grind the slivered almonds until they are are halfway to almond flour (you don’t want to go too far and accidentally end up with almond butter…). Add the powdered sugar and cocoa powder to the almonds in the food processor and grind until powdery. Set aside.

In an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites until they are foamy. With the whisk still running, slowly SLOWLY add the granulated sugar. Continue to mix until your egg whites are glossy and stiff.

Add half your dry ingredients and fold in using a rubber spatula. You don’t have to worry as much about deflating your egg whites here, you want to really incorporate everything well. One the first half is mostly mixed in, add the second half and continue folding. Things are going to seem dicey, you’re going to worry if you’ve ruined everything, just keep folding. You’ll end up folding upwards of 40-50 times to get things fully incorporated.

As you’re folding, you want to keep looking to see if when you drop some of the batter on top of the rest, does is slowly melt back into the whole? That’s what you’re going for. Transfer the batter to your piping bag.

Pipe quarter-sized rounds onto your baking sheet, an inch apart. Bang your cookie sheets flat on the counter a couple times to help them settle.

Let sit for 30 minutes, or until you can lightly touch the tops of the macaron without it sticking to your finger. While they are resting, preheat oven to 300. Bake for 9-11 minutes.
Let cool completely and then pair up the macarons with a mate who is a similar size. (Unless you are perfect and all your macarons came out exactly the same size. Good for you. I’m not that talented.)

Nutella Ganache
½ cup whipping cream
2 oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
3 Tbsp nutella

Place chocolate and nutella in a heat-proof bowl. In a small saucepan, heat whipping cream to a simmer.

Pour whipping cream over chocolate and nutella and let sit for 30 seconds to melt. Mix together until fully combined. Put ganache in the fridge to firm up (but it should still be pourable).

With an electic mixer, whip ganach for 1 minute until fluffy and lighter in color. You can use a piping bag for this step, but it’s not necessary. Spoon a small dollop of ganache onto middle of the bottom of one macaron and gently press the top down to squeeze ganache just to the edge of the cookies. Repeat with all your pairs.

Let macarons sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes for ganache to firm up. (Apparently they get better over 24 hours, but I wouldn’t know, mine didn’t last that long).

Store macarons in the fridge and let come to room temperature before devouring for best flavor and texture.

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

22 Nov

I think it’s time to admit to myself that I just don’t have much free time these days. It’s been over a month since my last post, some weeks it feels like I barely have time to feed myself. I really do enjoy being busy, but it does mean I have less and less time for the non-essential things in life. And sometimes it means I get stressed out and start crying because my roommate keeps putting my nice knife in the kitchen sink with all the other dishes. Sometimes that is what pushes me over the edge.

Essentials:

1. Office job

2. Restaurant job

3. Working out (I live for Sunday morning Step class.)

4. Laundry

5. Watching Parks and Rec (and 30 Rock when it finally returns)

6. Sleep

7. Showering

That’s right, sleep and showering rank AFTER Parks and Rec and 30 Rock. They are really good shows, guys.

Non-essentials:

1. Taking the time to take pictures of my food on the rare occasion I have time to cook or bake

2. Baking macarons. I want to try it soooo bad. (Sorry dad, not macaroons.)

3. That sewing project I started about 7 months ago

4. That other sewing project I started a month ago that is supposed to be someone’s christmas present

5. Painting my nails. I need to avoid peep toe shoes until I take care of this. It’s embarrassing.

6. Making lists of essential and non-essential things in my life

7. Everything else

It’s actually a good thing my houseplant perished when I moved to my new apartment. I would have killed it from neglect by now anyway.

Needless to say, I am very much looking forward to the holidays. I’ve got a nice Thanksgiving dinner planned: braised short ribs over polenta, rosemary roasted potatoes, green beans, spinach madeleine, and the world famous (okay, my family famous) chocolate cinnamon torte.

I’ve got a hefty stack of magazines I need to catch up on, and my goal is to do absolutely nothing on Saturday. Movies in bed, ordering take out, reading, 30 Rock marathon, sweat pants. It’s going to be epic.

I won’t be going home for Thanksgiving for the first time ever . I guess that makes me an adult…and I don’t know how I feel about that. I’m thankful that I won’t be battling through the airports on Wednesday afternoon, but sad that I won’t be seeing the usual suspects: the grandmas, the uncle. But Christmas is just around the corner and the gang will be back together again, putting our family motto into practice: “Let’s eat again, reeeeeal soon!”

And speaking of eating again real soon, this soup is easy to throw together, and would make a great starter for your Thanksgiving meal, or a light lunch when you’re recovering the day after. My sister made it during the holidays last year and it recently popped into my head as something I was craving. Try it out! It’s delicious and makes you feel good about yourself because it’s so healthy.

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

Serves 4

1 medium onion, diced

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups vegetable stock
2 cups butternut squash, peeled and diced
2 cups sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 medium granny smith apples, cored, peeled and diced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cayenne (I left it out because I’m a wimp about spicy things)
In a large heavy pot, saute onions in olive oil over medium heat until translucent. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 30 minutes. In a food processor or blender, blend until smooth.
I topped it with toasted butternut squash seeds and goat cheese, and it was delicious!

Bourbon Pumpkin Bars

20 Oct

It’s mid-October, guys. When did that happen? Summer can’t be over yet. I didn’t get in that one last trip to the beach I was hoping for. I never really evened out that awkward shorts tan line I got while kayaking. I still have some sweet tea vodka I need to drink. Wait. Strawberry season is over? Autumn, we need to talk. I love you and all, but I’m not okay with this.

We’ve moving into pumpkin season. I’m gonna try to embrace it full on. But I need to add a little bourbon to get me through this. Makers. Can’t go wrong. There’s a reason Rocky Votolato named an album after it. (A great album, BTW).

Autumn does involve some pretty great things. I went apple picking a few weekends ago in Maryland, there was a cow involved. And of course, whenever I told anyone I went apple picking, the first words out of their mouth were “are you going to make apple pie??” I resisted at first, but eventually caved. I made Joy the Baker’s amazing apple pie, and highly highly highly recommend it. It was phenomenal.

The leaves are starting to change colors here in the mid-Atlantic, so I’m planning to go hiking next weekend to admire the foliage. That was one thing I always missed while I was living in Southern California. The leaves would just one day kind of die and fall off the non-native tress on campus. Nothing like the brilliant reds and oranges and yellows you can get in places that actually have seasons.

Have you figured out what you’re going to be for Halloween? I’m going to put in my bets on top costume choices this year:

  1. Zombie bin Laden
  2. Occupy Wall Street protester
  3. The Arab Spring
  4. Hurricane Irene
  5. Lady Gaga (duh, who doesn’t want another excuse to wear that meat dress?)
How does one dress up like The Arab Spring, you ask? I don’t know. A turban and some flowers? It’s interpretive.

I’m pretty excited about my own costume choice this year. It was largely based around the haircut I got in June. Click here for a hint: (This isn’t me coming out. I’m still into dudes.) I’ve got some black skinny jeans, a purple hoodie, black jacket to go over the hoodie, and I need to procure some ridiculous looking sunglasses from the dude who sells them for $3 by the Metro.

But while we’re talking about Halloween, let’s talk pumpkin. More specifically, pumpkin and bourbon. This is a combination I hadn’t thought of until I made these bars, but it makes so much sense. Also, fancy a glass of Makers on the rocks while you bake? Then let’s be friends.

You’ll notice that I’ve added in a “Print this recipe!” button in the recipe. A reader asked, so I finally got around to figuring it out. It wasn’t really that hard! If you have any trouble with it, let me know in the comments. I’ll slowly be going back to add in the print option to older posts, but it might take me a bit. Bear with me!

Bourbon Pumpkin Bars

Makes 24

Inspired by Two Peas and Their Pod

Print this recipe!

2 cups flour
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 Tbsp bourbon
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt and set aside.

With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until smooth. Add egg, vanilla and bourbon and mix until combined. Add pumpkin and mix well. It will look kind of weird but just move on. Add dry ingredients and mix on low until just combined. Taste test. Taste test again. Using a wooden spoon, stir in chocolate chips.

Spread batter evenly in the pan and bake for 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with crumbs. Cool bars in pan. When cool, cut into squares and enjoy!

Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini

7 Oct

One thing I don’t really understand about restaurant patrons is this: why do you always try to order from someone who is not your waiter? Maybe you don’t pay much attention so you can’t remember which one of us is your server? But…I’m a girl. The busboy is a boy. So you could at least differentiate between us. I know you’re probably super psyched about that tiramisu. But I just brought you the dessert menu, and I promise I will be back within a couple minutes to see what you want. In fact, right now I’m standing right behind him, about to ask you what you want. So maybe you could wait 2 seconds for him to clear your plate and I’ll get that order from you?

Pro-tip: At least at my restaurant, only your server can access your order in the system. Another server can’t enter whatever you ordered for me. So when you tell someone else you want a refill of wine, they have to first find me, tell me, remember what you asked for and what table you’re at. By the time they do, I probably would have already come over and gotten the order from you personally.

But I do love waitressing. Especially when you’re just at that right amount of busy that you never really stop moving but you are still able to get to every table as often as you need too.  And since I love food, I especially enjoy when people ask for recommendations. I have some strong feelings about some of those dishes.  People veer away from things named Hunkar Begendi, and they just need someone to assure them that it will be the best decision they’ve made all week, even if they can’t pronounce it.

Also the nachos are great when you’re drinking margaritas. No really, we’re a Turkish restaurant, I swear.

I’d also like to admit right now that I am REALLY bad at carrying martini glasses. I didn’t know it was possible to so consistently spill things on myself. Why did we design a glass that is shaped with what seems like the sole purpose of spilling alcohol?

So yes. In case you were wondering, I did just spill some of your Cosmo down my arm. My bad.

One side effect of waitressing, though, is that I’m really not cooking as much as I was before. Two nights a week I eat at the restaurant after my shift, and a lot of week nights I’m throwing together something easy. So, I’ll try to post something up here whenever I make something worthwhile, but it’s likely going to be less frequent than I would like. My mom has been hassling me to post this recipe, since she saw a photo of the finished product but I didn’t get this post together until WEEKS later. Sorry, mom! (Also you might be saying “your recipe calls for shallots, but I see onions in that picture.” True. I used onions, but after eating it, I think shallots would have tasted much better, so I highly suggest going that route.)

Stuffed Zucchini
Serves 3
3 medium zucchinis
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbs olive oil
2 ears sweet corn, cut off the cob
1 large tomato, diced
2 shallots, diced
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Slice zucchinis in half longways. Use a spoon to scrape the seeds out, creating a small hollow area in each zucchini, like little zucchini canoes. But don’t take out too much, you still want to taste the zucchini. Set aside on a baking sheet lined with foil.
Add quinoa, water and salt in a small pot and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Let simmer for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy and semi-transparent. While quinoa cooks, heat olive oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and sweet corn and cook for 5 minutes. Set aside.
When quinoa is finished cooking, taste and add additional salt if needed. Add shallot and corn mixture to quinoa. Add tomatoes and mozzarella and stir to thoroughly combine.
Divide quinoa mixture among hollowed out zucchinis. Top with a little extra shredded mozzarella.
Cook stuffed zucchinis for 15 minutes or until cheese on top is bubbly.

Heirloom Caprese with Balsamic Reduction

8 Sep

Things that have happened since my last post:

1. Earthquakepocalyspe. I knew it was an earthquake, but refused to believe it was actually happening in DC. But after the first few seconds, I got up from my desk and braced myself in the doorway of my colleague’s office. He ducked under a table. We looked pretty ridiculous.

2. Come on, Irene. I had a Living Social deal to go whitewater rafting the day Irene hit. They didn’t cancel the trip ahead of time, but I eventually decided that I didn’t want to risk being stuck on a bus in West Virginia should the hurricane prevent us from getting back to DC. My best friend was visiting me from CA, so we ventured out before it got too bad and stocked up on quesadilla-making supplies. All-in-all, it was a good excuse to sit around inside watching TV and playing Scrabble all day.

3. “We’ve got two specials tonight…” I am now officially a waitress instead of a hostess. I’m pretty thrilled about the change. It’s so much more fun, since hostessing gets pretty boring. On slow nights I make about what I made as a hostess, but I make way more on busier nights. (Except when that French table stiffs me $20 on the check. Jerks.) I’m still learning…I tend to forget to bring people bread, and I’m still memorizing which beers we carry. But I think for the most part I’m pretty good. And to make my mother proud, I constantly make an effort to talk slower.

4. I painted my nails with hot pink stripes. It just felt right. I blame Joy the Baker.

5. I had a love affair with heirloom tomatoes. It all started when I went to Graffiato and had the Burrata salad. Heirloom tomatoes, watermelon, and homemade burrata. Good golly, words cannot describe. So I started trying out different heirlooms at the farmers market. My favorite is that guy on the right in the above picture. It’s kind of got red and orange tiger stripes. So yummy.

I know I’m not very creative. Caprese salad? Been there. Done that. But you know, when I buy a gorgeous fresh tomato, this is the only way I want to eat it. I don’t want to cook it, I don’t want to mask it with too much other food. My dad has it right: he just eats plain slices of tomato with salt and pepper. Being a cheese fanatic, I need a little mozzarella thrown into the mix.

And my favorite part is sopping up the tomato juices at the end with a fresh loaf of bread. It’s a must.

Heirloom Caprese with Balsamic Reduction

Serves 1

Print this recipe!

1 small or medium sized heirloom tomato
4-5 slices fresh mozzarella
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
sea salt
fresh ground pepper
fresh basil
Balsamic Reduction:
Heat small sauce pan over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup balsamic and allow to simmer until it begins to thicken. Whisk frequently to prevent burning. It’s done with the vinegar has reduced by about half.
Slice tomato. Lay alternating slices of tomatoes and mozzarella on a plate. Drizzle with balsamic reduction, and sprinkle with sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve with slices of fresh crusty french bread.

Corn and Crab Soup

18 Aug

This is what usually happens. I get an idea for a recipe, I get all the ingredients, make the recipe, then have a few left over ingredients, so I try to think of something else I can make with that ingredient, decide on something, go buy the rest of the ingredients I need for it, make it, have a new leftover ingredient, try to think of what I can make from that, etc…It’s a vicious (and delicious) cooking cycle.

My roommate left a magazine with healthy recipes laying open on the counter, so I glanced at it and saw a recipe for a salad with crab, corn, black beans, tortilla chips, and lime dressing. It looked fantastic. So I bought crab, corn, black beans, tortilla chips and lime. And it was delicious.

But then I still had this very large tub of fresh crab in my fridge. I needed a good way to use a lot of crab quickly. Crab cakes were the obvious solution, but I had a cold at the time, and wanted something more soothing.

So I decided to attempt to recreate my favorite crab and corn soup from Acadiana. I stopped by the store on my way home from work, got all the necessary ingredients, busted out my favorite teal colored dutch oven, and made soup. (Confession: this was the first time I’ve ever made soup. I don’t even really like soup. I only like Acadiana’s crab and corn soup.)

Verdict: It was pretty good. It needed tweaking. One of my friends like to joke that I don’t like “flavor.” Aka I don’t like spicy food. It’s true. My mouth is super sensitive to spicy foods, and they just make eating uncomfortable rather than enjoyable. (Plus, I grew up in the midwest. Meat and potatoes are rarely prepared with a lot of spice). But this is one case where I will admit that this recipe needs more zoot. I didn’t include the jalapeno. I’ve never cooked with jalapeno in my life. The stuff terrifies me. But if I did it again, I’d use it. The soup needs it.

And luckily, I’m going to Acadiana for lunch tomorrow (it’s DC Restaurant week!!!!) so I can hopefully indulge in the real deal to remind myself why I sometimes pay a lot of money for really exceptional food at a restaurant.

Also, I apologize, this is one of the few times I made a recipe for the blog after work, so I was losing light really quickly. The photos didn’t turn out great.

Corn and Crab Soup
Serves 4
1 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 Tbsp cornmeal
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, diced (include seeds for more spice)
3 ears fresh sweet corn kernels
2 1/4 cups chicken broth
2 corncobs (use the ones you just cut the corn off of!)
1/2 pound fresh lump crabmeat, drained
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tsp old bay seasoning
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
Melt butter in Dutch oven over medium heat; whisk in cornmeal, and cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Add onion, bell pepper, jalapeno and sweet corn kernels, and saute for two minutes. Add the broth and corncobs. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove and discard corncobs. Stir in crabmeat, whipping cream, old bay, salt and pepper. Cook until thoroughly heated, about 5 more minutes. Serve with warm crusty baguette for dipping!
(My other thought was to use chipotle peppers instead of jalapeno…I think it might be interesting. If someone tries it, let me know how it tastes!)

Crab and Roasted Cherry Tomato Sandwich

4 Aug

I don’t wear shorts. I either wear jeans or skirts in the summer. I don’t know why, I just hate shorts. In high school I’d buy shorts from the boy’s section of the store, but now that I’m in my mid-twenties that doesn’t seem like a viable option. I know they make longer shorts for women, and I always try them on, hopeful, but they never look good. My opposition to shorts can be a problem. Especially when it’s 107 degrees out.

I went to the Nat’s game last Friday, and it was somewhere upwards of 100 degrees. There was just no way I could wear jeans. And none of my skirts really go very well with a red Nat’s t-shirt. So, I dug deep, both psychologically and into my dresser. I pulled out the one pair of shorts I own. The pair I bought at Target because I thought this might be the year I start wearing shorts. It wasn’t. I would occasionally put them on, look in the mirror, and promptly change into a pair of jeans. I’d also like to add that this has nothing to do with body image. I just hate shorts.

But I decided this had to be done. So I bypassed the mirror and headed to the ballpark.

As my friend and I were walking in, a guy with a camera pulled me aside and asked if I wanted to be in the Fan of the Game Contest. I waffled, knowing that this would involve me making a fool of myself on the jumbo tron. But really, how can you say no?

They pre-tape the contest. So they choose three fans, have them act like an idiot in front of the camera for what feels like 4 hours (they cameraman kept saying “ten more seconds” ….. “ten more seconds” …. “ten more seconds”) Sometime after the third “ten more seconds” I stopped believing him that this was almost over. Then some producer chooses your best 5 seconds of embarrassing yourself, and they play it on the jumbo tron in the 6th inning. The crowd cheers for the fan they want to win. Sadly, I was beaten out by the guy who painted his entire torso white and then painted on a Nat’s jersey, complete with name and number on the back. In the end, he really committed more than I did.

I did provide a catalog of awkward dance moves. This one looks like some snaps with a head bob. I also busted out the “crazy white girl” (jump around in a circle while waving your arms over your head. A real classic) and the Liz Lemon “spinning a basketball on your finger” (as seen in the Dealbreakers episode of 30 Rock).

I also specifically asked if they were going to match me up against some cute kid so there was no way I’d win. He assured me they wouldn’t. They did. Luckily, I still got more applause than the little sucker. Yeah, take that, cute kid.

Anyway. The rest of the night was a lot less eventful. I devoured a plate of chili cheese fries faster than should be humanly possible. To atone, I went to the farmers market the next morning and bought tons of fruits and veggies. The sweet corn right now is out of this world. And the peaches are so juicy you don’t really eat them so much as drink them. And sun gold cherry tomatoes. Ah, the light of my life. They are so sweet when you roast them, it’s like candy.

So, hit your local farmers market and grab some this weekend. And then make this sandwich. You can sub out anything for the crab. Maybe tuna? That’s easier to come by. Salmon? Chicken? Or keep it veggie.

Crab and Roasted Cherry Tomato Sandwich

Serves 1
6 inch baguette
10 cherry tomatoes (sun gold is the best!)
1 tsp olive oil
pinch of salt
3 slices fresh mozzarella (or whatever cheese you prefer)
1/2 cup fresh lump crab
handful of fresh baby spinach
1 Tbsp mayo
1 Tbsp sun-dried tomato pesto
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat cherry tomatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes, or until skin breaks and they look wrinkled.
Slice bread in half lengthwise. On one side, spread mayo, on the other spread pesto (or whatever tasty spread you have on hand). Add roasted cherry tomatoes to the side of the sandwich with the pesto, smooshing them down a little. Top with crab and slices of mozzarella. Stick back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes, keeping the sandwich open-faced (so that the mayo side gets all nice and toasty and cheese gets melty. Remove from oven and add spinach. Close sandwich, slice in half, and enjoy!
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