Monthly Archives: March 2010
|March 15, 2010||Posted by Lauren Keating under Desserts, Special Occasions|
Why what do we have here? Just my long promised second (and more successful!) post about making macarons! I know. I left you hanging for forever. A few of you even emailed me. But what can I say? I got distracted by other goodies like pineapple upside-down cake, cappuccino cheesecake, and a delicious orange pound cake that I still need to post.
I recently began seeing a group of people on twitter posting about a monthly #mactweets event. It took me a while to figure out what exactly was going on, but eventually I got it : a group of people looking to perfect macarons, and sharing laughs, encouragement, and cheers along the way. All with a monthly theme. I’ve been watching from the sidelines for a while, but decided that this would be the month that I would jump right in.
The theme for March is “Spring Fling: Baking Your Favorite Springtime Flowers.” I’ve been looking for an excuse to buy some of the beautiful dried flowers that they keep in the bulk bins at the co-op, so this was the perfect month for me to start! It took me a while to settle on a flavor, but I ended up choosing lavender and vanilla bean macarons with buttercream frosting.
I’m not going to lie. These are tricky little devils to make! It actually took me two tries to get them right – I over folded my first batch and ended up with flat, cracked cookies that stuck to the baking sheet and were a huge mess to clean up. But I didn’t give up. Instead, I did a little more reading and gave it another go. My results still weren’t perfect, but they were a lot closer! I mean, how cute are these?!
A few tips that I learned along the way:
- You need to mix the batter a lot more than you think you should. It’s ok! Start out quickly and the slow down — it should take around 50 strokes. When it’s folded enough, the batter will flow like magma, and a line drawn in it with a knife will disappear after about 10 seconds.
- Use a scale. It’s much more accurate than trying to measure your ingredients.
- Parchment paper works better than a silpat. I don’t know why, but it does.
- Don’t crowd your oven. Bake one tray at a time, turning it halfway through so they cook evenly.
- It’s much easier to put your “toppings” on before the macarons bake. I don’t now why I thought I would be able to get stuff to stick to them once they were baked last time!!
Also, one of the things that I didn’t like about the other recipe I had used was that it didn’t call for the piped macarons to rest before baking. Instead, you baked them for a few minutes at a high temperature, and then the rest of the way at a lower temperature. I much prefer the method of letting them rest, which helps the tops dry out. When they bake, the dried top will rise straight up, giving you nice, ruffly “feet.”
The tops on this batch isn’t as smooth as I would have liked — blame that on me being lazy and not sifting my sugar/almond mixture. Also, I didn’t let my egg white age (my aged white went into my failed batch). I’m not sure what aging does to them, but these seemed to come out ok. They were also a little more hollow than they should be. So I know what I have to work on for next month. But for now, not bad, if I do say so myself.
Lavender and Vanilla Bean Macarons
Based on various recipes from Helen of Tartelette
Every macaron recipe that I’ve seen calls for the egg whites to be aged for at least 24 hours. I used fresh eggs and did not have a problem with these, but your milage may vary. Lavender has a very strong flavor, so I recommend topping using it only on the tops, rather than on the tops and bottoms. I filled my macarons with store bougt buttercream frosting that I added some vanilla bean to and colored with a few drops of food coloring. The others are filled with Nutella. While I wouldn’t go as fat as saying that macarons are healthy, there are cookies that are far worse. I also find it very easy to control my portion size with them – they’re so delicate that one or two with a cup of tea is plenty.
90 grams eggs white (approx. 3), aged for about 24 hours at room-temperature 30 grams sugar 200 grams powdered sugar 110 grams almond flour 1/2 vanilla bean 1 Tbs dried lavender 1/4 cup buttercream icing (I died mine pink with a few drops of food coloring)
Use a stand mixer or eggbeaters to beat your egg whites until they begin to foam. Add the sugar and continue to beat until you have a glossy meringue that holds a soft peak.
Combine the almonds and powdered sugar, then press through a sieve to remove any lumps. Scrape in the seeds from the vanilla bean.
Add the almond mixture to the meringue. Give it a few quick beats to break down the meringue, then fold slowly until everything is incorporated and the batter flows like a ribbon. If you run a knife through the batter and the line disappears after 10 seconds, you’e all set.
Transfer the batter to a pastry bad or a large zip-lock bag. Pike small rounds onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
Sprinkle half with the lavender, then let sit for one hour. When the top feel firm to the touch, your ready to bake them.
Heat the oven to 280. Bake, one sheet at a time, for about 10 minutes. Turn the sheet and bake from another 8-10 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies.
Let cool, and remove from the baking sheets. If you have difficulty removing them, run water under the parchment paper. Remove the macarons immediately after doing this or they will get soggy!!
Spread a little icing on the center of each plain macaron (the ones without the lavender). Top with a lavender macaron half.
These keep great at room temperature and are even better the second day!
Yields Approx. 20 macarons
Approx. 90 calories, 3.3 grams fat, 0.6 grams fiber, 2 grams protein each
|March 14, 2010||Posted by Lauren Keating under Italian, Lent, Quick Weeknight Meals, Risotto, Vegetarian or Vegan|
I had to laugh a little when I saw that this month’s Daring Cooks Challenge was risotto. It doesn’t take very much time on this blog to figure out that we love the stuff and I even have a whole category dedicated to it! I took the opportunity to step a little out of my comfort zone and make a vegetarian meal based around the risotto itself rather than relying on lots of toppings. In fact, this simple and delicious risotto only makes three changes to the standard recipe — the addition of beets and the substitutions of goat cheese for parmesan and red wine for white.
The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.
In my recent blog survey, an overwhelming number of you asked for more information on how to create your own recipes. Risotto is the perfect place to start! Once you have the basics of making the base down, you can feel free to experiment with add-ins. The rice itself has a very subtle flavor, so just about any other ingredients will work — you can either mix them in, like I did here, for a more uniform flavor or you can serve them on top of the rice and let each individual flavor speak for itself. Pick an ingredient that you want to use, and think about what other flavors work well with it. Those will be the main components of your dish – 2 or 3 should be plenty. Then you can change up the items in the base to go along with those flavors. There are three main areas where you can make changes — the aromatics, the wine, and the cheese. For example, if you’re going for a French theme you might want to use shallots instead of onion and ramps go great with other springtime flavors like peas or asparagus. If you’re using a bold flavor like sliced steak and don’t care about the risotto being a creamy white, you can consider using red wine. And you can use whatever cheese you think will go best with the flavors that you’re using.
For this dish, I took my inspiration from one of my favorite salads — simple greens dressed with beets and crumbled chevre. Since I had an open bottle of pinot noir and I didn’t care about the dish being pristine white so I used that instead of white wine. The flavor of the beets were strong enough that they masked the wine and either would probably have worked just as well. Upon the first taste, I could tell that it needed something — the flavors were kind of muddled and heavy. Lots of freshly ground pepper did the trick! I’ve found that whenever a recipe I’m creating seems too dull, it’s because it needs either more acidity or more spice. Something like a splash of lemon juice, a simple vinaigrette, or some black pepper is usually all you need to perk the flavors right up!
What would flavors would you use in your risotto?
Beet Risotto with Goat Cheese
Shredded beets melt into this risotto, giving it a vibrant color and an earthy flavor. The goat cheese enhances the rice’s creaminess and the pepper packs a punch to cut through the richness. If you don’t like beets, you can change the add-ins to create your own perfect recipe.
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1.5 cups risotto rice, such as Arborio or Vialone Nano
- 2 ounces red wine
- 5 cups vegetable stock
- 3 small beets, peeled and shredded
- 4 ounces soft goat cheese, such as chevre, crumbled
- cracked black pepper
Heat your oil in a large pan and add the onion. Fry for a few minutes until the onion softens. Add the rice and stir to allow each grain to become lightly coated with oil. Continue to cook until each grain of rice becomes translucent except for one small white pearl in the center. Add the wine and let it cook until all of the liquid evaporates.
Add enough stock to just cover the rice. Lower the heat to medium and cook until most of the stock has been absorbed, stirring frequently with a large spoon. Repeat this step until all of the stock has been used and the risotto is plump and creamy.
Stir in the grated beets and half of the cheese. Continue to cook until the beets are heated through — this will only take a minute or two. Add in some freshly cracked black pepper — taste as you go to determine how much you should add.
Portion the risotto into 4 dishes and top with the remaining cheese.
Approx. 420 calories, 13 grams fat, 2 grams fiber, 10 grams protein
|March 11, 2010||Posted by Lauren Keating under Indian, Lent, Light, Special Occasions, Vegetarian or Vegan|
There’s an Indian restaurant around the corner from my house. In addition to having great food, they’re one of the few Indian restaurants in town that have a weekend lunch buffet — and sometimes they even have a coupon for buy one, get one free! Needless to say, we find ourselves there on Saturdays fairly often. All of the options are spectacular, but I always head straight for the chickpeas. They do them a few different way, but whenever I see “the one with the onions” I know I’ve hit the jackpot. This dish is glorious: hearty but not heavy and with the perfect amount of spice to make it noticeably hot without being too much. And the chickpeas — oh, the chickpeas. I’m always jealous of how they get their chickpeas to be so silky smooth.
So, me being me, I decided to try reproducing it at home.
I searched for a while, but wasn’t able to figure out what exactly this dish is called. So I used a combination of recipes and memory to come up with this recipe. I’m calling it chana masala, which from what I can tell is a broad description that translates to something like “chickpeas in curry sauce.” It isn’t exactly the same as the restaurant’s, but it’s delicious nonetheless. Caramelized onions and tomatoes give the dish a great depth of flavor, and a combination of spices and cream give it a luxurious earthiness.
The trick to getting those velvety chickpeas is to start with dried beans. I have nothing against canned chickpeas. In fact, I use them all the time. But when you really think about the texture of them, they have sort of a grittiness or a sandiness to them. Dried beans take a lot longer to prepare, but the texture is entirely different — they’re soft and plump, with a smooth, creamy center that doesn’t have a trace of grittiness to it. I’ve tried making dried chickpeas a few times before but they’ve never come out quite right. You need to be patient with them. Soak them overnight in lots of water — they’ll plump up to at least double their original size. Then, simmer then slowly for at least an hour until they are tender and creamy.
If you’re in a rush, you can use canned chickpeas and have a delicious dinner in a few minutes. But if you have the time and patience to start with dried beans, you’ll be in for a real treat.
You may find chickpeas being sold under their other name — garbanzo beans.
If you want a quick meal, you can substitute canned chickpeas. Garam masala is spicy, so use less if you don’t like as much heat. If you can’t find garam masala, you can substitute a combination of cumin, cinnamon, black pepper, cayenne, crushed bay leaf, a ground clove. Serve with rice and naan or pita.
- 1-1/2 cup dried chickpeas
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 Tbs butter
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
- 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- dash salt
- 8 ounce can whole peeled plum tomatoes, with liquid
- 1 tsp garam masala (use less if you don’t want it as spicy)
- 2 Tbs heavy cream
- Juice from 1/2 lime
Put the chickpeas in a bowl and cover with water. Let soak overnight.
Drain and rinse the chickpeas and place in a large pot of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, or until tender.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small pan. Turn the heat to low (level 2) and add the onion. Cover and let cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until soft and golden.
Heat the oil in a large pan.Add the garlic, ginger, and jalapeno and cook for 5 minutes. Add the spices and cook for another minute. Stir in the tomatoes along with any liquid from the can. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the chickpeas and the garam masala. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the cream and the lime juice. Stir in the caramelized onions.
|March 9, 2010||Posted by Lauren Keating under Breakfast, Lent, Light, Vegetarian or Vegan|
I know I just posted a breakfast recipe a few days ago, but I’ve been loving weekend breakfasts lately! You may have noticed that in my post about waffles, I wrote that we’ve been having them almost every weekend. The rest of the time, we’ve been eating these baked eggs. We’re pretty much obsessed with them – they’re so good! And so easy to make! As much as i love breakfast, I never really feel like cooking in the morning. The great part about these is that there really isn’t much “cooking” that needs to be done: no standing over the stove, no measuring. Just throw them in the oven, set the timer, and a few minutes later you have a delicious breakfast. (If you can conjure the energy to cook a few slices of bacon, you’re really set!)
Plus there’s something so beautiful about eggshells. They never fail to make me smile. Any day that starts with something so beautiful can never be bad.
You’ll want to use a shallow dish to cook these. I like to use a quarter cup creme brulee ramekin, which just barely fits two eggs (I usually make one for myself and two for Shawn). I’ve tried making this in a deeper cocotte, but they take much longer to cook and the texture isn’t as nice. Cooking these eggs in shallow ramekins results in an egg with a texture somewhere between fried and poached. The edges get that crispy-fried goodness but, because the container keeps the white from spreading out too much, it stays soft and chewy like a poached egg. Too deep of a dish though, and you’re edges won’t get that nice crispness.
The thicker white also keeps the yolk from running all over the place once it’s broken – if you’re into dipping your toast into your egg yolks, these will be right up your ally. You can also add fresh herbs to the egg before you bake it. My favorite is thyme, but basil or chives is also very good. The fresh herbs really take the egg to the next level and make your breakfast seem a lot more elegant than you would expect being that the recipe is so simple to make. Seriously, I almost feel like i’m cheating when I make these.
Shirred Eggs with Thyme
- 1 small pat of butter
- 4 large eggs
- about 2 tsp skim milk
- 1 generous pinch of fresh thyme, or an herb of your choice
- Sea salt (preferably grey) and black pepper
Preheat your oven to 425.
Use the butter to lightly grease the bottoms and sides of two quarter cup ramekins or other small, shallow dishes. Crack two eggs into each ramkin and drizzle with the milk. Sprinkle the thyme over the top.
Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 6 minutes, or until the whites begin to set and the edges just begin to brown. Broil the eggs for an additional 3 minutes or until the center begins to firm up – the eggs will continue to cook slightly when you take them out of the oven. Remove from voen, season with salt and pepper, and enjoy!
The yolks on these will be coked to an “over-medium” level of doneness. Adjust the broiling time up or down by 1 minute if your prefer your yolks cooked to a different level.
Approx. 160 calories, 12 grams fat, 0 grams fiber, 12.5 grams protein
You may have already seen this, but Progresso is running a pretty cool contest. It’s called the “Souper You” contest and you can win a trip to New York City and a makeover! Just go to their website and tell them what you love about Progresso Light soups and why you want a makeover. You only have until March 15 though, so you better hurry!
Progresso sent me a few cans of their soup to sample as a part of this promotion: While they don’t come anywhere close to the taste of homemade, they are pretty good! My favorites are the vegetable based ones – especially the light zesty southwestern vegetable soup. I also really liked the chicken vegetable rotini. I used to buy Progresso soups all the time, but I hadn’t in a while and I do have to say that I find the regular versions to be far too salty now. The low sodium and light soups are much less salty though. I’ve been keeping a few at work for those days when I don’t have time to pack myself a lunch in the morning (or don’t have leftovers to bring!)
The information about the contest and the soups to review were provided to me by Progresso through MyBlogSpark
|March 7, 2010||Posted by Lauren Keating under Italian, Lent, Light, Quick Weeknight Meals, Vegetarian or Vegan|
Back in December, I had the opportunity to watch a cooking demonstration by the chef from a local Italian restaurant. He made all sorts of wonderful dishes, but the one that impressed me the most was a briny, saucy pasta dish. Looking back I can’t remember if his version actually had feta in it or not, but the idea of a soft, salty cheese with pasta has been in the back of my head ever since. If you follow me on twitter, you’ll know that last week I just did not feel like cooking. At all. I didn’t really feel like eating either. It was simple, delicious recipes like this one that got me through to week – this takes very little effort to make, but the result is impressive. The feta really adds something special to the pasta and makes it seem a little more special. (And don’t worry, I made an awesome grocery list for this week and am back to my normal self!)
While you could use your favorite jarred sauce for this to make it even easier, I find that it’s just as easy to make my own. Pasta sauce really is a snap to make and it taste so much better than store-bought! San Marzano tomatoes were on sale, so I used those and I recommend that you do too. I find them to be slightly sweeter and less acidic than other canned tomatoes, resulting in a sauce that tastes like you made it from ripe, summer tomatoes. If you can’t find San Marzano’s (they can be difficult to find and are pretty pricey if they aren’t on sale), feel free to use your favorite brand of peeled plum tomatoes.
I served my sauce on top of spinach linguini. No real reason for that. I don’t think it tastes any different than plain pasta and the nutritional differences are negligible. Honestly, I just like the way that it looks. Green pasta is so much more fun to eat than beige pasta!
Spaghetti with Feta and Capers
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 28-ounce can peeled plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
- 1 hand full fresh oregano, chopped
- 2 Tbs capers
- Cracked black pepper to taste
- 4 ounces feta, crumbled
- 8 ounces spaghetti, cooked according to package
Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the oil. When the oil is hot and begins to shimmer, add the garlic. Cook for 1 minute, then immediately add the tomatoes and oregano. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally and using your spoon to press on the tomatoes to help break them down. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until the sauce is thickened. Stir in the capers and season to taste with pepper.
To serve, spoon the sauce on top of the prepared spaghetti. Top with feta.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can make this blog better. I have a ton of ideas that I’m really excited about. But I also want to hear from you! After all, I write this blog for all of you and I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions. So, if you could please take a minute to fill out this very short survey, I would really appreciate it. Thanks!!
|March 4, 2010||Posted by Lauren Keating under Breakfast, Fruit, Lent, Quick Weeknight Meals|
Buying Shawn a waffle iron for Christmas may have been one of the best things that I’ve ever done. We’ve wanted one for a while, but were hesitant because people kept telling us that we would never use it and it would ust take up precious cabinet space. Well, guess what? They were all wrong. We’ve been making waffles just about every weekend since we got it.
There’s something about a homemade waffle that just doesn’t compare to the frozen version. If you’ve ever ordered one at a diner you know what I’m talking about – they have that beautiful crispy exterior that gives way to a fluffy, light interior. These buttermilk waffles are perfect for a lazy weekend breakfast, or for a weeknight dinner. I like to make extras, which I reheat in the toaster for weekday breakfasts.
There are so many waffle recipes out there that it can be a little overwhelming. Cornmeal waffles, yeast waffles, chocolate waffles…the options are limitless. But my favorite are these buttermilk waffles, which call for whipped egg whites. They’re the closest that I’ve found to the diner waffles that I love so much. I think the whipped eggs result in an extra light and fluffy center.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk toppings. Syrup is a classic, but I don’t like to use too much since it can be so sweet. For these, I used just a drizzle of real maple syrup and some bananas that I sauteed with a little bit of grand marnier. The creaminess of the bananas was a really nice contrast to the tender-crisp texture of the waffle itself. As another alternative, I really like these waffles topped with a little bit of raspberry preserves.
The waffles are pretty big and i find them to be very filling. Half of one is enough for me for breakfast, otherwise I won’t want lunch.
Buttermilk Waffles with Sauteed Bananas
- 2 cups flour
- dash salt
- 2 Tbs sugar
- 1-1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1-3/4 cup buttermilk
- 2 eggs, separated
- 2 Tbs butter, melted
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 pat butter
- 1 banana
- 1 Tbs grand marnier or other orange liqueur
Combine the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda. Stir in the buttermilk, baking soda, egg yolks, melted butter and vanilla.
Whip the egg whites until the form soft peaks. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the batter.
Spray your waffle iron with oil. Preheat. Ladle one sixth of the batter onto the waffle iron and cook until done (this will depend on your iron). ransfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter.
While the waffles are cooking, heat a skillet over medium heat. Ad the pat of butter to the pan and allow to melt. Slice the banana into the pan and cook until it begins to soften, stirring occasionally. Add the grand marnier and cook an additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat and keep warm.
Approx.363 waffles, 13 grams fat, 1.5 grams fiber, 17 grams protein
Don’t like hyphens? You can now find me by going to Healthydelicious.net too! Should make it a little easier to tell people about the site (hint, hint )