I wanted to bake French macarons because I knew how much of a challenge they were. That only makes sense to me, so bear with me here. I had seen these pretty treats on TV and Pinterest and I knew I had to have them. I had no idea that a harmless looking cookie that needed only four ingredients would consume like it did. I went through numerous online recipes and bought two books to arm myself with information. When I had finally procured that magic dust they call almond flour, I confidently set out on my journey. A few of my kids helped me out along the way, but only Sommer persevered along the lonely path to success. I failed miserably, publicly and shamefully over and over and over and . . . well, you get it. Rather than tell you everything I think you need to know to bake macarons, I’ll share a basic recipe and a few things that saved my life. Literally. My macaron tainted life.
What you’ll need:
2/3 cup of finely ground almonds or almond flour
1 ½ cups of powdered sugar
5 tablespoons of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 large egg whites
A pinch of salt
Preheat your oven to 280 degree and place the rack on the bottom shelf.
Sift the almond flour and powdered sugar at least twice. If you’ve got tiny clumps left over in your strainer, don’t force them through the sieve, that’s just ghetto. They’re almonds, so plop ‘em in your hand and consider that your little low carb treat for the day.
You’ll need egg whites that have been aged. I used to not care about this and I got horrible results so now I keep egg whites in a little container in the fridge because it really does make a difference. I don’t know why, I’m not a scientist, I just know it works. Beat the egg whites on medium until they become frothy and then increase the speed.
When the meringue starts to get stiff, add one tablespoon of granulated sugar at a time. Oh my God, I can totally see my foot in the reflection of the bowl. Snap! Don’t get distracted here.
Keep beating until the meringue gets firm. You’re waiting for what’s called stiff peaks, but you don’t want to over whisk or you’re doomed. This is the thing about macarons. You can’t undermix, overmix, underfold, overfold, under dry, over dry, underbake or overbake them. They’re finicky like that. The only way you’ll learn is to do it over and over and over and . . . well, you get it.
Add a pinch of salt to balance the sweetness of the meringue. You can’t do anything about how sweet macarons are, there’s no substituting for the sugar at all. Add the vanilla too and when you finally have it firm and glossy, add two to three drops of gel food coloring.
Okay, this is good and stiff. If the peak doesn’t droop when you take the whisk off the mixer, you’ve done well. Give yourself a pat on the back and take a deep breathe because there’s more. You might want to get out your rosary for this.
I like to dump the entire bowl of sifted sugar and almond flour into the meringue. Lots of folks will tell you to add it little by little but it hasn’t really made any difference to me. You don’t trust me because you know I’m impatient but really, if it mattered I’d do it.
Here’s where you can either make it or break it. Use a rubber spatula and fold the meringue into the sugar-flour mixture, pressing down when you get to the middle.
It will be a little grainy at first, but after about 30 or 40 turns your arm will feel like it’s about to fall off and the mix will look shiny and sort of like molten lava. This is what they call macaronage. I refer to it Extreme Arms. Go ahead, show us your guns!
You’ll know it’s ready when you can let the “lava” flow off the spatula and it blends back into itself. If it’s too runny or too thick, you’re a goner. There’s no fixing that, you might as well start all over. You know, move to another country and reinvent yourself.
Put the mixture in a piping bag and pipe circles onto your parchment paper or mat but don’t use a baking dish and never grease your mats. The macarons need a dry surface to hold on to. This lets the feet form.
Time to wash the dishes and clean the kitchen folks, because you’ll need to exercise some delayed gratification. Leave your trays out for about 30 minutes to an hour so they can dry properly. This is critical. You’ll know when they’re dry when you can touch them with the tip of your finger and they have a hard shell. This shell also helps those pretty feet to form by acting like a dome to trap heat. I think I read that somewhere. Don’t skip this part!
Now, about the mats. I have experimented with silicone mats, parchment paper and fancy mats made specifically for macarons. I would rather have imperfect circles than macarons that stick to my baking mat and if you know what’s good for you, you would too. Sticky macarons always happen when I’m using the fancy mats, but never with silicone or parchment. When baking with silicone mats, you have to watch the time. You macarons will cook a lot faster and tend to brown if you aren’t careful. Parchment paper is my official choice.
Place your baking mat in the oven. After about a minute, crack the oven door a bit and let them bake that way for two minutes. After two minutes, shut the door and wait another 13 -15 minutes.
Purdy huh? Let your precious little beauties cool and put them in a container in the fridge overnight to mature. I know, more waiting, but they’re really good when they’ve aged a day or two. In the meantime you can look up some filling recipes because you can’t just stick peanut butter in between these works of art.
Here’s where I tell you the secret to not losing your mind. This is all the stuff I learned to do in order to make yummy macarons with shiny tops, pretty feet, flat bottoms and nice full insides.
1. Use aged eggs.
2. Wait until your meringue is stiff before adding the sugar-flour mix.
3. Fold the mixture into the meringue until it’s super flowy like lava.
4. Let your macarons dry before baking them.
5. Pop the oven door open for two minutes before shutting it for 13-15.
6. Let the baked macarons cool and mature before you fill them.
This post would not have been possible if it weren’t for the countless mistakes I made along the way. I’m not proud of them, but admitting to them is a good first step.
We were sitting on the porch drinking coffee and luxuriating in the orangey glow of the sunrise when my husband mentioned the fact that there was no wind. “See look,” he said pointing to the trees. “The leaves aren’t even moving.” Because it was so early, I forgave him for talking nonsense (because husbands do that sometimes) and concentrated instead on waking up. It takes me quite a while to wake up; it is a process that involves not talking to anyone, not exerting any effort beyond brewing coffee and not engaging in eye contact with people under 4 feet tall. In the middle of my routine he interrupts me AGAIN. “It’s a good day to go fishing, the water will be like glass.” Finally I know where this is going. OMG he wants me to go fishing with him, I wonder what he’s sniffing.
But I went, begrudgingly and complainingly. I didn’t make it easy on him either, the way wives can make it so not easy. After I agreed, I firmly announced that “I am doing this just for you, because I love you and not because I want to because I don’t want to and I am not going to enjoy it.” I was being a good wife, being unselfish and taking interest in something that meant a lot to my husband, something he enjoyed. Even if I hated it, I would go, for him, but I would detest every minute of it. Ha!Not only is fishing with my husband the most enjoyable thing I ever did in my life, it is also the greatest positive challenge I’ve taken on in a while. The first time out, Wayne baited my hooks for me and spoiled me by taking the fish off the line so I wouldn’t get my hands all slimy and smelly. Forgot I had OCD huh? After that, I was a full fledge part of the crew, no more prissy miss fussy. So much for love.
This is my worried face. I make it when I’m feeling really tiny in the middle of the expansive ocean. Also, when riding 9 foot swells and driving alongside waves which is way harder than driving into them if you really must know.
This is a my husband’s reel, it is for trolling. Trolling is what you do when you want to catch big fish like wahoo, mahi, tuna and marlin. Every once in a while you’ll snag a barracuda and get upset and curse. Oops, did I say that?
This is my very own Penn reel. It is for bottom fishing, which is my favorite thing to do even though I have to touch mushy, stinky bait and be all unladylike. I do all sorts of things on the ocean that shock me. Like touch my hair after handling raw squid and pee into a bucket on a moving boat. I’m fierce like that.
What was I saying? Oh yes, bottom fishing is totally my thing. It is when you drop your line to the bottom of the sea floor where bottom fish like mafuti, gadao and saas live. I’m addicted to the tug of the spider wire and the sound of my reel spinning. I’m not so thrilled about hooking up to rocks or sneaky fish who snatch the bait right off my line. There’s a lot of cussing when that occurs, but mostly from my husband who hates it when that happens to me. Every once in a while I’ll catch two or three fish at a time. Soooo much better than trolling. Trolling is boring. When you troll, you drive real slow for miles and miles waiting for the big fish to bite. It’s like golfing; you spend a whole lot of time doing nothing waiting for something really exciting to happen, which almost never does. After a hundred years….”A HOLE IN ONE!” The only time I like trolling is when it ends up as catching.
Yo, this is catching!!
My lessons have been progressive in nature. In Education, we call this scaffolding or providing support until you can do it all alone. The first time out, he let me drive the boat out of the marina. Cool right? The second time out I had to bait my own hooks and take the fish off myself. Not so considerate of him, I agree. So far, I’ve captained the boat to Tinian, taken the boat off the trailer and parked it at the dock, learned how to read the GPS and the fish finder. My last lesson, which I had no way of preparing for and still makes me very nervous is driving the boat onto the trailer. He makes me do it anyway because he says he trusts me, but I think it’s really because he loves to hear me whine and protest. No really.
Every single time we go out I learn something new. He’s a patient and loving teacher and I’m a fast learner. I’m also uber competitive and very impatient so I ask a million questions like, “Are we gonna be okay? The waves are really big, are we gonna be okay? It looks like that rain is coming straight at us, are we gonna be okay? Do you have to go that fast, are we…” Lucky for me my husband just laughs and answers yes to everything just like a good man should.
I’m pretty happy I learned how to fish and that I get to do it with my best friend. We’re like the awesomest team out there on the crystal blue ocean. Considering you only have a few feet of space to move around in, it gets really hot and rocky and there’s so much to being out in the middle of the sea that you’re completely on guard the whole time, I find it calming.
So, I guess sometimes you have to trust your husband when he says it’s a good day to do (fill in the blank). When there’s no wind and the leaves on the trees aren’t swaying, you can bet I’m ready for a day on the water.
This is not the blog to visit if you want to hear about the myriad benefits of soursop. You know, the cancer fighting, vitamin richness, bacteria destroying stuff. However, if you love the fruit and wish a versatile existence for it, I’ve got a plan you can follow. Why just be a soursop when you can be sorbet? Hey!
1 large soursop (2 cups pulp and juice)
Water (1 to 1 1/2 cups)
2 tspn of lime juice
2 tspn of honey
This is a soursop. It’s pretty prickly, but not dangerous unless you’re planning to scratch someone’s eyes out with it. Even then, it would probably just end up getting squished all over their face, in which case you would be doing something kind because you’ve just slathered someone with cancer fighting fruit. See? Evil never pays.
The fruit, once ripe, is very soft. You basically have to just run a knife through the middle to open it up. The meat is slippery and easy to scoop out with a spoon or your VERY CLEAN hands.
Scoop out the meat and have some fun taking the seeds out. I like to squeeze them out of the bits of fruit. Be careful though, because if you squeeze too hard they shoot out all over your kitchen floor. Not that it happened to me . . . I’m just saying it could.
Push the juice through a strainer with the back of a spoon. This is the only hard part of the recipe, but there is really no other way to get to the nectary goodness unless you want to blend it in a machine and have bits of soursop meat in your sorbet. Not judging.
It’s time to add lime and honey and stir until incorporated. I don’t use a lot of sugar in my desserts, but you can add 3/4 cup of sugar if you want a sweeter sorbet. You could also add some juice for flavor or heavy cream if you prefer sherbert. I added about a cup of Four Seasons juice blend to mine because I was too lazy to squeeze some oranges, but you get the picture.
Stick it in your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s directions. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you could put your mix in a foil pan and cover it with aluminum foil. Place in a freezer, come back and stir it up after an hour and put it back into your freezer until it’s nice and firm. If you live near the equator like me, you’ll have to cover your ice cream maker so that it stays cold.
It’s really that easy. Depending on where you live in this world, the hardest part will either be tracking down soursop or battling humidity. If you don’t have any soursop, try using any other fruit. Enjoy!
- Benefits Of Soursop Juice (greekkow.wordpress.com)
- Benefits of Soursop Leaf (blogrobot12.wordpress.com)
- Amazing Health Benefits And Nutrition Fact Of Soursop (bestproductsmania.wordpress.com)
- Soursop: A Miraculous Cancer Fighting Fruit (q8mangopeople.wordpress.com)
- Soursop: A Caner fighting SUPER fruit. (motherearthshealing.wordpress.com)
We are one yogurt loving family, but living on Saipan makes finding plain yogurt difficult and expensive. If you’re like us, you have limited options:
1. Scour the grocery stores on island and go home empty handed, having spent more money on gas than you would have on yogurt.
2. Drive all around looking in grocery stores and finally find some but use all your gas money to buy it.
3. Park it (your car) and make it your own dang self. Save your gas money for something better like driving to the beach.
I considered option 3 many times, but thought it might be way too labor intensive. While it is a little tedious, it gets easier after you’ve done it a couple of times. Plus, you can use all the money you save to buy other ridiculously priced items like gas masks, a generator, duct tape and heavy duty plastic sheeting. You know, just in case North Korea wants to bomb you because you make freakishly awesome yogurt.
What you’ll need:
A cooking thermometer
Sanitized glass jars with lids
8 cups of whole milk
4 tablespoons of plain yogurt
1. Sanitize your jars and prep all your ingredients.
2. Pour 8 cups of whole milk into a pot, stirring constantly until it reaches 180°F.
3. Fill your sink with cold water and transfer the pot to the sink. Let the pot sit in the cool water and bring the heat down to 110 degrees.
4. Mix in 4 tablespoons of plain yogurt. Please make sure to buy the kind that has active cultures, it will say so right on the label. Whisk the yogurt in gently until it is fully incorporated with the milk.
7. Put your jars into a cooler, I used a small styrofoam container and filled it almost to the rim with 110 degree water. The temperature is really important here; too low and you may get runny yogurt, too high and you will end up with a cheesy consistency.
8. Place your cooler in an area where it won’t be bothered or moved and where there won’t be any draft. Let the yogurt incubate in the cooler for at least six hours.
9. After six hours, put your jars in the fridge and cool for another two to four hours.
It will look like this. If you want creamy Greek style yogurt, you’ll have to strain it over cheesecloth and remove the whey. That’s whey too much work for me.
You can do all sorts of things with your yogurt batch, including adding some sugar and vanilla for flavoring after mixing in the starter. Plain yogurt is the best though, and you’ll be able to do so much more with it in your kitchen. I hope this has been helpful, especially for all the families out there with yogurt monsters that creep into the refrigerator at night and steal spoonfuls of creamy goodness. Enjoy!
It’s my random thought for the day, so please indulge me.
It’s funny to me (in the “that’s not the the point” kind of way) that when one person forgives another, the wrongdoer is usually the one who expresses gratitude. I said usually because as we all know, not everyone believes they have done anything worth forgiving, in which case forgiving them makes it extremely more difficult. Ah, but not impossible.
Forgiveness is not about wiping the other person’s slate clean or even saying what happened doesn’t still hurt/isn’t completely wrong, or even that they deserve your forgiveness. Forgiving is about you (me) and unshackling yourself from the control other peoples’ actions have over your psyche; your future behavior towards yourself and others.
So when someone is forgiven, it should really be the forgiver who triumphantly climbs to the top of the mountain, arms thrust toward heaven proclaiming, “I am free!”
- Making A Case For Forgiveness (cocomichelleblog.com)
- Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespassed against us (thatcatholicjazz.com)
- Oregon Culinary Institute‘s newest chefs
I believe it was Claire Dunphy who said, “If Haley never wakes up on a beach in Florida half naked … I’ve done my job.” I’m no Claire Dunphy and Tonton’s definitely far from a “Haley” minus the love of beanies, but I like to think I’ve done an okay job too.
My son. He says things to random strangers like, “How many smiles have you had today? Well, here’s one for you.” and he does things like walk with me down a Walmart aisle at midnight in search of active bacteria just because it means he gets to spend time with his mama. I love my son. I miss him dearly every day of my life without him.
Sometimes, when it’s really quiet and no one’s around I get these visions of a little four year old lying in his plastic blue car bed waiting for me to wind up his lullaby toy so he can fall asleep. It wasn’t that he couldn’t wind it up himself or that I couldn’t sing. Those memories are happy and sad and I still have trouble not wishing I could turn back time when they hit me.
I know he’s too old for words of wisdom from a mom who made more mistakes than dinners, flew off the handle so many times he had to ride the proverbial bike of life without them and mistakenly posted winky faces instead of smiles on his Facebook page to his utter embarassment, but here they are anyway cause that’s how I roll ;)
1. Keep stopping on your way to anywhere to take pictures of beautiful things and share them with the world. That majestic flower in the middle of downtown Portland was famous for a day because of you.
2. Don’t stop smiling at people, especially the ones who may not smile back. Sometimes they just don’t know how. It’s true.
3. Follow your blips. You have the best happiness radar you could ever hope for and you’ve used it time and time again to lead you to what makes you want to put on a beanie and ride the bus to “work”. Oh, and never let work become “work”.
4. I love you are words you can use when you are happy, sad, disappointed, furious, lonely, bummed, perplexed, mesmerized, scared and at a loss for words. Use them often, like salt.
5. Remember that there is nothing you can do to separate me from you. Yeah, it’s that simple.
6. Finally, in the words of your very own chefs, always “Bring it!”
Today was a day straight from the bowels of Hades in so many ways that I can’t even share, but it was also sprinkled with bits of magic that made it oh so worth having lived through. Not that I routinely celebrate surviving “days”. Days are like shoes, you put them on in the morning and take them off when you get home and you never really think about them after that. Unless, like today, they looked awful, but felt great. Then you tell the world about them and buy three other pairs in different colors. I digress.
A teacher always searches for the “aha” moments in life, but today when all my students sighed in unison, “Aaaaahhhhh!!!” it made me want to cry. Wait, I actually did cry. I cried when my students asked me to read aloud, but not because I read out loud, because the story was so raw and so real and so heartwrenching that not crying would have done it an injustice. Then after, during discussion, when they realized all on their own (and I’m summarizing) that we (humans) are so consumed with our quests for truth (like our protagonist in the story) that sometimes we fail to realize the answers we seek are right there in the encounters we have with ourselves and others whom we happen to meet along the journey. And they looked at one another, then at me. And then they all said, “Aaaaahhh!!” and I cried. And as long as there are moments like that, I can tolerate days like this.
Wow, I totally missed January and most of February, but I’m still here folks. I thought about writing so many times, letting you know what’s been happening, but it seemed almost impossible to find the time to sit down and organize my thoughts. It’s hard to believe that can happen living on a 12 mile island with nothing to do except stare at paradise.
It’s been hectic. Hope’s college planning is in full swing and as the acceptance letters come in, reality keeps slapping me in the face. The burn on my cheek from it all can’t be ignored. She’ll be on her own soon and all the bargaining in the world with God can’t turn back the clock. I’ll have to trust that what I’ve taught her will be useful to her and that what she’s learned about herself will keep her grounded. I’ve no doubt she’ll be okay. I’m just going to miss her :(
Yesterday, I was sitting in my Literature Studies class, listening to a guest speaker share her experiences with discrimination when one of my students said something profound. He quoted Confucius, “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” Apart from being extremely proud that they’re “getting it”, I was struck by the statement. I haven’t taken enough time to appreciate the beauty around me, and most of all, I haven’t made enough of an effort to find beauty in everything. Lessons learned from the mouths of babes are the most hard hitting.
There is no 2012 recap this year and no 2013 resolution. I’m just trying to be better than I was two seconds ago.