Food

Lemon Macarons

Posted on Updated on


Now I’ve done a lot of research on macaroons.  Alright, it’s not like I’ve done a dissertation on the topic but I’ve done comparisons on lots of different recipes.  And what I’ve found is that all the recipes are pretty much exactly the same.  Well, not exactly — they do differ on different flavorings and whatnot.  But since the base recipe is pretty simple and standard, you can get a little creative with flavorings.

I admit, this is not my best batch ever.  Guess I'm out of practice.
I admit, this is not my best batch ever. Guess I’m out of practice.

Of course, “lemon” isn’t exactly creative, but I had some lemons in the fridge already so that was an easy choice for me.  Plus, the zest won’t really change the moisture content of the ingredients.

But let me backtrack a little bit.  If you don’t know what macarons are, they are those really colorful, round, meringue-based, French cookies that looks so intimidating to make but really aren’t.  They have some specific requirements though.  Anyhoo, here’s what you’ll need. . .

Still, some turned out okay.
Still, some turned out okay.

For the cookies:

  • 3/4 c. almond flour
  • 1 c. powdered sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1/4 c. superfine sugar
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • yellow food coloring (optional)
  • lemon oil (optional)

1.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone mat.Sift together the almond flour and powdered sugar together twice.  Set aside.

2.  In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, start to whip until foamy.  Then add the cream of tartar and whip until soft peaks.

3.  Once you get soft peaks, start gradually adding the superfine sugar with the mixer on low.  Then continue to whip on high after all the sugar has been incorporated until you get stiff peaks.  Add the food coloring and lemon oil (if using) and whip until combined.

4.  Add the zest and flour mixture in three batches, folding well each time.  Continue folding until the mixture is smooth and shiny.

5.  Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round tip.  Pipe into small circles, about 3/4 inches across.  Rap the pan on the counter to release any bubbles (I don’t think I did that hard enough this time).  Now let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

6.  Bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees F for 10 – 15 minutes, until the edges are slightly browned.  Cool for about 10 minutes on the pan, then peel off parchment and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.  Set aside whilst you make the filling.

I like smaller macarons.  They're cute!
I like smaller macarons. They’re cute!

For the filling:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 c. superfine sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla

In the bowl of a mixer using the paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, and vanilla.  Mix until smooth.

Assemble the cookies by matching up similarly sized cookies.  Spread a small amount of the filling on one of the matching pair and sandwich them together.  Serve immediately.

I found this on the interwebs (the website is in the bottom corner of the pic).  Hope the pic helps clear up any confusion.
I found this on the interwebs (the website is in the bottom corner of the pic). Hope the pic helps clear up any confusion.

Notes — I could not find the piping tip that I needed so these didn’t exactly look the way I wanted. . . Try not to diddle with them too much after you pipe them. . . Now I made a lot of filling for this (again, I had a brick of cream cheese available) — just cut it in half, or just make a double batch of cookies, or just use it to make a cheesecake, or schmear it on a bagel. . . I have read that you should age your egg whites.  Not sure why.  Haven’t done it before.  Maybe I’ll try that out just to see what differences there are. . . I’m also not sure you’ll need the cream of tartar, but whenever I make a meringue I always throw some in there. . .

Chocolate Caramel Bars

Posted on Updated on


I love these cookies.  Or bars.  Or whatever.  It’s not important what they are — I still love them.  These are one of the cookies that I like to make for parties, then someone always remarks that these are essentially fancy Twix bars.  I kinda get annoyed, until I taste one and remind myself that these really do taste like Twix, which isn’t a bad thing at all cuz Twix are awesome!  And these are even better (in my opinion); just give me the pan and a fork and I’ll be happy.

Caramel Bars 1

Now these are relatively simple to make.  There’s a shortbread base, a “caramel” filling, and a multi-chocolate topping.  Easy-Peezy!  Plus, this is easy to convert to a gluten-free recipe.  I have done a switch out with some coconut flour and everything tasted great!  Here’s what you need:

Caramel Bars 3

For the shortbread:

  • 2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. superfine sugar
  • 3/4 c. unsalted butter

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a 13×9 pan with cooking spray and line with parchment.

2.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and sugar to combine.  Using a pastry knife, cut in the butter until the mixture looks like fine sand.  Now work with your hands until the dough comes together.

3.  Press the dough into the pan and smooth it out with a spatula.  Dock the dough with a fork and bake for about 20 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges.

4.  Cool in the pan and set aside.

For the “caramel”:

  • 7 T. unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 2 14-oz. cans sweetened condensed milk

1.  In a medium pan, place the butter, sugar, and condensed milk.  Heat on low until the sugar has dissolved.  Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil.

2.  Reduce the heat to simmer, again stirring constantly for another 5-10 minutes.  The mixture is done when it has thickened and turned light brown in color.  Be careful not to burn.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

3.  Pour the caramel over the shortbread base and smooth out with a spatula.  Cool completely and set aside.

For the topping:

  • 3 oz. dark chocolate
  • 3 oz. milk chocolate
  • 3 oz. white chocolate

1.  Melt each chocolate in separate heat proof bowls.  You can do this in a microwave or over a double boiler.

2.  Spoon the chocolate in an alternating pattern.  Using a toothpick or a skewer, swirl the chocolate to create a marbled pattern.   Chill until set.

3.  Slice and serve!

Caramel Bars 2

Notes — As you can see from the pictures, I did not take time to temper the chocolate.  They still tasted fine. . . I have a tendency to add too much chocolate for these because I just can’t help myself.  You could thin out and soften the chocolates by melting in a little bit of butter or shortening.  In theory, that should help with keeping the sheen of the chocolate.

#AskJamieOliver turned into ,”Hey, Jamie…how am I supposed to eat like that when I’m poor?”

Posted on


#AskJamieOliver turned into ,”Hey, Jamie…how am I supposed to eat like that when I’m poor?”.

Just read this and it touches on the intersection of the issues of poverty and food / nutrition.  Will reading this solve the issue?  No, but I would like to think that this would help folks better understand the plight of poverty.  Please give it a read.  Maybe it will inspire some action.

Gluten-Free Caramel Nut Brownies (a.k.a. Failed Rocky Road Brownies)

Posted on Updated on


Who doesn’t like a good brownie?  I know I do.  This is my take on a good brownie recipe with a little twist.  Originally I had wanted to do a Rocky Road recipe but it didn’t quite work out.  So this really turned out to be more of a Caramel Nut Brownie, which is still good and tasty!  See, what had happened was I had added the marshmallows to the recipe, but in the process of baking they had melted down to form a caramel-ly nugget in the brownie.  It tasted great, but not exactly the intent.  But that’s how we got penicillin, right?  Well, not really but same principle.

Caramel Nut Brownies!
Caramel Nut Brownies!

On another good note, these are actually gluten-free.  Brownies are one of those things that are easier to make GF since the ratio of flour in the recipe is quite low when compared to a cake.  So you could just swap out the flour with anything that you have on hand, like bean or coconut flour.  I had some GF flour and some xanthan gum on hand so that’s what I used.  Yay me!

Breakfast of champions!
Breakfast of champions!

This recipe was adapted from Ina Garten / Barefoot Contessa and you’ll need a half sheet pan.  Here’s what else you will need:

  • 4 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 lb., plus 12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 6 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 7 large eggs
  • 3 T. instant coffee granules
  • 2 T. vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 c. gluten-free flour
  • 1/4 t. xanthan gum
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 c. chopped walnuts
  • 2 c. mini marshmallows
  • 2 T. cornstarch

1.  Preheat your oven to 350  degrees F.  Now butter and flour your half sheet pan and set aside.

2.  In a heatproof bowl, melt the butter, 1 lb. of the chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate in a double-boiler.  Allow to cool.

3.  While the chocolate is cooling, in a large bowl mix the eggs, instant coffee, vanilla, and sugar.  Once combined, gradually add the cooled chocolate mixture.  Let cool to room temperature.

4.  In a medium mixing bowl, sift together your flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, and salt.  Add this to the chocolate mixture and stir to combine.  In a small bowl, toss together the walnuts, marshmallows, and cornstarch.  Add them to the batter and incorporate.  Pour into the prepared baking sheet.

5.  Bake for 20 minutes, then gently drop the baking sheet onto the oven shelf to help any excess air escape from the pan.  Finish baking for about another 15 minutes, until done (test with a cake tester).

6.  Allow to cool completely.  Cut and serve.  You could dust with a little powdered sugar if you like.

Don’t forget to check me out on Facebook!

Here you can see what I mean about the marshmallows melting down into a caramel nugget, right in the center of the picture.
Here you can see what I mean about the marshmallows melting down into a caramel nugget, right in the center of the picture.

Spotlight on local coffeehouses

Posted on Updated on


Here’s one of those “lost posts” that I had mentioned before.  This was originally scheduled to go out last year so it may be a little bit dated.  But it’s still applicable since students are coming back into town and the coffee shops are going to be even more packed.  Anyhoo, these are a couple of my favorites.

Just a quick post here.  The site Serious Eats just did a spotlight a few weeks ago on where you can get some good coffee here in Michigan.  And two out of the four selected just happen to be in town!  I happen to love both of these places for two completely different reasons.

So let’s start out with one of my favorite hang outs — the Ugly Mug in Ypsilanti, MI.  This place holds a special place in my heart because it was the first coffee house that I found when I first moved to the area that didn’t begin with a “Star” and end with a “Bucks”.  But besides that fact, they brew a damn good cup of coffee.  It’s a down-home, down-to-earth kinda place where they happen to roast beans on site — huzzah!  It’s just a couple of blocks from Eastern Michigan University and is loved by locals and visitors alike.  What’s great is that they also host a series of different events, ranging from workshops, to art shows, to tastings, to poetry readings.  And if you are having some problems with your own home brewing equipment, staff will be more than willing to help you out as best as they can.  Be sure to visit their Flickr account on their Links menu and check them out on Twitter.

It’s the Ugly Mug!
He helped make the coffee.
I usually get the Almond Joy

The other local coffeehouse found in the fabulous Nickels Arcade landmark is Ann Arbor’s Comet Coffee.  This place is relatively new, being around for a couple of years, and it has a completely different feel from the Ugly Mug.  It has a modern, sparse feel which is set up in a small store front in the Arcade.  What makes this place unique are the methods that they use to make their coffee.  Each cup is brewed individually at specific temperatures, and what you get is one of the best cups of coffee around.  The coffee isn’t brewed, but “pulled” through a porcelain cones into individual cups.  Since everything is done on a individual basis, there is no risk of having a cup of coffee that has been sitting in a carafe for a few hours.  Plus, following this method helps preserve some of the more subtle notes and flavors in each cup.  And being literally across the street from the University of Michigan helps foster a strong following among students and faculty.  But non-students, and even Spartans (Go State!) love this place 🙂

Yay! Comet Coffee!
Japanese Iced Coffee — so good!

Now if you include Astro Coffee in Detroit, three out of the four coffeehouses featured are here in SE Michigan.  Kudos to us!  So if you’re ever in town, be sure to visit these local gems and get yourself a cup.  And get yourself a t-shirt.  And tell them I sent ya!  And (as always) don’t forget to visit and like my Facebook pages for Daisy Cakes and Jereme’s Kitchen.  Shameless self-promotion endures!

Notes — Since I first wrote this, I actually have gone to Astro Coffee in Corktown, Detroit.  Amazing cup of coffee!  And the pics of Comet Coffee I picked up from their Facebook page.  I did double-check and get permission, but that was about a year ago so they probably don’t remember.  At least I asked first!

Where the hell have I been?

Posted on


Alright, so it’s been some time since I’ve been writing.  I know, I know — I am ashamed 😦  But things happen in this thing called life.  Not to make excuses, but I was trying to adapt to the new schedule caused by my new job.  Then I got a weird volleyball injury that took up my time trying to rehab that.  Then I got really sick really fast around Christmas and found myself admitted to the hospital several times.  Lucky for me this happened in December and January so I got to fulfill two massive deductibles back to back.  Hurrah!  And hospitals are not fun — especially when you get the bill months later and can’t decipher what charges came from where and from whom and for how much.  I will say to my insurance company that your estimate on what a CT scan costs is sooooo completely off from what the hospital says ($800 estimate vs. $1700 charge).  All that fun and the multiple docs couldn’t even tell me what was wrong; just treated the symptoms and see what could be managed.

Then after getting to know the hospital, I got a weird infection that sidelined me for over three weeks.  Meds didn’t work, I was weak all the time, I couldn’t walk without getting dizzy (which is a challenge if you have to navigate stairs to get to your truck — not that I could drive anywhere even if I managed to make it to the garage).  Things eventually cleared up, but since I missed so much work, I ended up losing my job.  Which I guess is alright aside from the fact that I am penniless.  I don’t blame them for firing me; it just sucks for me.  So much for my first stint in Corporate America!

But losing my job meant that I could focus on the physical therapy for the injury that happened months ago.  And lucky for me (or unlucky for me), I met my out-of-pocket maximum for the year back in January so no charge!  Well fast-forward a couple of months and my knees are still shit.  I can’t afford COBRA anymore so I guess I will have to tape them up and just go on with life.

And that is what I am trying to do — go on with life.  I think I’ve done enough wallowing in self-pity and it is time to git goin’!  I’m finally able to work out again (with some obvious limitations) and I’m getting back to what I love — FOOD!  And booze, of course.  Actually, right now I am in the Corner Brewery here in Ypsilanti trying to raise my spirits.  Some pulled pork tacos and a Buzzsaw IPA can sure help with my mood, but more on that later!  Although it is a bummer that no one wants to join me here — stupid friends and their stupid jobs and families and prior commitments!

But in all seriousness, I plan on getting back to blogging and sharing my foodie adventures.  I did just take another trip up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and found some amazing pasties, and breweries , and wineries, and distilleries. . . . I’m also trying to make a theme cake (note the emphasis on trying).  What’s wrong with a round cake?  I can do those, no problem.  Dinosaur shaped?  Ugh, I need to practice this.  A lot.  Plus I have some posts that should have gone out last year (oops!), but they’re still relevant.

So Stay tuned!  More food and booze and hijinx heading your way!  And for no good reason — here’s my sweet idiot dog Cooper enjoying the summer sun!

 

Cooper luvs summer!
Cooper luvs summer!

 

For those that think all Pit Bulls are mean -- you are wrong!
For those that think all Pit Bulls are mean — you are wrong!

Steamed Mussels with Andouille and White Wine

Posted on Updated on


Wow.  It is definitely weird how much having a new full-time job affects your life.  There’s a whole new schedule to figure out, there are weeks of intense training, there’s tests, new policies and procedures, new people, new office. . . well, you get the point.  So my mind has been preoccupied lately, which explains the dearth of postings lately.  Sometimes you just have to make a paid gig a priority!  But I am sad that I’m probably gonna have to close up the bakery at this point.  Just a sign o’ the times!  Maybe I’ll just go super-super small-scale, although there is a limit to the amount of downsizing that you can do, especially if your workforce consists of one.

I could eat this everyday!

So this is my attempt at achieving some sense of normalcy — a return to blogging, a return to working out, a return to volleyball (that is, if my injuries would stop lingering).  I would like to stress the word “attempt”.  It may take me some time to really figure out how to balance everything.  What makes it more challenging is that my work schedule isn’t exactly always set in stone.  Eh, it’s a work in progress, much like everything else in life.

Anyhoo. . . on to the recipe!  Now mussels are one of my most favorite things to eat.  Just throw them into a pan with some white wine and dinner is ready in like 5 minutes!  Really.  It’s not the most user-friendly, mainly because you have a whole bunch of shells to deal with when your done.  Which is why I try to schedule meals like this the day before trash day.  I don’t need bits of shellfish lingering in the trash for several days.

Now that I’ve gotten that lovely image out of the way we can get back to the recipe.  It’s relatively simple and it’s easily changed to fit whatever ingredients you have around.  This time around I had some onions, garlic, celery, Roma tomatoes, and some basil.  Throw in the little bit of Andouille that I had bought specifically for this and you get one of my most favoritest dishes.  Here’s what you need:

  • 1 1/2 lbs mussels, cleaned and beards removed
  • 1/4 lb. andouille sausage
  • 1 rib of celery, 1/4 in. diagonal slice
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 c. basil, chopped
  • 1-2 c. white wine
  • salt and pepper, to taste

1.  In a large pan, sauté the Andouille for about 3 minutes.  Add the celery and onion and sauté for about 2 minutes.

2.  Add the tomatoes, garlic, and half of the basil.  Cook for another 2 minutes.

3.  Throw in the mussels and white wine and cover.  Cook for 2-3 minutes.  Then remove the cover, stir the mussels, and return the lid.  Cook for another 2-3 minutes.

4.  Top with remaining basil.  Serve over pasta, or rice, or with crackers, or with a straw (or just slurp it out of the bowl).

Notes — If some of the mussels don’t open, throw those out and don’t eat them.  Bad things might happen if you don’t!. . .  Don’t forget to visit Jereme’s Kitchen and Daisy Cakes on Facebook. . .