Recipe: Chocolate Macarons

I was going to skip my posting this week to get ready for my farmers market that opens on Wednesday, but I found this recipe and was in awe at the simple little steps you can take to make the perfect macaron and I just had to share!!
I’m making these asap!

The original recipe can be found here.

Chocolate Macarons

Makes about fifteen cookies

Adapted from The Sweet Life in Paris (Broadway) by David Lebovitz

Macaron Batter
1 cup (100 gr) powdered sugar
½ cup powdered almonds (about 2 ounces, 50 gr, sliced almonds, pulverized)
3 tablespoons (25 gr) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
5 tablespoons (65 gr) granulated sugar

Chocolate Filling
½ cup (125 ml) heavy cream
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
4 ounces (120 gr) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tablespoon (15 gr) butter, cut into small pieces

Prune Filling
15 medium prunes (pitted), about 5 ounces (150 gr) prunes
2½ ounces (70 gr) best-quality milk chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Armagnac

Preheat oven to 350º F (180º C).

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and have a pastry bag with a plain tip (about 1/2-inch, 2 cm) ready.

Grind together the powdered sugar with the almond powder and cocoa so there are no lumps; use a blender or food processor since almond meal that you buy isn’t quite fine enough.

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they begin to rise and hold their shape. While whipping, beat in the granulated sugar until very stiff and firm, about 2 minutes.

Carefully fold the dry ingredients, in two batches, into the beaten egg whites with a flexible rubber spatula. When the mixture is just smooth and there are no streaks of egg white, stop folding and scrape the batter into the pastry bag (standing the bag in a tall glass helps if you’re alone).

Pipe the batter on the parchment-lined baking sheets in 1-inch (3 cm) circles (about 1 tablespoon each of batter), evenly spaced one-inch (3 cm) apart.

Rap the baking sheet a few times firmly on the counter top to flatten the macarons, then bake them for 15-18 minutes. Let cool completely then remove from baking sheet.

To make the prune filling:

Cut the prunes into quarters and pour boiling water over them. Cover and let stand until the prunes are soft. Drain.

Squeeze most of the excess water from prunes and pass through a food mill or food processor.

Melt the milk chocolate and the Armagnac in a double boiler or microwave, stirring until smooth. Stir into the prune puree. Cool completely to room temperature (it will thicken when cool.)

To make the chocolate filling:

Heat the cream in a small saucepan with the corn syrup. When the cream just begins to boil at the edges, remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let sit one minute, then stir until smooth. Stir in the pieces of butter. Let cool completely before using.

Assembly

Spread a bit of batter on the inside of the macarons then sandwich them together. (You can pipe the filling it, but I prefer to spread it by hand; it’s more fun, I think.)

I also tend to overfill them so you may or may not use all the filling.

Let them stand at least one day before serving, to meld the flavors.

Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or freeze. If you freeze them, defrost them in the unopened container, to avoid condensation which will make the macarons soggy.

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Make-it Monday: Plush Baby Toy

I recently had this idea after seeing these at baby stores. Babies love the crinkle sound and the ribbon tags keep them interested. If you want to, you can design your very own baby toy to help improve your baby’s eye and brain development by using different colors and patterns.

Lilly playing with the toy I made for her to keep her busy while her brother was swimming. And let me be the first to tell you I have the cutest niece and nephew on the planet.

What you’ll need:

  • Scrap Fabric
  • Thin Crinkly Plastic
  • Stuffing
  • Ribbon or Bias to Make Tags- You can use anything so long as it will not fray!
  • Sewing Machine or Needle and Thread.

Start by cutting out the shape you want out of your fabric and plastic. Also cut out the ribbon and bias for your tags.

When you layer your fabrics to pin them, your layers should be optional crinkly plastic, fabric, ribbons, fabric, optional crinkly plastic.

Make sure your ribbon loops are on the inside, so all your raw edges line up as shown. Sew only three sides and flip inside out.

My ribbons were reversible, and one got mixed up. Oopsies! Oh well, it’s still cute!

Stuff your toy and sew a top stitch along the open side.

Snip your thread tails.

I used some extra bias tape and ribbon on the next one I made and they’re both Lillyana approved!

If you’d like to design your toys to benefit your baby’s eye development, use a black and white bold patterned fabric, or any high contrast color combination, and red ribbon for your tags. The contrast in the colors helps baby’s brain development, that’s why a lot of baby things you see have a black and white checkered print on them.

Happy crafting!!

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Recipe: Potato Broccoli (and Bacon) Soup

I was browsing MADE today and I found this fabulous recipe! It’s on the menu tonight! So, while I go search the kitchen for all the ingredients, I’ll leave you to get acquinted with today’s recipe-Potato and Broccoli with Bacon. **You can easily swap out lower fat turkey or soy bacon, vegetable broth and soy milk to make it low fat or even vegetarian!!**

POTATO BROCCOLI SOUP

Serves 4 adults

6 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup flour (if soup is too runny when you’re done, add more flour to a small amount of water and then add to the soup)
2 cans (14 oz each) reduced-sodium chicken broth
3-4 medium-sized Red potatoes (diced into small cubes)
1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels (sweet white corn is best)
1 1/2 cups frozen Broccoli cuts (you may substitute fresh zucchini cute into small cubes)
1/2 tsp dried Thyme
1 cup low-fat or skim milk
salt and ground pepper, to taste


Cut 6 strips of bacon* into 1 inch pieces. Use whatever brand and type you like best. I prefer maple.

*If you’re vegetarian, omit the bacon and use Butter in place of grease.

Place the pieces in a dutch oven or large pot and cook until the bacon is crispy.

While the bacon cooks, wash each potato and dice into small cubes (leave the peels on).
When the bacon is crispy (don’t let it burn), remove the pieces with a slotted spoon or strainer. This is my favorite little tool. Place the bacon on paper towel-covered plate to cool.

To make a roux for the soup (a flour/fat base that provides thickness to your soup), you will use 2 Tablespoons of the bacon grease*. This doesn’t need to be exact so if it looks like there’s 2 Tbls in the pot, great. If there’s too much, dump all the grease out of the pot into a glass bowl and spoon 2 Tbls back into the pot.
* If you’re vegetarian, use 2 Tbls of butter instead of bacon grease

Add 1/3 cup of flour and stir for 30 seconds to 1 minute till the grease is soaked up and forms a ball…or roux.

Next, add 2 cans (or one large 32 oz box) of Chicken Broth*. I prefer using (1) reduced-sodium can and (1) regular can. This creates a nice salt balance in the soup.
* If you are vegetarian, substitute Vegetable Broth

Pour the broth into the sizzling pan and watch it deglaze the remaining bacon bits on the pan.

As the soup cooks, the rue will blend in and should not leave any lumps.

Add the potatoes.

Bring everything to a boil and cook till the potatoes are tender (about 10 minutes). Stir fairly often, as the potatoes have a tendency to stick on the bottom.

When the potatoes are cooked, add the broccoli and corn (zucchini can be substituted for broccoli. I’ve done both and they’re both delicious)

Add 1 cup of milk,

1/2 tsp of thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring back to a boil–stirring periodically–and cook for a few minutes.

Allow the soup to sit for a five minutes before serving.

Then dish it up and sprinkle bacon bits on top.

Of course soup is even better with a slice of warm bread….

Enjoy!

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Etsy Find: ContessaCreate

I’ve been inspired and, let’s face it, in LOVE with Emilie Autumn for years, from the way she sings, to how she makes her electric violin scream, in a good way, of course, to her flair for Victorian fashion. Earlier this year, my friend and I saw her in concert. I wasn’t very familiar with their stage show, but I knew that she had backup performers with her called the Bloody Crumpets. I fell in love with them as well, especially Contessa. I’ve even been so much in love with her, I borrowed her name and am crafting always with her in mind. (Please note that, I came to the name “ContessaCrafts” before I found out she was using the name “ContessaCreate.”)

FEAST Perfume Oil

What makes the fact that Contessa makes bath and body items is that they’re all Contessa’s Cannibal Tribe themed. You may think it a it odd, but, it’s all about the act, and I love it.

Body Scrub Marinade

I’ve been dying to buy from her shop, but hard times and little to no extra cash has kept me swooning over her items until I get a few extra bucks!

Contessa's Macassar Oil

What I love most about ContessaCreate is that she stays true to the old school beauty items. Like her Macassar Oil, for the longest time I thought it was “Massacre Oil,” haha,  it can be used on the hair and body, to keep long hair do’s healthy and shiny. Contessa Montebello has luscious hair herself, no doubt she uses her own products. This is on the top of my “Must Buy” list!

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Tip of the Week: Magnetic Stud Finder Sewing guide

My sewing machine, Betsy, is a great machine. I love her to death, but there is no kind of measurements or anything so help me make sure that my lines are straight. While I was staring at the wall above my sewing machine, what did I see? A magnetic stud finder hanging on the metal bracket of a shelf. I don’t know why it was there, but I’m glad it was. The idea hit me like a train. I plucked the stud finder from the wall and put it next to my sewing foot. It may be a little red-necky, but finally! I have a guide to keep my seams straight! Haha!!

This is perfect for older manual machines like mine, but PLEASE DO NOT USE THIS WITH A COMPUTERIZED MACHINE!

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Make-It Monday: Pearl and Chain Bracelet

I found this project originally on Cut Out and Keep, but I’ve tweaked it a bit. This is my version of the Pearl and Chain Bracelet.

Pearl and Chain Bracelet

What You’ll Need:

  • Pearls, or any other beads. I used glass pearls.
  • Fishing line
  • Left over chains
  • Black Satin Ribbon
  • Large Jump Rings
  • Crimping Beads
  • Pliers, Needle Nose and Flat Nose.
  • Wire Cutters
  • Clasp
  • A Cat that will assist you, optional

This is Poppy, she's always watching me make things!

Have your cat help you string your pearls onto your fishing line. You can use a bracelet to compare sizes and make sure it’s not too big or too small.

Put a crimp bead on your line and feed the end back through it so you make a loop. Put the loop over the needle nose pliers and tighten. Using the flat pliers, flatten the crimp bead. Cut the fishing line, and do the same on the other end.

String your pears, and chains onto your jump ring. Cut your chain about the same size as the pearls and secure the ends with another jump ring, but on this end, before you close the ring, put a clasp on.

After the last step, this is what it should look like.

On either jump ring, tie a bow with your ribbon. In the original, the instructions stated that you should use the ribbon to fasten the bracelet. I thought it would be too hard to tie a ribbon on your own wrist and if it’s too loose, you may loose your bracelet! That’s why I added the clasp to the design.

When you’re done, you can wear this to a party, or just about anywhere. The silver, black and white is a classic color combination that works very well together.

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Family Friendly Craft: Custom Kids Tee Shirt

I found a super cool project on the inside of a cereal box today and I just had to share it with you!

It was a box of Fruity Pebbles, on the back was a coupon for “Buy one graphic kids tee, get a plain kids tee free” from Old Navy and as I was cutting it, I saw on the inside of the box that you could go online to PebblesPlay.com/Rocktivities and download a stencil that you can tape to your free tee shirt.Or, if you don’t want a Fred Flintsone shirt, you can get some other, free, stencils here: http://www.spraypaintstencils.com

What you’ll need:

  • Fabric Paint
  • Printed Stencil
  • Small Paint Brushes
  • Pencil
  • Cardboad -preferably from your cereal box, hello recycling!
  • Craft Knife, for grown-ups to use
  • One Plain Tee Shirt, that you can get at Old Navy for free!
  • Paper Bag
  • Iron

Put the cardboard inside the tee shirt, under the area where you want to paint. Have the grown-up cut out the stencil and place over where you put the cardboard.

Use clear tape to hold the stencil in place and trace it with your pencil. Remove the stencil and paint in as you like. When dry, usually about 4-5 hours, you may heat-set the fabric paint by cutting a paper bag so it lays flat and iron over it on the highest setting without steam for 2-3 minutes. When you first wash the tee shirt, turn it inside out and wash as you regularly would.

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