Alma Chocolate Macaron Box Mix

(Note: Yes I’ve been absent for a few months, as culinary school and work consumed all of my time…I’m talking about 15-17 hour days! But now I’m on summer break from school, so I suddenly have my life back, albeit for a brief 2 months. I will try to take advantage of this time and update this blog more!)

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Recently I was given a box of chocolate macaron mix from France.  The fact that in France boxed macaron mix is available only increases my fondness for the country.  I have a dream that someday American grocery aisles will be home to such conveniences as boxed macaron mix, alongside our quick bread and cake mixes.

As macarons are one of my most beloved baked goods (that are gluten-free, THANK HEAVENS!!), I was excited to try it out. With my limited knowledge of the French language, I deciphered the instructions to the best of my ability, and set out to make macarons for the first time.

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Food In Review: Spring Break Eats

DSC05082_zps736e65f7Enjoying a cup of coffee at the historic Grove Park Inn Resort in Asheville, NC.

This post is going to be a break from the usual “let’s make a recipe and document it” routine.  Instead I thought I would take time to share with my legions of fan (yes, this is all for you, my one dear and lovely reader…okay maybe there is like 6 of you, but who is counting?) my spring break eats.  As I am in school again, I live a life where the breaks I have from said school highlight my calendar and turn arbitrary blocks of time into precious moments ready to be filled with time spent not at home.

And since I knew I wouldn’t be at home this past week, I knew I would have no chance to cook/bake something to feature on this blog.  That is how I came to decide I would take pictures of the more interesting meals eaten on my trip.  Perhaps this post will set a precedent for future travel food posts!

So here is where I went:

  • Asheville, NC

Chai Pani

The Laughing Seed

  • Gatlinburg, TN

The Wild Plum Tea Room

random candy shops

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Dirty Blonde Scookies

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The other day I had an incredible urge to bake.  Sometimes, if I have not cooked or baked in a week or so (and heating up frozen fish fillets or baking potatoes are not things I would consider to be “cooking”), I just have this urge to make something.  Part of it stems from baking being a form of entertainment–I enjoy putzing around the kitchen.  Also, I like creating something useful–everyone uses food.

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Nutella Sandwich Heart Cookies (Gluten-free)

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Well guys, I finally did it…I have been swept up by the mass hysteria and have outlawed gluten from my diet.  GASP!!!  How can this be?  (You may wonder.)  The simple thing of it is, I have long suffered various chronic digestive symptoms that typically were not crippling enough to warrant any serious evaluation.

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S’mores Cake

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There is something about the combination of graham crackers, toasted marshmallow, and chocolate that speaks to me.  While I enjoy their combined taste, I find I am compelled towards them also because of positive associations I have with the idea of a s’mores and youthfulness and frivolity.  S’mores are a carefree snack that oftentimes reminds people of their childhood even if they never made s’mores growing up.

It is also one of the few quintessentially American foods, and I think anyone who considers themselves American needs to have had a s’more at least once.  If I were running the show, during the swearing ceremony for U.S. citizenship, it would be mandatory to eat a s’more.

(Don’t worry, there would be imitation s’mores available for those unable to eat an authentic s’more because of dietary restrictions.)

Anyway, it was my brother’s birthday recently and when I asked him what kind of cake/pie/dessert I should make to celebrate it did not take him long to decide he wanted a s’mores cake (I also suggested cookies and cream cake and plain chocolate cake, but he was most into s’mores pitch).

I looked online for a while trying to find a recipe for a s’mores cake.  I found some, but none that really delivered exactly what I was looking for.  Some were more along the lines of a s’mores pie, while others featured graham cracker flavored cake (why would you want this over chocolate cake base?), and I found the use of marshmallow fluff over actual marshmallows to be in bad taste.

Long story short: I came up with my own game-plan.  I found a chocolate cake recipe and added graham cracker pieces to it.  Then I put a layer of toasted marshmallows in between two layers of cake and covered the top with melted Hershey’s bars.  Along the sides I ‘glued’ on graham crackers with toasted marshmallows.

It turned out ok (my brother loved it) but it definitely took on that ‘homespun’ sorta look.  ‘Lop-sided’ is a word I might use in describing it.  But hey, it was from da heart people…

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Reduced Calorie Cinnamon-Walnut Coffee Cake

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INTRO

A few months ago I received a pile of cooking magazines from a family friend.  By a “pile” I mean 2 large cardboard boxes of hundreds of issues of stuff like Bon Appétit and Cooking Light.  After meticulously going through eat magazine, I removed all of the recipes that I wanted to someday try.  With these I assembled my own custom cookbook.

This recipe was from an old issue of cooking light, which is why it is a reduced calorie coffee cake.  The recipe says it is about 250 calories for a serving (and it yields 16 servings).  My cake came out even lighter than the original though, as I opted to use unsweetened almond milk in place of buttermilk–simply because I didn’t have buttermilk or any lemon juice to make faux buttermilk with.  Also I really like almond milk!

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Healthy Hestia: Basic Green Detox Smoothie

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My beautiful green sludge, I mean smoothie.

INTRO

January is a time for New Years Resolutions, new starts, fresh beginnings, etc etc, and what this usually translates to a desire to adopt healthy habits.  People swarm gyms they will soon stop going to, start diets they will soon abandon , and by blenders with the hopes of making smoothies, though they will mostly collect dust in the back of kitchen cupboards.

Ok maybe I am being a bit pessimistic!  But sometimes people what to make healthy changes to their lifestyle, and instead of introducing healthy habits slowly, they jump in headfirst.  Quickly they feel overwhelmed by the sudden shift, and frequently return to their old ways.

One has a much greater chance for success slowly adopting healthy habits.  I would challenge someone to incorporate this green detox smoothie into their diet once a week.  Does not require many ingredients and it not that costly to make.

Made up of kale, apples, bananas, and ginger, this smoothie is low in calories (about 230 give or take) and high in nutrients.  The standout ingredient in this recipe is kale.

According to HowStuffWorks.com, fiber-rich kale is contains easily absorbed calcium, which can combat osteoporosis.  In relation to detoxification, kale’s manganese and beta-carotene content supports the body in combating free-radicals and possibly helping to prevent cancer and heart disease.

Assisting me in my smoothie-making endeavor was my bf, who also shares my interest in healthy eats.  In fact, we had a real health-filled weekend.  Not only did we make detox smoothies, but we lunched at one of my favorite Charlotte restaurants, Luna’s Living Kitchen — the whole menu is raw vegan!

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Check out my “burrito”–with cauliflower “rice” and sunflower seed “sour cream”– it was delicious.

RECIPE:

GREEN DETOX SMOOTHIE
(from the book “Skinny Smoothies” by Shell Harris and Elizabeth Downing)

  • 4 kale leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 small apple
  • 1 banana frozen (I sliced the banana and froze it to help give smoothie more icy texture)
  • 3/4 cup of cold water

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It is really easy to make a smoothie, as all you have to do it throw all of your ingredients into a blender and pulse it for a minute or two and BAM you got a smoothie!

But if you don’t have a blender/food processor, it is really not possible to make a smoothie.  One reason I was so keen to make a smoothie for this post was because I just got a hand blender for Xmas and I was dying to give it a spin.  (Pun intended)

STEP ONE: Blend kale leaves and water until fully blended.  This might take a while.  It took my bf and I a couple of minutes–kale it a really tough green.  I did remove kale leaves from the stem, but it was still quite stubborn to blend.  Maybe steaming it a bit would soften it and help.  Might try that next time.

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Step Two: After kale and water mix is fully blended (no huge chunks of kale leaves are visible), then add your ground ginger, apples, and bananas.  Blend this mixture until apples and bananas are fully incorporated into smoothie.

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STEP THREE: Pour into a glass and enjoy.  Or maybe you won’t enjoy it–I can’t say for sure that this is for everyone, though I found it a very agreeable taste. 

CONCLUSION

Overall I liked this smoothie.  It tasted just as fresh as the ingredients would suggest it to be, and after drinking it I felt very refreshed.  It was not very sweet, but it wasn’t bitter at all and has no strong taste–save for the taste of ginger, which both my bf and I found very noticeable.  But since I like ginger this did not bother me.

2013-01-20 12.36.25Here I am drinking this green nonsense whilst looking like a hot mess.

I suppose if you wanted it sweeter you could add agave or honey (both would add sweetness without being too over-powering in flavor and they are more healthy options than refined sugar.  Stevia or something could also work).

Until next time….

Madeline aka the Hopeful Hestia