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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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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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Baked Mini Vegan Spice-cake Donuts

There is something very darling about a mini donut pan.  For a while I worked in a store that sold them, and I always thought to myself, “One day I shall possess one of this charming pans.”

I love donuts.  I mean most people like donuts, they just don’t like getting fat.  That is why baked vegan mini donuts are a great option.  No, it won’t taste like a Krispy Kreme, freshly glazed, off the conveyor belt, but I’m not Harry Potter and magic isn’t real.  If you want something to taste high in fat but not be high in fat, then you are outta luck.

But these vegan donuts are a tasty alternative and will satisfy your sweet tooth without burdening your belly.

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Rainbow Cookies (a.k.a. 7 Layer Cookies/Neapolitan Cookies)

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When I was a little kid (and I still lived in the northeast), I remember going to various bakeries with my mom (Swiss, German, Italian bakeries all served rainbow cookies, only the French ones didn’t, as they offered petit-fours, which I guess is like a French rainbow cookie in a way).  And during every bakery visit, I always headed straight for the rainbow cookies.

As I stood surrounded by the dark wood-paneled (sometimes Bavarian stylized) bakery walls, admiring those colorful little rectangles behind the glittering glass pastry case, and smelling the aroma of warm sugar, all I could think about was how magical it all seemed.

It was through those early bakery trips that I came to fall in love with rainbow cookies.

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Valentine’s Day Dessert: Heart-Shapped Nutella Tarts with Rosewater Icing

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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And happy Unhappy Valentine’s Day for all of you who are feeling kinda screwed by love, or those of you who just can’t stand yet another commercialized holiday being shoved down your throat by corporate America!

In any event, get over it!  Lol.  Though I find Valentine’s Day rather annoying most of the time, I am very fond of pink and I love cartoon heart-shaped things (not things in the shape of an actual heart).  So I thought I’d make something special for a day dedicated to:

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