Another Award

liebster-award

I am the slowest person on the planet at replying to award nominations from other bloggers.

From My Kitchen To Yours nominated me six weeks ago for a Liebster Award. How sweet!

“The Liebster Award is given to up and coming bloggers who have less than 200 followers…

Nominees of the Liebster Award must…

  1. Post 11 things about themselves.
  2. Answer the questions that the tagger/nominator has posted for them.
  3. Create 11 questions and choose (nominate) 11 blogs of 200 followers or less and link them in the post.
  4. Go to their page and tell them.

My 11 questions to you all

What is your favorite food to cook?

Lately it has been veggies.

What is your favorite food to eat?

Jelly or Jam, and specifically Ginger Jelly (I know really?)

What was your favorite childhood book?

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler by E. L Konigsburg

Why did you start your blog?

I turned 50 years old and I felt that I had no significance in the world. I have been told that I am funny,  have a talent with writing and good ideas. I thought the blog would help me express my feelings formally.

How do you decide what to cook?

My cooking is intuitional based. I grew up loving beets, green beans, cucumbers and corn because we grew them in our garden. I was in 4-H sewing, knitting, baking, and learning to cook anything with hamburgers or pork. I was raised on the outskirts of a small town with a state university, my Dad was a country boy and my Mom was a small city girl. I am a combo of city and country  – loving both.

How often do you go to the grocery store?

Anywhere from weekly to two to three times a week. Because I work full-time my “play time” in the kitchen varies from none to several times during the week.

What is your biggest dream?

I like living in a balance and I must have a creative outlet. I have this blog for my creative outlet but I also am a healthcare professional relishing in both worlds.

Recipes or no recipes?

If I get into a groove I can be inspired and throw ingredients together easily. When I’m stressed I have to look at the cookbook or recipe literally.

What is your favorite color?

Blue. It always has been and always be.

What do you hope comes out of your blogging?

I’m a late bloomer to writing and blogging. But, I have been told that I have an interesting point of view.

What is your favorite holiday?

St Patrick’s Day. My mother is Irish and her loves were a big influence in my life. I celebrated St Patrick’s Day this year in New Orleans. That was interesting. There were a total of four different St. Patrick’s Day parades in the city over the weekend. People throw cabbage as well as bead necklaces.

I nominate the following blogs for the Liebster Blog award:

Here are the following eleven questions to answer:

1. What is you go-to comfort food?

2. What recipe or food are you afraid to cook?

3. What is your favorite movie?

4. Are you a cat or dog person?

5. If you had a dinner party, which three  people would you invite (dead or alive) ?

6. If you won the lottery, how would you spend your money?

7. Who is your favorite TV chef?

8. What is your favorite candy?

9. What is your favorite childhood memory?

10. What was your favorite song?

11. What inspires you?

Happy Spring everyone!

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Dinner at the top of Seattle

This trip to Seattle was my fourth, but it was my first visit to the Space Needle. It is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary since opening at The World’s Fair in 1962. I had a spectacular view of Seattle, the ocean, and the bay.

Stephanie and Jacqueline, my new food blogger colleagues, and I ate dinner at the Sky Cafe at the top of the Space Needle. We started with chowder. Gotta love bacon.

I had the spinach salad with pansies

The gracious chef brought me my sushi. Yes I ate raw fish and I liked it.

Okay, the shrimp was cooked.

It was a lovely evening of food and wine shared with fellow food bloggers. Right before we went to the top of The Space Needle was got to see the brand new Dale Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum. Thanks Seattle for a nice welcome to begin the BlogHer Food conference.

Taking a Break

The Fearless Cook will be heading to the BlogHer Food 2012 conference in Seattle, Washington next month. I will be volunteering as a Mic Wrangler and gleaning wisdom from successful food bloggers. I will be posting pictures and food blogging tips while there. Like a reporter!

My other blog, the patty beat http://pattyabr.wordpress.com is getting some more action lately as I wake up from watching life roll by the past year as a new empty nester. Check it out today as I comment on The Circle of Life.  That is the only Lion King reference made. tee hee.

Rocky Mountain Cookie Cutter Club

I was invited to the meeting of the Rocky Mountain Cutups, a bi-annual gathering of people interested in the collection, history and making of cookie cutters and molds. My good friend, Joy, has belonged to this group almost 20 years and I finally took the time to attend as her guest. The theme was toy or miniature cookie cutters. The hostess, Cassandra made a presentation on company brands that produce miniature cutters. It is absolutely amazing how many cookie cutters that are out there. Celebrity chefs are even getting in on the market making cutters for pie crusts, cookies and holiday baking.

Rocky Mountain Cutups have a blog site profiling their past meetings with pictures.

The fun part of the meeting was Show and Tell. Two members had a picture scrapbook of a road trip they made to Illinois to see a former member. This member, Gary, has 19,000+ cookies cutters he has collected from all over the world. One of his most recent finds was this Abraham Lincoln cutter below.

Mae, who is a cute 80-something, brought the tiniest cookie cutter of a gingerbread man.

Arlene, shared that she was featured in a national article on her cookie cutter collections. Joy brought her collection of child-size kitchen tools and accompanying cutters. Joy and Char both brought cutters that were shaped so that the cookie sat on the lip of a cup for tea. Here are the wing cookies on a cup.

Elena is the tinsmith in the group and makes the cookie cutters that the club takes to the national convention. Here is one of her creations.

My show and tell was my describing my food blog and the February posting on macarons. I stayed up until 1:30 am making macarons to share with the group!

Cassandra showed her displays of cookie cutters and molds. The two pictures below are just a couple of walls in this big room.

I didn’t stay for the whole day but I found out I’ll be helping out with the next meeting in August. The theme will be Mad Hatters! All about hats!

Eggs-cellent

The Fearless Cooking Club celebrated spring with all things eggs. As mentioned in my blog a couple of weeks ago, eggs are a hot ingredient everywhere in comfort food recipes. Cholesterol aside, eggs are making a comeback as a excellent protein.

All club members brought a dish that used eggs and we had quite a variety of choices:

  • Deviled eggs – two versions
  • Aioli with vegetable chips
  • Brioche
  • Eggs Benedict
  • Cheese Soufflé
  • Holiday egg casserole
  • Mediterranean Spinach bake

We had cooking lessons with the soufflé, hollandaise sauce, and the aioli. One member broke out the 1943 original Joy of Cooking to make soufflé the old school way. Irma Romabauer’s tip was to not butter the soufflé dish although another source said to butter the soufflé dish. I am going to withhold any opinion because I’ve never made a soufflé before. Further research for perfection to come later.

The eggs benedict, Anne Burrell, from Secrets of a Restaurant Chef on the Food Network version was accessed. It was a fabulous recipe that was very similar to the Joy of Cooking recipe I’ve used in the past. The hard part is putting all the ingredients together and getting it served onto the table warm.

Poached eggs can be made in advance and kept in cold water bath while the hollandaise is made.

Hollandaise is a hand whipped egg yolk, lemon juice and butter mixture. We followed the Anne Burrell recipe to a “T” and it turned out fabulously. I was just watching The Pioneer Woman on Food Network and she made hollandaise in the blender. That was a new and inventive technique I hope to try in the future!

We invited friends and family members in sharing all the creations. As you can see there was a lot of food to eat! Happy Spring!

Next month we will be celebrating Greek Easter which is celebrated after the Traditional Christian Easter. I’ve never made Baklava before so we will be getting a lesson in that.  I will also be checking out a Cookie Cutter Club bi-annual meeting. Stay tuned in April.

I can’t believe I made macarons

I first read about the macaron in the December 12, 2011 edition of Time Magazine. The macaron was being sold at a NYC French bakery with lines around the block. It claimed that it was going to overtake cupcakes in popularity. Since that article, I have read and watched numerous macaron blog posts and videos all over the internet.

There are many interesting takes on the history of macarons. The Serious Eats introduction to and history of macaroons is an interesting take on this 500-year-old delicacy and confectionary treat. They are extremely popular in France but originated in Italy.

So in my fearless quest to make to macarons I had to do my research. In Denver D Bar Desserts is one of a few bakeries that make macarons. So I checked it out. Petite, tasty little treats that would be good with a cup of tea or a glass of champagne.

The most comprehensive blog on macarons I found was Food Nouveau. She had step-by-step directions, along with a several of her own posts on trouble-shooting tips.  Four ingredients of almond flour (meal), powdered sugar, granulated sugar, and egg whites. How hard could it be? Six batches later culminated with the Fearless Cooking Club (FCC) members meeting to celebrate all things macaron and Valentines Day.

Macaron ingredients

210 g powdered sugar

125 g almond meal/flour

3 large egg whites

30 g granulated sugar

So with so few of ingredients I learned that this adventure was all about cooking techniques. It’s like playing a sport, you have to have the basic techniques.

Technique #1 -Prepping the dry ingredients.

The dry ingredients are measured in grams, which are important to know when preparing. I actually pre-measured the almond flour and sugars in advance and bagged them to be ready for the next batch to trial.

The powdered sugar and almond flour must be placed in a food processor to bring the ingredients together. Following that the combined ingredients are then sifted to a fine state of powder.

Technique #2 – All about the egg whites

Egg whites must be separated from their shell partner, the yolk, and placed in a sealed container, refrigerated 1-5 days in advance of using them. Before whipping them, they must be brought to room temperature for a couple of hours.  Then place your egg whites in a very cold steel bowl and whip them until frothy. Add the granulated sugar in three stages to the egg whites until they are stiff peaks, which takes about 3-4 minutes. Some recipes I saw indicated that the egg whites should also be measured in grams. I didn’t choose to get that technical, but it is recommended that you use large eggs.

Technique #3 – Folding in the ingredients

If you want pastel-pretty macarons, then this is the time to do it. Many sites say to use only powdered food coloring, which I didn’t have access to, so I used Wilton gel food coloring. I folding in the food coloring so as to not deflate the whites.

Once combined, I then added very small amounts of the almond-powder sugar mixture at a time. I accomplished this in 5-6 portions, again, folding the ingredients until each portion is combined.

Technique #4 – Piping out the macarons

All the mixture went into a piping bag with a 1/2 inch wide tip to pipe out onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Food Nouveau had downloadable templates to place under my parchment paper so I had a guideline for uniformity. That was pretty awesome. Make sure to slide out the template before baking!

Pick up and drop or bang the cookie sheet to get out the air bubbles and let them rest for 20 minutes.

Technique #5 – Baking

Set the oven at 275-300 degrees. This is where practice will tell you the right temperature. Place the cookie sheet into the oven on top of another cookie sheet so as not to burn them.  Bake them for 14-18 minutes, again another point of practicing. I turned my cookie sheet half-way through the baking time for uniformity. I’ll have to read more on macarons whether that is a good idea or not.

So that was the technique, but what did I really think once it was all over and done with? I made six batches of macarons this week. A labor of learning it was.

  • Two of the six batches were tossed in the trash; completely wrong texture.
  • The circumference of the cookie probably determines the adjustment of the time and temperature in the oven.
  • Sifting was tough. I had a very fine sifter which was great for consistency but it took a good 30 minutes to sift the entire mixture.
  • I made chocolate, lemon-yellow and the pink macarons. We had a variety of fillings from Nutella, cherry jam, and lemon curd. But the favorite was the one Sarah brought which was salted carmel!

Now that I have officially made macarons I have an appreciation for pastry chefs. Attention to detail is the key. They were good but I need more practice and a few tips to fully perfect them. But I really think going to France and appreciating them first hand would be a better place to start.