Intimidation Level: Macaroons

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I stopped into Whole Foods yesterday, and of course I had to swing by the bakery section to see what they had going on. Usually there are a few vegan options, like the chocolate mousse and parfait I’ve mentioned before. But not this time. Of course I’ve got to get a chocolate fix, and my dad had settled on getting a few tartlets (which had a curd or filling that I couldn’t eat), so this led me to staring down a selection of macaroons.

I’ve tried a few of their flavors before, and I would not repeat most of them. I had a raspberry that was pretty tart, and a vanilla that had a strange flavor I can’t quite describe. But it’s pretty hard to screw up chocolate, so that’s my go to macaroon. They are a bit pricey ($1.99 each where I live), but the two chocolates I got were totally worth it (one of which is pictured above). But as much as they rock, they’re too expensive to get often. Coincidentally, my grandmother bought me a macaroon backing set (silicone mat, recipe book, and piping bag with pieces) for Christmas.

I started looking into making the macaroons myself. I bought the almond flour, some flavorings, and I already have some food coloring. But the recipe book that came with the kit doesn’t make the instructions all that clear. So I started poking around online and found a few places that have videos about making the cookies and how to fill them.

It’s never fun seeing “level: advanced” on a recipe. But I’m determined to actually make some, so I thought I’d ask if any of you have tips or experience making macaroons. Any tips fellow foodies?

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National Cabbage Day!

When I got Steff Deschenes’ Eat the Year for Christmas I went a little post-it crazy and marked up the whole book (really, the whole book) with all of the days that I wanted to write about. Today is absolutely one of them.

Cabbage is amazing. It is second to only mushrooms as my favorite veg, likely because I grew up eating a lot of cabbage. Cabbage is a staple in Russian and German cooking, which is where I find my heritage. In honor of that heritage, I will celebrate today by sharing my family recipe for halupsi (the rest of my family spells it haloopsi, in case that’s any more familiar for you). Halupsi are cabbage rolls. The name, we think, is a corruption of the Russian word “galupsi,” which is what they call their cabbage rolls. My ancestry is all German, but several of the recent generations were German nationals living in Russia before immigrating to the US (I’m third and fourth generation on my mom’s side; dad’s side goes back to almost pilgrims). The recipe sort of straddles the two cultures, but whichever it is, it is soooo good. I usually make a double batch (leftovers of this are amazing).

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  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 1 lb. of ground beef
  • 1/2 cup of rice, cooked and cooled
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large can of diced tomatoes in the juice
  • 2 small cans of diced tomatoes in the juice
  • 1 tsp. salt and pepper to taste
  • Canola or other vegetable oil

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Soften cabbage leaves by cutting off of head and immersing in boiling water for approximately 2 to 3 minutes and then drain.  Mix the ground beef, rice, chopped onion, part of the diced tomatoes (the large can and part of 1 of the small cans) and salt and pepper together.

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Spoon the mixture into the cabbage leaves, fold the leaves around the filling.  Place in a covered roaster or large frying pan, add approx. 1/4 cup oil (I usually do this on the bottom of the pan) and the rest of the tomatoes.

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Bake in a 350º oven for 1 to 1½ hours until rice is tender (the cabbage may brown a bit, I usually cook them for about 1 hour 15 mins and they’re prefect).  Check for moisture as it is baking and add more tomatoes and juice as needed.

I heart scones

So I’ve posted before about when I’ve made scones by Immaculate Baking. But now I’ve made a new flavor and I had to share with you all.

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These are the bomb. I think I still like the blueberry best, but these give those a run for their money. The orange isn’t overwhelming and the cranberry is just the right amount of sweet. I sprinkled the tops of them with a little decorative baking sugar (the kind I used on my Christmas cookies) before baking, which provides a nice crunch to the top.

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Yum! I also learned something about my usual baking pan. I bought this gold pan at Williams Sonoma a few years back. Like the product page says, I thought it was nonstick. In the case of baking the scones, not so much. I had to pry them off the sheet with a spatula, and little bits of them stuck to the pan. That is not nonstick. In future I’m going to have to remember to spray the pan down with Pam. Otherwise, it’s a really nice pan. I have the smaller half sheet size and the cookie sheet in the same goldtouch line. They’re both great, the cookie sheet especially. I’ve never had cookies come out better than on that pan.

National Pie Day

More from Eat the Year! Today is National Pie Day. Now that I think about it, I maybe should have saved yesterday’s post for today. Oh well. Doesn’t mean I can’t share one more photo of that pie. I’m so proud of how well it came out!

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I was hoping to share a funny thing today, but I couldn’t find my copy of it. Years ago I was at my grandparents’ house in Washington and my grandmother made a pie. It was Christmas time, and as we sat around eating it, we composed a Baker’s Prayer. It was our own irreverent version of the Lord’s Prayer. I had hoped to find the paper I wrote it down on, but it seems to have gone missing. It might be worth mentioning that my grandfather was a minister for several years, as was my grandmother’s father. We shared our “prayer” with our own pastor when we got home (to California at the time), who was thoroughly amused as well. If I find it soon, I’ll make sure to share it with you.

On a totally different note, I think I should actually talk a bit about pie on National Pie Day. My personal favorite, as much as I love apple pie, is actually Olallieberry pie. According to Wikipedia, “The olallieberry is a cross between the loganberry and the youngberry, each of which is itself a cross between blackberry and another berry (raspberry and dewberry, respectively).” It’s sweeter than your average blackberry, but not overly so. Polly’s Pies is the first and only place I’ve ever had the pie. Olallieberries have a very short season over the early summer, but if you can catch it and have a pie or just some of the berries, you’ll understand why I enjoy this pie so much.

What’s your favorite pie?

Pinteresty apple pie

I could have sworn that I posted this way back when I actually did it, but I don’t see the post. Weeks ago I made an apple pie and got a little Pinteresty with the top. I never make this much effort with a top crust, but I had some left over dough, so this happened. 🙂 I made some alterations to my previous apple pie recipe (a bit more sugar and a dash more cinnamon and nutmeg), so it turned out great!

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Experiment: Dairy free cheesecake

I think I’ve written previously that the one food I’ve missed most since going dairy free is cheesecake. That topped with fruit is the perfect dessert. In fact, it was a contender to replace traditional cake when I get married. But that is not to be.

In my quest to find substitutes for dairy, I came across this recipe from Daiya.

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I used an organic graham cracker crust, 9 inches, from Whole Foods instead of rummaging around for my spring form pan. Aside from that minor alteration, I followed the recipe to the tee.

After letting it set for five hours, I cut in. The texture was spot on. As expected, the crust was great. But the taste of the filling…I don’t really know what to think. The recipe uses Daiya’s dairy free cream cheese style spread, which I’ve used on bagels before and like well enough. In the cheesecake, the predominant flavor is of the spread. I expected that, but I was hoping that the lemon juice, vanilla, and sugar would mellow it. They didn’t.

I read through the comments on the site of the recipe and a few people suggest adding sugar to help cut the spread taste. I haven’t decided whether I want to go through all of the work again to make it if it doesn’t make it significantly better. Mixing it all wasn’t hard, but getting the coconut butter the right consistency was frustrating. Perhaps it not being in the right state affected the taste, but I can’t imagine it would be too strong a factor.

Has anybody else made a dairy free cheesecake? Any tips?