You had to know it was coming. With a series called “Kitchen Challenge,” macarons were bound to be the subject sooner or later. So let’s just get it over with, shall we?
Technically I’ve attempted macarons before. I actually almost put a recipe for cookie dough-filled ones in the first book (but the fact that I could not get consistent results from my own recipe convinced me to take it out.) When in the company of my macaron making friend Tabitha, they look great, but I’ve yet to produce a truly successful batch on my own.
So this month, let’s roll up our sleeves and master Macarons, once and for all.
- Macarons vs. macaroons. We’re not talking about the rustic coconut kind, here.
- The time. You’ll probably want to set aside a good 4 hours from start to finish. Seems like a breeze compared to the total time involved in croissants, eh?
- The weather. Seriously. Don’t attempt these if it’s precipitating of any kind. Wait for a cool, dry day if you can. If you can’t, get out a fan and crank up the AC.
- The ingredients. I found some reasonably priced and beautifully fine almond flour from Nuts.com. Very finely ground almonds work too, but either way, be sure you sift it first. As for the egg whites, I’ve heard older egg whites work best, although BraveTart debunks this as a myth. I’ve got a boat load in my freezer, left from all those batches of ice cream and hollandaise, so I’m all set there.
- The method. French vs Italian. I’ll probably try the French this time, although I can say the Italian method, while more complicated, seems to produce more consistent results.
- Double up. Be sure you have a set of two identical baking sheets, and stack them one on top of the other. The double layer will help your macarons bake more evenly.
- Weigh it out. Most macaron recipes (you’ll notice), call for very specific quantities of things, measured in grams. My advice? Get an inexpensive kitchen scale and follow your recipe. There’s a reason they are so precise.
The great part of this challenge is the basic recipe is only the foundation, but the flavor combinations are endless. Experiment with different nut flours. Try adding powdered food coloring or freeze dried fruit or espresso powder to the shells. And the fillings? Well, the possibilities there are endless.
Needless to say, I cannot wait to see what you guys come up with!
From our recent trip to San Francisco: macarons from Bouchon (left) and Miette (right).
I have not yet decided which recipe/method I’m going to follow. Anyone have a favorite? A recipe or technique or tutorial they swear by? Do share it in the comments! But here are some good starting points for those looking to tackle this challenge:
Want to join me?
If you’re up for the challenge, attempt a batch of macarons by Sunday, April 21st. Send me a photo of yours results (good or bad). I’ll document my experience and also share the images/links to those who’ve taken the challenge as well. This challenge is simply about getting in the kitchen and challenging yourself to make something new; you aren’t required to have a blog to participate, nor are you required to post about it if you do. However, if you do have a blog and post about the challenge, you are more than welcome to use the above graphic if you’d like to spread the word! (Please upload it to your own server.)
Spatulas ready? Let’s go!
What does a normal day here in the Love & Olive Oil household look like? Working from home, we do have an ample amount of freedom if something comes up during the day, but for the most part, we stick to a pretty normal routine. I promise you, it’s not as glamorous as it may seem, and really should probably be called “A Day in the Life… of the Cats.” Yes, much our lives revolve around the cats, and we’d live an incredibly dull life without them.
5:30am (ish): Taylor gets up whenever the cats tell him to. There’s no snooze button on these furry alarm clocks, unfortunately. They’ll usually yell at us or nibble at his elbows until he feeds them.
7:30am: Rise and shine! (grumble grumble) Taylor prods me awake. Sgt. Pepper usually helps too, walking all over my chest and sticking his paws and wet nose in my face until I finally roll out of bed.
8:00am: Catch up on social media, read my blogs, clean out the junk emails that have come in overnight (I probably don’t need to know about that sale, but I still stay on the email lists for that one time when I might want to buy something).
8:30am: Work beckons, time to get to it. I usually start the day by responding to some emails or dealing with issues that have come up over night, or if I’ve got a new blog post to publish I’ll focus on finishing that up.
9:00am: Breakfast. Again with Sgt. Pepper’s help. The cat loves cheerios, what can I say?
9:30am: Trying to work, but I keep getting interrupted by Sgt. Pepper who wants to play fetch (Seriously! Here’s proof) Every 2 1/2 minutes I have to get up and throw his green poof toy for him. He’ll pick it up in his mouth, walk around yowling for a bit, then come back up the stairs and drop it by my chair, and sit and stare (or yell) at me until I throw it again. It’s exhausting.
The other cats are conked out on their heated mats where they’ll probably stay until lunchtime (and yes, we have three of them, because they refuse to share).
10:30am: Workout time. I’ll admit while Taylor makes it to the gym nearly every day, I consider it a good week if work out twice. Even though our development has a fitness room, sometimes I can’t even be bothered to walk over there, so I’ll just jump around in the living room to a workout DVD.
11:15am: Shower, followed by a post-workout snack (aka a croissant, which is totally acceptable because it is homemade, afterall).
11:30am: Back to work. Today I’m having fun putting the finishing touches on a redesign for the lovely Averie. Just wait until you see this prettiness. I tell you, I really do love my job, especially when I get to work with other food bloggers. :)
1:00pm: Lunch time. Usually we’ll have something like a grilled cheese, quesadilla, tuna sandwich, or leftovers from whatever we ate the night before. Something quick that we can prepare and eat quickly and get back to work. No leisurely lunch hour, here.
Kalypso also knows when it’s lunch time, and will often join us, begging for scraps. She’s got us very well trained, and knows a good scratch on the post will get her a treat. We try to tell her that opening the treat drawer will summon the boys from upstairs, but she never seems to get it. So they all usually end up getting a mid-day treat.
1:30pm: Work. Moving on to some coding stuff for designs we’ve already finalized. And emails. Always sending emails.
3:30pm: Chocolate break.
3:40pm: Quick social media break.
4:00pm: Er, ok, not so quick. Trying to get focused again so I can finish the day on a productive note. Send some more emails. Maybe work a bit on the next day’s blog post if I’ve got one ready.
5:30pm: Time to leave work (aka go downstairs). In order to maintain our sanity we really do keep regular working hours, and try not to work or respond to work-related emails on nights or weekends. It doesn’t always work, but we’d go crazy otherwise.
5:55pm: Dinner time for the felines, and they sure cause a racket if we’re even a minute late (which is why they usually get it early, because god forbid we’d FORGET about them). I swear, they act like we starve them or something.
6:00pm: Ok, I’ll admit, I’m still working. Sometimes if I’m concentrating on something I just need to keep going. But Taylor’s already downstairs working on dinner. Good man.
6:05pm: I just realized how hungry I am. I need a snack. Plus my butt hurts. That’s a sign it’s time to quit for the day (really this time).
6:30pm: Dinner is ready! And, look, daylight! Still! During dinner! What a miracle!
Taylor’s thrown together a pasta salad tonight, using up a lot of miscellaneous ingredients we have on hand. We do plan our menus for the week in advance, and always try to include a few quicker dinners for nights when we just want to get on with our evening.
Taylor wants everyone to know that the all the dishes were done before we even ate. Thank you dear, much appreciated… without you I’d be living in squalor.
7:00pm: After dinner the evening is ours to do what we please. I’ll usually plop down on the couch and lose myself in an episode of Castle or Once Upon a Time, although tonight the 7:00 hour kind of sucks, so I’ll spend that time working on a blog post instead. Taylor, who can’t bear to sit still and simply watch TV anyway, usually heads back upstairs to work on one of his many projects.
Yes, the man sews (and serges). He’s working on some basic t-shirts now, using some nice organic hemp fabric he just bought (it’s not as hippie as it sounds, I promise). They’ll eventually get dyed various colors when he’s done. He’s well on his way to a completely handmade wardrobe (you can follow along on his blog, TaylorTailor).
8:00pm: As bad as it’s gotten these last few years, I still watch Grey’s Anatomy. Back downstairs I go to rot my brain. Our neighbor stops by for a bit, and he and Taylor drink and talk beer (who knew there was so much to say about beer).
9:00pm: New Scandal tonight! Even anti-TV Taylor will watch this one with me. That and Castle are about the only network TV shows he’ll watch. Although, he can’t simply watch, he has to be (quietly) plucking on his ukelele at the same time.
9:40pm: Bird time! Every night the cats need a good 20 to 30 minutes of good, hard play (according to Jackson Galaxy), otherwise they’ll kill each other. Granted, we still have issues with bullying, but the play definitely helps. This is their favorite toy, and we probably go through way more da-bird refills than we should. I swear, their first instinct once they get ahold of it is to break it’s neck. Our sweet, sweet babies are secretly killers…
10:00pm: The cats’ second dinner. Yes, we split up their dinners, in hopes that eating right before bed will make them sleep in later in the morning. It never works (see: Taylor’s wake up time this morning).
10:20pm: After picking up all the cat toys (otherwise there would be late night soccer matches), shutting down the phones and computers, brushing our teeth, and changing into our PJs, it’s bed time.
10:30pm: We usually read for a while to unwind. I’m currently 1/4 of the way through 11/22/63 by Stephen King, and loving it so far. I just hope I can finish before it’s due back at the library.
11:00pm: No, seriously. Sleep.
11:23pm (or so): Zzzz….
“So, if you had to pick, what’s your favorite recipe in the book?”
Throughout this entire process, that question comes up over and over. And when I was promoting The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook, I had a hard time answering it. I mean, it’s kind of like choosing a favorite child, right?
For Breakfast for Dinner, however, despite the fact that each and every recipe deserves to be a favorite in its own right, one recipe stood out above the rest.
Yep, we both agree (shocker! I know!) that our hands-down favorite recipe in the whole book is our take on the Hawaiian classic, Loco Moco.
The original dish typically consists of a generous portion of white rice topped with a hamburger patty—or grilled Spam—and a sunny-side-up egg, plus lots of brown gravy. Our version takes the basic rice/meat/egg concept and elevates it with coconut-infused sticky rice, savory ground pork, and a sweet-and-salty soy sauce reduction.
I apologize if we’ve offended any loco-purists out there, but man oh man is it good.
Crazy good, in fact, and entirely worthy of its name.
It’s been just over a month now that the book has been out in the wild, and we couldn’t be more pleased at the positive feedback we’ve been getting. Seems like we are not alone in our love for breakfast for dinner.
And now (exciting news!) Breakfast for Dinner is now available as an enhanced eBook! We’re so excited that Quirk chose our book as their first ever enhanced ebook, full of cool interactive features like step-by-step instructions, recipe notes and ingredient tips, menu ideas, recipe finder, a shopping list, and more. And it’s on sale now for only $14.99 in the Apple iBookstore. Just don’t spill on your new iPad, mmmkay?
Of course, if you’re one of those people who has to hold a physical book in your hands (I totally get it), you can still purchase a copy at your local bookstore, on Amazon, or grab a super special autographed copy in the L&OO shop. :)
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Mother Nature is having a good laugh, that’s for sure. One weekend it’ll be beautiful, a perfect 70 degrees and a periwinkle sky. Then, in what feels like a cruel trick, Monday comes along complete with rain, dreary skies, and even threats of snow flurries. I thought I left the whole springtime-snow thing back in Colorado. Guess I was wrong.
Needless to say, with bi-polar weather like this, soup season isn’t quite over yet.
I found this recipe on Pinterest, which has almost completely replaced food magazines in my weekly meal planning endeavors. This soup caught my eye immediately, despite the fact that it was, well, soup.
Try as I might, I’m just not a soup person. After years of being wholly unsatisfied by soup, I’ve realized that I just need something to chew. I have the same lacking feeling when I try to make a meal out of a fruit smoothie. Just not happening. Probably why you’ll never see me do a juice fast. 3 days with nothing to chew? No thank you.
This soup, however, was delightful. Paired with a drizzle of sage lemon butter (don’t skip it – it’s the best part), and some sliced focaccia bread, and I could start to understand why people love soup so much.
The sunny hue of this soup comes from the vegetable broth that we used (Trader Joe’s brand is clearly heavy on the carrots); the original calls for chicken broth, and as a result the soup is more beige than orange. Either way, the flavors are both mild and robust at the same time. Rich and creamy, and yet surprisingly light. You’d think that 3 whole heads of roasted garlic would be enough to keep the vampires away for days (let alone your spouse), but it’s not at all overpowering.
It’s perfect, no matter what the weather happens to be doing.
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