Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mint Shamrock Macaron with Dark Chocolate Mint Ganache—For St. Patrick’s Day


Obviously, I’m not Irish.  I’ve never been so excited about St. Patrick’s Day, until this year, really!  Why am I so excited?  Food, of course.  I created these Mint Shamrock Macarons with Dark Chocolate Mint Ganache and couldn’t wait to share them with you.  I know, shaped macarons are not new, if you remember these or these from a while ago.  But it’s the flavor and how fun these are that won me over.


Saint Patrick's Day is a cultural and religious holiday celebrated on the 17th of March, the anniversary of Saint Patrick’s death.  This day is supposed to commemorates Saint Patrick (c. AD 385–461), the most commonly recognized of the patron saints of Ireland, and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland.  Why the Shamrock always associated with St. Patrick’s Day, you might ask?  Irish folklore tells that one of his teaching methods included using the shamrock to explain the Christian doctrine of the Trinity to the Irish people. That was why. 


Are you still with me?  Okay, just checking.  I’m known to be amongst the first few who always falls asleep the fastest in History classes.  So, just want to make sure I didn't lose you with the last paragraph.  Let’s move on to the fun stuff.  How about we talk more on food, recipe and how-to’s instead?  Yeah? Come take a closer look on the shamrock macaron below.


If you've made macarons before, you know the macaron batter is filled into a pastry bag and piped onto baking sheets before going into the oven.  So, I'm sorry to tell you that there’s no cookie cutter you can use to make these shamrock macarons.  However, don’t be despaired, they are pretty easy to pipe.   Basically, they are a combination of 3 mini heart shapes and a trapezoid as shown in the picture below.  After piping numerous heart shaped macarons for the Valentine’s Day, I probably can pipe a heart shape macaron blind-folded (nah…I wished!)  So, these are not hard to do at all, just need a few practice and you’ll be all fine.


Here’s how they look before going into the oven.


With these macarons, I added about 10 fresh mint leaves and grind them all up along with the almonds and powdered sugar to make the shells.


The scent of fresh mint is amazing. 


Along with the Dark Chocolate Mint Ganache filling, these shamrock macarons are so refreshing and totally rock!  (Hey, that rhymes.)  They totally reminded me of the thin mint Girl Scout Cookies and the After Eight Chocolate Thin Mints, if you have tried those before.  Amazing stuffs.


I say, they are even better than a pot of gold!  Just sayin’!


If you’re looking for a fun and festive treat to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, give these Mint Shamrock Macaron with Dark Chocolate Mint Ganache a try.  I know you’re going to love them!

I found this at my local craft store, or click here to see a similar product online.

Last but not least, may each petal of the 4 leaf clover (Wait! Why 4 and not 3?  I’m totally returning this dish!) bring you good health, good luck, love, and happiness!  Thank you for reading and I hope you’ll enjoy today’s recipe.  Until next time….


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Blood Orange Margarita


It’s the citrus season, guys!  Which means, it’s harvest time from my In-Law’s beautiful garden with gorgeous Meyer Lemons, grapefruits, kumquats, mandarins, oranges, and blood oranges, etc.  I’m so excited because I’m a big citrus fan.  If you’re not familiar with the blood oranges, they are a variety of orange with almost-blood-colored flesh, hence the name. This fruit is smaller than an average orange. The distinctive dark flesh color is due to the presence of anthocyanins, a family of antioxidant pigments common to many flowers and fruit.  The skin of the blood oranges can be tougher and harder to peel than that of other oranges.  The flavor is stronger and the aroma is more intense as well.  They have a distinct, sweet flavor with a hint of raspberry, yum!


Take a look at the picture above, aren't these blood oranges bloody gorgeous?  I know, their name might not be too appetizing, but they taste wonderful and I am simply in love with that deep red color.


I can’t help it but to turn them into this gorgeous cocktail.  This Blood Orange Margarita is sweet and tart at the same time, and the tequila adds just the right kick (no pun intended).  The lime zest salted rim of the glasses adds another dimension of flavor while you sip.  So, make sure to serve this Blood Orange Margarita with a wedge of lime.  I was having fun sipping the margarita, licking the lime zest sea salt on the rim, and then biting into the lime wedge right after.  That reminds me of the fun “tequila pop” drink that I love back in the college years.  Oh boy, that was bloody long time ago!


I hope you enjoy this cocktail recipe and give it a try if you come across these gorgeous blood oranges in the market.  Bring them home, they are full of vitamin C and antioxidant goodness.  Stay tuned for more fun citrus recipes in the near future.


Please drink responsibly.  Health and General Disclaimers.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Classic Crème Brûlée


Crème brûlée, also known as burnt cream, is a dessert consisting of a creamy custard base topped with a contrasting layer of hard and crunchy caramel (the burnt sugar). The custard base is traditionally flavored with vanilla, but is also sometimes flavored with lemon, chocolate, coffee, liqueurs, etc. I’ve made many different variations of this dessert but I always goes back to the classic. I’m sure you all know how much I love chocolate, but then, this is one of those desserts that the original really beats the chocolate, hands down!


It is not a surprise to most you who follow my blog that I make French Macarons all the time.  Such as these, the Valentine’s version, or my all time favorites ones, just to name a few.  As French macarons only require egg whites in the recipe, I always have some “left over” yolks in my fridge.  The best way to use up the yolks would be to make ice cream and... this Classic Crème Brûlée!  The other day, my Baby Girl asked me for a dessert after dinner.  But she doesn’t know the name of this dessert.  She described it as a little cup with a crunchy topping and a soft and creamy interior.  My little foodie is right to the point on the texture!  Open-mouthed smile Of course, her Mama knew exactly what she was talking about.


The vanilla flavor in this Classic Crème Brûlée is wonderful and really comes through.  The rich and creamy custard is perfectly contrast with the crunchy burnt sugar on top.  I added a small amount of chocolate liqueurs in the custard base.  You can’t really taste the liqueurs as most of the alcohol evaporated during the baking process.  But it does enhance the overall flavor and I highly recommend it.  


Since I don’t like desserts that are overly sweet, I only use 3/4 teaspoon of sugar on top of each ramekin to make the Brûlée.  If you like a thicker crust of burnt sugar on top, by all means use a little more sugar in each cup.


To make the Brûlée, sprinkle the sugar on top, I used vanilla sugar; pick up the ramekin and tap the side to evenly distribute the sugar until the sugar has fully covered the surface of the custard.  I used a kitchen torch for the Brûlée.  You can also place the ramekins under the boiler for a couple of minutes, or until the top is golden brown.


Wait for a couple of minutes until the sugar is cooled. 


This is my favorite part….cracking the Brûlée on top with a spoon. Yup, you can totally hear the cracks.


Here’s one perfect bite.  Now, you can head to the kitchen and make a batch instead of just drooling over here. 


Monday, February 11, 2013

Roasted Shrimp Salad with Thyme and Lemon Frico


Are you all still eating light and doing more exercise to keep up with your New Year Resolutions?  Oh, it's just a friendly reminder!  You don’t need to feel guilty if you have already forgotten all about the resolutions.  After all, I don’t really make resolutions anymore since years ago.  Besides, eating well and exercising more should be a second nature and a daily habit... not just for the first month of the year.  Yeah, sadly, that’s the length of time that most people (including me) really follow through with their new year resolutions.  So, let’s make eating well a year round thing, and not just for the sake of resolution, shall we?  By the way, eating well doesn’t mean scarifying flavors either, that is a big-mistake/wrong-impression on eating healthy.  May I introduce you to this scrumptious Roasted Shrimp Salad with Thyme and Lemon Frico?  Don’t worry, I will still post sweets and treats recipes that I made.  I believe moderation is the key on those, don’t you agree?


Back to this salad, have you ever tried a frico?  It is a (Italian) cheese crisp.  It consists of a wafer of shredded cheese, baked or fried until crisp (I baked).  The cheeses often used are Montasio, Parmesan or Mozzarella.  I used Parmigiano-Reggiano, and jazz it up with some fresh lemon zest and fresh thyme leaves.  They make the best garnish on soup, salad, stew, or anything that you love to add a nice salty crunch.  Besides looking gorgeous, the frico tastes wonderful as well. It’s salty and cheesy; the thyme leaves add a hint of earthiness and the lemon zest brightens up the whole crisp.  The texture is super crunchy, yet, melt in your mouth the moment you bite into one.  It’s magical.


Let me show you how I make them.

1) Grade some Parmigiano-Reggiano

2) Add lemon zest and thyme leave and mix well

3) Spoon them onto silpat or parchment lined baking sheets.  Slightly flatten them with the back of a spoon.

4) Bake at 375 degree F for 8 to 10 minutes and let them cool on the pan over a wiring rack until cool. 


Super simple to prepare, isn’t it?  The flavor is complex and beautiful.  They paired well with this Roasted Shrimp Salad.  In this salad, I used juicy and crispy Fuji Apples, roasted zucchinis that are tender, and crunchy roasted shrimps and super rich and creamy avocados.  The dressing is simple, a little lemon juice, agave, salt and pepper, and 2 tablespoons of Japanese Mayo; yes, that’s all you needed and that’s all I used.  You don’t want too much Mayo in your dressing because as you toss the salad together, the ripped avocado will break up a little and creates the most creamy “dressing”, hence the slightly greenish color of the salad. 


You can serve this salad on a plate as an entree, or in a small cup as an elegant appetizer.  Either way, your eyes and tummy will thank you.  And oh, you’re very welcome.  Until next time, take care and let’s all eat better together.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

恭喜發財! Happy Chinese New Year!


I took these beautiful 桃花 Prunus Persica pictures this morning right outside of my house.  They are just beautiful and so festive for the Chinese New Year. 


I wish you all a healthy and prosperous Year of Snake.   祝大家恭喜發財, 身體健康, 步步高升,大吉大利! 


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Lavender Bath Salts—Homemade Gift For Your Valentine

Homemade Lavender Bath Salts

As some of you might know, I love creating my own homemade gifts for special occasions, such as the Meyer Lemon Sugar Scrub from not long ago.  For this Valentine’s Day, let me present to you, Homemade Lavender Bath Salts!  I've always enjoy soaking in a tub of warm water, infused with soothing and relaxing aroma, such as lavender.  It really wash away the weariness and soreness from a long day of work.   

Homemade Lavender Bath Salts

This Lavender Bath Salts recipe is super simple.  In a glass bowl, gently stir Epsom Salt and Dried Lavender buds together.  Epsom salt, named for a saline spring from the town of Epsom in England, is a pure mineral compound (magnesium sulfate) in crystal form that gently exfoliates skin and smooth rough patches.   
   Homemade Lavender Bath Salts

Next, add the 100% pure Lavender essential oil and gently toss together.  You can also add lavender soap colorant at this point (if using).  Lavender essential oil has a calming aroma which helps you relax, and reduces sore and tense muscles.   

Homemade Lavender Bath Salts

Here is a couple of suggestions on how to enjoy this Homemade Lavender Bath Salts.

To use as bath salts: Spoon about 4 to 6 tablespoons of Lavender Bath Salts under warm running bath water.  Soak for 20 minutes and let the rich minerals absorb through the skin.   

To use as an exfoliator: Mix 2 tablespoons of Lavender Bath Salts with a handful of your favorite body wash.  Gently massage mixture onto skin to slough away dry patches, reveling a healthier looking complexion. 

Homemade Lavender Bath Salts

Does that sound like you’re in the Spa?  My house definitely smells like one whenever I mix up a batch.  It’s a really low budget spa that you can relax and enjoy at the comfort of your own home.  I got a 3lb bag of Epson Salt at Target for only $4.99 and the 100% pure lavender essential oil online here for $14.95.  Not bad at all because you only need a very small amount in each batch. 

Homemade Lavender Bath Salts

After you mixed up a batch, I recommend that you transfer the bath salts to a glass, airtight container and let it rest for a couple of days before use. This will give the herbs and essential oil time to infuse the salts with their aroma.

Homemade Lavender Bath Salts

I hope you like today’s homemade gift idea and try your hands in making some for your Valentine, or for yourself!  I’m sure your significant other would appreciate a stress-free, smoother skin, and wonderfully smelling, YOU!  Enjoy your fun and romantic Spa day at home!

Homemade Lavender Bath Salts

Tools and Ingredients Used in this post:

Lavender Essential Oil: Click here for product link
Epsom Salt: Click here for product link
Dry Lavender buds: click here for product link
Small air tight glass jars: click here for product link

Disclaimer: This Homemade Lavender Bath Salts in intended for external use only.  Keep out of reach of children at all times.  If you’re not familiar with any ingredients, please consult with your doctor before using. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Pure Vanilla Cookbook Giveaway Winner Announcement

I want to thank everyone who had participated in the Pure Vanilla Giveaway.  We have a winner…..


Jen @JuanitasCocina Who said
“I love vanilla ice cream!
juanitas_cocina (at) yahoo (dot) com

I’ll be contacting Jen by email on how to claim the prize.

I’m not surprised that a majority of you who entered the giveaway said vanilla ice cream is your favorite vanilla recipe.  I definitely love homemade vanilla ice cream, too!

Also, many thanks to Quirk Books for sponsoring this giveaway.  Please stay tuned for more fun giveaways in the near future.