Mastering Macarons

I think I’ve tried a total of 4 different times to make these really good cookies. Let me tell you something too, Bob’s Red Mill almond flour isn’t that cheap either. The one we found at the store was around 13.00 for about 4 cups of the flour. I’d love to be able to get them right and to fill the macarons with Nutella, Buttercream, jam, etc..

I’ve tried two different recipes. One recipe required boiling some sugar and water together. I had to try two times with that to get it right. The recipe said to boil the sugar and water until it gets to 235 degrees and then add it to the egg whites. I thought it was odd that the sugar started turning brown around 170 degrees and I’m thinking, I don’t want caramel sauce. That guys picture where I found the recipe on his site, didn’t look like caramel sauce. So, I had to make it again and that time it was better.

Then, I thought screw boiling the sugar and water together and just use sugar. That’s when I found this really good recipe at Not So Humble pie. I was watching the cookies rise in the oven and was very happy when the cookies started getting that famous bottom they’re known for. Then the cookies started cooling and I took them off the pan and they looked like they didn’t have a bottom or an inside. Bummer. You’ll see that in the pictures soon. The recipe is a really good find too, and I’m going to try cooking them longer the next time. I also want to pick up another silicon pad mat and try adding some color to them.

First you need egg whites. If you don’t have a food scale, I’d suggest buying one.This recipe calls for measuring the sugar, flour, and egg whites in grams.

You also need some ground almond flour and powdered sugar. Also some regular sugar.

These cookies didn’t turn out. They were hallow in the inside not cooked long enough.

Bad, very bad. I will get them right one day though. I’m not going to give up!

Ms. Humble’s Scatter Plot Macarons
yields 50 (100 shells) macarons (feel free to divide it for fewer cookies)
120g almond meal
200g powdered sugar
100g egg whites
30-35g granulated sugar
food coloring gel

Line 2-3 heavy gauge aluminum baking sheets with parchment or silicone liners (more on this below). Prep a piping bag with a round tip (I use a Ateco #11 for most of my macs, though I’ll occasionally use a #804 for larger macarons). I place the bag into a tall drinking glass (or stout glass) and cuff the bag’s opening over the top, this makes the bag easy to fill hands-free.

Weigh out almond meal and powdered sugar and sift together to remove any clumps. (If you own a food processor, I highly recommend blending the ingredients and then sifting.)

Weigh out the egg whites into a large mixing bowl (stainless steel or copper), if you’re using stainless feel free to add a pinch of salt, 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar or couple drops of lemon juice to help strengthen the whites. If you’re using copper you need not and should not add any additional acid (more on this below).

Weigh out the granulated sugar. (Often I’ll use homemade vanilla sugar for this.)

Begin beating the eggs on low speed. What you’re doing here is unraveling the egg white’s proteins (these are what will capture the air bubbles you whisk in), they’re bundled up and you need to gently unwind them. A light touch does this far better than scrambling them on high speed. Once the egg whites are very foamy, begin sprinkling in the sugar as you beat. Increase the speed to medium, if necessary, and beat the meringue to stiff glossy peaks. (If they start looking grainy, clumpy or dry… uh… you’ve gone too far.)

Add the food coloring (for the full recipe it usually takes 2-4 drops of gel, for a half batch 1-2 drops does the trick) and mix.

Add about 1/4 of the almond/sugar mixture and fold in until no streaks remain. Continue to add the almond mixture in quarters, folding until you reach the proper batter. (More on this below)

Pour the batter into your prepared piping bag and pipe rows of batter (dollops a little bigger than a quarter) onto the baking sheets, giving them space to spread.

Tap the pan on the counter to bring up any air bubbles and quickly pop them with a toothpick.

Allow the cookies to rest on a level surface for 30-60 minutes. Until they are no longer tacky to a light touch. If you have problems with burst shells, you may need to allow them to rest longer or double stack your baking sheets to provided better insulation from the bottom.

While they rest, place an oven rack in the lower 3rd of your oven and preheat to 275-310°F (I’ve had the most success with about 285-290°F). I do not use fan-forced (convection) heat. If your oven tends to brown the cookies, consider placing a rack in the top of the oven with a baking sheet on it to shield the cookies. Occasionally my top element in my spastic electric oven turns on and browns my cookies, upsetting me greatly.

Bake the cookies for 16-20 minutes.

 

Canned Biscuit Waffles

I had a can of low-fat biscuits and saw on pinterest that you could use canned biscuits to make waffles. I’ve been meaning to try this for awhile now and I finally got around to it, and let me just say, this is probably something I’d never do again. It just tasted too much like biscuits and I like homemade waffles better. You can also use cinnamon rolls to make waffles too and I’m thinking that would taste a little bit better.

For 5 points a biscuit this really isn’t worth it either. Go ahead and give it a try if you want. I’m not trying to scare you away from it or anything. :) The waffles were pretty tiny in the end and didn’t spread out much. Yes, I definitely think cinnamon rolls would work better here since they’re sweeter than a biscuit.

Pillsbury Grands Reduced Fat biscuits

170 Calories | 6.5 g fat | carbs 26 | Fiber 1 g | Protein 4 g

Weight Watcher Recipes – Red Velvet Cupcakes

I know, I’m not really a huge fan of red velvet cupcakes but I had one the last time I went to Minneapolis and it changed me. It was so huge and you could see the specs of vanilla bean in the cream cheese frosting. I wish I would have had my camera to take a picture. You can buy them at Macy’s for all places. They had them at this little cafeteria I went to and so I decided to get a red velvet cupcake. Man, was it good.

I have been trying to make my own baked goods using agave nectar and these actually turned out really good. The first time, I tried baking anything with agave nectar was when I tried making a batch of meringue cookies. Agave nectar and meringue cookies don’t work well together. I did a little research on agave nectar and the source I used had a nice little chart to go buy. From Herbs, Love to Know. This site also tells you how to reduce the amount of liquid when baking too. Pretty nifty site. The only sugar I’d like to learn more about replacing ingredients with is confectioner’s sugar. That still has a lot of carbs and it would be nice to find a substitute that works. I read that you can take Splenda and pulverize it in the food processor until it looks like confectioner’s sugar with some corn starch, but I don’t like splenda because it has a weird after taste. Wonder if you could do the same with Stevia?

Agave Nectar Conversion Chart for Baking
If the Recipe Calls for this Amount of Sugar… …Use this Much Agave
1 cup 2/3 cup of agave
3/4 cup of sugar 1/2 cup of agave
1/2 cup of sugar 1/3 cup of agave
1/4 cup of sugar 1/6 cup of agave

Anyways, these cupcakes only came out to 5 points plus a cupcake. Hurray! No cake mix boxes or diet soda used. It was a recipe I adapted from Paula Deen and had to change a lot of the ingredients. They kind of puffed up a bit in the oven but overall it was a good first try baking with agave nectar. I hope you try these and like them yourself!

Ingredients from Paula Deen

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup agave nectar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup applesauce
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk , room temperature
1 large egg , room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces low-fat cream cheese
1/8 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.
2.In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.
3.Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.
4.In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.
5.Garnish with chopped pecans and a fresh raspberry or strawberry.
6. Cook’s Note: Frost the cupcakes with a butter knife or pipe it on with a big star tip.

 

Bacon Wrapped Shrimp

Still looking for something to bring, to that last minute new year’s eve party? How bought some bacon wrapped shrimp? This is so easy to make all it requires is bacon, shrimp, and tooth picks. You can spice it up by adding some brown sugar on the bacon or some barbeque sauce. Someone on my facebook page told me that her dad marinades the shrimp and bacon in beer for awhile. Doesn’t that sound good?

I think if I were to do things differently the next time, I’d use thinly sliced bacon and larger pieces of shrimp. Thick cut bacon don’t work really well with medium sized shrimp and the bacon kind of over powered the shrimp. It still tasted good though. I served mine with some cocktail sauce. I calculated the nutrition info for these made with real bacon and turkey bacon.

What do you do on New Year’s Eve night? We don’t go out on New Year’s Eve, we stay in. We do however plan on making a gourmet-ish type dinner with lobster tails and steak. Last year, on New Year’s Eve Ben grilled some steak during a blizzard. Kind of crazy, since this year we don’t even have any snow on the ground yet. :)

(made with real bacon)

Calories 133.4 | 10.6 g | Carbohydrate 0.4 g | Fiber 0.0 g | Protein 8.3 g = 4 points Plus

(made with turkey bacon)
Calories 54.8 | Fat 3.1 g | Carbohydrate 0.4 g | Fiber 0.0 g | Protein 5.9 g = 1 points plus

Servings:  12

Ingredients

12 jumbo shrimp , 12-16 count per pound, peeled and deveined
12 slices thin bacon
kosher salt

Directions:

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
2.If your shrimp are not deveined when you buy them, use kitchen shears to cut down the back of the shrimp (the top or longer side) and remove the shell. You can leave the tail on or off, your preference (I remove it). With a pairing knife, slice into the shrimp along the backside and remove the vein if you see one.
3.Also do not forget to remove the second vein along the bottom of the shrimp! You won’t have to make a very deep cut there, just a slight score and you can scrape that smaller vein out. Note that if your shrimp did come deveined from the market, it will still have this smaller vein everytime so do remove it. Then rinse the shrimp under cold running water and pat dry with a paper towel.
4.Lay a slice of bacon out on your cutting board and start wrapping the tail end of the shrimp at the small end of the bacon. As you tightly wrap, overlap each layer of the bacon until you get to the end. If you get to the end of the shrimp when you’re halfway through the bacon, you’re wrapping it too wide, try again.
5. I like to sprinkle a tiny bit of kosher salt on each side, but that is my preference.
6.Heat a heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. If you use a cast iron skillet, you won’t need any oil as the shrimp will not stick, otherwise add just enough to coat the bottom. Sear the shrimp on each side for maybe 30 seconds and then finish them in the oven for about 6-8 minutes.

 

 

Cranberry Bliss Bars

I swear, this is going to be my last unhealthy treat to make before the New Year’s comes. I plan to get rid of all my body fat and get fit before I go to Jamaica. We’ll see if that happens. My goal is to work out more next year and we plan on joining the gym next month since our work is now letting us get a nice little discount on that. I feel as if it will hold me responsible since I have to go at least 12 times a month. I’m really looking forward to taking Zumba classes at night too.

I’ve been seeing these Cranberry Bliss bars all over the Internet lately. I did try making a different version of them before Christmas and used maraschino cherries instead because I didn’t have any dried cranberries at the time. These blondies are delicious and it almost makes me want to go Star Bucks and try the original ones to see if they live up to them. I’m not a coffee drinker, so I don’t go to those coffee places to try their delicious sweets like this one.

I am home during the week this week, and it’s nice to be able to take some pictures in natural light. I thought this one turned out pretty good taken with my little Olympus camera. My other one is still in the shop and I keep checking the status every day to see if it’s been shipped or not. I can’t wait to get it back!

Ingredients: from What’s Megan Making

Bars:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped
6 ounces (about 3/4 cup) white chocolate chips (or chopped white chocolate)

Frosting:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped

Drizzling Icing:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1-2 tablespoons milk

Directions:

Bars:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 pan and set aside. In a medium bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until smooth. Add eggs, vanilla, ginger, and salt and mix well. Gradually add flour and mix until smooth. Stir in cranberries and white chocolate. Pour the batter into the greased pan, using a spatula to evenly spread the batter in the pan. Bake 30-40 minutes, until edges are light brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Frosting:
Beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla and lemon juice until completely smooth. Spread on the completely cool cake. Sprinkle the top with cranberries.

Drizzling Icing:
In a small bowl, whisk together 1 Tbsp of milk, powdered sugar, and vegetable shortening. Gradually add more milk until the icing has a thick but drizzly consistency. I used closer to 2 tablespoons. Put the icing into a ziploc bag and snip off a tiny bit of the corner. Drizzle the icing on top in zig-zags.

 

 

Weight Watcher Recipes – Pizza Pasta Casserole

It’s pizza and pasta combined into one easy dish. Rotini pasta, pasta sauce, italian turkey sausage, low fat cheese, and turkey pepperoni. The original recipe for this had 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and by reducing the amount to 2 teaspoons, that reduced the fat greatly. I don’t get why people think they have to use a ton amount of olive oil when sauteing vegetables or browning a big hunk of meat? I successfully browned chicken breast thighs with only 2 teaspoons of olive oil.

If you like pizza and pasta then you’ll really like this dish, and it almost reminds me of hamburger helper. I’m going to come up with my own taco pasta casserole using this method. Just think of all the different combinations you can come up with.

Ingredients from food.com

Servings: 10

Calories 254.3 | Fat: 8.4 g | Carbs: 24.5g | Fiber 1.9 g | Protein 19.7g

*If using 8 servings instead of 10, it is 9 points.

Points Plus: 6

1 lb ground lean turkey sausage
1 medium onion , chopped
1 clove garlic , minced
1 teaspoon italian seasoning
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 (26 ounce) jars spaghetti sauce
8 ounces rotini pasta , cooked and drained
2 cups shredded reduced fat mozzarella cheese (20 oz)
32 slices of turkey pepperoni

Directions:

1.  Brown ground beef, onion, garlic and seasoning in oil.
2 .Drain.
3.  Stir in pasta, spaghetti sauce and 2 cups cheese.
4. Place mixture in 2 greased 9x13x2 inch baking pans or 4 square pans.
5.  Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella.
6.  Top with pepperoni.
7.  Cover and freeze up to 3 months.
8.  To cook now: Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until heated through.
9. To bake frozen casserole: Thaw in refrigerator overnight and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes, till hot.

 

If you like easy casserole recipes try these!

Mexican Casserole 6.5 Points Plus

weight watcher mexican casserole 031

 

Weight Watcher Recipes – Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies

Meringue cookies are hard for me to make for some reason. The last time I tried making them I used agave nectar and the cookies ended up being these soft sponge cookies. I’m thinking about trying some baked goods using agave nectar and did some research on baking with the sugar substitute. Turns out, meringue cookies are not a good cookie to make with agave nectar. Should have read up on agave nectar first before trying to work with it. Thought it was just like honey so I thought I didn’t need much. Oh well.

I even tried making macarons and I can never seem to get them right. I didn’t know that you could buy almond flour until I had watched some lady on the Cooking Channel make macarons and she made it look so easy. Wish I was that good at baking. Almond flour is really expensive and it’s about 13.99 a bag for Bob’s Red Mill brand at my grocery store. Macarons are not a cheap cookie that’s for sure.

So, I finally got my first batch of meringue cookies to turn out. Yay! Practice makes perfect I guess? I want to try making meringue cookies with Stevia instead of agave nectar and see if they turn out then. These have chocolate chips in them and are 1 points plus a piece.

Don’t know if this is exactly how it’s supposed to look, but it turned out.

 

Points Plus: 1

Servings 24

Ingredients from Weight Watchers

1 spray(s) cooking spray
1 tsp all-purpose flour
4 large egg white(s)
1 cup(s) sugar
1/2 cup(s) mini chocolate chips, semi-sweet
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

Preheat oven to 200ºF.

Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray; coat with a light dusting of flour and shake off excess.

In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form; gently fold in chocolate and vanilla extract.

Drop mixture by heaping tablespoons onto prepared baking sheet about 1 inch apart, making 24 cookies.

Bake until lightly golden and no longer sticky on the surface, about 1 hour. Turn oven off and let cookies sit in oven for 1 hour. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Yields 1 cookie per serving.

 

Cinnamon Rolls

I saw the Pioneer Woman’s Christmas special on Foodnetwork and really wanted to make cinnamon rolls for everyone to bring as gifts. I also wanted to buy a prime rib but that cut of meat is so expensive.  I really liked these cinnamon rolls and they were very easy to make. If you have a station set up to make them you can get them pumped out in no time.  I made the dough and rolled out the rolls the night before, and let them sit in the fridge overnight. The recipe says they can sit un-cooked in the fridge for up to 3 days which is really nice. The dough was really easy to work with too.

I went to Wal-mart and got some baking vessels to put them in and they came with red or green covers to make them look festive. I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and want to thank everyone that either liked my facebook page or commented on a post this year.

This dough was huge. Each one can make up to 25 cinnamon rolls. I stuck 7 in a pan.

Ingredients from Pioneer Women

1 quart Whole Milk
1 cup Vegetable Oil
1 cup Sugar
2 packages Active Dry Yeast, 0.25 Ounce Packets
8 cups (Plus 1 Cup Extra, Separated) All-purpose Flour
1 teaspoon (heaping) Baking Powder
1 teaspoon (scant) Baking Soda
1 Tablespoon (heaping) Salt
Plenty Of Melted Butter
2 cups Sugar
Generous Sprinkling Of Cinnamon
_____

MAPLE FROSTING:
1 bag Powdered Sugar
2 teaspoons Maple Flavoring
1/2 cup Milk
1/4 cup Melted Butter
1/4 cup Brewed Coffee (I used 1/4 cup of water instead)

Preparation Instructions

For the dough, heat the milk, vegetable oil, and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat to just below a boil. Set aside and cool to warm. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let it sit on the milk for 1 minute.

Add 8 cups of the flour. Stir until just combined, then cover with a clean kitchen towel, and set aside in a relatively warm place for 1 hour. After 1 hour, remove the towel and add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and the remaining 1 cup flour. Stir thoroughly to combine. Use the dough right away, or place in a mixing bowl and refrigerate for up to 3 days, punching down the dough if it rises to the top of the bowl. (Note: dough is easier to work with if it’s been chilled for at least an hour or so beforehand.)

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

To assemble the rolls, remove half the dough from the pan/bowl. On a floured baking surface, roll the dough into a large rectangle, about 30 x 10 inches. The dough should be rolled very thin.

To make the filling, pour 3/4 cup to 1 cup of the melted butter over the surface of the dough. Use your fingers to spread the butter evenly. Generously sprinkle half of the ground cinnamon and 1 cup of the sugar over the butter. Don’t be afraid to drizzle on more butter or more sugar! Gooey is the goal.

Now, beginning at the end farthest from you, roll the rectangle tightly towards you. Use both hands and work slowly, being careful to keep the roll tight. Don’t worry if the filling oozes as you work; that just means the rolls are going to be divine. When you reach the end, pinch the seam together and flip the roll so that the seam is face down. When you’re finished, you’ll wind up with one long buttery, cinnamony, sugary, gooey log.

Slip a cutting board underneath the roll and with a sharp knife, make 1/2-inch slices. One “log “will produce 20 to 25 rolls. Pour a couple of teaspoons of melted butter into disposable foil cake pans and swirl to coat. Place the sliced rolls in the pans, being careful not to overcrowd. (Each pan will hold 7 to 9 rolls.)

Repeat the rolling/sugar/butter process with the other half of the dough and more pans. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cover all the pans with a kitchen towel and set aside to rise on the countertop for at least 20 minutes before baking. Remove the towel and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden brown. Don’t allow the rolls to become overly brown.

While the rolls are baking, make the maple icing: In a large bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, butter, coffee, and salt. Splash in the maple flavoring. Whisk until very smooth. Taste and add in more maple, sugar, butter, or other ingredients as needed until the icing reaches the desired consistency. The icing should be somewhat thick but still very pourable.

Remove pans from the oven. Immediately drizzle icing over the top. Be sure to get it all around the edges and over the top. As they sit, the rolls will absorb some of the icing’s moisture and flavor. They only get better with time… not that they last for more than a few seconds. Make them for a friend today! It’ll seal the relationship for life. I promise.