• Snack-a-teria
  • Search for the Perfect Macaron

    First there were cupcakes.  Then there was froyo.  The shaved snow craze hasn’t come to Washington yet, but I assure you it’s on its way.  At least I hope so.  There always seems to be some kind of fad dessert.  Be it mix-in ice cream, cake pops or the must-have cookie, we love our snacky treats.  

    Macaron cookies are either on the rise or on the out.  I don’t know.  I’ve never really been one of those, “I must have the cupcake from [insert fancy cupcake place here]!!”  Ok, there was that brightly colored frozen drink from local mega coffee chain.  That was a one time (ahem… two) deal.  I mostly live under a big rock.  I’ve tried all of those fancy dessert places (Hello Cupcake, Gibsons, Vampire Penguin, Menchies).  They’re great a time or two.  It’s not quite the same as being on the hunt for something that is sold in many different places.

    Thus, the macaron.

    First let’s clarify something.  There is a difference between a Macaroon and a Macaron.

    Image from Macarons & Bubbly
    Macaroons & Bubbly has a lovely little description of the difference.  Macaroon = eww.  Macaron = ohmahholyhellbestcookieevah!!!

    I will admit.  I’ve only recently discovered said cookie.  Thus not knowing if they’re in or out.  Frankly, I don’t care.

    In December we went down to Olympia for haircuts.  We had some time to waste before meeting my parents for lunch.  Consequently, this was the day after I had my needle core biopsy.  It was a time when I was certain I had cancer, but wasn’t 100% sure.  The only thing that sounded good to eat was cookies.  Anyway, we wasted said time at the Olympia Farmer’s Market.  While there we came across a little place selling pastries and they just so happened to have lovely little heart shaped cookies.

    Image from Left Bank Pastry
    We picked up a few cookies and a croissant for Derek.  I ate my cookie that night and I’m pretty sure it was the best thing I’ve ever eaten.  No seriously.  It was a crunchy yet fluffy sweet treat filled with delicious raspberry jam.  It tasted like more.

    The cookie came from Left Bank Pastry.  They recently celebrated opening their first retail shop in Olympia.  Previously they sold their wares wholesale and at the farmer’s market.  I wish them long business life and prosperity solely for selfish reasons.  I mean look at this!

    Image from Left Bank Pastry
    Derek brought home a dozen chocolate, raspberry and lemon macarons a few weeks ago.  I rationed them.  My in-laws tried to bring me some last week, but they were sold out.  They were able to purchase the very last one of the day.

    Since this lightbulb moment I have been on the hunt for the perfect macaron.  I’ve tried imposters.  Whole Food… you disappoint me.  Trader Joe’s… why do you even try.

    My beautiful friend, Kimmy, visited over the weekend and asked if there was anything she could bring me.  Yes!  Macaron cookies.  There happens to be a place in Tacoma that is also known for their Macarons.  La Waffletz & Macaron Station is located in Freighthouse Square.  Odd place, but it works.

    Image from La Waffletz
    Kim stopped in and talked with Roger the owner.  She said she was taking the cookies to her friend who was fighting breast cancer.  Roger mentioned that he had a family member who had that and sent her along with a little bag of adorable tiny little macarons as a gift from him to me.  He also told her to tell me to, “stay stubborn.”  Don’t worry Roger, I will.  

    Roger’s cookies rival those of Left Bank.

    Image from La Waffletz
    They are a little smaller, but come in more flavors.  Kim brought me 10 different ones.

    I am now on the hunt for the perfect macaron.  I’ll be honest.  These two are difficult to beat.  The best part about these cookies is they are naturally gluten free.  They are made with almond flour.  They are sweet without being too sweet.  They are adorable & colorful.  They are the type of cookie that just makes you happy.

    I encourage anyone in the Tacoma or Olympia area to visit either of these places.  Then if you are headed North… you could bring a few by.  If you find a place that you think is better… you could drop a few of those by too.  After all, my waistline affects my future boobs*.  You want me to have nice boobs don’t you?
    *my reconstruction choice is DIEP flap.  I’ll let you google that one.

  • It's what's for dinner
  • Breakfast Time (Don’t feed the teacher)

    I have a serious love-hate relationship with food.  To be honest I love food.  Oh how I love food.  I love to cook food for other people.  On most occasions I love to consume food.  However, since birth me and food… we’re not best buds.
    I don’t recall having major stomach issues as a young child, but it could have been so constant and chronic that it was just a normal part of being a kid.  The first time I took notice of digestive upset was in college.  I would eat ice cream and have major stomach issues.  If I at froyo, no issue.  In college I started drinking acidophilus milk because it seemed to agree with my stomach more.  I quickly figured out that I was lactose intolerant.  Today, I can eat goat/sheep milk products or hard, aged cow cheese.  I can eat butter and things with cow milk in them, but not if it is the main ingredient.  I know my limits when it comes to cow milk based products.  There are somethings that I will sacrifice my gut for.  Brie is one of them.  

    A little know tid-bit of information is, a few years after Oleg joined our family, Derek and I tried to get pregnant again.  It was post myomectomy and the doctor thought we might have a good chance.  Ha!  During that time I began seeing an accupuncturist.  She suggested I try a specialized diet that just so happened to be gluten free.  I did it for about 8 months.  While on the gluten free diet I felt better than I’ve ever felt.  I had no stomach pain.  Back then a gluten free diet wasn’t in fashion so it was hard and very expensive.  We gave up trying to get pregnant so I went back to a normal diet.

    After Derek’s mother passed away I went through some health issues of my own directly related to my gut.  Derek laid down the law and told me I’d be resuming my gluten free diet.  Seven years later here I am.  Gluten free.

    Lucky for me alternative diets are en vogue right now.  It is not difficult to find decent tasting gluten free or diary free items.  Granted these items are not cheap.  Our weekly grocery bill is much more expensive than most.  I also have an entire cabinet dedicated to just gluten free flours.  

    Needless to say, cooking for us is difficult.  I regularly tell my students, “don’t try to feed the teacher.”  It’s just better that way.

    So what does a gluten free, dairy free person eat for breakfast?  Franz makes amazing bagels.  I love me a good bagel.  I’ll also eat an egg wrap.  That is a gluten free tortilla (Mission makes the best) with a sprinkle of white cheddar cheese (again, aged harder cheese), a scrambled egg and 1/2 an avocado.  Those are my go-to items.  Last year I drank smoothies on a near daily basis.  

    I havent’ had one in a while.  I was graciously gifted a new toy by my mommy.  She’s the best!  She gave me her old Vitamix.  ERMAGHERD!!!  VIRTAMIRX!!!  This morning I had a chance to play with it.  Don’t get me wrong.  It was an ordeal to get all of the ingredients out and into the machine by myself, but I did it.  

    I thought I’d share with you my smoothie recipe.  I borrowed it many many years ago from Melissa Bridges.  A better blogger would have lots of step by step photos, but I’m not a food blogger.  

    Breakfast Smoothie

    • 1/2 apple
    • Handful(ish) each frozen peaches, blueberries, strawberries and cherries*
    • 1/3 – 1/2 cup plain goat milk yogurt
    • 2-3 T Peanut butter
    • Honey or coconut sugar to taste

    Throw all the ingredients into a blender.  In the Vitamix I did yogurt, peanut butter, sugar, apple, frozen fruit.  Blend on high until all ingredients are well mixed.  You can mix up the fruits if you like.  I specifically don’t use banana because I don’t like the texture they give to smoothies.

    *I usually stock up on these fresh when they are in season and then freeze them.  If I run out I’ll buy peaches & blueberries in the grocery.

    **I do not get paid to link to products.  Links are there because they are a product I have personally used and like.

  • Elle's World
  • Gluten Free Biscuits

    Derek and I like to pick up lunch from a great little soup joint in Tacoma.  It is a hole in the wall kind of place that makes the most amazing soup.  What’s better is they have their soups grouped into “creamy,” “non-creamy,” “vegetarian” and “vegan.”  Then, they mark the menu with the soups that are gluten free.  If the menu isn’t marked you nicely ask and they will mark it up.  There are no tables to sit at so we have taken our soup to the nearby park or home to enjoy.  They also make lovely looking drop biscuits that Derek always purchase and I look longingly at.  We walk across the street and purchase me a piece of cake or other treat to make up for the fact that I can’t eat the oh so yummy looking biscuit.  It’s just not the same.  I love biscuits.

    My grandmother makes lovely biscuits (to go along with her fried chicken that I also cannot eat).  There’s nothing quite like hot soup and a biscuit on a cold Autumn or Winter day.  Derek looked at me the last time we went to the soup place and said, “that should be on your ‘mission’ list too… make the best gluten free biscuits.”  [I have this mission to make the best gluten free pizza and bread.]

    I’ve never had a gluten free recipe turn out stellar the first shot out of the hat.  My first snickerdoodle cookies, while amazing and edible, just weren’t quite right.  The second batch… A.MA.ZING.  I died.

    Last night I did some looking around for a good biscuit recipe thinking I’d make chicken pot pie with them.  I started baking and then realized that I can’t put untested biscuits on a chicken pot pie.  So I cooked them all the way through.  I died again.

    I’m fairly certain that these are almost better than my gluten filled biscuits.  They are that amazing.  I will note that while I am supposed to eat a gluten and diary free diet, my system will tolerate diary in baked goods.  I’m not sure why, but I can still eat butter and milk/buttermilk in things like pancakes, waffles, cookies and any other thing you’d put milk into.  I can also eat butter on things.  I think I really would die if I couldn’t eat butter.  Just call me Paula.

    I started with Mary Frances’s Light and Fluffy Gluten Free Biscuit recipe.  I read all of the comments and gleaned a bit of information to develop my recipe (which is really still hers).

    1 c. brown rice flour
    1/2 c. white rice flour
    2 c. corn starch
    1/2 c. sorghum flour
    2 tsp. baking powder
    2 tsp. salt
    1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
    2 tsp. xanthan gum
    1 stick of butter
    1 c. buttermilk milk
    1/2 c. water
    1 egg, beaten

    1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

    2. In a large mixing bowl thoroughly combine the flours, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and xanthan gum.

    3. Cut the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter or fork or your fingers so that there are no large balls of butter.

    4. Add the buttermilk milk, water, and beaten egg to the flour and stir until the dry and liquid ingredients are combined.

    5. Using a large ice cream scoop (or spoon), drop the dough onto a parchment lined pan to make about 20 biscuits. Cook at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Mine didn’t fully brown up, but I didn’t want them to get too dried out.

    These are amazing right out of the oven.  Srsly.  Our biggest concern was how they’d reheat.  I did some in the toaster oven this morning and they were fabulous.  I did some in the microwave at work and also great.

    Sorry I don’t have photos.  I’ll do better next time.

  • 101 in 1001
  • Pretzel Bread

    I made a commitment to bake a new bread every month for the 101 in 1001 project. ?I started in February with one I thought would be a huge hit for a Super Bowl party. ?Pretzel bread. ?Supposedly, this is a bread that was developed by the head bread baker for Daniel Boulud. ?The description of this bread toted it as little football shaped breads. ?Footballs? ?Ah ha! ?I go to a Super Bowl party every year. ?Not sure why I go since I really don’t like football, but I do like my friends and there is wine there so it’s all good.

    I usually take a fat and cholesterol laden bean dip. ?It is yummy and people like it, but this time I thought I’d change it up a bit. ?I was going to make pretzel breads and gouda cheese fondue. ?It was all lackluster at best.

    The breads were nice… the day I made them. ?However, I made them the day before the part (in essence of time) and by the second day they were already stale.

    Would I make them again? ?Probably not. ?It was worth a try and I’m glad I gave it a shot.

  • Elle's World
  • $24 brownies

    I have a brownie recipe. ?It was formerly a secret brownie recipe, but I’m feeling generous and I’m going to share with you. ?This recipe is from a congregation member of our home church in Olympia, WA. ?I don’t make them very often because they aren’t the healthiest things in the world, but yeah, they’re brownies… they aren’t exactly supposed to be healthy.

    They will only cost $24 if you make them the way I did the other day… with Sweet Hope caramels. ?It’s what I had in the house.

    Caramel Brownies

    1 boxed chocolate cake mix of your choice
    1 small can evaporated milk
    1 14oz bag caramels (or 2 boxes of plain Sweet Hope caramels)
    3/4 c. butter or margarine, melted
    1 bag chocolate chips

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the cake mix, 1/3c. evaporated milk and melted butter in a bowl. The mixture will be rather thick. Grease the bottom of a 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish. Put 1/2 of the batter in the pan. Cook 6 minutes. While the brownies are cooking combine the caramels and 1/3c. evaporated milk in a sauce pan and cook on med-low until the caramels are melted. If you are using Sweet Hope caramels use just a heavy splash of milk instead of a full 1/3c. Once the brownies are cooked let them sit for 2 minutes. Then pour on the caramel sauce and then sprinkle on the bag of chocolate chips (I usually use less than the whole bag). Drop the rest of the brownie batter on in chunks and cook 18 minutes more (NO MORE THAN THAT). Take them out and slobber a little. You can thank me later.

  • Elle's World
  • Eat Local

    People who know us well know that the trusty husband and I are very much about sustainability.? This is particularly evident in our food choices.? This is one area of our budget that I am fairly unwilling to compromise.? Lucky for me I’ve found ways to stretch our food dollar so we can continue to eat as sustainably as possible.? Granted there are a few things in our pantry that wouldn’t qualify under the “healthy or local” eating category, but for the most part I make everything from scratch and we purchase a limited number of processed foods.? In fact, while typing this I had a craving for ice cream and pulled out the handy dandy ice cream maker and started a batch of mint-chip.

    We are lucky that, in our area, we have a service that provides fresh, locally grown, organic produce.? The company is called Terra Organics.? We signed up with them about a year ago and when I did I signed up for the small mixed box to be delivered every other week.? I had the option for the all Northwest box, but decided against it.? I opened up the first box and pulled out beautiful peppers, mangoes and a lovely assortment of produce.? As summer approached we filled in the gaps with items from our garden instead of making our usual trip to the vegetable market (I don’t buy produce at the regular grocery, that is for staples only).? When the Fall came I decided to switch to the Pacific Northwest box.? I have to say this was the best decision.

    We live in a climate that, if given the energy and space, I could grow all of our own produce year round.? It wouldn’t be overly diverse and we would have to change our eating habits slightly, but it is doable.? Since I lack motivation in January and our garden space is currently limited we elected for the “vegetable box” method.

    Every other week a box is delivered to our doorstep.? Our challenge is to eat everything in our box before the next one comes.? Often times a few items carry over from week to week because they will keep longer than if it were something I purchased at a store.? For example, I have a leek in my fridge from January 21st and it is still perfectly good.? I plan to use it in something this week.

    This week we are getting wonderful items like rutabagas, apples, pears, red potatoes, sunchokes (which are not exactly my favorite), Brussels sprouts and a few other items.? For fun I looked at the list of the previous type of box we got (the small mixed box).? There were cherry tomatoes, lemons and a few other items from Mexico listed.? I had to laugh.? The thought of eating cherry tomatoes in February is just funny to me.? The majority of our produce comes from Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and the furthest is very northern California.? Granted Terra Organics purchases their produce from the Western United States, but southern California and Mexico are a little too far for my taste.

    I like how we are choosing to eat locally and sustainably.? There are more steps I want to take.? They will take time.? The point is, we are able to maximize our food dollar and still keep our priorities.? Are you taking any steps to eat locally or sustainably?? If not, what’s holding you back?

  • Elle's World
  • Random

    I’m bored. ?This shouldn’t come to a shock to you. ?I’m often bored. ?That’s why I do so much stuff. ?Don’t get me wrong. ?It’s not that I don’t have any thing to do. ?My list is a mile long of stuff that needs to get done, but who really wants to do the things that are needed. ?Do really want to do the touch up paint on the back of the house. ?No, but I need to. ?Do I really want to clean? ?No, but I need to (I can’t use the 100+ degree heat to put it off and we have a dinner party on Friday). ?I need to pull the clothes off the back line, I need to start some work on the food for Friday. ?I just don’t want to. ?I would rather sit around on my ass and read a book.

    So in lieu of a post you get photos. ?The boy and I went to Blueberry Park yesterday for some freebie blueberry picking (for a Blueberry Ginger Sorbet for aforementioned dinner party). ?Sadly, the blueberries are not all ripe yet and it was a rather long hunt and peck for the little 2 1/2 pounds that we got. ?Oh, I’m not complaining. ?2 1/2 pounds of blueberries for free is awesome. ?What is not awesome is the $5.29 I paid for pre-made ravioli because it was late and I needed something for dinner.

    unripe blueberries

    Boy with Blueberries

    Barely ripe

  • Elle's World
  • Move over Miss Muffet

    My wonderful husband went to the store last weekend and upon his return he announced that we needed to start making our own cheese. ?This type of?proclamation?isn’t new around these parts. ?He firmly believes that all of our food should be made from scratch. ?I’m with him, but as the chief bread, pasta, tortilla and other stuff maker, time constraints have me subbing the store bought stuff more often than he’d like. ?More often than I’d like, but hey, work is work and I’d rather do the stuff I get paid for.

    So he comes home and says that the local market is selling cheese from a creamery in Bow, WA. ?He was going to buy a ball of fresh mozzarella, but at the tune of $14 his cheap Swedeness kicked in and we had chicken as our protein instead. ?This is where we refer back to the earlier statement of him believing we should make our own cheese. ?I (as the stupid lady* I am) agreed.

    Now I’ve done my locovore part and read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. ?That’s what started this whole thing. ?I got to talking about it, then he read In Defense of Food and then Omnivore’s?Dilemma and now we only buy cereal and flour from the grocery store. ?When I read the book Kingsolver talks about making your own cheese. ?I thought it couldn’t be that hard, but I’m fairly lazy and forgot about it until aforementioned?proclamation. ?I knew where to get the stuff to make cheese so I hopped on “teh internets” and ordered me up a mozzarella making kit from New England Cheese Making Supply Company.

    Yesterday my fancy new cheese making kit arrived and it just so happened that it was milk day. ?Just like the majority of our food, our milk doesn’t come from the grocery. ?We have milk delivery from a local company that gets it’s milk from local farms. ?It isn’t ultra-pasteurized and I do believe that it is organic. ?In a fit of Martha Stewart meets June Cleaver I put my family to the task of making cheese. ?The husband measured everything and the boy stirred. ?I read directions. ?Now this is supposed to be 30 minute mozzarella. ?We got to the part where the cheese is supposed to form curds. ?Um… riiiiight. ?”Let sit 5 minutes,” or so the directions stated. ?20 minutes later I had a sloppy mess of white stuff and whey.

    Cheese making attempt #1 = colossal failure $6.00 down the tube (whole milk isn’t cheap)

    I was determined to beat the cheese monster so I had the trusty husband bring home more milk. ?This time I did it all myself. ?I blame the boys because this time it worked! ?I made cheese. ?Real live cheese. ?Beautiful hand burny hot** cheese.

    Take that Miss Muffett with your curds and whey.


    *stupid because I keep indulging his make it fresh ideas and then we can never purchase the store bought stuff again. ?Because It’s. so. much. better. FRESH!

    **the directions say to wear rubber gloves, but I used mine to stain the cabinets so I did it with 2 wooden spoons and my bare hands.

  • Depression
  • Everything is better with donuts

    I seem to have hit a wall in my energy level.? I’m closing in on the end of Sweet Hope and I can’t seem to pull myself up to finish.? I took yesterday off to spend time with the boys and we did our annual killing of an innocent Christmas tree.? I dreamed of candy last night and this morning I somehow don’t want to face more chocolate.

    It could be that I have much less help than last week or that the trusty husband is out of town the whole week.? It could also be that it’s friggen cold here, but not cold enough to snow.? I hate the super cold rain.

    I’m trying to find something to pull myself up with and think that donuts might just do the trick.? I am usually not a huge donut fan, but these looked yummy.

    Oh, and if you haven’t already discover this little blog you really should check it out.? Thing is… the girl who writes it is all of 17 years old.? I’ve tried a few of her recipes and hot damn she’s good.

    So while the trusty husband is away the boy and I will be making donuts tomorrown morning.? Suck it!

  • Elle's World
  • Calling me on it

    Scene: the grocery

    Elle: oh, hey.? We need to get graham crackers.

    Boy: Why do we need graham crackers?

    Elle: Because we’re out.

    Boy: Oh.? I like graham crackers.? I like them with butter.

    Elle: Butter?? Who puts butter on graham crackers?

    Boy: Babada.

    Elle: Gross.

    A few minutes pass

    Boy: Mommy, we don’t say gross about food.? And we don’t say gross about butter.


    Did you buy chocolate yet?? And yes, I will houd you every day until you buy.