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This recipe is based on my standard French macaron recipe with a few tweaks that make it a red fruit macaron. Experiment with food colorant; I have added a lot more red in this recipe to get the right color. A good dollop of jam is all you need for the filling. Choosing a mixture of red fruits for the jam will give a more complex fruit flavor.

 

Fruits Rouge French Macarons

1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons almond meal

 

3 large eggs, room temperature

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

6 Tablespoons granular sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

 

1 ½ teaspoon red food color paste

Blue food color paste if you need it.

3/4 cup red fruit jam

 

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Sift the confectioner’s sugar and almond meal together. This helps remove lumps and large pieces of almonds in the meal. I prefer to sift these ingredients separately and then measure out what is needed in the recipe. Set this aside while you prepare the egg whites.

Separate the eggs, setting asides the yolks for another recipe. A good rule of thumb is to leave the eggs at room temperature overnight to cure the egg whites. The meringue behaves better this way.

Beat the egg whites until frothy, add in the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form.

Add sugar gradually and continue to whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Just before you reach this point, add the vanilla extract and colorant. You will have a little ‘whipping’ room to adjust the color before the egg white are stiff.

Fold in confectioner’s sugar and almond meal mixture into egg whites in two parts. Once all of the dry ingredients are incorporated continue to fold until the batter flows like magma when you lift the spatula. I feel that this is important, due to the fact that you want the macaron cookies to smooth out once they are on the parchment.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a quarter inch round tip with batter. To pipe a nicely shaped disk, start with the pastry bag vertical to the parchment, tip side down. The tip of the bag should be a half inch from the paper. Squeeze the batter onto the center of the circle drawing and the batter will flow towards the edge. Just as the batter reaches this point stop squeezing the bag and drag the tip in a circular motion towards the edge of the disk. This will help eliminate the peak of batter in the middle of the cookie. Repeat with the remaining circles. A word of caution, since we folded the batter to flow like magma, the batter will start flowing out of the pastry bag as soon as you turn the bag tip side down. So work quickly and with precision. It will take a few tries to be confident in this step.

To help the batter smooth out, just tap the bottom of the template. Now slide to parchment onto the sheet pan. Allow the meringue to rest for fifteen to twenty minutes. This will allow a skin to form on the macaron which will give you that signature French macaron skirt we are going for.

Reduce the temperature of the oven to 325ºF and bake the macarons for 10 minutes. Allow the macarons to cool for a few minutes on the pan before transferring them to a cooling rack. Raise the heat of the oven back to 375ºF. Once the oven is back up to temp, repeat with the reaming cookies. Remember to drop the oven temperature to 325ºF each time you bake more macarons.

Place a teaspoon of jam on half of the macarons and gently press together with the other halves. This recipe will make two dozen macarons. If you are making French macarons for those who love them, you should plan on making plenty. On many occasions, I seem to run out quickly. Once people know you are bringing macarons in for sharing, they will flock with excitement. Enjoy!

Pappardelle is a wider ribbon of pasta to that of fettuccine. Using this type of pasta just makes your dish extra sexy. I like these kinds of recipes because you can change things up. The pasta and sauce alone are fine; from there you can add grilled shrimp or fish and whatever vegetables are in season.

  

 

Spring Pappardelle Recipe

½ bunch of fresh asparagus, cut into 2” pieces

10 artichoke quarters, fresh or frozen

½ cup spring peas

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons shallots, minced

1 large garlic clove, minced

pinch of crushed red chilies

½ cup Romano cheese, grated

¾ cup cream

sea salt and pepper to taste

8 ounces pappardelle pasts

¼ cup Romano cheese, finely grated

2 Tablespoons mint, chiffonade

Prepare all of you ingredients first. We are going to prepare this recipe in a streamline fashion. Start the water for the pasta and add a little salt. Add the pasta once the water is at a rolling boil.

To prepare the sauce, sauté the artichokes in the olive oil and brown them well. Remove them from the pan and set aside. Start sautéing the shallots on low until translucent. Add in the garlic and chilies, and raise the heat to medium. Watch the garlic; just as it turns golden add in the cream. Reduce heat back to low and cook for a few minutes. The pasta at this point should almost be done. Remember to keep stirring the pappardelle, it like to stick. For the fun part you can now add the peas and asparagus to the pasta pot. This will cook the vegetables and finish the pasta all at once, drain.

Stir in the half cup of cheese and whisk to create a creamy cheese sauce, adjust the seasoning and pour in the pasta. Toss to coat the pasta and vegetables. To complete, plate up and sprinkle on the remaining cheese and the mint. Serves 3-4.

Today starts off my seed sowing schedule. With fresh seeds and interesting new varieties to try, everything seems to be in order in the “greenhouse.” After rigorous potting and listening to a good dose of classical music, the “greenhouse” is clean and the service lights are off. I am ready to turn in the day. Of, course I leave the music on. I think that the seedlings to be really enjoy such pleasant music.

Below is a guide I put together of how I start plants from seed. It is only a guide and should be adjusted to suit one’s need. Just click…

 

A few additional tips I have learned:

- Be prepared, have all of your supplies ready.

 [see my seed starting glossary]

- Some seedlings like to be buried up to their first set of leaves. Tomatoes are one such plant.

- Give your plants as much light as possible, they like that!

- Don’t go seed crazy, trying to grow everything from seed. Growing a smaller number of healthy plants over growing large quantities of weak, spindly plants is more rewarding and your plants will thanks you.

- Take good care and enjoy the process.

In early spring as the plants begin to emerge, it is a good time to apply some good food for your plants. This will not only help out the many plants in your garden and give them a superb boost, but the garden will look full, lush and beautiful.

The perennial gardens are on a regular feeding program which I have simplified over the years. I still like to mix up fertilizers by hand. Finding the right balance is not at all complex, but if you choose to buy ready-to-apply mixes that do so.

 

 

All-Purpose Fertilizer Recipe        

1 part blood meal [12-0-0]    1 cup

2 parts bone meal [ 0-10-0]    2 cups

1 part potash [ 0-0-30]    ½ cup

Measure out the fertilizer ingredients and mix them in a closed jar. Since I use palm ash as my potassium source, the material is processed in little spheres. Once measured out I like to grind it up a bit so that it mixes better with the other fertilizer components.

The rate of application varies depending on what and when you are applying the mix. I figure on a tablespoon of this mix for small starts and work my way up to a quarter cup for larger, established plants. Sprinkling the mixture a few inches away from the plants and scratching in the mix is all that is required for feeding and then water in.

If you prefer not to mix up your own fertilizers, than I recommend using an organic fertilizer which is better for the soil and the environment. A product I like to use is poultry pellets with an NPK of 4-3-3. It’s rather easy to apply, just broadcast the pellets around the garden. A fifty pound bag will last me a few seasons when applied at the beginning of the growing season and then again mid-season. The rate for my garden is five pounds per one hundred square feet.

As we all know the benefits of high quality compost can make to our gardens, spring is a good time to apply a layer to the garden. Not only adding small amounts of nutrients, compost boosts the soil of microbial activity. This microbial activity is what energizes the soil and helps plants absorb more nutrients.

Does applying compost seem like a messy job? I find that blending the store-bought compost with last year’s shredded fall leaves lightens the compost and better to spread the mix as you would mulch.

So go ahead and give you plants the nutrients they need and you will be happy with the results, and remember you can give your plants too much food. If you study the back of the fertilizer package you will know how much to apply. Happy Gardening Everyone!

Of all things glam, French macarons are the divas of the pastry world. Stunning as they are delicious, homemade versions are not at all difficult to master, but practice and a bit of technique will help you create picture perfect specimens ready for a close-up.

 

 

Lavender French Macaron Recipe

1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons almond meal, sifted

 

3 large eggs, room temperature

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

6 Tablespoons granular sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

 

1/16 teaspoon purple food color paste

 

First off I like to have a template ready as a guide for uniform cookies. Take a piece of cardboard and trace out twenty-four circles about 1 ¾ inches in diameter. This is a good amount for a standard half sheet pan. The cardboard template should fit right inside the pan. The macarons will be piped onto parchment paper which allows the template to show through. [Preheat oven to 375ºF]

Sift the confectioner’s sugar and almond meal together. This helps remove lumps and large pieces of almonds in the meal. I prefer to sift these ingredients separately and then measure out what is needed in the recipe. Set this aside while you prepare the egg whites.

Separate the eggs, setting asides the yolks for another recipe. A good rule of thumb is to leave the eggs at room temperature overnight to cure the egg whites. The meringue behaves better this way.

Beat the egg whites until frothy, add in the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form.

Add sugar gradually and continue to whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Just before you reach this point, add the vanilla extract and colorant. You will have a little ‘whipping’ room to adjust the color before the egg white are stiff.

Fold in confectioner’s sugar and almond meal mixture into egg whites in two parts. Once all of the dry ingredients are incorporated continue to fold until the batter flows like magma when you lift the spatula. I feel that this is important, due to the fact that you want the macaron cookies to smooth out once they are piped onto the parchment.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a quarter inch round tip with batter. To pipe a nicely shaped disk, start with the pastry bag vertical to the parchment, tip side down. The tip of the bag should be a half inch from the paper. Squeeze the batter onto the center of the circle drawing and the batter will flow towards the edge. Just as the batter reaches this point stop squeezing the bag and drag the tip in a circular motion towards the edge of the disk. This will help eliminate the peak of batter in the middle of the cookie. Repeat with the remaining circles. A word of caution, since we folded the batter to flow like magma, the batter will start flowing out of the pastry bag as soon as you turn the bag tip side down. So work quickly and with precision. It will take a few tries to be confident in this step.

To help the batter smooth out, just tap the bottom of the template. Now slide to parchment onto the sheet pan. Allow the meringue to rest for fifteen to twenty minutes. This will allow a skin to form on the macaron which will give you that signature French macaron skirt we are going for.

Reduce the temperature of the oven to 325ºF and bake the macarons for 10 minutes. Allow the macarons to cool for a few minutes on the pan before transferring them to a cooling rack. Raise the heat of the oven back to 375ºF. Once the oven is back up to temp, repeat with the reaming cookies. Remember to drop the oven temperature to 325ºF each time you bake more macarons.

 

Lavender Buttercream Recipe

12 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

6 Tablespoons vegetable shortening

1 ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted

1 teaspoon lavender flowers, ground

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat together butter and shortening until smooth. Beat in confectioner’s sugar.

Add the remaining ingredients and place in a pastry bag with a small round tip.

Pipe a teaspoon of the buttercream on half of the macarons and gently press together with the other halves. This recipe will make two dozen macarons. Hopefully this long recipe won’t stop you from experimenting with meringue. After a few tries the process is rather enjoyable.

One of my goals for this stunning confection is to create 27 flavors, so keep your eyes peeled. Do you have a favorite French macaron flavor? Let me know.

 

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