Homemade Macarons

 

Homemade Macarons
(Courtesy: Penny Jacques)

 

1 cup fine almond four (100 grams)

1 ¾ cups confectioners sugar (180 grams)

3 egg whites (room temperature) (100 grams)

¼ tsp cream of tartar

¼ cup caster sugar (40 grams)

4 -5 drops gel food coloring, any color

Fillings, such as jam, jelly, butter cream, ganache, curd, sweetened cream cheese and/or whipped cream

 

Before beginning the recipe, clean 3 bowls and mixer beater attachments to assure no residue is present.

Mix almond flour and confectioners sugar together.  Sift three times and set aside.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until frothy, about 4 minutes.  Gradually add caster sugar while continuing to beat whites.  Beat until whites form stiff peaks, another 4 minutes.

Add gel food coloring to achieve desired color.  Continue beating for an additional 4 minutes or until stiff peaks return.

Add dry ingredients to egg whites.  Gently fold together with a rubber or silicone spatula by folding from sides of the pan and dragging through the middle of batter.  Make about 50 rotations until the batter runs smoothly from spatula.  Test this by “drawing” a figure 8 with the batter that runs from the tip of the spatula.  If the figure comes out smoothly on the top of the batter in the bowl, it’s ready.

Gently transfer batter to a decorating bag and pipe 1½ “ circles onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Space about 1” apart.  Drawing circles on the parchment paper beforehand will help to keep the macrons uniform.

Tap the baking sheet gently on the counter several times to bring any air bubbles to the surface of batter.  Use a toothpick to gently pop bubbles.

Allow macrons to rest at room temperature for about 60 minutes or until no wet spots show and a film has formed.  You should be able to touch the cookie gently without disturbing the batter.

Preheat oven to 350℉.  Cook on center rack for 13-14 minutes until set but not browned.  Allow to cool completely on the baking sheet (at least 20 minutes).

Turn cookies over and pipe desired toppings on the flat side.  Cover with another cookie, flat side down.

Refrigerate in a tightly sealed container for 24 hours.  Allow to set at room temperature for 20 minutes prior to serving.

 

Yield: 15 completed macarons,  115 calories per double cookie, fillings excluded

 

Hack:  Macarons can be refrigerated for up to 7 days

Hack:  Filled macarons can be tightly wrapped and frozen for up to 1 month, although some fillings may not maintain their desired consistency after being thawed.

Hack:  Unfilled macarons can be tightly wrapped and frozen for up to 3 months.

 

 

Asian Stir Fry Green Beans

 

Asian Stir Fry Green Beans

 

1 lb fresh whole green beans

2 cups water

1 tbsp canola oil*

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Wash and drain green beans.  Cut or break off stem ends.

Place a skillet over high heat.  Add beans and water.  Cover the skillet and allow it to steam until water evaporates.

When the pan is dry, move beans to the side of the pan, creating a well in the center.  Add canola oil to the well and stir fry beans for 1-2 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve immediately.

*Any oil with a high smoke point would work in this recipe.

 

4 servings, 60 calories per serving

Hack:  Store leftover beans in the refrigerator for up to 5 day or freeze, tightly wrapped, for up to 10 months.

 

Pork Chop with Apple Butter and Onion

 

Pork Chop with Apple Butter and Onion

Pork Chop with Apple Butter and Onion

 

1 boneless pork chop, 4 oz

Dried rosemary

Salt

Pepper

2 tsp olive oil, divided

¼ sweet onion, thinly sliced

1 ½ tsp apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp Old Fashioned Apple Butter

 

Preheat oven to 400℉.

Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Dry pork chop with a paper towel and sprinkle with rosemary, salt and pepper.

Place pork chop in pan and sear on both sides.  Remove from the pan.

Lower heat to medium-low and add remaining olive oil and onions to the skillet.  Cook, string frequently, until soft and lightly browned.  Deglaze pan with vinegar.

Remove onions from skillet to oven-safe pan.  Top with pork chop and apple butter.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or to an internal temperature of 150℉.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

 

1 serving, 280 calories

 

 

Baked Vanilla Donuts

Baked Vanilla Donuts
(Courtesy:  Pampered Chef)

 

Donuts:

1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour

½ cup (125 mL) granulated sugar

½ tsp (2 mL) baking soda

¼ tsp 1 mL) salt

½ cup (125 mL) sour cream

¼ cup (50 mL) canola oil

1   egg

Glaze:

2 cups (500 mL) powdered sugar

2½ tbsp (37 mL) buttermilk or milk

½ tsp (2 mL) vanilla

 

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Brush the Donut Pan with oil.

For the donuts, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in the remaining ingredients for donuts just until combined.

Place the Large Round Tip on the large Decorating Bag. Fill the bag with dough and pipe around each well until it’s about ¾ full. Bake for 8–10 minutes, or until the donuts spring back when lightly pressed. Remove from the oven to a Stackable Cooling Rack. Let the donuts cool in the pan for 5 minutes before releasing. Cool completely.

For the glaze, whisk together all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Place a sheet of parchment paper under the cooling rack. Spread the glaze evenly over the tops of the donuts using the Small Spreader. Let the donuts stand until the glaze sets.

Yield:  12 donuts, 220 calories per donut

 

Eggs With Polenta

 

Eggs With Polenta

Eggs With Polenta

 

1 tbsp butter

⅓ cup tomato, chopped

½ cup onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped (1 tsp)

½ tsp sugar

½ cup Creamy Cheesy Polenta, chilled

1 egg

 

Melt butter in a saute pan over medium heat.  Add tomatoes and onions.

When onions and tomatoes begin to simmer, turn the heat down to low.  Add garlic and sugar.  Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.   Remove from the pan, cover to keep warm and set aside.

Coat pan with cooking spray and turn heat up to medium.  Form the chilled polenta into a patty and place in the pan.  Cook until brown and carefully flip over.

Crack the egg into the pan beside polenta.  Cook to desired doneness, flipping once.

Remove polenta to a plate, top with egg and tomato/onion mix.  Serve immediately.

1 serving, 340 calories

 

Oatmeal Honey Sandwich Rolls

 

Oatmeal Honey Sandwich Rolls

Oatmeal Honey Sandwich Rolls

 

1¼ cups boiling water

½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats

¼ cup honey

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp dry active yeast

1½ tsp salt

½ tsp cinnamon

¾ cup whole wheat flour

2 cups all-purpose flour

 

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine water, oats, honey and butter. Allow to soak until the temperature reaches 115℉. Stir in yeast and let it sit for 7 minutes. It should “bloom” or form a foam on top.

Mix flours, salt and cinnamon in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add oatmeal mixture. Using a dough hook attachment, mix on medium speed for 5-7 minutes or until the dough clears the side of the bowl and forms a dough. Alternately, the dough can be mixed and kneaded by hand for about 10 minutes.

Turn dough into a lightly greased bowl and cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Allow to rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350℉

Turn dough onto a greased surface and separate into 8 pieces. Shape into 8 rolls and place on a baking sheet. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap or waxed paper and allow to rise for approximately 30 minutes. To tell if bread is proofed enough to bake, press your finger gently to the dough. If indent remains momentarily, then it’s ready. If indent immediately pops back up, it’s not ready yet. If the indent sinks lower and remains, it’s over-proofed.

Bake rolls for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and registers an internal temperature of 190℉.

Allow to cool completely before slicing or storing.

 

8 servings, 210 calories per serving

Hack: Sandwich rolls can be refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months to preserve freshness. You can “refresh” the bread by warming it briefly in the microwave or toasting it before use.

Hack: If the bread stales before you’ve finished eating it, run it between your fingers (or use a food processor) to turn it into bread crumbs. Seal in bag or container and store in the freezer for future use.

 

 

My Review of HelloFresh

HelloFresh Meal Kit

 

This post contains affiliate links that, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. Read the full privacy policy here.

Subscription boxes are all the rage lately and meal kits are no different.  Meal kits claim to make it easy to eat a healthy, whole foods diet.  They deliver every ingredient needed for each meal in the proper proportions so there is no waste and no need to shop for ingredients.

I received a HelloFresh meal kit for free as a gift from my daughter-in-law. Since it’s no secret that I love free stuff, it should come as no surprise that I jumped on the opportunity to order.

It should also come as no surprise that I want to share my opinion with you. Have a seat while I share my review of HelloFresh.

Ordering and Receiving My HelloFresh Shipment

Ordering and Receiving My HelloFresh Shipment

It was simple to sign up. HelloFresh is a subscription program that automatically bills for and ships a meal kit every week.  The downside of this is that there would only be two days between receiving one box and being locked into the next box.

Because I wouldn’t be able to access my 6-meal box in two days, I decided to skip the box scheduled for the following week, which was very easy to do.  It’s also very easy to change my menu options, adjust the number of meals I receive and cancel my plan if I desire.  This makes the service very easy to fit into my life and finances.

There are several different lifestyle options to choose from such as pescatarian, meat & veggie, vegetarian, pork-free, family-friendly, quick/easy, carb smart and calorie smart.  I chose the meat & veggie option and was “assigned” three meals but I did have the option of 22 other meals to substitute any or all these 3 meals.  Some of these choices were an extra charge, others were not and the choices appeared to be from all the lifestyle categories listed above.   I must assume that the lifestyle choice and “assigned meals” are in case  I forget to visit the site and pick the meals for an upcoming order.

My HelloFresh shipment arrived on the day they promised.  It was surprisingly small and light considering that it contained 6 meals.

As I unpacked the box, the reason became clear and, I have to say, I was delighted.  I had received another meal kit as a gift and was disturbed by the amount of packaging I had to throw away.

The HelloFresh box contained an inner cardboard box as insulation and one frozen ice pack.  The foods were all packaged in plastic bags, no containers of any kind.   I am not saying that plastic bags are good, mind you, but a bag takes up less room in the landfill than a container. The meals themselves were separated into brown paper bags and clearly labeled. 

Preparing The Meal

Preparing Your HelloFresh Meal

As advertised, the Hello Fresh box came with all the ingredients I would need to prepare the meals, except for olive oil, salt and pepper.  All of the ingredients were fresh and in good condition.

The prep itself was easy and uncomplicated. I didn’t run across any ingredients or procedures that I hadn’t encountered before.  Someone who is switching over to home cooking from convenience foods or take out will probably see the prep work as excessive but this is the price we pay for improving our eating habits.

I was overwhelmed at first because, when following the directions, I felt I was doing too many things all at once.  I ended up overcooking my roasted carrots while I was mixing the meatballs and cooking the rice.  I finally realized that I had to go back with the cooking style that I’m comfortable with:  I do all my prep (chopping, mixing sauce, coating meat, etc) first and then get to cooking.  This added a few minutes to their “box-to-table” estimate but at least I didn’t overcook anything else.

The only downside here is a personal one:  There are a lot of dishes to wash.  For the ginger meatballs, I ended up washing a knife, cutting board, 3 mixing bowls, two baking pans, a saucepan, spatula, vegetable peeler, plate and various cutlery.  Maybe this is just a normal dinner for some but, in my opinion, the fewer dishes, the better.  Of course, I did save time and trouble by not shopping so I guess I’m ahead of the game!

The Main Event

Saucy Ginger Meatballs

HelloFresh Meal Kit
HelloFresh Saucy Ginger Meatballs


This entree was the first one I tried and it was wonderful, although, at 910 calories per serving (1820 calories total), I decided to turn it into 3 servings instead of two.  Not only did this smaller portion fill me up, I think I would have had trouble eating a “full” portion.

The meatballs are dressed with Bulgogi sauce, which is a sweet Korean barbecue sauce.  It was paired with Jasmine rice and oven-roasted carrots then drizzled with spicy sour cream and sprinkled with a generous amount of sliced green onions.

The spiciness of the sour cream complemented the sweetness of the roasted carrots and the combination of colors was pleasing.  I would definitely order this again.

Parmesan-Crusted Chicken with Creamy Lemon Tomato Spaghetti

HelloFresh Subscription Service
HelloFresh Parmesan-Crusted Chicken with Creamy Lemon Tomato Spaghetti


The calorie count on this recipe was a whopping 1090 per serving (2180 calories total) so I decided to divide this into 4 servings. I also added a side of baby spinach with dressing because I felt it definitely needed more vegetables.

The pasta was a delight.  The sauce was a combination of cream cheese and butter, giving it a wonderful creamy texture, although the taste of either was not obvious.   The lemon zest and juice added a brightness to it while the roasted tomatoes allowed for a touch of sweetness.  The combination of flavors worked very well together.

The chicken was spread with a mustard/mayonnaise mixture and topped with a combination of panko crumbs, seasoning packet and parmesan cheese.  I did enjoy it but I felt that the mustard flavor was far too dominant and overwhelmed the subtle flavors in the crumb topping.  If I were to make this again, I would skip the mustard mixture.

HelloFresh Subscription Service
HelloFresh Butternut Squash Agnolotti

Butternut Squash Agnolotti

This particular recipe had two things I have never tried before:  kale and agnolotti.  I enjoyed the kale more than I thought I would.  In this recipe the instructions had me saute it in oil with the onion.  The onion lent a soft sweetness, the kale was peppery with a nice chew to it.

The agnolotti is a ravioli-type pasta I haven’t tried before and it was very good.  The pasta itself was fresh and relatively thick,  the butternut squash filling was very mild.  The added walnuts, garlic herb butter and parmesan cheese gave it a variety of flavors and its end result was delicious.  I’m glad I didn’t have to share this with anyone!

The bottom line

Of course, it’s the bottom line that matters so here it is!  Would I order this again?  Yes, I definitely would and I did.  The price per servings in my box would have been $10.48 each, including shipping.  Because I had paired down the size of my servings on two of these meals, I ended up with 9 servings which comes out to $6.99 per serving, including shipping.  This is more than reasonable in regard to price.

The fact that the waste is minimal is a big plus for me.  The meals are separated using recyclable paper bags and the outer and inner (insulating) boxes are both recyclable as well.  The individual items that require packaging come sealed in plastic bags (no containers) that are just big enough to hold the items, which results in minimal throw away waste.

I am so impressed with this service that I have partnered with HelloFresh to give you a $40 discount on your first box!!  What are you waiting for?

Have you ever tried a meal kit service?  Which one did you try?  How did you like it?  Let me know in the comments below!

All My Best,

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

Apple Butter Muffins

Apple Butter Muffins

 

½ cup butter, softened

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup white sugar

½ cup milk

2 eggs

1¾ tsp baking powder

1½ cups flour

2 tsp vanilla

1 cup Old Fashioned Apple Butter

2 tbs cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves

¾ cup raisin and chopped dates, soaked in water

Streusel Topping:

½ cup butter softened

1½ cup brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

½ cup old fashioned rolled oats

½ cup flour

2 tbsp cinnamon

 

Preheat oven to 350℉.

Cream together butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well combined.  Mix in milk and eggs.    Stir in baking powder and flour.

Add vanilla, apple butter, cinnamon and cloves.  Mix until smooth.  Drain raisins and dates and fold into batter.

Grease 18 muffin cups or line with muffin papers.  Fill each cup half full with batter.  Set aside.

Place all streusel ingredients into a medium-sized bowl.  Using a spoon or your hands, mix all ingredients until the mixture is well combined and crumbly.  Sprinkle evenly over the tops of muffins.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 209℉.  Remove from the oven but allow muffins to remain in the pan until streusel has set up about 15 minutes.  Remove muffins to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before storing.

 

Serving size:  1 muffin, 325 calories per muffin

 

Hack:  Muffins can be stored, tightly cover, at room temperature for 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

 

 

Gongpao Chicken

Gongpao Chicken

 

12 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast

1 egg white

5 tbsp soy sauce, divided

1 tbsp cornstarch

2 tbsp black (Chinese) vinegar

1 tbsp sugar

1 cup vegetable oil + 2 tbsp

½ cup peanuts and/or cashews

1 green pepper, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced (4 tsp.)

3 dried or fresh red Thai peppers, chopped

1” knob ginger, minced or grated

3 green onions, thinly sliced

2 cups fresh basil leaves (1.5 ounces)

Dash salt

 

Cut chicken into 1” cubes and place into a bowl.  Add egg white, 2 tbsp soy sauce and cornstarch.  Gently mix with your hands for 2 minutes.

Mix remaining soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat 1 cup vegetable oil and peanuts/cashews in a heavy skillet and turn on the heat to medium-high.  Cook nuts to golden brown and remove from oil.

Add chicken to the same oil and cook until there is no more pink, 6-8 minutes.  Remove from the pan.

Add green pepper and saute until slightly tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan.

Add 2 tbsp oil and turn the heat up to high.  When the pan is heated, add garlic, red peppers and ginger.  Cook until aromatic, 1-2 minutes.

Return nuts, chicken and green peppers back into the pan.  Add sauce and green onion.  Cook, stirring constantly, until all ingredients are hot.  Add basil and cook just until wilted.

Serve with rice, if desired.

 

6 servings, 535 calories per serving

Hack:  Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen in serving size portions for up to 3 months.

Hack:  Do you know that you can freeze fresh ginger root?  Grating it in its frozen state is easier than grating it fresh and, if you choose organic ginger, you don’t have to peel it!  Simply place it in a sealed freezer bag or container and pop it in the freezer.

Hack:  Chop leftover green onions and freeze in a sealable freezer bag or container for future use. While they won’t retain the crispness that would make them suitable for salads or garnish, they will be fine for cooking.

 

Slow Cooker Pork and Beans

Slow Cooker Pork and Beans

Slow Cooker Pork and Beans

 

 

1 cup dried white beans such as great northern or navy

3½ cups water, divided

2 cups tomatoes (1 lb)

1 medium onion

3 oz salt pork

4 cloves garlic, minced (4 tsp)

¾ cup tomato paste (6 oz)

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp molasses

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 bay leaf

 

Cover beans with 2 cups of water and allow to soak for 6 – 12 hours. Drain and rinse. Soaked beans can be stored in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 5 days before cooking.

Place beans in a slow cooker and cover with 1½ cups water.

Chop tomatoes, onions, salt pork and garlic and add to the slow cooker.

Add tomato paste, salt, molasses, brown sugar and bay leaf. Stir to combine.

Cook on low for 8-12 hours or until beans are tender. This will depend on bean size and individual slow cooker temperature.

Serve on toast, rice, tortillas or naan, if desired.

 

4 servings, 375 calories per serving

Hack: Beans can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months.