Sunday, February 27, 2011

Macaron class in SF

When the macaron craze started several years ago, I was really into them at first. They are adorable, come in all different sizes, flavors, colors... However, I never really fell in love with the taste of macarons. They are super sweet and a lot of normal flavors don't have enough depth for me. Even when I visited France and ate macarons from everywhere from famed bakery Laduree to the corner grocery shop, I still didn't *love* macarons. When I got an opportunity to eat them, I treasured the little sandwich cookies, but I wasn't really obsessed with them. I could take them or leave them.

My view changed after taking a macaron class last weekend at Bonbini pastry school. Successfully making these little baby macs (with the help of skilled instructor Thip of course :) ) piqued my interest in these macarons all over again. The recipes we made were really well thought out, and I really enjoyed making as well as eating them!

I have made macarons before, but it was nearly impossible for me to achieve consistent results. The class turned out to be a great idea because I learned the Italian meringue method, step-by-step. While the Italian method is a bit more complicated, it is worth it because the results are much more predictable. Every student was able to produce a batch of macarons with feet. We also learned how to make ganache by pairing dark, white, or milk chocolate with different kinds of flavorings. I can't wait to try to make them on my own next time!! :)

dry ingredients

checking the meringue
piping the shells- this is the teacher piping perfectly

piped shells- ready to go in the oven

ooh lala cute little baked shells

finished product (these are the ones I made personally!)

blue cheese, tangerine, rose-raspberry, and chocolate maccies!

The taste was really exquisite. Most were not super sweet which was a plus. I would say my favorites were the rose-raspberry and the blue cheese. The rose-raspberry brought to mind the classic Pierre Herme flavor combination. It was delicate and a little floral without tasting like a perfume. The blue cheese was surprisingly delicious. It was savory, but still retained the dessert quality of a macaron.

Overall, I would highly recommend this class to anyone in the SF bay area. You will learn a lot and best of all, you get a box of your work to take home with you!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Mushroom and bacon risotto

I was in Trader Joe's without a grocery list. (This always means trouble, because I end up buying a lot of random, nonpractical things.) As I looked through the rice and grains section, the arborio rice caught my eye. I have always been both intrigued and intimidated by the prospect of making risotto on my own. I've had it at restaurants many times, but making it at home always seems like a daunting task. From what I had heard, risotto requires constant attention- turn away for a moment and the batch could be ruined.

Nevertheless, I decided to give it a shot. Indeed, it did take about 30 minutes of constant attention, but it was well worth it. The risotto I made turned out to be creamy, flavorful, and with a slightly al dente chewiness. Still, the Asian girl part of me really wishes I could pop risotto ingredients into a rice cooker and come back 30 minutes to a perfectly cooked dinner. Maybe I'm onto something here?? (A quick Google search revealed that many other people have considered the same thing... look out for a later blog post!)


loosely adapted from


2 cups water
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups chopped cremini mushrooms
3 slices of bacon
1/2 cup diced onion
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp butter
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper


1. Bring water and broth to a boil in a small saucepan. Keep warm over low heat.
2. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute mushrooms until tender. Remove mushrooms, set aside.
3. Fry bacon in a large frying pan. Add onion and saute until translucent.
4. Add rice to the pan. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in wine; cook 2 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly.
5. Add broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of broth mixture is absorbed before adding the next (about 20 minutes total). Stir in mushrooms, grated cheese, and remaining ingredients.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Clam chowder

A friend recently asked if I cook every day. The answer is yes and no. Living alone, it is just not worth it to cook every day. Also, I am a busy student and I am usually too tired or too busy to cook a meal from scratch every single day. Instead, I use a variety of prepared foods (Trader Joe's is my best friend) and home cooked. When I cook from scratch, I usually don't reduce the portion size too much, so I usually end up with at least 2 meals for every time I light the stove. Generally you can eat the same meal or a similar one 2-3 days before getting tired of it.

I usually subside on easy meals: pasta, noodles, chicken, salad, soup. Pasta: I make whole wheat spaghetti or farfalle with things like peas, shrimp, mushrooms, pancetta, and/or spinach. Add a little garlic, lemon, light olive oil, and spices, and you have a fast simple meal. My other meals are simple also.

Sometimes I invest some time in a hearty soup that will last for days. In case you haven't noticed, I have a serious obsession with thick, chunky soups that are substantial enough for a meal. Canned soups are loaded with sodium and calories and are usually low on veggies and nutrients. Homemade soups are delicious and fresh, even if you are not super skilled at cooking.

Here's a recipe for clam chowder that is a bit healthier than the normal ones made with heavy cream.

Light Clam Chowder

adapted from Cooking Light magazine


4 turkey bacon slices
1 tub of mirepoix (I used one from Trader Joe's, but you could chop about 1 cup each of diced onions, celery, and carrots)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cans chopped clams, undrained
3 cups diced potatoes
1 bottle clam juice
1 bay leaf
3 cups fat-free milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour


1. Dice bacon. Cook bacon in a large pan until crisp. Remove about 1 tablespoon for topping, set aside.
2. Add mirepoix, salt, thyme, pepper, paprika, and garlic to drippings in pan; cook 4 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
3. Add clam liquid, potatoes, clam juice, and bay leaf to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until potato is tender. Discard bay leaf.
4. In a bowl, combine milk and flour, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture to pan; bring to a boil. Cook 12 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Add clams; cook 2 minutes. Sprinkle with bacon.

bubbling in the pot

Simple meal: chowder and caesar salad