Friday, July 5, 2013

Kitchen Krazy: Chocolate Banana Macarons

Macarons are easily one of my favorite foods, and I absolutely love making up my own batches right at home. The thing I love most about making the little cookies would have to be the endless possibilities of shells and fillings. I'm always so excited when I'm mixing up the batter for the shells, because I know they'll turn into these delicious, crisp sandwiches that I just can't get enough of. While searching on the internet, I came across a chocolate banana macaron recipe from Design Bake Run and I knew I had to make that combination next. So Tuesday morning I made a batch and they were absolutely delicious. I added some pink food coloring to the banana cream because, well, pink just makes them look so much more adorable :)

Chocolate Banana Macarons

macaron batter:
1 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup almond meal
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar

banana buttercream filling:
1/2 of a medium size ripped banana
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar


to make the macaron batter/shells:
  1. line two baking sheets with parchment paper and have a pastry bag with a plain tip (about 1/2-inch, 2 cm) ready.
  2. sift together the powdered sugar, almond meal and 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder so there are no lumps. set aside.
  3. in the bowl of a standing electric mixer (or if you prefer, you can use a bowl and hand mixer), beat the egg whites until they begin to rise and hold their shape. while whipping, beat in the granulated sugar until very stiff and firm, about 2 minutes.
  4. carefully fold the dry ingredients, in two batches, into the beaten egg whites with a flexible rubber spatula. when the mixture is just smooth and there are no streaks of egg white, stop folding and scrape the batter into the pastry bag (standing the bag in a tall glass helps if you’re alone).
  5. pipe the batter on the parchment-lined baking sheets in 1.35-inch circles evenly spaced one-inch apart.
  6. rap the baking sheet a few times firmly on the counter top to flatten the macarons. then let it sit for at least 30-60 minutes depending on humidity before baking them in the oven. about 10-15 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 350 degrees f. bake for 15 minutes.
  7. once macaron shells are out of the oven, let them sit for 30-60 seconds before removing the hot baking sheet underneath. let the macarons cool completely before removing them from the parchment paper.

for the banana buttercream filling: 

  1. beat the banana and butter in a medium size bowl using a hand mixer until combined.
  2. then add in the powdered sugar and keep beating/mixing until fully incorporated and at the right consistency. if it's too thin, add in a little more powdered sugar. otherwise, if it's too stiff, thin it a tad with a little bit of milk, a teaspoon at a time.

to assemble the macaron cookies:

  1. before assembling these cookies, make sure to pair up all the cookie shells so they are as close as possible in size.
  2. using a knife, spread a good amount of the banana buttercream on the inside of the macarons then sandwich them together.
  3. let them stand at least one day (keep them refrigerated) before serving (serve at room temperature), to meld the flavors.

store in airtight container for up to 5 days. makes 20-24 macarons.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Independence Day! I hope you all had a fantastic day celebrating our nation's independence with hot dogs and good old apple pie. I wish I could say I did, but sadly I had to spend the day working an 11 hour shift in the pouring rain. But now that I'm home, I get to enjoy watching Independence Day with the family, a tradition we always ensure happens every July 4th. 

Do you guys have any fun traditions? Normally we have a cookout, but all of the kids worked while the parents had the day off, so they saw a movie while we worked hard for our money. But now we're all together, at least enjoying a Fourth of July night together. And now there's some ice cream with my name on it! So I hope you guys enjoy the rest of your holidays and let's hope aliens don't take over the world today...but if they do I'm definitely expecting Will Smith to come out and save the day :)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

July Goals

Sorry I've been MIA for the past couple of days. I'm finally home from London and there's just so much I have to catch up on after being gone for 6 weeks! I spent all of Sunday writing my 9 page final paper for one of my classes, so that wasn't too much fun. Then, I spent Monday and Tuesday running errands with my sister and going shopping. Haha, yes, shopping was definitely a must for me as soon as I got home! It's been a fantastic couple of days, but now it's to face reality and get back to work.  

Now that it's back to normal life for me, I have a ton of goals for this month. When I was studying abroad, I didn't have enough room to pack yarn and needles, so I went through some serious knitting/crocheting withdrawal. Since I'm finally home, I can't wait to spend hours upon hours working away at my different projects. I started a pink and blue chevron afghan that I am already in love with, even though I've barely made a dent in it. I'm excited to see how it turns out after working on it all summer as I try to watch every single James Bond movie ever made with my sister. Doesn't that sound like the perfect way to spend the summer?

Another huge goal for me is organization. I had a little mix-up yesterday regarding my posting date for a book tour on my book blog and it was the worst feeling in the entire world. I guess the dates got all mixed up in my head as I came home and tried to get everything all organized and back to normal. I really want to focus on keeping a calendar and writing EVERYTHING down exactly when I need to get them done. Here's hoping this summer can be organized and stress free! I hope you guys have an excellent month and a fantastic fourth of July!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Wardrobe Wishlist: travel Time

Today I'm leaving London and heading back home to Ohio! That means I've got hours of travel time ahead of me and I know I'm going to want to be as comfortable as possible during my flight across the pond. 

Though I am definitely not a frequent flyer, my trip to London taught me some pretty important things when it comes to a travel wardrobe. The first major thing I learned was bring a sweater! I would get hot and cold throughout the long flight to London and while waiting hours in the airport, so it was great to have a big, comfy sweater to be able to put on when I was cold and simply take off when I got too hot. And I love fun graphic tees, so of course I fell in love with the quirky little pug in glasses t-shirt from Modcloth. 

Another thing I now know to make sure I have on flight is a nice, big carry on bag to put all of my books, puzzle books, iPod, and anything else that will keep me occupied. I have so much more stuff going home than I did coming here, and I have no idea how that happened! Haha, I guess I accumulate a lot more in a 6 week period than I thought. But I have a big carry on bag to ensure that everything fits and is easily accessible during the flight. 

I'm so sad I'm leaving London, but at the same time I can't wait to get back to Ohio and finally have my summer! Lazy days with my sister on our days off of work sound so nice! I absolutely can't wait :)

Friday's Favorites

My last week in London is coming to a close and I've never had a more bittersweet moment. While I've absolutely loved my time here in the city for the past six weeks, I can't wait to go home, see my family, and get back into the swing of American life. I've got one more day here before flying home on Saturday, so hopefully it's a fantastic day! I'm planning on heading to my favorite place, The Borough Market, for lunch and then we're having a group dinner at the pub around the corner from our flats. Everything in between is still up in the air. I guess we'll see what happens! I hope you all have a wonderful Friday as well :)

1) This redecorated chair looks so cute! And it looks super easy to do!

2) Aw, I would love to have these Harry Potter pencils!

3) It's a mug cake! I'm definitely going to have to try making one of these this summer. 

4) I'm going to miss London so much when I leave. I would love to visit in the winter and see all of the snow :)

5) Mmmm I could totally go for a big box of donuts right now. 

6) How cute is this elephant shaped pancake?

7) Why yes we are :)

8) Ahhhh I used to LOVE watching PB&J Otter

9) You can never have enough fun notebooks!

10) Now THAT is the right way to do breakfast.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

London Afternoon Tea: Take Three

It's official. I'm obsessed with afternoon tea. 

After our first not-so-great tea, we were determined to experience the amazing afternoon tea everyone raves about in England. How could anyone think that one scone and one chelsea bun counted as a tea? Well, I don't know. So some girls in my flat and I decided to go out and try out luck again for a second afternoon tea and we absolutely loved it. There were scones, sandwiches, pastries, and delicious tea. And don't forget the macaron! Needless to say, I was incredibly happy after that day of an authentic afternoon tea. 

Since we had such an amazing time at our second tea, we decided to have afternoon tea one more time while we were here. So, we found a 2 for 1 deal at Number Twelve and made our reservation for four. The restaurant was really cute but the service was not as great as our second tea. The two servers had thick foreign accents and had trouble understanding our American accents. But once they figured out we had a reservation and we wanted the afternoon tea, everything turned out to be spectacular. 

I ordered the Chamomile Citron tea, which came in a clear pot on top of a clear teacup and saucer. It was different, but ended up looking really cool. We each got four different kinds of tea sandwiches, 2 scones, a strawberry fruit tart, a slice of fruit cake, and a cupcake. It may not seem like a lot, but after having all of the food and two pots of tea each, we were stuffed in the end. But we had so much fun spending two hours sipping our tea and eating our delicious tea food. 

This tea was definitely a lot sweeter than the other one in regards to food, and I absolutely loved it. While I still think the service and environment was the best at our second tea, this one left my stomach feeling the most content. I'm going to miss afternoon tea when I go back home, but I've already made plans with my best friend to have our own tea when she comes back from London in 5 weeks. How could I have gone so long without realizing the magical experience of afternoon tea? 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Wardrobe Wishlist: Day in the Park

There are so many parks around London that I've been longing for the chance to go to one and just read for the entire day. Sadly, I've always got stuff going on, but maybe for my last week here I'll spend an hour or two on a sunny afternoon, reading in the park.

The perfect outfit for the park would definitely involve breezy clothes with tons of colors! And don't forget the big purse to fit everything I could ever need in it. The perfect purses are the ones that seem absolutely endless and can easily fit a nice, big book and all of my other things.

The weather has cooled down here in London to the low 60s, but it's supposed to get up to 70 before I leave! And then it's home to 90 degree weather next week! I know that's pretty hot, but I couldn't be more excited to finally feel the summer weather. I'll definitely be living in tank tops and shorts for the rest of my summer. I hope you guys are soaking up the sun as summer sets in, enjoying the sunny days full of good books and tan lines :)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Friday's Favorites

Holy cow, is it Friday already? That means I only have seven days left in London before it's back to the States for me! It's so bittersweet thinking about it because while I'm going to be so happy to go home, I'm going to miss this amazing city. I just have to make sure my last week here is one to remember forever and go out with a bang :) Hope you all enjoy your weekends! 

1) I love these state posters with the heart over your city. I'd love to make one for my own apartment one day. 

2) I really love these two 3D phone cases. They're so fun!

3) Awwww these penguins are so gosh darn cute!

4) This heart pie is SO COOL. I definitely have to try out making my own sometime. 

5) I love these sunglasses. Like a lot. 

6) Hehe, this print could not be more true. 

7) Look! Star Wars bathing suits! How cool is that?

8) Yet another awesome Harry Potter cake! Maybe someday I'll finally make one of my own...

9) Mmmm I've been craving a nice, big bowl of fries for some reason. These make my mouth water!

10) Look at the pretty truffles! Any food that is as fun colored as these has my name written all over it :)

Chinatown and Yummy Buns

Chinatown has officially become one of my favorite places in London. I've gone there for lunch the past two days in a row and I had to restrain myself from not going back again today. What I love most there are the bakeries and their insanely inexpensive buns! 

For only around 1 pound each, I have tried different types of buns and they are all (well, almost all) so insanely delicious. My favorites would have to be the BBQ pork bun and the custard bun. I've had each of them twice and my mouth waters just thinking about them. The buns themselves are super sweet, so when you get to the savory middle of the pork bun or the even sweeter part of the custard bun, you're already in heaven. Mmm I could definitely eat them for the rest of the time I'm here!

As for the red bean bun, I had no idea what to expect. Red bean pastries are everywhere in Chinatown and I knew I just had to try one. So I picked out a red bean bun. In the beginning, it was pretty good with the sweet bun evening out the red bean part. But when I got to the red bean center, the flavor was just too much and I couldn't finish. So maybe red bean pastries just aren't for me. That's okay, I think I'll be perfectly happy with the pork and custard buns :)

And I finally tried bubble tea! I decided to go with cold Strawberry milk tea with tapioca pearls and I'm still not sure what I think. The Strawberry milk tea was actually really good, but the pearls were just chewy little balls with no real flavor. I guess you can ask for flavored pearls at some shops, so maybe I'll try that next time. The chewy nothingness of the tea I got, though, had me feeling odd. Hopefully my next bubble tea is better!

Not only does Chinatown have delicious food, but there are so many opportunities for adventures in food. I would love to try out even more of what they have to offer, including their creme buns, dim sum, and maybe even some duck. I have to go back soon because the endless possibilities and anticipation are killing me!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Wardrobe Wishlist: Summer Lovin'

Yesterday, I actually started sweating when I was walking home from the grocery store. What? Is this real life? Does it actually feel like summer in London? Back home, it's been in the 80s and I've been super jealous. I know, the hot, sticky summer weather sucks, but after such a long and brutal winter, I have been craving those long summer days where you can sit outside in a tank top with a glass of lemonade, wasting the day away with your nose buried in a book. But before that weather came to Ohio, I was off to London where it's in the 50s and 60s ALL THE TIME. Needless to say, I was ecstatic that the weather reached the 70s. 

Of course, that made me want to go to my flat right away, put on a summer dress, and spin around in circles. Haha, I wish I actually did that. But instead I headed straight to my computer and put together an outfit I would love to wear on a summer day. I found an adorable floral dress that I just had to pair with some Ked-like shoes. For some reason, I love the look of Keds with dresses and Keds are always my go-to shoes when I want to be comfortable when I'm walking around while wearing a dress. You can't tell from the picture, but these shoes had sparkly laces, which make them that much more fabulous. 

And lastly, this outfit would not be perfect for summer without all of the color. With blues, yellows, oranges, and greens, you can't help but get the bright, summer vibe. Oh how I wish I was wearing this outfit right now! I hope you guys are having fantastic summer weather and have found the right outfit to celebrate the sun :)

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Magical World of Harry Potter

This past friday, I had the most magical day of my life. The reason? Harry Potter London Studio Tour

I don't even know where to begin in describing how fantastic my day was at the studio of Harry Potter. Our tour was for 12:30 and we didn't end up leaving the studio until almost 4pm. There was so much to see! We got to see the Great Hall, Dumbeldore's office, Umbridge's office, the Gryffindor common room, Diagon Alley, the Hogwarts model, the Ministry of Magic, the Weasley's Burrow, Hagrid's Hut, the Potions classroom, Number 4 Privot Drive, the Night Bus, and so much more. 

To say that I was in heaven is the biggest understatement. I felt like a little girl on Christmas morning who got everything she could ever want. I learned so much about the making of the movies and being there felt so real. Walking down Diagon Alley and drinking Butterbeer on the Hogwarts bridge was such a surreal moment and I loved every single minute of it. At every set/prop station, there were signs that had passages from the book that describes whatever was being shown there. It is amazing how they used even the tiniest details from the book and brought it to life in the movie. 

I wish I could explain every little thing I saw, but that would take hours to write it all down. So I picked my favorite parts of the tour to share in pictures! I think the Butterbeer was definitely the best part, because it was the most delicious drink I've ever tasted. I can't wait to find a recipe and make my own when I get home. Then, I treated myself to a chocolate frog from the gift shop (it was pretty expensive, but I just couldn't resist) and got Godric Gryffindor's card! And the chocolate frog was really yummy :) 

Needless to say, the Harry Potter Studio Tour was magical and I'm still giddy just thinking about it. My eyes were so wide and my jaw was literally glued to the floor because I was in awe of everything I was seeing. I'm so happy I was able to experience the world of some of my favorite books of all time. It's definitely an experience I will never, ever forget. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

London Afternoon Tea: Take Two

After quite a disappointing afternoon tea at the Cadogan Hotel my first week in London, I knew I had to try it out again. So, I went to the website Afternoon Tea Online and found a fanastic deal for 40% afternoon tea at the Doubletree Hilton Hotel. I looked at the menu, which included sandwiches, scones, cakes, and macarons. Now that is the kind of tea I was looking for. Not only did I want some tasty tea, but lots and lots of tasty treats as well. 

When we arrived at the hotel restaurant, we were about 40 minutes early because we were already in the area and starving. Thankfully, that was no problem for them! Our waiter immediately led us to a table in the black and purple restaurant area and took our order of what tea we would like. The tea was from The London Tea Company and I chose the Blackcurrant, Raspberry, and Cinnamon tea for my first pot. Soon after, the waiter brought out our pots of tea (we all got our own individual pots) along with a tier of our tea food. We were in awe of the tower of treats he placed on our table and were beyond giddy as we debated what to try out first. We decided to work our way up, starting with the tea sandwiches first. Each one was so different and I loved every single one. My favorite was probably the smoked salmon sandwich with the prawn, cucumber, and dill sandwich coming at a close second. 

Once we were done obsessing over how amazing the sandwiches were, we were ready to move onto the scones. With clotted cream and three types of jam (orange, a more tart orange, and strawberry), we chose our spreads and prepared the scones. One bite into them and we were total goners. How could a simple scone taste so heavenly? By then, we had all gone through our pots of tea (about 2 1/2 teacups worth) and were ready for another round. To our surprise and utter excitement, we could choose a new type of tea, so this time around I went with the Lemongrass, Ginger, and Citrus Fruits tea. It was a lot lighter than the first tea, but still oh-so-delicious and perfect for the dessert portion of the tea. As we finished up the scones and drank up more tea, we couldn't help but obsess over how amazing the experience was compared to our first tea. 

We decided to let our food settle for a bit before moving onto desserts, so we chatted some more while drinking even more tea for about twenty minutes. And then, finally, it was dessert time. We had a chocolatine, a framboisier, and a vanilla macaroon each. Oh my goodness, they were definitely the icing on the cake for this afternoon tea. I savored each and every bite and couldn't help but feel sad once I put that last piece of macaron in my mouth. There was not a single component of the meal I didn't like and I'm already dreaming of the next time I can have an afternoon tea with my friends. 

I am so happy I was able to find an afternoon tea that I can cherish and remember forever. With tiny sandwiches, sweet pastries, and delicious tea, London has yet again wowed me with its fantastic culture and food. Hopefully I can find one more place to have afternoon tea before I leave. This will definitely be one of the things I will miss the most when I got back home. Tea at home just isn't the same as a magical afternoon tea in England. 

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