Madeleines – Not Your Average Butch Cookies with Chunks

madeleinesBaking madeleines has been in my yearly 365 Things To Do List for the past seven years. It remained unticked until last night when I finally, FINALLY made some – and it was a hit on the first try. The kids loved it; so did my parents.

The main hindrance to my baking madeleines in the past was the lack of tray. I found pricey ones at a kitchen specialty store and meant to buy a couple. It’s fortunate that I put off the purchase because I found really cheap ones at Saizen (since it’s Saizen, you know it’s about Php88 each). There are just five molds per tray, but even if you buy several (which I did) they’ll still be cheaper than the other ones I saw (a 9-mold tray was around Php800, and the 12-tray one was well over a thousand).

madeleine trays

Anyway, I’m really thrilled that I finally got to try baking madeleines; now, we can add them to our usual tea party spread. Madeleines originated from northern France. The small buttery scallop-shaped cakes are like a cross between a sponge cake and a cookie. I’m sure there are numerous references to them in pop culture, but the one that really stuck with me is from an episode of Friends. Freddie Prinze, Jr. guested as Emma’s male nanny. As it was, he was the ideal child care provider. He had a degree in Early Childhood Care. He was super sensitive. He played the recorder to lull babies to sleep. And he baked madeleines. It just so happened that Ross was very uncomfortable with the idea of a male nanny, so they had to fire him. This was his commentary on Sandy’s (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) madeleines: “What kind of a guy makes delicate French cookies, huh? They’re not even butch, manly cookies with, you know, chunks!” Also, that they were lighter than air – so I knew that my madeleines had to be just as delicate. 🙂

So here I am, many years after I got to see that episode for the first time, learning to bake madeleines and play the recorder (I can do a really shrill “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Ode to Joy”)… Obviously, Sandy is my child care hero, lol.

Here’s the recipe I followed:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t lemon zest or 1/4 t lemon extract
  • 1 C confectioners sugar
  • 1 C  flour
  • 1/4 t baking powder
  • 1/2 C butter, melted and cooled
Preheat oven to 190 degrees C.
Beat eggs, vanilla and lemon zest/extract with an electric mixer on high speed for about 5 minutes. Gradually add the sugar, and continue beating for 5 minutes or until thick and satiny.
Mix the flour and baking powder. Sift the dry mixture a portion at a time over the egg mixture, and then gently fold in. Follow by folding in the cooled melted butter.
Grease and flour the molds, and then scoop batter into them (do not fill to the top).
Bake in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes or until the edges darken to a light brown or golden color. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack for a minute. Pry the cakes out of their molds (they would have eased off by themselves) or invert onto a rack and cool. Sprinkle some more confectioners sugar over the tops or dip the tips in melted chocolate.
This recipe gave us 24 madeleines. They were gone before you could say “C’est si bon.” Mark didn’t get to taste them. For every madeleine that Marguerite (6.5) had, Cameron (1.5) had 3.
"They didn't last long."

They didn’t last long.

Some random trivia: Madeleine was a close second to Marguerite as a name choice for our daughter.
Do you like madeleines? Do you think they make great petit fours? Do you think they taste like mamon?

Homemade Chocsicles: Sweet Summer Treat

ChocsiclesI’m not a fan of heat. Between that and the cold, I’d choose the latter. I like the cold, in fact. All you have to do is layer clothes and get a cozy fire going. When it’s hot, you can only remove so many clothes before you’re in your birthday suit. Also, the cold clears up my allergies, which are at their worst in hot muggy weather, which we get about 80% of the year here in the Philippines. Sometimes I really wonder why I choose to stay in the tropics, but that discussion is for another post. In any case, most summer days, the heat here is so oppressive that it’s all you can do not to pick a fight with any unfortunate creature that crosses your path. Or maybe you’re one of those who revel in the tropical climate, in which case your disposition would probably be much sunnier than mine. Even if that’s the case, I bet you like to indulge in cold treats, such as ice cream or halo-halo. If you’re a little low on the budget, you could freeze juice in slender baggies and make ice candy. My daughter has her own version of this: juice pops. She pours a glassful into an ice cube tray, cover it with cling wrap, and then poke a toothpick in the center of each cube. I, on the other hand, prefer my summer treat to be creamier, which is why I end up making homemade chocsicles to beat the heat. They’re cheaper and less complicated to make than fudgsicles, but are chocolate-y enough and have a consistency that I like (for some reason, the usual ice candy hurts my tongue). Anyway, here’s the recipe that I follow for chocsicles; see if your taste buds will find them pleasing as well.

Homemade Chocsicles

3/4 C sugar
3 T flour
3 T baking cocoa
4 C milk
10 popsicle molds (or the equivalent)

*semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

Mix sugar, flour, and cocoa in a saucepan.

Stir in milk about half cup at a time, until clumps are gone and dry ingredients are completely dissolved.

Bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer and stir until thickened, about 2 minutes.

Let cool before pouring into molds.

Optional: Add chocolate chips as you pour the mixture into the molds.

Set holders in the center of each mold.

Freeze until solid.

Here's an early morning chocsicle. We made this batch the night before and she was excited to have some in the morning. After making short work of a sandwich, she finally got her treat.

Here’s an early morning chocsicle. We made this batch the night before and she was excited to have some in the morning. After making short work of a sandwich, she finally got her treat.

Again, this is a fun and easy kitchen activity to do with your kids. Do you have your own recipe for popsicles? We’ll share our favorite recipes for fruit paletas soon.

Wholesome Snack: Homemade Cheese Crackers

crackers in a blue plateI’m huge on chips. Eating them was always a point of compromise during any of the many diet programs I tried in my younger years. I could easily consume an economy size bag in just one sitting. And feel remorse afterward. Anyway, I’ve definitely cut back big time since becoming a mother, but I still occasionally indulge the craving for them. I try not to go with store-bought versions and instead make our own. Besides potato, I’ve also tried making eggplant chips and tofu chips – unsuccessfully. My toasted chickpeas are okay, but Marguerite didn’t care for them when she was younger and I haven’t made any in a long time (Note to self: make some again sometime soon. I have chickpeas that have been waiting to be turned into hummus in the kitchen for longer than I care to remember.). However, my kids and I all like our homemade cheese crackers, so that’s certainly the working chips alternative that we have now. It’s also so fun to make. There’s an easy and shorter process, and there’s the longer, arm workout of a process. I tend to go for the latter for a few reasons: I could use the exercise, my daughter loves mixing things, and the food processor is at the bottom of a precariously stacked collection of  seldom-used kitchen doohickeys (we mostly use the blender).

I really recommend this snack as it’s definitely more wholesome than commercially produced versions. You know exactly what’s in it (no preservatives and artificial colors), and you get to spend time with your kids while making them. Here’s the recipe that we use:

Homemade Cheese Crackers

1 C flour
1 C shredded or grated cheese
4 T cold butter, diced into small pieces
1/2 t salt
1/2 t Spanish paprika
1/4 t cayenne pepper
5 T cold water

crackers on cookie sheetCombine all the ingredients except water in a bowl and mix thoroughly until well-blended. Many people prefer to use the food processor; we won’t judge. 🙂 Add water, one tablespoon at a time, blending some more after each addition, until dough comes together. Form the dough into a ball and then wrap with cling wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350F. Sprinkle flour on a smooth surface and your rolling pin. Roll the dough out until it is about ⅛ inch thick. Using a pizza cutter or pastry wheel, cut into 1-inch squares. Once squares are ready, use a skewer or chop stick to poke a hole in the middle of each square. As you can see, my daughter loved this part so much that we ended up with 2 or more holes in many of the cracker squares.

Place on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes until golden and crispy. Let sit in the oven for a couple more minutes before removing to let  cool on the counter. Do not over-bake. The crackers will crisp up more as they cool. You may store in a container for about a week. If the crackers get kind of soggy, you can crisp them up again in an oven for about 5 minutes.

Let us know if you get to try making some. What other seasoning would you care to use instead? Do you have other chips alternative to suggest? Hope to hear from you.

Cake Your Child Can Easily Make – Nutella Mug Cake

Nutella mug cake

Our first shot somehow got corrupted. Unfortunately, we’d already dug into the cake when the second shot was taken. One mug can be shared by two. That’s a lot of cake for one person.

As a child I was told not to play in the kitchen because it was dangerous, and I took the warning to heart, so much so that I never really learned to cook until I was in my late ’20s  and living on my own for the first time. I had to learn out of necessity, but as I got more into it, I began to find the activity quite enjoyable. Not that anybody would rave about my cooking or baking, but, still, I can do it and know enough about it to share the interest with my kids. The good thing about not having any existing family recipes to work with (I’m sure my mom has plenty of recipes, but kitchen work is not something we share) is that there are more opportunities for discovery and learning. These days, my daughter and I try many recipes for the first time, and more often than not, the first attempt is usually a disaster. However, with practice and lessons learned from the flopped version, the succeeding attempts are so much better, generally speaking. This is definitely the case for our mug cakes.

I love the idea of mug cakes. You just mix everything up in a mug, stir, and then nuke in the microwave. It takes all of 5 minutes. It’s quick, easy, and non-technical – the perfect first cake-making activity for kids. I blogged over at Spinning Lovely Days about our first mug cake adventure, the result of which was definitely underwhelming although Marguerite was still thrilled to have made cake “by herself”. It only required mixing cocoa powder, sugar, and an egg… a cake masterpiece it was definitely not. We resolved to find a better recipe and try it again. Anyway, last week I came across another mug cake recipe from Handimania. This time, it involved more ingredients, including Nutella, so I thought this would probably produce something more palatable. Marguerite and I set out to make one, and, fortunately, it was definitely much better. However, for me, it needed a little more sweetness, so I’ll definitely be adding buttercream frosting or spreading some more Nutella on top next time.

The very simple recipe is in the link above. Let us know if you tried and liked/disliked it. Do you have your own mug cake recipe to share? Drop us a comment. 🙂

Harvesting Aloe Vera Gel for Sunburn and Other Skin Woes

applying sunscreenAfter our church outing, we had a mild case of sunburn on our hands. Marguerite spent practically the entire day swimming and even if we had obsessively slathered her with sunblock, the skin on her nose still hurt. Since the sunburn was minor, we resorted to our usual remedy for most skin woes: aloe vera. This took a short trip to the garden where I broke off a leaf from our aloe plant. I then took it inside to harvest its gel.

Aloe vera is a really handy plant to have around. It’s very hardy, easy to propagate, and can be kept indoors. We’re certainly getting a lot of mileage out of our plant. Marguerite accidentally touched the hot lid of the rice cooker one time, and after soaking her hand in cold water, we dried it and applied some aloe gel. Some years back, she contracted ringworm on her leg and since she was only about 3 yo at that time, I didn’t want to put any strong medication on her. Aloe did the trick for that as well. Of course, that involved religious application several times a day, but in a short time, the ringworm was gone.

Harvesting aloe gel is a simple process. I usually just let the juice (aloin) drip first, after which I rinse the leaf, wipe it dry, cut it open lengthwise, and then run the knife along the skin to separate the gel. Once you’ve got the strip of gel out, you can cut it up into chunks to rub against your skin ailment. I haven’t tried eating aloe gel that I myself have harvested, but I’m eager to try it one of these days, probably in a smoothie as I hear it’s not the best-tasting. Disclaimer: This is obviously not a professional recommendation for treating skin troubles.

Of course, we’ve consulted with doctors over some of our more serious skin problems (thankfully, those are few and far between), but for minor stuff, we mostly just resort to aloe and baking soda (not together). What about you? What is your home remedy of choice for skin woes?

Using Both Yolks and Whites: Adventures in Homemade Ice Cream and Meringue

homemade chocolate ice creamArtisanal ice cream is something that many trendy individuals are raving about right now. And while I love ice cream as much as the next person, my penny-pinching ways stop me from indulging in homemade gourmet scoops. The idea of homemade ice cream, however, has always fascinated me. My mother had a couple of ice cream makers when I was a kid, but I don’t think she ever used them. They came from the US and worked on 110 volts. I suppose it was just boring to haul out the transformer to try our hand at ice cream making.

homemade vanilla ice creamFast forward to present day, my husband has been threatening to buy an ice cream maker and all I can do each time he brings it up is to remind him how the last kitchen doohickey (those all-in-one contraptions that did everything) he bought is now gathering dust in the cupboards. However, since the whole idea of homemade ice cream intrigued me as well, I did decide to avail of a free (at that time) Kindle book, Taste of Happiness – Homemade Ice Cream by Rachael T. I’ve tried the vanilla and the chocolate recipes so far and both passed muster. I bungled the chocolate a bit by using semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of chopped chocolate, so the flavor and texture were denser than intended.

Obviously, we don’t have an ice cream maker, but the book had instructions for those who aren’t using one. Ice cream turned out to be really easy to make and my daughter could actually help me in all of the steps.

The thing though is that the ice cream recipes indicated in the book called for egg YOLKS. Not one to waste food, I wondered what recipe only involved egg whites and naturally thought of meringue. I needed to make something that only needed 2-3 egg whites, so I ended up going for chocolate chip meringue cookies.

Here’s the recipe I followed:chocolate chip meringue cookies

3 egg whites

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

2/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Beat egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat some more. Continue beating while adding the sugar about 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat until stiff and sugar is completely dissolved. Gently fold in the chocolate chips. Using a teaspoon, scoop out meringue and place the blobs on the cookie sheets about an inch apart. Place the sheets in the oven about 5 minutes and then turn off the fire. Leave the cookies in oven for a couple of hours until they are crisp and dry. The number of cookies you make depends on how big your scoops are, but, with a teaspoon, this recipe should produce about 4 dozen cookies. We made ours a little bit bigger, so we ended up with less.

That was certainly a sweet afternoon over at our house. Marguerite and I will probably make another batch of meringue cookies to give to her teachers on the last day of her art class.

 * Our Lemonade Days is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Fun Learning in the Kitchen: Homemade Gummy Candy

Are you a fan of gummy candy? I can’t say that I am, but if I had to choose, I prefer the worms and I like them sour. I’m not really into candy, except chocolates, in which case, I must confess I’m a huge nut. Gummy whatevers (they come in all shapes nowadays), I can live without. On the other hand, my daughter, Marguerite, probably likes them as much as the next child. Her vitamins come in the form of gummy bears, and I must say, she does enjoy taking them. She’s not one to ask to buy candy when we’re at the store though. She’s not really the type of child who has to buy stuff when out “shopping”. I’m not sure if she’s simply too young (6) or if that’s just her personality. If that’s the case, then that didn’t come from me. I remember going to the mall with my parents and sulking when I didn’t get what I wanted.

Going back to gummy bears, however, she has been quite obsessed about them lately. Not about eating them, but rather making them. Through watching doll craft tutorials and Littlest Pet Shop videos (she’s really into LPS big time), she stumbled upon videos of people using those Japanese gummy candy kits. At first, she tried copying by using rock salt and water (that’s how the ingredients appeared to her), and she was happy enough to stir and hear the crunch-crunch sound of the salt scraping against the container. Later on, she had to have an end product as well. Unfortunately, the closest thing that she could associate with the jelly candy produced by those kits was her baby brother’s tooth gel. I’m afraid she’d emptied almost all of the entire tube’s content into a plastic box before I found out what she was up to. I suspect she’d tried the petroleum jelly before she dismissed it as an unsatisfactory substitute and moved on to the tooth gel.

I finally recognized that the activity was more than just pretend-play for her and decided to indulge her fascination. I googled “homemade gummy candy” and easily found recipes. It’s another one of those things that I never thought could be made in our own kitchen, with easily accessible, if not readily available, ingredients, and simple instructions. Thankfully, we have lots of molds from our chocolate lollipop-making days. I actually have more in storage from the time I tried making fun-shaped sugar cubes, but what I found in the cupboard was more than enough for our project. We did smileys, bears, roses, and plain cups.

Here is the recipe that we followed:

3 oz flavored gelatin

1 oz unflavored gelatin

1/3 cup of water

First we boiled the water and then added both flavored and unflavored gelatin, mixing the concoction thoroughly. We then scooped the mixture into the molds. The candy started setting almost right away. We left it alone for about 30 minutes just to make sure it actually set quite firmly. When we started prying the candy off of the molds, I thought perhaps we should have sprinkled cornstarch or something so it would be easier to pry loose (I’d expected it to pop off the mold just like with regular jello), but we just picked at one area of the candy and the rest of it could be pulled off the plastic quite easily – no breaking off into parts or bits at all. If the gummy candy is sticky to touch, a sprinkling of cornstarch is recommended, but our gummy candy was fine.

This was really easy to make, and Marguerite was able to help with the stirring, scooping and prying loose. We plan to make some more to give little pouches of the stuff to some of Marguerite’s friends.

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