First Time Camping with Kids!

As a kid, camping was a ritual. We would go what seemed like several times a year. Mostly the mountains but sometimes the beach. My cousins, my brother and I would climb rocks, play baseball in the meadow, build dams in the creek and toast marshmallows in the campfire. We had so much fun and made a lot of great memories.

I really want my kids to experience the same things I loved as a child and hope they love them just as much. So, this past weekend, I took them camping with my family for the first time.  This pictures is a reflection of their feelings about camping.campingwithkids

We arrived at Idyllwild Park on Friday and the girls loved the big rocks in our campsite. The first thing they did when we got out of the car was start climbing. This is my favorite park to camp at in the mountains. There is a lot to do within the campgrounds like hiking trails, a couple of meadows and a creek. Also, the town of Idyllwild is so cute!climbing rocks in idyllwild

After we got camp set-up, we took a little hike to the meadow. There was a tiny little wooden bridge over the completely dried up creek that we had to cross over to get to the meadow that the girls just loved. The girls ran over to the far end of the meadow where there were some logs arranged in a semi circle for special presentations the park puts on. Suddenly they started screaming and flailing their arms. Turns out, the log they kicked had a nest of yellow jackets and they were angry. The girls were stung at least 3 times each, their cousin once and my mom and my uncle got a couple. I was a slow poke and thankfully missed out on that party. The girls have never screamed so loud. The rest of the day, they sat fully covered and pouting in camping chairs.

The yellow jackets seem to only be bothersome when you have food out. We ate dinner after dark the first night so they weren’t a problem. They came out in the morning when they smelled bacon and sausage from the camp stove and when we started cooking dinner before dark. Other than that, and disturbing their nest, they were not a problem.

The next day, they seemed to have forgotten about their traumatic experience. They climbed the rocks, played with sticks, ate food and colored most of the day. They even sat at the table with the grown ups when we played Cards Against Humanity. They were coloring most of the time and had no idea what anything we were saying meant but they laughed along with us. 

idyllwild camping

 

idyllwild kids

They loved exploring the forest with their cousin and picking up rocks. They even found a piece of a branch that looked like a hammer and they used it to break open rocks (which didn’t actually work). I picked up these cute little lanterns for them at Target before we left on the trip and they were obsessed with them the whole weekend. They also loved sleeping in the tent and asked if they could do that at home too. 

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idyllwild camping with kids

My uncle brought his cat. This is Carl. He loves camping!

carl the camping cat

carl the camping cat

The only thing the girls really missed out on was a good campfire. Because of the drought in California and the massive amount of tinder in the forest, there was a fire restriction. We could not have a wood or charcoal fire. We did have a propane fueled fire pit but it’s just not the same unless your clothes and hair reek of campfire.

Overall, they liked camping but hate yellow jackets so they don’t want to go back there again. We will go again and hopefully they will keep themselves busy and not even notice the bugs. Maybe we’ll try the beach next time…..

idyllwild mornings

road home from idyllwild

idyllwild camping with kids

 

 

 

 

 

My torrid relationship with French macarons…from the beginning

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Oh, French macarons, how I love thee. Glorious little confections of meringue and cream. An amalgam of wonderful textures in a wee little cookie. It’s not hard to fall in love with them…unless you’re me. I’m about to say something that may shock a lot of people: I didn’t love my first French macaron. I actually, didn’t even really like it.

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Gossip Girls need food too…

Eek! I know, I know. How could I say such a thing? I just wasn’t impressed. I didn’t get why Blair Waldorf went nuts over those cute little French confections. I was told my heart would skip a beat at first bite. I felt lied to, betrayed. To be fair, I even tried a few more from different places and they grew on me a little but I still felt a little ambivalent towards them. I really, really wanted to love them. They are just too pretty! So I set out to make myself love them and that meant making them myself. Little did I know, they would consume my life for the next 3 years.

Continue reading… (you will be directed to my story at GirlsOnFood.net)

French Macaron Myths

delectable french macarons

The true origin of the macaron is debatable. What we know as a fact is that they started as a single almond meringue shell. It wasn’t until the mid-1800’s or 1900’s (another debate) that they became what we are now familiar with, the French macaron: two shells sandwiched together with filling.

What we can all agree with, though, is that they are difficult to make. Even the seasoned pastry chef still runs into issues. I’ve been making French macarons for about 2 years now, so I have some experience under my apron. I read everything I could find on the internet before I even attempted to try these things. Here are some common myths that I came across that I’d like to address…

1. You pronounce it wrong. (EH…You say tom-ay-toe, I say tom-ah-toe….) 

I think it would be acurate to claim that most Americans pronounce French macarons as “macaroonz”. The French probably cringe every time they hear us say that. In France, and probably most other countries, it is prounounced “ma-ka-rohn”. Rhymes with “on”, “Ron”, “Don-Juan”…

Some say “macaroon” is simply the English translation of “macaron”, however, if we are calling it what it is, macaron seems more appropriate. I say pronounce it however you want: it’s still delicious! 

When some people, mostly older folks, hear the word macaroon, they think of those little coconut bundles that are sometimes dipped in chocolate. Of course, French macarons are nothing like that at all. They are a meringue-based cookie with a filling sandwiched between two shells. The origins of macarons and macaroons are not too different though, so maybe that is the root of all of this confusion.

2. You can’t make them in the rain. (FALSE)

It’s raining as I type and I just finished making macarons. They came out perfect. Don’t let mother nature rain on your pastry parade. I make macarons almost every time it rains. Mostly because I make them 5 days a week so chances are good if it rains, it will be on one of those 5 days. I live in California and we are allergic to rain so we stay indoors. What a better way to pass the time than to bake macarons. 

The only guess I have as to why this myth started in the first place is that rain makes the air more humid, obvi, which is not a favorable environment for macarons. Now in California, the climate is on the dry side anyway so I haven’t really experienced problems related to extreme humidity. I can say that a humid room makes the resting period of macarons take a little longer. 

3. They are very very difficult to make… (TRUE…until you get the hang of it)

I almost cried the 3rd time I made macarons and they were still cracking. I was so frustrated that I gave up for awhile. Almond flour isn’t cheap so I hated wasting it. I read every piece of information I could get my hands on about macaron making before I tried again. After the 5th time, I got the hang of it and it’s been mostly an easy process. I’ve had some hiccups along the way but having a better understanding of the cookie has made fixing my mistakes a lot easier.

4. You have to age your egg whites. (FALSE)

When I first started making macarons, I read that I HAD to do this. It seemed like such a time suck. Some instructions said to leave them sitting on the counter for 6 hours, some said 6 days! 6 days? I could have eaten 100 macarons in 6 days. As the saying goes… “Ain’t nobody got time for that.” I’ve used eggs straight from the fridge, room temperature eggs, eggs I left out for 3 days….always the same result. Don’t bother!

5. You can’t make them with fresh eggs. (FALSE)

I’ve told people this before and they go on about how when eggs get to the market, they are already at least a week old so I am in fact using “old” eggs. Okay, maybe but I’ve also used very fresh eggs. Like REALLY fresh. Once when I was practicing making macarons, I was 1 egg short so I ran outside to our chicken coop and grabbed an egg. Can’t get any fresher than that. No problems.

6. Egg whites need to be room temp. (FALSE)

Although, room temp egg whites whip up a little faster, you’re wasting time waiting around for them to get there. I use cold eggs whites, cool egg whites and room temp egg whites. I always get the same result.

7. You must bake on non-stick Silpat mats. (FALSE)

I didn’t have these when I first started making macarons so I used parchment paper. I perfected my recipe and technique on parchement paper before I tried Silpat. I didn’t have to make any changes to the way I made them, using the different material. There are pros and cons to both. If you don’t have them, use parchment if you don’t want to make the investment. It’s all good!

Is there any information that you’ve read and are unsure about and would like me to address? Let me know in the comments!

Come back soon for my Macaron Tips, Tricks and Troubleshooting posts!

pink french macarons

5 Easy Appetizers // Perfect Party Plates

Here is a roundup of 5 easy appetizers you can take to any party this Labor Day weekend. 

The last thing you want to do while preparing for a party is spend loads of time in the kitchen. These party appetizers are not only crowd-pleasing but super easy to make, leaving you more time to hang out by the pool then sweat your butt off in the kitchen. These are the perfect party appetizers!

 1. BLT Skewers

Who doesn’t love a BLT? These fly off the plate every time I make them. They require a little prep but assembly is a breeze. All you do it skewer a tortellini, a piece of bacon, a chunk of iceberg lettuce and a tomato. You can drizzle each skewer with some honey mustard and call it a day. Get the recipe here.

salad skewers

 2. Caprese Dip

This is the easiest easy appetizer on my list. Add chunks of cheese, tomatoes, chopped basil leaves and some garlic powder to an oven safe bowl. Bake for 20 minutes and serve. Get the easiest recipe ever here.

caprese dip

 3. Bacon Wrapped Little Smokies

A staple at most get-togethers with my husbands family. Every single person takes a plate full. They can’t get enough. You can assemble these a day ahead and keep them in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake. Get the yummy recipe here.

bacon wrapped weiners

 4. Avocado Salsa Rolls

These are one of my favorite easy appetizers that I’ve ever made. I suggest doubling the recipe as I usually eat half of them when I’m plating them. Turn your back and they will be gone….Get the irresistible recipe here.

avocado salsa rolls

 5. Prosciutto and Fig Crostini

I like to save this easy appetizer for fancier parties. A pool full of drunk college guys will not be able to appreciate this gorgeous hors-d’oeuvre. Get the recipe here.

prosciutto fig crostini

 

Check out more of my easy appetizers here.

Spicy Habanero Cheese Enchiladas

homemade cheese enchiladas

I love enchiladas. I may have mentioned this before but I always tell my husband that if I get another tattoo, it’s going to be of an enchilada. Possibly wearing a sombrero, dancing around in a puddle of red sauce. For reals….

Anywho, I found these amazing, delicious, ridiculous habanero flour tortillas from Lucky Habanero at the farmers market and I’ve been in love since first taste. My husband loves them too. Just a house full of tortilla love. They are a fairly new product and I think they may be available at our local SoCal farmers markets only right now but check out their site on where to buy (their salsa is amazing too!). And pin this recipe so you can make them when you get your hands on them! If you are not in SoCal and can’t find these tortillas, don’t fret. You can use regular flour or corn tortillas with this recipe. The sauce will be the winner here.

So, one night I was preparing my easy cheese enchiladas and then I thought maybe, just maybe, you could raise the deliciousness by adding a habanero flour tortilla during the preparation process and it turns out, I was right. And also that I’ve seen Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion 10 too many times.

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I’ve changed the way I make my easy cheese enchiladas a little but they are still easy. I switched from using canned sauce to the homemade enchilada sauce recipe from Gimme Some Oven. It’s seriously so much better than any canned sauce I’ve ever tried and well worth the extra effort. I also always use flour tortillas too. My Mexican friends would slap me but I just love the texture after they are baked and these habanero tortillas are crazy good. They add so much flavor! 

If you love my easy cheese enchiladas, give these a try! I guarantee you will love them even more. And if you don’t then you can slap me too.

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Spicy Habanero Cheese Enchiladas
Yields 6
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
35 min
Sauce
  1. 2 Tbsp canola oil
  2. 2 Tbsp flour
  3. 4 Tbsp chili powder
  4. 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  5. 1/2 tsp salt
  6. 1/4 tsp cumin
  7. 1/4 tsp oregano
  8. 2 cups chicken stock
Enchiladas
  1. 4 cups grated cheese, pepperjack & cheddar are a great mix (reserve about 1/2 cup for topping)
  2. 6 Lucky Habanero flour tortillas (regular flour or corn tortillas work too)
  3. handful of chopped green onions for topping
For sauce
  1. Heat canola oil in a small pot over medium-high heat. Add flour and stir together over the heat for one minute. Stir in the remaining seasonings.
  2. Slowly add in the stock, whisking constantly to remove lumps. Reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes until thick.
For enchiladas
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Pour some of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of a square baking dish, enough to cover bottom. Dip tortillas in sauce to coat (sometimes I skip this step if I don't feel like getting my hands dirty) and fill each with about 1/2 cup grated cheese. Roll and place seam side down in baking dish.
  2. Pour remaining enchilada sauce over the top of the tortillas. Sprinkle reserved 1/2 cup of cheese over the top. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until bubbly. Remove and sprinkle with sliced green onions.
Notes
  1. Enchilada sauce is best when used right away but you can make ahead and refrigerate up to two weeks.
Delectable http://delectablebakehouse.com/

Australia’s amazing cakes

I was first introduced to the amazing cakes coming out of Australia through Instagram. Thanks to the recent revamp of the Explorer (i.e. Stalker) page, I was inundated with photos of people’s kids, their meals and, most importantly, their desserts. Photos of colorful and eccentric cakes kept catching my eye and they all seemed to be coming from bakers and decorators in the same country: Australia!

They are works of art. Each one unique, over-the-top and amazingly gorgeous. They use bright colors, cookies, candies, flowers, fruits and chocolates to decorate not just the tops but all around. So many layers and elements of gorgeous goodness, I wouldn’t even want to eat them! Here are some of my favorites so far…

Unbirthday

Incredible use of colors, candies and fresh flowers. Their cakes are perfectly over-the-top and eye-catching.

(photos from: un-birthday.com)

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Katherine Sabbath

Possibly her most famous cake, the melting ice cream cone cake, has been emulated by many. All of her cakes are whimsical in nature and brightly colored. She is the master of the dripping ganache and unicorn-like chocolate shards.

(photos from: Katherine Sabbath on Instagram)

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Cakes By Cliff

Cliff’s cakes are designed on paper and reflect his background in architecture. They are works of art with their chocolate sculptures and beautifully arranged decorations.

(photos from: cakesbycliff.com)

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I’d love to hear what you think of these amazing cake designers. Are there others you love too?

Pink Lady Cocktail

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This cocktail post was inspired by the finale of Mad Men. I’m a sucker for anything mid-century. My grandparents lived in a Cliff May designed neighborhood in Long Beach, CA for most of my childhood. They had access to the vacant home next door at one time and my brother, cousins and I used to go inside the house and play. It was the perfect place for us to play with floor to ceiling windows, an open floor plan and a path that went all around the exterior of the house so we could chase each other endlessly. The kitchen was all original and avocado green. That house was like a time capsule and I loved every bit of it and my grandparents house next door. So many memories! It has stuck with me all of these years. I don’t have an avocado green kitchen or anything but I do have a deep love for anything from that era from furniture to tv shows. Like Mad Men.

For years, my girlfriends and I have said we wanted to host a Mad Men style cocktail party complete with costumes and retro hors d’oeuvre’s. The finale kind of snuck up on us and we were busy doing a million other things so this party slipped through the cracks. We still got together to watch the Mad Men finale though and we even ended up making some appetizers and this adorable retro Pink Lady Cocktail to get us in the mood.

Variations of the Pink Lady Cocktail have been around for nearly a century but gained popularity again in the 60’s and 70’s when “girly” drinks became a thing during that time. It’s slightly creamy and a little “Pepto” looking with the perfect balance of sweet and tart. It’s pink and delicious yet dangerous. Pace yourself…

Pink Lady Cocktail
Yields 2
Write a review
Print
Ingredients
  1. 2 oz gin
  2. 1 oz lemon juice
  3. 1 oz grenadine
  4. 2 oz cream
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a collins glass filled with ice.
Adapted from Cocktails A-Go-Go
Adapted from Cocktails A-Go-Go
Delectable http://delectablebakehouse.com/
pinkladycocktail2 (864 x 1296)

 

Hi! I’m Nichelle

I am a work at home mom to the most extraordinary twin daughters. When I'm not baking or selling French macarons, I'm doing other things in the kitchen, cleaning or killing time on Pinterest while simultaneously catching up on my Netflix shows.

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