And He's Off...

My littlest one started kindergarten last week. He's the one that's almost single-handedly carried Mike and I through some tough stuff over the past three years with his ability to find humor in literally everything. Nothing gets him jazzed more than making us laugh...which isn't hard. This dude is funny.

So off to kindergarten he went on Friday. I cried more than I thought I would. Wasn't nearly as prepared for the final send-off as I imagined I'd be.

The day before school started, Otto and I drove some old country roads. He fell asleep in the car on the way and when he woke up, we were in the woods, off to hike and paint. Then there was ice cream and doughnuts before heading back to the Smith Homestead to brag...of course... to the brothers about the adventure.

The last two pictures are to be credited to Otto Rockand Smith, who takes pictures whenever, wherever he can.


Handpainted Raw Cashew Macarons

When I have to be away from home, either work or play, it never fails that I yearn for time in the kitchen. Even though I didn't start cooking until I was married...and didn't start cooking well until after I had children, the kitchen feels more familiar to me than most any other place on Earth.

So this week, after I had been away for a handful of days, I asked Canaan, "did you miss me while I was gone?". His response was this: "Well I really missed your cooking. And the way you keep everything nice around the house. You're really good at that mommy stuff." I smiled. Partially because that's such a guy response from my nearly teenager. But more than anything, in that moment I felt deeply content with my role in these boys lives. Both the tangible and intangible pieces and parts of bellies fed and the comforts of home.

But lets talk about macarons. They aren't my most favorite dessert to eat...but they might be one of my favorites to make. The headlines you read about macarons being a tricky beast to tame are true. I've had more than my fair share of flat-as-a-pancake macarons emerge from the oven. Still good enough to eat, but definitely not Parisian worthy.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a handpainted macaron and it paralyzed me with some major surges of creative impulse. Despite my love of both art and cooking, I've never had a hankering to sink my teeth into cake decorating or sugar sculptures. But this. This! I could do this...maybe. If I could get my macarons to rise.

So yesterday, girded with gumption and a bit of time, I dove in.

I wanted very 'clean' looking macarons. No flecks of brown skin from almonds. And as a major risk taker in life who often will bet everything on an instinct and belief, I passed over the traditional almonds and went for more visually pure, raw cashews.

The two most time consuming parts of macarons are this: 1. making nut flour  2. giving the macaron batter time to form a crust before baking.

Otherwise, macarons are easy peasy to make. Don't be intimidated!!! Set aside time to do it right and you'll get it right. Promise.

Below, the recipe. Please consider buying a kitchen scale. I know you've read that before and passed right over the advice. But its time. A kitchen scale will cost you about $10 at the grocery store and is not a wasted purchase. The more I bake, the more I have relied on accurate measurements of ingredients to get me the result I desire. And what's the point in buying ingredients and putting in the effort to get a substandard result? Incomprehensible!

The handpainting is totally by choice. It was my therapy after a few tiring days. If you do want to paint your macarons, obviously use food coloring- not art-grade paints. I used a small watercolor brush and only three colors (red, blue and green). They are easy to paint. No real trick to it. But I would suggest you paint it with the macaron on a flat surface, as opposed to holding it between your thumb and index finger. Holding the macaron lends to squeezing the macaron which results in potential cracking. Serious disappointment.

So without further adieu....Raw Cashew Macarons....