Thursday, June 18, 2015

Chocolate Financier Cakes and Tea Parties

Growing up I adored a good tea party!  I used to make my little sisters dress up in frilly dresses and then invite neighborhood friends over and have fancy tea parties.  Ha...guess a lot of things don't change over the years : ) This love of tea parties evolved into me collecting mini tea sets until I was  teenager...when all was said and done I had over 30 mini tea sets!  I saved a few of my favorite sets for when I have a daughter (if I am so blessed)...maybe she will throw tea parties and invite her super cool mommy : ) 

My other encounter with tea parties was when I was a Senior in High School and living with 2 friends from school and 2 sweet old ladies who were also sisters.  Every afternoon at exactly 4pm we would gather around the round kitchen table and have tea and a snack.  I had decided I actually didn't like "real" tea at this point in my life - they would offer it to me every day and I would always say, "no thank you, I don't like drinking dirty water!"  Guess I preferred the make believe tea I would drink when I was younger instead.  : ) The 5 of us would chat about our days and we would listen to the old sisters tell stories from their childhoods.  I have fond memories of that year, and whenever I now drink "real" tea I think of the lovely Philbin and Hennessy sisters.

When we were in France we visited with my husband's distant relatives.  As soon as we arrived at their home we sat down to tea on their back porch overlooking their beautiful garden.  It was a damp and chilly day so the hot tea was so welcomed!  They served us a lovely loaf of sweet bread, I believe it was Brioche, with some amazing homemade fruit jam.  In that moment I am pretty sure I truly experienced what it was like to be French and live in France....certifiably the most "French" moment of our trip. : )
While we were in Paris I tried a few pastries that I had never heard of.  One of those was the Chocolate Financier cakes.  This cake was so moist, delicious, and simple that I had to try and replicate it when I got home.  I just threw a bridal shower tea for my friend and decided there was no better occasion to make these cakes then now!  They ended up being moist little brownie like bites with the texture of the ground almonds being an amazing combination of deliciousness!  
Tea Party Menu:  Fresh Crudites and hummus, ham/spinach/and piave cheese quiches, curried chicken sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches, oat scones with assorted jams, fresh fruit salad, chocolate financier cakes, shortbread cookies, roasted peach lemonade, and assorted teas.
This may get confusing...hang in there : )

 I used my scale to make these and realized the non weighed measurements seemed very off to me...I am posting the original recipe and then my notes on the side of each ingredient.  For best results use a scale for this recipe.
Chocolate Financiers
adapted slightly from Chef Eddy Van Damme Blog

1 ½ Cups (5 oz) Sliced almonds or almond meal 
(if you use sliced almonds, make sure you end up with 1 1/2 cups of ground almonds)

1 Cup (8 oz)  Extra fine granulated sugar 

½ Cup minus 1 TBSP (2 oz) All purpose flour 
7 large (7 oz) Egg whites 

(I ended up only using 5 large eggs to get 7oz of egg whites)

½ teaspoon Salt (table not kosher)
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Almond extract
1 ½ sticks (6 oz) Unsalted butter

(6 oz ended up being 2 sticks minus 1 TBS of butter for me- most sticks of butter from the grocery store say they are 4 oz each, but really they are not)

4 oz Bittersweet chocolate or chocolate chips, 60% cacao 

Grease your mini muffin pans and set aside. (you can also make these in any form you like...regular muffin pans, some loaf pans, etc...just keep in mind the bake time will have to be adjusted accordingly)

If you are using sliced almonds instead of almond meal - Place the sliced almonds with the sugar and flour in a food processor and process until the almonds are finer than cornmeal and then transfer to a bowl. Mix the almond meal (or ground up almonds), flour, and sugar together in a large bowl until combined.  

Add the egg whites, salt, vanilla and almond extract and mix together using a rubber spatula.

Cut the chocolate into small pieces, or just leave as if if you are using chocolate chips, and combine with the butter. Melt over barely simmering water (double boiler), the bowl not touching the water. Remove from heat when ¾ of the chocolate is melted.  Stir until all the chocolate is melted and add to the above, stir until combined.
Fill the mini muffin tins ¾ full and bake in a 350⁰F (180⁰C) oven until the center of the financier cakes bounce back when lightly pressed with a finger. About 12-15 minutes for the mini muffin pans. For other sizes bake until the center of the cakes bounce back when pressed.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes and remove from pan.  

I just ate the last one yesterday, so I know for a fact 4 days later they still taste amazing!

This recipe may be confusing, but it is so worth it in the end!  I see myself making them again soon!

Let's all work to bring back the lovely tradition of afternoon tea.  
Then invite a friend over for tea and these financier cakes.

Eat your heart out,


Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 
- Colossians 3:12-14 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Being Content and Beef Tacos!

Let's be real folks.  Its time for my quarterly free therapy session.  Let's do this.

Do you ever feel like you are not good enough?  

Not kind enough, not happy enough, not fit enough, not positive enough?  

Ug...that's been me recently.  I have been stuck in this rut of feeling so inadequate at everything in my life.  My faith, my family, my job, my home, my ministry, my friends...the list is never ending!  

Thing is, I am fully aware of all these feelings in my life, and I am fully aware that I am not doing a good job handling and coming to terms with them.  I find myself ragging on myself for not being more content with my life, for not being positive and optimistic, for not being able to handle it all, for not being the best version of myself.  

CONTENT.  This word is my arch nemesis in life.  I struggle with it so dang much!  I wish I could be easy going and relaxed, and sit down and enjoy the company at my house instead of being made uneasy by all the dishes in the sink and my messy kitchen.  I am 100% a Martha who has always wanted to be a Mary...Mary always seemed so peaceful and content with her life where as Martha was uneasy and a busy bee all the time.  I don't know if I struggle with being content because I am a competitive person competing against myself, or because my insane Type-A slightly OCD personality is off the charts cray cray.

If you could see the browsing history from my computer recently you would laugh...

Google Searches:

"How to be an easy going person"
"How to have an optimistic perspective on life"
"How to be content"
"How to be better at everything in your life"
"How to loose 5 pounds by being a part time vegetarian"
"How to kill time at work when you have no work"
"How to make a green smoothie that doesn't taste like dirt"
"How to throw a tea party for adults"
"How to build authentic community"

Breathe.  Remember to breathe.

Stop trying to juggling all the balls at once while you ride a unicycle and whistle.
"Have courage and be kind"
 Be grateful by counting your blessings. Be content by being grateful.

 I recently heard this quote on the radio and it really resonated with me:

"I always thought people wanted me to be perfect so I could help them. If I reached out for help myself , I had reasoned, I would lose my perceived usefulness. But the truth is, all I have to offer anyone else is a life surrendered to Christ so that His beauty and grace shines through my brokenness. The greatest gift we can give each other is a willingness to share our imperfection and accept each other just the way we are. There is freedom in such a gift." - Shelia Walsh

Praying that I become more accepting of myself and others.  Praying that I find goodness and kindness in all situations and people that surround me.  Praying that I allow "His beauty and grace to shine through my brokenness".

Prayers that you find peace and contentment in your life, and with whatever you are struggling with.

Then...I go and make these tacos that I can find no fault with.  YES!  I got it right!  Gold star for me! 

Growing up we used the "Old El Paso" seasoning mix whenever we had tacos for dinner.  After college I just started throwing in random Mexican spices combos instead, but the flavor was always lacking.  I finally decided to look up an actual recipe for tacos and yum, so glad I did!  I love having people over and entertaining, and tacos is a great small or large group meal - I make the meat and have everyone else bring the accouterments.  Another way to cut down on the cost is to supplement the beef with black the end of the day you essentially have thick chili but a fatter wallet - you decide which one you prefer : )

Taco meat is also a great leftover to have on hand in the refrigerator.  It makes a quick and healthy lunch or dinner when you throw it on top of lettuce.  You can also make a huge batch of this and freeze it for later meals if you want.  

Beef Tacos

1 TBS oil (your choice, I usually use olive or coconut oil)
1 large onion, diced
1 large jalapeno, diced small
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 clove garlic, minced
1 TBS chili powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 pounds ground beef, or you could use turkey or chicken
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed (optional)
1/2 of a 14.5oz can diced tomatoes with juice

Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat.  Add onion and jalapeno, season with salt and pepper. Cook 4-5 minutes.  Add garlic, chili powder, cumin and cook 1 minute.  Add meat, breaking it up and stirring it together, cook until no longer pink.  Add tomatoes and beans and simmer until thickened 10-12 minutes.  Add more Salt and Pepper if it needs it.

Serve over lettuce for a salad or fill warm tortillas and top with  you favorite toppings.

Make these tacos for dinner.  
Sit down with your family and enjoy them...the tacos and the family : )  
Ignore the dishes in the sink for 30 more minutes and relax with your loved ones!

Eat your heart out,