Signing Off

On January 17th, 2013 Carbivore, LLC was formed.

  • I wanted to create beautiful things with my hands.
  • I was obsessed with buying new gadgets and tools.
  • There was a lack of custom dessert makers in the area.
  • I had commercial kitchen space.
  • I had time.
  • I had a hole that I needed to fill.

Today, 4 years later, Carbivore LLC is dissolved.

  • I made countless lovely and yummy things with my hands.
  • I have a basement full of fun molds, cutters, machines, etc. and had the best time researching, purchasing, and using them.
  • There are now more than a few handfuls of custom dessert makers in the nearby neighborhoods.
  • I moved back to the comforts of my home kitchen.
  • Time is now a luxury.
  • I am more full of love and life then I ever have been before.

Bittersweet cannot be any more perfect in describing my feelings as I type this.  These past 4 years have been a great adventure, including great triumphs and heavy falls.

  • My mind grew more peaceful when kneading fondant or mixing ingredients for a cake.
  • My eyes grew wider as each friend/customer showed me their ideas for cakes, cookies and other sweets.
  • My patience grew thinner with each fondant decorating element slipping off.
  • My organization and planning skills grew longer as each custom cake got more complicated.
  • And my heart grew bigger from each exhilarated smile when delivering cakes and carbi delights.

I will always be a Carbivore and I will continue on the carb-filled adventures with our small growing family.  Thank you all for all your love, support, and for eating!!

carbivore-pic

Cause you’re hot then you’re cold

Ingredients for Sweet Green Bean Soup

Ingredients for Sweet Green Bean Soup

No, this is not a post about Katy Perry’s hit song Hot N Cold, but I bet you’ll have that song stuck in your head for the rest of the day.  You’re welcome.

In Chicagoland, we don’t really have Spring or Fall.  We have hot/sticky and Chiberia.  When I first came to Chicago for a summer internship in the early 2000’s, I didn’t even think to pack a winter coat.  It was mid May for goodness sake!  Flowers were supposed to be blooming!  Of course I got the flu that first week, having only a fleece and days of 30 degrees weather with wind-chills of 0.  This year was an exception of course.  Typical of Northern IL, always keeping us on our toes.

In this unpredictable climate it’s always useful to have simple recipes that are versatile and can chill you out or warm you hands. One of my favorite desserts from childhood is Sweet Green Bean Soup (or Sweet Mung Bean Soup).  It not only has the wonderful health benefits of mung beans, but it is refreshing in the summer when eaten cooled and hearty in the winter when eaten hot.  The recipe is the same for both ways of consumption, other than cooling after cooked or eaten right away.  So simple.

Dried Tapioca Pearls / Sago

Dried Tapioca Pearls / Sago

Ok, so it doesn’t sound appetizing to you.  Mung beans, soup, that’s not dessert?!  Trust me, you’ll like it.  Other fun items are added to the soup for texture and of course sugar is too.  You can be creative and even throw in some pearl barley, sweet potatoes, coconut milk, mochi balls, or some orange peels and pandan leaves while it’s cooking to infuse some flavor.

Dried pearl barley

Dried pearl barley

Mung beans have wonderful health benefits and are considered in the “cooling” category of Chinese cuisine (see the science here).  High cholesterol, MUNG BEANS.  Hypertension, MUNG BEANS.  Magnesium deficiency, MUNG BEANS.  Type II diabetes, MUNG BEANS.  Acne, MUNG BEANS.  And lots more.

It is kind of foreign in the US, but has been around in Asian cuisine forever.  You can easily find mung beans and other fun ingredients at any Asian market, even in my tiny closet of an Asian grocery store in the Chicago suburbs.  My favorite way to make the dessert is with small tapioca pearls (or sago), pearl barley, and rock sugar.  Yum Yum!

Sweet Green Bean Soup

Sweet Green Bean Soup

(I cook the sago first)

SAGO

Ingredients

  1. 1/2 cup sago (adjust the amount of sago to your needs)
  2. water

Directions

  1. Boil a small pot of water (fill pot to about 3/4). When the water is boiling, add the sago. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Occasionally stir the sides and bottom of the pot to prevent sticking.
  2. After 10 minutes, the sago will turn partially translucent. Turn off the flame, cover the pot with lid and let it stand for 10 minutes. The sago will continue cooking by itself and turn fully translucent.
  3. Rinse the cooked sago through a sieve and running water to remove the excess starch.
  4. Keep sago in a bowl of water until ready to use (drain through sieve before adding to bean soup).

Sweet Green Bean Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole green beans
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 1 medium pot of water, 75% filled
  • 1 big lump of crystal rock sugar or 1/2 cup brown sugar

Directions:

  1. Wash green beans by rubbing and rinsing a few times.
  2. Place beans in a pot of water. Bring beans and water to a boil over medium fire. Cover with lid.
  3. Briefly wash pearl barley, and place in the pot, when water boiled.
  4. Add rock sugar or brown sugar into boiling water.
  5. Reduce heat to low fire, simmer for about 45 min to 1 hour, or until beans have slightly expanded out of their skins. Texture of beans and barley should be soft and fluffy.
  6. Add cooked tapioca pearls/sago after beans and barley are cooked.
  7. Cool in refrigerator over night or eat while hot.

It takes a year

Raspberry Macarons

Raspberry Macarons

Funny, I actually tasted my first macaron over 10 years ago in Switzerland instead of France.  I was living in Heidelberg Germany at that time and my fellow ex-pat friend and I gallivanted throughout central Europe every weekend and holiday.  We skipped over to Zurich one weekend and I was immediately stopped by the beautiful and colorful displays at CONFISERIE SPRÜNGLI right off the train on BAHNHOFSTRASSE when we arrived.  Rows and rows of pastries and chocolates glistened in the window while I drooled.  The beautiful bright-colored pillows immediately drew my attention and curiosity.  I bit into a chocolate LUXEMBURGERLI (the Swiss version of the French macaron) and fell in love.  It was forever determined that the macaron/luxemburgerli was my favorite cookie EVER.

Patti in Zurich circa 2005

Patti in Zurich circa 2005

Flash forward to a few years ago when these little sandwich cookies started popping up in the US in every major city, which caused me to reminisce my European bliss.  Coincidentally, my friend Claire at The Cottage Revolution successfully made a batch at home around that same time!  She made it sound so simple and delightful that I decided to tackle the recipe too.  I was less fortunate in my first attempt and continued to be until literally a few months ago.  You can read about my first attempt HERE, a blog post back in 2011.  I shelved my failure to the back of my mind and in my mouth as quick as I could and moved on to other carbi-adventures.

Botched Green Tea Macarons

Botched Green Tea Macarons

It wasn’t until a year ago when I started Carbivore that I started working on my macaron skills.  I want to make and offer sweets that I love to eat, and I was determined that I could master this cookie.  I now know why not many people/patisseries/bakeries make macarons.  They are super finicky and can drive you mad.  If the multi-day process doesn’t scare you away, the inconsistent results will (who can afford to toss 1/2 of a batch away (or into your mouth, as failures are still yummy!)).  I think I’ve encountered every problem ever recorded, i.e. no feet or frills at the bottom, lop-sided or baseball cap cookies, concave cookies, cookies that won’t come off the parchment, amoeba-shaped cookies, Hershey Kiss – shaped cookies, oily/blotchy tops, shriveled tops, hard-as-a-rock cookies, soggy cookies, burnt cookies, volcanic explosion cookies, and of course my kryptonite, the dreaded HOLLOW cookie.

Shriveled Chocolate Macarons

Shriveled Chocolate Macarons

My lack of confidence was the main issue.  It wasn’t until I attended a class at the French Pastry School for my birthday (courtesy of my husband, BEST PRESENT EVER) that my problems were resolved.  Yes, I learned a lot in class, but I didn’t learn a magic recipe or kitchen secret.  It was comments like “every problem you have with macarons is due to steam” and “there’s really no need to obsess over the perfect shape” that turned my macarons from OK to Great!

Swirl Macarons

Swirl Macarons

There are many recipes out there, but they are relatively the same, ingredients wise:  almond flour, confectioners sugar, meringue (egg whites and sugar) and a filling of choice.  A few other variations exist also for people with nut allergies or like to use other kinds of nuts instead of almonds, but the typical and traditional macaron cookie is made with those 4 ingredients and filling.  This topic has been researched and blogged to death, including THIS paper on the correct ratio of sugar to maximize macaron taste and structure.  It is a curse and a blessing to see so much help on the internet, but in the end I feel like practice and documentation was what helped me the most.  The secrets to making macarons are practicing and tweaking until you find the technique that works for you.  Here’s what works for me:

– Age/dry egg whites for 2 days (to evaporate the water content so that the albumen becomes concentrated and the protein structure of your meringue is stable).  I do this by separating my egg whites (will need more than what the recipe calls for because it will shrink) and putting it in the refrigerator covered with plastic wrap poked with holes.

– Dry your dry ingredients for 2 days.  I measure and shift my almond flour and powdered sugar and leave in a bowl covered with cheese cloth on the counter.

– I use the Italian Meringue method to beat my egg whites and sugar into a meringue (this method is where you add heated sugar to whipped egg whites and whip until stiff peaks).  I was using the French Meringue method (no heated sugar, and just whipping sugar and egg whites until stiff peaks), but it produced varied results each batch.

(these 3 steps mentioned above eliminate moisture in your batter, reducing “steam”)

– I fold my meringue into my dry mix in 3 batches (1/3 of meringue at a time) until just incorporated (add gel/powdered food coloring here, but sometimes I add the color to the meringue)

– My version of “Macaronage”, the act of creating macaron batter, is to stir the heck out of the batter, checking often, until a line in the mixture incorporates back to the batter in 15 seconds.

– Fill pastry bag with round tip, and pipe on to parchment or Slipat.  You can use a template to help with uniformity.  I drew circles 1.5 inches in diameter and spaced them about 1 inch apart on paper.  Stagger each row to allow for better air flow when baking.

– Let the piped macaron shells sit for 30 minutes until the tops are not sticky and formed a skin (this is what helps form the feet as the steam in the batter escapes, the skin keeps it from coming out the top and instead rises from the bottom).  The time will also depend on the humidity that day, so check the resting macarons by gently touching the surface of one.  If it sticks, it’s not ready.

– I bake my macarons at 320 degrees F for 12 minutes (15 if on Slipat) in a convection oven.  This is where you’ll need to experiment.  Every oven is different so be patient when finding your correct temperature.  Sugar and Tang has a great post on helping you figure out what your oven is like HERE.  Always use a trusty oven thermometer too and give it enough time to preheat (20+ minutes).

I found that my hollow problem was really due to baking temperature.  I’ve experimented with baking as low as 300 degrees F to as high as 350.  300 was too low and produced hollow shells (where the batter sits at the bottom and there is a big air pocket in between), while at 350 they were exploding from the top like a volcano.  I went up 5 degrees from 300 until I got a fluffy full cookie.

No hallows!

No hollows!

– Match up the cookies to same sizes for each side, and pipe on ganache or other filling.

MACARONS ARE NOT READY TO EAT YET!  Let them “mature” in an air tight container in the refrigerator at least for 2 days (longer if using fillings with less moisture like buttercreams, shorter for jams).  The cookie is a meringue so it can be dry, the filling is what gives it moisture and creates that chewy texture.

And voila!  🙂

Chocolate Mint Macarons

Chocolate Mint Macarons

Ok, so this is a lot of information and sounds like quite a hassle (and that is why they sell for a hefty price), but I assure you it’s totally worth it!  Here are some other great sources and full recipes if you haven’t had enough macaron making yet!

Sugar and Tang (similar recipe and technique to what I do)

Brave Tart (lots of info, including macaron mythbusters, all about hollows, etc.)

Eat Live Travel Write (decorating macarons & other great tutorials and recipes)

David Lebovitz (great chocolate macaron that’s easy)

If you’re more about eating them than making them, you can find me at a farmers’ market in the Chicagoland region throughout the year.  Follow CARBIVOREEATS on Facebook for updates on locations and dates!

Macaron Jars

 

 

Where everybody knows your name

Carbivore Farmers Market Table

Carbivore Farmers Market Table

Ok, so only a hand-full of people know my name, but everyone knows that I’m the cookie / macaron girl!  This past winter, Carbivore has been hanging out at the Evanston Indoor Farmer and Artisan Food Market hocking French macaron cookies on Saturday mornings.  It’s our first endeavor selling at a retail location and selling the macaron cookie (which is a challenge to consistently make every market).  Not only have I learned that it’s important to bring all your stuff to the market each time (like boxes and bags to put the cookies in and the key to the cash box) and that my husband is better at math than me, but I’ve been welcomed into such a fun, warm and dedicated community.

When I go to markets as a customer, I usually just lurk around quietly and peruse the stands and vendor offerings, or I go straight to my staples and get out as fast I can.  But now being part of the market, I see that it’s more than just a place to purchase groceries, sweets, and gift items.  It’s a community gathering, a fun place to meet up with friends and catch up, a new lunch destination, an adventure for your pallet, a place to meet interesting people from all stages in life, and an easy way for entrepreneurs to test their products, gather information, and make new connections.  There are dedicated customers who come to every market, even when there is a foot of snow on the ground and still coming down.  Parents even bring the kids when there are subzero temperatures because it’s a fun place for the cabin-crazed minds.  We are fortunate at the Evanston Indoor Farmer and Artisan Food Market to have a comfortable space at the Evanston Ecology Center indoors and heated tent (to accommodate the increase in vendors), which is a testament to a well-run market operation.  There is even convenient parking across the street.  With such fine environments, great people, and interesting variety of quality products, I have a new view on markets and plan on lingering, and meeting and talking to more people in my future visits.  Don’t be afraid, get involved in your community farmers market and get out there so everyone knows your name.

If you’re in the area, stop by this Saturday any time between 9:00am – 1:00pm.  I’d love to say hi and introduce you to my friends.  Josh from Passion House Coffee brews a fresh aromatic cup of coffee using a Chemex carafe and has beans for you to take home.  Do you need protein for the week?  Lester’s Bison has sustainable bison meat for dinner and warm hats and gloves from bison fur that they shed naturally in case you get caught in another snow storm.  If you haven’t had the garlic cheese spread from River Valley Kitchens, you haven’t lived!  Spark of the Heart easy to make hearty bean soups are just the things to warm your belly after shoveling the driveway.  At the market for lunch?  Tamale Express has lots of varieties of tamales and the tacos are yum too!  Check out the other vendors in the list below!

Farmers & Growers:
Chicago Indoor Garden, The Cheese People, C & D Family Farms, Endless Greens, Geneva Lakes Produce, Lavender on the Lake, Lester’s Bison Farm, Henry’s Farm, Lake Breeze Organics, Mint Creek Farms,  Nichols Farm, Organic Pastures, River Valley Ranch, Roedger Brother’s Blueberries, Sunny Lane Farms, Tomato Mountain

Artisan Foods:The Baked Escape, Beijo de Chocolat, Blessed Roots Farm, Carbivore,   Crust & Crumb, Delizioso!,  Feed Your Head, Foodie Bites, Patz Honey,  The Good Earth, Liza’s Crunch Granola, My Small Wonders, N’oir d’Ebene Chocolate, Northshore Pet Chef,  Passion House Coffee, Pasta By Sue, Pasta Puttana, Red Saffron, Sheekar Delights, Spark Of The Heart,  Tamales Express, Tomate Fresh Kitchen, Tree Of Life Gardens, Wayne Miller Fruit & Preserves, Wildtree, and Windy City Pie Company.

AND MUCH MORE!

Evanston Indoor Farmer and Artisan Food Market

Evanston Indoor Farmer and Artisan Food Market

Evanston Indoor Farmer and Artisan Food Market - more than just food!

Evanston Indoor Farmer and Artisan Food Market – more than just food!

Farmers Market Chalkboard Sign

New flavors every market!

Chocolate Macarons

Carbivore’s Chocolate Macarons

New Website!

Have you checked out CarbivoreEats.com recently (formerly pattithecarbivore.wordpress.com)?  It’s my new website!  You’ll also notice that it’s more than just a blog now!  That’s right, Patti the Carbivore is now Carbivore, LLC!  This past January, I took the plunge and established a little business to call my own.

I know, January was 10 months ago, why is this announcement so late?!  Establishing a new food business is not an easy task, and doing it properly takes a little bit of research, lots of licenses, and plenty of luck.  Through my husband’s bad-ass networking skills I met Tim and Nick at Vindice Recipes.  Their kind hearts and awesome attitudes invited me in to share their bodacious commercially licensed kitchen in Lake in the Hills, IL.

Tim and Nice from Vindice Recipes

Tim and Nice from Vindice Recipes

It’s tortuous at times to work in there, smelling smoked pork butts in the huge smoker and having hand-tossed brick oven pizza at my fingertips, but to be an entrepreneur you have to make some sacrifices (to my waistline that is)!  Check out their website for delicious food (they even have gluten free pizza) and look out for their new line of salad dressings coming to retail locations soon!

The kitchen as everything you'll ever need to make delicious food!

The kitchen as everything you’ll ever need to make delicious food!

Where I spend most of my time, next to the ovens!

Where I spend most of my time, next to the ovens!

Carbivore has been cranking out custom cakes and cookies in 2013.  You can check out the galleries on CarbivoreEats.com.  Please let me know what you think!  After months of experimenting I finally found the best recipes for cakes and icings and am so excited to share them with everyone!  The Cakes and Cupcakes page will give you an idea of cake and icing flavors available, but I’m down for more experimenting to find new favorites!  My sugar cookie recipes have also been perfected to not only provide a perfect blank canvas for any designs (with my handy dandy kopykake projector), but also are delicious with a slightly soft texture and great vanilla almond or dark chocolate flavor.  What kind of design would you like to see on a cookie?

Pink onesies

Pink onesies

Princess Cake Detail

Princess Cake Detail

Birthday cake for Lucs (banana with caramel buttercream)

Birthday cake for Lucs (banana with caramel buttercream)

Happy Tools

Happy Tools

Princess Cake for Haley

Princess Cake for Haley

I love making cakes and cookies for special events or just to see smiles on peoples’ faces.  The ideas that customers (friends) come up with are so much fun to create!  Recently a co-worker asked me to make cupcakes for her son’s confirmation/birthday.  I can tell her family is a bit quirky and likes to have fun.  We managed to mix in some silliness with the religious celebration with 1/2 the cupcakes decorated with fondant crosses and 1/2 with fondant Minions!  You never know what you’ll come across when it comes to celebrations!  Maybe camo-colored cupcakes for a wedding in November?  I can’t wait to keep expanding my experience making delicious and fun desserts out of some flour, sugar and butter!

Minions on Devil's Food Cake Cupcakes!

Minions on Devil’s Food Cake Cupcakes!

So, what’s next?!  The business person in me is yelling, “GROW SALES, EXPAND!”  I’ll continue to expand my reach and make more custom cakes and desserts to customers in the Chicagoland area (feel free to spread the word!), but I’ll also be looking into sourcing my ingredients from local providers (like farm fresh eggs from the same town as the kitchen, or butter from happy cows from environmentally sustainable farms in Wisconsin).  You may also see Carbivore soon at a farmer’s market peddling French Macarons with an Asian twist and other fine delights!

So, check out the new website, LIKE Carbivore on Facebook, let me know what you think, spread the word, and stay tuned for more Carbi-Adventures!