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French Macarons: Baking Like a Pro

December 10, 2014

I teased you all about my French macaron class last Sunday over at this post, so now I will finally reveal my fabulous morning of french macarons and baking like a pro!

Something you may not know is that I absolutely love baking, and that includes both healthy and not quite so healthy baked goods. The healthy stuff is usually just for me whereas the more indulgent baked goods are usually for my boyfriend and friends. My favorite healthy baked goods are my grain-free and refined sugar-free fudge brownies (SO GOOD), my blueberry coconut muffins, and my sugar free muffins

I became obsessed with french macarons a few months ago because my former housemate, Alisa, started baking them, which in turn led to my boyfriend becoming obsessed with them! For those of you who do not know what french macarons are, they are a delicious ‘cookie’ made out of almond flour. Not to be confused with coconut macaroons. Anyway, although most of Alisa’s batches turned out well, it was really a 50:50 sort of thing and I knew it was annoying the heck out of her because she is a massive perfectionist (in a good way) πŸ™‚ So when I saw that Macaronage Macarons bakery in Stockton were holding a class on how to bake french macarons I knew that we both had to attend!

Macaronage Macarons

Macaronage Macarons is an adorable bakery that specializes in macarons. It is located in Stockton, CA (where my boyfriend did his undergraduate) and is about an hour and a half drive from San Francisco. 

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French Macarons: Baking Like A Pro

Alisa and I were lucky enough to attend their newly launched macaron baking classes last sunday. The class was 2 and a half hours long and taught by the lovely Grace, the owner of Macaronage Macarons and macaron expert. 

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The class started off with some short introductions and then got straight into baking! Grace provided us all with a cheat sheet with recipes of macarons, various fillings, and the secret to how Macaronage Macarons make such amazing macarons (hint hint, it’s all to do with the type of method you use).  We all practiced piping the macaron batter first before we actually made our ow macarons. I am so glad we got to practice because my first attempt was honestly horrendous. But my second attempt was pretty good for a first-time macaron baker (yeah, tooting my own horn). 

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We all got to choose our own food dye and so I chose a cute fuchsia color and clever Alisa made this gorgeous Tiffany blue color (she is obsessed lol) by mixing two food dyes together. We later learned how to make 4 different kinds of fillings and filled our macarons. The fillings were chocolate, buttercream, salted caramel and mint chocolate. I used all 4 fillings of course haha, got to have that variety πŸ™‚

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The class was $35 and was such a fantastic price considering that you are paying for both Grace’s time and for the ingredients that were provided to us. Most places in the Bay Area (and Salt Lake City, I checked) start at $85 for a 2 or 3 hour class which is just ridiculous. It was quite a drive out to Stockton but definitely worth it. Wish I didn’t have to rush back and study right after though!

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The finished product!

Who else here loves baking? What is your favorite healthy (or non-healthy) thing you like to bake?

Honestly yours,
Alice

Blogs I love, Fitness, Health, Sunday Summary

Tea, Healthy Treats & Recovery

November 16, 2014

Despite having a day off of work (but not uni work) due to Veterans Day, this week was busy and jam-packed full of uni, work and social related events. 

On Thursday night, the communication studies department at SF State held a talk with Abdur Chowdhury, former Twitter chief scientist and former chief architect at AOL. Needless to say I was extremely excited to attend the talk and hear what he had to say about social media, coming from the father of hashtags himself. It was a really interesting talk with so much cool information. Although it was all interesting stuff, his discussion of the minimization of social networks was particularly interesting. Check out his app ‘Steven’ to understand a little more of where he is going with that idea.

Social events wise, I attended a fun event at Lorna Jane on Saturday, attended the San Francisco international tea festival this morning, and will dine at Le Cheval in Walnut Creek tonight to celebrate my dear friend Alyssa’s birthday.

Lorna Jane SF

Okay so, the event at Lorna Jane featured Lauren Shaber, a Bay Area healthy living blogger, who was there to share her healthy meal planning tips and to give out samples of healthy treats. The healthy treats were so good and I wish I had taken photos so I could show you all; there were chocolate stuffed raspberries, PB&J power balls (my personal fave) and chocolate peanut butter cookies … mmmmm. It was great to actually meet her in person! She was lovely and I am hoping we will get together soon and try out some healthy hotspots in the Bay Area πŸ™‚

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 San Francisco Tea Festival

On Sunday, a friend and I attended the San Francisco Tea Festival which was held in the Ferry Building in Embarcadero. Ironically we are both half British and thus have a keen appreciation for tea. One of the highlights of this festival was a stand featuring tea flavored chocolates! Now I will let the photos do the talking … be prepared for many, many photos of tea now.

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This blog post is soooo long, I do apologize! I’ll end quickly by telling you how I stayed active this week while ensuring my foot recovered. It basically involved a lot of  the elliptical machine (most boring method of cardio ever), focusing on the core and upper body (thank you Kayla Itsines week 2 arms and abs and pilates reformer), and yoga. I definitely ate a little bit more indulgently this week but it hasn’t really affected me weight wise. For some reason I decided that this week was mocha coffee week and I made a batch of my refined sugar-free and grain-free fudge brownies which I snacked on all week despite giving about 3/4 of it to my housemates!

What did you get up to this weekend? Share, share, share!

Honestly yours,
Alice

Fitness, Health

Get Ready to Hike!

August 14, 2014

I think a hiking preparation post is in order! I recently got back from a holiday in Salt lake City where my boyfriend and I went on some fun hikes. They were all much more challenging than I thought they were going to be (and the high altitude certainly did not make life easier either)! One hike in particular was absolutely ridiculous but so worth it because there were three beautiful lakes and absolutely stunning views.

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You’re probably wondering when I am going to get to the point of this post haha … basically these challenging hikes got me thinking that it would be really cool to do a post about preparing for a hike, whether it is challenging or relatively easy. I know it seems as if preparing for a hike is pretty intuitive but there are quite a few things you can do which you may not have thought about. 

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Preparing for a hike, especially a challenging uphill hike, can be categorized into the following:

Cardio/Strength, Research, & Supplies

Although anyone can technically just go on a hike, if you want to have a good time on a hike it is usually important to make sure that you are at least somewhat fit. I am not saying you have to be an avid gym go-er or a marathon runner, but it is good to have a good cardio tolerance and to have some leg strength. Core strength is also beneficial to keep yourself balanced if you are hiking on a steep downhill portion. What I would recommend is making sure that a few weeks before you go on a hike, you start doing something that will improve both your cardio and strength levels. For cardio you could start by going on a few brisk walks a few times a week, going for some runs or even trying out a fitness class such as kickboxing or BodyAttack (offered at most 24 Hour Fitness gyms) to raise your cardio levels. To improve your strength levels, you can start concentrating on lower body exercises such as squats and lunges. You could even do a pilates legs and butt workout (Blogilates online and free videos are my favorite) or go to a fitness class that focuses on building strength and tone such as Booty Barre (still need to try this class at Mint Studios Pilates!) or BodyPump (offered at most 24 Hour Fitness gyms).

Seriously, you will be happy you prepped when you do the hike. I would say that I am a pretty fit person, but my hike to Lake Blanche in Salt lake City KILLED ME. It was 6 miles, and 3 miles of it were all steadily uphill .. do not underestimate how exhausting walking at an incline can be 0__o

In terms of research, I just mean that you should do some Google searching about all the different hikes you can do a few days before you plan on hiking. Take the time to see how far away it is to drive to the hike, how long the hike will take, and how strenuous the hike may or may not be. A good tip is to read some reviews, such as on TripAdvisor, about what others thought about the hike. If you are a hiking newbie, avoid hikes with reviews that say ‘REALLY STRENUOUS HIKE’ .. ‘OMG, THIS HIKE IS HARD’ and the like.

 Lastly, but certainly not least, make sure you have the relevant supplies a day ahead of time. There was one point during my time in Salt Lake City when my boyfriend could not find his trainers .. ergo no hike lol. So make sure you have the following supplies ready (or at least some of them):

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1. Lots of water bottles (1x 1 liter bottle per person for every 1 and 1/2 hour of hiking)
2. Appropriate clothing (some light and well-fitting activewear if in a hot place, or some warm jackets and etc if in a cold place)
3. Proper footwear that you do not mind getting dusty (think trainers like Nikes, Asics, Reebok and etc)
4. Sunglasses with a good amount of UV protection 
5. A phone (just in case you get lost, and helps you keep track of time – alternatively a watch instead)
6. A hat
7. Sunscreen (yes, even if you are hiking through snow or on a cloudy day, the sun will still reach you!)
8. A backpack (to hold all of you handy dandy supplies :D)
9. Food (if going on a hike longer than an hour it would be smart to bring portable and nutrient dense foods such as fruit, bread/crackers, nuts and etc)

If you guys think of anymore pre-hiking prep advice then please, please let me know either in the comments below or via social media or email. I would love to hear them because I am no hiking expert; but I do hope my hiking advice helps you prepare for your next (or first ever) hike!

Guess what I am doing this weekend … πŸ™‚

Honestly yours,
Alice xxx