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LET'S COOK: Raspberry Macarons
July 2, 2018

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What gets you excited? What keeps your interest piqued and away from dwindling? For me, it has always been attention-grabbing recipes and cooking stretch to create them. I cannot recall a time in my life that I did not want to get lost in a collection of gathered recipes from a tin box, recipe book or magazine like the Ford magazine that would feature a unique restaurant and their hallmark recipe.

Last summer while we were at a local auction sale, I noticed Lydia spending considerable time around a hefty, cardboard apple box of recipes clipped from newspapers, recipes handwritten on cards, and many specialty recipes for garden canning, fish and wild game. Her intense interest caught my eye, and she mentioned that she was going to bid on this box. Now take into consideration that there were several boxes of cookbooks - all neatly presented - but her interest was the massive hodgepodge of recipes. It was a mystery box with a faded vintage apple design outside but treasures inside for vegetables, tips of creating perfect meringue and those unusual recipes like cantaloupe nut bread. The boxes were sold as choice, and this patchwork of recipes was sold to the little girl with the pretty purple glasses.

In the following days recipe piles were created on each piece of furniture in our living room as she sorted them into categories. Breads rested on the wingback, cookies were stationed at the coffee table and several condo like piles took residence on the sofa, or should I say chesterfield, after all there were some English recipes present. Each recipe was viewed and many were read. Needless to say, our living room looked like a ticker tape parade. This was her launch to independent cooking and baking as she selected several recipes and then proceeded to make them with our guidance. This baking time reinforced that patience, good measuring, and cleanup - all vital steps in perfecting a recipe.

Recipes do get Lydia motivated, but so does 4-H. She recently baked several things for Ward County Achievement Days. She selected from her recipe stash "raspberry macarons" for one of the cookie entries. Both Jan and I have made a variety of cookies, but these were new to us.

I learned that a macaron is a confectionary item made with sugar, egg whites, and almond paste. This is a cookie that in between can contain a layer of jam or butter cream. Important to remember that the key ingredient in macaron is meringue. Now there are macaroons which are also a confectionary item made using shredded coconut and often condensed milk. The key here is to remember that macaroons remain coconut based around the world.

Credit has to be given to the French as they took the macaron nearly as high as the Eiffel Tower by forming two perfectly round cookies, bake them, and then add a creative layer in between. Macarons today can be several layers high and they can be colored to look very attractive or be coordinated with a theme. So no longer can one dye bridesmaid shoes to claim the prize for most perfect harmonization. It is for these three reasons - the stacking of layers, cream or jam filling, and the custom coloring of these scrumptious gems that macarons are giving the current cupcake craze a run for their money.

We want our children to be well-rounded with beneficial knowledge that will aid them for a lifetime. Lydia's involvement with 4-H has given her this opportunity. She has taken an active role in her Gasman Helping Hands Club and currently serves as president. She has the chance to interact with other children, do group projects with them and to witness the talents of her peers that reach far beyond the club. I was not a 4-H member but I realize the tremendous benefits. Jan was a 4-H member, and I enjoy listening to her tell Lydia about her days in 4-H and projects that she enjoyed. I find this important because it inspires the retelling of family history and how Jan's mom worked with her in 4-H - including the time she ended up making a pan of bars four times before all the ingredients were correctly added. Telling these stories means that when parents connect with children in worthwhile endeavors that teach them patience, persistence and tolerance, it will likely remain with them for a lifetime.

I was recently in Spain touring with the Heritage Singers of Minot, and while there I tried some lovely lavender macarons. Upon arriving home, I was greeted by with these raspberry macarons on the counter. Their rose colored domes with crimson filling looked as if they originated from the finest bakeries in Toledo, Spain. It is one of those moments I will always remember, even when I'm old. (Especially when I am old, and they serve macarons in the nursing home!) They better have pretty colored macarons and also a good listening staff because I am going to tell them about Spain, 4-H, and how they connected in the Repnow home.

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