Lego Challenge: Make Something Symmetrical

Today’s Lego Challenge from Gather Love Grow was to make something symmetrical.  I was able to explain symmetry to the 11, 8, and 6 year old, however, the 4 year old didn’t quite get it.  He made shapes, but they don’t really match each other.

Our 11 year old built a “guy”. It reminds me of something, but I can’t quite place it right now.


Our 8 year old built a suit of armor. Some of the colors are not exactly the same, but I am not sure if he could find matching pieces. I think he put the most thought into his creation.


One of the creations at Gather Love Grow was a video game. Our 6 year old like that idea and this is his version of a video game.


Many thanks to Isabelle at Gather Love Grow for another Lego Challenge.  This one was helpful in teaching about symmetry to the younger kids.




Vanilla Bean Panna cotta with Passion Fruit Caramel Sauce

Once again, heavy cream was sitting in my fridge begging me to do something with it. Maybe I need to stop buying heavy cream when I don’t have a real plan to use it!

This heavy cream especially needed to be used though. It cost me about $6!

This creamery is in northern California. Just the glass bottle added an extra $2 to the price of this pint of whipping cream! I guess, in theory, I can take this to a recycling place and get my $2 back. The bottle is so neat though, that we will probably keep it and use it. I am thinking… homemade coffee creamer!

I posted about this book in my root beer float macaron post. It has some custard recipes as well as the whole chapter about macarons.

I made a few changes to the recipe so I will go ahead and post it.

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Passion Fruit Caramel Sauce

  • Servings: 4-6
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Adapted from Patisserie


Panna Cotta

  • 6 grams powdered gelatin
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup vanilla sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean (from your vanilla sugar canister)

Passion Fruit Caramel

  • 1/4 cup vanilla sugar
  • 1/4 cup passion fruit juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 vanilla bean


Panna Cotta

In a small bowl, soak the powdered gelatin in about 1/4 cup of the heavy cream. Let it sit while you bring the rest of the heavy cream and the vanilla sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

Remove the pan from the heat, scrape the gelatin and cream mixture into the pan with the hot cream, and whisk until the gelatin has dissolved.

Strain the panna cotta into a serving dish and chill until set, about 3 hours.

Passion Fruit Caramel

Cook the 1/4 cup of vanilla sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar melts and turns a medium amber color.

Reduce the heat to low and carefully stir in the passion fruit juice. Stir in the water.

Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes,then strain into a heatproof bowl. Let the caramel cool completely. Drizzle over the panna cotta right before serving.

I have seen gelatin sheets in the Asian market but I have not seen them in a grocery store like Albertsons. Or maybe I haven’t looked hard enough. The original recipe calls for gelatin sheets, but I improvised and weighed out my gelatin powder instead. I ended up with 6 grams instead of 5 like I was supposed to. Oops! I didn’t want to make a mess of trying to to put back 1 gram of gelatin powder so I just went with 6 grams.


Now the gelatin does seem to set after you let it sit in the heavy cream, but once you whisk it into the hot cream mixture in the pan, it dissolves fine and does not clump or give the final product an odd texture.

The gelatin and cream had a tapioca-like texture and did not look very appetizing. I’m so glad it dissolved into the mixture properly though!

The original recipe also called for the seeds of one vanilla bean. I love baking with vanilla sugar and always have some on hand. So, instead of using a vanilla bean, I just used my vanilla sugar. If you would like to make your own vanilla sugar, here is a link to the method for that. You won’t regret it! If you do not have vanilla sugar on hand, then scrape the seeds of one vanilla bean into the cream mixture and then put the vanilla bean in there too!

One note, I am not sure how vanilla extract would work in this recipe. It’s possible that vanilla extract would not provide a strong enough flavor. I would be willing to give it a try though with my next custard recipe.

My cream mixture before boiling. The vanilla bean in the pan is a used bean from my vanilla sugar canister.


There is something wrong with this picture. I am using a round mesh colander over a square dish! One nice thing about this recipe is that I didn’t have to use ramekins, although I’m sure those would work too for this!
The hot panna cotta mixture is now ready to go in the fridge. I put plastic wrap over it and did not press it against the top like I usually do with custard.

Once I had the panna cotta in the fridge, it was time to make the caramel. This is the part that I was very, very scared to do! I have never made caramel before and was afraid I would waste my hard-earned passion fruit juice.

Passion fruits are a pain to “juice.” I got about 1/4 cup of juice out of 7 passion fruit. I let the pulp drain for a while longer after I had what I needed and did get maybe another 1/8 cup of juice. I know the seeds are edible, but I haven’t tried them yet in a dessert!
1/4 cup of vanilla sugar and another used vanilla bean.

1/4 cup of vanilla sugar does not look like very much when it is in the pan!

The sugar is starting to melt. Now, I thought you weren’t supposed to stir your sugar when you’re making caramel. But I went ahead and did it.
Not quite medium amber I think. Also, the sugar isn’t completely melted yet.
The end result after adding the passion fruit juice and water, then straining into a measuring cup.

Now, the caramel LOOKED like the right color, but it didn’t seem like it was the right texture. I thought it would be a little more “syrupy.” It ended up being okay though and tasted tart from the passion fruit.


We were bad and did not share this with the kids. The kids got mini cupcakes for dessert, while Josh and I ate this after they went to bed. This is definitely a perfect date night at home dessert. It was a little complicated for me since I had never made it before, but next time, I should know better what I am doing. Josh wants me to make a lemon one next!


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Root Beer Float Macarons

A few weeks ago, we were able to sample some store-bought macarons. Buying four of them gave us sticker shock at $2.50 a piece! So, we didn’t share them with the kids. Our poor kids. I didn’t realize what an expensive treat they were getting when I make them at home!

Yesterday, I finally got to try baking root beer float macarons! I used my usual base recipe: Parisian Macarons.  I ended up winging the root beer flavor addition though. This is my third time making macarons. You can read about my first attempt and second attempt here on The Geek Homestead also.

These macarons didn’t turn out quite as pretty as my last two tries, but they still tasted great.


Look at that poor misshapen one on the left…

This time, I made an appropriate filling for a root beer float macaron: vanilla bean buttercream. It is half-based on the vanilla buttercream filling for the Victoria Sponge Celebration Cake at Jane’s Patisserie. After visiting that link, I now want some cake!

I was aiming for a vanilla ice cream flavor for the filling and it was perfect.


I used the seeds of a whole vanilla bean in the buttercream. I love the little flecks!


I did make a bit of a mistake with the flavoring in the macaron shells though. I used 2½ teaspoons of root beer concentrate. I should have used about double that, maybe 4 to 5 teaspoons. I also added a half teaspoon of cocoa powder just to add more color. But the cocoa powder ended up being too strong in flavor. My son Matthias was able to taste the chocolate. I will have to think of another way to add color I think. Brown sugar? Molasses? Or maybe food coloring might have to be the way to go.


I also accidentally made a 2-inch diameter macaron and find that I kind of like that size. I will probably make my next batch that way. Josh has requested jasmine-flavored macarons, so those will be my next macaron experiment.

Macarons make people happy!

I borrowed a book from the library all about French Patisserie and it has a whole chapter dedicated to macarons. I think I might be baking my way through that chapter!


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Lego Challenge Build a Rainbow

Today we are bringing Gather Love Grow’s challenge to build a rainbow out of Legos.  The rainbow could be free standing or need to lie on a flat surface.  I told my boys I wanted them to build it where it could stand on its own.

We ended up with 3 rainbow shaped builds, and one flat build that was mostly rainbow colored.  We do not seem to have any purple bricks, so there will be a lack of purple in the rainbows.

Our 11 year old made his rainbow shaped with clouds below it. It isn’t rainbow colored though.
Our 8 year old had a very good rainbow. We didn’t have purple, but he did a good job building the rainbow into the clouds.
Ian (1)
Our 6 year old made a flat rainbow colored square. He substituted black for the purple.
Our 4 year old made his sort of rainbow shaped, but without any of the typical rainbow colors.

Thanks again to Isabelle for another Lego challenge.  If you want to see more Lego rainbows then head over to the Gather Love Grow blog.


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This year our lemon tree has a bumper crop of lemons.  While this is a good thing, it does mean we have to come up with ways to use lemons.  Most recipes use only a little lemon juice or lemon zest.  Lemonade is probably the best way to use a number of lemons at one time.

I took these off of the lemon tree yesterday. It doesn’t include the 10+ already in the house, and many times that many on the tree still.

I didn’t want to make plain lemonade so I looked around for recipes for different flavored lemonades.  The one that that caught my eye was Sparkling Watermelon Lemonade.  That recipe uses frozen concentrate not fresh lemon juice so I had to come up with my own way to make it.

Using a blender puree enough water melon for 4 cups of watermelon juice.  Add 2 cups of lemon juice and 1 cup of sugar to the watermelon juice.  Chill in the fridge or add ice to cool.

I mixed the watermelon/lemon juice half and half with sparkling water.  It might be a bit tart for some people so you may need to add more sugar if you like a sweeter lemonade.

This is a great spring or summer flavor, and something that I will definitely be making again.


Pots de Creme

What do you do when you have just a little bit of heavy cream sitting in your fridge? I didn’t feel like making scones, or butter, or whipped cream, or using it in my coffee. So I hit the Internet to look for a recipe. Someday, I’ll get around to making up my own recipes, but for now, there are so many fabulous recipes online that I want to try first!

I ended up at Alexandra Cooks and my crazy kitchen experiment for Wednesday was to make pots de creme. My husband, Josh, had a root canal on Wednesday after work, and I wanted to make him something special. Yes, this ended up being a dessert just for us adults! I made it up to my kids yesterday by making them vanilla bean yogurt with oreo cookie crumbs for dessert after dinner.

Actually, the real reason we couldn’t share with the kids: not enough heavy cream to make the whole recipe! I had to halve the recipe I used because I only had 1¼ cups of heavy cream instead of the full 2½ cups needed for the full recipe.

I love my canister of vanilla sugar. I just replenished this with fresh vanilla beans two weeks ago so it was ready to be used. Since there were plenty of lovely bean flecks in the sugar, I skipped adding the seeds of one vanilla bean to the cream and milk. I also used one of the whole beans in the canister to steep in the cream and milk mixture for an hour.
My four mismatching ramekins. Alexandra mentions Weck jars in her blog post and I have seen those before. I eventually want to buy some just for using for desserts! A note: the white ramekins worked better than the glass ones. The glass ones were a tad bit too big I think.
I heated the milk, cream and about half the sugar to about 100 degrees F. The recipe says until hot to the touch. Hopefully, 100 degrees F wasn’t too high. Then, I covered the pot and let it sit for about an hour. Then, I tempered the egg yolks with the rewarmed cream mixture and whisked everything together in a glass measuring cup. I did strain the mixture through a mesh strainer into another bowl, but the mixture didn’t really seem to need it. I’m assuming the mesh strainer is to catch any possible cooked egg.


My filled ramekins in a square glass pan, which is then set on top of a cookie sheet. I then proceeded to do something a little crazy!


One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just isn’t the same! I wrapped one of the ramekins with plastic wrap so I could check when the pots de creme were set without having to take foil off. I was afraid it would melt in the oven but it didn’t. Yes, it got a little bit misshapen after baking, but it didn’t stick to anything or collapse into an awful mess.

I kept these in the oven for about 50 minutes. They actually never really looked like they were set in the oven. I made the mistake once of expecting a custard cake to look set in the oven after baking but I ended up ruining it. So out these came whether or not they looked set. I was hoping they would set once they cooled and were put in the fridge. And they did!

There was a little bit of skin on top. I should have pressed plastic wrap onto the top of each of these like I do when I make custard.

These are awful pics, but you can tell these are definitely not liquid anymore after about 8 hours in the fridge. Phew! And… the verdict! These are so good but probably so bad for you! I think these are a lot like custard, but they were more velvety than custard.  They are a lovely dessert that I will definitely make again and I can see making many different kinds of flavors! Passionfruit vanilla pots de creme anyone?


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Homemade Non-Naan Bread

My whole family loves naan bread.  We love it with Mediterranean food, as pizza crust, or just with hummus. So yesterday, I thought I would try making it at home. I was probably a bit too ambitious and tried to double the recipe I used from Half Baked Harvest. Since the bread in this recipe is baked in a cast-iron skillet, I was in the kitchen for a while, standing at the stove. I also made quite a few mistakes during my preparation.

The dough before I mixed the yogurt/milk/yeast mixture into the flour mixture.
The first part was easy. Proof the yeast for 10 minutes, and mix up the flour and other dry ingredients.

This might be where I made my first mistake. I did not have Greek yogurt in the fridge, just plain yogurt, so that is what I used. Maybe I should have gone to the trouble of draining the plain yogurt to get the Greek-style texture.

The dough was very, very sticky! I don’t like working with sticky dough, so I added a little flour to make it more workable.
Maybe the moisture of the plain yogurt threw off the proportions of the rest of the ingredients.

My biggest mistake! Expecting these uncooked flatbreads NOT to stick together. I thought sprinkling each side with flour would keep them from melding together but it didn’t work. 
Next time, I will definitely keep them all separated. I don’t think there is enough room in my kitchen to put 16 naan breads on a flat surface, so I will make a smaller batch.

Since my two little piles had collapsed together into a mass of dough, I just oiled my palms, pulled off a hunk of dough, and patted and stretched it using my hands into a rustic-shaped bread with an estimated 1/4 inch thickness. I think my estimate was a little off though. Then, into the skillet they went. After cooking the second side, I brushed the top with olive oil and sprinkled coarse salt over the bread.

The finished product! They are nowhere near perfect but at least, they got made!
My kids loved these!  “They taste like pancakes with salt on them, Mommy!” Um… no, I don’t think they’re supposed to taste like pancakes… but I’m glad you like them anyway! Hence the name of this post: Homemade Non-Naan Bread.

What did we do with these? For dinner last night, we ate them with Korean BBQ (Bulgogi) and fresh lettuce from our garden to make a kind of Korean BBQ flatbread. The Korean BBQ was very easy. I might write up a separate post for that. For lunch today, I turned them into cheesebreads with Havarti and Provolone for lunch. Tonight for dinner, I made a pasta casserole and I used the naan left to make garlic naan. And now the naan is all gone. Boy, that was fast!

I think my next attempt at these I will bake them. It is much easier to bake 16 at once than 16 one at a time!


Note:this is the look I am aiming for. 😊 more work to be done!