The Mactweets challenge this month was to create a macaroon inspired by a favorite wild animal. This is right up my alley. I have been in love with exotic creatures my whole life. To come up with an idea for my wild animal macaron, it was with pleasure I mentally revisited my animal encounters and jungle adventures throughout the years. And now I am going to subject you to some of it...
|Me in a shark cage|
Isla Guadaloupe, Mexico
Great Whites are probably my all time favorite wild animal. As an avid traveler, scuba diver and nature lover most of my vacations are booked around observing wildlife in their natural habitats. My most thrilling encounter to date was being surrounded by five Great White Sharks off Isla Guadaloupe in Mexico. However, since there was no mention of the sea in this challenge I will save that story about Bite Head, Patches, Salsa and her friends and my other numerous sea life encounters for other posts.
First I thought about all the animal experts I had produced on TV over the years, especially Jack Hanna.
|Wearing crazy earrings backstage with Jack|
His people were the best to deal with, extra friendly and professional. Through Jack I got to meet and greet many incredible animal ambassadors including jaguars, bears, gila monsters, cheetahs, alligators, lions, and one unforgettable exquisite Mandrill.
|Backstage with a Lynx|
Although there is something so wacky and incongruous to the point of wrong in seeing wild animals in a TV studio, they definitely bring a whole level of excitement to the energy of the place. The staff just loves it. Jack, with his personality a cross between a big kid and a nutty professor, you never knew what would happen when he would show up. Sometimes all hell would break loose backstage, but always in a good way and no harm done to the animals he is so passionate about.
|Molesting a Cheetah|
|Tickling an Syrian Brown Bear Cub|
I have produced many movie and pop stars in my career, but all those encounters and experiences are trumped by the opportunity to bottle feed a baby white tiger or hold a baby mountain gorilla in my arms.
|Yellow& White Tiger Cubs|
Then there were all the incredible creatures I met traveling....
I fell hopelessly in love with sloths in Costa Rica.
Indulged in major baby elephant love in Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.
|Playing Tug-O-War in Thailand|
|Cuddling up to the locals in Laos|
Bottle fed a baby bear in St. Petersburg, Russia.
|Cost to Feed = 30 Cents|
Experience = Priceless
Met many cranky and charismatic camels over several trips to Egypt including one named Michael Jackson at Giza (which is like Tijuana with pyramids)
|Sinai Desert, Egypt|
I've stalked huge tortoises, sea iguanas and snorkeled with penguins in the Galapagos.
And then there are the monkeys. The oh so many monkeys I had vacation flings with.....in Bali, on
several Caribbean islands, in Belize, in Marrakech. I am a monkey slut of sorts...
|Monkeying around in Marrakech|
But I have to say one of the all time fascinating land creatures to me is the Komodo Dragon and my unforgettable trip to Komodo Island in Indonesia to see them.
|Komodo Dragon, Komodo Island, Indonesia|
Some fast Dragon facts:
❀They Have Red Saliva.
❀Like other lizards, they smell with their tongues.
❀Females in captivity have been known to reproduce without help from males.
❀Smaller prey (like a small goat) they can swallow whole. If they are having trouble with this, they will ram the prey while in their mouths against a tree to force it down their throats. Sometimes they knock down trees doing this.
❀They can swim.
❀As young adults they live most of their lives in trees to avoid being eaten by other dragons, even their parents.
❀ Several types of nasty bacteria that live in their mouths will do various horrible things to you if you are ever bitten by one (if you survive the bite.)
I didn't have to wait long. Shortly after rounding the first corner, there in front of us was this huge creature. I was speechless. It looked like something out of a fairytale or a movie. I half expected it to be animatronic.
|My first glimpse of a Komodo Dragon|
While my heart was palpitating, the dragon nonchalantly glanced over its shoulder at us and then, with a bored look on it's face, ambled off down the path following another guide.
Unlike the non plussed dragon, for me, this was one of my most thrilling animal encounters. Obviously, it was not so memorable for the dragon, but to see this magnificent and rare creature on its home turf was a dream come true. We then took about an hour walk around the island and while observing many other dragons, learned all sorts of interesting things about them, their history, behaviors, social structure, reproduction...all fascinating.
|Me -n- a Dragon|
You kind and indulgent souls who read and commented on the saga of my first attempt at making macarons, thank you for your support and encouragement. After making a few batches, I still was not able to achieve the perfect macaron but I definitely feel I am getting closer and I got feet every time!
I added the tongues made out of fondant.
|Sorry. Couldn't resisssssssst!|
I mean after red spit filling, it was just a short hop to a lizard tongue. The only thing that stopped me from drawing eyes on them is the fact I can't draw.
For the Macarons
I used Tartelette's basic macaron recipe and added green and brown food coloring to achieve the dragon color.
For the Strawberry Arrack Jelly
(Adapted from Strawberry Jelly from Closet Cooking. Very quick and easy to Make. He made a yummy looking panna cotta dessert with this. Definitely worth checking out.)
- 1/2 envelope unflavored gelatin
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 cup strawberry puree
- 2 teaspoons Rum
- 1/2 Teaspoon Arrack Extract
- 1/4 cup sugar
- Mix the rum and the arrack flavor and set aside, for at least 30 min.
- Combine the gelatin and water in a bowl and let sit for about 5 minutes.
- Bring the strawberry puree and sugar to a simmer.
- Stir in the rum and Arrack combination and simmer a few minutes more.
- Add the gelatin.
- Remove from heat, let cool, and put in in the fridge until it hardens a bit.
I bought the wooden Komodo dragon from a local boy there who hand carved it. He sits on top of a shelf unit in my dining room, guards over the kitchen and reminds me of all things fierce and rare.
Again, a big thank you to Mactweets for the fun challenge. I look forward to the next!
Komodo Island, Indonesia