March 18, 2011
Last week we had the privilege of watching our baby nephew Isaac for a week while Joan & Dale went to Maui. He’s just shy of one year & is at such a fun stage! Cruising about, pulling himself up by anything within arm’s reach, babbling, laughing, and playing with lots of different kinds of toys — his fave being balls, musical toys, stacking wooden blocks, and nesting boxes. Needless to say, we had a blast & loooooved spending 24/7 with the little guy!
I was pretty exhausted after the first day of watching him by myself, I knocked out on the couch after we put him down at night. But in a weird way, I kind of liked being so pooped cause I slept so well at night. Sleeping has become so uncomfortable the last couple months cause of my growing belly, frequent bathroom visits, vivid dreams, & other things. But last week I had the most amazing sleep–I didn’t wake up once between 9:30pm & 4:30am. And when I did wake up, I felt so rested, it was incredible.
I didn’t take any photos with my camera, but I did try to capture a few shots on my phone everyday to send to his mama & dada, who were missing him like crazy! Some of my faves:
Spy shots while he was napping. Actually he was napping for a really long time & I kind of wanted to go run an errand, but couldn’t bear to wake him up when he was sleeping so peacefully. I thought the flash would wake him up “naturally”, but he slept through it. So I piled his stuffed animals on top of him & took more pictures taha.
All in all, it was a packed but fun-filled week for all of us. I’m so glad that Isaac did well at our place, even though he was sleeping in a different room & didn’t have his parents there. He’s such a sweet baby — I love him so much & totally miss having him with us. Already can’t wait till the next time we see him!
Taking care of him was tiring, but also reassuring. Even though Joan left me pages of instructions to help me best care for him, I had to learn a lot on the go. I know I only touched the tip of the iceberg, but it gave me a small glimpse at what parenting will be like & reassured me that I’ll be able to take care of my own baby & learn how to care for his needs when the time comes. And also reminded me how rewarding it is to care for a little one & just to see him smile or make him giggle!
It also taught us that we should milk the freedom we have right now. Steven is convinced we should eat out more before baby comes, since it is a whole nother experience eating out with a baby in tow. And I am convinced we need to travel more! A little late in my pregnancy now, but we’re trying to squeeze in one last weekend to Palm Springs & even planned a spontaneous day trip to San Diego this Saturday to eat at our fave places. Otherwise I’m afraid I may never get the chance to eat Extraordinary Desserts again!
Another thing I want to do is to expand my Etsy business a little before the baby comes. It’s such a great source of extra income for us & really enjoyable for me to do. :) I know if I don’t take the time to work on my shop now, it’ll never get done after the baby comes. I just designed a bunch of new stamps this week & will hopefully get them listed next week. Will blog about them once I do!
Till next time…
March 11, 2011
Last weekend I got to host a small tea party for Amanda’s birthday. It was super fun to research recipes, decorate, & collect vintage plates/teacups from local thrift stores! And such a blessing to see the ladies enjoy their time, especially the birthday girl. :)
Decorated with lace garlands from the flea market, a happy birthday cut-out banner, and pink & gold balloons.
Fresh flowers from the farmers market, divvied up into my test tube vases & collection of mason jars. Peaches & creme scones by Joan & my orange scones from this recipe (these were so stinkin delicious… definitely making them again).
Fresh fruit from farmers market & earl grey salted caramel macarons, which I already went on & on about here.
Homemade granola from this recipe. It was my first time making granola & I am totally hooked! It is super easy to make & makes the whole house smell like delicious almonds & honey. Will definitely be making a second batch soon.
And all the girls brought their yummy dishes to share — sesame chicken pasta salad, fresh green salad, banana bread, mini quiches, and peach scones! We seriously feasted.
Twas so fun to just hang out, eat, & talk talk talk. My fave was picking Cindy’s brain, since she is the “veteran” wife & mom compared to all of us. And totally a treat for me to hear all the other young mamas sharing about their little ones too!
Happy birthday, dear Manda! You are SUCH a blessing to all of us. A truly loyal & sacrificial friend. Can’t imagine life without you here in Orange County & am so excited that our baby boys will only be a couple months apart!! LOVE YOU! <3
March 7, 2011
Or, as Steven likes to call them, macaronis. :)
I really wanted to try making macarons ever since Julia sent this recipe over to me. So, with Amanda’s birthday party coming up, I finally decided to give them a go. I expected utter failure. Disaster. Flat shells. Cracked shells. Lumpy shells. Burnt shells! You can imagine my excitement when I actually got some decent ones! Actually, you probably can’t. I was pretty much jumping up & down in the kitchen & talking to the shells & saying “OMG” & texting Steven pictures of them haha.
There were some cracked ones too that didn’t rise properly, but for the most part, they came out. Ideally, the shells should be a little flatter, and there should be “feet” on them, but I was just happy they looked decent & tasted yummy.
The first time I made them I started at 2pm & finished at 9:30pm. I think I knocked out at 10pm cause I was so exhausted from being in the kitchen all day. The second time around, they went much faster & I felt a bit more confident throughout the whole process. In the end, they looked like this:
Nom nom. It was by far the most labor-intensive but gratifying dessert I have ever made. I feel so accomplished. Now, on to new & different flavors!! Well, maybe some other day. I think I need a little break for now…
Here’s a modified version of the original recipe, in case some of you are inspired & want to take a stab at them too!
Earl Grey Salted Caramel Macarons
makes 24-32 macarons, depending on size
for the macaron shells:
110g blanched almond slivers (1 cup)
200g powdered sugar (1.65 cup)
90g aged egg whites (3 large eggs)
30g fine granulated sugar (7.5 tsp)
2 tea bags Earl Grey tea ( I used Tazo)
As always, make sure to age the egg whites at room temperature for at least 24 hours, preferably 48 hours, lightly covered. Weigh out the ingredients accurately. Combine 110g blanched almond slivers with 200g of powdered sugar with the tea leaves from 2 tea bags of Earl Grey tea. in a food processor. Process until very fine and sift into a bowl. Process any larger pieces left over.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat 90g of egg whites on high until frothy. Add in 30g of granulated sugar gradually, taking care to incorporate sugar well after each addition. Beat until relatively stiff peaks form. You should be able to invert the bowl and the meringue should stay in place. Stiff peaks means that there is a peak left when you pull the whisk out of the mixture. Stop beating when meringue stays in place, inverted.
Add half of the almond and powdered sugar mixture into the egg whites and gently fold to incorporate. Add the rest of the mixture and fold until the consistency of lava. Fold carefully. You would rather under-mix than over-mix the batter. Fold quickly & vigorously at first to ensure all ingredients get mixed, then slow down. To fold, scrape down the middle of the bowl until you can see bottom, then swipe around the perimeter. Turn bowl & repeat. Check if consistency is good by placing a tsp dollop of mixture onto a plate and seeing if it slowly flattens out on its own. As soon as it can do this, it’s ready.
Pipe 1 inch rounds onto silpat lined baking sheets, giving them ample space because they will spread a little. If you don’t have piping tips, fill a ziplock bag with the mixture and cut the corner of the bag to about ½ inch diameter. Pipe from the center of each macaron, letting it spread from there. Let them rest for 30 minutes or until the tops aren’t sticky to the touch.
Heat a convection oven to 260 degrees F and bake for 17-18 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets.
for the caramel:
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Earl Grey tea bag
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp coarse fleur de sel
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp butter
Heat 1/4 cup of heavy cream with 1 Earl Grey tea bag. Let the tea infused until the heavy cream is a warm tan color.
Combine 1/2 cup of granulated sugar with 2 tbsp of water in a deep saucepan. Cook until a golden brown amber color. Watch the mixture carefully because it can burn in the blink of an eye.
Carefully add in the heavy cream mixture and turn off the heat. Be careful because the mixture will seize and bubble up when the cream is added. Don’t panic. Just keep stirring and it will calm down. Add in 1 tbsp of butter and 1 tsp coarse fleur de sel. Make sure it is a quality sea salt. It makes all the difference.
Make two batches, one for the center of the filling, and one for the cream cheese filling.
for the salted caramel cream cheese filling:
1 batch of caramel sauce
4 oz unsalted butter, softened
4 oz cream cheese, softened
50g powdered sugar (0.4 cup)
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 4 oz unsalted butter with 4 oz cream cheese. Beat until light and fluffy. Add in sugar and incorporate well. Add in 1 batch of caramel sauce, cooled almost to room temperature, and beat to incorporate.
To fill the macarons, place a small amount of caramel in the center of a shell and encircle that caramel with the cream cheese mixture before topping it with a matching macaron shell. Place in refrigerator and let them “mature” overnight. Macarons will retain their optimal texture for about 3 days.
And finally, I leave you with the best macaron-baking guide I found online. It is genius & so helpful. I attribute my semi-success to it!