Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pretty Pastel Pastry

See why I love macarons? They're just soooooo pretty. Especially when you can display them in these clear plastic tubes. I find lots of great options for clear plastic food packaging here and here.

Baby Chick Macarons

Cheep! Chirp! Chomp! Who wouldn't want a bite of these Easter chicks?

I cut yellow jellybeans in half for the little wings, used an orange triangle decorator candy for the nose, and added some googley eyes (that I found at my local cake supply store.)

Carrot Macarons

I'm lovin' these cute colanders of clever crunchy carrots. (I got the mini colanders at World Market. Only $1.99! So, of course, I had to buy three of them.)

When I made these carrots the first time, I just piped the macaron batter into the shape of a carrot. But the next time I made them, I left the batter a little stiffer and piped them with this zig-zag pattern. Much better, dontcha think?

Cut up some lime green licorice for the leafy tops, and voilĂ ! ... the cutest carrots you'll ever wanna crunch!

Funny Bunny Macarons

Hey Mr. Easter Bunny.... fill my basket with these sweet little guys this year! 

The trick to keeping white macarons WHITE when you're baking them, is to put a layer of tin foil on the top baking rack above your cookie sheet. It keeps them from browning.

To make the bunny's ears, just cut a mini marshmallow in half, and then dip the sticky edge in pink sanding sugar.

Little Lamb Macarons

I posted on these a few weeks ago, but I thought I'd highlight of few things that I experimented with when I attempted to make them again.

First of all, if you leave the macaron batter a little stiffer, they pipe into nice fluffy, puffy wooly circles. Also, the 1-1/2 inch circle template works better. They're smaller and easier to eat. I still used black licorice for the legs, but after I was done, I realized that pretzel sticks might have been better. (More people prefer to eat pretzel sticks instead of black licorice.) And instead of attaching tiny pieces of licorice for the ears, the next time I piped them on with black frosting - much easier.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Easter Egg Macarons

Pretty pastel colors, sweet little speckles, what's not to love about these Easter egg macarons?

When you're piping them, it helps to start in the middle and swirl your way to the outside. Before popping them in the oven, fleck some festive speckles with a toothbrush dipped in some food coloring gel. (Watch where you fleck your specks though, my kitchen counters were quite colorful after I made these.)

I found this box at Hobby Lobby and glued a printout of the Little Golden Egg Book on the front.
Inside, are five different colors of speckled, Easter-egg macarons.
I found these cute, Easter-y takeout boxes at World Market.

Spring Garden Macarons

A little dirt don't hurt, especially when it's the sugary kind.

Here's my attempt at chocolate macarons with a salted caramel filling. The "dirt" on top is crushed Oreos, sprinkled over a mound of the salted caramel filling. The carrot is an orange Mike & Ike Candy. And I added some green icing for the leafy tops.

Mastering the Macaron

Ten lovely ladies joined me today at Adriene Rathbun's Social Class to learn how to make french macarons. They asked lots of good questions and were quick learners. Our first couple of batches turned out absolutely perfect! We ran out of time - as we always seem to do - and didn't have a chance to bake them all. But I had made enough "samples" for everyone to take home boxes of treats to share.

It was so nice to meet everyone. I hope my love of this silly cookie inspires them to bake many colorful batches in their own kitchens. After 3 hours, I think they realized it's not a recipe for wimps. There's definitely a commitment of time & energy when you go to bake them. But they're worth it.


A special thanks to Rhonda, for being my most faithful student and my #1 fan!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Color Me Crazy

The thing I love most about macarons is the bright, cheerful colors. 

The thing I hate most about macarons is the TIME it takes to bake all those bright, cheerful colors.

I've spent the last three weeks, creating and experimenting with various Spring & Easter-y macarons for my upcoming class. I hope everyone enjoys what I'm about to share, because it's a helluvalotta work, for such a tiny cookie.

More fun photos to come.... stay tuned!

Makes me happy, when skies are grey.

Our spring break week was filled with very grey, soggy, and rainy weather. Which made it kind of hard to entertain two kids at home, when you've promised them trips to the zoo and the park and a botanical garden. On a whim, I decided to take Gus & Bea to Portrait Innovations to get a new photo taken. We haven't done it in a few years - mostly because the last two times were disastrous, and I'd given up any hope of my children cooperating for a photographer. But this time, my expectations were low. And I wasn't disappointed. (Especially when it only cost me $9.95.)

We ended up with a very nice portrait or our seemingly-well-behaved children. Just what I needed during this dreary week.

Friday, March 16, 2012

March Macaron Madness

The kids and I are taking the week off for some Spring Break fun. In between trips to the Sedgwick County Zoo, Botanica and maybe a movie or two, I plan to test out more marvelous macaron recipes for my class on Saturday, March 24th.

These clever carrots turned out great, once I found the perfect ingredient for their leafy green tops - lime licorice!

And in case you didn't know, March 20th is World Macaron Day! I will be celebrating, for sure.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Our Extraordinarily-Ordinary Birthday Boy

Every year, I ask my husband what kind of cake he wants for his birthday. And every year, he tells me "a plain, vanilla cheesecake." But I never do it. It's too boring. Too ordinary. Too....... normal. I don't bake NORMAL. He knows this

But this year, I surprised him. He got his wish: a plain, vanilla cheesecake. And I didn't even bake it. I ordered it from Piccadilly Bakery. (I've never had great luck making cheesecakes. They're always undercooked in the middle and overbaked on the crust.) Of course, our kids don't like cheesecake. So, to satisfy every mouth in the house, I got them a mini ice cream cake from Cold Stone Creamery. Oh the things I do to please this family.

I think the highlight of the birthday celebration was probably when Bea surprised her dad with a new coffee mug. It has a sweet, little, green ceramic frog at the bottom that peeks out at you as you drink down to his level. Ribbit!

Happy 45th to our plain, white, vanilla birthday boy. We wouldn't have you any other way!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Do these horizontal stripes make me look fat?

Back in January, Eric ever-so-subtly encouraged me to start exercising again with our Insanity Workout DVDs. (Gotta love that Shaun T!) After taking a few months off from fitness - before, during & after the holidays -  I reluctantly went downstairs, popped in the Cardio Power, and found myself breathless, sweating... and suddenly wanting to redecorate the entire basement. Within 38 minutes, I'd not only reached my target heart rate, but I'd mentally picked out paint colors, sketched where I wanted new wall nooks, and mapped out where some new furniture could go.  

That'll teach my husband to encourage me to exercise!

We've lived in our house for 16 years, but the basement's never really been a well used space. It's soooooo tiny. Sometimes it's a playroom. Sometimes it's a hotel suite for visiting family members. And sometimes it's an exercise studio. So it needs to remain flexible. But it needed some updating. We're still working on the wall decor. The new couch & chair from World Market could use some fun pillows. And I want to find a cool rug to tie everything together. But I thought I'd show you the progress thus far.

Much like my beach-ready, bikini-body... this remodeling project isn't happening over night. Ha. Let's hope both can be achieved by summertime.

Here are some before & after pics to show what we started with - sage green & yellow walls - pretty blah. Not that grey with horizontal stripes is exciting, but it's more serene & sophisticated perhaps. If that's even possible for a basement dwelling.