Some mornings I wake up with lots of energy and a need to fill the house with warm aromas. What better way to expend that energy and create those alluring aromas than to bake? Seeing as in a month or so I won't have this surplus of energy what with the baby's arrival and all, I think it's safe to say that mornings like this must be taken advantage of!
Off to the fridge I went to see what I can whip up and the first thing that jumps out at me are these sad looking fellas.
Two lonely over ripe bananas looking all sad were beckoning to me. In case you didn't know, these guys are a God-send to bakers in the morning as they bake the sweetest confections. Armed with these two lucky bananas there was nothing more for me to do but instantly declare the morning a banana nut muffin morning! And not just any nut... but walnut and COCONUT! Oh yea! This particular recipe that I concocted is on the healthy side of life. When my mom tried them, she said "Yea, those taste like they're healthy." Haha, I don't know about you, but sometimes, things tasting healthy is welcome to my taste buds, especially so early in the morning. If you'd like to fatten these guys up, I'll point out where and when in the instructions below.
Creaming unsalted butter with vanilla sugar.
Unsweetened Shredded Coconut
Chopped Walnut Pieces
I still have some of that luscious vanilla bean sugar
hanging around so instead of using brown sugar, I subbed in the bespeckled vanilla sugar. The amount of sugar in this recipe is on the low side, so you could add in a couple more tablespoons if you'd like to amp up the sweetness a bit. I also used dessicated shredded coconut which generally is unsweetened, so another option to amp up the sweetness is to use sweetened shredded coconut.
The batter for these muffins comes together very quickly. I chose to bake the batter into muffins with half of them topped with coconut and the others plain. You can also choose to do a banana coconut loaf instead. It's completely up to you but keep in mind that the loaf may take a bit longer to bake than the muffins. If you do decide to make muffins like these, do yourself a huge favor and use an ice cream scoop to fill the muffin cups. This will ensure that each muffin is filled the same and the whole lot will bake evenly.
Banana Coconut Muffins
recipe adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction
2 cups Whole Wheat Flour (may use all-purpose flour)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 cup + 1/4 cup dessicated coconut (may use sweetened shredded coconut)
1/2 cup vanilla bean sugar (may use light brown sugar)
4 T unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs, large
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp coconut extract
2 over ripe bananas, medium sized
1/3 cup vanilla yogurt (may use plain yogurt or greek yogurt)
:1 cup powder sugar, sifted
1 T water
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a muffin tray with muffin cups and set aside. Have ice cream scoop ready nearby.
2. In a bowl, sift the
flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon & cardamom together. Set aside.3. In a bowl of a stand mixer, beat the unsalted butter until smooth. Rain in vanilla bean sugar. Scrape down bowl.
4. Add eggs one at a time, incorporate each fully and scrape down bowl and beater after each addition.
5. Add the vanilla and coconut extract, beat u
ntil incorporated. Batter may look slightly curdled at this point and that is completely normal. 6. Add the vanilla yogurt and beat batter and scrape down again.
7. Add the dry ingredients and only beat for about 1 full minute. Do not over mix or muffins will be tough. It's important to beat for just a minute to help the proteins in the flour to begin binding with the other ingredients.
8. By hand, gently incorporate the shredded coconut. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tray. If you have extra shredded coconut set aside, top the batter with a few sprinkles of the shredded coconut.9. Bake muffins for 8-10 minutes. Do not overbake muffins. It's best to pull the muffins out while still a bit soft in the middle as they will continue to cook in the tray once they're pulled out of the oven to cool.
Note: This does not mean pull out if raw in the middle. You should only pull the tray out of the oven if a skewer pulls out a few crumbs instead of coming out cleanly from the center of a muffin.10. Sift powdered sugar (or confectioners, 10x sugar...it's all the same thing.) Slowly add a b
it of water, don't add it all or you may run the risk of having to add more sugar for the proper consistency. You're looking for a lava consistency.11. Once the muffins are cool to the touch, turn the muffin tin over and set up your muffins so you can glaze them.
I recently finished a 5 class hypnobirthing course and I have to say I am so very happy that Mr. G and I made the commitment to one another to complete this course together. What a beautiful way to bring a couple even closer together through the demystifying of natural child birth. If you're considering this as your birthing preparation, don't hesitate!
Alot of people ask me what in the world hypnobirthing is in the first place. I have a small confession to make... I kinda sorta pick and choose who I really explain what hypnobirthing is (at least what hypnobirthing is to me). To those that I can tell are incredulous and ready to tell me horror stories, I extricate myself from the conversation from the beginning by just saying, "Oh, hypnobirthing is sort of like the modern day Lamazze class." With that those people seem to be ok and I find something else to talk about. Why do I do that? Well, just take a look at the pin I was given within minutes of beginning my first class of hypnobirthing...
There are too many out there that are only too willing to share their horrifying birthing stories even if they're not really welcome to be heard. Most if not all of the time they mean well. You know, they're thinking that they're wise to the ways of this birthing business and that you'll benefit from their experience even though there's absolutely no positivity nor reassurance to be given. So with that, let's stop even thinking of the words horror, pain, fear, anxiety or any other term that denotes negativity when it comes to birthing.
Enter into a world of serenity, surrender, positivity, relaxation, confidence, excitement and love. The premise of hypnobirthing is two-fold for me. Firstly, there is a state of hypnosis that you, the birthing mother, learn to take yourself to and you're birthing partner helps to provide the best atmosphere for. I'm not talking about the false representations of hypnosis out there where someone is "hypnotized" and made to do something or say something that they do not want to do or say. True hypnosis is achieved by the person themselves (in this case, the birthing mother) thus the birthing mom puts herself in a state whereby she is in full control of her actions, her emotions and her thoughts. So in hypnobirthing we're given visualization and relaxation exercises to practice getting your mind and body into a complete state of deep, deep relaxation so that in the moment when your surges come and labor begins you can instantly take yourself into this very deep relaxation mode to be able to deliver your baby safely and as easily as possible.
Secondly, hypnobirthing classes help you feel more confident about what your body and your baby are capable of. Birthing is absolutely natural and women the world over have and are giving birth naturally without "aid" from numbing agents or other medical interventions especially if their pregnancy is low risk and considered 'normal' in the medical world. In class, we got to see many videos of women who graciously gave permission to the Hypnobirthing Institute to show their birthing footage. It is simply amazing to see what the human body and mind are capable of when one is prepared and completely in control of their emotions. These women were focused on one and one thing only while their surges came and went and that was to bring their baby into this world. Here is a video of a water birth where the mother and father are using Hypnobirthing techniques to birth their child:
Wasn't that amazing and empowering! Obviously I don't know how the birthing of my baby girl will go, but I can visualize and prepare myself for the kind of birthing that I'd like. And quite honestly I prefer visualizing a serene and focused birthing, one where my husband and I are in tune with one another and where I am in tune with my baby and her smooth transitioning into this world. My body is built to birth my baby, I know I can do this and if you're an expectant mom you can do this too!
You can visit the Hypnobirthing Institute to find out statistics
on women who chose this method of birthing their babies.
I highly recommend buying the Hypnobirthing Book. It will answer all your questions about this method. However, if you have a class in your area, I very highly recommend taking the class with your birthing partner. You will both come out stronger, smarter, more confident and more convicted of your choice to give birth to your beautiful baby naturally.
If you're in the Miami-Dade area, definitely look into taking classes with Maggie Horn
. She is absolutely fantastic and just being around her makes one feel at ease and completely relaxed.
I'll be continuing to practice and prepare myself for the birthing of our baby girl using the techniques from my hypnobirthing classes. I'll post a part 2 to this hypnobirthing adventure after the birth of our baby. Please send positive energy my way and keep us in your prayers. : )
I'm on a tight countdown until my baby girl comes to town...t-minus 31 days! Well, that's based off of the due date so that countdown is actually just a rough estimate. With that in mind, my nesting mode is at full throttle.
I fell in love with Carousel Bedding's Lovey Dove Crib Bedding. What a gorgeous mixture of fabric prints in heavenly shades of blue. I just had to buy it for my little girl's nursery! I also looked into the matching drapes, however I found that this company sells the fabric that matches their bedding. With that in mind, I measured the window area that I needed to be draped with blackout and it came to about 20" more than what was offered by the company. Plus, if I did the nursery curtains myself I would save ALOT of money! Thus was born my next project: Baby Nursery Curtains!
I ordered 3 yards of the Aqua Birds Fabric
, 1 of the Aqua Billow Fabric
and 1 of the Solid Mist Fabric
. I happened to have white fabric that was perfect for the looping through the curtain rod. I bought the double curtain rods and the sheer back curtains at Ikea and the blackout fabric at my local fabric store on sale. : )
This is really a very easy sewing project. What becomes cumbersome at times is the sheer amount of fabric that you have hanging on the sidelines as you straight stitch it all together.
Lay out your fabric and cut the layers of your panels so they match each other. Make sure to take accurate measurements of your windows.
A quick drawing of your window will help you keep the right measurements in mind. Based off of my measurements, I needed each panel to be at least 50" in width and 115" in length.
Match the backsides of the fabrics you want to sew together, straight stitch. I did this 3 times for both curtain panels as I had 4 different layers of fabric in each of my curtain panels, You may pin the fabrics together if that makes things easier for you.
Once all your layers are sewn together, match the blackout panels to the back of the top curtain layer leaving a one inch curtain overlap. I measured the blackout fabric so that it would fall about 10" shorter than the curtain fabric. You don't need it to go all the way down to the floor.
Iron the curtain overlap back toward the blackout. Make a hard crease with the iron.
Unfold the overlap and fold the end toward the crease line. Iron again.
By ironing the edges in twice this will help guide your straight stitch and keep everything in place without having any raw edges peeking through.
Pin the edges together to make sure that your straight stitch comes out perfectly.
Make sure to back stitch first so that the threading is anchored down.
Once your curtains and black out are all sewn together, you'll need to work on how you'll be hanging the curtains up. There are soooo many options out there for this. You can buy metal clips that clip on to the top of the curtains and then slide onto your curtain rods. You can cut 4" x 6" strips and fold them into 2" by 6" straps and sew them along the top of the curtain and then slide those through the curtain rod. OR you can do what I did and make one long strip to sew to the top of the curtain so that the rod is discreetly hidden.
The rod I bought has a diameter of about 1.5" so I needed to make sure that the strip I made was at least 2" wide from the point that I sewed it on to the top. Just in case I cut the fabric at a height of 6" and a width of 52" (2" longer than my curtains for seam allowance).
You'll need to make 2 long strips measuring 6" in height and fold 1/2" down on either side. To make things easier, first iron the strip in half so that your fabric doesn't shift when you're folding the raw edges in.
This is a closeup of what the two strips of curtain rod fabric should look like prior to applying to curtains.
To maintain the clean lines, hem the sides of the curtain rod strips. Open the curtain rod strip and align the top of the curtain with the folded hem of the strip. Pin the other side down all the way through.
When pinning the strip to the curtain, make sure to leave at least a 1.5"-2" opening so that the curtain rod will slide through without a problem. You'll want to pin this curtain rod strip to the curtains every 3 inches or so to help you create as straight a stitch as possible. You'll be sewing through 6 layers of fabric at this point so take it easy when sewing. Don't go too fast and pause every 10" or so to make sure that your stitch is coming out perfect on the other side.
Straight stitch the curtain rod fabric to the top of the curtains very carefully, making sure that the stitch is coming out straight on the other side.
Once this part is done, you can do one of two things: 1) Pull your curtain rod through the newly made curtains, set them up on the banisters and hand hem the curtains where they hang. 2) Measure both panels and hem them as long as they can go, but so that they match each other perfectly. For ease, the second option is what I went with as I wanted to do the hem by machine as well. Keep in mind that you'll be going through less layers of fabric this time, so it'll feel quite different when you're sewing this hem.
So the first step to project nursery is done! Believe me, if I can do this, so can you! Please let me know in the comments below if you have any questions at all. I'd be happy to help you out.: )
I have several other projects coming up like a small quilt, baby mobile, hand embroidered receiving blanket, wall decor and more! So stay tuned!
With the help of her new nursery curtains, our baby girl's room is one step closer to completion!
Dressing when you're pregnant can be a bit... how should I say?... challenging? stressful? irritating? If you're 8 months pregnant and staying at home then dressing isn't that bad, however dressing up for a special occasion...that's a different story. Enter 3 day formal Indian Wedding. My dear friend was recently married and let me just say it was the wedding event of the year! Preparing for this grand fÃªte was no easy task for me because I didn't know exactly how much my pregnant belly was going to grow, so buying a dress (ahem, 3 dresses) was a bit out of the question for the events of the weekend.
For those of you who have never attended an Indian wedding weekend or a formal weekend wedding, let me introduce to you the requested attire for this one in particular.
Mehndi & Sangeet: Ethnic Glamour
Baraat Procession & Wedding Ceremony: Western or Indian Formal
Wedding Reception: Embellished to Impress - Black Tie
As my mom would say, "Whoa Nelly!" Just to skip to the goods of this tutorial, let me just say that after figuring out what I could wear for two of the three events, I was left with no clue as to what to wear to the Baraat & Wedding Ceremony. After searching through eight different stores and finding nothing within my budget nor size, I courageously decided to make my own dress.
I'm still sort of in disbelief that I decided to make this outfit for such an important event. I mean, couldn't I have at least practiced on a less intimidating celebration? Hah! I guess that's just not my style, first there was no time, second that wouldn't go with my normal "jump-in-the-deep-end" sort of personality. So without further adieu, here's a tutorial on how to make a caftan:
Two coordinating gold metallic detailed fabrics laid out for measuring.
First thing's first, you need to visit your local fabric store. In Miami one of the best places to visit for beautiful fabric and inspiring fashion designs is Rex Fabrics
. I bought 1.5 yards of the gold polka dot fabric and 3 yards of the metallic leaf fabric. Best thing to do is to have someone measure you from shoulder to floor first, accounting for your belly (if your pregnant) and go to the fabric store with those measurements as the staff there will help you figure out how many yards you need with a bit extra, just in case.
Once in your work space, fold the fabric in half and lay it out on a flat surface.
This is one of the quickest side dishes to make for Thanksgiving ever! I chose to use the healthier meat choice of ground turkey even though I'm sure there's the risk of turkey overload on Thanksgiving. However at the end of the day, it gives the stuffing just enough meaty texture without overpowering the other lovely flavors going on. This turkey stuffing has loads of almonds, dried apricots, fresh apples, cornbread and spices. Each bite gives your palate a new textural and flavorful experience! Best part is that it only takes about a half hour to pull together.
You can opt for all dried fruit for a more pronounced fruit flavoring. I like the difference in textures when using a combo of fresh and dried.
Go nuts! Use another sort of nut or a melange of them. Some Fall faves are pecans & walnuts.
Use your favorite herbs to bring something unique to this dish. A fall favorite is Sage. If going fresh, add double the amount specified in recipe.
Season your ground turkey a day or so ahead of time for a deeper turkey flavor in the stuffing.
My father's favorite recipe for stuffing includes an assortment of meats. Usually there's sausage of some sort and all the giblets packaged along with the turkey. His stuffing is amazing, however, I'm not a huge fan of all those turkey insides. That's why I opted for this simple stuffing. It has all the flavor profiles I love and not one overpowers the other.
Apricot & Cornbread Turkey Stuffing
Recipe by Cristina Suarez Gonzalez
2 T unsalted butter
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
2 med apples, sliced or cubed
1 cup dried apricots, cubed
3 cups dried cornbread, cubed (can make your own, however make it a week ahead so that it can get stale)
3/4 cup sliced almonds
1 T Dried Rosemary
1 T Dried Thyme
Salt to taste
1.5 lbs Ground Turkey
1/4 cup Chicken broth
1/4 cup Apple Cider
1. Sweat the onions in butter. Add garlic and fry a bit before adding apple slices/cubes. Allow to soften before adding dried apricots. Add a bit of salt to begin layering in flavor.
2. Add seasoned ground turkey. Keep it simple with just salt and pepper.
3. Sprinkle in dried rosemary and dried thyme (and fresh sage if available). Brown the turkey over medium-high heat.
4. Deglaze pan with apple cider and chicken broth.
5. Add in cornbread cubes and sliced almonds (or nuts of choice). If stuffing looks a bit dry add a bit more chicken broth. Stuffing should come together nicely with a bit moisture. Do not add too much liquids. If you do, you may need to add more cornbread to soak up the extra liquid. Don't serve too dry either.
6. Taste for flavor, may add more salt to taste.
How is it that Thanksgiving always sneaks up on me? Does that happen to you? I think it's safe to say that I can almost always use a full week of preparation more before Turkey Day. Thankfully there are lots of good eats that can be made pretty quickly and without any stress. On the top of my no stress dish list are these awesome Mini Pumpkin Pie Bites. Flaky crust, creamy baked custard, spiced aromas, all possible in less than an hour's time of work? Oh yea!
Roll out pie dough and cut out 3" circles.
Make a small slit on each corner of the pie circles, fit into greased mini muffin pan and massage dough snugly to fit individual mold.
"Dock" the dough with a fork on bottom and sides.
Have pie custard ready to pour into each pie crust after par-baking.
Pour the pumpkin custard into the par-baked pie cups. Pour to the very brim.
Place muffin (mini pie) pan into oven and bake until custard is set and pie dough is golden.
To make things THAT much easier, I use ready to use pie dough. Pillsbury Ready Crust can be found in the refrigerated Pillsbury section of your grocery store. It comes with 2 raw pie dough crusts large enough for a 9" pie. It comes out flaky, buttery and quite honestly perfect! No need to stress out over making pie dough with cold butter cubes and allowing it to rest before using. This little cheat is totally worth your sanity if you're running behind schedule like me.
This pie crust comes rolled, so while it's cold, carefully unroll it flat and quickly punch out your circles. Photo credit: Tablespoon
This method of making mini pies can be used for a myriad of pie flavors: Sweet Potato, Apple, Cranberry/Orange, Pecan, Chess (Like the infamous one from the movie The Help), etc. Today we're doing the quintessential pumpkin pie.
Mini Pumpkin Pie Bites
Recipe adapted from Libby's Pumpkin Pie Recipe
Make's 24 mini pumpkin pies
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 T pure vanilla extract
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk (may use heavy cream for a thicker, creamier custard)
1 can (15oz) Libby's Pumpkin Puree (Can roast your own pumpkin if you're feeling ambitious.)
1 package Pillsbury Ready Crusts (this comes with 2 9" rounds of pie dough)
1. Preheat oven 350degrees.
2. Prepare the mini pie molds as shown above. Reserve scraps of dough for any possible extra custard. Par-bake the mini pie crusts until very lightly golden. Do not bake until golden brown. You just want to ensure that the bottoms and corners are cooked through so that they're not soggy later.
3. In either a large bowl or mixing bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg and cloves.
4. In separate bowl, lightly beat eggs with vanilla and evaporated milk (or cream). Pour mixture in a steady stream into the large bowl with sugar spice mixture and mix by hand, with hand beater or with mixer's beater on medium.
5. Stir in pumpkin puree with machine off. Beat until smooth and uniform.
6. For ease, pour into a measuring cup with a long spout. If this is unavailable, use a small ladle and carefully pour the custard into each par-baked mini pie shell.
7. Bake custard filled pie shells for about 12-15 minutes. Put a timer on to alert you at 8 minutes to check the progress. You're looking for a puffed and perhaps slightly cracked custard surface and golden brown crusts. Take mini pie pan out of oven and allow to completely cool in pan before unmolding. The pies will continue to cook in the residual heat of the pan and when set and cool will have deflated.
8. Unmold carefully. Enjoy!
I just had to sink my teeth into one right away, but beware! These little guys are addictive. If you want them to make it to your dessert table, make sure to tuck them safely away from everyone... including you! : ) Happy Thanksgiving!!!
I can't believe Thanksgiving is just 2 weeks away! Woohoo! I love every facet of Thanksgiving dinner: the turkey, all the sides & casseroles, desserts & pies, etc. I thought it'd be awesome to start making some of those dishes ahead of time to experiment a bit and extend that awesome Thanksgiving food fever from just one night to many delicious days and nights. So starting off the feast is a turkey day fave, Cranberry Sauce! This versatile sauce is fantastic not just as a sweet side dish, but also as a great waffle or pancake topper, crepe center or sandwich schmear. That's why it's probably a good idea to make this recipe times 2 or 3 so that there's extra for the weekend leftovers.
If you're in the South Florida region, you probably know that a Trader Joe's just opened in Pinecrest. Most people living in those lucky cities with Trader Joe's know the excitement we South Floridians feel. What an outstanding private company that provides wholesome & healthy fresh produce, dry food products and unique flavor combinations (like my absolute favorite Chile Spiced Dried Mango...YUM!!!!). The best part is that it's all at super affordable prices!
Amongst all the goodies Trader Joe's has to offer, it has these lovely effervescent Italian sodas. In the past I've made cranberry sauce with fresh orange juice, however, the last cup of my Italian Blood Orange Soda was calling me to experiment with it in this year's take on Cranberry Sauce.
Some other awesome finds at the market were some juicy, mini clementines and crisp, juicy gala apples. Both of these fruits are essential in a great cranberry sauce because of the added natural pectin they'll infuse helping to thicken up the end product. When peeling the clementines don't worry too much about picking out all the pith (the white fibers) because that's where the most pectin is found. However, if you decide to use navel oranges instead, don't put too much pith into the sauce as it can make it too bitter. With the apples, just chop and de-seed. No need to peel the apples as whatever peel doesn't end up completely disintegrating with give the sauce some great texture.
The best part of this Thanksgiving side staple is the "one potness" of it, lol. Just prepare all the ingredients and through them all into a deep saucepan and let everything bubble away and naturally pop all those luscious ruby cranberries.
Fresh Cranberry Sauce Recipe
Recipe by Cristina Suarez Gonzalez
12 oz Fresh Cranberries
1 cup Blood Orange Soda (can substitute fresh orange juice instead)
3 Clementines, peeled with skin and some pith left on
2 Apples, sweet apples preferably de-seeded and chopped with skin left on
opt. Sugar (I used 1 heaping tablespoon because I like the tartness, however, this is to your taste. Add just a little at a time and taste, taste, taste.)
1. Prepare the Clementines, apples and cranberries. Put all the fruit and berries in a deep saucepan to reduce splattering.
2. Measure and pour the blood orange soda into the saucepan and bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat.
3. Stir in the optional sugar. Allow the sugar to dissolve before tasting. (Be careful tasting the sauce, you don't want to burn yourself!)
4. Allow mixture to thicken up and serve hot or cold. Enjoy!
Since we're on the subject of Baby Shower's this week, I thought it would be nice to share the latest shower cake I made for a dear friend of mine from childhood. She planned a surprise baby shower for a friend and went with this great inspiration board to get those creative juices flowing.
Similar advice card available on Etsy. Photo credit for above unknown.
Photo Credit: Hostess With The Mostess
Photo Credit: The Land of Nod
Photo Credit: Hostess With The Mostess
What a sweet theme to shower a mother-to-be into "nesting" mode with chicks and baby birds. Armed with this mood board and a couple of cake inspirations as well we came out with the following square cake filled with delicious red velvet cake and luscious cream cheese frosting. Photo Credit: Fifty Flowers
The small yellow balls on the cake are a mod nod to the ever popular billy ball flowers that were seen across many wedding inspiration boards this past spring and summer. These fun and playful flowers are also known as Crespedia. Their spherical heads are full of miniature little yellow florets.
A great way to achieve this in sugar is to create a half-sphere of sugar paste (this will give you more surface area to properly attach the sphere to the cake. Before attaching to the cake with either a sugar 'glue' or royal icing, lightly dampen the half-sphere and dip into yellow sanding sugar.
Happy Baby Shower to all those moms-to-be out there!
This has been a very busy couple of weeks! We're finally moved in and settled, right in time for baby shower season. Can you believe there are 6 women in my family having babies?! All within 6 weeks of each other! That's what you call a fertile family. Funny because now that I'm pregnant I see pregnant women EVERYWHERE! Is it that it's just in my mind or is it the year of the baby? I don't know for sure, but it seems to be in the water in these here parts. : ) For my baby girl's shower, we welcomed the fall season of pumpkin patches into the shower. Since she's in the 93 percentile (she's a big girl) I thought it was fitting we dub her a little pumpkin. So white pumpkins ruled the shower. I bought the perfect little pumpkins to adorn the dessert bar at a great pumpkin patch online called Autumn Harvest. They have a great supply of real mini pumpkins and gourds. Best of all is that even though this is the time of year when orders might be hard to fill fast, they got them to me within a couple of days! Visit their site, it's a great place to get inspiration for your own harvest decoration at home or for an event.
I turned to the very talented group of designers on Etsy
for the shower invite. There were soooo many options to choose from! But I finally decided on this design by Meyer Market Designs
. Bernadette was great! She also helped me with the favor labels as well. From there I just needed to tweak the design a bit to create the menu image.
We found the absolute perfect restaurant in Angelique Euro Cafe
on Miracle Mile to host the shower at. Their team is so incredibly helpful, courteous and above all the food was spectacular! It's hard to find a place that cooks the food for an event to order and they do. What does that mean? Well, you do have to wait a bit, but it's soooo worth it! The entrees came out hot and freshly made. I.e. If you ordered fries with your dish, they came out crispy, pasta was al dente and not mushy and overcooked and flavors were just spot on! Soooo good!
As guests arrived they were greeted at the entrance with a pink cranberry mimosa, maternity photos by Natalie Atick
and some baby photos of Mr. G & I. I wonder who Chiara will look like most? The first three pumpkins each had letters of Chiara's name written on them with acrylic paint.
That small project was pretty simple. All you need is the acrylic paint of your choice, a steady hand with a paintbrush or a stencil and a paintbrush. I opted for a Martha Stewart stencil, just in case my hand decided not to be so steady that day.
The flower centerpieces were created by Chiara's madrina (godmother), grandmother & myself the night before. I chose to do a soft mixture of white flowers: Dahlias, Wax Flowers & Baby's Breath.
The part I enjoyed the most was figuring out what dessert flavors I was interested in serving and how they'd be displayed. Since it's still pretty hot in Miami, although, it's supposed to be Fall here I went with a little end of summer along with harvest flavors.
Chocolate Cake with Fresh Ginger Filling
Vanilla Cake with 3 Berry Filling
Mini Pumpkin Pie Bites
Dark Chocolate Acorn Cookies
All the desserts were a hit! Preparing them in mini versions or in the pre-cut slices made it easy for guests to help themselves once they were finished with their entrees. The acorn cookies were a sensation amongst the kids. It was so funny watching the older girls reach up and get a few for the shorter girls of the group. I loved the camaraderie they had and felt so blessed that my little one will be able to learn from them soon.
I prepared an activity for the girls to keep them entertained. With a few pieces of computer paper, crayons and simple instructions they went to work on note cards for Chiara. I treasure those cards now as I know Chiara will. What a priceless way to freeze time so that our little pumpkin will know who her cousins are and what was on their minds the day of the shower.
The ladies of the shower also had a writing activity to do whilst they chatted away catching up with one another. These definitely need to go into a keepsake album. The ladies were so thoughtful and funny in their words for our baby girl.
What a wonderful day and memorable shower! I loved every minute of it and only wish I had more time to spend with everyone that was able to come and share it with me. Thank you so very much to my mom for the gift of this shower! Without her help throughout the weeks prior I don't know what I would've done. I can only hope to be as incredible and admirable a mother as she. xoxo
I have an incredible line up of sweets coming up for the blog such as homemade vanilla ice cream, vanilla bean souffle and vanilla creme anglaise. The main component these three sweets have in common is vanilla. I want to try and amplify those spicy, floral and delicate bouquet notes that are intrinsic in the vanilla bean in these upcoming preparations. One way to do this is by preparing some vanilla bean sugar. I'll show you how you can use this special sugar in each of the recipes, however we first have to make the bespeckled sugar.
Vanilla Bean Sugar is such a satisfying and aromatic staple ingredient to add to your pantry. It is incredibly easy to make and adds that extra je ne sais quoi to your sweet creations. This makes Vanilla Bean Sugar a fantastic homemade gift for your fellow foodie or home baker. Even just a bit of it in Chai tea or strong coffee makes a mid afternoon break that much more special.
Let's talk beans first, vanilla beans of course. These sumptuous pods are cultivated from a vanilla bean orchid's climbing vine. After the discovery that vanilla beans could be hand pollinated, the vanilla orchid's precious fruit began it's world cultivation. However, there are truly just three MAJOR types of vanilla (although many believe that vanilla is vanilla is vanilla no matter where it is grown). The three most well known cultivars of vanilla are found in Mexico, Tahiti and Madagascar. Mexican Vanilla is special as it is considered to come from the land of its origin. Note thought that anything labeled French Vanilla actually refers to a preparation using vanilla pods or seeds not a vanilla pod cultivated in France.
The first step to unlocking the full potential from vanilla pods is to split them in half with a sharp paring knife. Make sure to use a straight blade and not a serrated one. After splitting the pod in two, use the same knife to scrape up all those fragrant vanilla seeds.
Immediately after I did this, my husband thought I wasn't being thorough enough, so my sous chef took a small spoon and rescraped the pods and found lots more seeds I had left behind after my first pass. I just love his persistent and detail oriented nature!
Add the vanilla seeds and scraped vanilla pods to granulated sugar, mix together et voila! Vanilla Bean Sugar! I usually get some seeds on my fingertips so I rub them in the sugar as well and the seeds come right off my fingers and into the sugar.
Vanilla Bean Sugar
2 Vanilla pods (I used Mexican vanilla pods, but Tahitian & Bourbon would be fantastic too!)
1 lb granulated sugar
- Place granulated sugar in a food saver sort of canister.
- Split vanilla pods in half with paring knife.
- Scrape vanilla seeds out from both sides of the pods.
- Place scraped pods and seeds directly into granulated sugar.
- Using your finger tips rub the sugar on and around the seeds and pods to distribute.
- Dig the pods into the sugar and close the canister.
- Wait at least 1 week to use the vanilla sugar.
These food saver canisters are fantastic to use in this sort of application. They help lock our any humidity and help to seal in the vibrancy of those vanilla notes so they permeate throughout the sugar.