Treetop Friends Baby Shower

A couple of weekends ago I had the extreme joy of hosting my little sister’s baby shower.  I am beyond thrilled that she is having a baby…it’s just her and I in our family and she is the first to have a baby/grandbaby, so this is pretty exciting for us and our parents!  In just a little less than a month we’ll be welcoming baby Micah into the world and you can bet he will be spoiled to death.  And I will probably spoil him the most!  At least I’m gonna try.  Haha.

The shower was a brunch and held at my parent’s church.  We did a delicious breakfast casserole and fresh fruit, along with a dessert table that I planned months ago.  It all came together perfectly and everyone had a great time.  So wonderful having the opportunity to bless the parents-to-be.  Great memories.

The shower was themed after the nursery, which is going to be Treetop Friends.  Think trees, bird’s nests, owls, etc…

Here is the AMAZINGLY detailed cake by Celebrations by Sonja.  It seriously looked just like the invitation.  This is all buttercream, no fondant and I can honestly say her cakes not only look fabulous but are probably some of the best tasting I have every had.

Now for the dessert table…

“Treeknot” Mini Cinnamon Rolls

 A close-up of all the yumminess.

The macaroon “bird’s nests” were delicious and it was the first time I’d ever made them.  I got the recipe here and just tweaked a little by omitting the Nutella, adding some almond extract and filling them with blueberries and drizzling melted white chocolate over the top.  Yum.

Such a fabulous time…now we wait for baby Micah to make his grand entrance!

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Quinoa Coconut Macaroons

I made macaroons for the first time not once, but TWICE a couple of weeks ago.   And that’s macaroons, not macarons (which I love dearly).  There is sometimes confusion as to which is which, so this article might help clear things up for you if you are not sure on the differences.  Not saying you don’t know because I am certain my blog readers are dessert aficianados and semi-experts on all things sweet, but just in case…

Ok.  Back to the macaroons.  With two o’s.

The first version of macaroon I made was the healthified Quinoa Coconut Macaroon.  Totally yummy.  Could eat all of them in one sitting.  They are decidedly not like a regular macaroon but they are delicious nonetheless.  Jeremy even liked them and he despises coconut (so sad).  I like that they have protein from the quinoa.  Isn’t it amazing what you can put quinoa in?!  Of course, I had to add a bit of pure vanilla and almond extract.  Makes all the difference, in my opinion.

Later this week I’ll have a little blog post about my sister’s baby shower and the fun, themed dessert table I got to do which included the typical macaroons, along with the recipe!

Enjoy!

Quinoa Coconut Macaroons
 
Ingredients
  • 6 T. Egg Whites (I used 3 large eggs for this)
  • ¼ c. Light Agave (or honey)
  • 1½ c. Unsweetened Shredded Coconut
  • 1 c. Cooked Quinoa (I used quinoa cooked in light, organic coconut milk for even more coconut flavor)
  • 1 t. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • ½ t. Pure Almond Extract
  • Pinch of Salt
Instructions
  1. Combine the egg whites and agave in a small saucepan. Over very low heat, whisk the eggs and agave until creamy and warm. Heating the eggs will temper them which will create a nice, crispy cookie exterior. Test with your finger--if they are warm to the touch, they are tempered.
  2. Put the quinoa, coconut and salt in a large bowl and mix in the egg and agave mixture. Stir in vanilla and almond extracts. Chill in the fridge for at least two hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. Using a small ice cream scoop or melon baller, scoop the mixture onto the baking sheet. I actually used a 2 Tablespoon measuring spoon and pressed the mixture VERY firmly against the side of the bowl as I scooped it out and then knocked it against the pan quickly and firmly to get the mixture out. If it starts to fall apart a bit, press it together with your fingers otherwise it will not stick together while baking.
  5. Bake in the center of the oven for 15 minutes until the cookies are nice and golden brown. Let them cool for at least 10 minutes or until completely cool. Store in an air-tight container.
Notes
Makes 16 cookies.

 

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Sweet Endings

This post is a little late but I wanted to be able to devote enough time to writing and adequately expound upon a near life changing dessert encounter I had recently.  I know, I know it seems slightly dramatic but I am not exaggerating one bit (well, ok, maybe a teeny tiny bit).  Let me explain…

The weekend before we moved to Missouri, we headed into Chicago one last time for some sightseeing and of course, food.  Initially I wanted to do a Chicago bakery mini marathon, but after coming to my senses I realized this would not only cost me waaaayyyy too much in dollars but most likely in pounds too so I decided to narrow it down from six to two.  I had done my research and was ready; I had high hopes for one and not-so-high for the other but the place sounded fun and kitschy so I had to try it.

We started the day with a little French pastry shop called Vanille Patisserie, owned by husband and wife team Dimitri and Kell Payard. Dimitri is originally from France where he received his culinary traning and Kell is Chicagoland native who attended the Culinary Institute of America.  Between the two of them they’ve won numerous awards and after indulging in their beautiful creations, I can see why!  Their French macarons are absolutely delicious.  When you bite into one of these colorful, delicate cookies it is crisp on the outside but airy and chewy on the inside.  The ganache and fruit fillings are spread thin but bursting with flavor.  The girl at the counter let me try a Coffee macaron.  So good!  Jeremy decided on a Red Velvet and Vanilla and I got Pistachio and Raspberry–we loved them all!  We also chose Chocolate, Nutella and Coconut Papaya macarons to-go.

Macarons All

Macarons Close

After much deliberating–mainly by me–we also chose an entremet, or mousse cake, to share.  I honestly couldn’t decide.  Everything looked so delicious so we went with what the girl behind the counter suggested, the Entremet Vanille, and it was definitely the perfect recommendation.  It consisted of a layered mousse cake with a sable (think thin shortbread type cookie) on the bottom, covered in a mango glaze.  The mousse was light and creamy, not at all heavy and the flavors of vanilla, mango and coconut were balanced perfectly.   It was small but to be honest, it was so flavorful that it was really the right amount to share.  Not that I wouldn’t have eaten another one.  Because I really, really wanted to.

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2Decisions

3 Rasp and Bars

4Rasp Entremets

5Van Choc Close

6Vanille Closeup

7Our Entremet

8Eating

We also took home some chocolate, raspberry and vanilla marshmallows.  They were a tad too chewy for me which is not something I’m used to since the ones I make are always soft.  They were ok but definitely not something I’d buy again.

Mallows VP Bag

So the day started off wonderful!  We drove around a bit, ate a late lunch/early dinner at a place called Gino’s East (apparently famous for their deep dish–we got thin crust, hah!) and then headed off to find the next and final stop, Angel Food Bakery.  The place really intrigued me because it was retro themed and the desserts seemed fun and different.  With offerings like homemade Twinkies, S’mores, Boston Cream cupcakes and Whoopie Pies, how could you go wrong, seriously?!  But oh my, you can go wrong.  Very, very wrong.

Here’s a pic of the inside. So deceptively cute and inviting.  The walls are lined with every make and model of Easy-Bake Oven.

Angel Food

I chose the Coconut Cupcake.  It was huge and looked soooo good but was extremely disappointing.  The only thing “coconut” about this cupcake were the flakes that had been sprinkled on top.  The cupcake and frosting were both vanilla and the cake actually tasted like they had gotten a little crazy with butter flavored oil.  Very weird.  And the worst part of all–it was dry.  As in desert.  Ick.

Jeremy got somewhat lucky with his pick, a Boston Cream Cupcake.  Again, huge and screamed “eat me!” but it wasn’t anything to write home about.  The chocolate goo on top and the custard filling helped mask another otherwise dry and tasteless vanilla cupcake. (I think the red fondant hearts on top were the best part.  Yikes.)

Faux Coconut Boston Creme

We also split a made from scratch, chocolate dipped S’more.  Horrible.  Didn’t even deserve a picture. We both left feeling a little sugary sick to our stomachs.   Such a sad way to end the day when it started so well with this:

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All in all it really was a great day and a bittersweet farewell to Chicago.  I was finally introduced to some real French pastry and I can now understand why they might be a tad snobbish about those sweet little creations they craft.  The focus on taste, flavor, texture and color is so unlike the heavy, sugary desserts that Americans are so accustomed to. The French know how to make something so small taste so delicious that you are satisfied with just a few bites and don’t feel the need for gigantic portions or seconds.  Or thirds.  Or fourths.

It really is amazing.  To me, at least!

But I still love me some Red Velvet cake and cream cheese frosting.  🙂

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