Monday, January 16, 2012

Yoga Challenge

You might have seen the 21 day Yoga Challenge floating around on the internet, and I'm here to recommend it. I'm on day 7 of the intermediate series and it's great.  I've already learned multiple new poses and stretches, and since my hips have been bothering me for a while now, I really loved the hip opener series on day 4.  There's also a meditation that accompanies the challenge.  You can sign up for it to receive a daily email reminder along with a daily recipe to try out.  I don't know if it will still be available online after the challenge is over, but the website has a bunch of videos to try out.

Go ahead, stretch and de-stress a little bit.

Side note: I love pedicures and hipstamatic.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Winter Tea Party

Happy New Year to you all!

After a month of daily posting, I took a small break to travel back home and regroup.  Some of you may remember that I wanted to make French macarons before the year was out, and I did!  These were made on Dec. 29th for our winter tea party the next day.  I am totally deeming these a success, they're really not as hard as I was expecting them to be from all that you read about them.

Mini-macs for the kiddos.

The (kid-friendly) tea party menu:

The cucumber sandwiches are cut out in flower shapes with flower bread toppers.

Cucumber sandwiches (whole wheat bread with a spread of hummus and cream cheese topped with thinly sliced cucumber)
Ham, muenster and butter on sandwich thins
Egg salad buns (these were a little big, the plan was for my sister to make some tiny ones, but she fell ill and these worked in a pinch)
PB&B's (peanut butter and banana on cinnamon raisin bread)

Chocolate chip scones
Cinnamon scones
(served with jam, homemade lemon curd and homemade clotted cream)

I'm in love with all of the silver trays.

mini cheesecakes with strawberry santa hat's
Vanilla and chocolate petit-fours (bought from a local bakery)

Christmas mocktail (green sugared rim, fill glasses with sparkling cider and pour in about a tablespoon of grenadine)

Various teas and hot chocolate

After eating, we cut out snowflakes and then played outside with some party poppers and T was our stand in prop (as termed by one of the girls).

Loving the fancy dresses and fascinators

We got 4 hats on him the next night

Recipes used:

The scone and clotted cream recipes from Tea Party by Tracy Stern

Basic Scones

2 c. all purpose flour
3 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. chilled, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg
1/2 c. plus 1 Tbsp. light cream or half and half

(I made a double batch and  added 1 Tbsp. cinnamon, 1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice and 1/2 tsp. cloves.  Then I split the dough in half before kneading and added 1 cup of chocolate chips to one of the halves)

Preheat oven to 400 F
Combine flour, 3 Tbsp. sugar, powder and salt.  Cut in the butter.
In a separate bowl, whisk egg and 1/2 c. cream.  Add egg mixture to dry mixture until moistened.
Turn dough onto floured surface, knead until smooth and then roll out to 1/2 inch thickness.  Cut into desired shape and arrange on parchment lined cookie sheet.  Brush on cream and sprinkle with remaining sugar (we used sanding sugar).
Bake 12-14 minutes until golden brown, cool on wire rack.  Best served warm with clotted cream.

We prepared the pans hours before baking and they were just fine.

Clotted Cream

1 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. sour cream
1 Tbsp. powdered sugar

Whip heavy cream to soft peaks, whisk in sour cream and powdered sugar.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
(I actually did this by hand and it didn't take that long, so if you don't have a mixer, you'll be fine)

Lemon Curd 
We were visiting T's family right before this and his dad grows Meyer lemons, so that's what we used.  Can I just say, "homegrown Meyer lemons, wheee!".

Parisian Macarons (I added red food coloring during the folding process)
My piping was not very accurate, but I could pair most of them up really well (in terms of size/shape) before filling them.
The one thing I noticed is that you have to leave them in the oven long enough for the foot to happen, sometimes it took longer than the recipe called for, but once they had the foot and looked right they were done.

Chocolate Ganache Filling
I popped it in the fridge for a few minutes to thicken it up before spooning the filling onto the cookies.

For the cheesecakes, I stole this idea from my cousin, who found it on Pinterest, obviously.  I don't remember which cheesecake recipe we used, but any will do.  And we used whipped cream instead of icing for the hat's fur trim.