Friday, February 28, 2014

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Cookies

Earlier in the week I posted about the Very Hungry Caterpillar that I made for a friend's little boy. A few weeks before the party, my friend and I were talking about the party details and she texted me a photo of the cake/cupcakes she was going to make as well as some cookies that she loved, but wasn't planning on making. Good news for her, I was - what's a party without cookies afterall?! While we couldn't attend his party, as we were in Hawaii, I figured we could be there in Sugar Fairy spirit.

The cookies from the original photo were the fruits from the story - apples, pears, plums, strawberries and oranges with little holes cut out of them. They were really cute and something that totally looked do-able. The first step was to plan out how I would cut them since I don't have fruit cookie cutters. I figured I could start with a circle and cut from there. Here was my plan:

I started with the circle and then cut away. The first few I used the knife to cut out the shape as I had drawn it. This gave me ragged edges though and I wasn't too pleased. You can kind of see if you look at the strawberry cookie in the photo below.

After a few goes, I worked out that if I just cut straight lines, the shapes would be much easier to control and in turn look much better. After cutting the lines, then I just used my fingers to smooth out the edges. Here is the just-cut look.

Here is the post-massage look.

It worked for all of the shapes, excluding the orange which was just a circle.

Once I had it cut out, I took a small circle cutter and cut out a little hole in a corner. Then I popped them in the oven. (Apologies for the sideways photo - I don't know how I didn't notice that while I was taking the photo.)

Pulling them out, they looked like this.

I had a good amount of fruit shapes baked, so I thought with the scraps, I would try to make a little caterpillar. I started by cutting out the shape of the body and then with a knife I scored the details. I figured this would help when decorating it. I also made an oval and a speech bubble.

Then it came time for decorating. I wanted this task to be as easy as possible, so I lined the cookies up by color and tackled the project in batches. First up was red - apples, strawberries and the caterpillar's face. I outlined the hole in the cookie and then the shape. I found that my icing wasn't stiff enough, so if I got too close to the hole, it would drip in. I had to be a tad bit careful, but it all worked out. Once I had the outlines done, I went back and filled in each cookie.

I continued with all of the colors, one by one. Once the base color was done, I went in and added brown stems and a few green leaves, as well as the details on the caterpillar.

Eeeek! I love them!!! Although it's not in the photo above, once they were completely dry I also used a black food marker to give the strawberry some seeds. I was considering using my food colors to paint on each cookie so it would look more like Eric Carle's artwork, but that made me nervous and also, to be honest, I really had to get packing. While they are much simpler looking than the real images, I feel they are cute and recognizable.

The one I was most proud of was the caterpillar. To give him his segments, I started by outlining and filling in every other segment. Once they were pretty dry, I went in a filled in the rest of his body. Then it was just a matter of the face, antennae and feet. I love him.

The cookies were ready to send off to my friend. The only problem is that I had to get them to her nearly a week before the party, as we were leaving on our trip in a few days. Frosted sugar cookies can most definitely be frozen, but sometimes they get spots while they defrost. I looked into why this happens and it seems that no one can work it out - just sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't. Frustrating. I did read that packaging them individually and then putting them in tupperware helps the situation. That is what I did, but in a photo from the party, you can see that some of them got weird. The good news is that the discoloring doesn't affect the taste. My friend said that they were a hit at the party and another friend, who had attended said the same. Perfect!!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

You may remember the baby shower I threw a little over a year ago. Well, while we were on holiday in Hawaii, the baby of honor turned 1! His mom, my good friend B, created a little Very Hungry Caterpillar themed nursery for the little guy and the theme carried out throughout the year. For his birthday party she went for a Very Hungry Caterpillar do. While we couldn't attend the party, I had a few little gifts for the birthday boy. The first was a little crocheted caterpillar.

I found a pattern online and followed it pretty closely. The biggest change I made was that you were supposed to connect the caterpillar at the end so that he is permanently in the crawling position. I thought it would be more fun if the little boy could position the caterpillar. I figured that I could just use wire so that he could bend and hold his shape, but I needed a way to keep the wire from poking out of the ends - I put our abundant supply of bottle tops to work. I just coiled the end of the wire and hot glued it to the lid. Simple.

This made the actual crocheting bit kind of a pain because I had to crochet around the wire, but it totally worked.

I wanted to use a few different shades of green. Originally I thought about using two strands of different colors at a time to more closely mimick the caterpillar from the book, but that would have made him quite big and I wanted to keep him on the smaller side.

I stopped after doing two segments of each color.

Then I just had the wire bit to finish up. Again, I coiled the wire and glued it to a lid.

Then I snuck it in the last segment.

Closed it off and the body was done!

Next up were his antennae.

Then his sweet little face - done in felt.

Then his little feet - six of them just like on the book.

Once they were attached he was still missing something.

His little back fur! For the back fur I used a few different colors of self-striping yarn to give him more of the multi-colored look from the book.

I love him!! After finishing the caterpillar I showed it to Y and said, "do you think she'll like it?" Y looked at me all confused, "isn't it for baby K?" I mean it is, but let's be real, baby K couldn't care less - this was for his mommy. I showed it to K the morning after I had finished and he knew right away who it was supposed to be. Success!!

Happy first birthday, little K!!

Friday, February 21, 2014

More French Macarons

As I mentioned earlier in the week, we just got home from spending 10 days in Hawaii with my parents, my brothers and their spouses/girlfriend, and my in-laws. It was fabulous. I wanted to bring along some treat to share with everyone, and given that I have a ton of almond flour to go through, I made some more macarons. I ended up making two different flavors of macaron - margarita and purple sweet potato.

First up - margarita! I don't know why, but suddenly the idea of mixing alcohol with French macarons seemed like an ingenius idea to me. It ended up pretty good, but I think I could have taken it a bit farther than I did. I started with the regular shell recipe, but colored the meringue a bright green.

The color mellowed a bit as I mixed it with the almond flour and they piped out a nice lime green color - perfect! While they were resting, I sprinkled some kosher salt on half of them. Next time, I would probably salt all of them.

Once they were done baking, I got working on the filling. I used a standard Swiss meringe buttercream. The first step was to cook the egg whites and sugar.

The mix for ages until the mixture cools.

At that point it forms a gorgeous meringue.

Then deflate the meringue with butter to make the buttercream.

Once the standard recipe was done I grated the zest of a sudachi, a citrus fruit that is similar to a lime into the buttercream. Then I added some of the juice. Finally I put in a healthy helping of tequila. I think I could have added more than what I did, but I started to get nervous.

Finally I piped the buttercream onto the bottoms and covered with the salted macaron. These were all boxed up and ready for the airplane.

Next were the purple sweet potato macarons. I did a standard shell, leaving the color natural. For the filling I used the same recipe from the sweet potato snackies I made for K a few months ago. After steaming the potatao, I mixed it with cream, milk, butter, sugar, and an egg yolk.

Then I mashed all of that together.

And let the liquid cook out of it until it seemed a good consistency.

Instead of piping it on, I formed little balls just as I had done for the ichigo daifuku French macaron fillings.

I flattened them out a bit and then sandwiched them between two of the macaron shells.

They looked a bit bland, however, so I painted on a design using luster dust mixed with vodka.

I tried a few designs and asked K which he preferred the most. He decided that the "sword one" (??)should be the winner.

My oldest brother's mother-in-law lives next door to the house we rented in Hawaii. It was absolutely perfect. Our house had a pool, so it was the main hang out. After my brother and his wife, we were the first to arrive. We got to the house and K immediately got in the pool with my sister-in-law. It was cloudy and I really wanted a snack, so I busted out the macarons. They were a hit! The margarita ones were really good. Unfortunately, the sweet potato ones got all crumbled on the plane ride. I think maybe the excess moisture in the filling made them soft. That combined with our luggage being transferred to three different planes didn't leave them in their original state. That being said, the taste was still really good - you just needed a fork to eat them from the tupperware. When I took the macarons out to the pool, it was a tad cloudy. It got nice and sunny, however, and I forgot they were outside. By the time I had remembered, the buttercream in the margarita ones had melted quite a bit. It was a bit of a bummer, but I threw them in the fridge to harden up and they were good as new by the time my parents arrived. Perfect!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

6 Months

To celebrate little T turning 6 months old, we took a family trip to Hawaii last week! Just kidding - it was actually a trip to celebrate our 5-year wedding anniversary, but it just so happened that T turned 6 months halfway through the trip.

For a few weeks now, T has been eyeing food. By that, I mean he gets really upset when people are eating and he's not. I didn't want to start solids until after Hawaii, both for convenience sake and also because I didn't want to deal with an allergic reaction while on holiday, should one occur. I promised, however, that as soon as we got back I would start solids. We got back Monday night, so Tuesday after naptime (and during my unpacking - hence the gigantic mess in the background), T had his first taste of rice. He seemed a bit unsure of it all. Today went much better - I imagine tomorrow will be even better than today. I think I've got an eater on my hands!

He can sit on his own for about 30 seconds now, but can't get there himself.

With a tiny bit of help reaching the top of the sofa, he can pull himself up and stand for a while. He tends to just randomly pick up his hands and topple over though, so I have to be pretty close when this is happening.

Along with solids, I gave him his first sippy up. He seems to like chewing on it, but I'm not sure if he's actually drinking anything.

He loves to roll and scoot around, and his favorite places seem to be under the furniture - any sofa or coffee table will do.

K is still an amazing big brother. He dotes on T and it melts my heart every time. While we were in Hawaii, T developed a cough. Whenever K hears him cough, he runs over, pats his back and coos "poor baby".  I think these two will be best friends forever.
One last T-fun-fact is that he has curly hair (in the humidity, at least)!! I had no idea. The day we got to Hawaii his hair curled right up and it didn't straighten out again until the plane ride home. If you look closely at the family photo above, you can kind of see a little head of black curls.
Anyway, back to the main post - in preparation for Hawaii I made T a portable high chair. I took photos while making this, but it seems that K accidentally deleted them. Whoops. Additionally, I can't seem to find the tutorial I used to make this, but to be honest it was quite confusing and had no pictures. I was able to work it out, but I was confused most of the time. In searching for the original tutorial, however, I found this one that is the same thing, but very clear and with photos. 
We rented a house in Hawaii which meant that almost all of our meals were eaten at a dining table in our "home". As a result, T was either rolling around on the floor, asleep, or being held by someone during every meal, so he didn't use the chair at all when we were at home. To celebrate our anniversary, however, we had a huge dinner at the same restaurant at which we had our reception. They had a high chair for T, but he is still so teeny that he kind of flopped around it in. I was able to use this one to strap him in a little tighter. He only lasted in the chair for about 20 minutes, before someone picked him up. It turns out that I probably didn't need to make this for the trip, but I imagine it will be helpful in the near future anyway.