“Little Monkey” Baby Shower

What a beautiful occasion to celebrate! My sweet sister in law and long time BFF is having a baby boy, and we were so excited to finally prepare for a boy-themed shower (the last 4 babies have all been little princesses!). To go along with the jungle themed nursery, we incorporated the monkeys and the color scheme was blue and green. With a gorgeously delicious candy buffet, we set the scene with pops of vibrant blue and green and accents of brown. All this beautiful candy was from a fresh and Kosher candy distributor, Ohnuts.com. 

blue and green dessert table 2014-12-20sugarandgarlic2014-3 blue and green candy table blue and green candy table cake pops

 

Since we spent a lot on the candy, we saved on the cake pops. We were smart and got the delicious cake pops from Starbucks and spray painted the white ones with food grade spray paint from Wilton’s to match our color scheme. Everyone just loved the cake pops, and at a fraction of the cost of custom bakeries, we loved them too!

cake pops

We used the seasonal peppermint chocolate cake pops from Starbucks’ La Boulange bakery and painted them blue with food paint. These tasted AWESOME.

 

I got my hands on some of the best macarons you will taste from Pierrot Gourmet at the The Peninsula Hotel in Chicago and had them make some custom colors for me (just give them a week’s notice) in their signature flavors of chocolate coconut (the blue ones),  mint chocolate (the green), and salted caramel (the gold). They did mess up my order unfortunately, and it was too bad because I was so excited to bring what I consider to be the best macarons I have ever tasted to my Michigan friends and family. They didn’t make them in mint chocolate (it was only peppermint with a plain buttercream filling), nor did they do chocolate coconut (it was also a plain buttercream filling). Additionally, the coconut shells were all hollow! So I am not sure I would go with Pierrot Gourmet again for a large party event. But they were beautiful, and these do taste amazing when you buy them fresh at the shop. Just look at these beauties.

blue macarons blue and green macarons

To go along with our candy buffet, we requested the bakery to assemble half of our macarons on lollipop sticks. How cute do these look presented in a tray of green jelly beans!? Note that the macarons with a buttercream filling did not hold up well, and slid right through the stick. If the macarons have a thicker filling like ganache or caramel, it will hold perfectly. The gold macarons have a thick caramel filling and help up nicely the entire time.

macaron pops green macaron pops

 

One of the most stunning displays at this amazing shower was this fruit display made from tropical fruits. The mother-to-be’s BFF is a talented culinary artist and mastered this feat when I (jokingly) suggested we include this glorious fruit display! They needed to use a metal rod to slide through the pineapples, and a heavily weighted container as the base to keep this from toppling over. The monkeys were made with a papaya as the body, oranges for the head, lemons and slices for the mouth and ears, and black grapes for the eyes. You will need several metal or bamboo skewers for this design; as you can imagine, the fruit is heavy. 

tropical fruit display

Papayas, oranges, kiwis, pineapples, and bananas assembled into this adorable display!

jungle fruit display

 

Oh yes, this is the infamous banana pudding from Magnolia’s bakery. Perfect for our monkeys who love bananas, and a HUGE hit with everyone! Have you tried this stuff yet?

Magnolias banana pudding banana pudding

Our centerpieces were a simple edible pineapple, surrounded by bananas, and some topped with plush monkeys. My adorable mother-in law set these up! The water bottles were personalized with a monkey-themed label from Etsy!

pineapple centerpiece

The room was filled with vines and hanging plush and paper monkeys, both purchased from Amazon.

jungle baby shower jungle baby shower monkey baby shower

Dessert was decadent, with an adorable and delicious chocolate and banana-cream tiered cake topped with a baby monkey. I described the design and the baker and cake designers at Paradise Cakes of West Bloomfield, MI executed beautifully! That’s a rice krispie treat monkey covered with fondant!

monkey cake baby monkey cake

And how about these adorable and easy DIY cupcakes made by my other sister in law. She baked cupcakes, frosted on green leaves and used these perfect little monkey toppers, also from Amazon! 

monkey cupcakes monkey cupcake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The shower event and baby arrival are both in the winter, so we thought a moisturizing coconut or mango lip balm from Burt’s Bees wrapped in a beautiful gold box and blue ribbon would make for the perfect and functional party favor!

lip balm favors

 

I made a diaper cake and wrapped the tiers in my favorite soft blue receiving blankets by SwaddleDesigns (these are a generous size and there is a step-by-step drawing of how to swaddle attached right on the tag) and wrapped the “cake” with blue ribbon. A dainty pair of wing-tipped infant shoes and a cuddly monkey hugging the side tied the diaper cake into our theme nicely. We also gave baby’s nursery library a head start with a collection of some classic favorite monkey themed books such as Caps for Sale,  Five Little MonkeysIf I were a Monkey, an adorable Little Monkey finger puppet book, and Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb. Children’s books always make for nice functional decor and double as a gift for baby!

monkey diaper cake monkey diaper cake diaper cake

 

Last but not least, we had an impressive and delicious spread of food catered from La Saj, located in Sterling Heights, Mi. This food was DELICIOUS. The stuffed grape leaves, the lentils, the chicken, and the tabbouli were all to die for. I am drooling as I think about it!

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Ramadan and Eid Sugar Cookies

 
These addictive sugar cookies are delectably soft and have notes of coconut and vanilla. They are the perfect dough to work with when cutting out shapes. The cookies are perfectly soft and chewy, yet the dough is nicely firm when rolling it out to cut into shapes. 

Ramadan cookies

ramadan cookie cutter

We are all about making Eid and Ramadan as fun as can be. These are beautiful and joyous occasions, and Ramadan is the holiest month of the year for Muslims. To make this time of year memorable and special for my family, I indulge in Ramadan and Eid themed crafts, activities, service projects, cooking, and baking. Ramadan and Eid cookies are a must on our list!

Ramadan and Eid Sugar cookies

Ramadan and Eid cookies

Sugar cookies shaped as crescents, masjids, lanterns and stars.

 The traditional petit four Eid cookies and “maamool” that we usually make are a more labor intensive, persnickety cookie so I had to come up with a more kid friendly, hands on alternative. What better option than a scrumptious sugar cookie, that the kids can help roll out and cut into their favorite shapes! Of course, making your own sugar icing, letting little ones stir up the colors, and decorate the cookies is the the best part. We had a blast making these and I didn’t have to stress out about the process or careful design as I do with my petit fours!

I tried several sugar cookie recipes, and this modified version from allrecipes.com was fantastic. I added some light brown sugar to make it a softer, gooey-er cookie. I also incorporated some coconut flour (1 cup out of the 5) and vanilla extract for some hints of flavor. You could omit the coconut flour and just use regular, or substitute some almond flour instead of the coconut. These offer great flavor variation and a softer texture.

When refrigerated properly, the cookie dough rolls out very nicely, and allows you to get a nice clean cut with the cookie shapes.2014-07-17sugarandgarlic2014-2 2014-07-19sugarandgarlic2014-7 Ramadan cookies

Islamic cookie cutter

These deliciously scrumptious cookies start and end with frosting! I start by whipping a creamy mixture of brown sugar, white sugar, and butter, which is essentially a creamy  brown sugar frosting. For the dough, you need to work with softened butter, not melted or cold butter. So go ahead and take out the butter and set it out on your counter RIGHT NOW (because you really want to make these!) Then after these cookies are baked and cooled, we top them with an EASY and gorgeous home-made icing with bold hues of blue, yellow, and green. 

Once you have mixed the dough, it will be soft and creamy, so it is essential to refrigerate the dough for AT LEAST two hours if you want to easily cut out your shapes and have clean lines. Otherwise, the dough is too soft and too sticky, and your cut cookies my crumble or fall apart when transferring and shaping. So plan ahead and leave enough time to cool the dough. I also stick some of the dough into the freezer after working with it for about 20 minutes if I need to take a break or if the dough starts warming up again and getting too floppy. To make my gorgeous Ramadan themed shapes, I found these fantastic cookie cutters on Amazon.com, a world of almost any product you can imagine. These specific cookie cutters seem to be out of stock unfortunately, but there are these wonderful linzer cookie cutters as well as these awesome stencils you could use to spray or sprinkle on beautiful designs to your cookie shapes. I just love it (Amazon that is), because I always find what I need and it ships immediately! The cookie cutters are great too; I have used and washed them several times and they hold up great. Just don’t put them in the dishwasher!

roll out the dough

Roll the dough out onto a floured surface.

refrigerated dough

The icing used here is SUPER easy. No need to buy any. I don’t use any fancy meringue powder or spend energy whipping and frothing raw egg whites. This is purely sugar melted into a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a couple of spoons of milk (you can also use water). It hardens very nicely and is very easy to work with. I also add a spoon of corn syrup to give the icing a nice shiny gloss. I divide the icing into several bowls, depending on how many colors I want to use. To decorate properly, I first make a thicker icing to hold in the interior thinner icing. This makes it easier to fill your cookie with a smooth, clean layer of colorful design. Once all the cookies are edged, you can “flood” the cookie with thinner icing by adding another spoon of milk to the mix and stirring until incorporated. 

how to make icing

All you need is: powdered sugar, vanilla extract, milk, and food coloring. Use plastic sandwich bags and a cup to help pipe out the icing.

I pipe the icing with a plastic sandwich bag (any type will do), which I fill by draping it over a cup, with the corner (the piping tip) pointing downward in the cup. Once the bag is filled with icing, I snip off a half centimeter tip from the corner to start making my edge design. I sometimes use simple sandwich ziploc bags, but these piping bags by Wilton are much better because of their conical shape. 

how to make icing

piping icing

Use a plastic sandwich bag and insert it into a cup, with the corner of the bag pointing down, to facilitate filling with icing or frosting.

piping icing

how to ice a sugar cookie

First draw in the edges with thicker icing, made with less milk.

By the time you finish icing all the edges with the thicker icing, the edges should be hardened and you can begin to “flood” the inside of the cookie with a slightly thinner icing by adding 1 more tablespoon of milk to the mixture. Even if the icing hardened in the bowl, dont worry it will dissolve and mix again once you stir it up. 

how to ice a sugar cookie

Then “flood” the cookie with a slightly thinner icing after the edges have hardened.

Ramadan and Eid cookies

You may also want to use some colorful non-pareils sprinkles to let the kids sprinkle (or pour) some over the cookies when the icing is still soft. This is the funnest (and messiest) part afterall! Nothing a vacuum or broom can’t fix; so enjoy the moment!

icing and sprinkles Ramadan and Eid cookies 2014-07-20sugarandgarlic2014-7

Ramadan and Eid Sugar Cookies
Yields 24
A delicious buttery sugar cookie that makes it easy and fun to cut out the perfect shapes!
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For the cookie
  1. 1 1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
  2. 1 c white sugar
  3. 1 light brown sugar
  4. 4 eggs
  5. 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  6. 4 c all purpose flour
  7. 1 c coconut flour, or almond flour
  8. 2 tsp baking powder
  9. 1/2 tsp salt
For the icing
  1. 2 c powdered sugar
  2. 3 tbsp milk + 1 tbsp milk to thin it later in process
  3. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  4. 1-2 tbsp of corn syrup
  5. food coloring (gel or powder) **
For the cookie
  1. Whip the sugars and butter together until creamy.
  2. Add the eggs and vanilla extract.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl. Then gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture.
  4. Roll the dough into a ball, cover completely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  5. Remove the dough from the fridge (preheat the oven to 350 degrees) and knead it gently to soften it slightly. Roll the dough out onto a floured surface, with a floured rolling pin. Roll the dough out to be 1 inch thick, or 1/2 inch for thinner cookies.
  6. Cut the shapes as desired, and lay onto an ungreased baking sheet*.
  7. Cover the cut out cookies on the baking sheet with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 20- 30 minutes. This will ensure the cookies hold their shape while baking, instead of spreading out.
  8. Bake for 6-8 minutes. I like to remove when still soft as the cookie will harden after cooling.
  9. Allow to cool completely for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
For the icing
  1. If you plan to fill most cookies completely with icing, double this recipe ;)
  2. Stir the 3 tbsp of milk and vanilla together.
  3. Sift the powdered sugar and slowly whisk it into the milk using a mixer set on low. If stirring by hand, make SURE to sift the sugar first to avoid any lumps!
  4. Once all the sugar is stirred into the milk into a creamy consistency, add the corn syrup.
  5. Divide the icing into 2-3 bowls to make different colors and add the food coloring.
  6. Lay out the cookies on a large work surface, over parchment paper or foil. Pipe the edges with the thicker icing first. Once the edges have dried, which will happen while you finish icing all the other cookies, you can begin to fill the interior of the cookie with thinner icing. Thin the remaining icing with another spoon of milk so that is slightly more viscous. Be careful not to make it too thin, as this will be difficult to work with and will take a very long time to dry and harden!
  7. Allow the cookies to dry overnight or 12 hours before stacking on top of each other.
Notes
  1. * the baking sheet used in the test recipes was a large baking sheet light in color (not dark).
  2. * If using gel food coloring, be careful and only add a tiny drop at a time! Some colors are VERY saturated and will completely change the color of the icing if you put too much!
Adapted from Allrecipes.com
Adapted from Allrecipes.com
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Upside-down Peach Cake

Nothing smells like summer better than some perfectly ripe and sweet juicy peaches. The smell is just heavenly.

fresh peach sliced peaches

The peaches are fantastic this summer. I sampled one at the store, was knocked off my feet with its peachy perfect scent and sweetness, so I bought a huge crate. Then when I was at home feeding my kids peach after peach, I was worried they would run out at the market, so I went back the next day and bought more. Then I had several large crates of big, juicy, golden peaches. I bit off more than I could chew, and thought I needed to start baking some delicious treats. This peach cake was hands down our favorite!

peach upside-down cake

I took the concept of a pineapple upside down cake and swapped the pineapple for some equally golden and gorgeous peaches. I used my basic yellow cake recipe and deepened the flavor with a caramel texture by subbing out the white sugar for some sweet dense brown sugar. I also added moisture with some sweet peach juice and pureed peaches! What a perfect match. The sweet caramelized topping of the peaches dripping over the moist peach infused cake is just divine. I really intended to eat this with some ice cream. But it seems we ate it all up before I made it to the grocery store to buy some! Oh and make sure you have some people around to help you eat when you bake this cake, because it is that good. Unless you have better self control than me.

peach cake slice

Serve it up with vanilla ice cream on the side!

The cake whips up very quickly and easily and you don’t even need a mixer. I use fresh juice from these ripe peaches in the batter, which was really no problem extracting since the juice was literally dripping all over while I peeled and sliced the peaches. Any peach that got a bit goofed up while slicing, just gets tossed into the blender to puree for the batter.  Some will ask, “Can I use canned peaches?” Yes, you can but that is not as flavorful, fresh, and clean as using delicious fresh tree ripe peaches. Preservative free and whole-some baking for me! Use firm, ripe peaches, not overly ripe peaches as they will be hard to slice and peel. I found it easiest to first slice the peaches with the skin on, then stripped off the peel off of each slice. Somehow, that thin skin actually holds together all that juicy flesh.

sliced peaches

fresh peach puree

Fresh peach puree- made some great baby food as well!

peach floral design

Fleur de peach

So back to this recipe.

I arranged the peach slices in a pretty round flower design on the bottom of my pan. Notice I used a spring form pan, thinking it will be easier to pop out the cake. Horrible idea. The butter from the caramel sauce dripped all over my oven. I don’t know what I was thinking. At least I realized this before I put it in the oven and set the pan on top of a larger baking sheet. What a mess that made! And I probably lost some of that oozy gooey carmel topping! Hey, it happens. Use a regular round cake pan, not a springform 😉

I mixed the sugar and eggs with some coconut oil and olive oil followed by the pureed peaches. Then combine the flour mixture, and some moisture with yogurt and milk, and you are set for a seriously deliciously moist cake!

pour batter over the peach slices peach upside down cake

This is a moist cake, so it will bake for 35-45 minutes. Mine took exactly 39 minutes.

 peach upside down cake peach upside down cake peach upside down cake

Upside-down Peach Cake
A deliciously moist peach cake, topped with caramelized fresh juicy peaches.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
55 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
55 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 eggs
  2. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  3. 3/4 c brown sugar
  4. 1/2 c white sugar
  5. 1/2 c olive oil or 1/4 olive oil and 1/4 coconut oil
  6. 1/4 c vanilla or plain yogurt
  7. 2 c all purpose flour
  8. 4 tsp baking powder
  9. 1/2 tsp salt
  10. 1 tsp cinnamon
  11. 1/2 c pureed fresh peaches
For the peach topping (at the bottom of the pan)
  1. 1/4 c unsalted butter, melted
  2. 1/2 c brown sugar
  3. 4-5 peaches, sliced and peeled
For the topping
  1. Pour the melted butter on the bottom of the pan. Evenly sprinkle the brown sugar over the butter. Be sure to sift any lumps. Place the sliced peaches over the butter-sugar mixture evenly in a circular, floral design.
For the batter
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees (f).
  2. Whisk the eggs, vanilla extract, and sugars until frothy.
  3. Add the oil and pureed peaches to the egg mixture.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
  5. Gradually add the dry mixture to the wet egg and sugar mixture.
  6. Add the yogurt and stir; be careful not to over mix.
  7. Pour the batter carefully and evenly over the sliced peaches.
  8. Bake in oven for 35-45 minutes, until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  9. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes before flipping onto serving dish.
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Whining and Dining in Miami (where to eat with kids, and where not to!)

“Whining” and Dining in Miami 

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The scale:

  • 1) Food: (5 points) Clearly this is the most important! The taste, presentation, quantity, and  quality. When I say quality I am looking at whether it is locally sourced, organic, and fresh. I am not interested in canned foods, foods imported from China, and skipping over the hard working local farmers and producers just to get a slightly cheaper and less fresh product. So I try to learn about the quality and source of the food as much as possible and comment about this whenever possible.
  • 2) Service: (5 points) Parents do not have time to wait around and watch their kids’ good behavior and patience expire. Parents have nap times and bedtimes to meet. Even if you are not a parent, nobody likes to wait around just to ask for a glass of water. 
  • 3) Child friendly: (5 points) These are like bonus points; having adequate child friendly seating such as spacious tables and seats, booster and high chairs, having children’s activities and menu items, and just being friendly to kids are all welcome and important gestures to parents and families!
  • 4) Ambiance: (5 points) We critique the ambiance in general in terms of being clean, nice, fun, friendly, appropriate for children, the decor and being overall impressive. 
  • 5) Value: (5 points) The price of the food for the quantity and quality received. For us we use a median of $10-$15 for starters (including salads), and $15-$25 for an entree. This is neither on the low end of the scale or on the high end. For that price we would also expect a generous amount of food, not a tiny slither of meat garnished with parsley and hollandaise sauce. We think this is a fair and average expectation for dining in Chicago and other big cities. 

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Trulucks (Seafood, Steak, Crab) 777 Brickell Ave. 19/25 Come here for the ambiance and service. A high end, fine dining experience. Costly seafood entrees range from $25-$50. We strolled here with our sleeping infant ( a common and useful strategy if you only have an infant in tow) so it was really still like a date night. 

  • 1) Food: 4/5 Food was well prepared, and great in flavor. Seafood was local with some awesome crab! If you come here you must try the stone crab, it is fresh, succulent, and generous in size. The menu and flavor options are plentiful. We both trued seafood and not the steak so no commentary on steak. 
  • 2) Service: 4/5 We were welcomed and seated right away (7 pm) even though we had no reservation. Waitress happily and swiftly brought me a mug of hot water to warm my baby’s bottle. 
  • 3) Child friendly: 4/5 Because we only had an infant we had limited experience with this aside from being brought hot water promptly. They also accommodated our request for a large booth just so we could place the baby bassinet beside me. 
  • 4) Ambiance: 4/5 Beautiful, clean, elegant. Comfortable seating with large booths available.
  • 5) Value: 3/5 It is costly seafood. Average entree costs $40, with the stone crabs being $15-$25 for each claw. It is however a good sized entree and a large claw, and the food is all fresh from their local and own fisheries. 

Smith & Wollensky (Steakhouse, Seafood) 1 Washington Ave, Miami Beach. 19/25 Come here for the view and outdoor waterfront seating. High end fine dining steakhouse with an amazing view and ambiance! Perfect for fine dining with children and not embarrassing yourself. Save this place for a special occasion (expensive!) and be sure to sit outdoors it is well worth it. 

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  • ) Food: 4/5 Good steaks and seafood, awesome desserts and drinks. Pictured above is my favorite, their molten chocolate cake oozing chocolate ganache. 
  • 2) Service: 4/5 Service is good. They come out enough to make sure you have everything. They did not mind me parking my stroller alongside our table we sat at outside. This is always a plus because I like to keep everything beside me and keep baby comfortably seated. The seating outside is spacious and pleasant. More on that under ambiance!
  • 3) Child friendly: 3/5 Service was good and wait staff was friendly. I did not see a kids a menu or any other special features to welcome or occupy kids but our baby was in the stroller and only 10 months so we could not adequately comment on that. They did seat us in a nice spacious area outdoors and we were very comfortable. 
  • 4) Ambiance: 5/5 We cannot comment on the indoor seating, although it looks very nice and clean and elegant. Great AC and that is based on a quick walk through to the restroom. The outdoors seating is the best and our favorite in Miami. It is waterside and there is a large walkway beach path in which the kids can go play (if they are old enough) or you can walk the toddlers in if they get restless. It is just a major bonus to be able to sit outdoors in the fresh air which catching an awesome view of the water! Definitely an enjoyable experience and must for anyone looking to enjoy try beachside  or waterside dining.

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  • 5) Value: 3/5 It is expensive steak and seafood, more expensive than Joe’s mentioned below, and even Trulucks. We only come here over the others simply because of the view and experience. For good and memorable seafood I would still say Joe’s is the place to go! Entrees start at $30 for chicken and $15 for a burger. But they are delicious, rest assured! As I mentioned above, come here for a special occasion. The experience, ambiance and food are all impressive and tie into the cost. If you include those things into the value, I would say it is a 5/5! It truly is a really beautiful area of Miami Beach!

 

♥Joe’s Stone Crab (Seafood, Crab) 11 Washington Ave, Miami Beach. 17/25 points. Come here for awesome crab, delicious entrees, and decadent desserts. Another high end seafood house. Always busy, be prepared to wait about 30 minutes to be seated if no reservations are made. 3 blocks from the beach and ocean front. This is a favorite. 

  • 1) Food: 5/5 Best tasting stone crab, seafood, sides, desserts, we loved it ALL! We have had stone crab, the sirloin burger, fried chicken, halibut, potatoes lyonnaise, crab cakes, salads, garlic spinach, sautéed mushrooms, and most of the dessert. It is all perfectly delicious. The apple pie a la mode and Key lime pie are to die for. The Key Lime is actually one of the best I’ve had. You must eat here! You could also do Joe’s take away which allows you to order what you want and take it to go which we LOVED doing and taking our food out on the beach 3 blocks east and enjoying the sun, sand, and ocean!

FOODsugarandgarlic2013-3

  • 2) Service: 3/5 Service is average. They come frequently enough to not piss you off, bring the food promptly, and are professional. We have been “greeted” by an arrogant man a few times who first scoffed at my stroller informing me I could not bring it in, and then told us it would be a long wait. Other times we had a kind host who helped take my stroller aside and store it safely beside his stand as well as an excellent waitress whom I cannot remember her name, but will be back to post it if I do. In general, its fair service. That pompous host or manager just needs to relax a little bit.
  • 3) Child friendly: 2/5 Not too friendly based on the fact that I could not bring in my stroller, which I can understand for space limitations. They did have crayons and a coloring book for the kids. 
  • 4) Ambiance: 3/5 A rather crowded restaurant, and if you are seated at a table not a booth it is not too comfortable. Very clean interior and seafood themed decor. There is an outdoor seating option which is a slightly different menu, but this is a great option to enjoy the weather and not have to wait too long to be seated. We usually opted to pick up the food from the takeaway station and go eat it on the beach 3 blocks east!

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  • 5) Value: 4/5 It is costly seafood, but you definitely get what you pay for here. Stone crab is not cheap anywhere in general. The crab is LARGE and filling. The sides are large portions, enough to share with at least 3 adults. The entrees and desserts are also large. 

Big Pink (Breakfast, sandwiches)  157 Collins Ave, Miami Beach. 19/25 points. The best thing here is the fast and affordable delicious food . A casual joint in Miami Beach with great food, a fun atmosphere, and quick service. A great place to grab breakfast or lunch, take food to go, or grab a meal to picnic on the beach. 

  • 1) Food: 4/5 Great food, a variety of options ranging from breakfast waffles and omelets, to sandwiches, steaks, and seafood. We had the french toast, waffles, omelet, and salad and it was all great. The salad did not come off as the freshest ingredients however. But the breakfast foods were great and delicious! We hear that the chicken and waffles are amazing, and want to try that next time!
  • 2) Service: 4/5 Fast service, and they keep your glass full. 
  • 3) Child friendly: 3/5 They have a kids menu, even though I like to order regular food and allow my daughter to eat like us, crayons, and lots of kid friendly menu options to either bribe your child with or allow them to choose what they want. Whatever parenting option floats your boat! 
  • 4) Ambiance: 3/5 it is crowded, but it is a casual beach joint, so do not expect elegant seating or ambiance here. It is nice and clean and a fun vibe however. There is plenty of outdoor seating as well to enjoy the amazing Miami weather (in the winter at least).
  • 5) Value: 5/5 Great food, and cheap food! That is value! Most menu items are UNDER $11, and the only ones approaching $15 or $20 are the serious entrees, like the 8 oz filet mignon for $22- not a bad deal!

Perricones (Italian) 15 SE 10th St.: 20/25 points, come here for the excellent pasta dishes and romantic garden seating.This place is such a GEM in downtown/Brickell Miami. Funny thing is we lived ONE block away on 10th and Brickell and only discovered this place before we moved. We walked by it all the time and it never really caught our attention because it is almost hidden behind a jungle of palms, looks dark, and we just never though anything of it. But we were WRONG! Some of the BEST pasta dishes you will ever have! 

  • 1) Food: 4/5 Some of the best pasta dishes you will have! Dessert is wonderful too! We’ve had the Pasta pomodoro with succulent large shrimp and a perfect tomato sauce, the Spinach Ravioli with the pink sauce, the pasta with olives and feta, and the fettucine alfredo with sliced filet steak. Amazing! They also bring you delicious bruschetta, complimentary! They also have an indoor market and cafe in which you can browse or shop while waiting to be seated.
  • 2) Service: 4/5 Fast service, attentive, generous with the complementary bread and bruschetta! Very helpful and accommodating to seat us with our large clunky stroller and things.
  • 3) Child friendly: 4/5 Maybe it’s just the people but they are all so incredibly friendly! They don’t mind my stroller and babies and make sure to seat you so that you are comfortable. They offered a kids menu and were friendly with my daughter.
  • 4) Ambiance: 4/5 This place has such an elegant and cozy ambiance. They have outdoor seating under the palm trees, but it is enclosed in a tent so that you are away from the bugs and heat. Strings of lit bulbs hang over head make you feel like you are dining under the stars. Live music playing from interior dining hall.
  • 5) Value: 4/5 Great food, average prices, and large portions. I always had left overs to take home. 

Monty’s Sunset (Casual, bar food, seafood) 300 Alton Road. 17/25 points, come here for the outdoor atmosphere and cheap eats. Located off the docks, you can catch a boat or rent jet skis and eat here before or after. This is a nice casual beach restaurant. 

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  • 1) Food: 3/5 Nothing spectacular, just regular decent “beach food”. We got the mahi mahi and fried shrimp basket. 
  • 2) Service: 4/5 Fast service, friendly staff.
  • 3) Child friendly: 3/5 Friendly because there is plenty of space for strollers and kids when sitting outdoors (we cannot speak to the indoors). They have highchairs, but no kids menu or crayons.
  • 4) Ambiance: 3/5 Nice to sit outdoors on the dock and very casual. Reminds me of Bubba Gump Shrimp in Chicago, if you have been there before to compare.
  • 5) Value: 4/5 Average food quality and decent prices. A great place to go with friends or out of town visitors! On the water, good food, fun and loud atmosphere, and decent average prices starting at $15 for entrees, $7 appetizers and salads.

Nikki Beach   (1 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach). 14/25, come here for the beach ambiance; spend the day in the Sun and on the beach while lounging and being served food. Serves sushi, pizza, sandwiches. Check out that address. Yes, you read right. Located in the upscale area of South Beach, and right ON the beach. The only reason why we come here- to eat good food while sitting in comfortable loungers on the sand! This place is a nightclub and a restaurant. So I would not go here in the evening or at night. They have wonderful outdoor seating on the beach. Call ahead to reserve cabana. 

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  • 1) Food: 4/5 The food is very good! You can get awesome sushi,  sandwiches, or pizzas. We tried the pizzas and they were absolutely delicious. I did not know I like sushi at the time, but I wish I did, because it looked amazing! You can get some great drinks my favorite is the Miami Vice which is half piña colada and half strawberry daiquiri- perfect for those indecisive like myself.
  • 2) Service: 2/5 Service was slow. We do not order alcohol and maybe that is why nobody was interested in us? Each time we came here they looked annoyed that we did not want a drinks menu or champagne and wanted to roll in with our stroller. Maybe they dislike non-alcoholic drinkers? Not sure. Not everyone drinks, they should know that. Remember when it was illegal to drink in America? Gosh lets not go into that rant…but just saying!
  • 3) Child friendly: 1/5 Again, our baby was only 9 months at this time so we did not need food or much for her. She was asleep in the stroller. I did not see any families there with young children it. It seemed like we were the only ones, but I didn’t mind it and it didn’t seem like anyone else did either. I do not really feel like this is the place to go with kids. It’s all adults and some people are dressed in their nightclub attire already while some people are dressed in swim attire. So we did prefer sit far away from everyone else.  I don’t think I would come here with my children next time unless we are sitting on beach chairs on the on the sand, further from the crowd with my kids  playing in the sand which would actually be a very fun experience (the beach is huge and this part is exclusive so uncrowded).
  • 4) Ambiance: 4/5 Aside from the less desirable adult/nightclub atmosphere and vibe this place gives, I loved everything. You are eating amazing food, sipping pina coladas and being served your meal on a beach. That’s right- your toes are in the sand and your faces in the sun. You can reserve a cabana ($25) a bed ($10) or beach chairs ($10) and umbrella by calling them in advance while you get to enjoy your food right out there on the beach.
  • 5) Value: 3/5 Good food quality but a bit on the higher end of prices for sushi and specialty pizzas. Sushi rolls average $17, pizzas are also $15-20. Excellent selection of fresh seafood on the raw bar or hot appetizers!

Afternoon Tea

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I love afternoon tea. It’s such an elegant form of appreciating food and socializing. A tea enthusiast myself, I really love to just sit back and sip tea leisurely refilling my teacup with various flavors.  I also love to try a little bit of everything which is why “afternoon tea” or “high tea” is perfect with the set-up of a variety of petite desserts and cute dainty sandwiches that give you a good sample of each and every flavor on the spread. 

So, needless to say, I jumped at the chance to throw a “Baby is Brewing” tea party baby shower for my sister who is currently expecting her first baby. The theme is a lot of fun to work with and the set up of tea cups, tea pots and flowers make for a gorgeous tablescape in it of itself. With the help of my sister’s  BFFs, my mother, and sister in law we were able to gather more than enough tea cups and saucers and a beautiful array of tea pots, tiered platters, and pitchers. An intimate gathering of close friends, good food, and silly games, this was a lovely baby affair to celebrate a beautiful mommy to be!

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We had such a yummy and gorgeous array of tea party treats:

Sandwiches: beef and mushroom mini baguettes, chicken salad stuffed pasta shells, cheese pies and spinach pies, and cucumber dill sandwiches (recipes coming soon!)

Desserts: French macarons, tea bag shaped shortbread cookies dipped in dark chocolate, rubber ducky cupcakes (my favorite!), scones (of course!), and a delicious variety of  petite desserts including eclairs, cookies, brownies, and mini pecan pie tarts! YUM!

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We hung some paper lanterns and made a banner that said ” A baby is brewing”. All the beautiful china we had set out on the table scape, with a few tea pots, tea cups, and pitchers filled with large blooms of hydrangeas and roses were enough to set the lovely and dainty decor. I found adorable little cake plates that looked like real porcelain plates from shopsweetlulu.com and matching “scrumptious” pink napkins. For the take home favors, which always need to be a functional and useful gift in my opinion, I found beautiful glass coasters with the design of a lace doily within it. Perfect! We scattered some rubber duckies and ABC block candles throughout the table to keep with the baby aspect of the theme. It all came together quite nicely without being too over the top with decor and departing from the usual balloons, banners, centerpieces, etc. 

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Tea bag cookie

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A baby is brewing! These personalized tea bag cookies were the perfect treats and favors for our afternoon tea themed baby shower. These cookies were so delicious and really added to the theme. I set them inside each tea cup or on the saucer, beside the tea cup. The tea bag label said the last name of the parent’s to be and the date, with the expected baby’s initials on the other side. These are so easy and fast to make and perfect to have with tea. The details and personalizing are what take some time and attention. The most time consuming part was cutting out the tea bag labels which I designed on the computer in MS Word, and threading the labels onto string and into the cookie.

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I used this great recipe for shortbread by Ina Garten. The key to getting a perfect dough is to use softened room temperature butter and to beat it until it is fluffy. If you do so and then slowly stir in the flour mixture, you will not have any issues with the mixture being too crumbly or dry. Another problem reviewers may have had is not measuring the flour properly. Flour should not be packed into the measuring cup, but scooped loosely by a spoon and into a cup for accurate measurement. If you have too much flour, the cookie will  be dry. I refrigerated the dough for about 30 minutes so that it is easier to work with and cut into the shape. 

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Be sure to cover with plastic wrap before refrigerating…

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You could cut the cookie into the tea bag shape by using a rectangular cookie cutter and cutting off the top 2 corners. 

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Sprinkle with some sugar…

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I used a large straw to poke out a hole at the top of each cookie, which you need to do BEFORE baking if you plan on getting a tea bag label through your cookie 😉 

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The cookies were still fairly soft after baking so I was able to cut the edges smaller and straighter if necessary to achieve the shape I wanted and to poke the straws through the hole again to define the opening (the dough puffs out and expands while baking). But this must be done while the cookie is still hot and malleable. Once the cookie cools, you cannot cut it without cracking the whole cookie. My husband and I had no problems dealing with all those scrap edges! Yum!

Once the cookie cooled, I melted some delicious dark chocolate in a double boiler ( a pyrex bowl sitting over a pot of simmering water does the trick) and dipped each cookie in and laid it on parchment paper to cool and harden overnight. The next day I threaded each cookie with its label.

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Rubber Ducky Cupcake

There are so many reasons to have a rubber ducky at your party. Maybe you’re having a Sesame Street birthday party (Ernie’s favorite toy!), maybe you are having a cute baby shower, or maybe you’re just having a pool party….regardless the reason, rubber ducky cupcakes are so cute, so fun, and easy to make. Oh and they will totally wow all of your guests- children and adults alike! These make such fun take home edible favors too!

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The cupcake design is inspired from the book, What’s New Cupcake? by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. Being on the cover of the book, this really is an impressive cupcake!

To build it you need:

cupcakes

donut holes (for the head)

marshmallows, cut in half diagonally (for the tails)

vanilla frosting (white)

yellow food coloring

mini m&ms ( I could not find mini anywhere! So I have giant dilated duckie eyes)

soft orange candy such as Airheads, Starburst, or Tootsie Rolls (cut or molded to shape the beak)

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Having all of your materials ready ahead of time is essential because once you dip your duck into the melted frosting, you have just a few moments before it starts hardening to add the eyes and beak. It is also absolutely necessary to REFRIGERATE the ducks after you attach the head and tail and let it harden. I did not do this step at first so every time I dunked the little ducks into the yellow melted frosting, my duckies became decapitated…no need for those pictures!

You will need a firm frosting to attach all the pieces of the duck’s body and to coat it in yellow. I whipped up this heavenly, fluffy, melt in your mouth vanilla bean frosting I make from scratch. Don’t worry. It’s very easy, and more importantly, so worth it. Seriously, it is amazing. Sure, you could always use store-bought frosting, but check out the ingredient list. It’s scary. Homemade is way better!

First, attach the donut hole as the duck’s head and the half marshmallow as the tail. Use plenty of frosting to get it stuck on well, and coat it up the sides of the pieces to “seal” it in. Set it into the freezer for 15 minutes so that it hardens and does not fall apart when you dunk it into the melted frosting later.

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Meanwhile, as the newly assembled ducks are cooling and hardening, stir some yellow food coloring into the remaining frosting and melt in the microwave for 15-20 seconds. Do not overheat!

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Once they have hardened and the donut hole-head and marshmallow tail is secure, dip the ducks into the melted frosting. Rotate the cupcake carefully and slowly to fully cover all parts.

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Add on a dot of white frosting to stick on some eyes (m&ms) and the beak (the orange taffy candy).

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