Sunday, November 17, 2013

Wedding Shower Menu

This weekend I was able to help host a bridal shower for one of my dearest friends, Emily Bennion. She is one of the classiest girls I know, so the shower had to be just perfect for her.

My great friends, Kara McCoy and Olivia Burr, helped with all the planning and preparations. Destiny Bachman helped with the set-up and clean-up. Kate Blair helped with photos and also stayed to help clean everything up, even though she had just ran a half marathon that morning! And, Laura Folkman and my darling sister Elaine even shipped things from Utah for us to borrow! I love great friends that help out.

We wanted the shower to be very classy and have a vintage feel. We knew Emily well enough to know she would really be thrilled to not have to play any silly games, so we planned to just visit with wonderful ladies and eat fabulous food. It ended up being the ideal celebration.

We decorated with antiques linens and china. We used pastels and added a touch of gold and brought in some natural elements to bring in a little fall.

As guests arrived, we had a fancy drink (that I made up 10 minutes before the party started) and appetizers set out, along with vintage beverage napkins. Everyone visited with the bride-to-be for a while until everyone had arrived.

I tried two new recipes for appetizers that I found on Pinterest and both turned out lovely. The cranberry-raspberry brie bites were a hit and would be perfect for any holiday party. I also loved the roasted beet crustini, which were fantastic. The caprese on toothpicks was the easiest thing by far!

Once everyone sat down, we started the luncheon. With the help of these two beautiful young women, Ashley & Cami, everyone was waited on with great attention to detail. They took care of serving the courses, gathering the the used plates and filling water glasses.

They also helped in the kitchen by preparing the courses and washing dishes in between. It was wonderful having them, and it allowed us to focus on Emily and the guests, and made it so we were able to enjoy the meal ourselves.

First course served was a winter spinach salad with oranges and pomegranates. It's one that I've made for years and no matter what new salad I try in the winter, this is always the one I return to. I've never really had a recipe for it, so it will be nice to document it here so I'm able to remember the exact ingredients.

Second, we served my favorite Tuscan tomato soup. I originally got this recipe from Kent Anderson, of the Chef's Table in Orem, Utah. It's a favorite in our family and we make it often. I made two small squares of cheese sandwich "croutons" to serve with the soup.

Our entree was butternut squash ravioli with sage-infused browned butter and parmesan cheese. I really love making fresh butternut squash ravioli, but there was a point that I realized it may put me over the edge to make all of the ravioli from scratch. So, I purchased them from Costco and I'm thrilled with the outcome. Sometimes using prepared foods like this really ends up saving you from being too overwhelmed and I'm happy I cut out a few hours of prep time. I topped the ravioli with browned butter that was infused with fresh sage and then grated some parmesan cheese on it just before serving. This is a technique that Betty DeRobertis taught me when I visited them in Pistoia, Italy. She's one of the best cooks I've ever met.

We served small portions of everything, so that nobody was too full for the amazing desserts. While the guests were eating the meal, Ashley & Cami cleared the appetizers and drinks from the focal table and laid out the desserts, which were amazing!

I had made the Tiffany blue macarons the Saturday before (they freeze beautifully), we made my sister's amazing lemon bars the evening before. Kara and I decided to buy one of the gorgeous fruit tarts from Wegman's the day before; we've both always wanted an excuse to get one of those!

I found some beautiful wedding cake stacked sugar cookies on Pinterest, but they were extremely difficult to decorate. So, I did my own thing and simply used white royal frosting to ice the cookies and then topped them with a decorative candied flower I purchased at a cake/candy supply store in Fairfax. I found a sugar cookie recipe that I really liked from The Decorated Sugar Cookie website. My main go-to sugar cookie is a soft cookie that rises pretty thick and doesn't hold it's shape well when cut out. This recipe was a great one that kept the perfect shape and cooked up nicely. It tasted similar to a shortbread cookie; I loved the taste! I made the circles the week before and froze them. Destiny & Cami frosted them the night before the shower, using a basic royal frosting recipe. Even though they were much more plain than the ones I found on Pinterest, I thought they were really pretty.

The pots de creme is a favorite recipe of mine that is the most simple thing you will ever make, with just  three ingredients. Normally, I put them in individual prepared graham cracker crusts and top them with berries. I wanted a little something with chocolate added to the dessert table, so I purchased these containers at a party store, filled them with the chocolate bliss, and topped with raspberries. I even bought the little mini spoons for them. My friend Kristi Barney introduced me to this recipe and I will forever be in her debt for that!

While everyone nibbled on yummy desserts, Emily opened her presents. She got a lot of lovely things and didn't even get any duplicates. She was moving into their new apartment that day, so she was excited to put all the gifts away.

Kara was in charge of the beautiful invitations and included recipe cards for everyone to fill out with their favorite recipes for Emily.


Blood Orange Lime Spritzer

1.5 liters of chilled blood orange soda
2 limes, juiced
2 c. water
3 lg. bunches of fresh basil
1 bunch mint leaves
mint leaves & lime slices for garnish

In a small saucepan, heat water until it comes to a boil. Add 2 bunches of basil (don't cut up) and simmer for 10 minutes to infuse the water with the flavor. Remove basil and cool water in the fridge or freezer. In a large pitcher, mix blood orange soda, lime juice, basil infused water, 1 bunch each of basil and mint, and ice. Stir vigorously until the beverage is chilled and flavors have mixed. Pour the spritzer into glasses, garnish with a mint leaf and a lime slice, and add a fancy straw!

Cran-Raspberry Brie Bites
Recipe from The Curvy Carrot

2 c. fresh cranberries
1 c. real maple syrup
1 c. white sugar
8 oz. brie cheese
crackers (I used Carr)
raspberry jam
mint for garnish

In a small saucepan, heat the maple syrup gently over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Pour the warm maple syrup over the cranberries until completely covered. Refrigerate cranberries until chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight (or 30 minutes in the freezer if you are late like I was). Once chilled, drain the cranberries in a colander. Place the sugar in a medium bowl. Using a fork, gently roll the cranberries in sugar until completely coated. Place the cranberries on a baking sheet and let dry, at lest an hour in the fridge until ready to use (or 30 minutes if you are late like I was). Assemble each brie bite by placing a slice of the cheese onto each cracker, spread some jam on top and garnish with sugared cranberries and mint.

Roasted Beet Crostini
Recipe from Gimme Some Oven

1 loaf baguette bread, thinly sliced
4 md. sized beets, peeled and diced (can mix red and golden if desired)
2 T. olive oil
4 oz. goat cheese
3 T. milk
2 c. baby arugula
honey for drizzling

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. In a bowl (separate bowls if using golden and red), toss beets with olive oil. Spread beats in an even layer of the baking sheet and roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until tender when pierced with a fork. Remove and set aside.

Lower oven heat to 350 degrees. Spread out bread slices in a single layer on baking sheet, and bake for 10-15 minutes or until toasted. Remove and let cool.

Meanwhile, whisk together the goat cheese and milk in a small bowl until well-blended. Add more milk if you would like a thinner consistency for spreading.

Assemble the crostini by spreading a dollop of the goat cheese mixture on a piece of toasted bread, and then top with arugula and diced roasted beets. Drizzle with honey and serve.

Caprese Bites

cherry tomatoes
sm. mozzarella balls (I used marinated)
fresh basil leaves

On a toothpick, arrange a mozzarella ball and the tomato, wrapping a basil leaf around it. If desired, you can drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

Winter Spinach Salad

2 T. red wine vinegar
4 t. honey
2 t. orange zest, grated
2 t. dijon mustard
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. olive oil
6 c. baby spinach leaves
2 navel oranges
1 pomegranate
1 red onion
4 oz. goat cheese
candied walnuts or pecans, if desired

In a blender, mix the vinegar, honey, zest, mustard, salt and oil until all combined. Cut navel oranges by cutting off both ends first, then set orange upright on one of the ends and cut off the peeling and white of the rind. Then slice into circles and cut circles into fourths. Remove the seeds of the pomegranate. (For a great way to do it-show this awesome video to one of your children and make them do it!) Slice the red onion into thin slices. Toss the spinach, orange pieces, pomegranate seeds and onion with the dressing. Top with goat cheese and nuts, if desired.

Tuscan Tomato Soup

3 T. olive oil
1 lg. onion, small dice
5 c. diced, peeled and seeded fresh tomatoes (or canned w/o liquid)
1 sm. can tomato paste
3 c. chicken stock
1 ½ c. heavy whipping cream (fat free ½ & ½ works too)
1 c. basil pesto (I use Costco & freeze the rest)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a medium large soup pot. Add onions and cook over moderately low heat until completely translucent. Add tomatoes and allow to warm to a simmer. Add chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and allow to simmer for 15 minutes to allow for interchange of flavors. Add whipping cream. Add pesto.  Blend to desired consistency in a food processor or blender, small batches at a time (or use an immersion blender). Return to stock pot. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Makes 1 gallon.

Butternut Squash Ravioli w/Sage-infused Browned Butter

store bought butternut squash ravioli (I got mine from Costco)
1 cube salted butter
2 bunches of fresh sage
additional sage for garnish

Heat butter until it boils and add the sage, leaving in bunches. Boil for at least 5 minutes, watching very carefully and turn heat down if necessary. Let it simmer while you cook ravioli according to package directions. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and place on a platter. Remove the sage from the butter and pour butter over the pasta. Top generously with freshly grated parmesan cheese and sage leaves. I also love to add some toasted hazelnuts and freshly ground nutmeg, but forgot to add any of it at this point in the shower!

Lemon Bars

1 1/4 c. butter, cold
1/2 c. + 2 T. powdered sugar
2 1/4 c. flour
1/8 + a pinch of salt

Mix sugar, flour and salt together and then cut the cold butter into the mixture until you have very fine crumbs. Spread crumbs evenly onto a jelly roll pan (17.5" X 12" cookie sheet with sides) and press the crust down, working your way all around the pan so that it is evenly distributed. Bake the crust in a 350 degree oven for 10-14 minutes, watching very closely so it doesn't burn or get brown. Cool.

4 c. sugar
2/3 c. flour
8 eggs
3/4 c. lemon juice (fresh or bottled)

Mix sugar and flour together. Mix eggs and lemon juice just until combined; don't beat or there will be a foamy surface. Stir dry and liquid ingredients together until combined and very smooth.

Pour filling over cooled crust and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, without browning the top. Sides will get brown, but the entire center should stay yellow.

Remove from oven and immediately take a metal spatula, dip it in powdered sugar and pry the edges away from the sides of the pan. Continue dipping the spatula in the powdered sugar as it gets sticky. Dust a very generous amount of powdered sugar over the top of the lemon bars. Let the pan cool completely in the fridge, overnight works well. When it's cool, carefully cut all four sides off and then cut the lemon bars into equal pieces.

Tiffany Blue Almond Macarons

2/3 c. almond flour (sometimes called meal)
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
3 egg whites at room temperature
5 T. granulated sugar
1 t. almond extract
Wilton teal gel coloring

Heat oven to 280 degrees and place the racks on the two lowest positions. Cut pieces of parchment paper to fit two cookie sheets perfectly and then make 1-inch or 1.5-inch circles all over the papers, leaving at least 1/2-inch of space in between circles (I found something in my drawer that looked like an inch and traced it).

Sift the almond flour before measuring out 2/3 c. When measuring, make sure to pack it in, as it will be very light weight. Whisk the sifted almond flour and powdered sugar together and set aside.

Place egg whites in the bowl of a mixer and start to mix on med-high. When they start to get frothy, add sugar, 1 T. at a time. Change to a high speed and continue to beat until glossy, stiff peaks appear. To test it, pick up the whisk and if the egg white's peak at the top doesn't fall, they are ready. If it falls down, keep mixing. Make sure you don't over mix (it will become clumpy). Quickly mix in a few drops of coloring and the almond extract.

Transfer egg whites to a large bowl. Add a third of the dry mixture and fold it about a dozen times until just mixed. Fold with a spatula, going up the sides, pushing down the center. Finish mixing the rest of the dry ingredients, being careful to fold and not stir. When you lift your spatula, the mixture should pour off like thick molten lava. If it's not flowing when you lift the spatula, it is too thick and needs more mixing.

Use a piping bag with a medium-sized round tip (#10 works perfectly). Place it in a large cup and fold over the sides. Pour in half of the mixture and twist the top. Start piping the batter into the circles. The best way to do it is hold just over the pan (not touching) and let the batter come out until the circle is perfectly filled. Then quickly turn your wrist as you lift the tip to try and not leave a tail. Once the first pan is filled, hold the pan with both hands and tap hard on the counter 3 times. Turn the pan so your hands are on the opposite ends and tap again 3 times (helps get any air pockets out and flattens the cookies). Continue until both pans are filled and the rest of the batter is used up. Let them sit on the counter for at least 15 minutes, or until the tops are no longer wet when you touch them. (This could take a lot longer in a humid climate.)

Place the cookie sheets on the two bottom oven racks. You will have to experiment with the cooking times, but this is what worked for me. Set the timer for 2 minutes and when it rings, open the door for about 15 seconds, to let any humidity escape. Then set the timer for 6 minutes. Once the time is up, change the pans so that the top one is now on the bottom, as well as turn around so the back of the pan is now in the front. Bake for 7 more minutes. To test the doneness, carefully lift the cookie off the sheet. If it comes off the parchment easily, they are done. If the cookie separates in half, bake one more minute, and so on. Cool the macaroons completely before filling.

Completed macarons are best if refrigerated for a couple of hours, or frozen up to a month in a sealed container. At least 15 minutes before serving, remove the macarons from the freezer and keep sealed in the container, with the lid on, until completely thawed.

Almond Buttercream Filling

7 T. unsalted butter, softened
2 egg yolks
1/4 c. granulated sugar
3 1/2 T. milk
1 t. almond extract

Cut butter into pieces and mash with a spatula until the consistency resembles mayonnaise. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks, then add the granulated sugar and whisk until the mixture lightens to an off-white and you can no longer see the granules of sugar. Add the milk, and whisk to combine. Pour the egg mixture into a small saucepan and heat over low, whisking frequently to ensure that the mixture does not curdle or scorch. Cook until the mixture becomes thick and custardy, like pudding. Pour the egg mixture back into its bowl and whisk constantly until it returns to room temperature. Whisk in the butter in three batches, add the almond extract, and stir until smooth and all ingredients are fully combined. Pipe or spread onto one macaron half and sandwich between the other. This basic recipe can be flavored and colored however you'd like.

If desired, use Wilton sugar pearls to decorate the Tiffany macarons. When I did this for a wedding shower, I only did a few for display, as I thought they wouldn't taste as good.

Sugar Cookies
Recipe from The Decorated Cookie

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 c. powdered sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 t. almond extract
2 1/2 c. four
1/2 t. salt

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and blend well. Add extracts and blend. Mix flour and salt and gradually add to mixture until all mixed in. Put dough in a ziploc bag and chill in fridge for at least 2 hours. Working with about a third of the dough at a time, briefly knead the chilled dough and roll about 1/4 inch thick. Cut out shapes and bake on parchment paper-lined baking trays at 375 degrees for 10-14 minutes, watching carefully for edges that are barely browned.

You can freeze the dough in the ziploc bag. Thaw overnight, or for at least a few hours in the refrigerator in the ziploc bag. If it is too chilled to handle, let sit at room temperature for up to an hour, or until workable. Chilled is good, so don't let it get too warm.

Royal Icing

3 c. powdered sugar
2 egg whites, beaten
1/4 t. cream of tarter

In a mixer, mix all ingredients and beat for about 5 minutes. When decorating cookies using the flooding method, first outline the cookie with a decorating bag with a small tip. Once outlined, let them dry while thin the frosting only slightly with a little water. Use a knife to carefully frost inside the lines. If lines are connected, the frosting shouldn't go outside of lines. Dry completely at room temperature.

Chocolate Pot de Creme

2 c. Guittard milk chocolate chips
3/4 c. whole milk
1/4 c. butter

Place chocolate chips in blender. Heat milk and butter in small saucepan over low heat, while stirring, just until mixture begins to boil. Immediately pour over the chocolate chips and blend on high speed until smooth. Pour into dessert dishes, or prepared graham cracker crusts, and top with berries. Chill in refrigerator for at least 3 hours, or until set.

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