Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Shower’

…bring July babies? Or June. We’ll see.

Last weekend brought me up to Haverhill for my friend Marcy’s baby shower, which was a lovely affair hosted by our friend Monica, replete with tasty food, apple blossoms and dahlias, gorgeous table linens, 50 or so charming guests, and a prolific amount of pink onesies. I’m embarrassed to say that, despite the beautiful decorations and lovely guests, I came home solely with pictures of food on my camera. I have issues. I should forewarn you that while I did finally find my camera (yay!), I’ve been a little obsessed with Hipstamatic, so the photos are all from my iPhone. I’ll get over it, I’m sure, but you’ll have to indulge me for a while.

IMG_0573

Marcy is my partner-in-crime for all things catering-related. Together over the years, we’ve manned several lobster bakes, bartended a celebrity wedding of sorts, thrown birthday bashes for crowds, put together dessert bars, Christmas parties, anniversary celebrations, humble dinner parties…large scale affairs and quiet picnics. The list goes on and on. As a pair, we’ve always just clicked in the kitchen, seamlessly moving back and forth without ever getting in the other’s way, speaking in half sentences that don’t need finishing, dividing labor intuitively and efficiently. It’s always mildly unsettling to me when I have to prepare for an event without her puttering alongside me in the kitchen. Over the years, we’ve picked up on each other’s trade secrets: she can now put together my grandmother’s Pepper Clam Dip more quickly than I, and I’ve become well-versed in pinwheel sandwiches, Kahlua dipping sauce, and the ever-present cheese board, which is put together just so.

For her shower, then, I insisted on taking cheese board duties, because there had to be a cheese board, and it had to be put together just so, and had to be displayed on the Italian tile serving tray with white handles (that I made her poor aunt dig out from the very bottom of a teetering pile of heavy serving platters, because clearly no other platter would do.) While I do love my local cheese shops (Bacco’s and Formaggio Kitchen), I found myself at Whole Foods this time, where I’ve always been happily pleased with the cheese selection.

IMG_0571

I’m afraid I didn’t stop and get a picture until after the cheese board had been picked at a bit. You get the gist, though. I had a bit of a curveball thrown at me for this particular platter, being for a baby shower and all: I needed to pick only pasteurized cheeses for our expectant guest of honor. In the end, I opted for the following:

  • Wensleydale with Blueberries (I’ll never, ever, be able to eat Wensleydale without thinking of Wallace and Gromit. Anyone else?)
  • Young Fontina Fontal
  • UnieKaas Reserve Gouda, aged 18+ mos.
  • Ford Farm Coastal British Cheddar with Sea Salt
  • Cordobes (a Manchego-like Whole Foods exclusive)

IMG_0575

Other highlights of the shower included Vichyssoise shooters, a pair of cool spring salads, chicken salad sandwiches, pinwheels, and a serve-yourself cocktail bar with champagne, black cherry juice and apricot juice. I may have had one too many glasses of the champagne/cherry juice combo — absolutely irresistible.

IMG_0570

The pièce de résistance, however, was the cookie bar. Marcy has never had much of a taste for things like chocolate, or cake, or any other sweets, really…except for cookies. In particular, Aunt Josie’s Cookies, which are traditionally made by Aunt Mary (Makes sense, right? I love family traditions. And aunts. And being an aunt. But I digress.) This culminated in the tempting array below, with Aunt Josie’s Cookies reigning supreme over the cookie kingdom from up high on their multi-tiered pedestal.

IMG_0569

The cookies, clockwise from top, are: Aunt Josie’s cookies, Marsha’s chocolate frosted cookies, chocolate pistachio brittle, molasses whoopie pies, peanut butter sandwich cookies, lemon-lime basil shortbread cookies, potato chip cookies, a second container of pistachio brittle, and blackberry jambles.

My contributions were the potato chip cookies and blackberry jambles. The potato chip cookie is a prized and guarded recipe in my files, handwritten by Marcy’s mom (I believe it came attached to a chicken-head cookie jar, but that’s another story). If I may be picky for a moment, I will say that I didn’t do them justice this time around, though — the texture wasn’t quite right. They really do need cheap-o store-brand grease-bomb chips as an ingredient — the Whole Foods sea-salted organic chips just didn’t work, probably because they didn’t have enough bad-for-you oils. I’ll bypass the full rant about how loving good, quality natural foods and loving Diet Coke and Lays are not mutually exclusive. My kingdom for a Whole Foods with a soda machine out front.

The blackberry jambles, on the other hand… oh. my. God. Marcy, take note: this is now officially part of our ongoing repertoire, and I already have plans to make an apricot version for the next shower we bake for.

Without further ado, a recipe for you all. As you might deduce from the obscene amount of butter involved, these are ridiculously and sinfully good.

Blackberry Jambles
from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey: Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth, by Jill O’Connor, Chronicle Books 2007

  • 1 lb. (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 c. firmly-packed light brown sugar
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 t. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 t. salt
  • 3 3/4c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. almond flour
  • 1 1/2c. blackberry preserves
  • 1/2 c. slivered almonds
  • confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Beat the butter and sugars in a large bowl at medium-low speed until creamy. Add vanilla and salt; beat until combined. Add flours one cup at a time, beating on low speed, just until a smooth, soft dough forms.

Spray a 9″x13″ baking pan with nonstick cooking spray, and press one-third of the dough evenly into the pan to form a bottom crust. Wrap the remaining dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold and firm, at least 30 minutes. Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 325 F.

Bake the bottom crust until it is firm and just beginning to turn pale brown around the edges, about 20 min. Remove the pan from the oven, and spread the preserves over the crust. Crumble the remaining dough over the jam to form a pebbly, crumbled topping. Sprinkle with almonds. Return the pan to the oven and continue baking until topping is firm and crisp, about 30 mins. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.

Use a sharp knife to cut bars evenly (or not evenly, in my case), into 15 large squares, then cut in half on the diagonal to form 30 triangular bars. Remove bars from pan with metal spatula, dust with confectioners sugar (using a sifter or mini-strainer), and serve.

Bars will keep, covered tightly, for about a week at room temperature, or up to one month in the freezer.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

There’s nothing like the anticipation of a new baby.

We had a baby shower for my sister a few weeks ago, and as expected, it was full of food, handmade gifts and more onesies than you can shake a stick at. By special request, I made his and hers diaper bags from Anna Maria Horner’s book, Handmade Beginnings. Erm. Have I mentioned that I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew when it comes to special occasions? (You’ll notice that there’s been a distinct lack of posting regarding my ongoing wedding planning. Suffice it to say that there will be several posts in September/October forming a grand unveiling of the sheer extent of my event-planning mania).

Point being, these were not easy patterns, at least not for me. On the upside, I learned so much more about my sewing machine, zipper installation, and why it is a bad idea to substitute poly/nylon strapping for 100% cotton strapping if you have any intention of ironing your work. Ditto for the plastic zipper. I also learned to despise working with Peltex II ultra-firm interfacing, while simultaneously falling in love with the little zippered pouch. And did I ever form a close relationship with my seam-ripper…

First up: “The Dad Bag,” for stylish metropolitan dads-on-the-go.

IMG_4998

I used an upholstery weight fabric for the outside (Also polyester. Really, what was I thinking? Let’s just say this bag is not flame retardant). For ease of sewing, I’d recommend actually reading and following the book’s instructions, and use a cotton home deco weight. Don’t even get me started on the interfacing. I think my sewing machine is still trying to forgive me.

IMG_5000

The bag is lined with a grey print from Robert Kaufman’s “Metro Living” collection, which I was very happy with. Inside the bag is a series of elastic loops for holding bottles and whatnot.

IMG_5003

Also included is a matching changing pad — a nice good size — that can be folded and stored in the front zipper pocket.

IMG_5006

Next up: the “Here We Go Bag” for Mom

IMG_5010

For my sister’s bag, I used an assortment of prints from Sandi Henderson‘s Meadowsweet line. Prior to picking out fabrics, I put together a quick fabric “style quiz” for my sister to help determine her tastes in modern quilting fabrics. Sandi was a hit, along with Jennifer Paganelli. Hmm, wonder if I can figure out how to make an online version of the quiz, just for fun. Why exactly are quizzes so irresistible, anyway? Another mystery of life…

IMG_5013

The design features box-pleated pockets on the outside (another successful learning experience for me!), a divider on the inside (less successful), and then I added a couple of simple inside pockets.

IMG_5012

This pattern also comes with a changing pad, although much smaller than the one that went with the Dad Bag. Hopefully not too small to be useful? I improvised piecing together a couple different fabrics for the front — mostly wanting to stretch out the brown print, which I only had a fat quarter of!

IMG_5016

The bag has an elastic loop in the upper left corner to hold the changing pad, but I decided to make a changing pad/diaper/wipe pouch as well, following this tutorial from Craft Buds. I liked the all-in-one aspect that allows you to just pull out the pouch and run to the ladies room without bringing the whole bag, if need be. I picked up a little plastic baby wipe holder for the inside pocket, so she can take just a small amount of wipes out with her. I might make it just a tad larger next time around (1/2 inch extra would do), as it’s a little snug once it’s fully loaded.

IMG_5015

By this time, I was in a full-on accessory crafting fury, and decided to try my hand at a zippered pouch to hold Desitin and the like. A quick Google search turned up a super simple tutorial by Skip to my Lou, and I was on my way. This was by far the easiest, and therefore most instantly rewarding, part of the whole sewing adventure. (Although piecing the front of the changing pad was fun too…) I see many more zippered pouches in my future — in fact, one for me is already in progress.

IMG_5032

And one more gratuitous shot of the full suite:

IMG_5035

Moving on to the shower itself: On Saturday, I hosted an informal BBQ shower for friends, featuring asparagus wrapped in prosciutto (a new family favorite), Italian and barbecue chicken style strombolis, Italian sausages with peppers and onions, hamburgers with Vermont cheddar, fruit salad, tortellini salad, and of course, cake and beer. I was, of course, a bit preoccupied with managing all the food, so didn’t get any photos, unfortunately. My mother and aunts threw the formal family brunch the next day, and while I can’t take credit for the food at that event, I was free to snap photos that are well worth the look! They truly outdid themselves:

IMG_5038

Olive Cheese Balls. These things are truly addictive. I think I single-handedly ate half a tray.

IMG_5046

Lemon-Parsley Gougeres

IMG_5050

Tomato Stuffed Peppers

IMG_5051

Simple green salad

IMG_5052

Prosciutto, mozzarella, and fruit salad

IMG_5053

Roasted Potato Tart with Fresh Tarragon, Sautéed Mushrooms, and Melted Gruyere, from Once Upon a Tart

IMG_5098

Chocolate Crackle Cookies

And finally, the pièce de résistance:

IMG_5101

Lady Baltimore Cake

Yeah, that whole getting carried away thing? It runs in the family.

And then…

And then your sister goes into labor, and the real meaning behind her pregnancy starts to hit home. A new life is making its way into the world. There’s going to be a new member of the family you already love so much.

But then time drags on, and nothing happens. You wait. You do what you always do, and keep your hands busy. You make a lasagna to take to the hospital. Seven in the morning crawls into seven at night, and you find yourself pacing, impotent to help. You eat the lasagna. You chat with family on the phone, send anxious text messages to the hospital. Bedtime comes, and you finally fall asleep, waking every two hours to glance with blurry eyes at your phone to see if a message notification has popped up. You wake up the next morning, and find yourself deliberating on whether you should write a blog post, or bake a little birthday cake. Blog or bake cake, blog or bake cake. And you realize that both options seem silly in the context. You decide that blogging at least lasts longer, and has less chance of being incidentally eaten. You find yourself reminiscing about your childhood, remembering your sister by your side through every step of your life. And you think of her in the hospital, in pain, and maybe, just maybe, shed a tear or two while you write.

I cannot wait to meet my new niece. I’ve been beset by a single image of holding her and feeling her wrap her hand around my finger for the first time. I love you already, Baby W. But for now, I wait.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: