Friday, June 4, 2010

For the Bride to Be

I love a good reason to throw a party. Last weekend I hosted a bridal shower for my almost sister-in-law, Ashleigh. Here's what I learned:

1. Plan ahead. I had the menu and general vision in mind a month ahead of time. I don't know why I didn't figure this out when I was a student, but I've finally learned not to procrastinate (mostly), and it feels great.

2. No one needs shower games. The only 'activity' we did was watch a video I'd made of Ian answering questions about Ashleigh and their relationship. We paused the video at times to see if Ashleigh's answers matched. Everyone loved the opportunity to take a peek inside their romance, engagement story, first thoughts of one another, etc. Nice and simple, but a big hit.

3. If you're going to go to the trouble to purchase a darling bucket to ice your favorite beverage on earth (San Pellegrino Limonata how I love thee), make sure to put a little tray or towel under it to catch all of the condensation. (Half of the tablecloth was soaked before a guest caught the error!)
4. Don't take yourself too seriously. And. Remember what it really means to be a good hostess. About a week before the party I was a ball of stress. I was sewing a pennant banner for decor and diagramming the table scape (who do I think I am, Amy Atlas?) and worrying about people's first impression of me and my home. A down to earth talk with my dear friend, Ami, helped me realize that I was out of touch. I didn't want people leaving the shower saying, 'wasn't that tablecloth just the perfect shade of green?' or 'could you believe how well all of those serving pieces matched?' I wanted people leaving the shower saying, 'Anne was such a warm host. She took interest in getting to know me and I loved the way I felt in her home.'

5. Of course it doesn't hurt if the guests also leave saying, "That was the best lemon cupcake I've ever tasted." All you really need to throw a great party is a handful of great, simple recipes. On our menu: fruit, chicken salad sandwiches on croissants (made by my mother-in-law), spinach salad, yogurt lemon cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting, San Pellegrinos, and dark Dove chocolates.

The recipes:

Chicken Salad (tried and true for more than 3 generations in my m-i-l's classy, fancy party-throwing family)

3 c. cooked chicken, bite-sized
2 T. grated onion
2/3 c. browned sliced almonds
6 sliced stuffed green olives
1 c. diced celery
1 c. water chestnuts, sliced
3 T. capers
1 t. prepared mustard
1 c. sour cream
3/4 c. mayo
3 T. tarragon vinegar
Salt & Pepper & Paprika to taste

Mix first 8 ingredients and sprinkle with vinegar. Add salt, pepper, and paprika. Let stand for about an hour. Then add mayo & sour cream. Garnish with sweet things like grapes, mandarin oranges, etc.

Spinach Salad

For the dressing, whisk:
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons Worcester sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Toss spinach, sliced red onion, and cooked, chopped bacon in dressing (all measurements are to taste!). Top with sliced hard-boiled egg, tomato, avocado, and mango. (This salad is always loved. I think the bacon and mango are the key ingredients in making it a stand-out.)

Yogurt Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

I use Ina Garten's cake recipe, but pour the batter into mini-muffin tins instead of loaf pans. Instead of using her glaze, I frost my cupcakes and top them with raspberries.

The frosting:
Beat 6 T softened butter, 9 oz. softened cream cheese, and 3 tsp. lemon zest with mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar.


Jesslyn said...

Wow! This reminded me so much of my own bridal shower I got a little misty with happy memories. Those flowers are gorgeous and my sisters prepared almost identical food for me 5 years ago. We didn't play any games either AND they showed a video of Mark answering questions about me and would pause for my answers. That's the best deja vu I've had in ages! Thanks for the walk down memory lane!

Joan said...

Hello Heather Bailey pennant darlingness! Am I right? Are those HB fabrics?
Lemon cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting?!?! YUMMMM. That sounds so crisp and summer-y.
I think the capers and olives are what make that chicken salad extra tasty (as well as all the other ingredients) but you know me...Mrs. Salt Queen :)
Well done, Anne. Lovely party.

Mel said...

Beatuful party Anne! How did you get the frosting on the cupcakes to look like that? Did you just use a huge tip?

Bloom said...

Joan, yes those are all Heather Bailey fabrics. I wanted a 'garden party' look, even though we were indoors, and her fabrics were perfect. Love her! (Could I be any more obsessed with pennant banners, btw?!)

Mel, yes I use a huge tip to do all of my frosting. It's a Wilton 1A. I loooove it. You do need a large coupling ring to go with it.

Chip & Laura said...

Anne, that tablecloth was just the perfect shade of green, I was amazed how well all of those serving pieces matched, AND you were such a warm hostess. The way you took interest in getting to know me made me feel welcomed and I love the way I felt in your home. ALL accomplished. Done and done. Might I add.....the tour of your lovely home was another glimpse into the wonderful woman/family you are; the food was as delicious as it was visually beautiful; and it was a loving, fun, AND eloquent shower. Loved the day, the photos in the blog AND the recipes. mmmmmmm Thank you Anne.

Courtney said...

Beautiful. and a perfect menu for many events. I love Ina's lemon yogurt cake and make it all the time. Never thought to do cupcakes, but I may now.

Amy said...

You are darling, creative and thoughtful. I am certain your guests left feeling exactly the way you wanted them to. Bravo!