Posts Tagged With: party snacks

Dave & Kim’s wedding shower!

I just realized that it has been eleven days since my last post. A week and a half!

How did this happen?

Well, I’ve been busy.

First off, I’m on day sixteen of the eighteen-day Red Clay Writing Project Summer Institute, which meets from 8:30am to 4:00pm Monday through Friday. And, as I mentioned before, this thing is intense! I’ve been writing up a storm, pretty much all day every day, even well into the evenings. I’ve written pages and pages and pages of material…just, nothing for the blog.

(I’ll be back with you full time in just a couple more days, so please–stick around! I’ve got a really exciting project to share with you. :))

This past weekend was the AthFest Music & Arts Festival. Micah and I had our very first date at AthFest 2006–we walked around downtown Athens together all night, got drenched in a summer storm, laughed over crispy fried okra and creamy feta dip at The Grill in the late evening, and shared our first kiss in a crowded club to the twangy tunes of an Athens band called the Bearfoot Hookers. It was a magical evening, and we love revisiting that magic every year by going back to AthFest, bar-hopping, hearing awesome local music, and (of course) eating at some of our favorite downtown restaurants.

The weekend before that, Micah and I had his entire family (his parents, his three siblings and their plus-ones, and all eight of their children–whew!) over to our house for a cookout, so we of course went a little crazy cleaning the house and cooking way too much food.

And the weekend before that is what I’m going to share with you today. Like I told you a couple of weeks ago, my brother Dave is marrying his fiance Kim in just a few short weeks! Dress fiasco aside, being a bridesmaid in this wedding has been nothing short of fabulous.

The other three maids are Chelsea, Amanda, and Shannon, none of whom I knew very well until very recently, but the four of us have been working together to plan Dave and Kim’s French-themed shower since April.

The end result was simply lovely! The weather was gorgeous, Memorial Park was a beautiful venue for our summery shindig, the decorations and flowers were simple and pretty, and the food…well, the food was amazing.

I am glad the shower turned out so beautiful. I wouldn’t have wanted anything less for my little brother and his bride-to-be! ♥

*   *   *   *   *

And now…the food!

Amanda brought crackers, a delicious assortment of cheeses, fresh fruits and veggies, and an array of yummy dips to go with them. Simple, refreshing, perfect.

Feast your eyes:

the full spread

Besides being in charge of tablecloths and all of the plates, napkins, cups, etc., Shannon also made macaroons and creme puffs, which were lovely, delicate, and tasty:

pretty pastels

Chelsea rocked our tastebuds with these fantastic dishes:

sweet little beignets

fluffy croissants filled with chicken salad

savory, cheesy, perfectly puffed gougères

If any of these wonderful ladies sends me the recipes they used, I will make sure to pass those recipes on to you! Their food was fantastic.

I brought flowers, paper fans and lanterns, and yes, even more food. 🙂

not quite croque-monsieurs

Micah actually constructed these guys from soft white dinner rolls from the Earth Fare bakery, some excellent uncured deli ham (sliced paper-thin), slices of double-creme brie, and my own homemade grainy mustard.

originally, I planned to make a pear tarte tatin, but
these rustic little guys are what I ended up with instead

These were also super easy:

  • Thaw two packages of frozen puff pastry for a couple of hours, then cut the dough into two dozen little rectangles.
  • Preheat your oven to 400°F.
  • Roll up the edges of the rectangles so you have a little pastry boat.
  • Pre-bake the boats for about 25 minutes or until they are puffy and just starting to brown. (They’ll deflate a little when you take them out.)
  • Dice six or seven fresh pears. Saute the pears in a large skillet with a couple of tablespoons butter, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, a pinch of salt, and a sprinkle of dried marjoram. Cook them until the liquid is reduced to a nice, thick syrup.
  • Pull your pastry boats out of the oven, top each one with some pear filling, and stick them back in to bake for another 15 minutes or so.

Last, but not least:

leek, chanterelle, and chevre mini quiches

I don’t mean to brag, y’all, but these little quiches were great.

Here’s the recipe:

What’s in it:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 ounce dried chanterelle mushrooms, rehydrated in warm water for 30 minutes (or use 8 ounces fresh)
  • 3-5 leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced (about 1 cup total)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 6 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 8 ounces shredded parmesan cheese
  • 8 ounces crumbled goat cheese

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 375°F and get two 12-cup muffin pans ready with cooking spray or paper liners.
  • In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, leeks, salt, pepper, and thyme, and cook for about 10 minutes or until the mushrooms and leeks are tender.
  • In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, yogurt, and flour.
  • Fill your 24 muffin cups in this order:
    • Cover the bottom of each cup with a layer of shredded parmesan.
    • Add about two tablespoons of leek and mushroom filling.
    • Add about 1-1/2 tablespoons of egg filling.
    • Top with crumbled goat cheese.
  • Bake the quiches for about 15-20 minutes or until the eggs are set and the goat cheese is a little gooey.

These were delicious right out of the oven the night before the shower (yes, Micah and I had to sample one!), but they were also yummy at the shower the next afternoon (where they were served at room temperature), and reheated later in the week (because we were lucky enough to have leftovers).

To sum up: we enjoyed delicious food, a gorgeous day, and a celebration of love with two of my very favorite people.

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Categories: people, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

party snacks – 5.18.12 – black-eyed pea hummus

Growing up in rural Georgia, I didn’t learn much about food culture as a kid.

My mom’s part German, part Italian, so I did eat her homemade meatballs, and I watched her mom (my Mammaw) top hot dogs with sauerkraut (which I was pretty much disgusted by until I was an adult). And, of course, Hartwell has its small-town, Americanized versions of Mexican and Chinese food, so I snacked on plenty of quesadillas and egg rolls, enchiladas and moo goo gai pan.

I was never squeamish about eating foods that the Hartwell folk considered weird, but there just weren’t many opportunities to try anything exotic. I tasted sushi for the first time as a teen one evening before a concert in Atlanta. Fancy cheeses like brie and Roquefort weren’t even on my radar until I studied abroad in France my freshman summer in college. And at some point during my college years, the word hummus became part of my vocabulary.

I can’t tell you the first time I tried this tasty chickpea dip. It was probably at some party with a group of my more cultured college friends (the ones who grew up in the Atlanta burbs), and I probably smeared it on some pita points or raw veggies. There was no revelation, no magical, memorable moment when this amazing stuff brought me to tears. But sometime in my early twenties, I realized I loved hummus, and that was (conveniently enough) around the time when it became pretty easy to find in the deli section of most grocery stores.

When Micah and I got married at Farm 255 here in Athens back in 2009, one of the foods we chose to have on the buffet was the Farm’s homemade hummus, which is pretty awesome. Some of the Hartwell folk weren’t so sure about it, but we gobbled the stuff down.

Varieties of hummus abound, many made with the traditional garbanzo beans, others more outside the box, like Frugal Feeding’s butterbean hummus and Hugh Acheson’s boiled peanut hummus.

My newest incarnation of this now-ubiquitous party snack showcases the deliciousness of a humble home-style favorite: the black-eyed pea.

What’s in it:

  • 1-1/2 cups dry black-eyed peas + water to cook them in (shortcut: 3-1/2 to 4 cups canned peas)
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika

Step-by-step:

  • I used a slow-cooker to get my dried beans done overnight. 8 hours on low heat did the trick. You could also cook them on the stove, or just buy them precooked and canned (in which case you will most likely need to reduce the salt in this recipe!).
  • Put all of the ingredients in your food processor, reserving some of the cooking liquid (or canning liquid) from the black-eyed peas.
  • Process until your hummus is thick and creamy, adding extra liquid if necessary to get the right consistency.
  • Enjoy with chips, crackers, veggies, or whatever you feel like dipping! (Next time, I might try making mini cornmeal pancakes and topping them with the hummus. Mmmm….)

This stuff is so deliciously addictive. I’ve made it for two parties in the last two weeks, and it has been a huge hit! The cider vinegar adds a terrific tang, reminiscent of homemade pickles or the potlikker from a mess o’ greens. And the smoked paprika lends an almost bacon-y flavor. It’s amazing!

got a few cracker crumbs on my bowl of dip…oops…

My Southern-inspired hummus hasn’t traveled home to the boonies with me yet. When it does, I might just call it black-eyed pea dip so as not to frighten the locals. Then maybe, just maybe, for at least one adventurous Hartwellian, it could serve as gateway grub to other excellent ethnic edibles. 🙂

Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Jessica’s Bridal Shower!

My beautiful best friend, Jessica, and her man, Brent.

My mom says I’m the only person she knows who would blindly try out new recipes for my best friend’s bridal shower.

Mom also said I was the only person she knew who would attack her own wedding dress with scissors and a needle to make last-minute adjustments the week before the big day.

Apparently, I’ve got a thing for high-stakes wedding roulette. And the odds, so far, have been ever in my favor, as both my dress and the food for Jessica’s shower turned out pretty darn good.

My goal in altering my wedding dress was to pare down the extravagance. Originally, the gorgeous gown had boasted a glamorous, but cumbersome, cathedral train. Our wedding was much too informal for this fanciness, so I gathered up the dress and gauzy overlay, snipped off a boatload of extra fabric, and created my own permanent bustle to make the train a short sweep instead.

Not perfectly professional-looking, but pretty (and much easier to dance in).

Planning the food for Jessica was kind of the same. Her one request for the shower (not to mention for the wedding in the mountains this weekend) was a batch of my pimiento cheese, which she loves, so of course I had to oblige. 🙂

And once I knew I was making that Southern staple, the tone was set for the rest of the menu. My goal was to serve the kinds of things you’d expect to see at a rural Georgia wedding shower, but with some unexpected twists here and there. I didn’t want to be snooty or pretentious, so I tried to keep it simple.

The shower spread, in my lovely mother's lovely kitchen.

The menu:

* * * * *

French onion dip from scratch? But everyone knows that French onion dip is made with a tub of sour cream and a packet of Lipton’s soup mix!

The thing is, I don’t keep either of those things around my house…and I kind of wanted to tackle the challenge of creating this processed potluck party item using real ingredients. A web search provided several recipes to use as models, and my finished dip most closely followed this one from The Craving Chronicles.

Check out my mom's fancy-schmancy chip bowl! And my cute labels.

What’s in it:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped (I used one yellow and one red)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups fat-free Greek yogurt

Step-by-step:

  • Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat.
  • Add the onions, garlic, and salt, and cook until the onions are nice and golden brown.
  • Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the Worcestershire sauce.
  • Allow the onion mixture to cool.
  • Stir the onion mixture into the Greek yogurt and refrigerate until you are ready to serve. (I think keeping mine in the fridge overnight really helped the flavors mesh!)
  • Serve with some thick, ridged potato chips (perfect for picking up chunky dip without breaking).
  • Yield: about 2-1/2 to 3 cups

The verdict: Wow! I enjoy the sour cream + powdered Lipton variety, too, and this wasn’t quite the same (as at least one of Jessica’s family members pointed out), but the flavor was rich, salty, creamy, and tangy, just as I hoped it would be.

* * * * *

Another made-from-a-mix store-bought staple is the sausage ball, traditionally made with breakfast sausage, Bisquik, and cheese. I had some yummy, spicy sausage in the freezer from Moonshine Meats, but Bisquik is another convenience item that I’m too stubborn to keep around. You can make your own Bisquik, but I ran out of flour after making the biscuits and the cake (recipes coming up shortly!). So, I decided to basically follow this recipe, but substitute cornmeal for the flour.

Sausage balls!

What’s in it:

  • 1-1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup butter or bacon/sausage grease (I had leftover sausage grease in the fridge, so that’s what I used)
  • 1 pound spicy breakfast sausage
  • 4 ounces shredded sharp white cheddar

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 425°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper (or spray with cooking spray).
  • Whisk together the cornmeal, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
  • Use a pastry blender, fork, or food processor to incorporate the butter/grease until your mixture looks coarse and kind of crumbly.
  • Mix in the sausage and shredded cheddar. (You’ll probably need to use your fingers!)
  • Pull off 1″ round balls of dough, roll between your palms, and place on the baking pan in a single layer.
  • Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until your sausage balls are nicely browned.
  • Yield: about 4 dozen

The verdict: These were super spicy, but delicious! I didn’t miss the Bisquik flavor at all and got a lot of compliments, especially from my mom and Jessica’s Granny Cilla. (And if Granny Cilla’s happy, everyone’s happy! :)) You could easily cut down the spice by using mild or medium sausage instead of hot.

Bonus: Using cornmeal instead of flour made these almost taste like a hush puppy, one of my very favorite Southern sides.

* * * * *

Now y’all know how much I love biscuits, right? Well, I knew that regular-sized biscuits wouldn’t be the right size for a finger-food afternoon shower, but I have a cute little 1-1/2″ round cookie cutter that I thought might make perfect bite-sized mini biscuits.

Aww, look at the little baby biscuits!

And when I found a biscuit recipe on Ezra Pound Cake that also included toasted pecans, I knew I had to make them. Of course, since I don’t keep sour cream around (which seems to be a common problem in this post), I made some substitutions.

What’s in it:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup toasted pecans
  • 5 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 425°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. (Sounds a lot like the beginning of the sausage balls, huh?)
  • Put the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, brown sugar, and toasted pecans in the bowl of your food processor and pulse once or twice to combine.
  • Add the butter and process until your mixture is coarse and crumbly. (Deja vu all over again….)
  • Add the buttermilk and process just until your dough comes together.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently pat down to a 1/2″ thickness.
  • Cut out with a biscuit cutter, a lightly floured drinking glass, or, in this case, a cute little cookie cutter.
  • Arrange biscuits on your baking sheet. Sides touching if you want them soft around the edges, space between if you want crispier edges.
  • Lightly press together dough scraps to cut the rest of your biscuits out.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes or until biscuits are light golden brown.
  • Serve with butter, jam, or cheese.
  • Yield: about 3 dozen

The verdict: These little biscuits were adorable and tasty! I served them with FROG jam (fig, raspberry, orange, ginger) at the shower, but Micah and I discovered the next morning that the leftovers were also delicious with butter (because, let’s face it, what isn’t delicious with butter?) and with pimiento cheese.

* * * * *

Of course, a bridal shower isn’t complete without cake. And I really, truly thought about ordering a cake from one of Athens’ own excellent local bakeries. But, glutton for culinary punishment that I am, I decided I had to bake dessert from scratch instead. The recipe had four basic parts: yellow cake, strawberries, pastry cream, and whipped cream. On my way to the shower, I felt pretty confident that the cake would taste good…but I worried a lot about it falling apart. Fortunately, it managed to (mostly) stay together, at least until we cut into it.

See the spare tire around the middle? That's pastry cream and strawberries, just waiting to burst out the seams. A delicious disaster!

For the cake: I followed Crummb’s recipe for The Ultimate Butter Cake, which I doubled to make two 9-inch layers. I also substituted buttermilk for half of the milk in the recipe because I had some that needed using. The resulting cake was just as moist, buttery, and delicious as I hoped it would be!

For the berry filling: I washed, hulled, and sliced about 2 pints of fresh strawberries, sprinkled a little sugar on them, and let them sit for about 30-45 minutes. This got them nice and sweet and juicy.

For the pastry cream: I used a fantastic recipe from Sauce Boss, subbing extra vanilla extract for the balsamic vinegar and throwing in an extra egg yolk for added body.

For the icing: I made vanilla whipped cream by whipping 2 cups heavy cream, 1/4 cup powdered sugar, and a splash of vanilla extract until it was nice and stiff.

All of the components can be made a day ahead, though you might have to re-whip your whipped cream if it sits too long, and you have to make sure you press some plastic wrap into your pastry cream or it’ll form a yucky skin on top.

To assemble:

  • Make sure all of your finished components are cold! This will keep your pastry cream and whipped cream from running too much and making a drippy mess (which would taste fine, but won’t look too pretty).
  • Start with one 9″ cake layer. Poke lots of holes in it with a fork or skewer. Why? You’ll see…
  • Pipe a ring of pastry cream around the edge of the cake. This will help keep your strawberries from sliding out.
  • Add a generous layer of the macerated strawberries, reserving a few for decorating the top of the cake. Pour all those yummy strawberry juices over the strawberries. The holes you poked a minute ago will soak up all this deliciousness quite nicely.
  • Top the strawberries with a layer of pastry cream.
  • Add your other cake layer and smooth a little more pastry cream around the seam, just to help hold things in a little better.
  • Frost the cake with the whipped cream and decorate with more strawberries.
  • Yield: one very tall, gooey, delicious cake!

The verdict: this cake took a lot of steps, but the finished product was both beautiful and tasty! The combination of the buttery cake, rich pastry cream, sweet strawberries, and fluffy whipped cream was pretty much perfect. The only downside was that once I started cutting the cake, it pretty well fell apart, mostly because my middle layer was too thick and slippery. If When I make this cake again, I might split each layer into two (for a total of four layers) so that I can fill it with several thin layers of pastry cream and strawberries instead of one thick one. Otherwise, I wouldn’t change a thing!

* * * * *

Jessica has been my best friend since 5th grade–it’ll be 21 years in August!–and I love her dearly. She was the maid of honor at my wedding back in 2009…

Eric, me, Micah, and Jessica
July 18, 2009

…and I feel so fortunate to be matron of honor at her wedding in just a few days!

Just like with my last-minute alterations, the menu I made for Jessica’s shower wasn’t quite perfect, and if I could do it over again, I might make a few minor changes. But while my cooking is far from professional, with plenty of technical imperfections, the most important thing to me was to pour my heart into making delicious food for someone I love.

Categories: people, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

party snacks – 3.17.12 – mini pimiento cheese sandwiches for Kim’s birthday!

My brother Dave’s fiancee, Kim, turns 24 today, and we’re celebrating at their house with a garden party!

In keeping with the theme, I made finger sandwiches: pimiento cheese on thin-sliced sourdough baguette. I usually bake my own bread, but there’s no way mine could be as yummy as this fluffy, chewy, delicious stuff from Luna Baking here in Athens.

And the gorgeous lime green dish was my Christmas gift from the birthday girl. It may be a pie pan, but I think it makes a lovely serving vessel for these yummy bites. 🙂

Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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