Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanks and Giving

"Thanksgiving, man. Not a good day to be my pants."
(Kevin James)

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving holiday. Like last year, today I'm posting my family's Turkey Day menu as I wear stretchy sweatpants. Unlike last year, yesterday was my first Thanksgiving with my husband -- and we're happy that my brother-in-law Daniel joined us as well -- and the first with my almost 3-month-old niece Ellie.

Thanksgiving Dinner Menu

Deviled Eggs
Brie, Gouda, and Manchego Cheeses with Grapes, Quince Paste, and Fig Spread
Olive Oil Torta, Crackers, Marcona Almonds, Caramelized Walnuts, and Olives

Roasted Turkey
Kim Classic Stuffing
Turkey Gravy
Sweet-and-Spicy Cranberry Sauce

 Cauliflower with Mustard-Lemon Butter
Roasted Asparagus
Butternut Squash and Creamed-Spinach Gratin 
Candied Yams with Marshmallows
Macaroni and Cheese
Smooth Mashed Potatoes
Buttermilk Biscuits

Pumpkin Roulade with Ginger Buttercream

2012 Beaujolais Nouveau
South African Sauvignon Blanc
Sparkling Cider

Deviled Eggs

To snack on before the big meal, my sister and I made a Gourmet Deviled Eggs recipe from Epicurious that we topped with a generous sprinkling of paprika and sliced cornichons. It's ridiculous -- and a little dangerous -- how many deviled eggs I can repeatedly pop into my mouth!

Brie, Gouda, and Manchego Cheeses with Grapes, Quince Paste, and Fig Spread;
Olive Oil Torta, Crackers, Marcona Almonds, Caramelized Walnuts, and Olives
We also had a cheese plate of St. Andre Triple Creme Brie, Gouda Parrano, and Manchego cheeses with red grapes and membrillo, a Spanish quince paste; a plate containing fig spread, Ines Rosales olive oil tortas and Marcona almonds like last Christmas, caramelized walnuts, and various crackers; and a plate of different kinds of olives.

My Father's Dishes

Last year, I was in charge of the whole dinner. This year, my sister and I planned the menu and spent most of the day in the kitchen, and my father more than did his share: he started early to cook the turkey, stuffing, gravy, and candied yams with marshmallows -- all classic Thanksgiving dishes we grew up making and eating in my house -- and didn't exactly pause for photo ops, but these are pictured on my plate at the beginning of this post, and some in last year's post since his stuffing and gravy are simple classics. We had to demand that he make more stuffing since at first he had only made enough to stuff the turkey... Who does that? Stuffing-loving girls will cry foul!

Sweet-and-Spicy Cranberry Sauce

I veered from my go-to-since-2010 Cranberry-Pomegranate Relish with pomegranate and shallot in order to try a new Sweet-and-Spicy version with lime, cayenne, and clove from the November 2012 issue of Everyday Food. I made this the night before to save some time. My sister and I preferred the flavors of my tried-and-true cranberry sauce, but it's fun to try new recipes.

Cauliflower with Mustard-Lemon Butter, Roasted Asparagus, and Butternut Squash and Creamed-Spinach Gratin

For veggies, we made cauliflower, asparagus, butternut squash, and spinach. The recipe for Cauliflower with Mustard-Lemon Butter came from Bon Appétit via Epicurious, and my sister has made it before. The asparagus was simply roasted with olive oil.

My sister's sister-in-law has made the Butternut Squash and Creamed-Spinach Gratin, a Gourmet recipe, before, but I think she must have added more heavy cream, cheese, or butter than the recipe called for, because our definitely looked less "creamed" and tasted more healthy than we had expected -- nothing wrong with that, but note for next time.

Macaroni and Cheese, Smooth Mashed Potatoes, and Buttermilk Biscuits

My sister bought a tray of mac and cheese from Whole Foods to heat up, and as if we didn't have enough, for some extra starchiness, she and my father tag-teamed to make the creamy mashed potatoes (pictured on plate in first photo) -- even though he prefers the boxed kind -- and I made the Buttermilk Biscuits, another Bon Appétit via Epicurious recipe I first tried recently when Sam and I had friends over for dinner.

Pumpkin Roulade with Ginger Buttercream

For dessert, I made Ina Garten's Pumpkin Roulade with Ginger Buttercream, moist and pumpkin-y with a creamy mascarpone and crystallized ginger filling. After successfully baking a flourless chocolate Bûche de Noël for our Christmas dinner last year, I felt up to the challenge. My nephew Peter kept poking around the kitchen, asking to help, so I let him put some of the ingredients together and help mix the batter. Those are rosemary sprigs stuck into the roulade to look like trees (my sister's husband's idea).

Anyone brave the consumer crowds? It's been a while since I've gone out shopping on Black Friday. I'm enjoying some rest and relaxation today, watching some TV, catching up on my journal, making new meals with leftovers, and planning to put up and decorate our Christmas tree!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Guest Post: Bridal Shower Details

I'm delighted to share a guest post from my amazing friend, bridesmaid, and baker extraordinaire who was instrumental in throwing me a beautiful bridal shower complete with pretty invitations, handmade decorations, delicious favors that guests still rave about, and a paper and ribbon bouquet for the rehearsal. Here, she details the steps she took to make everything come together, with photos she snapped along the way. Thank you, Christine!

"Hearts and flowers, ribbon and lace, the look of love upon her face.
A happy heart that's hard to hide, this woman is soon to be a bride!"
(Author Unknown)

In April, I had the honor -- in addition to her sister and closest friends (Maureen, Leslie, Angela, Robyn, and Vivien) -- of organizing and hosting our dear Sharon's bridal shower. 

We certainly felt a lot of pressure to provide a celebration worthy of such an expert party and event planner. After some discussion, the bridesmaids came to the decision that the theme of her shower would be "Sharon's favorite things," which was largely reflected in the food and desserts. We also tried our very best to keep consistent with her wedding color scheme of berries, cream, champagne, and caviar.

I think all our efforts came together quite nicely. It was a great day to celebrate our friend! :)


Given Sharon's love of peonies, we picked the "Perfect Peonies" invitation from Wedding Paper Divas. After lots of back and forth, we finally decided on 'peaches and cream' (lighter pink) over 'pink azalea' (a pinkish-purple) for the print color. There were some tough decisions to make! :) Sneaky little Sharon even tried to find out what we were doing by offering to "help" us. Of course we didn't let her! :P


We divided the responsibilities with regards to invitations, food, desserts, and games. I was in charge of decorations. I knew I wanted to include some personal and homemade touches that are so characteristic of the thoughtful cards and gifts that Sharon often gives us.

After searching the internet, I came across 2 websites. One provided instructions on how to make a crepe paper pomander. It isn't comprised of peonies, but it's pretty, floral, and I knew I'd be able to make it fit the color scheme. It would make a great centerpiece. Plus, the supply list was pretty minimal.

I had no idea how many flowers I'd need to cover the ball, so I started out by making 100. Turns out I needed closer to 200! After I glued all the flowers on, I could still see white styrofoam peeking through. So I either rolled some smaller flowers or just tucked some pieces of crepe paper (basically I got lazy, OK? hahaha) in the crevices. At the shower, we placed it atop a trumpet vase.

I came across another website that showed how to make tissue paper peonies. Instead of using floral wire, I used pink thread since I wanted it to blend in. These were so pretty and yet very easy to make. We suspended these with thread on a piece of modern sculpture that was in the party space.


I was most stressed out about what to do about the favors. I bought a cake pop book a while back, but had never actually tried making them. So of course I left things until the last minute and decided to make them for the first time, right before her shower. Yay! Hahaha.

First, I followed Bakerella's instructions on how to make cake balls. I used Duncan Hines Red Velvet cake mix and cream cheese frosting. The shower was on Saturday, so I baked the cake on Thursday night and refrigerated it, taking into consideration the fact that the cake would need to cool down before I handled it. On Friday, I crumbled the cake by hand according to the instructions. After rolling the cake into ovoid balls, I pushed them through a small flower cookie cutter to shape the base of the cupcake. Then I rounded the top to resemble the top of a cupcake.

Unfortunately, the dipping of cake into candy melts is extremely messy, so I couldn't take many step-by-step pictures, but Bakerella has some good ones here. You dunk the base of the cupcake into the candy first and then push the stick about 3/4-inch into the cake. I used thicker sticks that are intended for cookies, not lollipops. One word of advice is that you should dip the stick in a bit of the candy melt before sticking it into the cake. Once the stick is in place, hold it for a few seconds in the position you want because the candy melt dries and hardens pretty quickly! For garnish, I thought it would be perfect to use red Skittles on top since they have an S (for Sharon), in addition to some sprinkles.

The morning of, I still had to create some labels for the favors. I'm sure there is some easier way to do this, but I ended up creating them on PowerPoint and printing them out on some cream-colored paper that I had. I literally only had one sheet so I had to make sure I got it right. After cutting out the labels, I tied them on using a bit of black ribbon.

To display them, I bought a basket and placed 2 styrofoam sheets (one sheet didn't seem sturdy enough to hold the sticks in the upright position) that I had punctured with the ends of the cake pop sticks. After placing all the cake pops in position, I then covered the styrofoam with pink tissue paper that I shredded in my paper shredder. We had some extra that we placed in a rectangular vase with some tissue paper.

Rehearsal Bouquet

I took all the wrapping paper and ribbons home with me. I created a couple more flowers using some of the tissue paper and the paper tissue peonies that we had used as decorations. I made a base for the bouquet for Sharon to hold using all the ribbons and a technique (barrel stitch) for making bracelets that I learned in elementary school. Sharon truly looked lovely in her flowing dress as she walked down the aisle with her dad and her now-husband at the rehearsal and then at her wedding! I feel lucky that I was able to partake in their special day. <3