Sunday, April 10, 2011

popcorn aplenty & tart lemonade for many

This April, I collaborated with a sweet client interested in throwing a precious, farm yard-themed baby shower for her friend's baby-boy-to-be!

This client has a sublime eye for interior design and executed the baby shower decorations with perfection. Yellow gingham patterns mixed with bright blue hues and retro coke bottles were nestled in an over-sized silver ice bucket along with sea foam green glass bottles.

Precious cupcakes were dotted with barnyard animal tags and stacked on a bright-white wire layered stand.

I made simple, hand-written food tags with flower embellishments for my dishes. I just love the intimance of hand-written tags.

After brainstorming all things baby boy, we created a menu to reflect the precious theme perfect for a springtime afternoon shower.

Fresh Lemonade with Basil Syrup

This lemonade was lovely because it truly boasts the anise essence of basil mixed with fragrant lemons. You'll be juicing for a while if you don't have an industrial juicer (which I don't), but the tart result is truly worth the wait!

yields approximately 1 gallon

juice of 18 lemons, strained to remove seeds
8 cups water plus 7 cups to mix in later
zest of 4 lemons
4 ounces fresh basil
4 c sugar
lemon slices & fresh basil leaves to garnish

Start by making basil simple syrup. Combine 8 cups water, sugar, basil and lemon zest in a large saucepan. Simmer on medium high heat approximately 45 minutes to reduce. Strain and let syrup cool completely.

Combine lemon juice, remaining water and strained simple syrup in a large 1 gallon pitcher. Chill completely and serve over ice with fresh lemon slices and basil leaves. The shower hostess provided mason jars with bright, cherry red straws for a playful touch.

Fruit Skewers with Poppy Seed Yogurt

Fresh fruit is always a good decision on a hot afternoon. I stuck with a berry-hued color theme and used blackberries, garnet strawberries and red grapes to offset the bright white yogurt sauce with flecks of ebony poppy seeds.

yields approximately 30 skewers

2 pints fresh blackberries, rinsed and dried
7-9 large strawberries, cut into fourths
30 seedless red grapes, rinsed and dried
3 c vanilla bean yogurt
1/2 t pure almond extract
1 T poppy seeds
zest of 1 lime
30 wooden skewers

Combine yogurt, poppy seeds and lime zest. Chill while assembling fruit skewers. Arrange fruit pieces on each skewer. Serve with poppy seed yogurt.

Crudités with Buttermilk & Chive Ranch Dressing

These individual cups of crudités were elegant, crisp, fresh and so easy to execute!

yields twenty individual cups (I used 6 ounce clear plastic cups)

2 English cucumbers, cut into 40 slices on the bias
5-6 carrots, peeled and cut into 40 slices on the bias
2 bundles red radishes, cut into 40 slices
3 large scallions, sliced thinly on the bias
2 cups sour cream
2 cups buttermilk
4 T fresh chives, sliced thin
2 ranch seasoning packets (I used Simply Organic)
salt & pepper to taste

I sliced vegetables and chilled them while I made Buttermilk Chive Ranch Dressing. To make dressing, whisk together sour cream, buttermilk, chives, ranch seasoning, salt and pepper. Chill until ready to assemble cups.

To assemble cups, place 2 spoonfuls of ranch in the bottom of cups. Top with two cucumber slices, then two carrot slices, and two radish slices. Finish with a small sprinkling of scallions and fresh-cracked pepper.

Popcorn with Thyme Butter, Pecorino & Black Pepper

This popcorn is addictive! The fragrant lemon-flavor of the thyme adds a unique twist to melted butter. Pecorino and black pepper add a sharpness to the crunchy combination.

yields approximately twenty mini cups

two 6 ounce bags lightly salted popcorn
1 lb unsalted butter (4 sticks)
2 T fresh thyme leaves plus additional to garnish
salt & pepper to taste
shavings of pecorino and black pepper to garnish

Begin by slowly melting butter over low heat with fresh thyme, salt and pepper until melted completely. Store warm butter in a squirt bottle or in a bowl to spoon over popcorn.

To assemble popcorn cups, squirt (or spoon) warm thyme butter atop individual popcorn cups. Top with a few shavings of pecorino, fresh thyme and fresh-cracked pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Key Lime Pie Parfaits with Lemon Lime Curd,
Chantilly Cream and Graham Cracker Crumble

These mini desserts were delightful!

I was inspired to make these after sampling grapefruit curd parfaits compliments of Artisan Baking Company for a Foodways Texas event I attended.

I liked the ease of making a "deconstructed" key lime pie that tasted just like the real thing! Make sure you have a piping bag (or plastic bag) and star tip to make assembling these gems much easier than spooning.

yields 20 mini parfaits in 1/5 ounce clear cups

1/2 c lemon juice (3-4 lemons)
1/2 c lime juice (3-4 limes)
2 T lime zest plus additional to garnish
4 eggs
1 c sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into chunks
4 graham crackers
1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t sea salt
2.5 c heavy whipping cream
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/4 c confectioner's sugar

Begin by making Lemon Lime Curd. Over a simmering double boiler, constantly whisk together eggs, sugar, and juices until thickened and an instant thermometer reaches 160 degrees. Remove thickened curd from double boiler and place over an ice bath.

Stir in butter and lime zest, stirring constantly until butter is melted completely (as shown). Place plastic wrap directly over surface of curd (to avoid custard getting a skin) and cool completely.

While curd is chilling, make graham cracker crumble. Pulse graham crackers, cinnamon and sea salt in a food processor or hand crush in a sealed, heavy-duty ziploc bag. The crumble doesn't have to be perfectly uniform. No stress, y'all.

Right before assembling parfaits, whip your heavy cream to stiff peaks with vanilla and confectioner's sugar. This is now considered a chantilly cream (sounds fancy, yes?) Set aside.

To assemble parfaits, sprinkle bottom of mini cup with graham cracker crumble. Spoon lemon lime curd in a piping bag then pipe curd halfway up cups. Rinse pastry bag then fill with whipped cream using a star tip. Pipe chantilly cream in a circular motion to come to tops of mini cups.

Garnish with a sprinkling of graham cracker crumble and a touch of grated lime zest. Serve chilled with mini spoons (I found both my cups and mini spoons at Ace Mart Restaurant Supply).

Make-Your-Own Ice Cream Sundaes

I loved the idea of a sundae bar! I pre-scooped ice cream into dainty clear cups then re-froze them to firm up completely. Cups of ice cream were able to sit out 10-15 without melting. Arrange ice cream cups, several at a time, with a unique spread of sauces and toppings for variety.

Cherry Raspberry Sauce

This sauce is rich, tart and beautiful to look at.

yields approximately 2 cups

1.5 c frozen sweet dark cherries
1.5 c frozen raspberries
2/3 c sugar
2/3 c water

Simmer all ingredients over medium high heat for 30 minutes until reduced. Chill then serve room temperature with ice cream sundaes.

Chocolate Ganache

If making this ganache for children, opt for milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips. For adults, I prefer the bittersweet to tame the sweetness of ice cream and other toppings.

yields approximately 2 cups

1.5 c heavy whipping cream
1.5 c bittersweet chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli)

Simmer cream over medium heat until bubbling. Pour over chocolate chips in a bowl and mix until smooth and glossy. Serve room temperature with ice cream sundaes.

Along with these two sauces, I served honey-roasted peanuts, rainbow sprinkles and retro maraschino cherries.

During the relaxed shower, gorgeous ladies sipped champagne with raspberries, sampled handmade snacks, and indulged in ice cream sundaes and cupcakes while chatting. Cheers!


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