Wednesday, May 18, 2011

cheese straws & lemon bars

It's shower season!

I love putting a fun twist on traditional baby shower, bridal shower or teatime bites.

For my most recent afternoon baby shower for 30 lovely ladies, I concentrated on pairing familiar flavors and preparations with unexpected colors, textures and ingredients to engage guests and tickle their taste buds.

My menu included:

Two refreshing non-alcoholic punches that were perfect alone or with a splash of champagne:

White Sangria with Lime, Raspberries and Kiwi
Grapefruit Ginger Punch with Fresh Thyme

For the drink station, a few bottles of assorted vino were set out (red, white and bubbly), along with wine glasses, mixed nuts, water with lime slices, an ice bucket and the punch vessels. Guests could mix and match their own beverages with ease.

For those interested in an afternoon snack...

Buttery and indulgent puff pastry cheese straws with pecorino cheese and herbs de provence.

Melon skewers topped with fresh mozzarella and a sweet, yet earthy, simple syrup with fresh rosemary from my patio.



and Cantaloupe, of course.

Chilled Peach & Yogurt Soup Shooters with frozen peaches simmered in white wine, honey and vanilla bean paste finished with the perfect pistachio garnish.

A light and delicious panzanella salad with homemade herbed croutons, crisp vegetables (English cucumbers, yellow peppers & orange peppers, red & orange cherry tomatoes), house-pickled red onions, kalamata olives, fresh oregano and small cubes of salty feta cheese.

The vinaigrette was a simple swirl of Italian olive oil and lemon rind with kosher salt and fresh-cracked pepper.

And finally, an assortment of three tea sandwich varieties.

Cucumber & Radish with Fresh Lavender Butter on Pumpernickel

Bruschetta with Herbed Ricotta, Fennel Salami and
a Shaved Asparagus Salad with Lime Rind

and my personal favorite:
Black Forest Ham & Brie on Rye with a Rhubarb Fennel Chutney

All menu items were to be served chilled or at room temperature making event service a breeze!

A few weeks before, I also collaborated with a TCU friends to plan an intimate Bridal Shower for my close girlfriend, Lindsey.

Prosecco, Italian fare and a scratch-made dessert...what could be better?

We arranged the shower to be held at a quaint local Italian eatery in Fort Worth: Piola Restaurant and Garden. My friend Jessica and I both played hostess and arrived early to decorate the patio table on a gorgeous spring evening.

Jessica was in charge of decorations and I took care of invitations and a made-from-scratch dessert perfect for a bridal shower: Lavender Lemon Bars.

We arranged the lemon-bars with some lemon-hued tulips for a beautiful shower centerpiece that speaks for itself.

Jessica (a huge decorating and craft guru), outdid herself with these hand-crafted tiny boxes perfect for place setting party favors.

Blue flowers for the shower guests and a white flower for the bride-to-be.

Jessica also made a whimsical "Cheers!" banner to aptly celebrate the occasion.

For gifts, we settled on a wine-theme for the bride-to-be. I decided to put together a "Champagne & Chocolate" basket with a lovely array of gifts from World Market.

I nestled stemless champagne glasses with a split of champagne, cocktail napkins, a glass wine stopper, orange peel dark chocolate and ingenious cheese spreaders made from wine corks.

For dessert, I decided on a sweet and tart hand-held treat turned elegant with a touch of French Lavender.

Lavender Lemon Bars


  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon French Lavender


  • 6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup flour
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
I was careful to use a controlled amount of lavender-- too much and you can get an overly floral, almost soapy taste. Half a teaspoon will do.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough into a foiled and greased 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, then delicately press dough into sheet building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides (as shown). Chill for 5 minutes.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.

Cut off those grumpy, "too brown edges" then slice into desired rectangles or triangles. Using a sifter or small strainer, add a light sprinkling of powdered sugar (confectioner's sugar for you fancy pants), then dot each bar with a small sprinkling of lavender.

These bars are perfect for dessert, afternoon tea or
a naughty impromptu breakfast...

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