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I just had to show a few quick pics from a celebratory baby shower a couple pals and I recently hosted for a certain amazing friend who occasionally goes by the moniker of Cookbook Queen here in the blogosphere. With baby’s arrival looming on the horizon, we wanted to help our friend prepare for her own little Cookbook Prince or Princess (it’s a surprise!).

Us co-hostesses divvied up the menu, deciding on a traditional, southern-style spread of pimento cheese sandwiches, tarragon chicken salad on croissants, ham biscuits with provolone and poppy seed, fruit kabobs, a panzanella salad and coleslaw. And in case you’re wondering about the little elephant flags punctuating some of the dishes below, those were inspired by the invitation, which encouraged guests to help us celebrate our friend’s little peanut!

In lieu of a cake, we opted for a Milk & Cookies Bar. Our selections? Chocolate Toffee, Snickerdoodle and Oatmeal, Cranberry & Walnut.

A make-your-own candy bar let our guests depart on a sweet note, each taking home a mini-mason jar full of treats. One of the co-hostesses practically specializes in adorable ideas for party favors.

And to wash it all down, we offered fresh peach bellinis, with champagne and cider options for our guests. Frozen blueberries were a festive garnish.

Now we just have to wait for the little guy or gal to arrive!

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The Event: This past weekend’s baby shower for my sister-in-law was the perfect chance to put our menu-making skills to the test in the form of a Sunday ladies’ luncheon. Guests included about 20 close family members of all ages.

The Menu: The centerpiece for the meal was a cheese soufflé. The dish is something of a misnomer – the soufflé is actually a casserole consisting of layers of Pepperidge Farm white bread, cheddar cheese and an egg/milk mixture. The finished product is fluffy and gooey, with a satisfyingly browned and crisp top.

dscn1078A fruit salad (blackberries, blueberries and strawberries) and some marinated asparagus helped cut the fat of the rich soufflé, while a Chicken Salad Veronique (with walnuts and grapes) and an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-style pasta salad (with grape tomatoes, peas, Gouda, hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, basil and balsamic vinaigrette) rounded out the meal.

The Challenge: Quantity is the eternal challenge for the home entertainer. Just how much chicken salad will each guest consume? How many slices of cake, and how large a portion of pasta salad? The cheese soufflé, in a 9×13 pan, was just the right size. Two rotisserie chickens proved too much for this crowd, and the two-pounds of pasta we prepared for the salad definitely exceeded consumption rates. But Miss Menu and her family do love leftovers, so this clearly wasn’t a problem for our crew.

Takes the Cake: The soufflé might have been the centerpiece of the dscn1071lunch, but the bassinet-shaped cake stole the show. A coworker of my mother’s makes fantastic cakes in even more fantastic shapes. This multi-layered affair featured a base of yellow cake with pineapple filling, with the bassinet top formed from lemon cake with a raspberry filling. Fondant decorations—including booties, a blanket and toy blocks spelling out the baby’s name—were the finishing touch . It was the perfect dessert to help welcome my niece-to-be!

Beverage Picks: Champagne was out and mocktails were in for this pregnancy-friendly party. We served up festive glasses of pureed cantaloupe, superfine sugar, lime juice, lime-flavored soda water and sliced strawberries. The “Cantaloupe Fizz,” as we called it, was a big hit.

The Verdict: A baby shower is the perfect chance to try your hand at a mocktail, showcase a fun and fantastic dessert and enjoy some quality food with friends and family.

Featured Recipe: Cheese Soufflé
From St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Cookbook
Note: Miss Menu and her mother plan on using this same recipe–with the addition of some breakfast sausage–for a Christmas morning brunch.

  • 6 slices day-old white bread
  • 4 cups New York sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon EACH dry mustard and salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauc

Remove crusts from bread, butter the slices and cut into strips.

Grease a 9×13 pan and put in one layer of bread, then one layer of cheese. Repeat until bread is used up, reserving 1 cup of cheese.

Beat eggs well with milk, spices and Worcestershire. Pour over the bread and cheese. Top with remaining cheese; cover and chill 12 hours. Bring to room temperature before baking 45-50 minutes at 350º. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting.

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