Saturday, June 5, 2010

Showering Ashleigh

I love a good reason to throw a party. Last weekend I hosted a bridal shower for my almost sister-in-law, Ashleigh. Here's what I learned:

1. Plan ahead. I had the menu and general vision in mind a month ahead of time. I don't know why I didn't figure this out when I was a student, but I've finally learned not to procrastinate (mostly), and it feels great.

2. No one needs shower games. The only 'activity' we did was watch a video I'd made of Ian answering questions about Ashleigh and their relationship. We paused the video at times to see if Ashleigh's answers matched. Everyone loved the opportunity to take a peek inside their romance, engagement story, first thoughts of one another, etc. Nice and simple, but a big hit.

3. If you're going to go to the trouble to purchase a darling bucket to ice your favorite beverage on earth (San Pellegrino Limonata how I love thee), make sure to put a little tray or towel under it to catch all of the condensation. (Half of the tablecloth was soaked before a guest caught the error!)
4. Don't take yourself too seriously. And. Remember what it really means to be a good hostess. About a week before the party I was a ball of stress. I was sewing a pennant banner for decor and diagramming the table scape (who do I think I am, Amy Atlas?) and worrying about people's first impression of me and my home. A down to earth talk with my dear friend, Ami, helped me realize that I was out of touch. I didn't want people leaving the shower saying, 'wasn't that tablecloth just the perfect shade of green?' or 'could you believe how well all of those serving pieces matched?' I wanted people leaving the shower saying, 'Anne was such a warm host. She took interest in getting to know me and I loved the way I felt in her home.'

5. Of course it doesn't hurt if the guests also leave saying, "That was the best lemon cupcake I've ever tasted." All you really need to throw a great party is a handful of great, simple recipes. On our menu: fruit, chicken salad sandwiches on croissants (made by my mother-in-law), spinach salad, yogurt lemon cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting, San Pellegrinos, and dark Dove chocolates.

The recipes:

Chicken Salad (tried and true for more than 3 generations in my m-i-l's classy, fancy party-throwing family)

3 c. cooked chicken, bite-sized
2 T. grated onion
2/3 c. browned sliced almonds
6 sliced stuffed green olives
1 c. diced celery
1 c. water chestnuts, sliced
3 T. capers
1 t. prepared mustard
1 c. sour cream
3/4 c. mayo
3 T. tarragon vinegar
Salt & Pepper & Paprika to taste

Mix first 8 ingredients and sprinkle with vinegar. Add salt, pepper, and paprika. Let stand for about an hour. Then add mayo & sour cream. Garnish with sweet things like grapes, mandarin oranges, etc.

Spinach Salad

For the dressing, whisk:
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons Worcester sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Toss spinach, sliced red onion, and cooked, chopped bacon in dressing (all measurements are to taste!). Top with sliced hard-boiled egg, tomato, avocado, and mango. (This salad is always loved. I think the bacon and mango are the key ingredients in making it a stand-out.)

Yogurt Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

I use Ina Garten's cake recipe, but pour the batter into mini-muffin tins instead of loaf pans. Instead of using her glaze, I frost my cupcakes and top them with raspberries.

The frosting:
Beat 6 T softened butter, 9 oz. softened cream cheese, and 3 tsp. lemon zest with mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar.

No comments: