What a busy and fun weekend I had! I was in Connecticut for the bridal shower and bachelorette party of one of my oldest friends. Heather and I have known each other since childhood (we were in the same Brownie troop together) but we didn’t become close friends until our sophomore year of high school. In fact, one of the best summers of my life was the summer of ’94. We were turning 16 in August (Heather’s exactly one week older than me) and were together constantly, hanging out with our group of guy friends. It was a carefree, happy time when summer vacation meant little more than lazy days spent floating in the pool.
But now we are grownups, and I am incredibly fortunate that Heather is still in my life. She was one of my bridesmaids when I got married last year, and now I am serving as her matron of honor, along with her friend Erin. When Heather’s mom, Cathy, suggested we have the shower at her house, I immediately offered to make most of the food. Cathy happily agreed and gave me carte blanche to prepare whatever I wanted. I decided on a Mediterranean theme, a perfect complement to a warm weather, outdoor gathering. Plus, many of my favorite recipes fall into this category. Like hummus and pita chips, which I’ve written about on this blog before. While you can definitely buy both of these items, if you have a little extra time, it’s worth it to make them. You can tailor the seasoning of the chips to your taste, and since you control the amount of olive oil you brush them with, they’re bound to be healthier. I seasoned this batch with salt, pepper, Cavender’s All Purpose Greek Seasoning and a pinch of cayenne.
The pita I bought was nice and thin, so I only baked the chips for 10 minutes and they were perfectly crisp. In addition to the hummus and chips, I also made bruschetta. I started experimenting with this tomato tapenade a few years ago, and my friend Isabel raves about it. I’m always surprised because although it requires a lot of chopping, bruschetta is so easy to make. I do mine by taste. I chop up tomatoes, onion and basil and then drizzle the mixture with olive oil and season it with salt and pepper. Then it goes into the fridge to marinate for a few hours. I lightly toast fresh bread, then top with the mixture. For this batch I used seven vine-ripened tomatoes, half of a large white onion, and around 10 leaves of basil, though adjust these measurements based on the serving amount and your particular palette. I had a lot of the mixture leftover which can be eaten the next day with crusty bread.
As another appetizer, I made bacon-wrapped dates, which are always a crowdpleaser—Heather’s guests kept coming up to me and telling me how delicious they were. They took very little effort! I bought some dates and some bacon (nitrate free) wrapped the bacon around each date and into the oven they went. One tip: make sure you put the dates on a baking sheet that has a lip. I foolishly put one batch on a flat sheet and the grease dripped into the oven, which is a recipe for a fire. Also, if you have a toaster oven, cook the dates in there. I find they come out much crispier in a shorter amount of time than with a regular oven.
Heather’s aunt Betsy made goat cheese tomato cups, which were delicious, and her future sister-in-law, Jeannine, made “crabbies” which my sister-in-law, Lauren, introduced me to a few holidays ago. A happy coincidence! They are to die for tasty and also very simple. I will get the recipe from them and post another time. For the lunch portion of the shower, I had suggested to Cathy that we order the main components (in this case, balsamic glazed chicken and salmon with roasted peppers and olives) and make the sides. I would highly recommend this when party planning. While I could have made both, it’s expensive and time consuming to do so. And if they aren’t cooked perfectly (which is highly likely when you’re also making several other things and greeting guests) your meal will be ruined. Stick to something that can be served at room temperature, and plan your side dishes around that. I made my barley salad once again (I know the recipe by heart by now!) and we also had potato salad and a green salad.
For drinks, I used a recipe for Basil Strawberry Lemonade Punch With Vodka that appeared in a story I wrote for InStyle last July. It’s from celebrity caterer Mary Giuliani, and is light and refreshing.
As a parting gift to go with our favors (starfish wine bottle stoppers, which coincide with Heather and Jeff’s wedding theme) I had Christie make cookie tags that matched Heather’s shower invitations, which she also designed. I baked two kinds of biscotti—cranberry walnut and almond chocolate chip—and filled a cellophane bag with one of each, before fastening it with the cookie tag.
If you are interested in purchasing cookie tags for your own event, please let me know and I can put you in touch with Christie! Here’s one last party tip before I go: If you are hosting an outdoor party, consider purchasing a few paper lanterns like the one in the photo below. They’re inexpensive (sometimes you can even find them at dollar stores) and they really elevate an event.
That’s the bride cutting her cake, which was filled with chocolate mousse. To die for. This circle of confectionery heaven came from Creative Cakes by Donna, a delightful bakery that also made my wedding cake.
Throughout this post I’ve hyperlinked to my recipes, but please leave a comment if you have questions. The punch recipe is below. And finally, a special thank you to Cathy, Eileen, Betsy, Jeannine and Erin for all of their help in making this such a successful event. Congratulations Heather! I can’t wait for your wedding!! xoxo
Basil Strawberry Lemonade Punch With Vodka
1 bottle (750ml) of vodka
2 liters of sparkling water
2 10 oz packages of fresh or frozen strawberries (I used fresh)
1 12 oz can of frozen lemonade
1 bunch of fresh basil
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, stir and serve.