Part of the reason I’ve been MIA on the blog front is that March was a complete blur. In addition to a busy work schedule and our regular whirlwind-y festive life, we had two back-to-back baby showers for four very close friends in March. And the very next weekend was Easter
and Passover (which kinda got passed over this year), and then it was April. It all happened so fast! I’ve finally had some time to decompress, and I even indulged in a wee bit of pampering for myself, my car, and my little dog too.
I want to take a moment now to reflect on those March showers. Maybe you’ll see an idea or two that will inspire your next gathering and help you to spoil someone you love. It seems like so many women are pregnant right now, or have just welcomed sweet new babies into the world. Adam and I did our best to show our peeps how excited we are for them… mostly through our food.
Baby shower number one was in honor of our friend, Lina- a lovely, sassy, Lithuanian beauty who married into our Faircloth clan, by way of Chris, a couple years ago.
Lina’s shower was an afternoon affair, hosted by our friend Misty- a diaper cake Ninja.
The decor was festive
and blue for the little boy on the way.
(Those are cupcakes underneath an expertly crafted icing onesie!)
I was responsible for a good chunk of the food
and was happy to be able to contribute some love, color,
(**Squeeze the juice of an orange or tangerine over your fresh fruit to make it sweet and unified!**)
and Adam’s pimento cheese
to the party. Lina’s friends brought some of their Lithuanian specialties as well.
It was a wonderful gathering for two people who are about to have one very lucky baby.
With one day to unwind and revamp for the week ahead, including a heavy workload and an RSVP list of 47 people, meant to arrive at our house around 7:30 Saturday night for Jess and Tommy’ Baby Shower Soiree, I put my nose to the grindstone and tried to channel my love into energy and productivity. This shower was more of the laid-back, couples and family, from in-town and out-of-state, coming to celebrate the “monkey” on the way. Adam and I wanted to make it comfortable and fun for everyone- especially this lady!
That started with a fun, fresh non-alcoholic cocktail served in a fancy glass. We muddled limes and mint
and added cranberry-pomegranate juice, water, sugar, and ginger ale, just before serving.
The colors of the shower were yellow, green, and white (and brown like a monkey),
So I spiffed up my home with a couple of bunches of pretty flowers
and filled up a few mason jars with yellow and green jelly beans. Very cute.
The gift table was filled to the brim,
and the diaper cake was amazing.
In designing the menu for this shower, we were mindful that people would be holding cocktails and walking around socializing. We decided that a Dipping Station and a short list of finger foods would be perfect- no need for forks or two hands to eat any of the treats.
Hummus, Baba Ganoush, Bacon Buttermilk Ranch Dressing, slow cooked French Onion Dip (a very close version of Guy Fiere’s– I just cook my onions longer and slower), and Adam’s Pimento Cheese. People have claimed that they want to marry my husband because of that cheese. No dice! I got him first!! Phew!
We thoughtfully chose dippers for maximum enjoyment of each bowl of yumminess. Veggies and pita chips for the Baba Ganoush and Hummus. Pretzel Flips for the Pimento Cheese. (Who doesn’t love a pretzel with cheese?) And Ruffles for the French Onion Dip, naturally. We figured people would dip just about anything in the Bacon Ranch- maybe even their own fingers.
For the pick-up hors d’oeuvres selection, I made my chicken salad (always a big hit with a crowd).
This time I used store-bought mini phyllo shells to serve as the vehicle. Those things are awesome. You just have to take them out of the freezer about ten minutes before you want to fill them. No baking or anything! They were flaky and crispy and just the right size.
Here’s the recipe for my chicken salad:
For the dressing, build in a large bowl:
2 ribs celery, diced small
½ small red onion, minced
3 heaping T mayonnaise (don’t be afraid)
1 t whole grain Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, pressed
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper
(If I have basil pesto on hand, I typically use a Tablespoon or so of pesto in the dressing, leaving out the pressed garlic and lemon juice.) If not, I just combine the ingredients above in the bottom of a large bowl and drizzle in a few Tablespoons of EVOO to make the dressing loose.
1 Cup sliced almonds, toasted in a dry pan over medium low heat until golden
¾ Cup or a good handful or two of dried cranberries
1 rotisserie chicken, skin removed, pulled apart and then diced small- or your own roasted chicken – whole or pieces.
good handful fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Place the add-ins into the bowl with the dressing. Stir the ingredients to coat them well. I like to kinda press the ingredients with the back of my spoon as I mix to smash it all together.
Taste and adjust seasoning and level of mayonnaise to your liking. Enjoy! If you make this chicken salad a day ahead, be sure to check your level of moisture the next day before serving, as the chicken likes to soak up the mayo overnight.
Also on the finger food list were these amazing cheese puffs, made by our friend Tim.
They were so delicious! Like cheese straws- but puffy perfection. I think I ate more of these than any other food at that party. If so many people hadn’t been around, I probably would have put a couple in my mouth at the same time to max out the cheesiness. They were that good.
I also made Asian inspired pork meatballs, tossed in a ginger lime peanut sauce that hung out in the slow cooker for the evening. I love that party trick!
And then there were these little Sweet Stuffed Peppers that went like hotcakes! They were super simple to make ahead of time and folks kept coming back for more.
Stuffed Sweet Peppers for a Crowd
5o small sweet peppers, about 2 – 3 inches long
2 packages cream cheese, softened
1 large package goat cheese (10oz or so), softened
4 cloves garlic, pressed
a good handful flat leaf parsley (or herbs of your choice), chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Non-stick cooking spray
Preheat your oven to 350°. Rinse and pat your peppers dry. Cut off the top 1/2 inch of the peppers and discard the stems. Use the skinny end of a spoon to carefully hollow out each pepper, removing the membrane and seeds. This is a tedious part of the process, but it’s not difficult.
In a large bowl, combine your cheeses, pressed garlic, herbs, and salt and pepper. Mix well to incorporate the flavors. Stop and taste. Adjust seasoning to your liking. It should taste fresh and delicious.
Next, get a large zip-top bag and snip off one of the bottom corners to create your own piping bag. If you’ve got your own piping bag, use it! Go ahead and place a good bit of your cheese mixture into the bag and squeeze the cheese into each pepper. Fill them to the top, but don’t over stuff them.
Lay your peppers out onto sheet pans, sprayed lightly with non-stick cooking spray, and bake them for about 15 minutes, or until the peppers are just tender. Remove the peppers to a platter and allow them to cool. Serve at room temperature. Enjoy!
On the sweet end of things,
one friend made these insanely scrumptious Browned Butter and Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies. They were divine.
And another friend, and talented baker, made these!
Homemade Twinkies! Jess had heard of an idea, for a baby shower with a mystery-sex baby, to make cupcakes with pink or blue icing inside. I thought- how fun! You bite in, and you might get blue, or you might get pink! Well, Jess and Tommy are Twinkie people. Adam and I had the good fortune to try one of Tommy’s fried Twinkies, coated in Cap’n Crunch, one night and they were mind-blowing! The key is to freeze the Twinkies before frying them- so the outside is crisp and sweet and hot, but the inside icing is still cool. Not an everyday affair, but definitely memorable!
I knew that we had to find a way to make those mystery Twinkies for the shower. I was a little afraid that we’d have to invest in a fancy Twinkie-shaped pan, but Dave (super-baker friend) found a tutorial online that detailed the process of making aluminum foil boats to cradle his way-better-than-Twinkies yellow cake. Then he piped in marshmallow-based pink and blue icing through the bottom of the cakes. Success!!!
Lastly, we needed fun activities and party favors. Glow in the dark Corn Hole was a total blast! Wish I had a photo of the flood lights and the friendly competition! We also had a onesie-making station.
I’ve seen this open-ended design table at multiple baby showers. It inevitably becomes a hub of positive action- folks trading ideas and channeling their inner artists or comedians. All you need is white onesies of several different sizes, fabric markers (which I got at Michael’s) and imagination. It’s always fun to see what people create for the little baby to wear.
And my friends who’ve already had their babies say that those onesies were a Godsend, and a crack-up, on a regular basis. I hope Jess will enjoy hers too.
As far as party favors, we decided to make CDs loaded with songs that have the word “baby” in them.
This is a daunting task, since there are about a billion of those songs. But Dave, an expert mix-tape-maker from way back, took on the challenge. He chose songs that were catchy and interesting (think Be My Baby, Baby Face, Baby Love, Baby Can I Hold You) and weaved them together to make the soundtrack of our party. Dual purpose- party music, plus party favors. Very sweet.
When all was said and done, I think that Jess & Tommy and Lina & Chris truly felt tons of love from their friends and family. And they went home with cars full of goodies to help them begin raising those kids!
I’m incredibly happy that I got to be a part of the festivities, showering our friends with love, and hearing all the oohs and aahs. But mostly, I’m ecstatic that these two babies are going to bring such joy to my friends. Cheers to growing families, life, and love.
Hope you found an idea or two along the way that sparked your inner hostess.
Happy cooking, eating, and celebrating to you!