Elf Shop, as I mentioned previously, is what Hubby calls my paper hobby (predilection). I suppose I should confess that in addition to my absolute fascination with food, I am also terribly preoccupied with (read: obsessive about) paper. Handmade papers, cardstocks, vellums, silk threaded, embossed, engraved -- you name it, I've probably got it, and in just about every color variation under the sun. My sister Hani and I used to spend hours poring over sample books from paper manufacturers. Fox River, Mohawk, and Neenah Paper are as familiar to me as All Clad, Cuisinart and Henckels. I have a custom designed closet in my office to store boxes of papers and assorted notions (specialty scissors, cutting boards, glues and adhesives, ribbons, stamps, inks, pens, etc.).
I like to design and make menus to accompany our dinners, and when the occasion warrants, I'll make invitations as well. Remember the wedding that featured the Red Velvet Cake from Hell? I made the wedding invitations (never mind that the cake was making me fit for Bedlam), too because I couldn't say no to a paper project!
While cleaning up yesterday, I found a large folder of planning notes, cards and menus from various parties. I thought I'd write about some of my favorite food/paper projects.
Joetta is a dear friend; easy going, fun, and effortlessly elegant. For her baby shower last year, I wanted the event to reflect the same qualities. I like odd sized cards, so I made invitations in an A2 size with heavy cardstock. They were folded in half with a two inch scalloped edge flap, then sealed with button. Each card featured different cover scenes. Guests were asked to pen a note on the inside cover and to bring the cards to the party so Joetta could have personal notes from her friends and mementos for her baby scrapbook.
I absolutely loved Heidi Swanson's post about a friend's baby shower, so I borrowed a page from these very creative folks and set up a crafts table in the dining room where guests transformed white onesies and baby bibs into personalized gifts using stamps and bright fabric paint. I also set up a waffle station in the kitchen with prepared batter, whipped cream, ice cream, and other goodies, for do-it-yourself desserts.
Jules, who was visiting, says I was cooking when she went to sleep and when she woke up, I was still cooking. Slight exaggeration. But we made a lot of food, even for a crew of thirty: baked Brie puffs, roasted balsamic-honey salmon, Sake shrimp in fried wonton with ginger aioli, a couple of quiches among other things. In addition to the dessert tray, I made a lemon pound cake with cream cheese frosting. The giraffe was cut from tinted chocolate "wrapping paper." Not a perfect cake, design wise, but then again, yummy. Considering how much we had, there was surprisingly little left over when the party ended.
This was a fun party; I got to indulge all the essentials: food, friends, and hobbies. As it turns out, I've got an extra 10 cards that can be customized for someone else's baby shower. If you want them, leave a comment or send me an email and you can have 'em. Have fun.
Baked Brie Puffs
Pillsbury crescent roll mix (again, shortcuts…)
Soft, ripe brie cheese, cut into 1 inch chunks
- preheat oven to 400
- Wrap the brie into the crescent sheet and roll.
- Place on pan and bake for 20 minutes, until crescent roll is brown and cooked.
This also works with camembert or other soft cheeses. Because the crescent roll dough is sweet, you don’t want a sharp cheese with this.
Roasted Salmon in Balsamic Honey Marinade
3 T Dijon mustard
5 T olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1 whole salmon filet
Whisk mustard and olive oil together in a bowl until well blended. Add vinegar and honey, blending well. Marinate salmon for at least 1 hour, better if overnight.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roast salmon on a tray with marinade for about 20 minutes, until cooked through. Serve warm.
Chicken and rotini in Pesto
1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts
1 pound rotini pasta
homemade pesto sauce or store bought (Buitoni makes a nice pesto)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut two sheets of foil and place chicken in an oven safe dish. Create a foil “tent” over chicken. You want to create a tent over the chicken to allow the chicken to cook in its own steam so do not wrap the chicken in foil. This method of cooking is also known as en papillote. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until juices run clear when pierced with a fork. Remove and cut into bite sized pieces (or shred by hand).
Cook rotini (or preferred pasta). Do not rinse with cold water – you want the pasta to be hot. Toss in chicken. Stir in pesto and mix well.
Strawberry Spinach Salad
1 pkg baby spinach
Fresh strawberries (or mandarin orange slices), hulled and sliced in half
4 oz crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup olive oil
3 T raspberry vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
pepper (and salt, if desired) to taste
Toss baby spinach with strawberries, almonds and blue cheese. Mix ingredients for vinaigrette together. Pour 1/3 cup of dressing over the spinach. Reserve remaining dressing for anyone who wants more.
Broccoli Quiche (courtesy Jenn Murray St. John)
9" pastry crust
4 eggs, beaten
2 Tablespoons finely chopped onions
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
3 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup half & half or milk
1 cup fresh broccoli or frozen broccoli
3 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese
4 tomatoes, medium, sliced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine eggs, half & half, onion, salt, and thyme. Set aside. Layer broccoli and cheeses in pie crust-lined pan. Pour egg mixture over broccoli and cheese. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Place sliced tomatoes on top and broil one minute. (For tomato and onion variation, simply saute 1 medium chopped onion until soft and translucent and follow instructions from layering onions and cheeses forward).
Orzo pasta salad with feta cheese, spring onions, herbs
1 cup orzo
4 oz feta cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tomatos, chopped, or 1 pkg grape tomatos
5 spring onions, chopped (white parts and some green)
Mixed fresh herbs – thyme, rosemary, parsley, finely chopped
3 T sea salt
Fresh cracked pepper to taste
Cook the orzo according to directions. Drain and stir in olive oil. Add cheese, tomatos, onions, herbs, salt and pepper. Mix well. Refrigerate and serve cold.
You have one of two choices: scone mix, or from scratch:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into one inch pats
1/2 cup dried cranberries or fresh raspberries
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl whisk together cream, egg, vanilla, and 3 tablespoons of the sugar until combined. In another bowl sift together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Blend in butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the cranberries or raspberries. Add the cream mixture with a fork until the mixture just forms a sticky but manageable dough. Drop small rounds of dough on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake the scones in the middle for 15 or until the tops are golden.
Serve with double Devon cream (mascarpone cheese is a nice substitute) and jam.
Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
1 quart of strawberries, washed and dried thoroughly
4 oz bittersweet chocolate
Melt chocolate in a glass bowl. Dip strawberries, coating well. Lay them on a parchment lined cookie tray. Refrigerate about 15 minutes, or until chocolate sets and hardens.
Lemon Pound Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
this cake was modified from a Martha Stewart recipe and the basis of the birthday cake we made for Kaly’s 30th birthday party. The giraffe was made from tinted white chocolate wrapping paper.
Serves 20 to 25
18 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter room temperature
3 cups all purpose flour
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
1 1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 tsp table salt
1 tsp baking soda
Cream cheese frosting
Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour 18 x 12 x 1 inch pan
Beat butter and sugar on high until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to medium and add eggs two at a time, incorporating each addition before proceeding. Add sour cream, vanilla and lemon zest. Beat until incorporated. Sift together flour, cornstarch, salt and baking soda. Reduce speed to low and slow add four mixture until combined. Pour batter into pan and smooth to level. Cook 25-35 minutes until tester comes out clean. Transfer to wire rack to cool; unmold. Cut the cake into equal parts for layers. Frost each layer.
1/2 pound unsalted butter, room temp
3/4 pounds cream cheese, room temp
1/2 pound confectioners sugar
1 T vanilla extract
Beat butter and cheese on med high until fluffy. Reduce speed. Add sugar and vanilla, beat until combined.