A Farewell to Summer – Peach Blackberry Pie

If you read the title of this post, it’s pretty clear that I’m a few weeks late in sharing a season-appropriate recipe.  But it was so delicious, it was worth ignoring the pumpkin and apple inspired desserts of Fall.

At the end of August, we spent a week at Lake Erie with my family, and just as we were embarking on a seven hour drive home, we stopped by a roadside fruit stand to pick up the fresh produce available at the end of summer.  Due to the lake climate, it was perfect for growing peaches.  The blackberries looked and smelled amazing as well.  So there we were, a little car packed full of suitcases, babygear, our family, and now a box of peaches and several containers of blackberries.  The sweet aroma of the peaches soon took over the car and we were eager to get to work on them.  If it wasn’t for the seven hour drive ahead of us and the cramped legroom I had sitting in the backseat next to Alister, I would have been in heaven.  It is a wonder how we made it all the way home with all of the peaches and blackberries remaining.

About a week after we had been home, we had made a huge dent in the peaches.  But I knew it was time I added them to a baked good.  After all, anytime I want to buy a large amount of produce, I sell the idea to Justin by promising that I will use them in some form of a baked good.  And that is just what I did.

I found this amazing recipe and was instantly intrigued by the use of coriander in a fruit pie.  Not to mention, she goes to the trouble of providing detailed, step-by-step instructions with photos, so I was ready to take it on.  Besides, I had all of the ingredients on hand and a couple of hours to kill.  Aside from a few modifications, namely substituting in blackberries for the blueberries, using a smaller amount of sugar since our peaches were already so sweet, making a lattice-style crust, and covering the crust halfway through the baking process, I kept to the recipe.

Here is my slightly modified version of the linked recipe, but to give credit where it is due, most of it is directly from the linked recipe.  I will keep it a little brief, but if you want more detail, I strongly suggest clicking on the original recipe above.

Peach Blackberry Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie

Crust:

2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes

5 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons ice cold water

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Filling:

About 3 pounds ripe peaches (I used about 6 peaches)

1 cup fresh blackberries

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground coriander

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 egg, beaten, for egg wash

2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, for topping crust before baking

Instructions:

Make the Crust

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt.

2. Add cold, cubed butter and, using your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture.  The mixture will crumble into different shapes and sizes.  That is okay.  Just work it down until the butter is evenly distributed.

3. Stir together the ice cold water and vinegar.

4. Create a well in the butter and flour mixture and pour in the water and vinegar mixture.

5. Use a fork to bring the dough together and try to moisten all of the flour bits.

6. On a lightly floured work surface, dump out the dough mixture and divide it into two.  Gently knead into two disks and then wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Dough

Make the Filling

1. Wash peaches and blackberries.  Slice each peach into about 10-12 slices.

2. In a medium bowl, combine peach slices and blackberries.

Peaches and blackberries

3. In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, spices, flour, and cornstarch.

4. Pour the sugar mixture over the fruit, and gently toss together with a wooden spoon.  Stir in the lemon juice.

Pie filling

5. Place bowl of fruit in the fridge to rest while you roll the crust out.

Make the Pie

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Place a rack in the center of the oven, and place a baking sheet on the lower rack, just below where you’re going to place the pie to catch any pie drippings.

2. Remove one of the pie dough disks from the fridge.  On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out into about a 13-inch round.  Roll the dough a few strokes, then use your fingers to move the emerging circle around the floured surface.  This ensures that the dough isn’t sticking to the work surface.  When you roll the dough and you can see it start springing back, that means that the butter is warming and the crust shouldn’t be rolled out anymore.  Gently lift the 13-inch round from the floured surface and center in the 9-inch baking dish.  Place in the fridge while you roll out the top crust.

3. Roll out the top crust just as you did the bottom crust, moving the dough across the floured surface every once in a while, and creating a roughly 13-inch circle.  The circle does not need to be perfect as you are going to cut it into strips.  Cut the circle into roughly 1-inch wide strips .

4. Remove the bottom crust and fruit filling from the fridge.  Gently pour the fruit filling into the pie dish.

5. Assemble the lattice top crust by placing strips in one direction about 1/2 inch apart.  Then fold up every other strip in half and place a long strip perpendicular across the middle.  Unfold the strips and begin weaving the other strips until the pie is full.  There are much better instructions for making a lattice crust, but I think I captured the highlights.

6. With your fingers press the top and bottom crusts together and fold under.  Use a fork or your fingers to crimp the edges of the dough.  If you are using the leftover dough scraps to make a design with cut-outs (as shown in the photo), you will want to place them on top of the crust before moving on.

Lattice crust and cut-outs

7. Brush lightly with beaten egg and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture.

Sugar and spice and everything nice

8.  Place pie in the oven and bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes.  Reduce the oven heat to 375 and bake for 45 to 55 more minutes.  When 25 minutes are left on the timer, place a crust cover over the crust to prevent burning.

Cover the crust

9.  Remove from the oven when crust is browned and golden, and the juices are bubbling.  Allow to cool for 2 hours before serving.

Peach Blackberry Pie

Or let your patience get the best of you and serve with all of the juicy goodness oozing out as shown here.

Peach Blackberry Pie

If there is any leftover, place covered in the fridge to store.  We stored the leftovers in the fridge and warmed them up at 350 for about 10 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!  Even if you need to wait until next summer to do so!

A BaByQ – A Barbecue-style Couples Baby Shower

This past weekend, we had the honor of celebrating one of my very best friends, Kelli, as she and her husband await the arrival of their baby girl.  Kelli is one of the most artistic and creative people I know, so you can imagine how intimidating it was when we offered to host a baby shower for her.  Lucky for us, she and her husband had recently attended a couples shower and they really liked that idea.  So rather than a cutesy, girly theme, my partners in crime – Kim and Andreia – and I opted for the more relaxed, gender-neutral, less conventional approach by hosting a barbecue.  Or in this case a BaByQ!

I love how you can take a simple theme, add a few little touches to pull it all together, and suddenly you have yourself a special affair rather than your ordinary party.  A barbecue turned BabyQ was the perfect opportunity to spruce up your typical barbecue.

For starters, the menu was a breeze.  We considered going the burgers route, but weather could be an obstacle and we had no interest in spending the entire event over a grill.  Instead, inspired by Kelli’s roots, we went with a focus on pulled meat and traditional southern barbecue sides.  Add a splash of gingham and twine, and you have yourself a party!

Here is a look at some of my favorite details from the party:

Apron BaByQ Invitations

Did I mention that Kelli is some kind of paper craft genius?  Taking on a paper craft without her mastermind behind it was a bit risky, but since this was her shower, I decided to let her sit this one out :)

BaByQ Invitation

Inspired by a couple of apron cards I saw online, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the invitations.   After spending a couple of Alister’s nap times designing, cutting, and pasting, I was very happy with the result.  I could have taken an extra step and added a ribbon around the “waist” but I wanted to keep it simple for fear of overdoing it.  I did not have any luck finding instructions online, so I plan to post apron card instructions at a later date.

Gingham Tablecloths

To say I handcrafted my tablecloths would be a stretch.  It was more like buying fabric, trying to cut in a straight line along the gingham pattern, and ironing the edges inward to create a fake hem.  I may get around to actually sewing a hem at a later date, but for the purposes of the party, the ironed hems did the trick and added the little bit of gingham splash on each of the tables.

Dessert Table

Here is a look at the dessert table.  You can see the splash of gingham on the table along with my impromptu centerpiece.  Since our flowers are well past their prime and my mums have completely faded, I decided to embrace the food theme of the shower by displaying red apples, tomatoes, and potatoes in vases.  Not my proudest moment, but it added a little dimension to the table.

Mini Carrot Cake Cupcakes

I made mini carrot cake cupcakes (when making mini cupcakes, bake for 12 minutes) while Kim stayed in line with our southern barbecue theme and made a multi-berry cobbler and a cherry cobbler.  Both were delicious!

Caramel Apple Favors

When planning the favors for an October shower, we were not planning for 90-degrees.  We dismissed the lingering summer heat and moved forward with Kim’s suggestion of caramel apples.  Thanks to the genius of Paula Deen, who we turned to for more than one recipe when planning the menu, we were able to pull caramel apples together with a few simple ingredients.  Add some paper, a bag, and decorative ribbon, and we had ourselves a favor.  A very sticky favor.  If I did this again, I would have placed a small piece of wax paper or parchment paper between the apple and decorative paper.  After taste testing it myself, I can honestly say that if the guests had the patience to pull off the little pieces of paper from the caramel, they uncovered a very tasty treat!

Caramel Apples

Drinks

Again, we kept it simple and true to barbecue form by serving up a selection of water, lemonade, iced tea, beer, Arnold Palmers, and John Dalys.  And to add a bit of gingham to the drink station, I wrapped gingham and plaid washi tape around the red straws and cut a flag pattern out of each.

Drinks

Food

How many crockpots can you fit on a table?  We were destined to find out this past weekend.  One contained pulled pork, another had pulled chipotle chicken, the other had homemade macaroni and cheese, and the last one had southern baked beans.  Both beans and macaroni and cheese were Paula Deen recipes.  Say what you will about the woman, but when it comes to southern recipes, she knows what she’s talking about.

Food

Other sides included chips and onion dip, chips and guacamole, a corn dish, roasted red potatoes, sweet potato fries, and two types of homemade bread.

Forks and spoons

Here’s another way to spruce up the presentation of plastic spoons, forks, and knives.  Wrap them in a paper napkin and tie a ribbon around it.  Andreia ordered personalized ribbon for the apples with the phrase, “Sugar and spice and everything nice” and we had plenty left after we finished the apples.  I was handed the remaining ribbon and instructed to use it when decorating.  I couldn’t think of a better place to use it than the servingware, particularly since the phrase includes “sugar and spice.”

Banner

Keeping with the – you guessed it – gingham theme, I pulled together a banner to place above the fireplace, where I anticipated they would open presents.

Kelli and Adam

Here is a shot while Kelli and Adam opened presents.  We are so excited for these two!

And with that, I am out of details to share about the party.  Which means, time to share some of my favorite photos of the event!

Kelli entertains Alister while opening presents as he hands her an impromptu gift, which may be a chip or a piece of trash.  Can't be sure.

Kelli humors Alister while opening presents as he hands her a chip as an impromptu gift.  He made sure each guest received the same gift at some point throughout the evening.

Kelli grabs a photo with her happy hosts.

Kelli grabs a photo with her happy hosts.

Hosting can be exhausting.  After he said good-bye to the last of the guests, Alister was ready to call it a night.

Hosting can be exhausting. After he said good-bye to the last of the guests, Alister was ready to call it a night.

A Berry Tasty Summer Treat – Berry-Lemonade Cupcakes

It has been a week since our blueberry and blackberry adventure and we continue to work our way through the stash in the fridge.  I had hoped to bake with the berries at some point, other than the impromptu muffins I made for the new neighbors, but I haven’t had a good enough excuse to use my time baking rather than tackling one of the more pressing home projects.  Until this past Sunday.

We had plans to attend a friend’s dinner party and I wanted to contribute something that took advantage of our (still) fresh blueberries and blackberries.  I glanced through recipes online long enough to realize it was just overcomplicating the process.  Instead, I remembered seeing a delicious recipe that my friend, Kelli, had posted awhile back.  While I had not personally tried them, they looked like the perfect summer treat by combining both blueberries and blackberries with lemon!  Besides, we were pressed for time and I had just about all of the ingredients on hand, so I could get moving on the recipe while Justin ran out to pick up a lemon and cream cheese for the frosting.

You can find the recipe on her post or shown below:

BERRY-LEMONADE CUPCAKES

Lemonade-Berry Cupcakes

INGREDIENTS:

Cupcakes

  • 1 stick softened butter (1/2 cup)
  • 2  cups sugar
  • 4 extra-large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons grated lemon zest (1 large lemon should yield enough for the cupcakes as well as the frosting)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup milk (whole) or buttermilk (make buttermilk by adding 1 teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice to one cup of milk)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup raspberry jam – (any berry jam or preserves will do.  Recipe calls for raspberry jam, but I used blackberry preserves as that was what I had on hand.)
  • 1 cup blackberries (extra for topping)
  • 2/3 cup blueberries (extra for topping)

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 2 packages softened cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 – 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar (this is another thing I loved about the recipe.  It did not require 4-5 cups of powdered sugar!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Fresh lemon zest to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth.
  3. Add one egg at a time and then your lemon zest.
  4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
  5. In another bowl, mix 3/4 cup lemon juice, the milk or buttermilk, and vanilla.
  6. Add the flour and buttermilk mixture alternating each addition, beginning and ending with the flour. Once your batter is made, gently fold in your raspberry jam (or preserves), blackberries and blueberries.  Scoop into your cupcake liners, 2/3 of the way full.  Bake for 20-22 minutes.  Let cupcakes cool before icing.
  7. While cupcakes are baking, cream the butter and cream cheese.  Slowly add the powdered sugar until your desired consistency is reached.  Then add the vanilla and lemon zest.

As mentioned, we were in a bit of a rush to make it on time to the dinner party, so I turned to my trusty Ziplock bag frosting trick to finish these bad boys and get on the road.  As we watched the timer count down, my hands were shaking as I poured the frosting into the bag.  Then, when the cupcakes came out of the oven, I nearly scolded my fingers as I placed the piping hot cupcakes onto a plate in the fridge to help the cooling process.  I felt like it was a scene straight out of Cupcake Wars.  All the rushing around was worth it – we made it to the dinner with about 10 minutes to spare and the cupcakes were a hit!  A perfect treat to round out a delicious summer meal.

Here are a couple of photos that I took with my phone as I balanced the cupcakes on my lap en route to the party.

Lemonade-Berry Cupcakes

The recipe yields approximately 24 cupcakes (I ended up with 30 regular sized cupcakes).  As you can see below, I took a dozen cupcakes to the dinner party, which was more than enough, and I had over a dozen left at home.  What does this mean? Justin’s coworkers get to start the week off right come Monday morning.  Who says this can’t double as a well-balanced breakfast?  After all, the recipe includes eggs, milk, flour, berries, cream cheese - it’s practically every breakfast item combined into one!

Lemonade-Berry Cupcakes

We loved this recipe and plan to add it to our growing list of summer treats we will make again in the future.  If you are looking for something to make with blueberries or blackberries that is a little less conventional than your standard cobbler or pie, give this a whirl.  You will not be disappointed.

Blueberries for Al – blueberry picking & blueberry muffins

Blueberries for Sal

Blueberries for Sal.  What a great summertime read.  We received the book from one of my dear friends, Suzanne, before Alister was born.  Beautifully illustrated, it tells the story of a mother taking her child to pick blueberries at the same time and place that a mother bear takes her cub.  After a slight mix-up between mother and child, it has a happy ending with Sal and mother back in the kitchen canning blueberries.  We love the book, and there is no better time to read it than during blueberry season in the summer.

Having already given us the book, Suzanne surprised us again a couple of months after Alister was born.  She stopped by to drop off fresh blueberries right out of the patch.  They were the best blueberries I had ever tasted and I was determined to figure out the secret.  Turns out, it wasn’t much of a secret at all – she hand-picked them from a pick-your-own orchard in the area.

Well a year later, we found ourselves introducing Alister to the deliciousness of blueberries and it was love at first bite.  He cannot get enough of them, and so they have become a key ingredient in every meal he eats.  We’re thrilled that his treat of choice is an antioxidant and fiber-rich treat, but we also knew that blueberry season would soon come to an end.   But did it have to?  If we stocked up while they were in season, then we could find a way to surprise our little buddy and sneak his favorite food back into his life throughout the Fall and Winter.

Remembering the delicious blueberries Suzanne gave us, we were inspired to do the same.  We decided to try the same orchard/berry farm that Suzanne visited – Butler’s Orchard – even though we debated going back to the same place we picked apples and pumpkins last Fall.    And what better weekend than this past weekend?  The temperature dropped about 30 degrees from the previous week.  And to make the deal a little sweeter, it was the final weekend for blueberry picking at Butler’s Orchard,  but it was the first weekend for blackberry picking!

Here is a look at our blueberry picking adventure.  Get ready to start SALivating!

Blueberries!

A lovely day for picking berries.  Mid-seventies, a few clouds, and very little humidity, unlike the swamp we are accustomed to around the DC area.

Blueberries as far as the eye could see.

The blueberries were ripe and delicious for picking.  To think we were concerned there wouldn’t be any left!  I assure you our containers were overflowing.

Blueberries

See any similarities?  Even the same disheveled hairstyle.  Alister had just as much fun squishing the blueberries as he had devouring them.

Blueberries for Al

Blueberries for Al

Blueberries for Sal

Blueberries for Sal

After we realized Alister was having a little too much fun squishing the blueberries we picked, we gave him his own container and filled it with about a dozen berries instead of the hundred he was trying to smash.  This seemed to entertain him for awhile.  Well, at least for a few minutes while the dozen berries made their way from the container to his belly.  Just as Sal did in the book, Alister took a few berries, dropped them into his container, and then ate them.  Ku-plink, ku-plank, ku-plunk.

Blueberries for Al

When we were done with the blueberries, we made our way over to the blackberries that were just beginning to ripen.  You can see it was still early in the season, but I managed to fill a couple of containers with plump blackberries.

Blackberries

After we finished picking blackberries, we headed home and started making grand plans for our fresh picked fruit.  Pies, crisps, ice cream, smoothies.  We thought of it all.  However, over the past few days, we have enjoyed eating them in their natural form.  No added sugar necessary.  Here is Alister taking advantage of the summer’s bounty, once again.

Blueberries for Al

And once again.  Nom nom nom.

Blueberries for Al

Despite my good intentions to enjoy them in their purest form, it just so happened that our new next door neighbors moved in that day.  What a perfect excuse to use some blueberries in a baked good (and then give it away so I do not devour it myself).  After a quick google for the best blueberry muffins, I came across the following recipe that resulted in light, fluffy, almost cupcake-like blueberry muffins.   If you are looking for a blueberry muffin that is a little on the sweeter side (for my taste) and received rave reviews online, here you go:

BLUEBERRY MUFFINS – recipe found here and listed below.

Blueberry Muffins

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup butter or 1/2 cup margarine, at room temp
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries or 2 1/2 cups frozen blueberries

For Topping

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, mixed with
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat oven to 375°.
  2. Grease 18 regular-size muffin cups (or 12 large size muffins).
  3. In bowl, mix butter until creamy.  Add sugar and beat until pale and fluffy.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each.
  5. Beat in vanilla, baking powder and salt.
  6. With spoon, fold in half of flour then half of milk into batter; repeat.
  7. Fold in blueberries.
  8. Spoon into muffin cups and sprinkle topping onto each muffin.
  9. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and springy to touch.

An AppeTHAIzing Family Favorite: Spicy Peanut Tofu Stir-fry

As the temperature soared past 100-degrees all last week, the last thing I wanted to do was stand over a hot stove when preparing dinner.  However, if I could make something tasty in 10-15 minutes over the heat, I was willing to consider it.  Especially since I was thinking about making one of my family’s favorite dishes.  About a year ago, I was looking for something spicy and peanuty that went with tofu and I came across a recipe on the Nasoya website.  I adapted it a little based on items we regularly had on hand and it was an instant hit.  After living with us for about a month at the time, our Macedonian au pair, who was new to any Asian cuisine, said it was one of the best things she had ever eaten.  Hopefully she still feels the same after living with us for a year!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pkg extra firm tofu, rinsed, patted dry, and cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 4 tbls soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tbls olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts (cocktail peanuts work as well)
  • 1/3 cup natural peanut butter (creamy)
  • 3 tbls pure maple syrup
  • 2 tbls rice vinegar
  • 1 tbls water
  • 1 tbls sesame seeds
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 tsp chili paste (1 tsp if you like it extra spicy)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro

DIRECTIONS

(1) Cook the Rice – Prepare brown rice on the stove or rice cooker as directed on the packaging.  Set aside if it is ready before the rest of the meal is ready.
(2) Broil the Tofu – This is my absolute favorite way of preparing tofu.  Once I tried it in the broiler, I never looked back.  First, pre-heat the broiler.  While pre-heating, stir together 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce and ginger in a medium bowl and gently stir in the cubed tofu to coat (side note – I also do this with curry powder in place of ginger when cooking with curry sauces).  Place foil over a baking sheet or mist the sheet with nonstick cooking oil spray.  Spread the tofu on the baking sheet in a single layer.  Place under a broiler for 5-7 minutes.  Flip the tofu and broil for another 5-7 minutes or until light brown and crispy.  Set aside.
Crispy Tofu
(3) Stir-fry the Veggies and Peanuts - While the tofu is broiling, heat the olive oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat and sauté the chopped onion for 3 minutes.  Add the chopped red bell pepper and sauté for 3 minutes or until softened.  Add the peanuts, stirring occasionally, for an additional 2-3 minutes.  Set aside.
Sizzling
(4) Mix the Sauce – In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons soy sauce (if you want to reduce the sodium, use 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon water) with the peanut butter, maple syrup, rice vinegar, water, sesame seeds, garlic, and chili paste.  Set aside.
Saucy
(5) Mix it Up! - Add the rice to the wok and mix with the veggies.  Pour the sauce into the wok, and stir to cover the rice and veggies.

Mix it up!

(6) Fold it in – Fold in the tofu until evenly distributed throughout the mix. Finally, fold in the cilantro.   Warm up over the stove, if necessary, but it should have remained warm from the recently cooked rice.

Yum!

Serve and Enjoy!  Hopefully your family enjoys this as much as we do!  This past time, we finally introduced Alister to this favorite dish and we found it was Alister-approved.   While we ate dinner, he was pretty focused on gobbling up every last piece of tofu on his tray as shown below.  (FYI – if serving to small children, remember to exclude the peanuts from the dish or remove them from their serving to prevent choking hazards).

More tofu, please.

Watermelon! And Blueberries! And Mint! Oh My!

Whether you pride yourself on the ability to feed your entire family from your garden or you find yourself forgetting to water the couple houseplants you own that require nothing more than water every couple weeks (ahem, me, ahem), you will have no trouble caring for the natural phenomenon that is fresh mint.  We have been blessed (or cursed) with wild mint growing alongside our home.  And if you know wild mint, you know it could be mistaken as a weed if it weren’t for its deliciously fresh smell and taste.  So what do you do at this time of year when you have an abundance of mint?  Well, after you cut and clean a bunch and give it to friends and neighbors, make mojitos and mint lemonade, and keep some in your fridge to use in dishes over the week, here’s a quick and easy way to take advantage of fresh mint as well as the produce that is currently in season and taking over your grocer’s (and farmer’s market) aisles.

Watermelon and Blueberry Salad (measurements are approximated)

Serves 10

In a large bowl, combine 5 cups of watermelon cubes (1/2 – 1 inch size) with 3 cups of blueberries (or other berry of your preference).

In a small bowl, mix 1/4 – 1/3 cup of minced mint leaves with 2 teaspoons of lime juice and 1 tablespoon of honey in a small bowl.  Whisk or stir the mint mixture together.

Gently combine the mint mixture with the watermelon and blueberry mixture.

wpid-IMG_20130715_180703.jpg

Enjoy!

Up, Up, and Away – A Hot-Air Balloon /Travel-Themed Baby Shower – Part 2

As promised, here is my follow-up post to the details I started to share with you about a hot air balloon/travel-themed baby shower two of my good friends and I recently hosted.   In addition to the Pin Your Birthplace Guestbook and Favorite Destination Onesies I shared in the original post, here are some of my favorite details that helped pull the shower together.

TABLE DECOR

Here is an inexpensive and easy way to make the room a bit more festive.  Kelli lent me 7 or 8  tin cans she had on hand where she had already removed the labels.  I took pink cardstock, cutting each sheet into thirds, and then wrapped and pasted (or taped) each strip around a can.  Then I tied pieces of twine around each strip to pull in the pink and tan look.  Lucky for me, we had pink hydrangeas and a few dark pink roses blooming on the side of our home at the time of the shower.  About an hour or two before the shower, I snipped enough flowers to fill all the vases and set one or two on top of each can.  I really could not have asked for an easier flower decoration.

We placed the flower decorations around the food and drink area in the kitchen as well as the gift opening area in the living room.  To add some height and make it feel more like a centerpiece on the coffee table, we added some of the pink and tan photo boxes I picked up at Michael’s .

Centerpiece and can vases

 

HANGING DECOR

You can’t have an “Up, Up and Away” shower theme without decorating “up” – can you?  Well, we thought it was necessary and the couple of “up” decorations pulled the theme together.  First, Kelli worked her paper magic and created this hot air balloon-inspired banner.  The flag above each string reads a word – Up – Up – &  - Away!  We hung this banner along the mirror above the food table.

Up Up & Away

Then I made a flag banner similar to the one I made for Alister’s First Birthday.  Only using craft paper card stock and maps from an atlas instead of photos of my son.  After weaving pink ribbon through the top of each flag, we hung it along the large window in the living room, where everyone congregated during the shower.

Map flag banner

REFRESHMENTS

What would a baby shower be without food and drink?  We filled the table with standard baby shower dishes, ranging from savory to sweet.  Hummus and veggies, fresh fruit, a cheese plate, tea sandwiches, avocado deviled eggs, spinach and artichoke dip, mini cupcakes, and chocolate dipped pretzels kept the guests satiated while we kept them busy pinning maps and ironing onesies.

Flowers and Food

A closer look at the sweet section of the table.  Kelli tackled her delicious Sprinkles’-inspired Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes while I made my go-to chocolate and vanilla buttercream cupcakes.  Having some success with chocolate-dipped pretzel rods at Alister’s First Birthday, I decided to go ahead and make them for the shower at the last minute.  More for a splash of pink on the table than anything.  Half of the pretzel rods had crushed peanuts on top of the chocolate and the others were just chocolate.  Most, if not all, of the pretzel rods were gone at the end of the shower, so I’m glad I added them to the mix.

Sweets!

Near the food, we set up a “Beverage Cart,” complete with one of Kelli’s hand-crafted signs.  While I originally intended to make strawberry lemonade, I decided to take advantage of the fresh mint that was taking over the side of our house.  So instead of strawberry lemonade, we had mint lemonade.  Basically, a pregnancy-friendly mojito.  Andreia, the other host, stocked the beverage cart with rose wine to complement the pink theme as well.

Drink Station

BAGGAGE CLAIM FAVORS

Last but certainly not least, we couldn’t let the guests go empty-handed, so Kelli pulled these little gift bags together by filling snack-sized ziplock bags with  iced animal cookies and stapling her handmade labels to the top.  Also, it allowed her to use her adorable hot air balloon stamp!

Baggage Claim Favors

Well, I think that’s all for now!  What a great time we had at the shower and what a great excuse we had to get together to “plan” over the past few months.  Now that I no longer have party planning as my excuse, I guess that means I should start working on organizing our closets.  Shocking, but I do not have the same motivation to get going on that.

Instead, I think I’ll spend more time sharing photos from the shower!

Mom-to-be with the Hostesses

The Guest of Honor grabs a photo with the Hostesses.

Happy Day

The beautiful expecting mother glows as she and her husband announced the baby’s beautiful name.

 

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