Tasty treats go along with gifts at showers

Finger sandwiches are a traditional menu item but salads, individual-sized servings add pizzazz

    With holiday engagements announced and wedding plans being formed, it’s time to begin thinking about the bridal shower.
    Although it’s becoming more common to throw a party for the wedding couple, traditional bridal showers are still the standard.
    It’s often easier to select a theme for the shower than to decide what to serve guests.
    You could have a traditional tea party with finger sandwiches, a dessert buffet for an afternoon affair or a wine and cheese tasting for an elegant event.
    Cut sandwiches into small sizes to create finger food that’s easy to enjoy and will allow everyone attending to taste each dish or serve a smattering of appetizers.
    Try making individual-sized portions of easy-to-prepare foods such as pot pies or macaroni and cheese instead of a large dish. Tea-time treats such as madelines and simple sandwich spreads are another easy option.
    Remember, for a party after lunchtime but before dinner, plan on seven to nine bites per person. A substantial brunch or evening meal calls for 12 to 14 bites per person.
    A beautiful buffet can be crafted from simple dishes that are artfully displayed. Garnish foods with thin slices of lemon and lime, citrus zest, sprigs of parsley or other fresh herbs, tiny radishes and baby carrots.
    Add height to your table with a grand centerpiece or by serving food on tiered trays.
    For a pretty centerpiece, layer wheels of cheese to replicate the look of a wedding cake. Cut daisies from mozzarella cheese slices or use herbs that are in season to decorate the “cake.” Serve with your favorite crackers or French bread rounds.
    Or, instead of baking a large cake, pie or torte, use individual pans to make personal treats or cupcakes instead, decorating them to match your theme. Place them on a footed cake stand in the center of the table for an elegant presentation.
    Following are some recipes ideal for a bridal shower from foodnetwork.com.



Watermelon-Strawberry Sangria

1 small seedless watermelon, rind removed, flesh cut into large chunks
1 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 bottle rose wine, cold
1 cup vodka
1 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup orange liqueur
1 orange, sliced
1 lime, sliced

    Set one cup strawberries aside for garnish.
    Combine watermelon and strawberries in a blender and blend until smooth.Add a splash of the vodka if needed to puree the fruit. Strain into a large pitcher until you have about four cups juice.
    Add rose wine, vodka, orange juice and liqueur and stir to combine. Add orange and lime slices, cover and refrigerate for one to 24 hours.
    Just before serving, add the reserved strawberries. Serve in glasses over ice.


Vanilla Bean Spritz Shortbread

1-1/4 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or extract
1-1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt

    Beat butter and icing sugar about three minutes, until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla bean paste or extract.
    In a separate bowl, sift flour, cornstarch and salt, then add to the butter, mixing until blended and soft. Spoon dough into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip or a cookie press. Pipe cookies about 1-1/2-inches across onto two baking trays lined with parchment paper, leaving an inch between each cookie. Chill cookies for 15 minutes, then bake in a 325-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until cookies just begin to brown lightly on the bottom. Cool on the trays before storing in an airtight container.
    The cookies will keep as long as a week.


Ham and Scallion Scones With Lemon Herb Chevre

3 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cold
1 cup buttermilk, plus extra for brushing
1 cup diced Black Forest ham, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup chopped scallions
For lemon herb chevre:
6 ounces fresh chevre
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons sour cream or buttermilk
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint

    In a large bowl, stir flour, sugar, baking powder and salt to blend. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or two knives until it has a rough, crumbly texture. Stir in buttermilk, ham and scallions.
    Once partially combined, turn dough onto a clean work surface. Using your hand, flatten and fold the dough a few times, incorporating the dry crumbs, until you can shape dough into a disc. Cut disc into eight wedges and arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush tops with buttermilk and bake in a 375-degree oven about 18 minutes, until a rich, golden color. Serve warm or at room temperature with lemon herb chevre.
    To make lemon herb chevre, beat chevre, zest, lemon juice and sour cream or buttermilk until fluffy. Stir in herbs, season to taste and chill until ready to serve.
    Scones are best served the day they are baked, but baked scones, as well as the dough freeze well.


Savory Cream Cheese Profiteroles

For pastry:
1 cup milk
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter
4 eggs
1 cup flour
For filling;
8 ounces spreadable cream cheese
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1 French shallot, chopped
1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato pesto
Lettuce shoots or fine herbs

    Whip eggs and set aside.
    In saucepan, bring milk to boil with sugar, salt and butter. Add flour and stir until dough doesn’t stick to sides of saucepan.
    Transfer to a bowl and incorporate eggs, a little at a time, stirring well between additions. Drop teaspoons of pastry dough onto parchment-covered cookie sheet and bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until puffed up and golden.
    Let cool. Store in tightly sealed container until needed.
    To make filling, mix cheese with parsley, shallot and pesto.
    Cut puffs horizontally in two. Place two teaspoons filling on each bottom piece and top with lettuce shoots or fine herbs. Cover with top halves, then serve.

Mini Chicken and Broccoli Pot Pies

For filling:
Vegetable oil cooking spray
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 small rotisserie chicken breast, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
1 cup broccoli florets, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and steamed
4 10-inch unfold-and-bake frozen pie crusts), thawed
1 large egg

    Melt the butter in a one-quart saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and whisk one to two minutes, until smooth. Gradually add milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Simmer over medium-low heat about six minutes, whisking constantly, until sauce is thick and smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in salt, pepper, Parmesan, chicken and broccoli.
    On a lightly-floured work surface, roll out the dough until 1/8-inch thick. Using a three-inch round cookie cutter, cut out 12 pieces of dough. Using a two-inch round cookie cutter, cut out 12 pieces of dough. Press the three-inch rounds of dough into the bottom of a mini-muffin pan that’s been coated with cooking spray. Spoon sauce into the pastry.
    Using a fork, combine egg and 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl. Brush the edges of the pastry with egg mixture and place the two-inch pieces of dough on top. Lightly press the edges of the dough together to seal. Press the edges of the pies with the tines of a fork, then brush the tops of each pie with the beaten egg. Cut a 1/2-inch-long slit into the top of the pies with a paring knife.
    Bake in a 400-degree oven for 15 to 18 minutes, until the tops are golden and the filling is bubbling. Cool 10 minutes and serve.


Vegetable Bundles With Tarragon-Citrus Dip

1 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt    
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
For bundles:
1 carrot, peeled, cut into matchsticks
1 red bell pepper, seeded, cut into matchsticks
1/2 English cucumber, cut into matchsticks
24 fresh chives

    In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, tarragon, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Set aside at least five minutes.
    Make small bundles of one or two pieces each of carrots, peppers and cucumbers. Tie At the center with one of the chives, trimming it to the appropriate length. Serve alongside the tarragon-citrus dip.


Pecan Butter Tart Squares

For shortbread crust:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup icing sugar
1-2/3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
For filling:
1 cup corn syrup
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups pecans

    Using a hand mixer, cream butter and icing sugar about one minute, until fluffy. Add flour and salt and mix on low speed until just combined. Mixture will feel crumbly.
    Press mixture into an even layer in a nine-inch square baking dish lined with parchment paper. Bake in a 350-degree oven about 20 minutes, until edges turn golden.
    Combine corn syrup, brown sugar, eggs, butter, vanilla, vinegar and salt, stirring until mixture is smooth. Stir in pecans, then pour over crust. Bake in 350-degree oven about 35 minutes, until mixture bubbles.
    Remove from oven and let cool completely before cutting and serving.


Turkey Waldorf Bites

Nonstick cooking spray
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons milk, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 jarred piquillo peppers, drained and finely diced
1 shallot, minced
1 pound ground turkey
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
3/4 teaspoon salt
40 red seedless grapes
2 stalks celery, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 apple, such as Fuji, diced into 40 pieces

    Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
    Spray a 10-by-5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Cut a piece of parchment paper to line the bottom and the two long sides of the pan, leaving two inches overhanging on either side.
    In a large bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, milk, eggs and mustard. Set aside to soak five minutes.
    Add peppers, shallots, turkey, basil and salt to breadcrumb mixture. Mix with hands until fully combined. Press mixture into the loaf pan and smooth the top.
    Bake in a 375-degree oven about 30 minutes, until meatloaf reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Cool in the pan five minutes, then run a knife along the parchment-free sides of the pan to release the loaf. Using the paper as handles, lift meatloaf from the pan to a cooling rack and let cool to room temperature.
    Place cooled meatloaf back in the pan and fold the parchment over the top to cover. Place a weight or heavy object on top of the loaf to press, and then place in the refrigerator for between four hours and overnight.
    Unmold meatloaf and cut it into one-inch squares. Using four-inch skewers or decorative toothpicks, skewer a grape, a piece each of celery and apple, and a cube of meatloaf.
    Serve cold or at room temperature.


Individual Coconut Cream Pies

For pie dough:
2-1/4 cups cake and pastry flour
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar
For filling:
1 398-milliliter can coconut milk
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
5 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
5 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon rum, optional
2/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut
For topping:
2 cup whipping cream
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons skim milk powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Lightly toasted sweetened flaked coconut, for garnish

    Stir flour, sugar and salt in a bowl or use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cut in butter by hand until only small pieces of butter are visible and the mixture is pale yellow.
    Stir water and lemon juice together, then add to the dough all at once, mixing until the dough just comes together. Shape dough into two discs and wrap and chill them at least two hours.
    Shape into two logs and chill.
    For coconut cream filling, heat coconut milk and vanilla bean paste in a pot until just below simmer. Whisk egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch in a bowl, then slowly pour into the hot coconut milk while whisking. Return mixture to the pot and whisk over medium heat about five minutes, until custard is thick and glossy. Pour through a strainer and stir in the butter and rum, then stir in coconut. Place a sheet of plastic wrap onto the surface of the custard, cool to room temperature, then chill at least three hours, until set.
    Take dough out of the refrigerator 20 minutes before rolling. Slice each log into three pieces and roll each piece out on a lightly floured work surface until just less than 1/4-inch thickness.
    Lightly dust six five-inch individual pie pans with flour and line each with pie dough, trimming the edges completely. Chill 20 minutes.
    Dock the bottom of each pie shell with a fork and place an empty pie pan over each shell. Turn pie shells upside down and place on a parchment-lined baking tray. Bake in a 400-degree oven for eight minutes, then turn the oven down to 375 degrees and bake another eight to 10 minutes, until golden. Flip pie shells right side up, remove the top pie pan and let cool.
    To assemble, whip cream to a soft peak and then whip in the sugar, skim milk powder and vanilla.
    Stir the coconut cream filling to soften, then fold in 3/4 cup whipped cream. Spoon into the cooled tart shells and spread to level. Pipe or dollop remaining whipped cream onto each pie and sprinkle with toasted coconut. Chill until ready to serve.
    The pies can be stored, refrigerated, for up to 2 days.


Mediterranean Hummus Trifle

3 10-ounce containers plain hummus
1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained well
1-1/4 cups Kalamata olives, chopped
1 12-ounce jar sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained well
1 English cucumber, diced into 1/4-inch cubes
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
Pita chips, for serving

    Combine one container hummus and all but 1/4 cup of the artichoke hearts in a food processor. Puree about five minutes, until very smooth, scraping the bowl as needed. Spread artichoke hummus in the bottom of a trifle bowl. Sprinkle with all but two tablespoons of the olives. Rinse the food processor bowl and blade and wipe dry.
    Combine one container hummus with two tablespoons water and all but two tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes in the food processor. Puree about five minutes, until very smooth, scraping the bowl as needed. Drop dollops of the sun-dried tomato hummus over the olives, working around the outside first. Use a spatula to spread the mixture out to the side of the bowl, then spread the mixture towards the center. Sprinkle with all but 1/4 cup cucumbers. Rinse the food processor bowl and wipe dry.
    Combine remaining hummus with all but two tablespoons basil in the food processor. Puree about five minutes, until very smooth, scraping the bowl as needed. Spread basil hummus over the cucumber layer. Sprinkle with all but 1/4 cup chickpeas.
    Spread yogurt over the chickpea layer. Chop remaining artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes and basil. Sprinkle over the top of the yogurt along with the olives, chickpeas and cucumbers.
    Serve with a large spoon and pita chips.


Artichoke Pasta Salad

For pasta:
4 cups cooked bow tie pasta, cooled
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons herb oil
1 cup grape tomatoes, split
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 cup roughly chopped roasted chicken
1 cup roughly chopped marinated artichokes
Freshly ground black pepper
For herb oil:
1/2 bunch parsley
1/2 cup packed fresh basil
1/2 bunch fresh thyme
1/2 cup packed fresh oregano
1/2 orange, zested
1 whole dried arbol chile
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 cups canola oil
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

    To make herb oil, place the herb, zest, chile and peppercorns in a one-quart Mason jar. Pour oils in a saucepan and heat to 200 degrees. Pour into the jar and cover with a kitchen towel. Let stand overnight.
    Place cheesecloth over the top of the jar and replace the outer rim of the lid. Invert and strain oil into storage container.
    In a large bowl toss pasta, vinegar, herb oil, tomatoes, basil, oregano, chicken, artichokes, salt and pepper. Serve or store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.




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