An Olympic Tea Party

Today we had our grandest afternoon tea to date, which is befitting an occasion like the London 2012 Olympics. In addition to trying a new flavor of tea (Vanilla Chai), we had a mixture of old favorites and new treats.


The old stand-by, cucumber sandwiches:

And a new savory finger sandwich–crab salad. Surprisingly popular with everyone!

Crumpets with red currant jelly (OK, they were actually English muffins, but they looked rather like crumpets!):

Chocolate chips scones and Devonshire cream:

Lemon meltaways (this recipe is definitely going in my permanent collection!):

Viennese chocolate sables, in letter shapes…”O” for the Olympics, and “E” for England (and Queen Elizabeth!):

And some of the most beautiful fresh strawberries I’ve ever seen!

I’m not sure how I can top this tea party. I do think I’ll try, though…I’m thinking a Christmas tea party might be nice in December!

Baking Weekend

Some people clean when they’re nesting; I bake. Ironic, given that I can’t eat much of what I make, no? But the children certainly don’t mind!

I started with an old family favorite–a Guinness cake for St. Patrick’s Day. My children have been calling this a “donut cake” for years…the bundt pan is still something of a novelty to them, since the only time I ever get it out is, well, St. Patrick’s Day! But every time they laugh about the cake with the hole in the middle, I think of that scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, where Maria is trying to figure out what the heck Ian’s mother has brought to their  “meet the family” party, and I laugh, too.

From there, I went fancy. Since Turkey’s birthday fell on Sunday this year, I thought it would be fun to bring cupcakes to Sunday School. We had seen Giada De Laurentiis make some beautiful, filled, cupcakes not too long ago, and I have a cupcake filling tip that I’ve never used before, so…

They were just as delicious as we had hoped. The strawberry/mascarpone filling was amazing, and the glaze, which was a vanilla simple syrup mixed with powdered sugar, was the perfect topping. Not too heavy, not too sweet, but very complimentary.

Frankly, I wish I had some more of the filling to eat…it was that good on its own!

Turkey’s cake was equally fancy. He had deliberated for quite some time about whether he wanted a shaped, decorated cake, or a round cake in a special flavor. The decision was, once again, made thanks to Giada. This time, we saw her make her husband’s favorite cake–an orange cake with a raspberry filling and frosting. This was my first experience using crème fraîche in a frosting, and while it did take some effort to track a container of it down, I certainly wasn’t disappointed with the results…it was well worth the hunt!

I’m already planning on trying a few variations on this cake in the future…I think both an orange/strawberry and a lemonade/raspberry version would be excellent. Not sure when I’ll get around to either of those, as the next cake I’m hoping to make is a carrot cake for Easter, (if I’m up to it!), but I’m very intrigued by the possibilities!

I haven’t spent this much time in the kitchen since Christmas, but I’m not complaining…it sure beats cleaning!

The Leftovers

Of course, no Thanksgiving dinner would be complete without meals carefully planned for the leftovers in the following days. Here’s a list of what we’ll be having, (in addition to the requisite turkey-on-Rye bread sandwiches!):

These dinners are almost as exciting as the big meal itself!

Tasty Tuesday Part Two–The Thanksgiving Menu

For anyone who is interested, here’s what we’ll be having for dinner on Thanksgiving Day:

Yes, that’s a lot of desserts. But we have a tradition of having pie for breakfast the day after Thanksgiving, so I have to make sure there are plenty of leftovers!

Epic Markelparty

Over the years, our various homes have hosted many Markelparties. We’ve had memorable gatherings in every home we’ve lived in, (at least they were memorable to me!), with varying numbers of guests. I can remember thinking that having five or six guests over was a lot, back when we were in a tiny one-bedroom apartment. But the party we had here last night was truly epic, as we were hosting 18 of Ryan’s co-workers from the Automattic Happiness Team.

I have never prepared so much food for any one event in my life–not even holidays. I actually had to draw myself a diagram of our kitchen counters so I could make sure everything would fit, (of course the diagram and the final arrangement have very little in common)!

The main event was the shredded meat–beef brisket and Dr. Pepper-Chipotle Pork (both recipes courtesy of the Pioneer Woman). Turkey lost a tooth during dinner, courtesy of his brisket sandwich–I don’t think anyone else suffered that fate, though!

We also had a variety of BBQ sauces for people to sample at their discretion, our focus being on “local” flavors from St. Louis and Kansas City.

There were the standard side dishes–baked beans and potato salad, (neither homemade–I’m not Super Woman!), as well as Jalapeño-Cilantro Slaw, for the sandwiches, or just to be enjoyed on its own. I wasn’t impressed with the corn at the grocery store on Sunday, so that got nixed. Oh, and we had the ubiquitous pickles, too.

We had a small salad bar, too, (with another local flavor–salad dressing from The Hill)–it really didn’t get very much attention. Then again, who wants salad when there’s all that delicious shredded beef and pulled pork?

Plenty of snacks–Buffalo Chex mix, potato chips, and a huge veggie tray, with two different dips. The dip I made from scratch was much more popular than the store-provided stuff, even though it didn’t look as cool–the store put their dip in hollowed out bell peppers!

Let’s not forget the drinks–in addition to the iced tea, lemonade, Dr. Pepper, wine, (from Missouri and Illinois), and mixed drink ingredients on the counter, we also had a cooler full of soda and various types of Schlafly beer–another local offering.

And desserts! I made two different kinds of blondies–dried cranberry-chocolate chunk and butterscotch-caramel. These were definitely popular, which is a good thing, because they’re my signature baked good!

After dinner, there was Rock Band. Lots and lots of Rock Band. People rotated in on the various instruments–guitar, bass, drums–even vocals, which is the one thing that is often ignored around here. I don’t think anyone ever played keyboards, though. The fog machine and light kit even made an appearance, although with so many people in the house, the fog didn’t last long!

This was by far the most diverse group of people we’ve ever had in our home. Not only did we have people from all over the country in attendance, but there were literally people from all over the world as well. It was delightful hearing so many charming accents in our home, and a great opportunity for the children to learn first hand what people from different places sound like when they speak. For one evening, anyway, I felt rather cosmopolitan!

In the words of Nathan Fillion as Mal Reynolds on Firefly, it was a “Mighty fine shindig!”