Entertaining

Patio Brunch VI: Greek Brunch Menu

Are you a foodie

I am finally sharing pictures from our last Patio Brunch, and as usual, it’s my favorite day of the year…maybe? Almost?  Um, of COURSE!  I know it’s hot as Magma out there now, so there’s no Backyard Brunching going on for a while here in Texas.   But you can still do this in the fall and spring next year.  But, all of you north of  the Mason Dixon line can still host one this summer.

A shout out to Roshni Merchant, my official Patio Brunch photographer.  She hasn’t missed one yet.  And she’s known me since I was 8, so she will tell me how it is.  ”Amee, we will make it work.”  ”Amee, No.”  ”Amee, your coffee.”  :-D

This year, I had a LOT of help to make this event come together without disaster.  I am super grateful that all of them wanted to help.

This time I had a sous chef, Riddhi, working with me until midnight the night before, I had Roshni and others at the house early in the morning, and I also got a great deal renting some patio furniture and linens from a moderately shady ad on Craigslist.  I was just HOPING he would show up that morning with the furniture as discussed.  And the most help was having my in laws watch the kids overnight so we could work all morning!

Patio2

Patio Brunch

Greek Menu

(Menu Inspiration and Recipe Links are at the end of this post)

Greek Yogurt Bar

Yiourti Me Meli (Greek Yogurt Bar: Yogurt served with chopped Dates, Pistachios, Local Honey, and Cinnamon)

Horiatiki

Greek Village Salad

Eggplant Dip
Melitzanosalata Crostini
(Eggplant dip toasts)
Boureki Style Skillet2
7LayerDip
 Spanakopita
 Drinks
Santorini Sunrise Cocktail (alcoholic)
 Rosemary Lemon Spritzer (non alcoholic)  -  Top with ouzo if desired
Coffee
The Best Homemade Baklava  (Courtesy of my MIL!)  - missing a photo of this unfortunately!  :(
Mini activities for the kids and toddlers

Mini activities for the kids and toddlers  - (psst*  michael’s dollar bins and target dollar bins)

Patio

Setup was entirely executed by my crew. All credit to them!

 

Flowers

We just used the spritzer bottles for table settings. And the flowers were on clearance at Kroger. Yesssss…!

Me

 

Yiourti Me Meli (Greek Yogurt Bar: Yogurt served with chopped Dates, Pistachios, Local Honey, and Cinnamon)

Horiatiki (Greek Village Salad)

(Eggplant dip toasts)

Greek 7 Layer Dip

(i made it with hummus, tzaziki, …and then at 11pm the night before I was like “uhhhh what are my other 5 layers?”  I just used 3 bell peppers and lots of herbs and scallions! Done!  Plus, who’s REALLY counting, right?

Spanakopita (costco frozen section!)

Santorini Sunrise Cocktail (alcoholic)

Rosemary Lemon Spritzer (with Ouzo if desired)

Coffee (also a big hit – Starbucks French Roast from Costco)

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Lychee-Coconut Jelly Skewers with Lemongrass Syrup

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hiiiiii!!!  I’ve missed y’all!!  And clearly based on your abundant fan mail of quantity zero emails, you’ve missed me.

There are more opportunities to miss me.

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I’m pregnant.  I’m growing something, other than mold in the back of my fridge.  This means that if blogging is happening at all, I’ll be presenting mashed peas.  And pureed sweet potatoes.  And on special occasions, a blend of peas and sweet potatoes.

I’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time trying to decide how to share the news with you.  I think I’ve spent more time wondering how to tell you than how to tell my husband.  And this is how it came out…very anti-climactic.  Don’t worry though – you guys didn’t get the short straw on this one.  Wait until you hear about how I told him.  Just think, what is the worst way to tell your husband that you’re pregnant? If you just accidentally got pregnant and didn’t mean to, then no big hoo-rah expected.  But what if you had, say, FIVE YEARS, to think about how to tell him and didn’t get it right?  Stay tuned.

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Almost like a rose.  PS – I don’t routinely take a bite of something and put it back in the bowl…if people are looking.

Now that my body is changing and I’m looking lumpy, I started wearing maternity clothes.  At first I wore neglected pieces in my closet that I used to dismiss because they made me look like I was pregnant when I wasn’t.  You know, like anything that has an empire waist or tie in the back giving you a poof in the front.  These were the pieces that if I wore them in conjunction with turning down a glass of wine, then I was definitely assumed to be pregnant.  Later, I actually started to buy maternity clothing and I learned a great deal.  First, I should have been buying maternity clothes a loooooong time ago.  Everything is simply a longer version of regular clothes.  Tall people – go to Pea in the Pod!  Secondly, everything is just solids and stripes.  Those are your options.  Like guy-clothes.  This works out well for me since I don’t want to spend my time “styling” myself.  Maternity intimate apparel is a different story.  Imagine an ever-so-alluring hybrid: Adidas Sports bra meets industrial grade elastic straps.  Mrs. Doubtfire has a sexier bra than I do.

At first I had a hard time discerning the belly:  Is this baby bump or is this muffin top pooch?  I did have a row of Oreos yesterday.  This is just the beginning of the cosmetic changes.  As soon as I saw my mom, she said “oh you have that beautiful pregnant glow”.  These are nice things people say when you’re about to get fat so you don’t remember that you’re fat.  Like when it rains on your wedding day, that’s good luck.  Or if you broke a mirror, that’s good luck.  These are all distraction methods to divert your attention from the fact that the weather is going to suck on the big day or that you’re a clumsy idiot who has to clean up a dangerous mess.  So thanks mom, but, it’s not a glow.  That’s my L’oreal True Match Foundation paired with MAC Mineral blush.  But I will be sure to tell L’oreal and MAC that another marketing opportunity is lurking.  Now my legs, still chopstick legs.   Thighs are inching toward Beyonce-style, but without the impressive dance moves.  My boobs, still an A, comfortably nested in my Mrs. Doubtfire bra.  I’m not getting any favors in the looks department.

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Aside from looks, let’s discuss the real concern here.  Me, a Mom.  I’ve never owned a pet and I’ve never grown a plant for longer than 7 months, but I’m trying not to consider these as indicators of how I will raise children. Luckily right now my circulatory system is set to auto-feed so I don’t have to remind myself to DO anything to perpetuate the growth, but that will change soon. At the 9 month mark, I’ll have to be….responsible. Like a real adult. Funny how a license is needed for driving a vehicle, a background check is needed to hold a job, and a credit check is needed to own a house, but to grow a human, why have any rules?

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 Lychees and dragonfruit are in season in June.  I got some from Frieda’s produce at Kroger and I thought the quality of their lychees were amazing.  Be sure to grab them early while in season!

Lychee-Coconut Jelly Skewers with Lemongrass Syrup

This impressive display is perfect for entertaining.  It combines Nicola Graimes’ Coconut Jelly recipe with some of my favorite fruits and flavors.  Why not get some Thai take-out for appetizers and the entrees and spend your energy on this?  If you’ve never had lychees, it texturally resembles a grape but has a very sweet and floral note to the taste.  You can add other exotic flavors to the syrup such as ginger or my favorite, star anise.

Ingredients:

For the Coconut Jelly:

1 cup cold water

1/3 cup sugar

1 Tablespoon powdered gelatin

1-2/3 cups canned coconut milk

For the Lemongrass Syrup:

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

1 stalk lemongrass, coarsely chopped (i only use the green leaves to keep it subtle, but you can use the white part of the stalk for more flavor)

For serving:

Two Blades lemongrass leaves

Dragonfruit Wedges (optional)

Lychees

Wooden Skewers

Shotglass for syrup

 

Directions

1.  Cut the lychees in half.  Using a paring knife, cut each lychee down to the seed (like cutting an avocado) Remove the outer shell and then gently peel away each half of the lychee fruit.

2.  Prepare the coconut jelly:  Heat the water and sugar in a pan until the sugar has dissolved.  Sprinkle the gelatin over and stir occasionally, until dissolved.  Stir in the coconut milk, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.  Grease a 7″ square cake pan.  Line with plastic wrap.  Pour in the coconut milk mixture and chill until set.

3.  Prepare the syrup: Heat the water and sugar until the sugar has dissolved.  Add chopped lemongrass and cook on low for 7-10 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

4.  Make the skewers:  Cut the coconut jelly while in the pan into 1″ or 1-1/2″ squares (you’ll need to test which one goes on the skewer better – if it’s too small, the jelly will break, but if it’s too big, the weight may also cause it to break from the skewer).  Just be gentle, and you should be okay!  Skewer the lychee and coconut jelly cubes at the end of each stick.

5.  Arrange the platter: Lay out some lemongrass leaves on the platter and then criss cross a pair of the skewers on top.  Then serve dragonfruit or lychees on the side with a small shotglass of the syrup.  The syrup is intended to be poured onto the skewers before eating.

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Limoncello to Welcome the New Year

Look at me!  I’m all grown up.  I’ve got a domain, and a logo, and a background.  Whoa.

It almost looks like i make money off of this thing.   It’s kind of like wearing a really nice suit to an interview when in actuality you have only $100 in your bank account.  Go ahead and ooh and aahh and stroke the fabric of My Prada website.

There’s no other way to celebrate grownupness, than with a fabulous recipe for alcohol.

Limoncello is one of my favorite favorite things to make and I make it every year except last year.  Boo.  I broke my Limoncello streak.  :(

The general formula is [(Lemons + Alcohol)*(14 days)] + (Water + Sugar) = Coastal Italian Nectar Goodness

If you appreciate my use of PLEASE EXCUSE MY DEAR AUNT SALLY, then pls post a comment.

So for years, people have insisted that this should be made with Everclear.  If you haven’t had Everclear before, it’s found in trashcan punch in university dorms and frat houses across the nation.  It’s, in a word, disgusting.  It secretly deteriorates the protective epidermis of your internal organs, 1 micron at a time, one sip at a time, until one day, you innocently sip some milk and can’t handle the burn.

That really makes you excited to send your child to college, right?  You’re welcome.

Every year, I’ve obediently made it with Everclear, altering the formula somehow, but it’s always too harsh, no matter what.  So this year, I defied the World Wide Web and I made Limoncello with vodka.  Vodka is an innocent cuddly fuzzy puppy next to Everclear.  And you know what?  People LIKE vodka.  So this is what my final formula is for Limoncello…

You should start making it THIS WEEKEND!!!

Lemons

 

ingredients

I don’t recommend Tito’s Vodka for this, but it does the job. Look for a vodka with higher alcohol content.

zest

Zest the lemons using a peeler, not a zester. Try not to remove the pith (white part), only yellow. This is a segregated recipe.

Pour it ALL in.  You need an airtight jar

Pour it ALL in. You need an airtight jar

Let it sit in a dark place.  And wait.  Visit often.

Let it sit in a dark place. And wait. Visit often.

Limoncello Packaging

Limoncello

Ingredients:

10 lemons

750 ml Vodka (no less than 80 proof (minimum 40% alcohol)) – go for a higher alcohol content for this recipe!

2.25 cups water

1.25 cups sugar

 

Directions:

1.  Zest the lemons using a PEELER, not a zester.  Using a zester (microplane) will take an extra hour of your life that you won’t get back.  When peeling, be careful not to peel off the pith (the white parts).  No white, only yellow.  Yeah – it’s about to get racial.  The white pith will add a bitterness to the limoncello that you don’t want.

2.  Combine Vodka and Lemon zest in a large glass jar with a clamp lid.  Leave it in a dark place (pantry?) for at least 2 weeks, or 3 weeks (better), if you have that time.  Visit your jar regularly, like a houseplant.  Talk to it, and give it a little shake everyday.  Or, hold the jar, do a little dance, and then go back to your usual.

3.  After 2 or 3 weeks, strain the zest from the vodka using a fine mesh sieve.  The zest should come out yellow and “crisp”, which means that the alcohol has done all it can do.  The higher the alcohol content of the vodka, the better it will taste and the faster it will infuse!

4.  Mix sugar and water in a saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar has dissolved and then cool to room temperature.  Add it to the vodka and mix well.

5. You can store this in a pretty bottle (from any craft store) or divide them into smaller bottles.  I found a few at the nearest craft store)

6. Serve chilled. Enjoy!

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