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Sunday, October 30, 2011

October Snow Storm = Grilled Cheese on Sunday 2 Ways

Somehow, the planets, stars and atmosphere aligned in such a manner the East Coast was pummeled with an October snow storm. Not just a few flurries or flakes, but a full blown, volume on 10 Nor'easter.

The Autumn leaves mix with a heavy wet snow... is it pretty, scenic or simply an anomaly?

The last of the blooms suspended in the cold, then covered in snow which quickly melts away, drip by drip in the strong sunbeams under a magnificent post-storm blue sky.

Snow crystals melt into droplets, the wind whips them along and it sounds like a second snowfall.

Walk along pathways, young trees bend in a full bow. Yes, a tree can fall in the woods, no one can hear it, but yet it exists. Still adorned with brilliantly colored leaves, boughs rest upon the winter white carpet. The calendar really does still say, "October."

It is the pine tree who seems most comfortable sprinkled in winter. A preview perhaps of a season to come, a time of jingle bells, rosy cheeks and red velvet. It is the pine tree wearing the frozen precipitation like a pair of last year's jeans, cozy and familiar.

Done wondering about with the camera, a hungry growl begins and it brings a question, "What to eat?" Well, snow fall comfort food menus do include grilled cheese - don't they? For him, squishy white bread from childhood with a layer of ham and American cheese.

For her, the less traditional with a touch of nutritious upgrade. Multi-grain bakery bread with a fairly thick layer of tomatoes and melty, magical mozzarella. The breads are crusty and crisp. The cheese will burn the mouth and skin if not eaten with care.

Many are without power, cell phones are not working reliably and the forecast for the week ahead includes temperatures reaching the mid-60's by mid-week. Perhaps the holiday bird will be barbecued rather than stuffed and roasted under a rainbow filled sky or a harvest moon.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Toast to the Bride to Be

My niece Molly will be married this November and so a celebration in the form of a traditional home hosted Bridal Shower was recently held.

The gathering included friends and relatives from near and far and while the routine may vary with or without games, the agenda is typically guests arrive, food is eaten, gifts are opened then time for coffee and dessert with a bit of socializing sprinkled throughout.

It is a time for the families of the bride and groom to break the ice before the wedding and for the future bride, it is a time of question and answer sessions. What color will the bridal party wear? Where will you live? Will you honeymoon and if so, where?

On this October Saturday, guests arrived and were greeted with an appetizer buffet designed to appeal to all palettes. Cheese platters and crackers for the lovers of tradition.

A bruschetta served in an oversized margarita style glass was accompanied by toasted bread rounds or could be eaten with tortilla chips as a unique salsa. A homemade guacamole was also available for tortilla chip dipping pleasure.

Fresh vegetables can almost always be found for dipping and these were positioned along side a spinach dip in hollowed out bread.

Once a majority of ladies had assembled, the main course was placed on the dining room table, also buffet style for the ease of the host as well as the guests. A grilled chicken ceasar salad, a zippy penne a la vodka with a bit of heat, various sandwiches; tomato and mozzerella, chicken salad and a variety of meats were served.

Following the meal, the wedding party took on a variety of tasks including handing the bride-to-be the stacks and stacks of gifts to open, writing down her every word, turning the unbroken ribbons and bows into a work of art that while some wanted her to place on her head it was argued to be a bouquet. Just a few hours later, the last gift was placed on a pile, notes were completed and handed off to one of the bridesmaids and the guests did their own version of a 7th Inning Stretch.

The mother of the bride announced, "Everyone, Emily will now read some of the things that Molly has said while opening her gifts that may be heard on her wedding night." The laughter began slowly as Emily read, "Oh, just what I always wanted," or, "It's so cute." When she said, "You are going to love this. My Mom does this and now so do I," the laughter filled the house while both mother and daughter blushed a bit and laughed along good naturedly.

A dessert buffet - what could be better?

The freshest mixed fruits among the finest pastries and sweet bites...

Some from fine bakeries, others fine kitchens and one unique treat served with chocolate and honey flavored graham crackers. Some food party specialists may offer a version, but one recipe for the cannoli dip cheese ball on the right is:

1 - 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese

1/2 cup softened butter

1/4 tsp. vanilla

3/4 cup confectioners sugar

3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Mix, form into ball, chill then serve. A simple sweet treat!

Tradition reappears with a cake frosted in the design included in both the shower and wedding invitations.

In addition to a well stocked assortment of wines, a refreshing champagne punch was served in the most elegant glass dispenser (the bride's mother tells me they are available at Home Goods). The champagne punch consisted of champagne and pineapple juice, perhaps mixed with gingerale, lemonade and sparkling water and served with fresh strawberry garnish. My contribution to the festivities was to bring additional champagne which was used to make more punch. It was once a tradition for relatives on my husband's side to bring a case of champagne along when they visited and I contemplate keeping champagne on hand to celebrate all of life's occasions.

I've never given a toast at a bridal shower and though we are no longer gathered together, I would like to offer Molly a few words with my raised glass, "May you always have the ability to be happy, have love in your life and see the joy all around you."