Birthday Beach Party

A few months ago, my mom offered to host a family birthday party for me at La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. Of course I accepted, but on one condition. Other than the beach set up, I do the rest. I absolutely love throwing get-togethers. I enjoy every part, invitations, set up, table settings, flowers, menu planning, and food. So with that, we had a party to plan.

La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club is gorgeous. My mom has been a member for many years. My brothers and I spent our summers running around the beach, swimming in the pool, feeding the ducks at the pond and, at the end of the day, eating ice cream on the boardwalk. It was pretty dreamy. So, obviously, I jump at any chance to take my kids and family.

It’s a treat to have a party on the beach at LJB&TC. While I wanted my party to be casual, I also wanted it to be nice. I wanted it to convey how special the guests are to me. I knew, right away, that my colors would be white and blue. With that in mind, I headed to Paper Source for more inspiration.

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I adored this nautical wrapping paper with the mix of blues and the pop of orange. I try to line my envelopes when I can, I think it gives the invitation or card a little boost.

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I found these adorable seal bottle openers at Anthropologie for party favors.

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Disposable bamboo plates have always been a favorite and are so nice at the beach. They give the impression of a “real” plate but can be tossed at the end of the evening. This silver plastic flatware does the same thing, elevating the table setting while being very practical. Finally, I decided to cut cheap flour sack towels in half, wash and use them as napkins. I tied them with burlap ribbon.

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I found nice linen-feel paper cocktail napkins but I wanted to add a touch of the nautical theme so I stamped them.

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I LOVE flowers. Flowers are one way to my heart, I promise you. I was so happy to find a bucket of perfect white peonies that would bloom just in time for the beach party. I added a touch of green and blue to each arrangement, keeping it simple and elegant.

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In theme with the party, I wanted the meal to be a little extra special.

  • Drinks – Growlers of craft beer, wine and sodas
  • Starter – Avocado, Feta and Cherry Tomato Salsa Flatbreads (June 2014 Food & Wine)*
  • Bean Salad with Lemon and Herbs
  • Green Tomatoes and Peaches with Burrata and Balsamic
  • Barbacoa Beef Tacos with Two Sauces (June 2014 Food & Wine)
  • Dessert – S’mores
  • Dessert – Banana Meringue Pudding (June 2014 Bon Appetit)

*Recipe shared below.

The evening was absolutely perfect.

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I’m sharing my favorite recipe of the evening, the flatbreads. The entire meal was fantastic, but I’ve used this one again since the beach party. Grilled flatbreads are the perfect summer get-together meal. They can be thrown together last minute with whatever you have in your fridge and pantry.

Avocado, Feta and Cherry Tomato Salsa Flatbreads adapted from the June 2014 issue of Food and Wine Magazine.

  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup evoo, plus more for brushing
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1/3 cup chopped mint
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • kosher salt and fresh black pepper
  • flour, for dusting
  • 1 lb. store-bought pizza dough, cut into 4 pieces
  • 4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 Hass avocado, peeled, pitted and thinly sliced

Toss the cherry tomatoes with the 1/2 cup of evoo, shallot, mint, cilantro, vinegar, and crushed red pepper in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Light a grill. On a lightly floured surface, press and stretch each piece of dough to an oval (this doesn’t have to be perfect) and brush with evoo. Grill the dough over moderately high heat, turning once, until puffed and lightly charred, 5 minutes. Transfer to a work surface. Spoon salsa over the flatbreads and top with the feta and avocado. Cut into wedges and serve.

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I’ve since played with the flatbread toppings, even having a flatbread party:), and came up with a few more favorites.

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Peach, goat cheese and arugula.

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Asparagus, ricotta, arugula and lemon (I also added meatballs to this one).

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Pizza dough will be a staple in my fridge this summer season. Such an easy thing to throw on the grill, yet an amazing treat for guests.

Hope you enjoy!

Cheers!

Strawberry Gelato

At our house, we’ve embraced summer vacation like a long lost friend. Lazy mornings, trips to the vegetable stand for dinner fixings, swims at the pool with friends, and days spent in the sand; what a wonderful way to kick off our time together! I absolutely crave the time I get to spend with my kids. If I could stop the clock, I would, but I can’t, so summer break is the best next thing.

You’re Gonna Be – Reba McEntire

 

A scoop of strawberry gelato, in a cone, is an iconic symbol of summer vacation. The strawberries are so gorgeous right now. There’s no better way to put smiles on my boys’ faces than handing them an ice cream cone. I hope that never changes.

Strawberry Gelato adapted from Franny’s Simple Seasonal Italian by Andrew Fienberg, Francine Stephens and Melissa Clark. Makes about 1 quart.

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You’ll need:

  • 1 pound fresh strawberries, washed & hulled
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus a pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
  • 2 2/3 cups whole milk
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream

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Start the strawberry compote:

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Combine the strawberries, 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar and pinch of salt in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate over night.

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Start the gelato:

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In a large saucepan, whisk the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, xanthan gum and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

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Over medium heat, slowly whisk in the milk and cream. Cook, whisking occasionally, until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes.

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Transfer to a bowl. Chill the mixture until completely cold (I do this overnight, it will not work unless the mixture is completely cold).

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Make the compote:

Heat a pot over medium-high heat. Add the berries and their juice. Cook just until the berries are starting to break down, about 8 minutes.

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Strain the mixture.

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Set the berries aside and return the juices to the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook until syrupy (Don’t let the syrup get too thick, or it may end up tasting bitter).

Transfer the syrup and berries to a food processor.

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Pulse until the mixture comes together but still has chunks of fruit. Pour into a pint jar and let cool to room temperature before refrigerating until cold.

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Make the gelato:

Pour the gelato base into an ice cream machine and add 1 1/4 cups of the strawberry compote. Churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

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Transfer gelato to a quart-sized freezer container. The gelato can be frozen for up to 5 days.

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A summer smile in a cone! Enjoy!

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Flourless Chocolate Caramel Cookies

It’s summer! It was a very busy spring in our home and we’re looking forward to relaxing and having lazy summer days. As I was reflecting back on what made the past few months so crazy, I couldn’t put my finger on any one thing. We celebrated a few birthdays, Ben and I hosted a couples baby shower for our dear friends and the kids were busy at school wrapping up special projects. I know one thing for sure, it was a really awesome couple of months. Unfortunately, the blog was put on the back burner. It is one of my goals, this summer, to put more time into writing and posting. I cook all the time and, lately, have been entertaining like crazy. I am so excited to share some of the things I’ve been doing.

For now, though, I have a life changing recipe for you. I know that sounds overly dramatic, but these cookies are life changing. I swear to you. They will be your forever, last minute, go-to cookies. The recipe is from a new cookbook I ordered because the author was featured in another of my favorite books, The Kinfolk Table.  A Simple Feast, by Diana Yen and The Jewels of New York, is an absolutely gorgeous book filled with seasonal recipes and stories. I was flipping through it for a dessert idea and landed on this recipe. I will never be the same.

Flourless Chocolate Caramel Cookies adapted from Diana Yen & The Jewels of New York‘s, A Simple Feast.

Makes 12 cookies

You’ll need:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 caramel squares, halved

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, using either an electric mixer or your stand mixer on low speed, combine the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder.

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Increase speed to medium and add the egg whites and vanilla extract. Beat just until the batter comes together (be careful not to overbeat).

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Shape the caramel halves into small discs.

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Scoop the batter with a spoon and press a caramel disc into the center. It gets messy here; the batter is very wet so you’ll need to use your hands to wrap the batter around the disc. I promise it works, so just stay with me. Then drop the batter onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. I bake 6 at a time, this leaves plenty of room between the cookies.

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Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. The tops of the cookies will be glossy and cracked. Transfer to a cooling rack.

These cookies are best eaten right away but will keep up to 5 days stored in an airtight container.

Enjoy…

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This cookie is just wonderful.

That is all.