EASTER, GATHERINGS, SPRING, TRADITIONS & TEA

(Welcoming )Spring Ladies Egg Painting Brunch

When small green specs are dotting the bare branches of my drake elm tree that my mother propagated from her own tree a year before she passed, its resurrection each year reminds me that she is still near and so is Spring.

The lawn has grown partially green, the sound of lawn mowers humming in the distance, and daylight has begun to span slightly longer from week to week. The temperatures in the South have been unseasonably hot (80’s), waking up the dreadful weeds that always emerge first for pulling and encouraging the colorful blooming time of the azalea bushes that will soon after require trimming. By the time this planned afternoon arrives the leaves of my drake elm will have been fully revealed, swaying in the warm sunny breeze like happy dancers in the golden sunlight, my herb garden will be replanted with fresh herb plants and edible flowers, and the shrubbery in the landscaping will grow fuller with new foliage.

Springtime brings that much needed breath of fresh air and gentle warmth, following the bracing gestures of a cold winter that causes us to tighten our stance and escape its abrasiveness with layers of warm sweaters and cozy fires. I truly love the coziness of winter, but when the lights are turned on by Spring, who can resist its milder temperatures and color bursting displays. Like the flowers, we can’t wait to be outside and bask in the sunlight.

Last year (2022) I saw a post on Instagram of hand painted eggs for Spring that inspired this Egg Painting Spring Brunch celebration. While only a couple of those in my group of gal pals consider themselves artistic, I really enjoy getting my friends to open up to new experiences that challenge them and may reveal a hidden skill they had not yet explored. We shared a similar exercise before Christmas by decorating cookies, sharing some new and creative designs that everyone could be proud of.

With printed images of the decorated eggs from Instagram as my inspiration, I searched through my stock of collected items to determine what I might be able to repurpose for my table and began planning.

I’m not usually a fan of using paper products, but I wanted a colorful table that I couldn’t achieve with the dishes I have and since we do have a crafty activity following the meal, I wanted an easy clean up.

If it’s possible to think of paper plates as elegant, this scalloped, gold edged version found at Homegoods fits the term. Its field of mint green, pink and yellow; with bunnies, speckled eggs and bird nests, contribute a soft cheerful feminine color palette for this gal pal day. Matching utensils were found at The Dollar Tree. A square of green toile fabric, used for my daughter’s expectant baby shower 16 years ago, along with leftover pink and green toile napkins came together to form my color palette. I haven’t seen toile napkins like these since, so over purchasing years ago paid off.

Small gold bunnies from Target ( I was tempted to buy the little hens too), white porcelain
bunnies and large egg cookie jar Homegoods; small cabbage napkin rings Pier One.

The combination of gold, pink and green pastels provides a cheerful, feminine and fresh Spring place setting for a ladies’ afternoon.

Alternating green and pink toile napkins folded into bunny ears with plastic gold eggs from The Dollar Tree have been loosely decorated using metallic pens (also The Dollar Tree). Hand written names appear on each to serve as place cards. I even repurposed ribbon from the baby shower stock.

The examples of painted eggs I found were printed and added to card stock, then placed on the table for inspiration. Metallic pens from The Dollar Tree, acrylic paints, pencils and small pointed brushes are placed around the table to create original designs. For those who may feel they are not very “artistic”, these examples will jump start each guest to invision their own unique egg creations.

The eggs, made of wood (easier for paint pens and acrylics to adhere ) were sold in little cartons of six as multi colored or plain natural wood. (Target $3.00 for set of 6). I decided the version with coated colors would be more fun to work with, especially when using the acrylic paints and require less drying time. The acrylics did dry fairly quickly, usually about 5 to 7 minutes. So while drying – it’s easy enough to move on to a different egg for a short period.

I have a habit of setting my table a couple of weeks before a party. I originally staged the table with fresh white roses I had purchased that week, but the following week it was tulips and the week of the brunch, daffodils. It never fails that whatever flower I set my heart on, it’s not usually available on the day of my event and I have to pivot.

A collection of items purchased over the years combined with new items found, large decorated egg cookie canister (Homegoods); cabbage napkin rings (Pier One); green vase (Michaels), gold bunnies (Target).

Porcelain bunnies (Homegoods); pink glass candle holders (The Dollar Tree) and green bud vase (Michael’s) with bright colored fresh tulips.

For a little over head drama, an eggcellently dressed chandelier – multicolored golden eggs nested with Easter basket grass in the center and pearl finished faux eggs dangle from ribbons all from my collection of annual Easter decorations (some have names written on them -they were once used as place cards for a past Easter family lunch).

Greeting with a Cocktail – Rosemary Grapefruit Moscow Mule

We always start the party with a toast and a special cocktail or aperitif. This Rosemary Grapefruit Moscow Mule was perfect- light and refreshing just like Spring!

This light refreshing ROSEMARY GRAPEFRUIT MOSCOW MULE is the perfect start to a Spring Brunch. Citrusy, with a little floral hit from the elderflower and the gentle touch of heat from the ginger beer. Well balanced and easy to sip on a sunny afternoon. It received lots of Ooo’s and Ahh’s ratings!

Makes 3 to 4 small servings in my delicate coupe stemware or 2 regular cocktail glasses.

Half of a freshly squeezed pink grapefruit
Half of a freshly squeezed lime
2 oz. Absolute Juice Pear & Elderflower Vodka (or Vodka)
Rosemary simple syrup   (1 cup of sugar 1 cup of water bring to a low boil until sugar is dissolved – remove from the heat and add 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary.  Steep for 3 minutes and then discard rosemary and chill)
Ginger Beer (I used Fever-Tree)
Fresh rosemary sprigs

Place first four ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice (I used one large cocktail cube to minimize the deluge).
Pour 3/4 of a small coupe glass – top off with ginger beer and rosemary sprig.  Cheers to Spring!

Cheese Plate with Cocktails

Spicy tomato jam made with these beautiful dark tomatoes (almost looked charred) purchased at Trader Joes. A variety of soft, hard and blue cheeses were plated with the jam and goat cheese left out to room temperature for easy spreading. Slices of Kalamata Olive Farm Loaf bread (Whole Foods) toasted in the oven, brushed with kalamata olive oil and a sprinkle of kosher salt were offered with the cheeses. A schmear of goat cheese on the bread helped balance and mellow out the spiciness of the jam.

πŸƒπŸŒ·πŸƒMy favorite part of entertaining (besides spoiling everyone and having them leave with a pleasing memorable time) is introducing my friends to new flavors and foods.

One of my less adventurous eaters told me a couple of years ago that he finally surrendered his palate to me. β€œLori you change my mind about what I think I won’t like every time!” Other than enthusiastically showing up for each invite, it’s the best compliment I could hope to receive.

πŸƒπŸ¦‹πŸŒ·πŸƒ Brunch MenuπŸƒπŸ¦‹πŸŒ·πŸƒ

  • Ham and Potato Bake
  • Rainbow Carrot Ribbon Salad
  • Large Profiteroles filled with homemade chocolate balsamic Louisiana strawberry ice cream and strawberry coulis

http://www.exclusivelyfood.com.au/2006/07/ham-and-potato-bake-recipe.html

https://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/07/rainbow-carrot-ribbon-salad.html

Louisiana strawberries are at peak season, and it was a wonderful time to highlight them as part of my brunch.

The homemade strawberry chocolate balsamic ice cream and jumbo profiteroles were both made a week ahead and stored in the freezer until the day prior to the brunch. The day before, I pulled the zip freezer bags of profiteroles out and set them on the kitchen counter to fully thaw. I then lined a small rimmed baking sheet with clear wrap and pre-scooped the ice cream, then sealed it tight with clear wrap and returned it to the freezer. (easier for serving on the day of the brunch). The recipe for the ice cream is in the link below – my only addition was a tablespoon of chocolate balsamic vinegar (optional).

https://www.alattefood.com/homemade-strawberry-ice-cream/

The strawberries are perfectly ripe, red and sweet.

The strawberries are so fresh, so fully ripe, sweet and large that I added one on each plate. I used a pink pearl cocktail pick to attach an edible flower to each for a touch of whimsy. When serving the composed dessert, I used a small mound of canned chocolate whipped cream to hold the fresh strawberry up on the side of the profiterole.

A small mound of chocolate whipped cream from a can used to help the strawberry stand.

(Strawberry three ways, fresh, in a coulis sauce and creamy ice cream.) Each profiterole was filled with a scoop of strawberry ice cream, sprinkled with powdered sugar, topped with strawberry coulis and garnished with a fresh strawberry.

🎨 Egg Painting Activity πŸ‘©πŸ»β€πŸŽ¨

In addition to the printed images of painted eggs, I also place a variety of silk flowers on the table as inspiration for shapes and color. Each of my guests were supplied with a piece of artist’s watercolor paper, a glass of water a fine pointed paint brush and paper napkins. The watercolor paper was a place to test their mixed paint colors, the water to rinse out their brushes between color changes and the paper towel to wipe off the brush after each rinse. A mixture of acrylic paints and pens were used to create their individual designs.

There’s a beautiful sense of self satisfaction in creating something beautiful. As the painting and decorating began, the room grew extremely quiet. Everyone was so focused, concentrating on decorating their eggs. They also said while there was a little anxiety about how to start at the beginning, in the end the whole experience was very relaxing.

Another option for a painting exercise are clay pots (used for plants). I’ve seen some painted completely black and then decorated with painted bright wildflowers that popped on top of the black background.

Whether you’re hosting a Sunday brunch, an Easter lunch or a simple Springtime gathering, a few simple ingredients for the menu and a fun activity will guarantee that everyone leaves with a special memory. I have the best group of friends. Whatever I dream up, they are all enthusiastically ready to come along for the ride!

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MOTHERS TEA, SIMPLY ELEVATED, SPRING, SUMMER, TRADITIONS & TEA

Lemon Blueberry Whip (Simply Elevated)

When you’ve got lemons, make….

Photo by Ryan Baker on Pexels.com

Here’s a easy dessert for those hot days of summer…..

Lemon Blueberry Whip

  • 1 – 8 oz bar of light cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar
  • the zest of one large lemon (or two small)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup small chopped candied lemon (I used about 4 slices of a pack from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon agave (or 1 teaspoon sugar)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon grape seed (or canola oil)

Preheat oven 400 degrees.

Yields 6 servings.

Reserve six fresh blueberries for garnish. Toss remaining blueberries with agave, salt and grape seed oil and place in a single layer on a small baking sheet with sides. Roast for 15 minutes. Blueberries will become dark, shrink some and create juices on the tray. Remove and cool completely to room temperature.

Place room temperature cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar in a blender and blend until loosened and creamy (about a minute). Add lemon zest and juice and pulse a few times to combine. Stop, scrape the sides. Add the candied lemon peel. Pulse about 4 times.

In another bowl using a hand mixer whip one cup of whipping cream until reached to soft peaks, add one tablespoon sugar and whip to stiff peaks. Gently fold in about 1/4th of the lemon cream cheese until combined and continue by adding another 1/4th of the lemon cream cheese at a time until all folded together with the whipped cream.

Spoon the completely cooled roasted blueberries in equal portions into the bottom of each serving dish (small ramekins – I used pot a creme pots). Top with the lemon cream and smooth top with an offset spatula or backside of a spoon. Top with a fresh blueberry and lemon zest (optional edible flowers – in the photo are French lilac and chamomile). Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Served at my annual Mothers Tea – May 2021.
SIMPLY ELEVATED, SPRING

Springtime Sunday Morning Popovers

With the arrival of Spring just a few days away, the first blades of fresh green grass sprouted up throughout the lawn; the azalea bushes are loaded with buds; the new foliage on the trees and bushes are swaying in the breeze and a dusting of pollen is sprinkled everywhere like powdered sugar on a beignet. My spring onions have beautiful buds so heavy that it looks like they’re bowing to the arrival of gods of Springtime.

Even my three year old Shamrock that just a couple of weeks ago had nothing but brown collapsed stems that I pulled away after the cold winter, had that magical sense of nature that knew it had to bloom with fresh green clover and a mix of white and lavender blooms just in time for St. Patrick’s Day this week. Knowing how quickly the days go from comfortable and breezy to hot and humid in the South, I employed the help of my handyman to help pull away the weeds, lay down some landscaping cloth and cover the front yard landscaping with fresh mulch.

Each time we schedule a weekend of projects around my house, I always greet him with something for breakfast. Yesterday I attended a little family crawfish boil and by day’s end I was out of time to think or plan much. I searched for inspiration wanting something quick, light and that I could make with ingredients I already had. I decided to make orange citrus popovers with roasted berries.

Citrus Orange Popovers with Roasted Berries

Makes 6 popovers

  • 3 eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1 1/4 cups evaporated milk -or whole milk, almond milk (room temperature)
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut sugar (or granulated sugar)
  • the zest of a medium sized orange
  • 2 teaspoon of orange liqueur (Grand Marnier or 1 tsp of orange extract)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste (or extract)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • powdered sugar for dusting
  • 1 cup of fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh blackberries (or raspberries)
  • 2 tablespoons of agave or honey
  • 2 tablespoons grape seed or canola oil

Making popovers requires a little pre-planning to ensure the eggs are at room temperature. I left them out overnight. The milk also needs to be at room temperature. Evaporated milk is in a can in the pantry, but if using an alternative, make sure it’s also at room temperature.

When ready to prepare the popovers, pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees (f). Place the popover pan (or muffin tin) on a lined baking sheet and place both in the oven. The popover pan should heated to the oven temperature.

Roasted berries: Place berries on a half sized baking sheet or oven proof stainless steel skillet. Toss with agave and oil and set aside.

Popovers: Crack and slightly scramble the eggs into a small bowl with the sugar. Zest the orange over the egg mixture, add the orange liqueur, vanilla bean paste, and salt. Gently mix. Pour the combination into a blender and briefly blend. Add the flour and blend until well combined. Scrape the sides down and make sure all of the flour has been incorporated into the wet ingredients.

Carefully remove the popover pan from the oven and spray each cup with butter spray or cooking spray (no flavor). Pour the batter into each cup about 3/4 up (not all the way to the top. ) Quickly place the pan back into the oven and bake 20 minutes or until puffed and golden.

Add the baking tray of berries to roast at the same time (check at 15 minutes to see if they are slightly collapsed and a blueberry syrup has formed on the tray. Remove from the oven and allow to cool while the popovers bake the remaining 5 minutes.

Orange segments: While the popovers are baking remove the peel with a knife from the orange and supreme the sections of the orange out with a sharp knife (called supreming) to serve alongside the roasted berries. https://thecookful.com/how-to-supreme-an-orange/

Turn the completely baked popovers over on to the baking tray. Using a tea towel or tongs to transfer the popover to a plate or large bowl. Spoon the roasted berries on the side, with orange segments and a sprig of mint or sweet basil. Sprinkle the popover with powdered sugar.

Served with a pot of Celestial -True Blueberry tea.

After a little Sunday morning tea and popovers it was time to head to the flower beds to weed, fill with some fresh soil and mulch. By mid-morning the front yard beds were dressed and ready for the coming Spring and Summer months ahead. One of the best ways to start a busy day is to take a little time to make something simple and elevate it with fresh flavors and a pretty presentation. These eggy, airy popovers did the trick this morning with a side of yummy roasted berries and fresh citrus. Happy Sunday!