Custom Pottery Bridal Shower

One of my issues with weddings is that they are expensive for everyone involved.  The last time I was a bridesmaid it cost me well over a thousand dollars.  Once you do the bridal shower, a gift for said shower, the bachelorette party, dress, shoes, hair and makeup, gift for the wedding, and possibly take a day off of work thanks to trendy wedding dates, you probably don’t want to look at the statistics on the success rate of marriages in the US.  You have a 50% chance that this was just a wasted effort and cost.  And you’re lucky to get a thank you note and possibly a crappy piece of jewelry to commemorate the whole fiasco.

Knowing I am in the “elope now or never get a sympathetic ear from me ever ever EVER about what stupid flowers/colors/shoes/food your future mother in law wants you to get” camp when it comes to weddings makes most people tread lightly around me when mentioning nuptials.  Look, you can invite me to your wedding but I won’t be happy about it, okay?

Still, it seems to fall on me to take care of things for my middle little sister as she prepares for her small wedding next month.  So I threw her a shower.

2014 Emmi's Wedding Baked goods1

I guess because I have to be different, or because it is such a small wedding that there aren’t even any attendants, or maybe because Emmi dislikes being the center of attention, we didn’t do the traditional shower with gifts.

Have you ever been to one of these paint-your-own pottery places?  The greenware (pottery that is already fired once) is layered on shelves and you pick a plate or figurine or whatever and paint it with special ceramics paint. (A quick lesson in ceramics: the paint is not paint but a glaze – liquid containing tiny bits of colorant and minerals that will actually melt into a smooth glass coating once the item is toasted in a kiln for several hours. ) There is more technique than skill involved in painting, but it is a fun and creative way to spend an afternoon.  I may or may not have a slight addiction to painting pottery.

My baby little sister Lea and I made invitations with a cute poem and invited the 20-odd guests to just come and make something for Emmi instead of bringing a gift along.  This solved my ethical hangup with showers: I’m already getting something for this greedy bride for the wedding so I have to get her a second gift for the shower, too?

We went to our favorite outfit, a great independent store called Star Glazers.  Hey had tables ready for us, balloons, and extra staff.  You can always bring your own food and drink.

So there is always a risk that people are terrible at following directions/using a paintbrush.  I made a Pinterest board to collect ideas and bounce them off of the bride.  CLICKY!

Was I successful in orchestrating a pottery class/party in which 20 women made coordinating ceramic dishes for a mutual friend?

You be the judge!

 

 

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BETTER Bay Biscuits

Not EVERYTHING we entered in the town fair’s baking contest won a prize.  But we did well enough.

I’m competitive about a lot of things, but not sports because I don’t “do”  “sports.”  Baking is more of an art form than a competition, but I still enjoy submitting my creations every year.

I found out last night that my apple rhubarb pie won the official apple pie contest, so I get to take it to the State Farm Show.  All night, I was like,

They called me this morning to be sure I could participate next January.  Not a problem, since I already try to go to the PA State Farm Show every year.  Yes, our state fair is in January.  We don’t have scary kiddie rides or painted ladies, but we have looots of kids in FFA and 4-H who are competing for prettiest cow awards, or something.  It’s a grand time.

…………

I had a brief conversation friends yesterday about homemade food.  The consensus was that we would all be rotund if we bothered to bake and cook at home all the time.  On those occasions when you do cook or bake, it is important to go all the way and not “Sandra Lee” your recipe too much, especially avoiding high fructose corn syrup and fake gravy.  The exception in this recipe is bottled salt-free seasonings, which I adore with cheese.

These biscuits, which won third place in their category in the 2012 Manheim Farm Show and are on display until Friday night, do take advantage of a no-salt dried spice medley, but they have way more butter and cheese than that skinny wench Sandra Lee would ever allow in her recipes.  It pairs nicely with soups of all kinds and since they bake up in minutes and you don’t even need to soften the butter first, you won’t be pressed for time when making them.

BETTER Bay Biscuits

2 c. flour

1 T. baking powder

1/4 t. baking soda

1/2 capful Mrs. Dash (can use more)

1/3 c. butter, slightly softened

Shredded cheddar (Start with at least a cup.  More cheese = more biscuits.)

3/4 c. buttermilk

Butter, melted

1. Start by mixing the first four ingredients (the dry ingredients).  Whisking these together beaks up any clumps in the flour.

2. Use a fork or pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour mixture.  If you’ve never made a pastry before, it may seem like it’s not working.  The goal is to break the fat (butter) into tiny pieces (no bigger than a pea) that are completely coated in flour.  Once the liquid is added, you are done, so do your mixing now.  don’t stress out if it seems very dry or like there is too much flour. There’s enough!

I don’t have a pastry cutter and I do kind of wish I had one. Some alternatives include a food processor (I’d own one but I have no desire to clean it), a fork, two knives, or just your fingers. Only use your fingers if they are cold – you don’t want to melt the butter. Just pinch the large chunks of fat into smaller chunks. It’s fun. My hand model, sister, and co-baker, Emmi, is using a fork.

3. Add the cheese and gently toss into the flour mixture.  The cheese is also a fat (for the love of the goddess do not use low-fat cheese in this recipe – just use less cheese) so you want to coat it with the flour mixture a little bit as well.

4. Make a well (hole) in the center of the mixture and pour the buttermilk into it all at once.  Use a fork or wooden spoon to juuuust mix the liquid into the dry ingredients.  It you have more than a few tablespoons of dry ingredients at the bottom of the bowl, add some more buttermilk.  DO NOT OVERMIX.  As the butter melts in the oven, it will incorporate extra flour. It’s better to be a bit dry.

5. Drop dough onto a cookie sheet.  I usually make 1/4 c. biscuits but you can also make smaller 2 T. biscuits if you eat like a bird, are for some reason simultaneously watching your weight AND eating pastries, or if you are feeding a crowd.

6. Bake @450º for 10 minutes.

7. Brush baked biscuits with melted butter.    The remainder of the stick you cut up in the beginning of the recipe should do it – about 2-3 T.  Just melt it in the microwave while the biscuits are baking.

mmmm melted butter…..

These biscuits are rich, buttery, and cheesy.  The Mrs. Dash contains onion, celery salt, citrus peel, and garlic, which are all typically found in seafood seasonings, but there is no added salt, which would make these biscuits too salty.  Butter, cheese, baking soda, and more butter all add enough salt.  BTW I usually use salted butter for this recipe, and I have substituted Earth Balance products as well.  I still use cheddar, but as an aged cheese it contains little or no lactose and when I am baking these just for my own enjoyment I do try to eliminate as much lactose as possible. Lactose intolerance sucks and sometimes I just give my baking away because I can’t eat more than one serving.  I suppose you could also substitute vegan “cheese” and make these into vegan biscuits.  I bet they would be delicious with non-dairy parmesan…

This is *the* award-winning biscuit at the Farm Show. YUM!

I usually make these to pair with soup, not fish.  Soups and biscuits seem to go hand-in-hand.  Try with creamy potato or hearty chicken noodle.  Or some concoction you made up from the crap in your fridge, like I did this afternoon.

Sneak Peek!

My middle little sister and I have sore feet and fuzzy teeth today.  We have been baking almost nonstop since Sunday morning!

The town in which I live hosts a fair every year that celebrates the farming traditions that built the local economy.  There are livestock auctions, terrifying kiddie rides, food stands hosted by every volunteer organization in town, and dozens of contests in which any county resident can enter.  The items that can be entered into each contest include but are not limited to goats, pigs, cows, sheep, soybeans, feedcorn, various garden produce, preserves and canned goods, decorated pumpkins, homemade lard, indoor plants, photography, textiles, cut flowers, and baked goods.  As I have not sewed much in the last year, my garden is pathetic, and my sole houseplant is not currently blooming, I only entered a few cut flowers and a disgusting amount of baked goods.  My middle little sister, Emmi, lives in the county, too, so she came over to contribute to the baking.

I dropped off some flowers on Sunday, but the baked goods are not judged until Tuesday at noon.  Tonight, we went to the show to drop off cookies, brownies, cake, and pie totaling 14 entries in all – 6 for Emmi and 8 for me!

Since we were there, we trotted over to the flower displays and guess what?  My mums won 4th place and my Russian sage and iris each won 1st in their categories!  That would be $10 in my pocket, people.  And yes, I have an early-blooming iris that usually reblooms in October.

Tomorrow I will go to the show again to see which of our baked goods entries won prizes,  Keep in mind, anyone in the county can enter so really I could be up against some steep competition.  Or not.

I’m too tired to write more.  Here is a sneak peek at some of our delicious food: