See that gorgeous gal and guy? That’s Ilyse and Eric, two of my very best friends who happen to be getting married in October. I couldn’t be more excited for them! Ilyse and I met the very first weekend of freshman year at UMass-Amherst, and remained inseparable ever since. Coincidentally we joined the same sorority as another good friend of mine from my hometown, Lindsay. Suddenly this New Yorker found herself with two new besties from the same town in Mass! But we couldn’t claim her as our own just yet. Senior year, she spotted Eric, who happens to be from – you guessed it – the same town as Lindsay and me. In fact, Eric grew up right around the corner from my husband (who is also from my town, but no we are not high school sweethearts, in fact we didn’t meet till much later, but that’s another story!) Their hearts are huge, they are caring and genuine, and among the most fun people I know. A few years later, I’m happy to report that Eric and Ilyse are getting married, and better yet, letting me share in their special day!
In their honor, a tropical bridal shower was held in the least tropical of places – my backyard. To turn it into a tropical oasis, we chose table clothes in bright colors and adorned the tent with luau-themed lanterns.
The tables were set with trivia cards on tropical-print paper, hot pink plates, and the best kind of shower favors – one you can actually use in the shower. I love how all of these things infused color onto the lime-green background.
Centerpieces were gorgeous floral arrangements by my friend Caren. I can’t say enough about how beautiful they were! I let Caren have creative freedom and work with whatever she felt looked best at the flower market. These huge blooms in bright colors were absolutely perfect!
Here’s a close-up of one of the lanterns. Aren’t they pretty?
Guests were greeted by a round of fruit pink sangria.
And a customized water bottle to beat the heat. (These were one of my favorite things about this shower. They are not too hard to make at all, but add such a nice personal touch.)
And of course, there was food. Lots of tropical-inspired taste packed into little-bite form.
One special bridesmaid (<3 you) may have initially thought that these little signs were nothing more than a waste of a lime, but they certainly saved us from having to stand over the food and answer “what’s this?” over and over again.
A warning: here’s where this blog post might go awry. People are always asking me for recipes I serve at my parties. The problem is, I don’t usually write them down! For my personal cooking, I am very specific with measurements to get accurate nutritional counts. But when I cook for parties I am more likely to just throw something together, tasting and adjusting as I go until I reach that required “mmm.” Because of this, I’ve hesitated on whether to even share this food on my blog or not. I totally respect that some people need and like detailed recipes, while others are more comfortable improvising. Ultimately, I’ve decided to share. I apologize for not being more specific with ingredient amounts, cooking times, etc, but I truly encourage all of you to get inspired and experiment if there’s something you like.
So, on to the food. I’ll tell you what you see, then give a bit more of a description at the end of this post for those looking for “recipes.”
Below we have, clockwise from top left…
mixed greens, red and yellow bell peppers, red onion, cucumber, green beans, carrots, scallions, crunchy noodles and cashews in a sesame-ginger vinaigrette
Pina-Colada Kugel Bites
A spin on a traditional Jewish brunch item that one might expect to see at a shower, but with a tropical twist.
Ginger-Sesame Chicken Skewers with Coconut-Peanut Dipping Sauce
Red Curry Shrimp Skewers
Mango-Jalapeno Chicken Sausage on a Plantain Chip with Avocado Crema and Pickled Red Onion
Brie & Mango Chutney Puff Pastry Bites
Smoked Salmon with Pineapple-Scallion Cream Cheese on a Cucumber Slice
Mini Tilapia Tacos with Banana-Black Bean Salsa
For dessert, a tower of cocktail-inspired cupcakes. Because I couldn’t limit my choices to less than three, I made them all miniature, so that people could try all three, if they really wanted to (I certainly did!)
From left to right, we had:
Mudslide Cupcakes: (gluten-free) chocolate cupcakes brushed with a coffee syrup, dipped in kahlua ganache, frosted with Bailey’s buttercream and finished with a chocolate-covered espresso bean
Pina-Colada Cupcakes: Pineapple Rum Cake cupcakes with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting and Toasted Coconut (I managed to pack three kinds of rum – pineapple, spiced, and coconut – into these little babies!)
Margarita: Tender white cake with lime juice and zest, brushed with tequila, and finished with tequila-lime buttercream
There were also plenty of chocolate covered pretzels and melon kabobs, lovingly provided by the mother-of-the-groom.
And when our bellies were full, there were plenty of presents for the bride to open. Here are a few more of my favorite shots from the day.
A fun time was had by all and the bride loved every last detail – I couldn’t ask for more! Thank you to all who helped make this a special day for Ilyse and Eric. Once more, congrats you two!
Pina-Colada Kugel Bites: I started with a simple lokshen kugel& vanilla extracts, cinnamon and a few other spices into the mix. I baked these in my mini-muffin tins, adorning each one with shredded coconut which became nicely toasted and golden brown in the oven. These were a huge hit! As an added bonus, they were made ahead of time, frozen, and simply popped from the freezer into the hot oven before serving.
Ginger-Sesame Chicken Skewers with Coconut-Peanut Dipping Sauce: Surprise! I do actually have a recipe to share for this one. I’ll confess to using a bottled marinade on the grilled chicken – no shame, as I wanted to save my effort and ingredients for the good stuff – the sauce. This sauce is one I have actually taken the time to perfect and write down, so I hope you like it!
Coconut-Peanut Dipping Sauce for Grilled Chicken (or shrimp, or spring rolls, or vegetables, or just eating with a spoon…)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup light coconut milk
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1″ piece fresh ginger, grated
1-2 cloves of garlic
dash of hot sauce / chili sauce
handful of fresh cilantro
juice from 1/2 of a lime
1 large scallion, sliced
Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender, and mix until smooth. Adjust to taste. Note: I use unsalted, all-natural peanut butter and add some salt, but salted peanut butter may not require that.
Red Curry Shrimp Skewers: The original idea for these came from an issue of Gourmet magazine from a couple years ago, and simply involved tossing shrimp in a mixture of red curry paste and oil, then broiling the shrimp. When they are cool enough to handle, cradle each shrimp in a basil leaf and place on a skewer. These are best served room temperature. For this rendition, I mixed the curry paste with a splash of oil and then decided to use up some extra coconut milk. How much? I didn’t measure, just mixed until it was a nice sauce-y consistency to coat the shrimp.
Mango-Jalapeno Chicken Sausage on a Plantain Chip with Avocado Crema and Pickled Red Onion: The crema is a blend of avocado with a little sour cream, lime juice, cilantro and salt
Brie & Mango Chutney Puff Pastry Bites: so simple! Just grab a package of puff pastry, roll it out, and cut little circles to fit in your mini-muffin tin. Place a cube of brie cheese and a little dollop of mango chutney – or any other chutney or fruit preserve you like – into each one. Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes, until filling is bubbly and pastry is lightly browned.
Smoked Salmon with Pineapple-Scallion Cream Cheese on a Cucumber Slice: Perfectly light and sweet, not overpowering. I used two 8oz blocks of reduced fat cream cheese, almost a whole can of (drained) crushed pineapple, and a few minced scallions, blended together with my hand mixer. I chose not to puree here, in order to keep a bit of texture.
Mini Tilapia Tacos with Banana-Black Bean Salsa: These started with small circles cut from corn tortillas baked in a mini muffin tin, and ended with something else you may remember seeing here.