We’re at that age where so many of our friends are having babies, that baby showers have supplanted weddings as the social event monopolizing our calendars. Craig, my husband, recently went on a guy’s trip for March madness, and referred to it as a “dad-chelor” party, where all that the men wanted to do was go to bed by 10:30 pm and watch basketball in peace. It’s crazy how much has changed for all of us in just a couple of years. While I was in the middle of planning my baby shower, Craig and I went to a friend’s “Baby Q,” a coed, low key barbecue that felt more like an open house or family reunion than a typical baby shower. Craig loved it, and it seemed like the perfect way to include Craig’s friends and male members of our family in this exciting time.
When FUJIFILM, reached out to me about collaborating with them for the event, it seemed like a perfect fit. I bring my Instax Mini 70 instant film camera with me on all of my trips, and love holding onto the photos as keepsakes. For the Baby-Q, we created a baby book, and set up pens, tape, extra film, and the Instax Mini camera for guests to take quick snaps and add notes of encouragement for our growing family. The camera is completely foolproof, so even if someone was in the shade, or the camera found itself getting passed around a sunny picnic table, all of the photos turned out beautifully. And now we have a lovely keepsake to put on the baby’s bookshelf.
I can’t host a party of this size without some kind of party favor, and hot sauce seemed like the perfect accompaniment to all of our BBQ. Craig and I spent a day wearing latex gloves and bandanas around our noses and mouths to make homemade hot sauce. By some miracle we didn’t scratch eyes with our chili covered hands, and had the best time putting it all together. Hot sauce is surprisingly easy to make – a little more complicated than salsa, but easier than jam. You simply make your recipe, and then heat up the liquid to at least 180F before putting in a santized bottle and sealing it shut. I designed “Sweet Baby James” (or soon-to-be baby’s name) stickers, and my Aunt Tina had them printed for us. Everyone got to go home with a hot sauce, ranging from mild (Hibiscus Oaxacan Chili) to medium (Jalapeno Pineapple) to hot (Habanero Papaya Lime).
The event was so much fun and such a different vibe from a typical baby shower. No games, no fuss, just dogs chasing each other around the yard and the sprinklers unexpectedly going off in the middle of dinner to add to the excitement.
Caramelized Onion dip with Potato Chips and Crudites
Burrata and Stone Fruit with Marcona Almonds
Avocado, Tomato, and Mojo Salad
Romaine, Cucumber, Apple Ranch Salad
Elote (aka Mexican Street Corn)
Henry’s Santa Maria Tri Tip with homemade remoulade
Craig’s Memphis Rubbed Baby Back Ribs
Hot Dogs and Sausages with Caramelized onions and Whole Grain Mustard
Summer Peach Cobbler with Vanilla Ice Cream
S’mores with homemade Vanilla Bean Marshmallows and Compartes Chocolate
INGREDIENTS (BURRATA SALAD):
4 8 ounce balls burrata, sliced
4 cups sliced stonefruit
2 cups quartered figs
1/2 cup marcona almonds, roughly chopped
1/4 cup Thai basil, chiffonade
Basil infused olive oil, for garnish
Salt and Pepper to taste
On a plate, lay out the stonefruit and figs, and add a layer of sliced burrata on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with marcona almonds and drizzle with olive oil, and then finish with fresh basil.
INGREDIENTS (CARAMELIZED ONION DIP):
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
2 cups sour cream, at room temperature
1/2 pound cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Potato chips, for serving
In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the onions and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until deep golden, about 45 minutes. Set aside and cool fully.
Transfer the onions to a cutting board and coarsely chop. In a large bowl, mix the sour cream with the cream cheese, parsley, onion powder and Worcestershire sauce until smooth. Stir in the onions and season with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature.
1 anchovy, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cups mayonnaise
3 tablespoons green sweet relish, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons capers, drained, finely chopped
salt & freshly ground black pepper
Whisk together the anchovy, dijon, lemon, and Worcestshire in a medium bowl until anchovy is mostly broken down and dissolved. Add the remaining ingredients, stirring to combine. Keep chilled until serving.
INGREDIENTS (AVOCADO, TOMATO, MOJO SALAD):
2 large ripe avocados
3 large heirloom tomatoes
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1/4 cup mojo (recipe below)
Cut the tomatoes into wedges, about 1 – 1 1/2 inches wide. Place the tomatoes on a platter, season with a little salt and pepper. Let sit for about 10 minutes, until the salt is dissolved.
Cut the avocados into large chunks, about 6 wedges per half. Sprinkle on top of the tomato. Add the mojo, sprinkle with cilantro, and finish with some salt and pepper.
For 2 cups
1 head garlic, cloves removed and peeled (about 11 cloves)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
3/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 cup peeled and roughly chopped onion
2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
Throw everything in a blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning.
INGREDIENTS (SIMPLE RANCH SALAD):
3 Romaine hearts, cut into lengthwise quarters
3 persian cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise, then each half cut into quarters
2 pink lady apples, cored and cut into thick 1/4 inch slices
1 cup cherry tomatoes, whole and halved, depending on size
3 radishes, thinly sliced
1/2 shallot, thinly sliced
On a large platter, arrange the romaine lettuce, followed by the cucumbers, shallots, and apple slices. Drizzle with ranch dressing (recipe below), and garnish with radish slices, cherry tomatoes, and any left over herbs from making the ranch.
For 1 cup
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon, dill, parsley, chives, plus more for garnish
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Whisk everything together in a bowl. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
8 ears of corn
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup finely crumbled cotija, plus more for serving
1 teaspoon ancho or guajillo chili powder, plus more for serving
3 medium clove garlic, finely minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems
5 limes, cut into wedges
Cilantro leaves, for garnish
Heat a grill to medium high. Place the corn on the grill, and cook for about 5 to 10 minutes, flipping the corn regularly. Once the corn is cooked through and covered with grill marks, set aside. Meanwhile, mix together the remaining ingredients (except the lime wedges) in a medium bowl. Place the corn on a platter and coat with the elote sauce. Sprinkle with chili powder and garnish with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.
For one 9 x 13 inch pan
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup hot water, divided
3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
2 vanilla beans
Oil bottom and sides of a 13 by 9 inch rectangular metal baking pan, line with parchment paper, and heavily dust the bottom and sides with some powdered sugar.
In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, pour in a ½ cup hot water and sprinkle with the gelatin and the vanilla bean scrapings. Let it stand for about 10 minutes.
In a medium heavy saucepan combine the white sugar, corn syrup, vanilla bean pods and remaining hot water over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240 degrees, after about 12 minutes. A word to the wise, this happens very very quickly. While I turned around to tidy up, the entire batch jumped to 275 and burned, so once the thermometer reads 200, keep a close watch, and take it off the heat when it reaches 238. The thermometer should still creep up to 240 after that. Remove the pan from heat, and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.
With the whisk attachment, beat the mixture on high speed until pale white, thick and nearly tripled in volume, about 6 minutes if using standing mixer. In a large bowl separately beat the egg whites until they just hold stiff peaks. Add the whites. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan, smoothing the top. Let the marshmallow set uncovered, until firm, at least three hours, and up to 1 day. Using a knife coated in powdered sugar, cut the marshmallows into cubes. Coat them in powdered sugar. Serve that day or store in a sealed container at room temp for up to 5 days.
INGREDIENTS (WATERMELON MINT AGUA FRESCA):
For 3 quarts of agua fresca
6 cups cold water
10 cups watermelon (rind removed), seeded and diced, plus 2 cups set aside for garnish
1 1/4 cup superfine sugar
10 limes, juiced
1/2 cups mint leaves
Ice cubes or crushed ice (optional)
Combine all of the ingredients and puree until smooth. Pour mixture through a strainer into a pitcher, forcing through most of the pulp. Chill, garnish with diced watermelon and mint leaves, and serve.
INGREDIENTS (PEACH COBBLER):
For one 9 x 13 inch pan
10 firm but ripe summer peaches, pitted and sliced
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup bourbon
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 vanilla bean, scraped (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
For the Biscuit Topping:
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 oz (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
Ice cream or whipped cream, for serving
Preheat oven to 400°F and set rack to middle position. In a large bowl, combine peaches with sugar, lemon juice, cream, bourbon, cornstarch, salt, vanilla seeds and pod. Stir well to combine. Scrape peaches and any juices into an baking dish. Bake on middle rack for 10 to 15 minutes, until juicy and fragrant.
Meanwhile, get your biscuit topping going. In a large bowl, stir together flour, half of the sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add butter and using a pastry blender or your fingertips, cut butter into dry ingredients until its the size of peas. Using a fork, add the heavy cream and stir until mixture just comes together into a slightly sticky dough.
Break off pieces of the dough all over the peaches, as evenly as you can.
Return cobbler to oven and bake for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar with 2 tablespoons water. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, swirling frequently. Cook until all sugar is dissolved and syrup thickens slightly, about 1 minute. Using a pastry brush, brush a thin layer of syrup all over biscuit topping.
Return cobbler to oven and bake until browned on top and biscuit is fully cooked through, about 25 minutes longer. Let rest at least 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream or whipped cream on the side.
Hot Sauce Recipes
INGREDIENTS (HABANERO PAPAYA LIME HOT SAUCE):
For one dozen 5 ounce bottles
6 cups fresh, ripe papaya
30 medium habanero chiles, stemmed
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup agave nectar
Juice of 20 limes
1/2 cup white vinegar
Combine everything in a blender. Pour into pot and heat to 180F. Immediately pour into sanitized bottles, seal, and flip upside down. Allow to cool to room temperature and then store in fridge. Good for up to 3 months in the fridge.
INGREDIENTS (JALAPENO PINEAPPLE HOT SAUCE):
For one dozen 5 ounce bottles
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup minced onion
20 fresh jalapeno peppers, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups pineapple juice
1 cup chopped pineapple
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup lime juice
1 cup cilantro
1/4 cup agave
Saute onions and garlic for 5 minutes, just until sweating, add jalapeno, cooking for 3 minutes until bright green. Combine everything in a blender. Pour into pot and heat to 180F. Immediately pour into bottles.
INGREDIENTS (HIBISCUS OAXACAN CHILI HOT SAUCE):
For one dozen 5 ounce bottles
9 dried ancho chiles (scant 4 ounces), stemmed, seeded, torn into pieces
6 dried guajillo chiles (1 ounce), stemmed, seeded, torn into pieces
3 ounces Smoked Oaxacan chilies
1 ounce hibiscus
8 cups very hot water
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup honey
Heat heavy large skillet over medium-high heat 2 minutes. Add all chile pieces; cook just until chiles blister, pressing with metal spatula and turning occasionally, about 30 seconds. Transfer chiles to bowl; add 5 cups very hot water. Soak chiles until very tender, pushing occasionally to submerge, about 30 minutes.
Working in 3 batches, puree chiles with soaking liquid and all remaining ingredients in blender until smooth. Season sauce with more salt, if desired.
Pour into pot and heat to 180F. Immediately pour into bottles.