Hosting My First Galentine's Day Brunch!

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You know those people who are effortless hostesses? 

The people who have everything ready to serve at the right temperature when guests arrive and can put together a good looking cheese plate and also be showered and done-up themselves? Yeah, I'm not one of those people. But my parents are. My entire life they've hosted multiple events every year--Thanksgiving for 30+ people, Super Bowl parties, Tour de France parties, Oscar parties, etc. To be honest, it used to always really bug me as a kid that we always had to keep the house super clean leading up to these parties, and spend the day after cleaning up. But as I've gotten older I've learned that entertaining and being a good hostess is a hard-won skill. I have always wanted to host a Galentine's Day brunch for some girlfriends, and this year being an MSIV and having more time on my hands post-interview season, I decided to take the plunge. I tried to make as much of the cookies and cakes ahead of time as I could, and freeze them which really helped. I also wanted to make a savory food for brunch, but with cooking not being my strong suit, I knew it to be simple. With a little digging I found this recipe for strata that looked both delicious and easy (linked below) and paired it with a citrus salad for a pop of color. The rest of the items I've made posts about and are linked below. The most difficult part was the macarons, which I failed at 4 times before giving up--it was such a bummer, still troubleshooting on what went wrong! However I still really wanted to serve them so I bought frozen Trader Joes Macarons and dressed them up by swiping some white chocolate ganache (I added pink food coloring for the vanilla ones) as well as edible gold leaf. Overall, I am still working on my hostess skills--I didn't have time to put on makeup before guests arrived and I hadn't even made the salad yet! Thank god med students are so proactive...they saw oranges and a bowl sitting on the counter and immediately started slicing them haha. Even so, it was so fun to catch up with girlfriends and celebrate my favorite holiday Leslie Knope style! 

Galentine's Day 2018 Menu 

Strata with Gruyere and Kale

Citrus Salad

Naked Cake

Glazed and Embroidered Sugar Cookies

Heart-Shaped Oreos 

Chocolate & Vanilla Macarons 

Valentine's Day Snack Mix

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The ganache and the gold leaf can be applied most easily with a clean, never-used paintbrush! 

The ganache and the gold leaf can be applied most easily with a clean, never-used paintbrush! 

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My classmate's daughter, Abby, brought the COOLEST polaroid camera and captured these pictures! 

My classmate's daughter, Abby, brought the COOLEST polaroid camera and captured these pictures! 

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One of my med school friends recently had a baby and she stole the show! There was literally a line of people waiting to hold her haha. And she never cried once! #angelbaby. And that BOW! 

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Gotta teach 'em young that cake for the road is a necessity :) 

Gotta teach 'em young that cake for the road is a necessity :) 

Valentine's Day Snack Mix + Mini Meringue How-To

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Happy President's Day Weekend! Hope everyone is sleeping in, catching up on Oscar-nominated films, and slurping some coffee :). I made this snack mix/granola mix/cereal mix as the party favor for my Galentine's Day bash. Full confession, it was actually the most labor-intensive baked good I made for the party which is so silly because it's the party favor haha. The mix is based around making homemade tiny heart-shaped sugar cookies and pink mini meringues (inspired by this recipe), and then you can fill the rest of the mix with whatever you want--it is super flexible. I used a 1/2 batch of my favorite sugar cookie recipe for the tiny heart sugar cookies, and cut them out using a fondant cutter (see below). I cut mine out 2 weeks ahead and froze them until the day before I wanted to assemble the bags. 

Teeny, tiny sugar cokies!

Teeny, tiny sugar cokies!

I got my heart cutter in  this set

I got my heart cutter in this set

For the rest of the mix I used the following: roasted hazelnuts, yogurt covered pretzels, dried cranberries, white chocolate chips, toasted coconut (unsweetened), dark chocolate chunks, in addition to the mini meringues and sugar cookies. In terms of how much of each to use, a good rule of thumb is to plan for 1 cup of mix for each party favor you want to make. I wanted to make 25 party favors, so I needed 25 cups of fillings, evenly divided among all the different goodies. This came out to about 3 cups of each item, but I used extra pretzels to make the bags look more full. 

By far the hardest part of making these were the meringues. The first time I tried the sugar wasn't dissolved enough and "weeped" out of the egg whites in the oven. The second time I tried I took them out of the oven too soon and they deflated :(. The last time I finally got it right! Here's the recipe I used and the tips and tricks I learned from the mess-ups:

Mini Meringues--Meringue Girl Recipe

  • 75 g egg whites
  • 1 small pinch cream of tartar 
  • 150 g superfine granulated sugar 
  • gel food coloring 

Preheat oven to 400 and weigh out ingredients. A kitchen scale is your best friend here. You want these ratios to be perfect. You also want your eggs to be fresh. Start by putting measured egg whites in a clean bowl, preferably metal. It is crucial that your bowl be free of any sort of grease or water. If you are even the slightest bit doubtful, rub down your bowl with some white vinegar before you add your egg whites. On a cookie sheet lined with parchment, spread your superfine sugar out and place in oven once it is preheated. 

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You want your sugar to get juuuuuuust melty around the edges, not caramelized, not browned. By heating the sugar, you are helping it dissolve into the egg whites more easily, thus preventing the leaking during baking. This will take about 5 minutes, keep an eagle eye on it. While it is heating, start beating your egg whites on low-medium speed for 1 minute, before going to medium-high speed. You want the egg whites to get stiff (ie, when you lift up beater they make a stiff peak, they don't flop over) but you do NOT want them to be overbeat (when they are overbeat they look like cotton bolls). A good test is to tip your bowl upside down, if the mixture doesn't move at all and you have stiff peaks, stop beating. At this point your sugar will be ready or is almost ready. Remove from the oven as SOON as you start to see any of it look wet. Turn oven off! Transfer hot sugar to a clean bowl. It's okay to have some clumps, but if any of your sugar became a little browned do not add it and throw it out. 

Add hot sugar to meringue, 1 spoonful at a time. The sugar will deflate meringue, so make sure you beat it back up to stiff peaks after every single sugar addition. This is where it is easy to get lazy, and add the sugar too quickly, but that will deflate your meringue, and once it is deflated, you can't get it back, it's like pandora's box. 

Hot, allllmlost melty sugar ready to be added to meringue. 

Hot, allllmlost melty sugar ready to be added to meringue. 

Once all your sugar is added and your meringue is stiff and shiny, add your gel food coloring and mix well. At this point your sugar should be dissolved--rub a small bit of batter to make sure you feel zero or very very few sugar granules between your fingers. If you feel a lot, keep beating. Transfer to piping bag immediately. I used a 1/8th inch round tip. 

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Pipe kisses onto parchment paper. The kisses will not spread, so you can pipe them close together. Turn on oven again and preheat to 200 degrees F. Use an oven thermometer to make sure the oven temp has come down appropriately before you put your meringues in. Bake for 35-45 minutes. It seems like a long time but I promise it correct. The second time I made these I thought because mine were so small I should take them out at 20 minutes, but when I did this they deflated and were still raw inside so keep them in the oven and check at 35 minutes. They are done when they can easily be removed from parchment with a light tap and are thoroughly crisp like a Lucky Charms marshmallow. 

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ASSEMBLY

Because I had 25 cups of ingredients here and didn't have a bowl big enough to mix it all together before transferring to bags, I thought it was easiest to keep all ingredients separate and assemble each bag individually. That way you make sure each bag gets enough of every ingredient. I started with the heavier ingredients--nuts and pretzels (3 pretzels per bag), and then added chocolate, coconut, and cranberries. I added meringues and cookies last since they were the most fragile ingredients.  

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To make the tags I bought plain white gift tags from Michaels and a watermelon pink stamp pad. In the clearance section I found a set of Valentine's Day stamps for $2, that included an arrow and a heart. I used a fine black pen to do "fake" calligraphy. I secured each bag using thin white ribbon tied in a bow. 

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Thanks for reading! Xx