Monday, September 29, 2014

Last Minute Wedding Food Garden

Last Fall some of our first house projects were tree trimming.  The trees here hadn't been maintained for a long time and all needed quite a bit of trimming.  In particular the tree on the south side was growing into the house and so it lost a significant number of Big Branches.  As we trimmed (Corey's family helped so much with this!) we put everything into a big pile in the backyard and I had visions of having a giant bonfire towards the end of Fall.  This never happened and the big pile of branches sat all winter and spring.  As you might imagine, all the grass underneath died and we were left with an ugly patch of dirt amongst our grassy yard.

I figured we had two choices, sod or a garden.  Since we had the wedding coming up and the dirt patch was in prime view from the wedding tent I didn't want to wait for seed to grow.  Now buying sod is expensive and a hassle.  So I figured we should turn it into a garden and have this whole thing look intentional instead of accidental.  So Corey made the patch into a nice square and stopped by Home Depot on his way home from work and bought a bunch of started seedlings and two bags of compost.  And on one of my many trips to buy flowers I bought more started seedlings and spent way too much money on a cute little picket fence.

Corey did all of this because I had too many projects on my plate to add anymore.  I was thrilled to walk outside and find this cute little garden a week before the wedding:


Corey broke up the dirt some and spread out two bags of compost to help the dirt along.  Then he spread everything out and planted.  He planted (I think) 5 tomato plants of varying sizes, 2 zucchini plants, 1 acorn squash, 1 butternut squash, 1 cucumber, 1 brussel sprout, 1 onion, and 1 pepper.  

It looked nice for the wedding and I figured whatever food we got was a bonus.  We left for our almost 2 week long honeymoon and came back to an explosion.  Our parents came and watered a few times for us and that's about it.  No one even weeded!  And almost exactly one month later we had this:


Can you believe that?  Way to go, dirt!  Almost everything took off.  The onion was kind of a flump, but that's it.

Big heirloom tomatoes
Grape tomatoes
Butternut squash takeover
Baby butternut!
First zucchini! It was hidden and got big fast!
Baby cucumbers

Acorn squash
Adorable baby butternuts

Turning red!
They grew fast!
Starting to ripen!
Getting real excited for these to ripen
Brussel sprouts!


The garden is dying down
The peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, acorn squash, & heirloom tomatoes are done.  The grape & medium sized tomatoes are still producing.  The brussel sprouts haven't been harvested yet and there's a couple of butternut squashes left that I hope will ripen before the first frost.

Brussel sprouts are sprouting!

Please ripen so I can turn you into pizza sauce!
Hoping the last few turn tan before the first frost

And here are some harvest pictures:

I was wondering why the zucchini wasn't producing.  It was secretly putting all its energy to this hidden one that got huuuge
That's the first time I've gotten a green pepper to turn red!

You would not believe how often I go out to check the garden and forget a harvest basket

They don't always look picture perfect #buttpenis

Oops it happened again #knifeforscale

Forgot to start the squash harvest before sunset

Here are some things we ate with our homegrown bounty: 

Most of the big heirloom tomatoes went to fresh tomato sandwiches.  I would toast french bread, spread some mayo, sprinkle salt and grind on some pepper, and then put on fresh tomato slices.  Heaven:

The grape tomatoes went to caprese salads with homegrown basil (grown in the front yard not the food garden):

And to delicious tomato tarts (recipe here):

And most got roasted in the oven and tossed into many a pasta dish:

Almost all the medium sized tomatoes are going towards homemade pizza sauce that I haven't made yet.  I am planning to can the batch that I make!  I've got the last few heirloom tomatoes going to that recipe as well to help deepen the flavor.  They are hulled, halved, and frozen waiting to be sauced.  I am going to use this recipe, but I only have 6lbs so far so I'll have the third-it.  I am hoping a few more tomatoes will ripen before the first frost so I can have 7lbs.

Almost all the cucumbers got sliced up and eaten with just some salt.

And the squashes just got harvested last week.  So far I have used 2 butternuts.  One got turned into heavenly soup and the other into pumpkin pie, but I used butternut instead of pumpkin.  The soup recipe will be its own post coming up soon!  Zucchini recipes will also be coming up as a separate post.

Friday, September 26, 2014

DIY Wedding Food

Beautiful menu courtesy of my talented artistic friend!

Keeping with this week's wedding theme here is how we fed 100+ people and did the food prep ourselves.  First off we went with a simple crowd pleaser: BBQ. That was the food genre that made the most sense for a simple backyard wedding and we both really love barbeque.  I tried to keep the menu simple:

Burgers +/- cheese (meat & veggie)
BBQ chicken
Hot dogs for picky kids
Potato salad
Corn on the cob
Fruit salad
Watermelon slices

Pop (2 liters)
Iced tea (drink dispenser)
Water (w/lemon slices in drink dispenser)
Boozey mixed drink (drink dispenser)
Lagunitas beer (bottles)
Red & white wine

Step two was finding people who could do the set up, grilling, and refills for us day-of. I contacted Elgin Community College and found a man who is pursuing a food-related degree there. His wife also helped. Turns out we should've had 3 people. Thank you so much to my wonderful sister-in-law Jennie for being that third person!

Step three is Costco. I took two trips. One was for non-perishables like plates, napkins, silverware, smores supplies, potatoes, condiments, chips, wine etc:

And one for perishables, as close to the wedding as I could swing it. Veggie trays, corn on the cob, fruit salad supplies, guacamole supplies, buns, etc.  It took two carts and my friend helped me:

Here is the perishable trip all packed in:
That same day I got the burger patties at the butcher and got some normal amounts of things at Jewel (veggie burgers, pop etc).

And here is the garage fridge packed to the gills:

We planned a surprise breakfast for people who camped out on our property after the wedding which is why you're seeing breakfast food in there in mass quantities.

I froze some buns right away since we overbought just in case.

Here's the burgers in the chest freezer:

The day before the wedding was food prep day. The potato salad was made, fruit was chopped, & meat was thawed.  Thank you to my in-laws for helping me so much! Here's the potato salad:

And my friend, the guacamole master, made the delicious guacamole.

We were expecting 160 people. I was so worried about running out of food that I overbought. WAY overbought! I planned for 160 servings of everything! Now even if everyone had showed (quite a lot of people weren't able to come because of storms in their way [and some we never heard from but that is the way of weddings I think]) not everyone would eat everything. I should have known this. We could have saved a lot of money if I'd been more reasonable.

We still have burgers, chicken, & fruit salad in the freezer (and just finished the buns), 2 big containers of salsa in the fridge, a ridiculous amount of wine, some beer, tons of pop, chips, & extra paper/plastic servingware. And I tossed so much potato salad (test run your recipe!!) and corn. We sent people home with unopened veggie trays, pies, & bowls of guacamole (the caterer said the guac was out WHEN THERE WERE MULTIPLE BOWLS STILL IN THE FRIDGE!  This still infuriates me).

Even going with 100 servings probably would've been too much for most things. Oh well. We still saved a ton compared to paying for a regular catered wedding.

So with some hired help and the right setting you can do your wedding food yourself if you wish!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

DIY Wedding Projects

Wedding night sunset, picture courtesy of Ashley Pagett

Two days before the wedding two of my good friends helped me with what I like to call the "decorate-y details."  This entailed making 200 jars of candles, cutesying up the favors, making the pie signs, and building the pie servers.  These were all the wedding projects we did.  I did not want to go crazy so there were no cut flowers, centerpieces, chair covers, cutesy banners, etc.

As with most "DIY" projects, it is not just yourself. You need the help of family and friends to make a DIY wedding happen. 

My brother's girlfriend took upon herself the job of tracking down the mason jars for the candles.  It took her months and she got great bargains.  This would have been a much more expensive project if it weren't for her, because I would have just had to buy them new because I didn't have the time.  Wyatt I appreciate you!

Assembling was easy, but time consuming due to the amount we needed.  We had 20 tables and I though 10 per table would look filled, but not take up too much room.  I bought play sand at Home Depot and Corey got the candles at IKEA.  Then it was just a matter of pouring in some sand and placing the candle in.  I think the technique my friends went with was put in some sand as a base, put the candle in, and then pour some more sand in to help settle the candle.

We did not having any wedding colors.  If I had to pick a theme it was "lights and candles."  Here are the candles in action!

Here is a wider shot that also shows the beautiful lights!  Corey and his brother did this with Christmas lights, extension cords, and amazing ingenuity.  I am blown away at how perfectly they were able to do it!  This is better than I had pictured!  I walked out the night before to see how they had set the lights up and gave the greatest compliment of all, "It looks like Pinterest!"

And I worked on the pie servers.  We had wanted pies at our wedding instead of wedding cake because Corey and I aren't cake people (though we did serve Boston Cream Pie for those who are cake-inclined).  At my cousin's wedding they had cupcakes and I loved how easy that was.  No having to cut & serve, no forks or plates!  So then the idea transformed into tiny pies!  They were hard to track down.  We ended up finding them at my father-in-law's favorite bakery, Jarosch Bakery.  And my good friend/sister-in-law made the pumpkin pies because the bakery only makes them in October and pumpkin is Corey's favorite pie.  I knew 200 pies wouldn't fit that well on the table and I thought going vertical would help.  I bought plates and candlesticks at Goodwill and used two tubes of Duco Cement which is a strong glue that's good for ceramics.  The pictures are self-explanatory:  

And to help mask the fact that the plates and candlesticks didn't match I then spraypainted the pie towers.  Here is the primer going on:

And the silver spraypaint:

They did not hold up well.  Two broke during the drying process so I sprayed the last two the morning of the wedding before I left to get my nails done.  Funny story:  The manicurist could not believe I was getting married that day!  She said everyone comes the day before.  I told her if I had come the day before my nails would've been covered in spraypaint on my wedding day :)

During the carrying out process more towers broke, but we still used them and made do.  Here's the dessert table:

Here's a nice close-up that also shows the beautiful signs my sister-in-law made:

My friend also put the sticker labels on the top of the jars of favors and tied twine & a food label onto the jars that day.  My sister-in-law wrote out all the labels so people would know what they were picking.  Another simple yet tedious time consuming project.  I didn't take any pictures of the process and just looked through all the wedding pictures and no one got a picture of the favors set out!  I had made and canned mixed berry jam, chocolate raspberry sauce, and apple butter.  And I made granola and put it into jars (they weren't preserved).  I used 100 jelly jars.  Corey designed the label to match our Save the Date, invitation, and thank yous.  Then my mom printed it on these labels meant for jar lids.  I do have a picture of an empty jar that Corey's parents gave back to us though:

So if you want to have a DIY wedding I totally endorse you to make your own favors, have candle centerpieces, and tiny wedding pies. Just keep it reasonable and realize your limits.

I'll be back Friday with a post on our DIY wedding food. Yes!  You can make your own wedding food!