Can you hear the theme to Mission Impossible?
Well.. it should be blaring in your ears.. because you’re reading about what seemed like the real thing.
The more I thought about it… the more I knew that my being there wasn’t just about being by the side of the guy whose ears I used to flick. I knew my mom had her hands full – so I wanted to be there for her, too.
I started brainstorming menu ideas, favors, decorations. Heck, I even became a frequent reader of the wedding section on Pinterest – who knew I’d ever need to look there?!
We were on a budget as insane as the time crunch.
It had to be a special day. I didn’t want it to be generic, either. We were aiming for an Italian garden theme.
For favors, I came up with the idea of giving out salad dressing from my brother’s favorite restaurant, The Olive Garden. When he eats there, this kid (ok, man) orders side dishes of the dressing for his bread sticks. He also needs reinforcements in case it wasn’t properly coated in the kitchen.
To pull off this idea, I ordered little glass bottles for 79 cents each. I got bottles of the dressing from Sam’s ($6.98 for 2 20oz. bottles), and I made the lables on my computer. We got 30, very personal favors, for $2.40 each! My mom also put together little bride and groom “boxes” filled with Andes Mints – the gift you get for spending your money at the Olive Garden.
A small wedding cake would’ve cost $125. I offered to make a cupcake cake to save money.
I also decided I’d make roasted potatoes, green beans, and two appetizers.
This all sounded so easy to me. I mean, c’mon! I throw at least one big party every year!
Let’s just say the plan proved to be a lot harder than I’d expected.
I never took into account the fact that I’d be doing this away from the stores I know and the kitchen I use every day.
For the chicken marsala, I planned to pound out each breast for tenderness, and because that would make them go a lot farther. There wasn’t a meat mallet in my mom’s kitchen – so I had to beat each piece of poultry to a pulp with the bottom of a frying pan. It worked!
On top of that, I’d never made a complete dish for 30 people. I usually do finger foods! I was worried that we wouldn’t have enough chicken marsala to go around.
For the cake, we got plastic tiers and pillars from Michael’s. I used sugar pearls and edible glitter hearts for decorations.
A wedding cupcake recipe I found on recipegirl.com sounded so good! It combines boxed cake mix with other ingredients to make a moist, sturdy cupcake.
That same blog also offered a wedding buttercream icing recipe. My mom wanted to go with store-bought icing to save time (and money), but that didn’t feel right for the occasion. Plus, you know me. I don’t do things the easy way. My mom will tell you I’ve always been that way! I’d never made buttercream icing before, but this seemed so right!
Two cupcake pans went into my suitcase. Before I left, I was smart enough to ask my mom how many she had – the answer was one.
The cupcakes baked perfectly. After they cooled, I set them back in the pans and covered them with foil. The cakes were so moist, that the foil stuck to them and ultimately pulled off part of the tops. Thankfully, the icing masked that.
The icing recipe was supposed to make enough for 12, so we bought enough ingredients to triple it. I was expecting 36 cupcakes from the recipe (we got 34). We got enough powdered sugar to recreate the blizzard of 1943 (made-up event) and enough butter to get an elephant through a drinking straw.
I let the butter sit out for hours to make sure it would be room temperature and therefore blend smoothly into the sugar.
For the appetizers, I decided to make caprese skewers. I can always find bocconcini (little mozzarella balls) or mozzarella pearls at the grocery stores near my house. The stores we went to (even Publix!) didn’t have them. So, I had to use a regular package of fresh mozzarella and cube it.
Those were the major food-related calamities. So, let me break it down for you:
The night before the wedding…
Egg salad didn’t fit the Italian theme, but my asked for it, and she deserved it! For my egg salad I use mayo, lots of garlic powder, salt, pepper, dry mustard and paprika (in and on top of the final product).
The morning of the wedding, my mom and I formed an assembly line (think Lucy & Ethel in the chocolate factory) to put together the favors.
From there, I chopped potatoes, then coated them in olive olive, thyme, garlic powder, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, salt and pepper. They went into the oven.
After that, I blanched some green beans, then cooked them in olive oil infused with garlic and lemon zest (my mom didn’t have a microplane, so I used her box grater). To round out the dish, I used lemon juice, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Sorry for the blurry picture… I was rushing!
My mom made her scrumptious sausages & peppers (brown sugar makes for an unexpected richness)…
I’ve gotta be honest – this was the hardest party I’ve ever put together. We rushed. We laughed. We tripped over each other. We did more sweating than a prostitute in a pew. But, we got it all done! My mom and I worked as a team, and because of that, the mission was possible.
There was plenty of food. The guests loved it, and told me the cupcakes tasted like they came from a bakery.
The most important reviews came from the man and woman of the hour. Each time someone asked if they loved the reception, they said, “I do.” And that’s all that matters!
Tip: When browning chicken (for marsala, piccata) and mushrooms use a mixture of butter AND olive oil. Butter will burn or smoke quickly. The oil keeps that from happening. You get the flavor from the butter and the prolonged performance of the oil.