Food for a Crowd - The Humble Egg

The humble egg.

A high quality protein all wrapped up in a neat little shell.

For your next holiday party or family gathering consider placing a big platter of deviled eggs on the buffet. 

I have never served deviled eggs at an event that they weren't all eaten. 

Every last one. 

Not only yummy but easy on the budget.

A dozen eggs will make 24 servings and even at $2.00 a dozen for the eggs (current price in my area) that averages out to about 9 cents per serving. Can't hardly beat that. 

Filling the Egg

I've seen and tasted all kinds of fillings in deviled eggs. Horseradish, caviar, onions...even so I don't get too creative. Most people seem happy with a little mayo, sweet pickle relish and maybe a touch of mustard. 
For variety you can sprinkle the tops with paprika, dill or crumbled bacon bits. 

My simple recipe

6 hard boiled eggs
1 Tablespoon good mayo (or more as needed) 
1-2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
1 teaspoon yellow mustard

Remove the yolk, place in a bowl and mash with a fork. Add the mayo, relish and mustard and mix well. Taste and add a little salt and additional as mayo or relish as needed. 

Place the whites on a bed of lettuce and sprinkle lightly with salt. Fill the eggs with the yolk filling and sprinkle with paprika, dried dill or bacon bits. 

How to boil an egg

Everyone seems to have their own technique for hard boiling eggs. 

This is how I do it:
  • Use eggs that are close to the use by date. The older the egg the easier it is to peel.
  • Set the eggs out on the counter and allow them to come to room temperature (about an hour)
  • Place the room temp eggs in a pot large enough for the eggs to be in a single layer and cover with tap water by at least 1 inch. 
  • Place the pot over medium heat and allow the water to heat up. Bringing the water to a boil slowly will prevent the shells from cracking. Allow to boil 2 minutes. Turn off heat, cover pot and let the eggs sit for 12 minutes. 
  • To cool the eggs quickly drain the hot water, add cold water to the pot along with ice. When the ice melts add additional ice and allow to cool for 20 minutes. 
  • Remove from the ice water, peel and proceed with your recipe. 

A few tips
  • Buy your eggs a couple weeks before the party. (Check the expiration date to be sure you'll be using them in that time frame.)  The older the egg the easier it will peel 
  • If you do try to peel the eggs and the peel won't come off don't fight it. Just do the best you can and make egg salad. Serve it in a bowl with crackers. (I heard Julia Child say that on one of her old shows. If she occasionally had trouble with the peel  I don't feel bad when it happens to me.)
  • If you end up with green around the yolk it just means the egg was cooked too long. Just mix it up with a little mayo and no one will know. 
  • For a large gathering make at least two platters of deviled eggs and put them out one at a time. When the first platter begins to run low switch it out with the new platter. This applies to most all dishes on a buffet table. A picked over platter of food doesn't look appetizing. 

Next time you're looking for a budget friendly addition to your  party don't underestimate the humble egg!

Setting another plate at my table and making a place in my heart!


Breakfast Casserole for a Crowd

The last of our Thanksgiving company left last night and our house is back to semi-quiet.

One of the things I do when we have overnight guests is to have breakfast ready to go. This is especially good on big cooking days like Thanksgiving and Christmas when you don't need a lot of extra cooking going on in the kitchen. 

My favorite thing to make, which is always a hit, is a big breakfast casserole. I make it up and bake it the night before. Cool the casserole, cut it into squares, wrap it up and refrigerate. In the morning all that's needed is a couple minutes in the microwave for each piece. Since some people are early riser and some like to sleep in this casserole can be heated up piece by piece as needed. All I have to do is set out a stack of plates, put the coffee on and make sure there's orange juice in the fridge. There's also cereal, milk and fruit for those who don't want a heavy breakfast. 

Farmer's Breakfast
(Eggs, potatoes, cheese and sausage)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Dry ingredients:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder

8 eggs
1 cup milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 pounds bulk sausage (spicy if you like it hot)
32 ounce bag Ore-Ida frozen Potatoes O'Brien (diced potatoes with onions and peppers)

1 stick butter, melted.

Cook the sausage and chop into smaller pieces as it cooks. Cook until the sausage is no longer pink. Drain the grease and set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl blend together the flour, salt and baking powder. Add the milk and eggs and mix until well blended.

Add the frozen potatoes, cheese and sausage to the egg and flour mixture and stir to combine.

Place the melted butter into the bottom of a 13 x 9 inch oven safe dish.

Spoon the potato/egg mixture in to the casserole dish. Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cut into squares and serve warm from the oven or cool and refrigerate. Cut in to squares and reheat in the microwave.

I like this casserole as is but some in my family like to splash on hot sauce or a couple spoons of salsa and a little sour cream. It's good however you fix it. 

Do you have a favorite breakfast casserole?

Setting an extra plate at my table and making a place in my heart!


Warm Apple Cake with Vanilla Butter Sauce

I made this cake a couple weeks ago but didn't get any pictures before it was devoured. So over the weekend when my husband said they were having an office Thanksgiving party on Tuesday I volunteered to make another apple cake for him to take in to share. 

I didn't just make one cake, I made two. 

One to keep, one to give:-)

My favorite book of all times is "A Woman After God's Own Heart" by Elizabeth George.
In the chapter titled Motherly Affection she talks about giving your family preferential treatment
She says:
"Don’t give away to others what you have not first given away at home."

This applies to far more than just food but in this instance I’m not going to make a yummy cake to send off and not keep a little for my family!

This cake is warm and dense but not too sweet. Full of apples, nuts and dates it's perfect for the fall season.  It's even good as a breakfast treat...

Apple Cake with Vanilla Butter Sauce
(This recipe as written will make one 13 x 9 inch cake. If you want a smaller cake you can divide all the ingredients in half and bake it in a 9" round cake pan reduce the baking time to 30 - 35 minutes)

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
4 eggs
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon all spice
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups peeled and chopped apples (chunks not minced)
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped dates (optional)
Preheat oven to 350.
Cream the sugar and butter together for 5 minutes
Beat in the eggs one at a time and the vanilla until just blended. Set aside
In a separate bowl combine the flour, salt and spices and stir well.
Gradually add the flour to the sugar/egg mixture beating until well blended.
By hand stir in the apples, dates and walnuts
Pour into a greased 9 X 13 inch pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. 
Serve warm with Vanilla Butter sauce.
Vanilla Butter Sauce
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the whipping cream and the sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat, simmer 10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Be careful because the sauce will bubble up when you add the vanilla. 

Serving suggestions: 
If you're serving the cake at home you can keep the sauce warm in a small chafing dish and let your guest help themselves to as much as they like. 

For a potluck- I cool the cake completely and slightly cool the butter sauce. Pour the sauce over the top of the cake and refrigerate. The cake is good eaten cold, at room temp, or reheated in the microwave.  

Anytime I make something with nuts I always sprinkle some on top so if anyone has a nut allergy they will know right away not to eat any. 

Setting an extra plate at my table and making a place in my heart!

Grace at Home


Get Ready to Party Series Day 7 - Party Day!

I recently hosted a group of  friends in my home for a fall luncheon. I thought it might be fun and helpful to write a series on how I planned and pulled off this party.
My hope is that by sharing it may be a blessing to someone else and it might encourage others to step out and invite           someone in!

Day 7 - Party Day!

Whether you're hosting ten people or 50 (or more) the game plan is pretty much the same:

Decide why you want to party and who you want to invite. Send out invitations, decide what food you'll serve, shop, cook, clean up the house, set the table and buffet, greet your guests, serve the food, engage in some lively conversation and maybe play a game or two, send everyone away filled with food and good fellowship, and clean up. 

 Whew! Just typing that makes me tired!

The truth is that inviting people into our homes takes work but the payoff is well worth the effort. 

If you're hesitant or even a little afraid to open your home I hope this series has offered a little encouragement to give it a try. 

Today I'm going to share a few pictures and recipes from my fall luncheon...

 I made this party a little different by turning it into a 

I invited each lady to bring a few small gifts to fill shoe boxes for 

We put together 4 shoe boxes.

I started something new with this party. A guest book is something I've wanted to use for a while but just didn't get around to it. Until this party. I happened to have a sketch book on hand that I'd bought for something else and I decided to turn it into a guest book. 

I did a little simple sketch with colored pencils and wrote in a few quotes about friendship. On the opposite page I asked for people to write a little note or just sign their name. 
I'm excited about this new tradition. 

The desserts were a big hit!

I made warm apple cake with vanilla butter sauce. It was delicious but I didn't get a single picture! I did get a picture of the pumpkin trifle. 

Pumpkin Pudding
5.1 ounce package Jell-O instant vanilla pudding (the large box)
2 cups milk

1 can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated!)
8 ounce carton Cool Whip (defrosted)
15 ounce can pumpkin puree (100 % pure pumpkin not canned pumpkin pie mix)
1 sleeve cinnamon graham crackers
20 gingersnaps (I used Archway crispy gingersnaps)
(you want about 3 cups of cookie crumbs - it doesn't have to be exact)

Using a mixer blend the pudding mix with the milk on low for about 1 minute. Add the condensed milk and continue blending another minute. Refrigerate until the pudding is set. About 5 minutes
By hand fold in the pumpkin then fold in the Cool Whip.
Put the cookies in a zip lock bag and crush them with a mallet or rolling pin. You want some of the cookies finely crushed and some left in bigger pieces.
Place half of the pudding mixture in a trifle bowl or any deep bowl add a layer of cookies and repeat to fill the bowl.
You can make this the night before but I think it's better if you serve it the same day or the cookies will lose some of their crunch.

The final thing I did for my guests was to send them home with a little bag of Thanksgiving party mix. 

Thanksgiving Party Mix

8-cups mixed Chex cereal (corn, rice, wheat)
1-cup almonds, sliced or whole
½ cup butter
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
¼ cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
½ cup craisins or dried cranberries

Optional: candy corn and candy pumpkins- about 2 – 3 cups total

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a large bowl toss together the cereal and the almonds. Set aside.
Melt the butter, add the brown sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the OJ concentrate and mix well.
Remove from heat and pour over the cereal and almonds.
Spread on a large roasting pan or rimmed cookie sheet. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Stir and continue to cook another 15 minutes. 
Remove from oven and stir in the craisins or cranberries; cool completely. If using the candy add to the mix after it’s cooled.
Store in airtight container or plastic storage bag. Makes about 9 cups of mix. 


Setting a plate at my table and making a place in my heart!


Get Ready to Party Series Day 6 - Divide and Conquer

I recently hosted a group of  friends in my home for a fall luncheon. I thought it might be fun and helpful to write a series on how I planned and pulled off this party.
My hope is that by sharing it may be a blessing to someone else and it might encourage others to step out and invite                                                                                                           someone in!

Day 6 - Divide and Conquer

You can see the entire series by clicking the picture

Hosting a party or gathering can be intimidating and overwhelming at times. I'm pretty comfortable having people in my home because I've practiced for many years not because it comes naturally to me. My parents were great role models when it came to showing hospitality but for them it seemed so natural and effortless. When I married and began inviting people over I was usually frustrated that it seemed so hard to me. I apparently didn't get the effortless gene!

I soon learned my problem was that I had this need to do everything myself and everything had to be perfect. I felt as though asking for help meant I was a failure. Thankfully I quickly learned that I couldn't do it all myself and that no matter how hard I worked it would never be perfect. Perfection is the death of hospitality.  

Now when I host a gathering I always enlist a little help. I may ask a friend or family member to help serve or stay and help me clean up the kitchen. Help with the food is always appreciated.

For my luncheon I asked my sister-in-law to help me by bringing one of her signature dishes. Cranberry Gelatin Rounds. She prepares this for most of our family gatherings. It's simple but always a hit.

Cranberry Gelatin Rounds

1 20 ounce can crushed pineapple
2 packages (3 ounce each) cherry gelatin
1 16 ounce can whole berry cranberry sauce
2/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 medium apple, finely chopped

Drain the pineapple juice into a measuring cup. Add additional water to the juice to make 2 1/2 cups. Bring the water to a rolling boil in a saucepan or in the microwave. Place the gelatin in a large bowl and pour the boiling liquid over the gelatin and stir until dissolved. Stir in the pineapple, apple, cranberry sauce, and nuts spoon into cup cake liners. Refrigerate several hours until firm.
Remove the set gelatin from the liners and place on a serving plate.

The cranberry gelatin is good but served with the nutty topping it's even better!

Nutty Cream Cheese topping

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2/3 cup finely chopped nuts (pecan or walnut)
8 ounce container Cool Whip (defrosted)

Beat sugar and cream cheese until fluffy. Stir in nuts. Fold in the Cool Whip until well blended. Cover and refrigerate. This is good served with any fruit such as apples or strawberries. Heck it's even good eaten all by itself!

At your next gathering don't be shy about asking for help! 
I hope you'll come back tomorrow as I finish up this series on how to plan a party.

A plate at my table and a place in my heart!

See the party day here.


Get Ready to Party Series Day 5- Games Anyone?

I recently hosted a group of  friends in my home for a fall luncheon. I thought it might be fun and helpful to write a series on how I planned and pulled off this party.
My hope is that by sharing it may be a blessing to someone else and it might encourage others to step out and invite someone in!

Day 5 - Games Anyone? 

Click on the photo for the complete series

I love to play party games!
Games may not be appropriate at every party or gathering but I do find a fun game can break the ice and get people talking. 

For my fall luncheon I invited women from different areas of my life. My Zumba class, work, church, my family. They all knew me but didn't all know each other. I wanted to find a way to introduce them to each other that would be fun and to show that we're all connected in some way.
A friend of mine introduced me to the Connection game and I thought it was perfect for what I was trying to accomplish. 

Lots of fun and simple to play.

We're All Connected Game

All you need is a large ball of yarn. 

One person starts by saying something about themselves. 
For example, "I like the color green."
Everyone in the room who likes green raises their  hand and the ball of yarn gets tossed from person to person. (Each person needs to continue to hold on to the yarn.) The last person to get the yarn says something new about themselves such as "I have children". Everyone who has children raises their hand and the yarn gets passed from one to the other. 
The trick is to not let go of the yarn as it's passed from person to person. 
You'll develop a spider web effect after a few minutes.
It's a neat way to see that all though we may appear different we really are all connected in some way. We all have something in common.

We had a lot of fun coming up with things to say. Even when one person said something that no one else could respond to the ladies began to improvise just so they could get the yarn tossed to them.

One of the best reasons to host a party or gathering -to make connections and hopefully in the process to make a new friend or two.

I hope to see you tomorrow when I'll show you that you don't have to go it alone when you host a party. 


See day 6 here. Divide and Conquer


Get Ready to Party Series Day 4 - The Table and Buffet

I recently hosted a group of  friends in my home for a fall luncheon. I thought it might be fun and helpful to write a series on how I planned and pulled off this party.
My hope is that by sharing it may be a blessing to someone else and it might encourage others to step out and invite someone in!

Day 4 Setting the Table and the Buffet

Click the photo to see the entire series:

I'm so happy that Richella featured my series. Her blog is wonderful. Check it out.

In today's post I'm going to share some photos of how I set my table and the buffet for my fall luncheon. 

I hope these serve as a bit of encouragement that you don't have to go all out with the decorating and set up. Simple is sometimes better.

Serving from the kitchen:

When we did a little kitchen remodel a few years ago I kept the big island even though I've always thought it was a little too big for the room. The reason I kept it is because it a great buffet area. 
I don't have any issues with serving from the kitchen. We had a soup party once and I had three big pots of soup bubbling away on the stove. My only condition for serving from the kitchen is my sink has to be clean with no dirty dishes!

Before the party and before any food has been set out:

This is the buffet set up ready for the food. I stacked the plates on the buffet. I placed a simple burlap runner down the center. I put little notes showing what food goes where so I can enlist helpers if needed and they'll know where everything goes. 
Napkins and silver ware are set on the table. To the left of the stove I set up a hot beverage area. Assorted tea bags, coffee, honey, sugar, cream, cups and spoons. The tea kettle is kept on simmer ready to pour.

The cold drinks were set up on the desk area in the kitchen. 

Dessert set up on the kitchen table. I set out extra forks and napkins and the serving pieces that will be needed for the desserts. This table also has my guest book and a bowl of party mix that I bagged up for each guest to take home. 

The dining table:

I had to put two tables together to seat ten. Since my dining room is too small for two tables
we pushed the dining table to the living room and added another table. One day we're going to take down the wall between these two rooms to make one large space. But for now we just make do. 

I used two cream colored tablecloths to tie both table together. In the middle I used a solid brown tablecloth and on each end I laid a piece of fall printed fabric. The decorations were simply fall leaves and a few plastic  pumpkins.

Everyone helping themselves to the buffet:

I like to use real plates and silverware unless we're having an outdoor party like a BBQ with lots of kids. Then I might use paper plates. I have a lot of plates and serving dishes and I'd rather use them than have them collect dust in the cabinet. 
I make sure the dishwasher is empty so clean up is pretty quick.

Food as part of the decorations:

Food isn't just good for our tummies it's also beautiful and can serve as part of the decorations. 

To make this veggie basket I took a large, clean basket. I searched around the kitchen for a plate or platter that would fit in the opening but I couldn't find one that was just right. 

I improvised by placing the rack from my canning pot in the bottom of the basket.

Next I used a plate that was just a little smaller than the opening of the basket. I finished it off by covering the plate with lettuce leaves. 

I used a whole pepper to hold the dip and arranged the raw veggies on the bed of lettuce. The whole thing fit nicely into the basket opening and made a nice display.

I hope you enjoyed a little glimpse of how I set up for my luncheon. Come back tomorrow and I'll tell you about a fun game we played...

Happy Day!


Grace at Home


Get Ready to Party Series Day 3 - Clean Enough, Good Enough

I recently hosted a group of  friends in my home for a fall luncheon. I thought it might be fun and helpful to write a series on how I planned and pulled off this party.
My hope is that by sharing it may be a blessing to someone else and it might encourage others to step out and invite someone in!

Day 3- Clean Enough, Good Enough
In Other Words - Don't Kill Yourself Cleaning Before a Party!

See the entire series by clicking the photo

"Where no oxen are the manger is clean"
Proverbs 14:4a NAS

I like to paraphrase it this way:
Where no people are the house is clean!

This helps me to remember that my house isn't a showroom that sits empty all day. This is my home that is lived in by real people who can be messy at times! Although I do want my home to be presentable I'm realistic in my expectations.

I encourage you not to get too carried away with cleaning before a party. I guarantee that 
your guests will be so busy eating, talking and enjoying each other's company that they won't notice a little dust or a cobweb in the corner (unless there's a big spider on it)! 

How I Get My Home Clean Enough and That's Good Enough For Me!

To get ready for this party I focused my attention only on the areas that will be seen by my guests: 

Living and dining rooms
Front hall and half bath
Front and back porches.

BTW: to keep guests out of places I don't have time to straighten up (or I just don't want anyone wandering around) I close the door to rooms that are off limits. Some guests can be a little nosy so I'm not above locking a door or I put my dog in the room. He's 80 pounds and although he's a sweetie most people steer clear of him:-)

I didn't want to be frazzled and worn out on party day so I spread the cleaning out over several days and spent no more than an hour in each area:

I worked in the living and dining room. I dusted, cleaned the wood floor, vacuumed the furniture and cleaned the finger prints off the windows and around the light switches. I also wiped down the chandelier in the dining room and the table lamps.

I did pretty much the same thing in the den.

Wednesday: I clean the kitchen by wiping down the cabinets, cleaning the stove, cleaned out the fridge, wiped down the stainless steel and I gave the floor a good mopping.

Thursday: I cleaned the half bath, swept the stairs and swept and mopped the front hall. I also washed a load of dish towels and made sure the clothes I'd be wearing on Saturday were clean and ready.

Friday: Before I started cooking I washed all the dishes and emptied the dishwasher. After I finished cooking I cleaned the kitchen again and ran the dishwasher. Wiped down all the counters and spot mopped the floor.

Friday before I went to bed I also went room to room and picked up and put away all the little stuff I found left sitting out. I unloaded the dishwasher.

I enlisted my husband to sweep off the front and back porches and to use the weed eater on the front walk.
I gave the front bathroom a final wipe down and made sure there was a full roll of toilet paper and liquid soap.
Turned on the scented electric candle warmer.
Did I quick check of the floors and spot mopped any dirt tracked in.
Moved the dog's bowl to the family room and put up the gate to keep them in - locked the cat in my bedroom.
I made sure I had one full hour to get myself dressed with plenty of time to spare before the guests arrived.

I know it's one thing to clean a room on Monday it another to keep it clean until Saturday especially when you have a house full of messy people. 

A Few Ideas For Dealing With the Daily Messiness 

A few of the strategies I use to keep things straight, picked up, and put away:

  • designate areas in my home for messes. For example when my children were young: games and craft projects had to be contained to the family room and/or to each child's bedroom and the kitchen table was for school work. Now all toddler paraphernalia is kept upstairs or in the family room. My husband and I both have our own desk area for our computer, papers and books. 
  • Containment - Keeping the mess contained is an easy way to clean up. For example if I'm working on a craft project I keep all the bits and pieces in a plastic box with a lid. My bible, bible study books and journal are stored in an old  briefcase. When I'm working out a menu I keep my cookbooks together in a basket.  This way I can keep everything together and not strewn about the room. It's also easy to put things away when I not working on it. 
  • Whole house pick up - Take a garbage bag and a laundry basket. I start at the front door and work my way around each room. Trash goes in the bag, if something belongs in another room it goes in the basket to be put away when I get to that room. We used to do this every night when the kids were at home. Now we do it two or three times a week. Being consistent is the key to keeping things picked up. 
  • Get rid of extra nick-knacks or clutter - If I don't love it enough to dust it I don't keep it.
  • Make everyone responsible for their own mess. This is one thing I'm am so grateful that I started when my boys were little. 
  • Landing pad- If I'm in a big hurry (like someone just called and they're on the way over and I have about 10 minutes to get things straight or I'm doing last minute pick up before a party) I put things in one spot. Magazines,books and papers left lying around go to the landing pad on a table in my husband's office.  Not in a drawer, cabinet or closet to be lost and forgotten. Larger items like toys or things that I don't have time to put away go on the floor in my big pantry. Both landing pads are out of sight  but not so out of the way that I forget about them. 

Inside my storage pantry is my favorite landing pad.
Out of sight but I can't forget about because I use this room all the time. 

I have a housekeeping schedule that I've developed over the years that combines Fly Lady and the Mount Vernon Method as outlined in the Messies Manual by Sandra Felton.. Since I can't fully explain that in one short post I'm going to put it on the back burner for now. I may write a series after the New Year starts focusing just on that but for now I'll just give a brief overview of how I got my house ready for this luncheon...

I hope you'll come back tomorrow when I share table decorations, dishes and setting up a buffet. 

Happy Day!



Get Ready to Party Series Day 2 -Food and Drink

I recently hosted a group of  friends in my home for a fall luncheon. I thought it might be fun and helpful to write a series on how I planned and pulled off this party.
My hope is that by sharing it may be a blessing to someone else and it might encourage others to step out and invite someone in!

Day 2 - The Food 

You can see the series by clicking this photo

When throwing a party there's lots of details that have to be attended to. Decorating, cleaning the house and what food to serve are just a few. I believe that people can overlook a home not decorated like the cover of a magazine and they can even forgive a little dust floating around but look out if the food isn't up to par!

My theory is that hungry people make bad party guests! So take a little time and think about what food you'll be serving at your party.

When I sat down to plan the menu for my fall luncheon I knew I wanted food that would:

reflect the fall season using apples, pumpkin, cranberries, nuts and Indian corn
be prepared a day in advance.
not be overly complicated to prepare.
require a minimum of attention the day of the party.
be easy to serve from a buffet.
be tasty of course!

The menu I came up with: 

Chicken salad with pecans, apples and cranberries served with croissants
Corn salad with black beans and orange bell pepper (my attempt to make it look like Indian corn:-)
Veggie tray with carrots, yellow, red and orange peppers and snap peas (a bountiful harvest)
Cranberry Jell-o rounds

Warm Apple Cake with Vanilla Butter Sauce
Pumpkin Trifle 

Sweet and Unsweetened Tea
Water - always include a pitcher of ice water or water bottles for your guests
Hot tea - Apple spice and Earl Grey

Tip:When planning food don't try to make everything from scratch. The local deli and bakery can be a life saver when preparing food for a party. For this party I spent most of my time preparing the desserts. The chicken salad and croissants came from Sam's Club, the corn salad was made with canned corn and beans, I used pre-cut and washed baby carrots and snap peas, and I enlisted my sis-in-law to make the cranberry rounds. 

I added apples and additional pecans to this ready made chicken salad.

Timeline for Food Preparations

By the weekend before the party I had the menu down pat
Tuesday - once I'd confirmed the number of guests I made the grocery list
Thursday -I did all the grocery shopping including fresh veggies, ice and jugs of tea
Friday night- I did all the cooking including cutting the veggies
Saturday - the day of the party - deal with the last minute stuff- put together the veggie tray, assembled the pumpkin trifle, heated the croissants, pour the tea into pitchers, set up the coffee and tea area and set out the food.

The kitchen is my happy place:-)
Don't rely on your memory - write everything down! 
List all the dishes you want to prepare. Make copies of the recipes and mark ingredients off as you use them. Make notes on cooking times, serving pieces and reheating instruction. Mark items off as you go.  For the day of the party list all the little details such as: prepare the coffee pot and fill the tea kettle, fill the creamer, put out the ice, heat the rolls, etc. Keep the list handy so you can refer to it and mark things off as you go. Even after years of experience I still make a list-it's not as detailed as when I was first starting out but I find it's still helpful to remember the little things that make a party go smoother.

When preparing the food for a party I always do two things.

Clean out the fridge before I start so I have room for the extra food and big bowls.

Before I started preparing the food.

After the food was prepared.

The second thing is to clean up as I go. After every dish is prepared I wash the bowls and utensils. I try to never have dirty dishes in the sink.  It just makes me feel better and I know if I need something it may be in the dish drainer but at least it will be clean.

By cleaning up as I go I can go to bed relaxed knowing this is what I'll wake up to.

The only thing I leave out is whatever I need to finish the prep in the morning.

A little encouragement:
When I first starting opening my home and inviting people in I was consumed with making everything perfect. I made all the food from scratch and wouldn't dream of buying anything pre-made. I've learned over the years that the food is important but what's more important is just the act of inviting people in. Hospitality is rare these days because many people tend to lead isolated lives.  We need to share not just the food but more importantly the fellowship and the love.

"A meal of bread and water in contented peace
    is better than a banquet spiced with quarrels."
Proverbs 17:1 (The Message)

I hope you'll join me tomorrow when I'll show you my simple way of keeping my house reasonably clean and straight and ready for company. 

I'll be sharing all the recipes for this luncheon but for now I'll leave you with my recipe for corn salad.

Indian Corn Salad

2 - 15 ounce cans corn, drained
1 - 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 orange bell pepper chopped
1/4 cup minced red onion
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 cup mayonnaise (I use Dukes)
8 - 10 ounces Chili Cheese Fritos lightly crushed
(I couldn't find the large bag so I used 2 -four ounce bags)

Mix all ingredients except the Fritos, cover and refrigerate overnight or at least 4 hours. Add the crushed Fritos before serving.


See day 3 here. Clean Enough, Good Enough


Get Ready to Party Series Day 1 - Why, When and Who?

I recently hosted a group of  friends in my home for a fall luncheon. I thought it might be fun and helpful to write a series on how I planned and pulled off this party.
My hope is that by sharing it may be a blessing to someone else and it might encourage others to step out and invite someone in!

Webster's defines Party as
"a social gathering of invited guests, typically involving eating, drinking, and entertainment."

The first step in planning a party of any kind is to decide why you want to party.

There's many reasons to host a party.

Some are based around traditional celebrations:


Other reasons may include:

Fellowship with friends and family
To reconnect with old friends
Opportunity to make new friends
To make business or career connections
Social obligation (aka payback for when someone has invited you to their home:-)

My reason for the luncheon was to connect with some friends before the rush of the holiday season. I also wanted my friends who don't know each other to have an opportunity to meet.

If hosting people in your home doesn't come naturally (and for many it doesn't) or if you're intimidated by the idea of having a large group of people over start small.  Practice by inviting one or two good friends over for coffee and dessert. Do this a few times until you feel confident to increase the numbers of your guest list.
"...practice hospitality." Romans 12:13

Why you want to party will determine who to invite, what kind of decorations and food will be needed and when you'll party.

Set the date 

It is impossible to pick a date that will be perfect for everyone you want to invite.
I start by picking two dates that work for me. Next I call one or two people that I really want to have at my party and we try to coordinate a date that works best. Once the date is set it goes on the calendar and I move on to the guest list.

I very seldom go it alone when hosting a gathering. Early in my marriage I shared with a friend my desire to show more hospitality in my home. She and I worked together on many gatherings. It gave me the confidence I needed as I practiced hospitality. Don't be afraid to ask for help. I like to invite my sister-in-law because she's friendly and outgoing and she can help keep the conversation lively.  Of course that's not the only reason I include her but it's definitely a plus:-) 

"Woe to him who is alone, when he falls he has not 
another to pick him up." 
Eccl. 4:10b

Who to Invite

Usually once I decide why I want to have a party I already have the guests in mind. Even so making a guest list can sometimes get a little tricky.

  • Leave someone off and they may get their feelings hurt.
  • Invite two of you friends who are mortal enemies and you may find yourself serving as referee.
  • Invite all your outgoing talkative friends and you'll be competing to get a word in edgewise.
  • Invite all your introverted friends you may be in for a very quiet party. 
I think you get the idea!

I don't stress too much over who to invite. I always pray first and God will bring names to mind. I do use discretion when inviting people of strong, opposing convictions (political, religious, etc.) or those who I know don't get along. I don't exclude them I am just mindful. Debates are wonderful in their place just not always at a party and brawling is definitely frowned upon.:-)

One reason I wanted to host this luncheon was to introduce my friends from different areas of my life to each other. I invited a few from my family, some of the moms I home schooled with, a few from church and others from my Zumba class.  Each lady will know a couple others but no one will know everyone. (Except for me.) It should be an interesting group.

 Always consider those who may be lonely or new to the area. I invited my new neighbor across the street. I had only met her one time out at the mailbox but I thought it would be fun to get to know her and give her a chance to meet a few new friends.

Start a hospitality and entertaining notebook. and keep track of what kind of parties you host and who you invite. If I've left someone off from one party or I did invite them but they weren't able to attend I try to be sure they are on the next list. This notebook also helps me to remember what the menu was and kind of decorations I used.

Once the guest list is made it's time to issue the invitations. 

Even though it's perfectly alright to call someone on the phone or invite them face to face I prefer to send something in writing. This gives the recipient time to think it over and also they have something in their hand to serve as a reminder.

Whatever the means I like to give about 2 weeks notice. Enough time to get on the calendar but not enough time for the event to be forgotten.

The invitation should include:
Reason for the party
Day and date to avoid any confusion.
A beginning time and end time. (end time isn't strictly necessary but I find it's helpful)
Phone number and I always add my email address.
Ask for  a response by a certain date.

répondez, s'il vous plaît
(Respond please whether or not you're able to attend)

Unfortunately some people don't understand what this means.
I remember one time I invited my good friend over for dinner and as the date got closer I hadn't heard from her. I gave her a call and she said that she thought RSVP meant to respond if she wasn't coming! That's OK I don't think they teach this type of thing is school anymore...

If I don't hear from someone in regards to an invitation I simply call or send an email.
Maybe they didn't receive the invitation or they simply forgot. I give them the benefit of the doubt.

You can click the picture to see a little more about my invitations:

One final thought about inviting people.
Don't be offended or upset if everyone you invite don't attend your party. I invited 18 ladies and I had 8 who attended. (It was going to be 10 but one had to go out town for an emergency and one was sick on party day.) I usually over invite just because I know from experience that not everyone will be able to attend. It's worked out for me so far...

The why, when and who is the first step in hosting a party. So set a date, make a guest list and send out the invitations.  This is often the most difficult step but once it's done you're committed!

Next the real fun begins. Tomorrow I'll tell you a little about the food I served at my fall luncheon and give you some tips on how to prepare the food ahead of time so you aren't stuck in the kitchen during the party.

I hope you'll come back!


See day 2 here. What to Serve.

Making your home sing Mondays