Entertaining


My goodness it has been a busy Spring!!!

I’m sad to say this seems to be our new pace of life.  The last time I posted on this blog was December! And here it is May! So, I am going to try to do a little catching up in the next few posts. With school coming to an end for the year, hopefully things will slow down a little. I would really like to get back to testing and blogging about new recipes and such. Fingers crossed!

To be honest, January and February are a bit of a blur. With a child in college and a child in high school they returned to school after Christmas break at different times. My timeline got a little skewed! I know we had ONE day of snow.

In March (Notice I skipped February! Who knows what happened then?!) we were honored to host a sweet missionary family and our pastor and his family for dinner. I didn’t get any pictures of the people that night-ugh. I am really out of practice doing this blog thing! Plus, we were just having too much fun! I did think to take a couple of shots of the pretty Spring Table decorations while I was in the midst of setting the table. I borrowed a few things from my Mom, and a few on-sale spring flowers finished off the look.

Unfortunately, one of the cats thought my little birdie was real! I used it anyway.

This bank was from forever ago! Not sure if it was mine or my sisters.

Here are a few decorations from around the dining room/den and the porch.

I jazzed up a wreath by using twine to tie on a few flower pots. More sale plants filled some pots, others stayed empty.

I have been waiting for just the right occasion to use this garden themed ribbon.

I made two crockpots full of Pork Chops with Field Peas! Using the crockpot is the way to go when company comes! This is a crowd pleasing recipe!

Individual Banana Pudding cups were also a hit at dessert time.

I hope you have been enjoying your Spring, too!

My chorus, Top of the Rock, recently had our 4th Spring Tea. Mom and I once again co-chaired the event. This year the Tea was at the historic Albert Pike Masonic Center in downtown Little Rock on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon right before Mothers’ Day.

We had 120 guests–the biggest crowd yet! We will plan for even more next year!

Tables were decorated by members of the chorus. We gave the ladies free-range as far as decorating goes. You’ll see a variety of themes–from Christmas to farm to jewelry. Mine is the one with the yellow tulips!

Click on each gallery below to see the pictures better.

You must have some fancy food to go on those fancy plates!

Here is the menu we served:

Tea Menu2016

I had fabulous help in the kitchen, as always!

Some of the men from Accapella Rising, the Little Rock men’s barbershop chorus, helped us with the serving.

We had a FABULOUS vintage fashion show. A friend of Mom’s from high school, Wanda Cook (aka The Coca Cola Lady, be sure to check out this article from a few years ago) provided the fashions. Top of the Rock provided the models! Wanda has displayed her collection at Red Hat conventions, women’s luncheons and other events. She was so generous to loan her collection to us for the day! The fashion show was a HUGE hit! The models really got into character and made the clothing come alive.

Of course there had to be some singing!!

It looked like everyone had a good time!

A big thanks to my husband, Chip, for taking all the photos! He took over 500 pictures and walked over 11,000 steps that day!

 

Are you cooking for a crowd this holiday season?

These Pumpkin Pie Bars will surely be helpful. Rather than baking two or three pumpkin pies, just whip up a pan of Pumpkin Pie Bars! You will get about 24 servings from this recipe. The crust is so yummy you might want to account for 2 servings per person though!

Pumpkin Pie squares

First, mix up the crust–flour, oats, brown sugar pecans and butter–I told you the crust was yummy!

Press into a 10×15 jelly roll pan.

pie crust

Bake for 15 minutes at 350˚.

While the crust is in the oven, mix up the filling–pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, spices and eggs.

pumpkin and spice

Pour over baked crust and bake an additional 30-35 minutes.

Pumpkin pie filling

Pumpkin Pie for a crowd! Whipped Cream is optional but let’s get real…you want it!

Pumpkin Pie squares

 

Pumpkin Pie Bars

Crust:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup oats (quick or old-fashioned)

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped pecans

2/3 cup melted butter

Filling:

4 eggs

2 cans (15 ounce each) pumpkin

2 cans (14 ounce each) sweetened condensed milk

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp salt

*Preheat oven to 350˚F

*Combine crust ingredients. I mixed the dry ingredients together first, then added the butter.

*Press into a 10×15 jelly roll pan.

*Bake for 15 minutes.

*Meanwhile, whisk the filling ingredients together. Be sure your bowl is big enough. I used a 2 qt. bowl and it barely fit!

*Bake 30-35 minutes–until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle. Mine took 35 minutes.

*Cool at room temperature. Cut into squares. Top with whipped topping and, if you are feeling fancy, a pecan half!

 

I finally had a cookie exchange!!!

I have wanted to go to one or have one for a long time now. Read this.

Since this summer and back-to-school was so carefree–haahahahahahaha!–I decided this was the year to have a cookie exchange.

Had I lost my mind? Possibly.

I invited all the ladies from church because I knew they would love me even if there was dust on my end-tables.

Not everyone could come, but we had a pretty good turn-out. Some of them had never been to a cookie exchange either!

cookie friends

I had fun getting ready for the party.

teacher vest

I even wore my “teacher” vest I made when I was an elementary school teacher in the ’90s.

vintage school books

Old school books and a pencil “vase”

bake

Don’t you love these vintage flip cards?! More below.

back to school napkins

I found these adorable notebook paper napkins in the $1 bin at Target several years ago with the intent of having a back-to-school cookie exchange! Can you believe it?!

send

I provided some recycled Sister Shubert aluminum pans for the ladies to haul their cookies home.

gab

Gab–we did LOTS of this!

pray

chalkboard

We filled up this giant chalkboard with our kids’ names and schools. Some shared verses of encouragement. At the end of the night we spent time praying for the students as they were starting school.

chalk

For some reason my colored chalk only showed up white. I guess it was the cheap kind.

I asked the ladies to bring an appetizer as well as cookies.

I made these spinach balls. It was a recipe from  library cookbook. Sorry, I don’t remember the name of the book. Really, I’m not sorry. These looked cute but didn’t taste all that good. And the cute part was MY idea.  The spinach balls had Stove Top stuffing in them. Guess they just tasted a little too processed.  I thought the pretzels were a cute idea and made the spinach balls finger-friendly. As time went on, however, the pretzels got soggy. Points for cuteness. Negative points for flavor and sogginess. I’m not making THAT recipe again!

spinach balls

spinach dip

Thank goodness Nicole brought her yummy Spinach Dip!

guacamole

Jami made yummy guacamole. She brought it in a Tupperware bowl, so she tried to fancy it up with the napkins. We all laughed pretty hard at her!

sliders

Tammy brought these amazing ham and cheese sliders. I’ve made these sliders before but not like Tammy’s. She put soy sauce and brown sugar on the top. OH MY WORD! So yummy!

Now for the cookies…

peanut butter cookies

oatmeal cookies

salted caramel shortbread cookies

chocolate chip

variety of cookies

Someone already had labels on these cookies.

white chocolate chip oatmeal

flu fighter cookies

The little cookie name plates were left-over materials from a project similar to this one.

Some of the cookies were store-bought, which was just fine. All of the cookies were delicious!

I’ll have to check back with the ladies about the recipes. I’ll be sharing the recipe for my cookies, the Flu Fighter Cookies, soon.

What a fun time! We may have to do it again sometime.

 

 

Hosting a Tea for the 3rd year in a row was a little tricky. We had guests who had attended the Tea the previous two years. We also had first time guests.  I wanted the food to be special. However, there were favorites from the past that we just had to include: the Chicken Salad, the Scones with Clotted Cream and Jam, and the Melt-Away Mints.

(You can see our plates from years past here, here, here, here, and here.)

Below is our Tea Party Menu for 2015.

Tea menu

I am sorry to say that I don’t have many “in progress” pictures. Quite frankly, with my poison ivy, I was a little behind schedule in my prep work. There wasn’t a lot of time for photography. Luckily, my husband took great pictures at the Tea!

savory plates

The Chicken Salad was very easy–ha! Someone else made it! Since we have had it every year, I have tried to present it differently each year–in a puff pastry, on an apple slice and now on a croissant. I’m open to suggestions for next year!

savory plate

That lovely little triangle Ribbon Sandwich was a HUGE hit! I was surprised. The Grits Crostini had people begging for more!

Of course, the Scones plate is the overall favorite.

scones

It wouldn’t be a Tea without sensational desserts!

dessert plates

You may have seen my Teapot Cookies when I posted them on Facebook. I dream of being able to decorate fancy cookies. This was my first public attempt. Is that brave or stupid?! They turned out pretty cute, I think.

One of our members made all the Melt-Away Mints. I LOVE those things!!!

The Tiramisu was donated by the Olive Garden-THANK YOU! I cut a regular sized portion into fourths for the perfect sized sample.

Carrot Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting were made a little fancier with the addition of a candied carrot curl. I had seen a how-to for the carrot curls on Pinterest. Not quite as easy as you might think!

The Salted Chocolate Tart with Kettle Chip Crust (of all things!)  was originally supposed to be a salted caramel and chocolate tart. When testing the caramel, I burned it. I don’t mean that it got a little scorched. I mean it was BLACK-all of it! I thought I was going to have to throw away my pan! Oh, the house stank! I figured I didn’t want to have the stress of trying to make it successfully for 100 little caramel tarts. The chocolate was a great alternative. I used flaked salt as a garnish. That was pretty exciting, well, to me. I felt all fancy and chef-y.

The Blackberry Lime Bars were a twist on Lemon Bars we have had in the past. I almost went with Lemon Bars again because I LOVE THEM SO MUCH!!! I decided to branch out a little. The extra expense of the blackberry and lime wedge on top made for a little more tea party glamor!

dessert plate

I was able to make most of the goodies in advance and freeze them-even the teapot cookie! Of course, nothing else would fit in my freezer for weeks.

teapots

Of course we had tea!

English Breakfast Tea

I would have never made it without my kitchen helpers.

tea ladies

Danielle and Kaye did a great job with the making and distributing of the tea. (I don’t know about that crazy person in the background!)

me and my girls

Oh, wait, she’s mine! My girls were a huge help in the kitchen. They are used to the way I boss them around already, so we worked well together. ; )

me and Cathy

My friend, Cathy, was my right-hand-gal! She is used to telling people what to do on her farm. She is a get-it-done type of gal, and I love working with her!

me and mom

Of course, Mom was there to do whatever needed to be done! ( I can tell this picture was taken at the end of the day. I have that “is it over yet” look on my face!)

Have you ever hosted a tea party? What did you serve? I mean besides when you were 6 years old and served air!

Mom and I both sing with Top of the Rock Chorus, the Little Rock Chapter of Sweet Adelines International.

This Spring, we were co-chairmen of our third-annual fundraiser Tea. Mom does all the scouting around for donations, recruiting members to volunteer and securing the venue. I’m in charge of the food.

This year, the Tea was at the historic E.O. Manees House, home of the North Little Rock Junior League. It was a picture-perfect Spring day.

Junior League NLR

E.O.Manees House

Our Tea Party has been at the Harper Alexander House for the past two years.  The caretaker there, D’Arlyn Ball, has all the rooms furnished and decorated beautifully. You can see pictures here.

The Manees House, however, has just a small amount of furniture. That is where some of our volunteers really helped out this year. Mom recruited ladies from the chorus  to decorate tables with their own china, flatware, etc. The result was wonderful! No two tables were alike. From fresh flowers to Wedgewood-everything was lovely! I think the ladies enjoyed getting to “show off” a little as well.

Take a look:

Wedgewood

purple and green table

TOTR centerpiece

quilt and hydrangeas

purple tulip centerpiece

purple table

Fiesta Ware

silver teapot

vintage teacup

vintage floral china

table for two

toille seatcovers

daisies

arranging flowers

hydrangea napkin ring

blue and yellow quilted placemats

yellow roses arrangement

Stay tuned…there will be details about the FOOD coming soon.

 

When I was a kid, my grandmother gave me a set of Rook cards for my birthday. I never played. The cards looked weird. They were different from standard cards. I could never get anyone to play with me, probably because they didn’t know how. The instructions were long and confusing.

rook cards

Last weekend, we were invited to our friends’ house for dinner and a Rook tournament. Yikes!

Dinner I was excited about-but Rook?!

It did help to learn that none of the other folks attending knew how to play either. (At least that’s what they said! I think John and Leta had played a time or two!)

We knew, of course, that we would have fun regardless of the game.

I asked what I could bring (I took Carrot Cake) and didn’t bother to ask what we were having for dinner.

Boy, was I excited to find John in the kitchen making Petitzas! Leta has mentioned John’s Petitzas several times. Always saying “Oh, we’ll have to make them for you!” Finally that day had come!

chef in action

If I had known it was a Petitza Party, I would have brought the good camera! Thank goodness for smartphones!

John has been making Petitzas for YEARS! He learned from his brother when he was seeing this Italian girl.

frying pizza dough

The Petitzas don’t seem too hard, just a little time-consuming.

I’m sure you have to get a feel for exactly how long to leave the dough in the pan before flipping it.

Don’t those pizza shells look yummy?!

pizza shells

petitzas

Leta and John have the serving of Petitzas down pat!

Check out those crock pots! Homemade pizza sauce-Italian Sausage-Hamburger

crockpots

Leta also had a sectioned Tupperware dish for all the other toppings–ham, cheese, pineapple, olives, peppers, mushrooms-whatever you like!

This was how Leta showed us to assemble a Petitza. Sauce-Meat-Toppings-more sauce

Leta's Petitza

John goes a little more extreme with his toppings!

loaded pizza

Mine was rather conservative.

meat lovers

Nice air pockets!

air bubbles in pizza dough

John said the record Petitzas anyone had eaten at one of their Petitza Parties was seven. Ugh! I ate two.

We had a great time eating Petitzas AND playing Rook. Thanks, John and Leta!

By the way, the girls won!

Petitzas
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. oil
3 ½ cups flour
1 cup water (warm)

Dissolve yeast in very warm water.  Stir in sugar, salt and oil and 2 cups flour.  Beat until smooth.  Stir in remaining flour to make a soft dough.  Turn out on lightly floured board.  Knead until smooth and elastic.  Place in a greased bowl; brush top with oil.

Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk. When doubled, punch down; divide in half.

Shape into hand-size shells and deep-fry.

Toppings include:

Your favorite marinara sauce
Cheeses
Onion
Sausage
Ground beef
Bell pepper
Pineapple
Mushrooms
Jalapeños

John’s Pizza Sauce
1 8 oz. can tomato paste for every 16 oz. can tomato sauce
Oregano, basil, garlic salt, onion flakes, salt, pepper, honey, Parmesan and Romano cheese.

 

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