Setting the Table

An Early Spring Evening That Started Out Sunny And Ended Up Under The Stars Seems Like The Perfect Setting
For A Dinner Party. We Couldn’t Help But Jump At The Chance To Move Outside To The Patio, String Some Lights, Plant Some Flowers And Set The Table For Some Good Friends And Good Food.

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Spring Dinner Party

Putting together a dinner party for 10 can be intimidating. Over the years I’ve learned a few things to make it easier. Like most, I’ve learned through trial and error. For instance, why did I always try out a new recipe when we are having guests? Thankfully, I think I’ve finally kicked that habit.

The truth is, if you want to be involved to some degree with the entertaining of your guests, you are going to work. You’ll have to just accept that part of the deal. For me, I enjoy caring for the ones I love by serving them a meal in a beautiful setting, no matter the amount of work. Because in the end, when the sun’s going down and we’re all gathered around the mess of the previously perfect table … therein lies the joy.

For this get-together I decided to look to some of my friends’ go-to recipes. I have named them after these special people as a nod to what awesome cooks (and hostesses) they are!

Sometimes it is just easier to use paper plates, especially on nights when we just don’t want to deal with a mess. However, when guests are here, more likely than not, we’re using the “real” stuff. Setting a table in all its glory is an art … and in my opinion, everyone is an artist in this area.

However, one worry is not having enough matching tabletop items. Don’t sweat it. Mixing and matching can be fun, and in the end no one will care. On occasions when I have needed matching materials I’ve gone to my friends and family, and I can’t tell you how many times people have said they were happy to loan out their wares … because they never use them! To that I say not only “thanks,” but also “get out your stuff and use it, don’t let it gather dust.” Too often we rush through group meals when we could stop and savor the moment with family and friends. This time around, my dear friend Lauren graciously loaned her tabletop items for the party, my mom loaned her wine glasses and I supplied all the vessels for the flowers.

Another sweet friend offered some of her beautiful garden roses and peonies for my arrangements as well as some nectarine branches. I added baskets of herbs (thyme, mint and oregano), peonies from a local store and boxwood from my yard. White pillar candles finished off the table. Layering all these things together made for a bountiful and beautiful table.

Hint: You don’t have to make perfect flower arrangements. Clusters of flowers and pots of herbs will do the trick. The harvest table I grew up with was big enough for the group and bamboo folding chairs loaned to me by my generous aunt and uncle supplemented with benches on the ends were perfect for seating. It all came together for a lovely spring soiree.

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There Is Something Very Special About Taking The Party Outdoors. Even If The Temperatures Are Starting To Rise,
You Can Start Early And Still Enjoy The Blue Skies,
Singing Birds And Fresh Air.

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Baby Shower Brunch

Celebrating a mom-to-be might be one of the most joyous occasions for a party. So how about an outdoor brunch with breakfast food and mimosas (fresh orange juice for the expectant) and, of course, cake? No matter the time of day, there has to be cake.

Three tables with creamy white linens accented with a sage stripe along the border are topped off with three different china patterns, silver and crystal. Vintage napkins (some monogrammed, some lace-laden) and boxwood sprigs with tiny chalkboard name cards are only upstaged by the borrowed baby cups. The wee cups are engraved with dear friends’ children’s monograms and dates of their birth, and filled with white and ivory baby roses, Queen Anne’s lace and white tulips for great centerpieces that travel down the center of each table.

By now you’ve probably realized that we don’t know if this precious baby will be a boy or a girl, so white dominates the theme. A big beautiful white cake with fresh flowers on top is the centerpiece on the drink table, while a silver pitcher full of white flowers graces the table with the food. Egg casseroles, a big berry fruit salad and blueberry and chocolate chip muffins are on the menu.

A trellis with fresh garland and an antique baby carriage to hold the gifts marks the spot for Mommy-To-Be to open the presents and take center stage. Next to that is the little girls’ table, so they are close enough to observe the opening of gifts (and assist!) plus have a donut or two if the big girl menu doesn’t appeal to them. Bubble wands and Polaroid picture taking contribute to a little silly fun as well.

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Photogenic Feasts

The festive meals depicted in this feature don’t just look good; they’re also rather delicious. Give one or two a try at your next get-together!

Mia’s Lemon Pasta with parmesan and asparagus
(from Real Simple magazine)

1 lb asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 1" pieces

1/2 c Parmesan pieces

2 T extra virgin olive oil

3 T fresh lemon juice

1 t grated lemon zest

kosher salt and black pepper

► Cook pasta according to package directions and add in the asparagus during last 3.5 min cooking time. Drain pasta and asparagus and rinse under cold water to cool, transfer to large bowl. Add remaining ingredients, salt and pepper to taste, toss to combine. Let flavors mingle in the fridge for an hour before serving.

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Stacey’s Pink Lemonade Grilled Chicken

⅔ c soy sauce

¼ t garlic powder

► Combine and use to marinate 8 chicken breasts for 24 hours or less – Stacey says, “I’ve marinated this for shorter amounts of time and it works fine. Just take out of the marinade and grill!”

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Sara Gae’s Mango Radicchio Caprese Salad with basil vinaigrette

3 T extra-virgin olive oil

2 T white balsamic vinegar

8 radicchio leaves, thick ends trimmed

2 large mangoes, peeled, halved, thinly sliced

8 1/4-inch-thick slices fresh mozzarella cheese (from one 8-ounce ball)

► Blend chopped basil, oil and vinegar in mini processor until most of basil is pureed. Season with salt and pepper. Overlap radicchio, mangoes, cheese and basil leaves on plates. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Serve, passing remaining vinaigrette. Serves 4, so increase to the number in your party.

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Roasted New Potatoes

9 T olive oil

4 large garlic cloves, minced

1 t salt

½ t pepper

1 T thyme

1 T rosemary

► Place potatoes in a bowl and pour remaining 6 ingredients over.  Toss potatoes to coat and then place on a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake at 350 for 45 minutes, turning over two to three times. Can be cooked longer if potatoes are not tender enough.

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Fruit Salad

►Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, kiwi and canned mandarin oranges (drained) combined in a bowl.  Sprinkle with a small amount of sugar and serve.

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Breakfast Casserole

2 ½ c seasoned croutons

2 ½ c grated cheese

4 eggs

1 can cream of mushroom soup

2 ½ c milk

¾ t ground mustard

► Combine sausage, croutons and cheese in a 9×13 buttered pan. Beat together eggs, soup, milk and mustard. Pour over sausage mixture and bake at 350 for 1.5 hours.  

Categories: 405 Home Departments