Thursday, October 30, 2008

October Luncheon

Mothers at our preschool gather in the halls each day to pick up our children, but many of us only know each other as "Will's mom" or "Kristy's mom." I thought it would be fun to get to know each other outside of school, so we invited Mary Ashley's class of 17 to join us for a luncheon and play date after school yesterday. It was a lot of fun for the children, and now we moms know each other by name.

To make hosting a mid-week party easier, I incorporated several time-saving elements into my plans. First, I made lunch for the mothers and asked them to bring sack lunches for their children. Focusing solely on a ladies lunch kept menu planning and food preparation simple. I knew that most of the children would be too excited to eat much anyway, so those who preferred friends to food could take their lunch boxes home after the party. Decorations were kept simple with washable quilts. Used as tablecloths, quilts add warmth to the setting with the time-saving benefit that they don't need to be ironed. A large quilt spread on the grass made a great picnic area for the children, and pretty weather allowed for lots of outside play.

A simple menu celebrated autumn's splendor.

I love preparing food for women because they are always so appreciative of the effort. I was so pleased to offer them one of my best soup recipes yesterday, but since I was tripling my recipe I used my biggest pan instead of the higher quality pan I usually use. So some of my vegetables stuck to the bottom of the pan and burned. I was disappointed in the way the soup turned out, but the ladies were so gracious about it. I am sharing the recipes from our meal today, along with the original soup recipe as I prepare it for my family.

Cranberry-Apple Cider

1 gallon cranberry-apple juice blend
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 lemon, thinly sliced

Bring all ingredients to boil, and simmer uncovered for at least 30 minutes. Serve warm.

The Great Pumpkin Cheese Ball

I loved my mother's cheese log recipe growing up, but wasn't so sure about it when I saw the list of ingredients. This blend is definitely worth a try, though!

8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 small can deviled ham
1 small can finely diced black olives
Chopped pecans

Allow cream cheese to soften at room temperature for 30 minutes, then beat with cheddar cheese. Mix in ham and olives, and chill cheese mixture for at least 30 minutes. You can then roll the mixture into two logs, or shape it to fit the occasion. For our fall party, I set out to make a pumpkin. I rolled the cheese mixture into a ball, pressed pecans around the outside, and scored the ball with a knife to make pumpkin ridges. Three whole pecans tucked into the top of the ball made the stem.

Favorite Fall Salad

10 ounces mixed baby greens
1 bottle raspberry-walnut vinaigrette
5 ounce package dried cherries
10 ounce package of pecans
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
2 pears, chopped

Toss greens and dressing. Gently fold in other ingredients and serve.

Chicken Vegetable Chowder

3 strips bacon, diced
1 1/2 ribs celery, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 box chicken stock (4 cups)
1 rotisserie chicken, de-boned and shredded
2 unpeeled medium potatoes, chopped
1 (1 lb.4 oz.) package frozen creamed corn, thawed
1 1/2 cups baby lima beans, cooked and seasoned
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook bacon over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon with slotted spoon, and set aside to drain on paper towels. Add celery, onion and carrot to drippings and cook over medium-high heat until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in flour gradually. Cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly add stock, stirring constantly. Add the potatoes, corn, limas, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper and bring mixture to a boil. Boil 15 to 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Then stir in cream, chicken and bacon. Add more salt and pepper if needed.

Sticky Pumpkin Treats

Two-year-old Emma liked helping me sort the Apple Jacks according to color, but she loved sampling the cereal.

4 tablespoons margarine
1 pound miniature marshmallows
12 cups Apple Jacks cereal, sorted by color

Melt margarine and marshmallows in a nonstick pan, then stir in 12 cups of orange Apple Jacks. Allow the mixture to cool in the pan, then use an ice cream scoop to pull balls of cereal treats from the pan. Shape them as necessary in your hands, then add a green Apple Jack stem.

These were some of the friendly faces that made today so much fun!


Anonymous said...

I will have to try some of the recipes! This looks delicious!

Judy said...

Dear Melissa, It is the first time in many years that I found myself wishing that I had a preschooler. What a privilege for those mothers to be invited to one of your luncheons. Keep on posting, because I find myself looking forward to visiting with you every day. You are a true artist in design, color, recipes and photography!!

Live.Love.Eat said...

You did an outstanding job once again. Please allow me to say ONCE AGAIN how incredible you are. I would like to make those apple jack treats. Do you get 12 cups of orange out of one box?

Melissa Lester said...

Thanks, Stephanie! Yes, I bought two family-size boxes of Apple Jacks just in case, but I did not even use all of one box to make our pumpkin treats.

Kellie Patton said...

I have stumbled upon your blog and you inspire me. Your family is gorgeous!

Beth said...

I friend of mine came to your blog through mine and you ended up being the hot topic at our Ladies Bible study group this morning. She was telling everyone about your recipes and how talented you were. We are all a little envious of your creative skills and energy.

Stacey @ The Blessed Nest said...

THis looks like it was a wonderful time! The kids look like they're having a ball!! I'll have to copy down some of these recipes -- thanks for sharing!


Anonymous said...

Well you've certainly inspired me. Everything you show us has a fine quality about it and creates a desire to life to the fullest and do everything to my best. Thank you for your inspiration, great recipes and cheerful anicdotes.

Judy said...

You crack me up! Your story of your crazy day regarding the market sounds like something that would happen to me. However, I don't know that I'll go back next year. The price of the ticket
has skyrocked over the years. Unfortunately, I did not call for tickets until the day before and they had all been taken up. Cost me, Shannon and Taylor $22 to get in! I was not THAT impressed, but there are always a lot of wonderful vendors with really unusual hard-to-find items. I think part of what was wrong with me was I have a heel spur that I'm going to see about and my feet were killing me!

Now, I hope my daughter doesn't read this comment cause she just absolutely loves you and your blog. Just about every day she calls and says "Mom, did you read Melissa's post today?" She got busy making chili and bought leaf plates and candy corn for her fall you have a real fan. She loves to cook and is pretty good at it if I do say so myself.

Hope to see you soon!

Karin @ 6ByHisDesign said...

Melissa. Melissa. Melissa,

Your 'worst' burnt soup would outdo my best on any day.

God Bless,

hey! my word veri is DINES
Even I can type that!!! And how appropriate!

Becky Welch said...

I am sorry your soup burned, but I am glad to know that you are human! I talked to my brother yesterday and he said they are going to University this Sunday. I wanted you to know so if you were there you could look out for them. He is tall and has red curly hair!! Thanks!

"Blossom" said...

Your talents do not go un-noticed.
I would love to have been one of the childrens moms. How thoughtful of you to invite them all and then come up with such a beautiful and tasteful lunch.
Love you blog and can't wait to see what is going on next.
How do you make your collage of photos; is there a websit.

odomfamilyfun said...

How wonderful! I also see that you used some of the Desert Rose dishes (which I have about 100 pieces of passed down from my grandmother that I have NEVER used) and it looked beautiful! I am officially inspired! You have created a darling party for the kids and a beautiful party for the moms as well!

southern queen bee said...

What a great mom you are. I miss those days of visiting with the other moms. Now I get to meet the boyfriends parents.LOL.
Your table was just so pretty. Hope to try some of your recipes.

Belle (from Life of a...) said...

Just gorgeous...The award post will hit tomorrow morning. If you'll send me an e-mail I'll return it with the code for the award button in case you want to use it.

Tracy P. said...

You are the detail QUEEN, Melissa! Beautiful as always!

And, smart, because you moms will be seeing quite a bit of each other for a couple of years, and preschool moms need encouragement. Great way to build bridges!

Sandy Toes said...

This is my first time at your blog but I am already putting you on my list..I love it!
-sandy toes

Jen - Balancing beauty and bedlam said...

Next year, any time, any place...I will drive through sleet, rain and snow to bring my kids ...I mean your MOPS event. :)

Ritch in Love said...

I have officially copied your Favorite Fall Salad to my Word Docs. Can't wait to make it tomorrow with our dinner!
Congratulations on your Southern Belle Award!

Anonymous said...

Your blog is absolutely delightful!!!!!! So many thoughtful ideas and recipes. And a very loving and sweet family. You are blessed and are a blessing. May Christ always be first in your home.

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