One of the highlights of last week was co-hosting our congregation's ladies book club. My friend Missy Jones and I wanted to transport guests to New Orleans for an evening at fictional Ledet's fine French Quarter restaurant.
Under the Cajun Moon
by Mindy Starns Clark
Our book club was eager for a mystery, and Under the Cajun Moon by Mindy Starns Clark delivered with suspense and fast-paced action. Click the title above to learn more about this book. One attendee said this is her favorite book club selection thus far. Since reading Under the Cajun Moon, she has read and recommends all of the author's other works.
In the book, well-known etiquette expert Chloe Ledet is summoned home when her father, a famous New Orleans chef, is shot. His French Quarter restaurant, Ledet's, made the perfect setting for our book club dinner.
In keeping with our vision of a fine New Orleans restaurant, Missy and I topped tables with white tablecloths and fine china, crystal and silver. We save money on paper goods each meeting by collaborating on decorations and bringing what we have from home.
Missy and I provided appetizers, bread, dessert and drinks and asked guests to bring a favorite Cajun or restaurant-inspired dish. Missy had a pot of gumbo simmering on the stove when guests arrived, and the spicy aroma welcomed diners to the French Quarter. Find her recipe here. A highlight of each book club meeting is the reveal of the new book selection, kept as a tightly-guarded secret until the end of the evening. We mixed things up for this meeting, though, and gave the ladies three selections to choose from. Discover the chef's specials below.
Which book would you choose for our next read: the Low-Country Boil, the Southern Feast or the English Tea? I will share our winning dish, along with a book giveaway, later this week. Learn more about these three books by clicking on the titles.
Veil of Pearls
by MaryLu Tyndall
by Tamera Alexander
The Maid of Fairbourne Hall
by Julie Klassen
I experimented with a homemade beignet recipe the night before our meeting, but opted for an easier option for the party. Find traditional French Quarter favorite Cafe du Monde products here. We prepared decaffeinated cafe au lait and served steaming cups alongside freshly-prepared beignets. I had plenty of coffee and beignet mix leftover after the meeting, so treated my family to a delicious New Orleans breakfast Saturday. Beignets and cafe au lait make a perfect combination on a chilly winter day.
Raspberry sauce was delicious for dipping and drizzling. I shared the leftovers with the children Saturday, and Emma begged me to let her eat the last drops with a spoon. ... She said it was delicious.
Adapted from Sandra Lee's beignets with raspberry sauce recipe, found here.
1 (12-ounce) package frozen raspberries, thawed
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Add raspberries, powdered sugar and lemon juice to blender, and puree until smooth. Serve with beignets or drizzle over cake or ice cream. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.
We enjoyed a lively discussion of the book during dessert, and then it was time to reveal the new book. Usually we give away a copy of the new selection as a door prize, but since the choice was a surprise to us, I brought a half-dozen review copies of Christian fiction books to share.
I prepared "checks" for each guest, and six of the bills held a message urging its recipient to choose a book to take home. This was a nice surprise for the ladies, so we talked about incorporating a book swap into our next meeting.
I was so busy making beignets in the kitchen, I did not make it to the front of the house to photograph our restaurant. Missy photographed the tables with her phone; see her photos in the collage above.
Thankfully for Missy and me, there were no critics in the house when we hosted our private party at Ledet's -- just 22 sweet Christian women who love to be together. Be sure to stop in later to find out our new book club selection -- and to register to win a copy of the book. I close our book club dinner post with a sweet review from an even sweeter friend.
"Friends, food, and fellowship make a perfect combination. Discussing a great book is just powdered sugar on the beignet!" ~ Sharon Lyle