Showering with love and food

By LISA IRELAND,

We are fortunate to attend a small church with a tight-knit congregation. Our children’s committee hosts a baby shower for each expectant family in our church and invites the entire congregation. The showers have developed into a light lunch immediately following Sunday morning worship. Everyone is invited to stop by, get something to eat, and shower the family with love. Gifts are optional but loving these expectant families is not.

During a recent shower, I was taken back to my youth. I looked around our church parlor and saw ladies serving punch, men sipping coffee in the corner, and children dressed in their Sunday-best clothes with their shoes off, running around and drinking punch out of dainty little cups. It is so fun to see these children enjoying food, fun and fellowship together.

We try to keep the baby shower menus simple. We serve a variety of small bites for everyone to enjoy. The punch is always a big hit and is served from our big punch bowl. In my mind’s eye, I can still see our former children’s director, Kathy Frye, serving the punch out of our big church punch bowl. She shared this punch recipe with me years ago.

 

Covenant Church Punch

1 – 12 oz. can frozen lemonade

1 – 12 oz. can frozen limeade

1 – 12 oz. can frozen orange juice

2 quarts ginger ale, chilled

2 quarts water, chilled

 

Mix all in pitchers or a large punch bowl and serve. It’s even better with a frozen ice ring.

 

This is a perfect pasta salad for a shower. You can make all the parts for the salad ahead of time and store them in the refrigerator in Ziploc bags. About 30 minutes before you are ready to serve, simply toss all the ingredients.

 

Grilled Chicken Pasta Salad

 1 bag baby spinach

½ cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped

½ cup feta cheese, crumbled

1 bag bow-tie pasta, cooked and cooled

4-5 grilled chicken breasts, cooled and chopped or sliced

 

Balsamic Vinaigrette

2 T rice wine vinegar

2 t Dijon mustard

4 dashes hot sauce

5 t sugar

1 t dried oregano

6 T balsamic vinegar

5 cloves garlic, peeled, and chopped

1 t black pepper

1 t Worcestershire sauce

1 ½ t salt

1 cup olive oil

 

Put all dressing ingredients, except oil, in a food processor or blender. Process for about 20 seconds. Slowly add in oil with machine running. Store dressing in refrigerator. Best made the day before.

 To assemble the pasta salad: Toss all ingredients with about half of the dressing. Toss and add more dressing if needed.

 

Homemade Focaccia Bread

Mix 1 ½ cup very warm water, 1 t sugar and 1 package (2 ¼ t yeast) in a measuring cup until foamy (i.e. proofed.) In the bowl of a food processor, mixer or large bowl; mix 4 cups bread flour, 1 t salt, and proofed yeast/water mixture. Process until a smooth ball forms. Remove and allow to rise in an oiled bowl, covered for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Punch down dough and begin to push and pull into a rectangle. I use a 9x14 inch jelly roll pan. Cover and allow to rise again for about an hour. Once it has risen, sprinkle with fresh rosemary, coarse kosher salt, and fresh cracked pepper. Begin making indentions in the dough with your fingers. These will become the pools for the olive oil. Drizzle with olive oil and make sure some of the pools are filled with oil. Bake in a preheated 475 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Watch very closely as ovens vary and it will cook quickly. Bread should be golden on top but moist with lots of air pockets. You can also use the dough to make homemade pizzas.

Rosemary Spiced Nuts

1 lb. roasted unsalted cashews (but you can use any combination of nuts)

2 T fresh chopped rosemary

½ t cayenne pepper

2 t light brown sugar

1 T butter, melted

1 T coarse kosher salt

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast nuts on a large sheet pan for about 5 minutes. Keep a close eye on these. Any slight aroma of roasting nuts indicates that the nuts are done. Be careful not to burn them. Combine remaining ingredients and toss with the nuts. Store in an airtight container.

 

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

1 lb. fresh ripe strawberries with stems, if possible, rinsed and dry

12 oz. package, chocolate chips, you can use milk, dark or white chocolate or any combination

 

One of the key things I have discovered when preparing these strawberries is that they need to be completely dry. You may need to wash the berries and allow to dry on paper towels for several hours.

Melt chocolate very slowly in the top of a double boiler. Dip each berry in chocolate and place on a piece of wax paper. Allow chocolate to harden. Store in the refrigerator and try to serve within 1 day.

 

Fruit Baby

While the Fruit Baby has not been at every baby shower, it is a fun and delicious addition to the menu. Take a minute to do an internet search for “fruit baby” and you will see many ideas and decorating options. It is basically a small watermelon cut in the shape of a baby bassinet or carriage, and then filled with a half of a small cantaloupe or orange as the baby’s face. Add some eyes, nose and a pacifier, then fill the “basket” with chopped mixed fruit. The kids will love it.

 

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