Cooking Buzz is produced in partnership with the Junior League of Houston, a women’s charitable and education organization founded in 1925.
Although I don’t have children of my own, as the school year winds down and thoughts turn to summer vacations, I like to make a point to thank the teachers who have nurtured and taught my nieces throughout the year. The best way I know how to do so is through a special home-cooked meal. I’ve found it easy to collaborate with the group of teachers the girls have had and arrange to bring lunch to the teacher’s lounge at least one day throughout the year.
I make sure to have a couple of vegetarian options, an easy meat main dish and, of course, some sweet treats to end the lunch. On the vegetarian side, White Gazpacho from Peace Meals is a light and easy crowd pleaser. Slightly different from the more well-known red gazpacho, this one gets its flavor from cucumbers in lieu of tomatoes. Although the original recipe calls for chicken broth, I substitute vegetable broth (and if I’m feeling the need to be healthy, Greek yogurt for sour cream).
To please both meat eaters and vegetarians alike, I set up a salad bar of sorts with whatever looks good at the grocery store, paired with at least one homemade dressing option. A large platter of assorted greens forms the base, and from there I’ll add bowls of tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, celery, assorted cured meats and cheese cubes for everyone to mix and match and make their perfect salad. For the dressing, I always make a batch of Matilda’s Garlic Dressing from Stop and Smell the Rosemary, which is almost ranch-like, but just different enough to be interesting. For those who are looking for something lighter, I make sure to also have a nice olive oil and a couple of vinegar options on hand for a simple olive oil vinaigrette.
And for the meat eaters in the group, I’ve found the Pork Chops Creole from the Houston Junior League Cookbook can be whipped up the morning of the lunch, and they taste great whether served warm or at room temperature. This recipe is one of the easiest I keep in my collection of “favorites.” It isn’t spicy as prepared, so I also bring in some hot sauces for those who want to spice it up.
We have to have something sweet to end the lunch. The Party Lemon Cake from Stop and Smell the Rosemary is certainly celebration worthy, and it makes for a stunning centerpiece that tastes as good as it looks. I can’t forget the chocolate lovers, though, so I also make a batch of Forget Me Cookies, which are light meringue-like cookies from the Houston Junior League Cookbook that are chock full of chocolate and nuts.
And as a parting token of my gratitude, I also like to give each teacher a batch of frozen orange rolls, a Junior League of Houston specialty, that I pick up from The Pantry at the League. Paired with a gift card to a local coffee shop, they make a great breakfast for the next day.
Our teachers enrich the lives of future generations, my young nieces included, and I love to show my appreciation with a meal that comes from the heart.
To buy a Houston Junior League cookbook or for hours of The Pantry, see jlh.org.
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