The Dinner Party

Friday, June 26, 2015

An outdoor dinner party 
Friday Feature Kitchens is a weekly blog devoted to kitchens from around the world and the amazing cooks who create in them.  Each week features a different cook as we enjoy the culinary creativity of these passionate men and women, all with interesting stories, who take food seriously.  But it's about more than just good food. All of these cooks are equally passionate about people and the relationships nurtured over a delicious plate of home-cooked goodness.

This week's feature celebrates dinner parties, as my cooking partner and niece, Geneva Schlabach and I discuss some dinners we have hosted and why we are so passionate about gathering folks around a table. (To see a previous post on Geneva Schlabach, click here)

Choosing fresh produce at the local farmer's market for an upcoming dinner party.
Both Geneva and I were raised in the Mennonite tradition where girls were taught to cook at a young age.  I always jokingly tell people that I learned how to cook for thirty at a moment's notice, but, in all honesty, it's probably true.  I'm sure Geneva feels the same.  I grew up on our family's dairy farm where the garden was large, the hens produced an abundance of eggs, our freezer was stocked with grass-fed beef and the milk was always fresh. Geneva was raised similarly, and spent many long days and evenings working in the garden, then canning and freezing the fresh fruits and vegetables for the long winter months. We both had moms who knew how to make a perfect pie crust and who fixed nourishing meals, from scratch,  for our families to enjoy around the table each evening.  With such an upbringing, it was only natural we both developed a strong sense of commitment to wholesome cooking and the importance of the dinner table.

There's something magical about a dinner party as guests sit elbow to elbow in happy camaraderie, conversation flowing freely, while china clinks, glasses are tipped and a well-prepared meal is enjoyed in the company of friends. 

A family dinner  to celebrate the end of school and beginning of summer.
An indoor dinner party complete with printed menus for guests.
An outdoor Spring Feast where we met - for the first time - some of our Instagram followers!
The night really becomes magical when darkness descends, candles glisten and faces glow with the warmth of wine, fabulous dessert, and friends.
No matter the season, or who's on the guest list, a well-set table is high on our list of priorities.
Geneva, talking to Fair Share Farm about their CSA shares for fresh produce.  

Guests often enjoy one of Geneva's masterfully created chocolate confections such as this Lemon and Thyme Truffle.

Cakes often find their way onto the table at our parties. This one makes a fashion statement with its burst of red berries and chocolate polka dots!  

A buffet set up under the trees holds dessert, coffee and wine after the main course has been served.

We focus on creating a beautifully prepared  meal, but the final course of dessert leaves guests feeling completely pampered .  Here, French Meringues that will be served with a warm chocolate sauce.
There's always home-made bread on our table, such as this loaf garnished with fresh herbs ready to go in the oven. 
Many of the recipes we use come from our Mennonite heritage, but we are just as enthusiastic about embracing the culinary trends of other cultures.  Confession: we are both partial to French cooking. 


A recipe inspired by our Amish culture
Best Ever Baked Oatmeal
1 C. canola oil
1 C. honey
4 eggs
6 cups old fashioned oats
4 tsp. baking powder
2 Cups milk
2 cups fruit ­ (blueberries, fresh sliced peaches, diced apples)

Combine oil, honey and eggs. Add all remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour into a greased 9 x 13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 30­ - 40 minutes. Moist and delicious!

Chicken in a Le Creuset Dutch Oven

Coconut Milk Baked Chicken   (serves 6 - ­8)

1 can coconut milk
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried basil (or fresh if you have it)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Bone­-in chicken (skin on).  I use thighs and drumsticks

Combine all sauce ingredients and coat chicken pieces well. Bake in a Dutch Oven uncovered at 425 degrees for 1 hour or until tender, basting with the juice every 15 minutes or so. A regular meal at our house! So delicious!

Bon appetit!

For dinner party tips or if you would like to be considered for a Friday Feature Kitchen post, please email me at  


  1. Beautiful table setting & I love the narrow blue ceramic pitcher in the middle of the table. I'm sure your guests left the table satiated.