These recipes originally appeared in the April 2021 issue of HomeLife Magazine.
April Showers… bring beautiful bridal parties.
You’ve all heard the expression, “April showers bring May flowers.” While toying around with an idea for this month’s entry, I came up with a spin on this tried and true adage. I’m not expecting it to catch on, but for the sake of my theme, bear with me. “April showers bring beautiful brides!” It doesn’t rhyme, but it is true. Many sweet couples get engaged over the holidays, turning spring into bridal shower season. It’s that time when many of us will step up and offer to host a shower for someone special.
A spring bridal shower is one of my favorite gatherings to host for several reasons. Truth be told, it offers great motivation to get my house in order with a little spring cleaning to sweep away the long winter months. And the shower date on the calendar serves as my deadline for the decor update I’ve been planning, or rather procrastinating. But mostly, a spring bridal shower takes me back to when I was a bride, surrounded by the women who mentored me. They came to support and celebrate me during those blissful soon-to-be-a-bride days, just as I aim to do for the new bride.
Today’s themes for bridal showers are vast and varied. Literally, anything goes — from couples’ showers and backyard barbecues to luncheons at upscale restaurants. I’m a big fan of hosting at home. For one thing, the cost is much more manageable, which allows the bride to include more guests, and there are fewer time constraints at a house party, offering the guests plenty of time to linger past the designated end of the gathering. In a home, the lack of wait staff allows more privacy for an opening prayer, shared words of wisdom, or blessings offered from the guests. Lastly, the bride will feel at ease opening gifts in a relaxed, uninterrupted setting, allowing stories to unfold and laughter to escalate.
For ease of planning, I like to stick with two suggestions that work well in any home: a Saturday brunch from 10 till noon, or a Sunday tea from 2 till 4. Both of these parties function beautifully from a kitchen or dining room table. The time frames are ideal as they follow breakfast or lunch, so finger food and smaller portions are acceptable. And there’s no need to prepare a place setting for your guests.
A centrally-located table serves several purposes: a serving space, a stage for decoration, and an opportunity to create traffic flow. Add drama to your table with a tall centerpiece or towers of tiered plates for tea sandwiches or dessert. Bring punch bowls back into fashion with a silver ladle and mix and match cups. Create a traffic pattern that allows guests to easily move about the room, keeping conversations flowing and giving guests access to comfortably replenish food and drink.
No bride on your horizon? Use these tips, ideas, and recipes for a spring baby shower, Mother’s Day celebration, or graduation gathering to shower your loved ones — with love.
Shrimp and Grits▶ Makes 6 servings
4 Tbsp. butter
4 c. milk
4 c. water
1/2 tsp. Tabasco sauce
1 clove garlic (minced)
2 c. quick-cooking grits
8 oz. block of cheddar cheese (grated)
2 lbs. peeled & deveined medium-size
raw shrimp (31/40 count)
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
5 slices of bacon (cut into 1-inch pieces)
8-oz package of sliced fresh mushrooms
3 cloves garlic (minced)
1/3 c. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. Tabasco sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 c. scallions (thinly sliced for garnish)
In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, add butter, milk, water, Tabasco sauce, and garlic. Gradually add grits, constantly whisking. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook 10-15 minutes or until thickened. Stir in cheese and remaining butter. Rinse shrimp. Pat dry and coat with flour. Cut bacon into one-inch pieces and brown in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When crisp, move to a plate to drain leaving drippings in pan. Sauté mushrooms in drippings for about three minutes, then add shrimp and sauté three more minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Season with salt and pepper, then add minced garlic and sauté for one more minute. Immediately add lemon juice and Tabasco sauce, stirring well, not allowing the garlic to brown. Serve over grits and garnish with sliced scallions.
This recipe moves quickly. Gather, measure, and have all ingredients ready to be used.
Chicken Salad▶Makes 6 servings
3 boneless chicken breasts (cooked and cubed)
20 red grapes (quartered)
2 stalks of celery (thinly diced)
2 scallions (thinly sliced)
1/2 c. pecans (chopped)
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1 dry packet Good Seasons Italian dressing
In a medium bowl, add chicken, grapes, celery, scallions, and pecans. Mix seasoning packet with mayonnaise until well-combined. Add mayonnaise mixture to chicken and combine all. Serve on thinly sliced bread and cut on the diagonal as tea sandwiches, in phyllo shells on a platter, or in a bowl with crackers.
Betty Jean’s Coffee Punch▶Makes 8-16 servings
8 c. strong coffee (chilled)
1 c. whipping cream
1 c. whole milk
1/2 c. sugar
1.5 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 qt. vanilla ice cream
1/2 c. dark chocolate (shavings for garnish)
In a large punch bowl, add chilled coffee, cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla. Gently stir. Just before serving, open container of frozen ice cream on all sides and place whole quart into the coffee mixture. Garnish with chocolate shavings, then ladle into small cups.
Make the coffee the day before and store in the refrigerator so it’s ready when needed. Freeze the chocolate for five minutes before using a grater to create shavings.
Laura Schupp is the author of Our Newlywed Kitchen: The Art of Cooking, Gathering & Creating Traditions. Learn more about Laura at OurNewlywedKitchen.com.