April Showers

April showers bring May flowers – and often precede spring babies and June brides. This is a terrific time to host a party for any expectant mother or bride-to-be. It’s a perfect excuse to pull out your prettiest punch bowl, china, silver and linens – all the things you’ve been saving for special occasions. 

For an easy yet memorable party menu, serve up a few tried-and-true recipes. Punch can be delightfully refreshing and is a thrifty solution when serving a crowd. Ladled from a punch bowl, it makes a stylish, elegant and environmentally savvy alternative to a passel of plastic soft drink and water bottles. Finger sandwiches are another old favorite that never falls out of fashion. (It’s funny how simply cutting the crust off a sandwich and trimming it into a tiny triangle makes it feel extra special.) Open-faced sandwiches are a pretty alternative, although technically considered a canape. Round out your soiree selections with some fresh veggies, fruit and a dip or two along with some dainty pick-up savories and sweets, and voila – you’re set!

Snappy Citrus Slush Punch

This is a slushy, splendid punch that never fails to reap rave reviews. You can easily double the recipe and freeze in large zip-top bags until ready to defrost and serve. For a touch of flair, serve with a showy ice ring. It is perfect for showers, ladies’ luncheons, teas and children’s parties. (A chilled bottle of vodka or Champagne may be served alongside as an addition for any adults wishing to imbibe.)

1 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups water
6 cups orange juice
6 cups pineapple juice
1 1/2 cups lemon juice
1 (2-liter) bottle ginger ale, chilled

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1. Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Let cool. 
2. Stir in fruit juices and pour into large zip-top bags to freeze. Freeze until firm. 
3. Remove from the freezer about half an hour before serving (mixture should be slushy for serving) and stir in ginger ale. Makes about 1 1/2 gallons.

Curried Egg Salad Sandwiches

These dandy egg salad sandwiches are especially pretty when garnished with parsley or paprika.

6 large eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise, plus more for garnish
1 1/2 teaspoons high-quality curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 
salt and pepper, to taste 
8 slices sandwich bread,  crusts removed
chopped fresh parsley, dried dill weed or paprika, for garnish

1. Boil eggs, let cool and peel. 
2. Combine mayonnaise, curry powder, mustard and salt and pepper in a small bowl. Mix well to combine. 

3. Chop eggs into 1/4-inch dice and gently stir into mayonnaise. 
4. Spread egg salad on bread and top with another bread slice. 
5. Using a sharp or serrated knife, cut diagonally twice across the sandwich to form four triangles. 
6. Spread one side, or sides, of each sandwich with a small amount of mayonnaise and dip into preferred garnish. Makes 32 sandwiches.

Rolled Watercress and Bacon Sandwiches

These petite watercress sandwiches are classy and refined. Roll them up, or simply spread on bread and cut into fingers or triangles or make open-faced canapes.

1 or 2 bunches fresh watercress, chopped
1 pound bacon, crisply fried and crumbled
1/2 cup mayonnaise (or more to taste)
several dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 stick softened butter
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 loaf fresh sandwich bread, crust removed

1. Combine watercress, bacon, mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl. 
2. In another bowl, combine softened butter and garlic powder to spreading consistency. 
3. Roll bread slices slightly with rolling pin. Spread slices with garlic butter. 
4. Spread each bread slice with approximately 1 tablespoon of watercress bacon mixture. 
5. Roll and wrap in waxed paper and freeze. 
6. When ready to serve, unwrap and slice each into 4 – 5 slices (they thaw immediately). Makes approximately 9 dozen little sandwiches.


Fruit Skewers with Romanoff Dipping Sauce

Chunks of fresh fruit, especially strawberries, are divine dipped or draped in this delectable sauce. The skewers make them perfect party fare. 

2 – 3 dozen strawberries, hulled
2 – 3 dozen white grapes
2 – 3 dozen wooden skewers
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons brandy

1. Thread strawberries and grapes on wooden skewers and refrigerate until ready to serve. 
2. Meanwhile, combine sour cream, brown sugar and brandy. 
3. Mix until smooth and well blended. Makes 24 – 36 skewers.

Lemon Curry Dip

This sprightly, fresh-flavored dip is excellent with all sorts of crudités. It is especially attractive with brightly hued and verdant vegetables such as carrots, red bell pepper strips, snow peas and asparagus. 

2 cups mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl with a wire whisk. Chill until ready to serve. Makes about 3 cups.

Tomato Tartlets

Serve these tasty little tartlets hot, warm, room temperature or cold. They make a nifty lavish twist on the ever-popular tomato sandwich. 

2 cans (10-count) refrigerated biscuits
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt, to taste (approximately 1/2 – 1 teaspoon)
20 grape tomatoes, halved

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
2. Tear each biscuit round in half, roll into a ball and then press each half into the cup of a mini muffin tin. 
3. Combine cheeses, mayonnaise and seasonings. Stir to mix well. 
4. Place a generous teaspoon of the cheese mixture into each dough-lined cup. Top each with a tomato slice or half. 
5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Makes 40 tartlets.

Cheese Petit Fours

This sumptuous, savory petit four recipe, from my friend Cissy Cowart, is a splurge and a festive change from the expected sweet variety. 

3 (1-pound) loaves Pepperidge Farm Blue Label Sandwich bread (not thin bread) 
2 sticks margarine, softened (Cissy always uses Land O’ Lakes.)
4 (5-ounce) jars Kraft Old English cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1 teaspoon onion powder
dash of cayenne pepper
dill and cayenne, or chopped fresh parsley for topping

1. Cut crusts off loaves of bread.
2. Beat margarine, cheese spread and seasonings until the consistency of icing. 
3. Make double-decker sandwiches by layering a bit of the cheese mixture and 3 slices of bread each.
4. Cut each stack of three into quarters. Spread remaining cheese mixture over top and sides of each quarter. 
5. Sprinkle dill and cayenne over top. 
6. Freeze on cookie sheets; then transfer to zip-top plastic bags. 
7. When ready to serve, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes. Makes approximately 6 dozen.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Almond Squares

These sweet squares are a marvelous alternative to the usual brownies or lemon squares. 

1 stick butter, softened
1 cup, 2 teaspoons sugar (divided)
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest (divided)
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 1/3 cups toasted chopped almonds (divided)
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2. Combine butter, 2 teaspoons sugar, milk and 1 teaspoon lemon zest, and beat until light and fluffy. 
3. Blend in flour, mixing well. 
4. Press mixture into bottom of a 9-inch square baking dish and set aside. 
5. Combine cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, egg and 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, beating until smooth. Stir in 1 cup of the almonds. 
6. Pour cream cheese mixture over crust layer in the baking dish. 
7. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. 
8. Just before removing from oven, combine powdered sugar, water and cinnamon. 
9. Carefully spread cinnamon glaze over hot cream cheese mixture. Then sprinkle with remaining almonds. Let cool. 
10. Chill for 3 – 4 hours, then cut into squares. Makes approximately 30 squares. 

text and styling by Sallye Irvine • photos by todd douglas

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