I love catering elegant corporate luncheons and black-tie dinners, but every now and then I get the opportunity to pull out the lace, vintage linens, mixed-matched tea cups and silver for a few of my special friends.
I had that opportunity a couple of weeks ago when the women of our church held their annual missions conference luncheon at the Mighty Eighth. The buffet table was covered in lace and many of the bowls and platters on it were heirlooms from family members that I have the honor of owning, but, unfortunately, not the chance to use very often.
We set a table for hot tea and coffee with the miscellaneous china coffee cups and saucers - most of which don't match, that we collected for my step-daughter's wedding. There is something about a table of tea cups that draws women to a table, even those who don't normally drink something hot for lunch. I guess it appeals to that little girl in all of us that held an empty tiny plastic cup with our pinky in the air as we pretended to drink tea with our stuffed animals.
After hearing from two local women who minister to people in our community through the Coastal Jail Ministry and the Seamen's House, the ladies enjoyed a lunch of assorted salads, fresh baked croissants, tiny tea sandwiches and fellowship. It was music to my ears to hear my sisters talking, laughing and enjoying their lunch. I think perhaps heaven will be like that, but on a much grander scale that will pale our lace, linens and heirlooms.
Ironically, after catering such a lovely luncheon, my staff and I had to quickly switch gears and prepare for a plated dinner for West Point alumni just five hours after the ladies left. I can assure you there was no lace or tiny tea cups in the room that night!
Every morning, I have a date with a cup of coffee, the words of Oswald Chambers and my Bible. I learned a few years back that some quiet time first thing in the morning made the noise of the rest of the day a lot more tolerable. Some mornings, it's a struggle and the pressures of the day in front of me make me feel like an antsy horse waiting for the gate to open so the race can begin, but I have to keep my date. The morning after the ladies luncheon, I found this pearl of wisdom from Chambers: "Joy comes from seeing the complete fulfillment of the specific purpose for which I was created and born again, not from successfully doing something of my own choosing."
I've been "Miss Sophie" for nearly 10 years. My initial vision didn't include 12+ hour days, owning a restaurant or being a caterer, but I love what God has given me to do. Food brings people together and I (along with my amazing staff) have the honor of preparing the food to make that happen. I find great joy in my work and the many blessings that come from it daily. Thank you to all of you who have given me the pleasure of doing what I was created for.
I promised the ladies the recipes for the tea sandwiches. As I told my dear friend Robbie, recipes are meant to be shared and passed on from generation to generation, not held like a secret weapon. So enjoy!
Teri Bell is co-owner of Miss Sophie's Marketplace at the Mighty Eighth in Pooler. Go to www.sophiesmarketplace.com.
CUCUMBER AND STRAWBERRY TEA SANDWICHES
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup peeled, seeded, and finely chopped cucumber
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup minced red onion
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Stir together softened cream cheese, cucumber, mayonnaise, red onion, basil, freshly ground pepper, and salt. Spread on top and bottom of bread and add sliced strawberries and sandwich together.
Variation: Omit the strawberries and add a tablespoon of fresh dill for a cucumber dill tea sandwich.
ORANGE AND CRANBERRY TEA SANDWICHES
The spread for this sandwich is good enough to stand alone as a tea sandwich or as a dip for ginger snaps. The longer it sits the better it gets, so make it a couple of days in advance.
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/3 cup orange marmalade
Thinly sliced turkey
1. Stir together softened cream cheese, dried cranberries, and orange marmalade. Spread on bread and top with turkey and fresh arugula.
CHERRY & PINEAPPLE SANDWICHES
8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
Â½ cup crushed pineapple, drained well and patted dry
Â¼ cup maraschino cherries, drained, patted dry and chopped
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1. In a medium bowl, whip cream cheese, salt and powdered sugar until fluffy. Fold in pineapple and cherries.
2. Remove crust from bread. Spread one side of the bread slices with a thin layer of butter.* On half of the slices, spread with the cherry and pineapple spread over the buttered side; top with remaining slices, butter side down. Cut the sandwiches in halves or quarters
*Spreading butter or cream cheese on your bread before spreading the filling forms a protective barrier between the filling and the bread and keeps the bread from getting soggy.
In my humble opinion, egg salad should always be enjoyed on white bread. Wheat bread is too heavy and hides masks the subtle flavors of this simple salad.
8 hardboiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup Dukes mayonnaise
1 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard
1/4 cup chopped green onion
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Place the chopped eggs in a bowl, and stir in the mayonnaise, mustard and green onion. Salt and pepper to taste.