A Bridal Shower Tea: Cucumber Cups Filled with Crab

These little cucumber cups combine two traditional tea party flavors, cucumber and crab, into one simple treat. To make the cucumber cups, start with an English or Hothouse Cucumber. They are longer and more uniform than the regular cucumbers that I used. Peel the cucumbers if they are waxed. Slice the cucumber into pieces about 1 1/2 inches long. Use a melon baller to scoop out the inside, leaving a 1/4 inch rim around the side and a 1/2 inch base. The cucumber cups can be held in the fridge for up to 4 hours before filling.

For the crab salad filling, combine 8 ounces crab meat with just enough mayonnaise to moisten. Add a bit of very finely chopped sweet onion and celery. Don't overpower the crab with extras.

I used King Crab instead of our local Chesapeake Bay crab because of the cost. The Chesapeake Bay crab was about $27.00 a pound and the King Crab was about half that. It is indeed a splurge. To go even less expensive, use imitation crab meat. Or fill the cucumber cups with another salad altogether.


Tea Party Finances

I had an email yesterday asking how much it costs to host an afternoon tea party. My first thought was “How much do you want to spend?” That isn’t the smarty pants answer it might seem. Finances are a concern for all of us and no one wants to overextend by throwing a tea party and then having to eat Spam for the rest of the month. The best way to keep out of trouble is to sit down and plan out a budget.

Consider the following categories and write down every expense you might have:

Invitations: cards, envelopes, postage, special pens, follow-up phone calls

Food: keep in mind the dishes you’d like to serve and set a food budget based on them, list everything you’ll need to buy from the grocery store or market

Tea: tea, sugars, lemon, milk

Décor: flowers, candles, tablecloths, napkins, place cards, fabric

Dishes and special cook/bakeware: anything you’ll need to purchase specifically for this party

Cleaning: all the extra cleaning supplies you might buy or the cost of cleaning help

Other expenses: table or chair rental fees, a fee for the neighbor teen asked to be a server, gift bags

Keep in mind that while the list looks long, most hostesses will have zeros in some of those categories. Add about 10% to the total for items that may have been under budgeted. There is the budget for a tea party. Always keeping it in mind will help prevent over spending.

Lowering the cost:

Invitations: Call your friends instead of sending invitations. You’ll get an immediate head count and can easily invite others if original guests can’t make it.

Food: See my post on a Budget Tea Party for ideas. Host a Dessert Tea or Brunch Tea to cut back on food expenses. Invite fewer guests; instead of a blow-out tea for 24, invite 6 close friends.

Décor and Dishes: Borrow, mix and match, use what you have.

Cleaning: I’d like to say don’t bother cleaning but you know you’re going to have to clean. It is the sad fact of tea party hosting. :)

Other expenses: don’t rent, borrow, offer to baby sit for your neighbor if she’ll help serve for your party, simply don’t give gift bags or favors.

My final budgeting tip is to host the tea party with a friend or two. Not only is the budget split among the hostesses but so is the work. And it is lots more fun!


A Bridal Shower Tea: Mini Quiche

Mini Quiche are always a big hit at tea parties. I especially like the crust on these. There is no trying to fit pie dough squares into the muffin tins which can be troublesome. The possible fillings for Quiche is almost limitless. I’ve listed four options but use whatever you like.

2 cups flour
½ cup butter, melted
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¾ teaspoon red pepper
4 cups (16 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 eggs
¾ cup milk
Extras, use one or two:
½ cup frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
8 ounces bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup finely chopped mushrooms
1 red bell pepper, chopped

Process flour, melted butter, salt and pepper in food processor until combined. Add cheese; process until well blended. Shape dough into 1 ½” balls. Press dough into greased 2 ½” tart pans. Preheat oven to 350º. In a bowl, whisk eggs and milk. Stir in 1 or 2 of the extras, above. Spoon 1 tablespoon filling into each pastry shell. Bake 20-25 minutes or until center is set. Cool in pans 5 minutes. Remove from pans, garnish, and serve warm. Yield: about 3 dozen mini quiche


A Bridal Shower Tea: Dried Cherry Lemon Scones

2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup firm butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/3 to ½ cup buttermilk
½ cup dried cherries

Preheat oven to 425º. Mix flour, sugar, lemon peel, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process in butter until mixture looks like fine crumbs. Add enough buttermilk so dough leaves the sides of the bowl and forms a ball. Stir in cherries.

Drop about 1/3 cupfuls of dough about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Brush with milk. Sprinkle with additional sugar.

Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until light brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet. Makes about 10 scones.

Cream of Tartar

This scone recipe calls for Cream of Tartar. Fortunately I had some in my cupboard this morning when I was mixing up the scones. I realized though that I had no idea what Cream of Tartar is. I turned to the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion for the answer. Here’s what they say: “Cream of Tartar is a natural ingredient, a fruit acid that accumulates on the inside of wine casks as the wine matures. It’s one of the ingredients that, along with baking soda, goes into baking powder. Cream of Tartar is often used to stabilize meringue, as its acid helps strengthen the proteins in the egg white, allowing them to trap more air as they’re beaten.”


Memorial Day

I won't be around on Memorial Day so I'm posting early. I wanted to remind everyone of the National Moment of Remembrance. The handsome soldier illustrating my post today is my late father-in-law who served in the South Pacific during World War II.

White House Program for the National Moment of Remembrance:

"As Memorial Day approaches, it is time to pause and consider the true meaning of this holiday. Memorial Day represents one day of national awareness and reverence, honoring those Americans who died while defending our Nation and its values. While we should honor these heroes every day for the profound contribution they have made to securing our Nation's freedom, we should honor them especially on Memorial Day.

In this time of unprecedented success and prosperity throughout our land, I ask that all Americans come together to recognize how fortunate we are to live in freedom and to observe a universal "National Moment of Remembrance" on each Memorial Day. This memorial observance represents a simple and unifying way to commemorate our history and honor the struggle to protect our freedoms.

The White House Program for the National Moment of Remembrance (Program), to promote a "National Moment of Remembrance'' will occur at 3 p.m. (local time) on each Memorial Day."


A Bridal Shower Tea: Watercress, Pear and Walnut Salad

This salad requires the best pears you can find. Buy them a few days early so they have time to fully ripen.

1 ½ pounds watercress
1 cup walnut halves, toasted in a dry pan
1 cup arugula
6 pears
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup olive oil
freshly grated parmesan

This recipe makes enough salad for six servings. Increase according to the number of guests. For each salad plate, use a handful of watercress and arugula, one sliced pear, a sprinkling of walnuts and a dusting of parmesan.

For the salad dressing, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, egg yolk, salt and pepper. While whisking, slowly add the olive oil until the dressing is emulsified. Serve dressing in small glass pitchers on the tables so each guest can add as much or as little to her salad as she prefers.


A Bridal Shower Tea Party: The Menu

It is always so nice to welcome your guests with a drink. Champagne is traditional perhaps but a fruity punch with or without alcohol works well too. If the weather is hot and humid, a glass of iced tea or lemonade would be especially refreshing.

The first course for this bridal shower tea is a Pear, Walnut and Watercress Salad. The watercress has a nice peppery flavor that contrasts so well with the sweet pears. Serve the salad dressing in a pretty little pitcher so each guest can use as little or as much as she likes.

The scone course is next. Dried Cherry Lemon Scones are as pretty as they are tasty. Offer clotted cream and cherry preserves. These can be placed on the tables before guests are seated.

For the savory course, Chicken Salad Finger Sandwiches are traditional and elegant. Crab Salad in Cucumber Cups is an upgrade to the usual cucumber sandwich. Bacon Mini Quiches are always welcomed by guests. Depending on the number of guests, 3-tiered trays could be used for this course but plan to have one for every 4 guests. I prefer to plate this course in the kitchen and then pass among the guests with a large tray offering seconds.

If there is room, a separate table should be set up for the sweets course. Unless you’re a great cake decorator, order a pretty cake from a bakery. A carved Watermelon Basket will look nice on the table with the cake. Lavender Shortbread Cookies are good for guests who only want a small sweet bite.

If there are more than a dozen guests, prepare a Tea Concentrate as I’ve described in a previous post. This will greatly simplify the tea part of this party.

It does take more hands to serve a sit-down tea than a buffet tea but it really does work better for a bridal shower where guests will be watching the bride open gifts. Ask a couple friends who don’t know the bride and wouldn’t be expected to be invited to the shower to help serve. If everyone you know is attending the shower, ask a couple of the younger girls to help. They will enjoy having a little role in the party.


A Bridal Shower Tea Party

There aren’t many occasions as happy and special as a wedding. And a Bridal Shower Tea Party is the perfect way to celebrate and honor the bride-to-be. This tea is inherently rather formal; that doesn’t mean staid and humorless though. It is up to the hostess to create an air of warmth and calm.

The menu is geared toward young women who might not yet have reached their ultimate level of culinary sophistication. In other words, everything is familiar and well liked by most people, even a generation that’s grown up on chicken nuggets and pizza.

There are a few unique considerations to throwing a bridal shower tea. Ask the bride for a list of guests she’d like to see. The mother of the bride, as well as her future mother-in-law should be invited, along with the bridesmaids. There are a couple no-nos. It is not proper form for the mother to host a bridal shower—it seems grabby. Do not invite people to the shower who have not been invited to the wedding. This sends the message that the guest is good enough to give a shower gift but not good enough for the bride to spring for the $100 a plate reception. The only exception is when a group of coworkers decide to give a small shower at work.

I’m not a fan of surprise showers. They are never really a surprise; the bride always suspects. It is nice to be able to have some input from the bride for the shower. Just be careful not to let her get too involved; she has enough to plan and orchestrate with the wedding.

Another consideration is whether to set a theme for the gifts. Household items, lingerie and time-of-day showers are all popular. For this bridal shower tea, why not ask guests to bring gifts with a tea theme. Teapots, cups, linens, cookbooks, the list of gift possibilities is quite wide. Do open the gifts at the shower for everyone to enjoy.

For this tea, first choose the colors you’d like to use. Do not try to use the same colors the bride has chosen for her wedding and reception. There is no reason for such matchy-matchy business. Use seasonal colors and ones that go well in your home. Lavender and white with a touch of yellow works well for spring and summer showers. I’ll use those colors to illustrate my descriptions.

Send formal snail-mail invitations to this tea. Remember that the invitation sets the tone of the tea. Use plain card stock with a color border, in this case, lavender. Use your prettiest handwriting on the inside. Don’t fuss with the wording: “In honor of the wedding of Julia Hudson, please join us for afternoon tea, June 15, 2008, at 2:00 p.m., at the home of Anne Lodge, 2355 Locust Lane, Marysville, VA. Please phone 238-283-2736 to respond.” As always, you’ll probably have to follow up with a phone call to those who don’t call to let you know if they’ll be attending or not.

Every guest should have a seat at a table and place cards are a nice touch so guests don’t wander around deciding where they want to sit. A simple white card with the guest’s name written in lavender ink will look pretty. Cover the tables in lavender cloths, use white dishes and mismatched teacups in lavender or yellow. A lighter lavender napkin decorated with a ribbon holding a sprig of lavender would look especially pretty. You might even consider decorating the back of the chairs. Use ribbon of various widths and shades, along with a length of lace, to tie simple bows on the chairs. Keep the ends of the ribbons long and flowing. Use small glass vases to hold purple hydrangeas, lilacs, purple iris or whatever purple or lavender flowers you like. A few yellow roses in the mix make the flowers pop.

You’ll need a separate table to hold gifts and perhaps a dessert or tea table. To make these tables stand out, pin real or artificial hydrangea blooms to the bottom of the tablecloths, all the way around. Cover the tablecloths with toppers of white lace.

Ask the groom to make a CD with all the bride’s favorite love songs. Play this music as guests are arriving and leaving but switch to something purely instrumental during the tea itself.

Give the guests a little favor to commemorate the event and that fits the theme. Tea sachets with the bride’s and groom’s names are available with pretty short notice. One source is here from beaucoup.

Since this post is already quite long, I’ll give the menu for the Bridal Shower Tea tomorrow. Please visit again.



Today's Gracious Hospital-i-Tea's Blog-a-Thon post is sharing about teapots. Do you have one? two? or three? maybe more? Is it for display only or do you use it for tea? What is the tea server you use most? Your favorite teapot (or is it something like a quart jar?). Tell your teapot story, give it's history, and tell what it means to you. You can share more than once if you'd like. Antique, new, Asian, English, or something in between --- we'd love to know!

My favorite every day teapots are these Chatsford teapots. They work well for small, informal tea parties; everyone can have her own individual pot. But mostly I just use the 2-cup pots for my own tea. This size is perfect for me as I usually drink only two cups of tea at a time. I like choosing from the different colors depending on my mood of the day, calm white, pretty lavender, happy yellow and sophisticated black. The larger green pot is a six-cup size.

A special feature of the Chatsford teapots is the mesh infuser basket. The basket's red tabs can be seen in the photo. They are large enough to hold just the right amount of loose tea and allow it to expand properly. The teapots are thick and heavy and keep the tea hot for a long time. I've never had one drip when pouring, the only teapots I have that don't.

I'm sure these pots won't be the fanciest or prettiest teapots shown in this week's blog-a-thon but I am sure they are at the top when it comes to functionality and ease of use. I really love these teapots.


Don't Panic Tea Party: Cheesecake Mini Tarts

This is the final recipe for the Don't Panic Tea Party and it's another made from store-bought ingredients. These tarts are so cute and tasty that no guest will care that you didn't make them from scratch.

Have you seen Philly Cheesecake Filling at your store? It comes in a big tub and might be quite dangerous to have around the house if you love cheesecake. I can imagine fridge doors open late at night while everyone stands there eating the cheesecake filling with a spoon.

The cheesecake filling simply gets spooned into premade phyllo tart shells from the frozen section of the grocery store. Decorate the tarts with fruit, a bit of jelly, coconut, chocolate shavings, whatever you like in regular cheesecake. Just make sure to drain any fruit well. I used maraschino cherries and a shaving of chocolate for mine. Yep, it is that simple.

I hope you've enjoyed this tea theme. It is good to have some super-quick tea recipes in your repertoire so that you can invite friends for tea with a moment's notice. Next week I'll have a new theme and lots more recipes. Please join me here.


Don't Panic Tea Party: Brownie Bites

Every tea needs something chocolate and these Brownie Bites fit the bill. Start with a boxed brownie mix, prepare as directed, and bake in mini muffin pans. Spray the pans well with vegetable spray. Fill the pans three quarters full. Bake at 325 degrees for 15-18 minutes. Remove from the pans and allow to cool completely on a rack.

To add another layer of chocolate, make a ganache for the top. Simply melt 1 cup of chocolate chips in 2/3 cup of milk over low heat. Stir to combine.

I've been served these Brownie Bites in several tea rooms. While they are quick and simple, they are a traditional tea treat and one you can be happy to offer your guests.


Don't Panic Tea Party: Pound Cake and Lemon Curd

On to the sweets course for the Don't Panic Tea Party. Frozen pound cake, lemon curd from a jar and whipped cream are all the elements that make up this quick dish. This makes a nice treat, served with a cup of tea, for drop-in guests too; all the ingredients can be pulled from freezer and pantry.

Please keep in mind that the point of this tea theme is to show how to have guests for tea at a moment's notice. Too often we hesitate to invite friends to our homes because we don't think we have enough time to prepare something good to eat. I wanted to show how to have a tea party with very little effort and time involved. This tea works well too for women who don't bake or don't have very good cooking skills.

Of course, homemade pound cake, lemon curd and whipped cream are all better when prepared from scratch. By all means, use homemade if you have the time. The key to using store bought is to buy the highest quality ingredients you can find. I used Barefoot Contessa lemon curd and honestly no one would know it came from a jar.


Don't Panic Tea Party: Cheesy Crackers

It's back to the tea without panic party today with another quick and simple savory treat. These crackers look festive and taste great. It is nice to have something crispy in contrast to the bread sandwiches.

No actual recipe is required for cheesy crackers. I'm sure everyone has made them at one time or another for a snack. Use a high-quality prepared cheese spread on large, round crackers. Add half a cherry tomato and a bit of green leaf. Sprinkle with your favorite seasoning blend for extra zing if you like.



It is time once again for the Gracious Hospitalit-i-TEA Blog-a-Thon. The theme this week is Tea Room Ventures and Venues. Share all about one of your favorite tea rooms. Use photos and descriptions to tell about the decor and ambiance, menus, service, and what makes this tea room special to you. Does this tea room have a gift shop? What kind of special treasures does it contain?

My favorite tea room is the Joy Garden. It is the place I take guests when I want a formal and beautiful tea. As you can tell from the photo, this tea room is inside a glass conservatory. There are lovely gardens all around the building including a huge rose garden.

Inside the tea room everything is feminine and pretty without being too fussy. The tables are spaced well enough apart that conversations can be private. There is no raucous laughter here; everything is serene.

In keeping with the tone of the tea room, the waitresses are well spoken and unobtrusive. They wear pretty aprons and have sweet demeanors. They are very knowledgeable too, able to answer any questions about the food or the tea offered.

The food is some of the best tea room food I’ve had. They follow traditional tea service with soup and salad presented first followed by a tiered tray of scones, tea sandwiches and sweets. Great care is taken with every item, both in the taste and the way everything is garnished and decorated.

The Joy Garden staff knows how to make tea. Tea arrives at the table at just the proper temperature and strength. And they keep refilling the pot without being asked.

There is a gift shop that sells lots of tea items. Much of the merchandise is quite affordable and just right for a little keepsake of the day. They carry a selection of tea magazines too. Tea magazines aren’t readily available except by subscription so it is especially nice to be able to see what’s new.

The Joy Garden is just outside a village with lots of antique shops. It makes a great day out to go antiquing followed by a delicious tea. I recommend the experience to everyone. Find more information about the Joy Garden on their site.
Just a note: I have no affiliation with this tea room or owners. I'm simply a happy customer.


Tea for Large Groups

I want to interrupt my Don’t Panic Tea Party today to respond to an email I received asking how to prepare the tea concentrate I’d mentioned in past post. The person writing is responsible for her church’s Mother and Daughter Banquet this weekend and was very worried about how to make the tea. Perhaps there is someone else in this same situation.

Using a tea concentrate is the best way to serve tea at fundraiser teas or banquets your group might hold. The tea can be made in advance, making things easier for everyone. Here’s how to make and use tea concentrate.

Since I was asked specifically about making 100 cups of tea, I’ll use that proportion. In a large pan bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add 8 ounces of loose tea. Allow to steep for 4 minutes. Pour the tea through a mesh strainer to remove all tea leaves. Missed leaves will cause the tea to become bitter so take care to get all of them. Set the pan containing the now decanted tea in a sink of cold water in order to cool it quickly. Store the tea syrup in the fridge. Cover it to prevent it from picking up odors from the fridge.

To serve, add about 2 tablespoons of tea concentrate to each teacup and fill with very hot water. Boiling water isn’t required but no one likes lukewarm tea. You might prefer to fill a pot instead of individual cups. Use 1 cup tea syrup for each 8-cup pot. Adjust the proportions up or down depending on teapot size.


Don't Panic Tea: Smoked Salmon

Another super easy tea party favorite is today's feature for the Don't Panic tea. Good smoked salmon doesn't need a lot of embellishment but great bread is a must. I like salmon best on rye or pumpernickel bread but use what suits your own taste. Serving this sandwich open faced will allow the beautiful color of the salmon to take center stage. It really livens up a tray of tea sandwiches. Butter or cream cheese on the bread and a grind of fresh pepper are all that is needed to make this a simple but tasty delight.


Don’t Panic Tea: Cucumber Tea Sandwiches with Dill Butter

Cucumber sandwiches are one of the easiest of all tea sandwiches to prepare. Thinly slice the cucumber and arrange on bread that has been spread with dill butter. To make the dill butter, snip 1 tablespoon dill into ½ cup of softened butter and mix.

The fun part of serving this tea sandwich is deciding how to cut and display it. I looked around the Net for photos (all Creative Commons Licensed) to illustrate the different ways cucumber sandwiches are presented. Which one do you find most appealing?

This first cucumber sandwich is the work of a professional tearoom chef. The slices are very precise and the filling extremely thin.

These cucumber sandwiches are open faced. Stacked on their sides, they make an abundant-looking plate.

Cucumber sandwiches presented in a very traditional manner, simply cut into squares. I notice some edges of crust but I believe that's because of the kind of bread that was used.

I think each presentation has its own appeal. The tearoom sandwich is beautiful but I'm afraid you'd taste mostly bread. The second sandwich offers lots of nice dill butter under the cucumber. The ones on the bottom might get a bit messy though. The last plate shows a coarser style of bread that probably adds a lot of flavor and texture. The triangle shape is the most common style you'll find.



The topic for this week’s Gracious Hospital-i-Tea Blog-a-Thon is Set the Table, Tea is On! Share a creative afternoon tea table setting. Linens, serving pieces, teapots and teacup, tea accoutrement's and accessories, centerpieces, tea trays or three-tiers, and more. Show one way you enjoy creating a memorable tea experience. This is your opportunity to show the world the fun you have when you create your own special tea experience. Then. . .invite over a friend or neighbor and share some tea together. That way all your work is not for ought.

It is so difficult to remember to take a photo at an afternoon tea party as the hostess. Everything must be at its proper hot or cold temperature which requires getting food to the table quickly. There are dozens of last minute details to address. And you know the guests are tapping their toes eagerly waiting to discover where the delicious smells are coming from. I did manage to snap this picture from a recent tea though.

When I have more than six guests for tea, I arrange a buffet instead of having everyone sit at one table. Each guest can help herself to the tea goodies and I’m not constantly jumping up and down to serve. I do make sure to have lots of small tables in the living room so no one has to balance her teacup on her knee.

I’m fortunate that my dining room has pocket doors that can be closed as my guests arrive. They don’t need to see the half-dressed buffet table or to watch me as I rush around at the last minute. When it is time for everyone to come to the table, I open the doors and my guests see the table for the first time.

I usually serve tea from the sideboard. (You can just see some cups in the photo. I think the tea pot had not arrived from the kitchen yet.) It’s good to have all the sugars and lemon and milk together but away from the food. Depending on my guests’ tastes, I usually serve two different teas.

Another nice feature of serving tea from a buffet is that the flowers can be tall and dramatic. There is no need to keep them low so guests can see each other. I was so pleased with the flowers at this tea. I’d taken a photo from a Victorian magazine to my florist and she did a wonderful job recreating that look.

I love the intimacy of tea for only a few friends but a large tea party can be a memorable experience for everyone. In this day of 30 minute meals, I believe our friends and relatives still appreciate the effort and caring that goes into an afternoon tea.


Don't Panic Tea: Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf

Serve this tea bread in place of scones or serve it as part of the sweets course. Adding the yogurt to the packaged mix makes a tender and delicious loaf. Offer lemon butter instead of glazing the bread if you prefer.

1 package lemon poppy seed bread mix
1 cup lemon yogurt
2 large eggs
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 to 3 teaspoons water

Preheat oven to 350º. Spray 9”x5” loaf pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon until just mixed. Do not over mix.

Bake until the loaf springs back when lightly pressed with a finger or until a toothpick comes out clean, about 43-47 minutes. Remove from pan after about 10 minutes and allow to cool on a rack.

Glaze if you like by mixing confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice. Add 1 teaspoon water. The glaze should be thick but spreadable. Add up to 2 teaspoons more water to get the proper consistency. When loaf has completely cooled, spoon glaze over the top.


Don't Panic Tea: Soup and Salad

I love using snack sets to serve a soup and salad together. The small cups give just the right amount of soup and the plate offers plenty of room for salad. Snack sets were so popular when I was growing up; my mother had at least four different sets. They were used for serving refreshments after club meetings. They still work great today so look for them at yard sales and flea markets.

Kicked Up Tomato Soup

Start with a box or can of high quality tomato soup. Kick it up by adding:
1/4 cup heavy cream
fresh basil
1 teaspoon or 2 of fresh lime juice
chopped fresh tomatoes
freshly ground black pepper

Mixed Green Salad

Buy bagged salad greens from the grocery store, whatever kind looks freshest. Add yellow peppers, cauliflower and red cabbage for great color. Pick up a jar of salad dressing while you're shopping. A ranch dressing might give a nice contrast with the soup on this plate.

There, the soup and salad courses are ready in the time it took to heat the soup and chop a few veggies. With the addition of the fresh ingredients, no one will know how effortlessly this tea party was put together.