Yep, it’s officially springtime in Texas.Â The signs are undeniable: it’s light until nearly 8 P.M.Â Daytime temps are consistently above 70.Â The lawns are greening up. The pear trees are blooming.Â Everything and everyone is covered in a nice hazy shade of pollen.Â I even saw my first bluebonnets of the season in the median beside Central Expressway.
That can only mean one thing: it’s time for the annual OTGAT Spring Fling!
We do this get-together once a quarter.Â Unfortunately, last spring due to scheduling conflicts and my husband having cancer and my mind being way too preoccupied, we weren’t able to have The Fling.Â And because I was traveling over the Christmas holidays I missed the Christmas Tea.Â So it had been nearly six months since I had seen these beloved friends, and two years since they had convened at my humble abode.
Therefore, this Fling had to be special.Â The food had to be excellent.Â The atmosphere had to be relaxing and comfortable. The decor had to be light and simple.
May I say, I rocked it.Â You knew I would.
Now, I’m no Martha Stewart.Â My table settings would never make it into a spread in Southern Living.Â But I put together a menu that was downright fantastic, and all the pieces fell into place to make this one of the most enjoyable Saturday afternoons I’ve spent in a long time.
For several years, we taught together.Â But over the past decade, life has taken us in many different directions.Â Now some of us are retired.Â Some are facing retirement.Â Some have come out of retirement to work in a different environment.Â We’ve celebrated weddings and births and new houses and grandchildren together.Â We’ve shared tears as we’ve lost loved ones.Â We’ve ooh’ed and aah’ed over pictures of trips and shared stories of adventures and the journeys we’ve taken.Â We’ve laughed and commiserated over life’s ups and downs and the humor that each day holds.
And we left – after several hours – eagerly anticipating the next time we’ll all be together: at the Summer Cooler!
and for those interested, here are the recipes I used, all taken from the Taste of Home Celebrations Cookbook.
FRUIT SALAD WITH POPPYSEED DRESSING
The recipe calls for pineapple, banana, strawberries and grapes, but you could use any fruit you like.Â I added blueberries (because we had them on hand) and they were good with it, too.
1/3 C red wine vinegar
3/4 C sugar
1 t ground mustard
3/4 t salt
3/4 C vegetable oil
1 T poppy seeds
In a blender or food processor, combine the vinegar, sugar, mustard, and salt.Â While processing, gradually add the oil in a steady stream.Â Stir in the poppy seeds.Â Just before serving, combine the fruits. Serve with poppy seed dressing.Â You can store the dressing in an airtight container at room temperature.
Yields: 10 servings
2 cans (15-oz. each) apricot halves
1/2 C plus 2 T butter, divided
1 C packed brown sugar
1/4 C all-purpose flour
1 1/3 C crushed Ritz crackers (about 1 sleeve, 36 crackers)
Drain apricots, reserving 3/4 C juice.Â Place apricots in a greased 11″x7″x2″ baking dish.Â Melt 1/2 C butter, add the brown sugar, flour, and reserved juice.Â Pour over apricots.
Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.Â Melt remaining butter; toss with cracker crumbs (I actually crushed these IN the sleeve and then opened the sleeve up when the butter was melted.Â Super easy and no mess!).Â Sprinkle over top.Â Bake 15-20 minutes longer or until golden brown.
Yields: 6-8 servings
ITALIAN VEGGIE TURKEY PITAS
1 C mayonnaise
1/2 C sour cream
1 envelope Italian dressing mix
1/2 t hot pepper sauce (I used Tabasco)
2 C diced cooked turkey (I used chicken, thawed and cooked in the microwave with Mrs. Dash seasoning sprinkled on both sides)
1 C chopped cauliflowerets
1 C chopped broccoli flowerets
1 C shredded red cabbage (I didn’t use this but substituted 1/2 C diced cucumber instead)
1 celery rib, julienned
1 small carrot, julienned
1/2 medium green pepper, julienned
1 green onion, chopped
5 pita breads, halved
green or red lettuce leaves, optional
In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, salad dressing mix, and hot pepper sauce.Â Stir in the turkey (or chicken), cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage (or cucumber), celery, carrot, green pepper, and onion.Â Spoon into pita breads lined with lettuce if desired.
Yield: 5 servings
ASPARAGUS RICE SALAD
this was the hit of the day.Â Super, super SUPER good.Â I would recommend adding chicken and sauteed mushrooms to make it a main-dish salad.
1 can (14-1/2 oz.) chicken broth
1/4 C water
1 C (or 2 packages) uncooked wild and long-grain rice (I used Rice-a-Roni)
2 C cut fresh asparagus (2″ pieces)
3/4 C frozen peas, thawed
3 green onions, sliced
1/3 C pecan halves
2-4 T chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 C olive oil
3 T lemon juice
3 T sour cream
1/2 t grated lemon peel
1/4 t salt
1/4 t white pepper
4 C fresh spinach
Cook rice according to package directions using 1 can broth and 1/4 C water.Â Meanwhile, place 1″ water and asparagus in a large skillet; bring to a boil.Â Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 2 minutes.Â Add peas; return to a boil.Â Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 2-3 minutes or until crisp-tender.Â Drain.
In a large bowl, combine the rice, asparagus mixture, onions, pecans and cilantro (and chicken and mushrooms, if desired); mix well.Â In a bowl, whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, sour cream, lemon peel, salt and pepper.Â Pour over rice mixture; toss to coat.Â Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
Just before serving, line a serving platter with 1 C spinach.Â Tear remaining spinach; arrange over spinach leaves.Â Top with rice mixture.