Women’s Day Retreat Luncheon

It is always a joy to be able to cook for others, especially the women of my church. This last weekend I was able to serve the women a luncheon of soups, salads and breads.

Don’t even think that I did this alone. I am blessed to have friends and a husband who love to cook as well. Mark, Leslie, Teri, Carolyn and Michelle, you all are the best!! They all volunteered their time with smiles on their faces.

After discussing the menu with Cindy L., who coordinated the women’s day retreat, we came down to three different soups (creamy, hearty and light), three fabulous salads and three breads (biscuit, crescent and bread knot).

Try these easy recipes at home or for a large crowd, they will be delighted.

Soup just like Olive Garden’s Pasta e Fagioli, yum! We made this soup from the Damn Delicious website. The only thing I changed was the type of sausage I used. Instead of spicy Italian sausage I used mild Italian sausage.

Pasta e Fagioli-The Prize of Cooking

Pasta e Fagioli-The Prize of Cooking


Vegetable Soup for those who want to go light, gluten free or vegan. It is always nice to be able to provide options for those who have special diets. I totally understand since I can not tolerate gluten myself. My Crohn’s Disease is much happier without it.


Vegetable Soup- The Prize of Cooking

Vegetable Soup- The Prize of Cooking


The vegetable soup we made was based off of this recipe from Food Network. We used onions instead of leeks, frozen corn instead of fresh cut off the cob and fresh baby spinach instead of parsley. At the end of the cooking time we also added fresh diced zucchini, and peas. I found a great concentrated liquid vegetable broth from Knorr that is gluten free and free of MSG from Cash and Carry, a local commercial grocery supplier.

The Baked Potato Bacon Chowder was the popular soup of the day. In fact we served every drop of it. I have to tell you that we did not make this soup from scratch but rather bought a pre-made frozen base. We couldn’t leave things alone so we added fresh red potatoes that were cubed and oven  roasted in the bacon fat that was on the trays from the bacon we cooked earlier. Oh and some of the crumbled bacon for even more bacon goodness. Finally we topped it off with fresh chopped chives.


Baked Potato Bacon Chowder-The Prize of Cooking

Baked Potato Bacon Chowder-The Prize of Cooking


Salad time!! What women doesn’t love a broccoli salad with apples, bacon and cranberries? Can’t say that I know one that doesn’t . We made a fabulous Apple Broccoli Salad. This salad is similar to the loved broccoli salad with sunflower seeds and bacon. Cindy L, my friend and coordinator shared this Apple Broccoli Salad with me.

Broccoli Apple Salad-The Prize of Cooking

Apple Broccoli Salad-The Prize of Cooking


My mother is 76 years old and is still catering to this day. I called her to talk about this luncheon. She said she make a salad likes this all of the time but adds grated parmesan cheese to the dressing. She also suggested using a coleslaw dressing in place of the mayonnaise, sugar and lemon juice.  So that is what we did. Cindy’s original recipe calls for

1 lb bacon

1 large bunch broccoli, cut into bite size pieces

1 c dried cranberries

2 c chopped apples

1 bunch green onions, diced

1 c chopped nuts of choice (Cindy personally LOVES pecans!!)

1-1/2 c mayonnaise

5 T sugar

2 T lemon juice

Brown the bacon and crumble (Cindy has used Costco bacon bits before and they work well, too). Mix mayo, sugar, lemon juice in separate container and set aside.

Rinse, cut/chop all items and toss into large mixing bowl. Pour in dressing, toss to coat, refrigerate and serve.

This makes about 12 cups or so… super delicious!

This next salad is one my mother shared with me. She makes it over and over for her catering business. She said it is one of those salads that you think may be a bit unusual until you taste it. Strawberry Poppy Seed Slaw.  Oh yes, a slaw with fruit and a slightly sweet poppy seed dressing.  Wait……….don’t forget the candied pecans that have a hint of cinnamon!


Strawberry Poppy Seed Slaw-The Prize of Cooking

Strawberry Poppy Seed Slaw-The Prize of Cooking


Strawberry Poppy Seed Slaw

1 bag of shredded cabbage

1 pint strawberries, hulled and cut into quarters

1 cup red grapes, left whole or sliced

Candied pecans, recipe below


Poppy Seed Salad Dressing:

1 cup oil

1 tsp dry mustard

2 tablespoon finely minced onion

1 tablespoon poppy seed

1/3 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

In a blender or food processor, add all of the poppy seed dressing ingredients except the oil. While blending the ingredients, slowly drizzle the oil into the processor until the dressing is well combined.


Making the Candied Pecans:

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup water

1 tablespoon cinnamon

Bag of pecans, up to one pound

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Bring sugar and water with cinnamon to a boil in a medium size sauce pan. Add pecans and continue to boil for 10 minutes.

Pour pecans onto a greased sprayed baking sheet. Place in oven and bake for 10 minutes or until dry and crispy.

DO NOT MIX THIS UNTIL READY TO SERVE!! Just before serving the salad add all of the ingredients, with the pecans and dressing. Toss to coat with dressing and serve immediately. By waiting you will keep the salad crisp and fresh without loosing the crunch of the candied pecans. The strawberries also stay a bright red color.

Soups…..Salads……and Bread!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Three breads to make the choice difficult. 🙂 Goat Cheese and Chive Biscuits, Garlic Parmesan Knots and Cresents.

Assorted Baked Breads-The Prize of Cooking

Assorted Baked Breads-The Prize of Cooking

We chose to not make cresents from scratch but rather spend our time baking the other two. You can find the Goat Cheese and Chive biscuit recipe here. The last recipe to share from this meal is the Garlic Parmesan Knots. You can find that recipe here.

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