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Trial by Fire: A Learning Experience in Catering

This past weekend I was honored to be a part of a local counseling center's team outing. Amanda, the owner of Scottsville Counseling Center. The Wellness Studio and a podcast, 'The Smalltown Therapist', reached out to me last year about catering a holiday dinner. When Covid numbers started to climb in December, we decided to postpone until numbers were better and the weather was gorgeous enough for an outdoor venue.

When she suggested having a picnic, I knew the perfect place! Kentucky Hilltop Vineyards, located right here in our backyard in Allen County, is a beautiful location and well worth the drive down gravel, curvy roads.

This was my first catering job for more than 10 people. I thought I'd be nervous, and I was but not about failing, but in excitement. Serving my food to people is one of my greatest loves and getting to prepare food for people who have helped so many in our community overcome mental health struggles was so fulfilling. It was also wonderful, because as Amanda said, "The best thing about working with mental health professionals? We don't stress [the small stuff]." I wasn't exactly on the timeline I had prepared for, and I had had some kitchen issues that morning while preparing the food, so I was feeling a little stressed myself. Having the crowd be perfectly fine with drinking punch and wine and talking while I finished the set-up of the food was wonderful.

Speaking of the food; let's get on with what was served, shall we!? -Paprika Parm Chicken *similar to my Baked Chicken & Rice recipe

-Lasagna Cups

-Cucumber and Tomato Salad; my twist on a southern classic, recipe coming!

-Fennel Coleslaw; another twist on a classic, also the coleslaw that I submitted for the Racheal Ray Show!

-Potato Salad

-Mixed Green Salad

-Chocolate Brownie Bundt Cakes w/Chocolate Ganache

-Kentucky Butter-Cups with Marinated Fruit Salad

-Chocolate Chip Cookies; my grandma's recipe

-Strawberry Basil Cookies; one of my Fruit & Herb cookies

-Local Wines from Bluegrass Vineyards

-Punch made with local juice and ice cream

-Sweet and Unsweet Tea I'll add recipes for some of the above soon and provide the link!

For now, scroll to see the recipes for the fruit salad and the punch!

The fruit salad was made with raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. I topped those with zest from oranges, limes and lemons, a tablespoon of honey, pinch of salt and my Violet Lavendar Simple Syrup! I love this time of year, when the violets, dandelions and purple dead nettle are all out and beautiful; so, this year I picked a bunch of violets. From that bunch I rinsed them quickly, to let all the insects that make them their homes, vacate, then steeped half in white vinegar, and half in boiling water. The Violet Vinegar will be used in salad dressings and marinades! The violet tea was split and made into violet jam and some combined with a little more water, topped with local lavender from Stony Point Lavender and added an equal amount of sugar to make the simple syrup for the fruit salad! This was a big hit and made a perfect pairing for the Kentucky Butter-Cups.

The punch was a collaboration of a few different local businesses! I used Zest Juice Co/Cafe Kindness's Hula Hooch (A pineapple and mint based juice), mixed with orange juice, ginger ale and Meltdown (simply delectable iced cream) Sweet Cream (a vanilla like iced cream that is pure deliciousness). I even took some Izzie Grapefruit Soda and froze with lemon slices and mint leaves.

The takeaway from this weekend is that I love to cook for people, I love seeing them enjoy my food. However, renting a kitchen and loading and unloading my car multiple times is exhausting, outdoor venues are beautiful but obviously weather dependent (case and point; I had floral arrangements and other table decor but did not set them out because of wind!). Also, another big takeaway? My tables were not big enough for everything we had agreed upon. They were supposed to have some small finger food options, but due to space we chose to forego that option. They will however be getting that throughout the month of May, because I feel absolutely horrible that space was the biggest issue for that option.

But no matter the exhaustion, the frustrations or the way for rest of the weekend I accomplished absolutely nothing; I'd do it again and again. Serving people food that I have prepared with my heart and soul is so rewarding to me and it's even harder to put into words. Thank you to Amanda for considering me for this task! *I should also probably mention, I am certified as a caterer, however I will not be catering full time or doing lots of big events. Please feel free to reach out to me and if your party is something I feel I can do, I absolutely will. However, I will not put myself in a position to be overwhelmed or underwhelm you and your guests!*

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