Thursday, August 20, 2009

Back-to-School PTA Hospitality Ideas

It's already that time of year, approaching faster than a speeding parent dropping off their child to school or a teacher dismissing the class at the end of the day. That is, the first-day-of-school blues.

What made my week so much nicer this year was the PTA luncheon held at my daughter's middle school. Organized by the PTA Hospitality Committee, our wonderful co-chairs come up with a different theme for every luncheon that we provide to the teachers. These events occur about three times a year, and is the PTA's way of showing our gratitude to the wonderful teaching staff and support team at the school.

The theme this year for our luncheon was (appropriately enough) "Back-to-School". Using Number Two pencils, apples, and lunch-box type food including sandwiches, salads and fresh chocolate chip cookies, the teachers filed in and were thrilled with the celebration and kick off to the new school year.

To make the process simpler for the PTA committee, some food is purchased (and we're not afraid to ask for discounted prices for school-related events so don't forget to ask the restaurant or store if they give a school discounts). But we also have a few moms who donate food items and who are getting a great reputation for their recipes, which I will share in a moment.

But first I wanted to share the cute table top centerpiece which cost only a few dollars to create. On a limited budget, we spare no creative expense. Going along with the back-to-school theme, one member of the committee made these wonderful flower arrangements. The felt flower pot, for only one dollar at Target, was filled with dried beans to help hold the flower pens in place. The pens are inexpensive Bic Capped pens. During back-to-school sales they can be purchased ten for a dollar. Then at Michael's, you can pick up some floral tape and inexpensive silk flowers to create these wonderful pens. In the school front office these make a great centerpiece and you'll always have a pen handy for parent's to sign-in. Teachers also love these pens when they have to loan one to a student because they are easy to recognize and won't walk off since they are so distinguishable.

Now for the most frequently asked recipes. We had a variety of wonderful food donations, all of which was completely scarfed down by the 80+ teachers and staff members.

Here are some of those wonderful recipes that were frequently asked for:

Mexican Gazpacho aka Italian Minestra all'Insalata Four Stars!!

This scrumptious cold soup was a huge hit. Garnished with cilantro and sour cream it was a wonderful summer soup to begin our luncheon with.

Makes 8 servings
1 - 32 oz bottle or canned vegetable or tomato juice, chilled
2 cups diced medium red onion
2-4 cloves garlic, pressed or diced
1 cup chopped carrot
2 cups diced rip tomatoes
1 cup diced English cucumber
1 cup diced bell pepper
2 Tbsps thinly sliced green onions
2 thinly sliced celery stalks
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste
Dash cayenne (optional)

Seasonings for Italian Minestra all'Insalata:
1 tsp Italian saltless seasoning
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil (optional)
3 Tbsp finely chopped parsley

Seasonings for Gazpacho:
1-3 tsp saltless Mexican seasoning blend
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp white wine vinegar

In a medium sized microwavable bowl, place 1/4 cup juice, the onion, garlic and Italian or Mexican saltless seasoning. cover with vented plastic wrap and microwave at 100% for 5 minutes. Stir. Add the large bowl and chill for at least 20 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, stirring well. Chill to ice cold at least 1 hour before serving. Delectable!

Broccoli Salad A+

1 – 2 heads broccoli – cut into bite size bits
8 slices of bacon – cooked and cut up (I used the Hormel bacon bits in a jar)
1 medium red onion finely chopped
1 cup raisins
½ cup pine nuts or sunflower seeds


1 cup mayo
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp white vinegar

This recipe can be used with or without the bacon bits if their are vegans at the table!

Easy Pistachio/Pineapple Salad or Dessert - head of the line pass

1 small box instant pistachio pudding
1 small tub of cool whip
1 20oz can crushed pineapple
1 cup small marshmallows

Combine all ingredients in a bowl (including the juice from the pineapple can) and chill. How easy is that? And how delicious and fun!

This recipe fits in a medium size bowl or square dish. If you double the recipe it will fit in a 9x13 rectangular container.

Indian Ginger Carrot Salad (Outstanding!)
10 carrots
2 green chilies
1/4 inch ginger
1 tsp. salt (or to taste)
Juice of 1 lemon

2 tsp. oil (any kind is fine.)
1/4 tsp. mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. urad dal
1/4 tsp. asafoetida powder
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds

Shred carrots, ginger and green chilies (you can use your Salad Shooter!) Add salt, and the juice of 1 lemon. (Start with 1/2 the lemon, and add the rest if you like.)

Heat the oil in a small saucepan, and add the mustard seeds. When they begin to pop, quickly add the urad dal,cumin seeds, and asafoetida powder, in that order. When the urad dal turns golden brown, remove from heat, and add to the salad. (If it turns black, dump the garnish, and start again!) Mix well. Add salt and lemon juice to taste.


1. If you like the taste of cilantro, you can mince fresh cilantro and add to the
2, If you don't have the Indian ingredients, you can simply add the cumin
seeds as-is, and you're done! (Slightly different taste, but still yummy.)

Send us your school party ideas, we'd love to hear from you. Class parties, teacher gifts, class games - let us know!

1 comment:

  1. I especially loved that carrot salad. I may need to ask questions regarding finding the ingredients.


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