Enjoy fresh air, flavor and fun with this delightful garden party plan.
When Christine Panzarella throws a garden party, guests can’t wait to see how she’ll “turn the tables”…into a feast for the eyes and the palate.
“To me, an empty table is like a blank canvas waiting to be filled with colors, tastes and decorations,” says the cheerful wife and mother from Buena Park, California. “Growing up, I learned from my mom that home-cooked and handcrafted are best. My husband, Paul, and I are teaching our daughter, Jenna, the same thing.”
That philosophy planted the seed for Christine’s three perennial passions… cooking, gardening and crafting. “Cooking is one of the ways I express myself best,” she says. “I love to dream up food for themed parties. The menu helps create an atmosphere that transports guests to a special place and time.”
A Spring Fling
In the fun-loving Panzarella family, most every day is cause for celebration. “Recently, Jenna and I put our heads together on party ideas for her birthday,” Christine says. “We agreed on a theme that would also say ‘welcome’ to spring—an outdoor garden party.
“In planning the menu, we figured guests would enjoy digging into my Garden Cobb Salad, served from a lined terra-cotta flowerpot. For a fun twist, you can substitute a pair of small trowels for traditional salad tongs to serve it.” As creative as Christine is, many of her recipes are garden-variety. “Gardening is a favorite hobby of mine,” she notes, nodding to her backyard crop of strawberries, squash, herbs and tomatoes. “I enjoy inventing original recipes using our own homegrown produce.” (Try Caprese Tomato Bites for another taste of springtime.)
“Jenna came up with the cute Little Snail Rolls while playing with breadstick dough. Sometimes, we sweeten them up, sprinkling cinnamon and sugar over the dough, and have them for breakfast.” Their down-to-earth dessert choice was perfect for spring. “Kids of all ages like to play in the dirt. So imagine eating it, too,” Christine laughs. “The ‘soil’ in my Cookie Pudding Pots is a mix of chocolate cookie crumbs and fudge pudding. A carved strawberry and mint sprigs from my garden make a beautiful rosebud garnish.
“After dessert, the small flowerpots were reused in a craft activity for the garden party,” she adds. “We washed the pots clean, filled them with soil and planted pansies and violets inside. Everyone went home with a floral favor.”
Bringing Fun to the Table
A green thumb at landscaping, Christine is equally handy at plotting out a stunning tabletop. “For a garden-themed centerpiece for the garden party, I used silk flowers to dress up my watering can,” says Christine. (Try a crafty painting project using a watering can.) “Next, I tucked a bunny I soft sculpted into faux lettuce leaves and put them in a raffia-trimmed pot.
As a finishing touch to the garden party, Christine planted a homemade favor beside each diner’s plate. “My seed packets are simple to craft—and you can slip a variety of goodies inside,” she shares. “I filled mine with snapshots of Jenna with her horse and a personalized note to every guest.”
“Later, when family and friends left the garden party, they took the seeds for happy memories along with them. To me, that’s what successful meals and parties are all about.”