By Ann Cipperly
Birthdays are special times at the home of Natalie and Aaron Warren and their three children, Judson, 8; Ann Bradley, 6; and Caroline, 4. Natalie enjoys celebrating the children’s birthdays with a theme party at their home. For Caroline’s 4th birthday, the entire family helped with a tea party, including serving tea and other beverages to go along with a variety of yummy refreshments.
“When Caroline decided that she wanted to have a tea party for her 4th birthday, it was the perfect party theme for her fancy little personality,” Natalie said. “She and her sister Ann Bradley helped plan every detail from the invitations to the flowers to the menu. Caroline helped roll out cookie dough, arrange florals and set the table.
“Then, when it came to party time, Caroline enjoyed every second of the activities.”
The fun activities included coloring with friends and playing little tea party games. Afterwards, Caroline sat at the table, savoring snacks and drank her tea (which was actually apple juice) until the very end.
“She enjoyed her party so much that she was the last person sitting at the table,” Natalie said. “She soaked in every second of her girlie tea party.”
Food for the tea party included chicken salad sandwiches, fruit and cheese, pound cakes and assorted cookies. Natalie is sharing the recipes for the tea party along with a few others she has used in the past at a mother-daughter tea party hosted by her sister, as well as baby showers for friends and family.
“The tea party was a lot of fun to put together amd it was really satisfying to see it all turn out just as we had planned,” Natalie said. “The weeks leading up to the party we went to thrift stores and antique stores to pick out tea cups for Caroline and her friends.”
Natalie also used some dishes borrowed from her mom and sisters. She used some tiered dessert plates that originally belonged to her Grandmother Joan Bennett and Great-grandmother Louise O’Brien on the table.
“Our birthday parties are always a group effort,” Natalie said. “I may come up with the majority of the plans, but Aaron and the kids always jump on board and do their part to make sure the day is special.”
While the tea’s guest list was entirely girls, Natalie wanted to be sure the guys in the family could be a part of it too. Aaron captured the day through pictures, and Judson dressed up and poured the drinks when it was tea time. Natalie noted that Judson took his job very seriously and jumped at the opportunity to serve.
Natalie said her best advice for hosting a little girl’s tea party is to get input from your little ones. Since Caroline picked the details and menu, it was just the celebration she was hoping for her birthday.
“By letting Caroline be a part of the shopping, planning, and prep meant we extended the excitement over the weeks leading up to the party rather than just a few hours during the party.”
The Warrens enjoy planning activities, parties and trips with their children. Natalie and Aaron met at an egg hunt for Trinity United Methodist Church that was held at her parents’ home. Aaron’s father was the pastor at the time. His mother played match maker and invited her son, who was visiting them for the weekend, to help at Debra and Mike Bennett’s egg hunt in order for him to meet Natalie.
His mother’s instincts were good. Aaron and Natalie began dating and became engaged three months later.
After they were married, Natalie joined Aaron in Statesboro, Georgia, where they lived for about six months and then transferred to Dothan for two years.
“Aaron was an engineer for 15 years, but after his father became sick and passed away, he wanted to do something different,” Natalie said. “He had the opportunity to open a State Farm agency in Columbus.”
When the house down from her parents in Opelika became available, they felt it was exactly what they wanted with space to offer hospitality.
Natalie is enjoying being an at-home mother and has put her nursing career on hold. She graduated from Lee Scott, attended Auburn University and then Southern Union for a nursing degree.
Like her mother and grandmother, Natalie enjoys cooking. When she was growing up, she took cooking classes from a caterer and at the recreation center.
“I vividly remember my mom letting me pull a chair up to the counter to help her stir and mix ingredients. I have always loved it,” she said.
“Now my kids love to do that. They will pull their little chair by the island. They love to stir and help. I tell my mom thank you for teaching me to cook. I know it took longer to finish the recipe, but I am so thankful she passed her love of cooking to me.
“Now I am passing it on to my children. I hope my kids will grow up to enjoy being in the kitchen too.”
Look over the recipes and plan a tea party with your children or grandchildren whether it is their birthday or not.
PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED TO THE OBSERVER
Chicken Salad with Pecans, Grapes and Apples
5 cups chicken breast, cooked and shredded and food processor
2 cups roasted pecans, chopped
1 cup seedless grapes, sliced in half
1 cup honey crisp apples, peeled and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups Dukes mayonnaise
Splash of lemon juice
Mix all ingredients together and let sit in refrigerator at least 4 hours before serving. This recipe makes about 4 pounds of chicken salad, and I have found that 1 pound makes about eight large scoops.
The chicken salad scoops go great served on a lettuce leaf with crackers or you can use the chicken salad in a tea sandwich or croissant roll.
This cookie recipe came from my dear friend, Carrie Jefferies. She not only shared her recipe but taught me the art of making and decorating these delicious cookies.
6 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
Dash of salt
2 cups (4 sticks) salted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
2 eggs, room temperature
2 tsp. water
Measure flour into a bowl. Add in baking powder and salt and stir together; set aside. Mix butter, sugar and extracts in the bowl of large stand mixer and beat slowly until combine. Increase to medium speed until it is creamed together. Make sure not to over beat as too much mixing can make more air bubbles, and your cookies will be more prone to spread in the oven.
Add eggs, then water and mix on low to medium speed until just fluffed together. Add in flour mixture slowly by spoonfuls while mixer runs on low speed until all flower has been added.
Divide dough into thirds on plastic wrap; pat quickly into disc, wrap, and refrigerate for 25 to 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Dust a piece of wax paper with flour and roll out cookie dough into 3/8 inch thickness, (I use a rolling pin with rings to ensure level rolling to this thickness) and place on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer for 10 minutes. Do this with each disc.
Remove from the freezer and cut out with cutters. Place on parchment paper lined cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes. The time will vary based on the size of the cookie and how cold it got in the freezer. Keep an eye and take them out in the first touch of brown.
Cool for 5 to 10 minutes on cookie sheet and then move directly to a cooling rack and let cool completely before either decorating or store in an airtight container.
Royal Icing for Decorating Sugar Cookies
5 oz. warm water
6-7 Tbsp. meringue powder
3/4 tsp. cream of tartar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
2 lb. bag powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
Add warm water to the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and carefully measure meringue powder gently to the water in the bowl. Mix slowly for a few seconds until it starts to come together and then on medium to high speed for one minute until doubled in size in and is fluffy.
Turn mixer speed down to low and add cream of tartar, vanilla and almond extract; mix for 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and add half of a 2 pound bag of powdered sugar and mix for 30 seconds until smooth. Add corn syrup and mix for another 10 seconds.
Stop mixer and add remaining powdered sugar; mix on low for 30 seconds until comes together. Scrape down sides and mix on low speed for one minute.
At this point you can divide icing into smaller bowls to add different food coloring to each bowl to make desired colors. Place icing in piping bag to ice onto cookies.
Allow decorated cookies to dry completely for several hours or overnight before serving. Store unused icing in airtight container in the refrigerator.
Browned Butter Blondies
½ cup pecans
12 Tbsp. salted butter, melted, browned and cooled
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1½ cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
1½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, saving some for the top
Place pecans on a baking sheet and bake at 325 degrees for about 10 minutes, then chop. While the nuts are toasting, place butter in a saucepan and melt until golden brown over medium heat, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to burn the butter. Let cool to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 9×13 baking dish with parchment paper, all the way up the sides.
In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt together.
In a mixing bowl fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the melted butter and brown sugar. Then add the eggs and vanilla. Gently fold in the flour mixture, then fold in chopped pecans and chocolate chips.
Spread batter into the lined baking dish and smooth the top. It will be thick. Sprinkle more chocolate chips and pecans on top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown, rotating pan halfway through baking. Remove from oven and let cool completely before cutting into squares.
Sour Cream Pound Cake
1 cup white Crisco
3 cups sugar
6 eggs, room temperature
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
8 oz. sour cream, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Cream Crisco and sugar well in a stand mixer. Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each egg. Add flour which has been mixed with soda and salt.
Add sour cream and then vanilla extract, beat until well combined. Pour into greased and floured Bundt pan. Bake at 300 degrees for 90 minutes. Best served warm with fresh whipped cream and berries.
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 pkg. (7 oz.) Italian dressing mix
½ cup Duke’s mayonnaise
Sandwich bread, cut into circles with cookies cutter
Combine cream cheese, Italian dressing mix and mayonnaise; blend well. Spread cream cheese mixture on bread and top with a sliced cucumber.
Bag of oyster crackers
1 pkg. dry ranch dressing mix
3 tsp. garlic powder
3 tsp. crushed red pepper
3 tsp. dill weed
1 cup oil
1 gallon Ziplock bag
Place crackers in Ziplock. Mix remaining ingredients in a bowl and whisk together. Pour over crackers and let sit for 24 hours before serving.
Mock Champagne Punch
2 bottles ginger ale (2 liter bottles)
1 can pineapple juice (46 oz.)
1 bottle white grape juice (64 oz.)
Chill ingredients prior to mixing. Mix just before serving.
1 boxed cake mix (we love lemon and strawberry flavors)
8 oz. whipped topping, thawed
½ cup powdered sugar
Mix cake mix, whipped topping, and egg together well. Drop by tsp. sized balls into powdered sugar, roll until coasted. Place on parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.
Sand Tart Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups self-rising flour
2 tsp. vanilla
5 or 6 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
Combine butter and sugar and cream well. Add flour, vanilla and nuts. Roll into small logs. Place on parchment lined baking sheet bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. When completely cooled roll in powdered sugar.
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup butter, softened
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In medium bowl, mix flour, butter and 1/4 cup powdered sugar with spoon until well mixed. Press in ungreased 8 or 9 inch square pan, building up ½ inch edges. Bake crust 20 minutes; remove from oven.
In medium bowl, beat remaining ingredients except additional powdered sugar with electric mixer on high speed about 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Pour over hot crust.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until no indentation remains when touched lightly in center. Cool completely in pan on cooling rack, about 1 hour. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut into squares.
Fluffy Marshmallow Cream Cheese Fruit Dip
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
7 oz. marshmallow crème
Combine the softened cream cheese and marshmallow creme in a medium-size bowl. Beat on medium speed until smooth. Refrigerate until chilled (1 to 2 hours). Serve with your favorite fruits. Refrigerate leftovers for up to 5 days.
½ cup butter, softened
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ lb. shredded cheddar cheese
1 tsp. salt
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 dash hot pepper sauce
¾ cup chopped pecans
In a medium size mixing bowl, blend together butter or margarine and flour. Mix in the cheddar cheese, salt, red pepper, hot pepper sauce and pecans.
Form the dough into a roll and wrap in parchment paper. Refrigerate roll overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice dough into very thin wafers. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until crisp.