Coffee at LuLu’s

A simple yet elegant mix of comforting foods, hospitality, and friends.

“Jackie’s Unbirthday Party”
My fabulous friend Kathi Mahler (left) and I (right)

Food is a connector, it not only sustains life, but warms the soul. The fine art of hospitality can be recaptured in your home everyday with a simple recipe, an elegant presentation and a love for people. There is just something about preparing a satisfying meal from the heart with fresh ingredients in the warmth of your home. The wonderful aromas, the front door opening with a “Honey, I’m Home” and gratitude that a lovely meal is on the table for friends and family is so comforting.

The inspiration for “Coffee at LuLus” is my grandmother, Mary Colucci, whom I affectionately called “Noni LuLu”.  As a child I shared a close bond with her as we shared coffee and toast at her kitchen table every Saturday morning. She never had an unkind word for me and I felt so warm and welcome in her presence I never wanted to be anywhere else.

My grandmother lived in a small two family home and her kitchen table was the heart of the home.   I can still remember the long walk up the enclosed porch to her front door where she would be waiting for me.  There is just something about a love filled welcome into someone’s presence.    I was only eight years old and my love and appreciation for good hospitality was unveiled. Noni and I would sit and talk about anything and everything, it didn’t matter what we were doing, I just loved to be with Noni, and drink her delicious coffee and taste the best Italian bread she could offer.  I remember her making wonderful Italian dishes as well, such as homemade ravioli, Italian wedding soup and Braciole.   “Mangiare Mangiare”  is what she would say, which is Italian for “Eat, Eat!”

I hope the same love I carry in my heart for her will connect our hearts as I share wonderful recipes and great hospitality tips weekly.  Enjoy!

Plan Prepare and Prep For a Simple Home Event

Remember, hospitality says I’m welcoming you into my life…

    • Planning, Preparing and Prepping is a must if you want to host a successful gathering.  The more you can get done ahead of time, the more relaxed you will be and available to connect with your guest.
    • Using fresh ingredients, prepare side dishes and sauces one to two days in advance and place in the freezer.  You can just pop them out to defrost the day of or before your event.  The main portion of the meal (pot roast, chicken parmesan, etc.) should be made fresh that day.
    • Find out key party pleasers ahead of time as far as what your guests like to drink, favorite hor’dourve’s or snacks and whether or not they will be bringing friends or children.  Anything you can do to help the guest feel invited into your home will provide lasting connections and memories.
    • Clean your house throughout the week or the day before; key areas would be vacuuming carpets, cleaning bathrooms and a small amount of decluttering. You do not have to buy new furniture, paint walls, or rearrange your life to welcome people into your home.  A clean, friendly and simple elegance is all that is needed.
    • GREAT IDEA!  Set the table and buffet areas the day before your party.  This gives you time to enjoy creating a tastefully decorated table without the stress.  Bring out and mix your best pieces with everyday china.  I do not like everything matchy so have fun and mix things together for a cohesive but no fuss look.

“Elegant Table Setting”

  • Cut back on feeling like you need to prepare everything homemade yourself.  Make the main entrée and ask others to bring side dishes or order hor’dourve’s from your local grocery or gourmet shop. Throw in a few interesting food dishes and fun soft drinks, tea, or sparkling waters with umbrellas, fresh mint sprigs, limes or lemons.
  • Set an incredible atmosphere people will remember. Soft music, fresh flowers on tables and in bathrooms, beautiful fragrance (candles, room spray, potpourri pots, perfume oil decanters) and soft lighting is a must.  You can play with unique lighting features such as LED candles, mini light strands in trees and greenery, candles and pretty accent lamps.  The table should be set for an elegant mix of comfort and beauty.
  • It’s always a welcome surprise to find pretty soaps, napkins, and candles waiting in the bathroom.  Set a tray or dish with colorful party napkins on the counter so guests clearly know they are for drying their hands. Throw in an elegantly decorating bottle of hand lotion for extra pampering for your female guest.
  • Wash your dishes, pots etc. before the guests arrive.  I want to spend my time with people not in the kitchen cleaning dishes!  I then miss out on the vital connection and friendship if I don’t give my guest the best of my time.
  • About 20 minutes before a guest arrives fragrance the home (light candles etc.) push the “on” button on the coffee pot, turn lights on, start the fire in your fireplace.
  • “Entry”

    Welcome them with a WOW…Provide a WARM WELCOME at the door. Refrain from yelling “come in” from across the house.  Be at the front door to greet the guest… turn the TV off!  Your entry way should be warm and inviting in decor.

As guests arrive provide about 30 minutes for a welcome, small talk and eating hor’dourve’s. Your meal should be eaten 30 minutes after the arrivals; no later!  This is why prepping ahead of time is vital.  Put the finishing touches on the meal while guests are enjoying  their drinks/snacks and conversation.

  • Be conversational! Talk! Share! Share more than just your food and your home; share yourself!  Keep the focus of the conversations on the guest and take a peek into their lives.
  • As my lovely friend, Maria always told me “The guest deserves the best of everything”  Maria loved to serve and shared her life with all who visited her home. She would stand in her driveway waving goodbye until the guest was long out of sight.  Now that’s hospitality!

In closing here is a simple yet elegantly tasteful hord’oeuvre and fun story to enjoy!

My family has always had a flair for the dramatic, and one of those people was my Uncle Howard.   Uncle Howard was married to my mother’s Aunt Sue, a beautiful woman, whom I thought looked much like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.  They lived in Sidney, New York, where Uncle Howard was Principle of Sidney Elementary School, and a part time actor in the theatre for fun!   After retiring to Florida, he got involved with local theatre where he got the lead part in “The Man Who Came to Dinner”.  How appropriate because not only was he in the Who’s Who in America, but he could cook!!  Oh, you should have seen his beautiful silver collection and the night he brought it out to serve us Cherries Jubilee.  “Oh Baby!” as he would often say!  As a young child,  I was completely impressed.  Well, Uncle Howard had a lot of specialties and hosted many dinner parties.  I would like to honor him with a very simple yet fantastic hord’oeuvres he taught me to make; Ham/Cream Cheese/Pickle Hord’oeuvres… Oh Baby!

Ham/Cream Cheese/Pickle Hord’oeuvre

10 slices of thick Virginia Baked Deli Ham

1 to 2 packages of Philadelphia Cream Cheese

1 jar of Vlasic Pickles

1 box of colorful toothpicks

Take a paper towel and dry each piece of Ham.  Smooth on about a tablespoon of  Philadelphia Cream Cheese onto each piece of ham.  Take a Vlasic pickle and roll onto the ham and cream cheese forming a log.  Place 4 or 5 colorful toothpicks into the pickle log and place in refrigerator overnight covered in tin foil.  Just before your party, slice the pickle log in between the toothpicks and serve on a beautiful serving tray.  Easy and delicious!

Until next week friends!

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