This post comes courtesy of Elaine Smit of Chow Bella Kids.
I’ve been a member of a book club for many years now. Anyone who’s been in a book club long enough knows it’s not just the books that keep bringing us together — it’s also the food. We find it equally important that we get to share a meal thoughtfully prepared by the book club host that evening.
Hosting a book club should be fun! Try to create a simple menu and a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere. Use food to enhance the theme for the evening. For instance, for our fall book club meeting our hostess Jaine chose a menu that reflects the changing seasons beautifully. She prepared a combination of the warm comfort foods we love in the fall and cool refreshing drinks and desserts we still crave during the warm end-of-summer days.
It was easy to forget we had gathered to discuss a book as we were taken in by the refreshing flavors of orange margaritas and the savory aromas of chicken with 40 garlic cloves and Moroccan couscous.
Fall Book Club Menu
Artichoke Dip (recipe at bottom)
Ice Cream Bombe (recipe at bottom)
Here are a few guidelines on how to host a book club:
- One month before: Pick the book. Introduce the book at the book club meeting prior to the one you’re hosting.
- During the month: Send an email reminding the group about the title of the book. It helps to include a link to an online purchasing source. Read the book.
- One week before: Send an email asking book club members to RSVP their attendance to your meeting. Plan your menu and create a shopping list.
- The day before: Finalize your guest list. Shop for the ingredients you’ll need and make any advance preparations necessary for your meal. Prepare your book club talking notes to get the discussion started. Many books include notes in the back or on the author’s website.
- The day of: Clean your house. Make the appetizers, set the table and prep ingredients for dinner.
When your guests arrive, give them time to socialize. For appetizers, consider serving finger foods such as spiced mixed nuts and an artichoke dip with pita chips or crackers. Set up a self-serve drink area where guests can help themselves to water, wine and a signature drink you can make in advance. Margaritas with a splash of orange juice are perfect on a warm fall evening.
Our fall menu includes chicken with 40 garlic cloves, Moroccan couscous and a simple green salad with vinaigrette. Try to have all the food ready by the time the first guests arrive. If this is not possible, enlist the help of others to finish setting out platters and tossing the green salad. Have your dinner table set and a buffet station ready to place the serving platters. Guests can serve themselves and find a place to sit at the table. Save the book discussion for later, when the meal is finished and everyone has adjourned to another room.
Discuss the book and eat dessert. For dessert consider serving an ice cream bombe, which is absolutely beautiful and full of flavor, featuring three layers of ice cream. The host that evening can lead the discussion using the book club notes prepared the day before. Once the discussion wraps up, the host for the next book club can introduce the book she has chosen while the guests finish dessert.
1 jar water-packed or marinated artichoke hearts (about 2 cups)
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
3 1/2 Tbs. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Crostini for serving
Preheat an oven to 350°F.
Drain the liquid from the artichokes and discard. Chop the artichokes into 1/2-inch pieces and put in a bowl. Add the mayonnaise, lemon juice, 3 Tbs. cheese and the parsley and mix well with a wooden spoon. Spoon into a small baking dish or soufflé dish and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 Tbs. cheese. Place the dish on a baking sheet and bake until golden on top, 25 to 30 minutes. The dip will be very hot; let cool slightly before serving with the crostini. Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer.
Triple Layer Ice Cream Bombe
1 1/2 pints orange sherbet
1 pint raspberry sorbet
1/2 pint vanilla ice cream
Soften the sherbet, sorbet and ice cream in the refrigerator. Line a 1 1/2-quart glass bowl with plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes. Using the back of a large spoon, spread the orange sherbet into the bottom and sides of the bowl. Freeze until firm, about 30 minutes. Repeat with the raspberry sorbet and the vanilla ice cream, creating an ice cream bombe with 3 layers. Once complete, freeze for at least 4 hours before serving.
To serve, invert the bombe onto a platter, remove the plastic wrap and, using a sharp knife, cut the bombe into slices. Serves 8.
About the author: Elaine and her daughter Jenny are the founders of Chow Bella Kids. A business that specializes in cooking events just for kids. They teach kids cooking classes, cooking parties, summer camps, scouts and private cooking events. They created www.chowbellakids.net/ blog where they showcase kid friendly recipes, cooking tips, and videos. They are committed to educating and inspiring kids. They strive to make a bigger difference on the planet through the power of teaching children and families kids how to cook in a safe, fun and healthy environment.