Diane Caldwell makes a Pear-Strawberry Gorgonzola Tart
There are those who are all about simple and easy entertaining, and then there's Diane Caldwell.
Fussing over beautiful food and tablescapes tops her list of favorite pursuits.
"The better it looks, the better people feel," says Diane.
A program assistant at Frederick School in Grayslake, Diane has hosted half a dozen annual luncheons for the secretaries and she pitches in full-force when it's her team's turn for the weekly staff breakfast.
For one secretarial event she served Caesar salads in full-size lunchboxes and created matching individual favors in miniature lunchboxes with flowers. At another event she crafted coffee mugs out of Rice Crispy treats and filled them with chocolate syrup and sugar cubes.
The Friday breakfasts - served before classes convene - are another highlight at grade school where teams of teachers take turns laying out a feast.
"I think our school is really unique because everybody really fusses over everybody else," she says. "It's a good time to be together."
Diane's team once created "Club Frederick" with strobe lights, fruit juice cocktails, a palm tree with white lights and finger foods like miniature quiches and pigs in a blanket.
For one of her daughter's showers she baked miniature Key lime pies to serve on little sterling silver plates, and then crafted tiny wedding dresses out of fabric to stand at each place.
Food seems to be woven into most of Diane's activities; even her long-standing book club friends take turns hosting a formal dinner with appetizers and wine to start.
She chooses from seven sets of dishes, matching her tablescape to the color scheme.
"I missed my calling," she says.
For inspiration she recently joined a cookbook club through Someone's in the Kitchen, a Libertyville cooking school and kitchen shop. Each of 12 members picks a recipe from the same cookbook, prepares it at home and brings it in for an extensive tasting with wine.
"Everyone tells how they tweaked their recipe and everyone critiques the food," she says. "I love the new ideas."
At home she treats herself and husband Bob to home cooked meals most nights.
"I always cook well for the family," she says.
This week she gives us several recipes she has served at school breakfasts: a corn souffle that "goes with anything," breakfast cookies that are "good for the family on the run" and a trendy but easy pear tart with Gorgonzola.
No need for strobe lights, palm trees and music, but wouldn't that be a wake-up call for your family?