A January Church Dinner at Lincoln Seventh Ward

Planning a church adult dinner doesn’t have to be super-stressful. We are here to help.

My daughter and her husband were asked to plan dinners and activities for their church congregation. The original date for an adult dinner in December was postponed because a special guest came into town to visit.

Along with the new post-holiday date, the decor and menu were changed. Here are some of the ideas and recipes we used to entertain about 70 guests, and 5 take-outs in late January (we were told to plan for 80.) My Christmas book will contain full shopping lists, recipes and decor information.


Pick a theme. My daughter wanted a late January Valentine’s Day dinner but her bishop vetoed that because he didn’t want single adults to skip attending. We thought about winter wonderland (hence the snowflakes) but decided to focus on a French country theme. The hand-cut snowflakes were so cute, they were invited to grace the walls anyway.

Reserve the site. Spend time at the venue to find out what is available in the kitchen: refrigerator space ( you may need a cooler or two with ice), stove for re-heating dishes. Serving pieces, including spoons, platters, large salad bowls, etc. Salt and pepper shakers, pitchers, tables, towels and dish soap. Learn who to contact to let you into the building to set up, how to access the dumpsters if they are locked and who will lock up the building afterwards.

Determine whether you will need a P.A. system, microphone and speakers. Check the lighting; you may want to create a relaxing low-light environment. Will there be entertainment or an activity? Her group wanted to visit after dinner, but she thought a Bingo game would be a fun way to make sure everyone was engaged.

Gather decor and supplies. A couple of trips to Hobby Lobby and Michael’s for reduced-price Christmas lanterns and into nature to clip some beautiful eucalyptus and rosemary along with a few items from Amazon provided economical, stylish rustic decor.

Choose a menu and ask for volunteers. We decided to do an artisan bread and natural look – – like a beautiful country wedding. A sign-up sheet for bread making and facility set-up was passed around. The menu included:

Smoked beef brisket

Parmesan Potatoes

Million Dollar Salad

Roasted Garlic Asparagus

Handmade artisan breads with butter

Soft-serve ice cream bar with chocolate chip cookies and brownie bites

Filtered spring water in swing-top glass bottles, iced glasses with lemon slices and Martinelli’s sparkling cider (don’t forget bottle openers.)

Using artisan breads, vegetables, grapes, lemons and kale meant that much of the decor could be reused and eaten to reduce waste. We used a new canvas drop cloth for a rustic, textured tablecloth for the buffet table. My daughter’s dried orange and lemon slices added color and contrast. A friend loaned 5 chafing dishes: 4 half-steamer pan sized and one full-sized.

The long 8′ dining tables were chosen so the guests would be able to visit with more neighbors including those across the table, than large round tables allow. The long tables were covered with brown kraft butcher paper; textured moss green gauze scarves were run down the center of each table. On these were placed eucalyptus sprigs, rosemary and dried fruit slices. Each table of 8 seats had a swing-top bottle of water and 2 bottles of sparkling cider to add to the Euro country feel.

The day of the dinner, the breads began to be delivered to my daughter’s house. We wrapped some in cellophane and brown paper for Bingo prizes, which would also include beauty services from ward members and the lanterns – each winner could choose. She gave out 4 loaves of artisan bread, 2 gift certificates and 4 lanterns.


When setting up a buffet, place the side dishes first, then serve the more expensive entree last. The order of this buffet was: salad, potatoes, asparagus and brisket. The drinks and bread were on the dining tables and the desserts were in another area at a separate table.

Here are the recipes for the Million Dollar Salad and Parmesan Potatoes

Million Dollar Salad (we made 3 of these for 75 servings)

This recipe came from my friends in Newport Beach, CA. These ladies know how to cook!

In a large mixing bowl, toss

1 lb. Spring Greens lettuce mix

1 1/2 C dried cranberries

1 1/2 C praline pecans (chopped)

1 1/2 C crumbled feta cheese

1/4 – 1/2 C diced red onion

Just before serving, add

1 bottle Girard’s Champagne salad dressing

Make a salad as needed to refill the salad serving bowl, don’t make all of the salads ahead of time, the greens will wilt if dressed ahead.


The Parmesan Potato recipe is from a YouTube video ( the link is above). We chose this one because it contained about the same ingredients as my daughters’ favorite garlic mashed potatoes that she originally wanted to serve. The ladies who were helping make the potatoes for the buffet kept asking if she planned to serve gravy, which she didn’t want to do; so we switched to a baked potato dish instead. Since we were giving several people the ingredients to cook and bring to the church ready to serve, we altered it so it could be baked in disposable half-steamer pans that would fit in the chafing dishes . This recipe will feed about 20 people, we used 4 recipes of this.

Place a disposable 10″ x 12″ half steamer pan on a baking sheet. Use 2 pans if you want it to bake faster. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare

5 lbs. thin-skinned potatoes, washed and thinly sliced and divided into 4 portions

3 cloves garlic, crushed, divided into 4 portions

Place one fourth of the potatoes (overlapping) in the pan to cover the bottom, you will have 4 layers when finished. Over the first layer, sprinkle 1/4 of the crushed garlic

salt and pepper

a light sprinkling of dried thyme and nutmeg

Repeat with the next layer of potatoes and spices, repeat until the 4 layers are in the pan. Pour over

3 C heavy whipping cream

Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Uncover the potatoes and allow the cream to reduce by baking another 15 – 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender and cream thickened. Sprinkle over 4-5 oz. grated Parmesan cheese and return to the oven. Broil on low until the cheese is melted and golden brown. Sprinkle a little nutmeg over the cheese.

It was a delightful evening. The beautiful decor put the guests at ease. The delicious foods made everyone happy and the raucous Bingo game was fun. The MC was a charming and witty man who kept the evening lively with his cool music and funny banter. The disposable dishes and tablecloth meant cleanup was quick and easy. It was a successful and fun event. What are you planning this season?

Thank you Dr. King

Happy Dr. Martin Luther King Day!

Dr. King was a pastor and warrior for equal justice and rights under the law. We honor his work and legacy in fighting for freedom and the equal protection that all Americans are granted under the U.S. Constitution, especially the Thirteenth Amendment.

This is America, the Land of the Free, where all citizens are declared equal and all have the opportunity to make their dreams and wishes come true through hard work and diligence.

One of my favorite Hollywood treatments of the Equal Rights Movement of the 1960s is Hidden Figures, which is currently available to stream on Disney+. Suitable for all ages, it is an personable look at the women of color who worked for NASA and helped the U.S.A. achieve the goal of putting astronaut Alan Shepard in space and eventually on the moon and back safely.

When our son was living in Selma, Alabama as an LDS missionary, his father and I watched the movie Selma. It was a difficult movie to watch, it depicted troubling times. Suitable for parents, I would screen it before showing it to youth.

On this day we honor the Americans who have worked and sacrificed to provide a land of freedom and opportunity for all. We at McMurtry Creative Media also thank the military and law enforcement officers who, through their sacrifices, provide the safety that affords us opportunities to pursue the American Dream.

From the U. S. Department of Justice: “In February 2017, just weeks after taking office, President Trump issued an executive order – the “Back the Blue” order – that directed the Department of Justice to enhance the protection and safety of our law enforcement.

This is a high priority and critical mission for us. Law enforcement is a noble profession and one that demands respect. Police officers are the thin blue line that stands between law-abiding people and criminals, between order and lawlessness. They protect our communities, and by enforcing our laws, they enable those communities to flourish. I believe it is one of the highest callings of my job as United States Attorney to call attention to the successes of law enforcement and to encourage our fellow citizens to support police officers in their difficult and dangerous work.”

To those Americans who take our freedom and opportunities seriously, we add our voice and prayers of gratitude for all who are trying to make our world a better place.

Ring in the New!

A new year brimming with possibilities has dawned. When contemplating the panorama of all of the wonder we can imagine for the coming year, I encourage us all to keep working to make the world a better place.

For one child.

For one family.

For one community.

For one nation.

We can start where we are and build, letting the ripples of our positive thoughts and deeds spread and grow happiness.

Remember to be grateful.

Remember the sacrifices of those who went before us.

Remember to keep looking up. Our Creator loves us and has glorious plans for our future.

Remember you are loved and valued.

Happy New Year!

P.S. The better half of McMurtry Creative Media reminded me that Saturday is Epiphany and maybe then we can put my favorite Christmas decor away. Maybe…