Sunday, June 29, 2014

Passing the Salt & Pepper by:: Penny Madden

A lot can happen in a year. For those that have followed this blog this past year, you’ve witnessed some of the great projects we’ve taken on, new cooking and entertaining ideas, and how much fun we’ve had together as a Cookbook Committee.

On a personal level, I’ve found more joy in cooking this year. I have cooked more new recipes this last year than any other year! I started this journey twelve months ago looking to spice up my marketing skills. When one typically needs a little extra seasoning she may ask for some salt and pepper. That is exactly what happened —  I received some salt and pepper. Along with that came many opportunities to build my skills through promoting the Junior League of Wichita’s cookbooks, planning and hosting Kitchen Tours, and working on this blog.

It’s been a year peppered with light-hearted and serious moments.
My family found a new favorite recipe: the Caramel Pumpkin Spice Cookies from Sunflower Sampler (my mom keeps asking me to make another batch).

We introduced Junior League of Wichita cookbooks to a new audience in Wichita at the CIG Chili Cook Off.
CIG Chili Cook Off October 2014
Kitchen Tours 2014
We raised $26,000 in just four short hours at our Kitchen Tours event featuring five beautiful dining and entertaining spaces.

And after borrowing my mom’s well-loved copy of Sunflower Sampler this last year, she surprised me with my very own copy on the day of Kitchen Tours.
I’ve also laughed a lot this year — even when I just wanted to cry. Because it’s been a year filled with change, too.

As I get ready to pass the salt and pepper to someone else, I’m doing so without my biggest fan, my dad, to whom this blog entry is dedicated. I lost my dad in December and the support from my fellow committee members was shown in so many ways — including kind words and sharing food with my family while we grieved. My dad loved seeing my byline on this blog, and knowing that helped when I needed a little bit of extra strength to keep pushing on to raise money for a good cause.

Food has always brought my family together and I think my dad would be proud of all that I’ve done with the Cookbook Committee this year. He would be so happy to know that I am cooking more and inviting my mom and brother over for dinner more often so we can eat together. Just last week, I invited my mom over for dinner. I made the Chicken Wontons with Asian Glaze from Pinches and Dashes and my mom gave me the best compliment I could receive, telling her grandsons, “Your mommy is a good cook.”

As I look back over this adventure, I can’t help but think that my life has been seasoned by so much this last year – remembering and honoring my dad, memories I have made, skills I have learned, and friends I treasure. For me, these are life’s measures. I wish you good luck and good fortune as you discover your seasoning.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Kitchen Tours 2014 Highlights ::Brady Fritz

It’s hard to believe that Kitchen Tours was over just over a month ago. After months of planning, the event flew by in four short hours!  Despite what turned out to be one of Wichita’s hottest spring days on records, nearly 500 people came out to tour and enjoy our five featured kitchen and entertaining spaces. I’m happy to report Kitchen Tours 2014 raised over $26,000! These funds will go to fund Junior League of Wichita’s mission to build a better community.  Whether you want to remember the incredible design you saw during Kitchen Tours or if did not get a chance to join us, please enjoy these pictures from the 2014 event.

Comment on your favorite part of Kitchen Tours.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Supper of Salads By: Penny Madden

Every year one of the organizations I belong to in addition to the Junior League of Wichita always hosts the first meeting of the year as a salad supper. Each of the women in the organization brings a salad with a serving spoon. It always amazes me just how many types of salads there really are. According to Wikipedia, “Many people use the word "salad" to describe light, savory leafy vegetable dishes, most often served with a sauce or dressing, but the category may additionally include dishes made of ingredients such as fruits, grains, meats, seafood and sweets. Though many salads use raw ingredients, some use cooked ingredients; most salads use vegetables, though fruit salads also exist.”

You would think that having 16 women bring a salad for a dinner gathering would get repetitious but with this definition you can see how there can be a plethora of salads! And every year we always seem to have a good balance of the different types of salad ranging from “side” type salads like a potato or bean type salad, “main course” leafy salads with or without meat to more of the “dessert” fruit type salad.

I recently saw the Junior League of Wichita Cookbook Facebook page a discussion of some popular salads from the Junior League of Wichita’s cookbook, Pinches and Dashes. I thought I would try something new and make one of the salads mentioned. The post mentioned: the Chopped Kale Salad with Currants & Pine Nuts (pg. 65), Pear & Pecan Salad with Bleu Cheese Infused Vinaigrette (pg. 71) and Chicken Florentine salad with Garlic Lemon Vinaigrette (pg. 77). Because I do not like cheese, I immediately eliminated the salad infused with Bleu Cheese. I know, I have heard it all before, you are probably thinking how can I not like cheese?That’s a blog post for another time but just know I am not alone in this world as there are others of us, even right here in Wichita.

So, that left the Chicken Florentine Salad and the Kale Salad. While the Chicken Florentine Salad has cheese too, it’s one of the ingredients that is used last which means I can leave my portion without cheese or just take a scoop from the bottom.  Ironically, I chose to make this one as I wanted to bring a salad with some meat as from past salad suppers I’ve attended there are fewer salads with any sort of meat. And, there is something very therapeutic about shredding chicken! 

So, that left the Chicken Florentine Salad and the Kale Salad. While the Chicken Florentine Salad has cheese too, it’s one of the ingredients that is used last which means I can leave my portion without cheese or just take a scoop from the bottom.  Ironically, I chose to make this one as I wanted to bring a salad with some meat as from past salad suppers I’ve attended there are fewer salads with any sort of meat. And, there is something very therapeutic about shredding chicken!

While there are many ingredients for this salad, the main prep work goes into the chicken and cooking the orzo, and cutting and de-stemming the spinach. Other than that, it’s just a matter of adding the ingredients.

The vinaigrette was easy to make as well. Since this was my first attempt at this salad and the fact I was taking it to a dinner party of sorts, I went ahead and doubled this recipe just in case anyone wanted extra. And, once the dressing was drizzled on the salad a little did go a long way so just in case you have that same mentality you really do not need the extra vinaigrette unless you plan to use it on another salad for another day.

The salad tasted very light and I really liked the mixture of olives, pine nuts and tomatoes along with the difference of textures between the leafy greens and small bits of smooth pasta (orzo).

The other ladies seemed to really like the salad too and I thought I was going to have a ton of it left to take home as the recipe really does make a lot. However, there was very little left - a good sign that the ladies enjoyed it! The recipe said it serves 4-6 but you definitely can feed a lot more when there are multiple dishes to sample.

Photos by: Penny Madden

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Super Kid Party Food :: By Penny Madden

Eight years ago I discovered a new past time - planning my children’s birthday parties. As a mom, I have thoroughly enjoyed this new creative outlet for me. One of the reasons I enjoy throwing parties is finding unique ways to present every day foods to go along with the birthday theme. I’ve been told I should blog about the kid parties I host but between raising my boys, work and volunteer work there really is not much time to do so. With guest blogging for Junior League of Wichita’s Life Measures, I thought this would be a great opportunity to share the creativity.

This year my oldest decided he wanted an art theme party in honor of his 8th birthday and he wanted everyone to paint pictures from the video game, Super Mario Bros. What a challenge, a Mario Art Party!

My favorite part is planning the food or snacks. Because this party was for kids only, I focused on kid friendly snacks. For the cake, I helped to develop the idea and chose to order the cake from a bakery for the sake of time as cake decorating is definitely not my forte.

I always try to offer healthy snack options. This year I put together a veggie tray to resemble the Mario Bros. fire flower. This was so simple: I just started with an oval dish that can be filled with any veggie dip. You could use the Artichoke Dip from the Junior League of Wichita’s Cookbook Women of Great Taste if you had more adults coming. Because this was a kids only party, I used ranch dressing for dipping. I placed the oval dish on a bigger tray and layered grape tomatoes, carrots and yellow peppers. For the stem, I laid out a domino row of cucumber slices and placed a broccoli bundle on each for the leaves. Finally I placed two black olives in the dip for its eyes.

The next few snacks were simple. I served classic cheese balls to represent fire balls that are part of the Super Mario Bros. game.

I also featured two other Super Mario Bros. powers. I drew blue ice flowers with decorating gel on the biggest marshmallows I have ever seen. It’s like the grocery store knew I needed something like this!

Then I made open “invisible star” sandwiches with peanut butter and honey and place chocolate chips for the eyes. Tip: Make sure party-goers do not have any food allergies that may cause problems with your menu. As an alternative, you could do bread and butter. I used a star cookie cutter to cut the shape.

In addition to the cake, I made green and red frosted mushroom-shaped cupcakes. Just use any cake recipe you desire and decorate with green and/or red frosting. Now red frosting is difficult to make using white icing and red food coloring so I found some premade red icing. For the red mushrooms, you can make a red velvet cake. My favorite red velvet cake recipe is the Presidential Red Velvet Cupcakes in the Junior League of Wichita’s Pinches and Dashes (pg. 164). To top these cupcakes off (literally) place melting white chocolate pieces on the frosting.

For one last sweet treat (and the most challenging of all), we recreated the piranha plants coming out of the green pipe tunnels in the video game. I did experiment with beforehand. I made a batch of the Drops of Sunshine Cookies from Pinches and Dashes (pg. 145). I knew I needed something not too soft but not too hard and light in color so these were perfect! Instead of dropping a teaspoonful of dough on the cookie sheet, I actually took about 2 teaspoons of dough and flattened them on the cookie sheet in order to get a bigger cookie.

Once these were done baking, I cut a pie shape out of the cookie and I also used Wilton edible food coloring spray to color the cookie red (which is why I needed a light color cookie). 

Then for my experiment purposes I stuffed Sara Lee pound cake in a colored ice cream cone (I planned to use green cones but saved these for the day of the party), frosted it with chocolate frosting and used chocolate sprinkles for some “dirt” texture. I attached the cookie to the cone using a tooth pick. This worked beautifully. I attempted to get extra creative and used marshmallows for the white spots on the piranha … this didn’t work as well so I opted not to use this the day of the party as I didn’t think it was necessary. An alternative is to use white frosting. 

For the actual party day I baked a box cake mix straight into the cones to save time as stuffing the cones with pre-made pound cake can be time consuming.

Most of the batch of the Drops of Sunshine I made, mysteriously were eaten by the boys in my house, so I found some yellow frosted sugar cookies at the store that worked well too … they were a little softer than the Drops of Sunshine so if you have the time I recommend making these.
(If your little one wants to help you can have them frost the cones and make the food signs)
 For the beverage, it was fitting to serve 7-ups since a, “free guy” in the video game is represented as 1-up.

And of course you have to have (Power-up) water!

For the rest of the creative fun, all the kids transformed into Mario and had a chance to jump over green pipe tunnels, stomp on goombas and bust a brick for a chance to win some gold coins.

I dressed my husband as Bowser and the kids defeated him with fire and ice balls (soft pit balls).

And everyone got a spin in the Mario kart!

 The best part of the whole party was when my son thanked me for everything and said that this was the best party ever!

 Photos by: Penny Madden 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Feast For Your Eyes:: Brady Fritz

Want a feast for the eyes? Purchase your ticket to Kitchen Tours 2014 today! Either visit or better yet drop Junior League of Wichita Headquarters, 6402 East 12th Street, Wichita, Kansas. Volunteers will sell our last remaining tickets and distribute pre-purchased tickets during these hours:
 Saturday, May 3 from 9 am to 1 pm
 Sunday, May 4 from 10 am to 2 pm

Tickets are $40 and must be purchased in advance. Kitchen Tours 2014 will take place on May 4, 2014 and features entry into five homes with exquisite kitchen and entertaining spaces.  Proceeds go to fund the Junior League of Wichita’s mission to build a better community.  Junior League of Wichita’s current issue area is the awareness, intervention, and prevention of child abuse. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Kitchen Tours 2014 Preview

Junior League of Wichita’s Kitchen Tours 2014 is just around the corner and here is a sneak peek of what you will see on May 4th! If you haven’t purchased your tickets, they are $40 each and need to be purchased in advance.  Tickets are limited, secure your tickets today so that you don’t miss out on this year’s Kitchen Tours. Tickets can be purchased here at
This year’s Kitchen Tours features five incredible homes on the tour located in four premier neighborhoods: Eastborough, Vickridge, Lakepoint and Rocky Creek.
One of the homes on this year’s Kitchen Tours showcases one increasingly popular concept – the outdoor kitchen.  Not only will you envy this fantastic outdoor entertaining space, complete with a full kitchen and fire pit, you will admire the well-manicured plants and flowers that will make you want to stop by your favorite nursery on your way home to start a little landscaping project of your own!  Not to mention, this is the home of a Junior League of Wichita sustaining member, so you can only guess where you will be able to find us this summer!

Mitzi Beach will once again join us on the tour – this year in a different role.  You may remember that Mitzi opened her home up to be featured on last year’s inaugural tour. This year, she’s participating in the tour as the designer of one of the kitchens! From the sound of the project, it wasn’t easy work either - moving walls, changing around rooms, and even enclosing a former screened in porch to house the bright and cheery new dining room.

Presenting Sponsor Kitchen Concepts had a hand in two of the homes on the Kitchen Tours. One home is still under construction.  The contractor assures us that the remodel will be complete on time and rest assured, it will be a kitchen fit for a gourmet. 

The second home brought to us by Kitchen Concepts is owned by a Junior League of Wichita Cookbook Committee member, so you can imagine she will be asked to host a meeting or two! They started with a kitchen remodel and couldn’t stop… She is ready to show the results of their hard work and the whole house will be on display!
The fifth home on the tour is a labor of love – eighteen months of love, to be exact.  After gutting the house to the studs and going room by room to talk design, this home was lovingly designed by the homeowners and they have mastered perfection!  Every detail has been accounted for and every space in the entire home was carefully designed – all the way down to the length of the hardware. This house is one you do not want to miss - truly spectacular! 

Speaking of details, we’re happy to announce that this year’s Kitchen Tours once again feature tablescapes, floral arrangements, and table settings provided by Presenting Sponsor, the Plaid Giraffe located at 302 North Rock Road.   Come see what the Plaid has dreamed up for these spaces so you can experience what entertaining at each of these homes could look like! 

It wouldn’t be a Junior League of Wichita event unless we had a surprise up our sleeves. Presenting Sponsor In the Bag Cleaners, has really outdone itself. Participants in the Kitchen Tours will have the chance to win a spectacular prize!

New this year, those attending Kitchen Tours (and those unable to attend) are invited to gather at The Hill, 4800 East Douglas for Kitchen Tours After Hours. This is a great place to meet up with your spouse and girlfriends who may or may not have been on the tour with you, your friends or mom that you toured with and discuss all the gorgeous homes you saw. Ten percent of all sales between 4-8pm will go to Junior League of Wichita.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Junior League of Wichita Hosts 2nd Annual Kitchen Tours

On Sunday, May 4, 2014, Junior League of Wichita will host its second-annual Kitchen Tours: A Pinch of Hope, A Dash of Design. The upscale event takes place 12:30 - 4:30 p.m. at featured homes in Wichita, and will showcase designer kitchens and entertaining spaces.
Proceeds from Kitchen Tours will be used to fund Junior League of Wichita’s mission of building a better community. Currently, Junior League of Wichita’s focus is on combating child abuse through awareness, intervention and prevention. 

“Kitchen Tours 2013 was a rousing success – the homeowners graciously opened their homes, and sponsorship support was tremendous, as was attendance by the general public,” says Junior League member Patty Armstrong. “I plan to share the experience of Kitchen Tours 2014 by inviting my mother and several friends to join me for this unique event.”

Tickets are $40 and must be purchased in advance. The ticket price includes admission to the featured homes and a voucher to purchase one Junior League of Wichita cookbook for $20, tax included. 

Purchase your tickets by contacting Junior League of Wichita’s Headquarters at (316) 682-3901 during weekday business hours or order online at

Photos provided from Junior League of Wichita Kitchen Tours 2013