Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Dinner Party Menu

This post isn't so much a recipe as a menu.  Since I usually only post about new dishes I make, I rarely write about an entire dinner menu.  So a couple weeks ago when we had Michael's Aunt Beth & Uncle Clark, and Josh & Chloe over for dinner, I decided to snap a few pictures of the end result - the menu - instead of focusing on one specific dish.  Overall, the dishes complemented each other well and made for a lovely dinner (of course the good company didn't hurt, either).  My general formula for planning a dinner party menu is 1.) a go-to favorite, sure to please; 2.)  something a little more adventurous, but something we've tried; and 3.) something new we can all taste together (and get feedback on).  Of course, I usually toss in something sweet, too.  Here's what Mama made for this meal:

1.  go-to favorite:  Mama's meatloaf.  I have never made this for someone who didn't like it.  It's been made by the women in my family for generations and only gets better with time.  A good family favorite makes a great anchor to any meal.  I doubled my original recipe so there was plenty to go around plus some leftovers for our lunches the next day.  This mama plans ahead!

2.  adventurous, but tried:   Lately I've been absolutely in love with my caramelized sweet onion tart.  To me, it's something unexpected, delicious, and different.  Makes for a good conversation starter and a yummy side dish.  I cut up some smoked gouda to serve alongside it.

3.  something new:  For this, I decided to try this Warm Balsamic Kale Salad from Pinch of Yum.  Kale sauteed to perfection with onions, peppers, and mushrooms, then topped with balsamic and parmesan.  None of us had ever had a warm kale salad, but it was a big hit.  It added some much-needed color variation and nutrients to our meal.

4.  something sweet:  This slow cooker apple cobbler was the perfect end to our meal.  Not only was it super easy to make using my canned apple pie filling, but it required very little hands-on time, especially right before serving when I'd rather be entertaining anyway.  Go ahead, top it with a scoop of butter pecan ice cream.

We had such a great visit and thoroughly enjoyed our time together.  The meal came together seemlessly and I wasn't cooking the whole time they were here.  By making the meatloaf up ahead, I was able to just toss it in the oven about an hour before dinner time.  I baked the tart in the morning while Annalyn was still asleep and popped it back in the oven for a few minutes to warm up right before serving.  The cobbler cooked on low for about 3 hours, so the slow cooker did all hard work for me.  I used pre-cut/pre-washed kale (pretty cool, right?) and chopped all the other veggies ahead so the last thing I made was the kale salad while Michael got everyone's drink order.  Timing is key, my friends! 

Remember, a happy, stress-free cook = happy dinner party



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