Dinner Party Menus

dinner-party-menu-thanksgiving

I’m a traditionalist when it comes to Thanksgiving. I like to have all the same good stuff, year after year. It actually takes some of the planning stress out, because I always know what I’m going to make when I host. What IS always stressful, though, is timing everything out. So here is my recommended Thanksgiving menu (of course with all of my favorite things), and an easy outline for when to prepare everything. Also, while I typically recommend buying several items when hosting dinner, I believe in making most stuff for Thanksgiving. The homemade element adds a special touch and the chaos is FUN.

PS the picture above is from the Thanksgiving I thought it would be a good idea to make everyone individual pies. It was a great idea in theory and cuteness, but a terrible idea in manual labor output.

PSS sorry for all the terrible pictures in the links below. Most of them are from when I was in the middle of hosting Thanksgiving, and I was very very busy. And maybe a little tipsy.

Menu:

Appetizer: Trader Joe’s cranberry goat cheese + Ginger snaps

Appetizer: Cranberry Avocado Salsa

Main: Perfect Roasted Turkey + gravy

Side: Herb & Sausage Stuffing

Side: Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes

Side: Brussel Sprout Salad 

 – I would simplify this salad for Thanksgiving purposes: saute the brussels instead of roasting (oven space), buy balsamic glaze instead of boiling down your own, and buy bacon from the salad bar if you can (otherwise make bacon day ahead)

Side: Green bean casserole – using the Campbell’s soup recipe! It’s hard to beat.

Side: Sweet Potato Rolls – gotta have bread!

Dessert: Pumpkin Pie with Cream Cheese Swirl

Dessert: Store bought Apple or Pecan Pie

How to execute:

Up to a week before:

Make the sweet potato rolls. Put them in a freezer storage bag and keep them in the freezer until Thanksgiving day. Take them out morning of.

1 day before:

Make the mashed potatoes. Yes! These are great for make-ahead. When warming them up on Thanksgiving day you can add a little cream or butter if they need more moisture.

Make the pumpkin pie; store in fridge

Brown the sausage for the herb sausage stuffing. Keep in ziploc bag in fridge.

If using a frozen turkey, start thawing.

Day of:

~6-7 hours before – prepare the Turkey and put it in oven (varies depending on turkey size)

Have a sip of wine.

Anytime- prepare green bean casserole in casserole dish, and cover; wait to bake.

Have a sip of wine.

~2 hours before- cook celery, onions, etc and assemble sausage stuffing; wait to bake.

Have 2 sips of wine.

~1 hour before – prepare brussel sprout salad

Have 4 sips of wine.

~45 min before (delegate here!) – remove turkey from oven and let rest. Prepare gravy. Put green bean casserole and stuffing into the oven and bake. Prepare cranberry avo salsa and set out cheeses. Warm up mashed potatoes.

Have 87 sips of wine.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

 

 

Dinner Party Menu: October

dinner-party-menu-october

I’d like to give a shout out to whoever was responsible for coming up with the idea of Fall. I mean I guess it was probably God (or whoever you believe in), but the idea is so genius I’m thinking there was probably more of round table group doing a bunch of brainstorming. I think the concept of being able to change the leaf colors to super bright red, orange, and yellow plus injecting the air with that crisp/smokey smell..sealed the deal. Hats off guys and gals (oh who are we kidding, there definitely wasn’t any gals included in the round table discussions back then).

So what’s your favorite part of fall? Leaves? Halloween? Football? Tailgating? Pumpkin Spice Lattes? Crisp mornings? Sweaters and leggings? Yeah, I thought so.  I will say that Fall in Texas isn’t quite what it was in Wisconsin…it doesn’t get as crisp, the leaves don’t get as bright, the mornings aren’t quite as cool…but I still love it and at least I still have the memory of the beautiful Wisconsin Autumn.

Anyway, this dinner menu obviously includes pork. Pork is fall. As are sweet potatoes, apples, and cranberries. And this menu includes some of my FAVORITE recipes for my favorite season. Enjoy.

 

Appetizer:  Trader Joe’s Cranberry Chevre Log with ginger snaps or pita chips

Main:     Slow Roasted Pork with Creamy Apple Gravy or Apple Stuffed Pork Loin with Apple Butter Glaze

Side 1:   Roasted Fall Vegetables or veggies that come with the Slow Roasted Pork

Side 2:   Kale Salad with Poppyseed Dressing

Dessert:Store bought pumpkin or carrot cake

To Execute:

  1. Several hours before guests come over, start the pork (start cooking if slow roasting, start butterflying/rolling if doing the stuffed recipe)
  2. Prepare the apple butter or apple gravy
  3. An hour before dinner, prepare and dress the salad (this salad tastes better with time to marinate)
  4. About 30 min prior to dinner, roast the veggies (if doing the stuffed pork)
  5. Pour some nice cozy red wine and start a fire

 

Dinner Party Menu: September

dinner-party-menu-september

September! One of my favorite months. In Texas, things start cooling down. In Wisconsin, things really start cooling down and you can smell fall in the air. That crispness makes everything feel so fresh and so rejuvenating. Texas misses out on the fall season a little bit, which would be sad except that September is the start of the state fair. So, crisp Wisconsin air vs. Texas corn dogs. Tough call.

Septembers are usually busy for people, which in my mind makes it an extra good month to have a dinner party. People will appreciate it! And for you, the one cooking, make something easy! And eat outside, maybe with sunflowers as your centerpiece.  This is one of the few months where I genuinely like eating outside – a reasonable/borderline cool temperature and less bugs. Most other months I am forced to come up with an excuse to my husband why we can’t eat outside. Mosquitoes. Wind. Hot. Too sunny.  If you have any other ideas, please LMK.

The Menu

Appetizer: The best spinach artichoke dip you’ll ever make

Main:        Super delicious pulled pork tacos

Side:         Dole BBQ ranch chopped salad (store-bought)

Dessert:    Store bought pie, preferably chocolate

As I’ve said before, only make a couple of things. It makes it so much easier on you and leaves more time for sipping margaritas.

To execute:

  1. About 5 hours before, start the pork.
  2. One hour before, make the dip
  3. Right before guests arrive, shred the pork and get the tortillas/toppings ready (i.e., cheese and sour cream). Assemble salad.
  4. There’s hardly any instructions here because it’s that easy.

Dinner Party Series: August

dinner-party-series-august

I’m failing on the blog front lately, but I can’t help it. My twins are BUSY and I’m hanging on by a thread. Not just from keeping up with them all day long, but making sure they’re learning and growing each day – that’s a challenge. Or maybe that’s just pressure moms put on themselves unnecessarily; babies used to literally grow up in caves and they were still helping their moms hunt for dinner by the age of 5.

Anyway, this dinner party post is too late. You really only have 8 days left to use it. Just kidding! Because I’m selecting grilled pizza for this month, and pizza is good ALWAYS. And I’m using grilled pizza for this month because we just went to a dinner party at my friend Annie’s house and grilled pizzas were the theme, and it was perfect. It was so much fun, really interactive, and at the end we got to eat PIZZA. I also feel like we all really bonded over the stressful yet satisfying act of rolling out pizza crust into something reasonable looking.

I’m offering two approaches here – buy the pizza stuff and make the salad, or make the pizza stuff and buy the salad.

Menu

Appetizer: Simple platter of roasted nuts and summer fruit

Pizza:        Homemade grilled pizza here and here or buy all the stuff    somewhere like Jimmy’s Food Store in Dallas

Salad:        Italian Chopped Salad or buy a prepared/bagged salad at the store

Dessert:    Brownie Bottom Cheesecake

To execute:

  1. Bake cheesecake the day before.
  2. If making pizza, prepare the dough the night before or morning of. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Prepare nut/fruit plate before guests arrive.
  4. Prepare salad before guests arrive.
  5. When ready to grill pizzas, roll out the dough, brush with oil, and grill on high heat first without the toppings. When dough crisps up, add toppings and return to grill until cheese melts.

Dinner Party Menu: July

dinner-party-menu-july

I’ve got the best tip for all you moms out there. It’s fully researched, tested, and proven to be very effective. It just takes a leeeeettle bit of sacrifice on your part.

Get the flu. Or mildly poison yourself with salmonella.

Yesterday I got the flu (I know, it’s not inFLUenza but the flu as we all know it from our childhood)…or salmonella poisoning, I can’t be sure because I did spend a good part of my day testing the cake batter for my sons’ upcoming birthday…and I’m telling you guys. My husband had to stay home to take care of the kids…and for the first time in 362 days, I didn’t change 16+ diapers, I didn’t make and clean up 6 meals, I didn’t change outfits 4 times, I didn’t pull Bax out of the fireplace 3 times, I didn’t make 4 trips back forth to the car loading and unloading babies in 100 degree weather, I didn’t read 4 books that make little to no sense, and I didn’t give anyone a bath. Oh and my clothes looked and smelled clean at the end of the day.  What I did do, is lay in bed all day and watch Friends. Sure, throw in a little puking here and there but you know what? I feel rejuvenated. Try it.

So now that both babies are walking around like crazy, I have the opposite problem that I thought I’d have. I am not running in 2 different directions to constantly chase them down; THEY are constantly running in one direction to chase ME down. Seriously, I can’t even go to the bathroom without those two pounding on the door for me to come out. It makes kitchen time very tricky- I’ve got two little puppies just following me step for step; into the pantry, into the fridge, into the dishwasher. So today I am doing a dinner party post because I haven’t been cooking.

July – what a great time for a casual, cool dinner party. Something easy, something summery, something casual, and something outdoors is the ideal gathering. Nothing fussy here – just getting together with friends for good food and drinks.

Appetizer:   Veggies and store-bought dip

Main:           Sweet Texas BBQ Ribs

Side 1:          Sweet Potato Skins

Side 2:          Buy the Dole BBQ Ranch Salad Kit at the store (obsessed with this)

Dessert:      Ice cream with hot fudge/caramel topping

To execute:

  1. Arrange veggie platter the morning of; cover and refrigerate
  2. About 3 hours before guests arrive, start the grill and oven. Sear the ribs and then wrap and place them in the oven, basting for about 2 hours.  Let the ribs rest for 30-45 minutes.
  3. During the last hour of ribs, bake the sweet potatoes. In another oven is ideal, otherwise just put them in a little longer. Or, microwave!
  4. While the ribs are resting, finish making the potato skins in the oven or grill.
  5. Put the salad in a bowl.
  6. Um, that’s it!
pineapple-jalapeno-bbq-chicken-kabobs

I would have added more words to the title of this recipe, but they didn’t fit. I would have added ‘spicy,’ ‘soy sauce,’ ‘veggie,’ and maybe even ‘amazing.’  I have to admit I’m not a total kabob person.  I can’t really explain why…except that I maybe feel like they’re pointless. Generally you can eat the exact same thing without having to chop everything up and put it on a stick. BUT, these are different. Because with these, in each bite you get a burst of super flavorful BBQ chicken, sweet juicy pineapple, and spicy jalapeno – a bite that’s hard to achieve anywhere else (except maybe a pizza).  It’s worth it here to chop it into bits and put it on a stick. The flavor combo is perfect and it screams SUMMER’S HERE!! Always a nice reminder.

Recipe

Marinade

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup sweet BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha

Kabobs

  • 2.5 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • ground black pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped into large pieces
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped into large piece
  • 2 jalapenos, cut into rings, seeds and veins removed
  • 1 pineapple, cut into large chunks

Season the chicken with pepper. Prepare the marinade in a ziploc bag, add the chicken and marinate for at least 1 hour (I did about 3). Heat the grill to medium high. Place all the veggies (bell pepper, jalapeno and onion – not pineapple) in a bowl, splash with a couple tablespoons of water and S&P, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, cover and microwave for 3 minutes. This is important, because otherwise the veggies won’t get done by the time the chicken is done on the grill. A fatal flaw of kabobs.

Prepare the kabobs, alternating chicken, pineapple, jalapeno, bell pepper and onion.  Discard marinade. Lightly oil grill grates.  Grill kabobs about 4 minutes per side or until done.

 

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