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Need Dinner Idea Quickly!

I just found out my best friend is coming for dinner tomorrow night. This is the first time she will be visiting since having twins 5 months ago. She always looks forward to my dinners - but I am at a loss for a good idea. The problem is I have a 1 year old and don't have the time like I used to for elaborate meals. But I don't want to let her down. She's been thru a really rough 6 months. I'd like to make or prep it all tonight if possible. And I don't want to make lasagna, stew, wtc... b/c I know she has her fill of those recently. My only though so far would be an antipata platter I can jsut assemble and a nice shrimp scampi....but I'm not set on that by any means.

Help me out guys! I'd like to stop at the store on my way home in a few hours.

They will eat just about everything. But I live in a rural area, so I won't be able to get to a "Gourmet" grocery store. Just my local one - so the recipe can't call for anything to crazy that I won't be able to find.

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  1. I think antipasta is good. Salad, bread and maybe since she's got a toddler, you could do spaghetti carbonara which is easy to throw together and the little one may like it. Glass of wine, some juice or milk and you're good to go. Wait to see what others come up with.

    1. What kind of things does she like? Beef? Seafood? Spicy? Chocolate? Can you remember going out with her and her really enjoying a meal you could attempt?

      1. An easy and yummy soup that tastes gourmet is a simple roast cauliflower soup.
        You need a head of cauliflower,
        one medium white onion, chopped
        4 cloves of garlic, diced
        1 small leek (optional)
        one carton chicken or vegetable broth
        salt and pepper to taste

        Cut the cauliflower into chunks or florets and roast in a 425 degree oven till golden and yummy.

        in a medium to alrge soup pot, sautee the onion and leeks in a splash of olive oil or butter till transluscent. Add the garlic cloves and sautee till fragrent. Add the pre-roasted cauliflower and broth. bring to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes. Let cool sightly, then process in blender in batches, or use an immersion blender. Process till smooth, adding water or broth if too thick. Salt and pepper to taste.

        This works very well with any cauliflower, and you can add other veggies (I think a recipe on here uses parsnips, too). I like to do it with yellow or purple cauliflower.

        It makes an elegant first course, and is just as good cold as hot.

        1. I feel your pain! My great and fast dinner is;
          Stuffed Chicken Breasts
          Boneless, skinless breast pounded thin (1/4 inch or so)
          Lay chicken breast fleshy (not smooth) side up and spread any of the following on it
          Basil and sliced Mozzerla
          Chopped bacon and cheddar cheese
          goat chees and roasted peppers (rinse if using the jar kind)
          Then roll up from the pointiest side.
          Mix nice pasta sauce with a little red wine,
          Spread some sauceon bottom of baking dish,
          Add breasts seam side down and pour rest of sauce on top (to cover, not submerge)
          Cook fro EXACTLY 20 mins on 425 Salad, bread, done!
          Sounds like you could both use a night out:)

          1. How about a nice Chicken Piccata (a little different spin on the Shrimp Scampi). Simple - chicken, lemon, butter, oil, capers, white wine -- and some rice or noodles on the side, with a nice salad.

            1. Go with the antipasti and then see what's fresh in your grocery seafood section. Fish is easy and fast to cook, both grilled and broiled. Fresh rosemary, lemon, salt and pepper are usually good. Serve with a simple saute of fresh veggies and whatever carb you like.

              1. you can do the fish in a foil packet, too.Just put in the fish with some lemon slices, sliced onion, a few good herbs, some garlic and a little white wine (or water, or beer) seal all edges and pop in the ovenfor about 12-15 minutes and yum!

                Frankly, there are so many good salads you could do, as well.

                1. Try the no knead bread. It's really easy and nothing beats crusty homemade bread. Can you make your own pasta or gnocci--they require basic ingredients and, though can take time, it's small sporadic things to do here and there, not one long stretch of time. Give your one year old a piece of dough to play with. It would go great with shrimp scampi.

                  1. Oven fried chicken (below) is great & easy, and can do almost any starch and veggie with it. could also do fajitas - could do chicken, steak, or shrimp.

                    Oven fried chicken

                    Chicken (3lbs boned, skinned) (2 legs, 2 breasts, 2 thighs---or whatever pieces you like)
                    1 ½ sticks melted butter
                    1 clove garlic minced
                    1 cup fresh bread crumbs
                    1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
                    2 T chopped parsley
                    2 T chopped oregano
                    2 tsp paprika
                    Salt & pepper to taste

                    Preheat oven to 350
                    Melt butter in roasting pan. Transfer ¾ butter into shallow dish, stir in garlic.
                    In another shallow dish, combine rest of ingredients
                    Coat each piece with butter/garlic mixture then dredge in dry mixture. Put in pan & drizzle remaining butter over chicken. Cook 1 hour or until golden brown

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: pamd

                      I'm going to make these next week when I have friiends with small kiids coming. Do yo uthink I could do tenders to make them seem like chicken nuggets?

                      1. re: JennyHunter

                        I've always made it using chicken on the bone, not sure how it will work, but I'm guessing it will still be fine.It's very tasty, enjoy!
                        And please let me know how it is using boneless/skinnless!

                        when I've made tenders for kids, this is the recipe I did (but the above one is definitely more adult tastier!)

                        1 cup bread crumbs
                        1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
                        1/2 tsp. salt
                        1 tsp. dried thyme
                        1 Tbsp. dried basil
                        1/2 cup butter or margarine melted

                        Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
                        Mix all dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
                        Dip the chicken in the marg/butter and then dredge it into the breadcrumb mixture. Place well coated chicken pieces on a lightly greased cookie sheet in single layers and bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes (a bit longer to make it crispier).

                    2. The other night I made this Turkey Meatloaf from Barefoot Contessa:


                      I did steps 2, 3 and 4 the day before and then put it all together and cooked it before dinner.

                      I made it with these Barefoot Contessa Smashed Potatoes, which I also did ahead of time. In the actual cookbook, it says that if you make them ahead of time, put them in a casserole dish in the refrigerator and when ready to heat them, sprinkle with 2 Tbsp. of parmesan cheese and heat at 400 for about 1/2 hour.


                      I have a 2 year old and a 5 month old, and this dinner worked out well for me!

                      By the way, the meatloaf is delicious, but the potatoes are AMAZING!

                      1. spaghetti all'amatriciana is my favorite fast food. try this recipe--only i add about half a cup more tomato sauce and a little tomato paste. and bucatini really is the way to go--captures the flavor brilliantly. i made the white bean bruschetta from the same menu and it was fantastic--even better the next day but still very flavorful the night i made it.

                        Spaghetti all'Amatriciana
                        Recipe courtesy Michael Chiarello
                        Show: Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello
                        Episode: It's All There
                        Spaghetti all'Amatriciana
                        1/3 pound pancetta in 1 piece, partially frozen
                        2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
                        1 onion, thinly sliced
                        Scant 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
                        1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
                        1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
                        3/4 cup tomato puree
                        3/4 pound spaghetti or bucatini
                        Freshly grated Parmesan (recommended: Pecorino Romano)

                        Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.

                        Meanwhile, unroll the pancetta. Cut it into 1-inch long chunks, and then slice each chunk thinly across the grain.

                        Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over moderately low heat. Add the pancetta and cook until it renders some of its fat, about 5 minutes. Do not allow it to crisp. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. While the onion is cooking, add the pasta to the boiling water.

                        Add the red pepper flakes and parsley to the onion mixture and cook briefly to release their fragrance. Add the vinegar and simmer briefly until it evaporates, then add the tomato puree and 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Simmer briefly to blend.

                        When the pasta is just shy of al dente, drain it and return it to the warm pot over moderate heat. Add the sauce and cook briefly so the pasta absorbs some of the sauce, then transfer the pasta to a warmed serving bowl and shower with the pecorino. Serve immediately.

                        *Michael's Notes: Start boiling the pasta after the onions have softened so that you have some starchy pasta water for your sauce. Putting the pancetta in the freezer for about 30 minutes will make it easier to slice.

                        Bruschetta with White Beans, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Basil
                        Recipe courtesy Michael Chiarello
                        Show: Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello
                        Episode: It's All There
                        Bruschetta with White Beans, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Basil
                        Chef's Note: The flavor from cooked dried beans is delicious, but you can also use canned white beans here if you want to make this recipe and you don't have time to cook the beans from scratch. Substitute 1 (15-ounce) can of white cannelloni beans, drained, with a bit of the bean liquid reserved.

                        For the beans:
                        3/4 cup cannelloni beans
                        1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
                        1 garlic clove, peeled
                        1 bay leaf
                        1/2 teaspoon salt

                        For the bruschetta and topping:
                        1 small baguette, sliced into thick pieces
                        1 tablespoon thinly sliced garlic, plus 1 garlic clove, peeled, for coating bread
                        2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
                        1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
                        8 to 10 basil leaves
                        1/3 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and sliced 1/4-inch thick
                        2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
                        Lemon juice
                        Salt and fresh black pepper
                        2 ounces ricotta salata cheese, grated large

                        For the beans:
                        Rinse the beans well and then put in a 1-quart saucepan. Cover with water to 1-inch over the top of the beans. On medium-high heat, bring to a boil. Immediately take the pot away from the burner, cover and hold for 1 hour. Change the water; add half of the extra-virgin olive oil, 1 garlic clove and the bay leaf. Cook beans on low. Simmer for about 40 minutes or until tender. During last 10 minutes, add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir in carefully. Remove from heat and hold in the saucepan with the cooking liquid until cool. This may be done 1 to 2 days before serving, and kept refrigerated.

                        For the bruschetta topping:
                        Preheat a grill or stove-top grill pan.

                        Grill the bread on both sides until crispy. Be careful on high heat as bread burns easily.

                        While bread is grilling, in a saute pan on medium heat, toast the sliced garlic in the olive oil. When it is light golden, add the chili flakes, cook for 10 seconds and then add the basil leaves. Do this carefully, as the basil may spatter some oil.

                        With a slotted spoon, transfer the beans to the pan. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the bean cooking liquid (or liquid from canned beans) and mix all together. Hold warm. Adjust consistency, as necessary, with the bean liquid, a little at a time.

                        When the basil leaves are wilted, remove mixture from the heat. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and chopped parsley. Toss to combine and adjust the seasoning with lemon juice, to taste, and salt and pepper.

                        Lightly swipe the remaining garlic clove on 1 side of the bread. Arrange the toasted bruschetta on a serving platter and drizzle with the remaining extra-virgin olive oil. Top each piece with some of the tomato-bean mixture, then evenly divide the ricotta salata over the mixture. Serve warm.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: sfaj

                          I am going to make this white bean dip for sure. Am I to used dried beans?

                          1. re: JennyHunter

                            i used canned beans--and it turned out great.

                        2. Here's *another* super-easy chicken dish that can be ready in 10-15 minutes.

                          Chicken Breasts Fontina

                          This very fast and easy weeknight meal is really quite satisfying. Serve the breasts with rice and buttered peas. This is one of the few times I use onion powder or garlic powder—they save time and actually work well—but you can substitute minced shallots and pressed garlic if you like. Just be careful not to burn them under the hot broiler. Timings for the chicken will vary according to the thickness of the breast, which you can also pound between sheets of plastic wrap to even out the thickness. But broiling is fast—don’t overcook!

                          4 thick bacon slices, halved crosswise
                          4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves, about 1 1/2 pounds in all
                          Salt and freshly ground black pepper
                          Ground dry-roasted garlic, or garlic powder
                          Onion powder
                          Ground dried herbes Provençale
                          1/2 pound fontina cheese, grated

                          Line up the halved bacon slices on a plate layered with paper towels. Microwave the bacon until it just begins to crisp, 3-4 minutes.

                          Heat the broiler with a rack 4-5 inches below the heat source. Line a rimmed baking sheet with heavy duty foil and arrange the chicken breasts, smooth sides down, in a single layer. Sprinkle liberally with the salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and ground dried herbs. Broil the breasts for 4 to 4 1/2 minutes, just until you begin to see a little browning.

                          Turn the breasts and sprinkle with the salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and herbs. Broil the breasts for 2 minutes.

                          Arrange 2 bacon slices on each breast and broil for 1 1/2 minutes.

                          Finally, divide the grated fontina evenly over the breasts (you may have some cheese left over) and broil for 1 minute—just until the cheese has melted. Serve at once with rice and buttered peas.

                          Yield: 4 servings

                          1. I can tell you're frazzled from your posting. If you've got a dozen eggs in the house and leftovers in the fridge, a cast-iron or ceramic casserole of good size, make a frittata. Bake it in the oven, and just before serving put it under the broiler. A nice salad will go with the frittata.

                            You don't need leftovers if you wish to use fresh vegetables. Make a soffritto (sauteed onions, celery, and bell peppers) to incorporate with the eggs. Use some dried herbs like the stuff that is called 'Italian Seasonings.'

                            Buon Appetito!

                            Your non-Italian man loose in the kitchen

                            1. When I want easy, and delicious, I turn to Pork Tenderloin.

                              Marinate in a good balsamic dressing in a ziploc bag for a few hours.

                              One hour before dinner, put whole, scrubbed russet potatoes in oven on 350 degrees, one for each person.

                              Next take the tenderloin(s) out of marinade, and bake for 30-40 minutes.

                              Put whole asparagus spears on a baking sheet, sprinkle with s&p, and olive oil. Put in oven for the last 20 minutes.

                              Take a jar of good plum preserve, heat on stove.

                              Make a green salad with a mixture from grocer's of Spring greens. Toss with more balsamic dressing.

                              Serve tenderloins with plum perserves on top or on the side. Sprinkle grated cheese on the asparagus, or not. Baked potato for everyone, salad before or after. Add a baguette, a nice bottle of wine, and voila...dinner is served.

                              This is my "go to menu", when I want a good meal, and have little time.