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Jun 4, 2007 08:02 PM

Kids & Adults Dinner Party -- Did I Strike the Right Balance?

I love to entertain and love to cook and always have. But I haven't fully adapted to making room for adapting my menu planning and prep now that I have a 2 year old -- I am now short on time, energy and money, none of which used to be an issue. The second recent challenge is adapting menus to kid guests. Plus I am 6 months pregnant and all around a bit lazy side at the moment. (!) So those are my obstacles. I am having a dinner party on Friday night (a work day for me) for 8 adults, 4 of whom have very high culinary standards, plus myself and I do like to impress plus I am food-obsessed and can't serve anything that doesn't taste GREAT. There will be seven (7) kids between the ages of 2 and 5. I have a draft menu already and am hoping you can help with creative salad ideas that are in line with Chowhound standards and might reflect some of the variety of produce available in CA this time of year, and balance my relatively heavy entree and side. Frankly, I'll take any ideas. The menu so far is:

Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Goat-Cheese Thyme filling (from the Cook's Illustrated Best Make Ahead Cook Book) which, while theoretically a little pedestrian and looks a little like something that was served at my swim team banquets when I was a kid, is REALLY GOOD and highly kid friendly. Another plus - it is a relatively inexpensive way to feed 15 people and I can make them the night before.

Homemade Mac N Cheese (another solid recipe). I wouldn't serve this but for the kids but it really is excellent so I think the adults will enjoy. Also economical.

Roastesd Asparagus? kind of lazy I know but it will be fresh lovely asparagus and you can't go wrong, right? Any other ideas? Maybe I should steam some broccoli with lemon to counter the heavy entree and side so far? I could mix it up with baby bok choy or something?

A colorful salad. Something light -- hoping for chowhound to save me on this one. I am better at winter salads because I like to do candied nuts and the like. Also, I am big on cheese in salads but given the chicken and mac I don't think this salad can call for cheese. Note that I can get really good stuff locally and since I am doing literally everything else ahead I can do this relatively last minute. I don't care if this is kid friendly since most kids won't touch the salad anyway. What do you think?

Dessert: Fresh berries with creme fraiche and (of course for the kids and whomever else) vanilla bean gelato.

As you may have noticed, I haven't sorted appetizers out yet (originally I was going to do empanadas when I had an entirely different menu). I'll do a separate search on this site for some ideas. Thanks in advance for anyone taking the time to read all this and ponder my dilemma.

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  1. For a nice lighter side I don't see asparagus as lazy, it's good food, who cares if it's fast :) Also I would pair with some steamed baby bok, serve them together and toss with Lemon juice, fresh grated ginger and S&P. For the kids I would do carrot sticks with a dip on the side. Kids love to dip and you can cut up carrot the night before, or buy a bag of baby carrots :)

    For a great easy app. Grab a bag of frozen peas, some fresh mint and some lime juice.
    Thaw the peas (or just toss them in some boiling water for a minute) Toss all in blender with S&P. Make the night before.
    Spread on Crostini , top with a parm curl.
    Go buy some olive tapenade - kick it up what ever way you want (extra lemon juice, more garlic, whatever) - Use same crostini :) (Some places you can even buy ready made crostini)

    1 Reply
    1. re: starlady

      Great suggestions! Just writing in to report that I did the asparagus and baby bok as per your suggestion (plus some garlic that I included in the stir fry and it was a HUGE hit. I also did a platter of heirloom tomatoes with olive oil and white balsamic and we were totally set. I bought the ingredients for your crostini spread by ended up sacrificing it (limited time) in favor of making some chocolate chip cookes the night prior per the suggestion of hotoynoodle. Also a great call.

    2. It sounds great to me. Can I join? I have 4 year old twins and a 1 year old and we'd all be happy. We had another family over to our house for Memorial day and I made cedar plank grilled salmon, mac n cheese, fruit salad, an vast assortment of grilled veggeis, steamed corn on the cob and the Barefoot Contessa Strawberry country cake for dessert. The 4 bigger kids ate mac and cheese and fruit and the 2 babies ate lots of salmon.

      For appetizers, I would go to Market Hall (if you are in Rockridge, which I am guessing from your name-- I went to Cal but live in LA now) and see what they have to offer in the way of something antipasto-ish.

      1 Reply
      1. re: roxhills

        You guessed correctly. After getting "permission," I was glad to go the antipasto route. My husband picked up some olives and nuts from Berkeley Bowl and I, on my way home from work, picked up some cured meats and hard cheese from Market Hall. It looked great and tasted even better. thanks again

      2. if the main course is stuffed with cheese, i wouldn't do the mac and cheese. it's way too heavy together.

        as a first course, a chilled soup can be made the night before, like pea and mint or gazpacho. a corn and basil puree soup would be a snap to pre-make too.

        if you want to stick with the mac because of the kids, why not do a picatta sauce for the chicken? you can pound out the meat the night before and the whole thing comes together in about 20 minutes.

        skip the green salad. steam the asparagus the night before with snow peas and fresh peas and the next day toss with some orange or grapefruit segments, some toasted almonds or pecans and a light dressing.

        brownies or cookies might be nice for dessert in addition to the fruit.

        1 Reply
        1. re: hotoynoodle

          Home baked chocolate chips cookies worked out splendidly. With 8 adults and 7 children under the age of 5 it was chaos at our house. I actually forgot I had made the cookies so I ended up serving the berries with creme fraiche/ice cream then, about an hour later (it was a big drinking crowd) I passed out the cookies. It couldn't have worked better if i had planned it. Thanks for the suggestion . . .

        2. The only thing I would say is that, from my very limited experience (I have a 18 monther) is that kids don't always like the bitterness or stringiness of asparagus and seem to prefer zucchini, broccoli or something that is a little sweeter. Your menu sounds great though, good luck!

          2 Replies
          1. re: KeriT

            If mac and cheese is too heavy as a side with the chicken, but you still want some for the kids, you could make a pasta side quickly for the adults by cooking some pasta to almost al dente (this part could be done ahead) and then quickly saute the pasta with some chopped garlic, olive oil, and a variety of chopped beautiful heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil.

            1. re: KeriT

              I steamed some broccoli for the kids only and everybody was grateful . .

            2. The presence of home made mac and cheese makes it perfectly kid friendly. They can choose to eat nothing else if they so desire but they will always go for the pasta. I often make a batch just for the kids because it is so easy while having something a little more daring for the adults.