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Fall Dinner Party for 8--Menu Suggestions?

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I am hosting a dinner party (birthday party) dinner for 6 adults and two kids in about a month and looking for menu suggestions.

My only concern is that I would like to either have a main dish I can make ahead or something I can grill (weather permitting). I love to cook, and usually take on too much, which makes my mother nervous. :) I would like at least the main dish, if not sides, to be things I can make ahead. However, I'm not ruling out the grill, since my father or another male relative usually takes the reins.

Also, I also would like to make use of my (growing) cookbook collection. If you have any suggestions from a favorite cookbook, I would love to hear about it. I have all the Barefoot Cookbooks, Sunday Suppers, plus many others. And if I don't have it, I will probably go get it or check it out of the library!

Thanks, can't wait for your suggestions.

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  1. i'm crazy-loco for the niman ranch pork loin, so i'd roast that with some olive oil, thyme, garlic and sage. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/648829, it's no work at all!
    or make the niman pork chops on the grill, after marinating in the olive oil, garlic, thyme mixture.

    serve with:

    a potato, fennel gratin http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/in... -- make a day ahead, and re-heat (i think it's better that way), or just bake the made-ahead gratin.

    green beans (better yet, those super-easy steam bag sugar snaps from bird's eye. http://www.birdseyesteamfresh.com/veg...
    they are beautiful, plump, sweet and really foolproof!), then drizzle over them a little toasted slivered almonds & melted butter). no fuss, no muss.

    roasted beets that you made ahead, cut into wedges & dressed (or marinated overnight) in a light, lemon-touched herby vinaigrette, served room temp.

    leeks wrapped with bacon http://cookingincollege.tumblr.com/po... (prep day ahead, put on the grill with the meat, or broil).

    orange-glazed carrots. http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Orange-G...

    i know lots of fancier menus, but i'm just wanting some soul-satisfying comfort food these days.

    for dessert is where you can really "show off" with the best cake in the world: sweet potato surprise cake:
    http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,186,1...
    (and i'd make extra frosting, because it's that good).

    1. You mentioned Sunday Suppers at Lucques? The short ribs from that are amazing. I do confess that I don't really follow recipes, I just kind of use them for inspiration, so I can't say that I have followed her step by step. But the ingredients, the flavors, the method, all work beautifully. Plus, short ribs actually are best when made the night before, so the flavors can meld and you can skim the fat off in the morning. That way, everything is basically done! Serve with some polenta, or mashed potatoes, and you'll have a hit.