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Help! 8 couples, 4 kids for lunch Sunday, need to keep it simple and foolproof

v
vvv03 Jun 11, 2010 08:22 AM

I love to cook and used to love to enterain. Somewhere along the way (I strongly suspect it was after having two kids and working fulltime), I lost the passion. Now I get super stressed about having people over and generally avoid it and just deal with the guilt I feel for not inviting guests over who I "owe" the next meal. With that in mind, I got roped in to having 3 couples over for lunch/dinner (mid-day) on Sunday. I'm getting all worked up thinking about what to buy, what to cook that will work out nicely, what the kids will like, etc. I need someone to give me a virtual slap in the face ("Snap out of it!" optional) and some direction in what to prepare.

Here is what I'm thinking:

Cheeses/olives/crackers and some thin sliced baguettes with butter, sliced radish and a little salt on top.
Margerita pizza -- I have dough in the freezer that is more foolproof than when I make it myself, which seems to be hit or miss. I thought San Marzano tomatoes/buffalo mozzarella/basil, no other fancy toppings. The problem is I have a small apartment and it might get hot with the oven on. Also, how much pizza would I have to make for that many people? It may be more trouble than it's worth.
Dessert -- no idea. Again, I really want to keep it simple.

Any and all suggestions on simple and foolproof would be greatly appreciated (extra points for things that can be prepared in advance.)

Thanks!

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  1. JerryMe Jun 11, 2010 08:32 AM

    My first thot was quiche w/ potatoes and sausages but since you alreadyhave the pizza dough, I would probably go w/ that. Depending on the kids, you might want to make one w/ pepperoni as that seems to be a kid favorite. Pizzas can be served at room temp if they're not too greasy so you can bake them a little earlier. Along w/ the pizza, I'd probably serve some leafy green salad.

    For dessert - why not make granita? http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/20... This looks delicious and can be made ahead w/ no heating of the kitchen.

    In regards to quantities - I always go overboard. There is ALWAYS way too much food, so I'd probably shoot for four large pies. Can you grill those outside?

    1. c
      critter101 Jun 11, 2010 09:09 AM

      Here's a recipe for a crustless quiche that is really foolproof. I usually cook them in 9X13 inch foil pans, cut the squares or triangles, cover with foil, and put them in one of those Igloo cold chests, which also work for hot items, for a few hours till ready to serve. That way, you can bake them off earlier in the day and keep the apartment cool.

      10 EGGS

      1 PINT SMALL CURD COTTAGE CHEESE

      1 LB. GRATED JACK CHEESE

      1/2 CUP FLOUR

      7 OUNCE CAN CHOPPED GREEN CHILES

      1/4 LB. BUTTER, MELTED AND COOLED

      1 TSP. BAKING POWDER

      PINCH OF SALT

      HEAT OVEN TO 350 DEGREES. SPRAY PAM IN A 9 X 13 INCH DISH

      BEAT EGS TILL LEMON COLORED. ADD FLOUR, BAKING POWDER, PINCH OF SALT AND BLEND

      ADD COOLED MELTED BUTTER, CHILES, COTTAGE CHEESE, JACK CHEESE AND MIX TILL BLENDED

      POUR INTO 9X13 INCH PAN THAT HAS BEEN SPRAYED WITH PAM

      BAKE 40 TO 45 MINUTES TILL EGGS ARE SET, LIGHTLY BROWNED, AND PULL AWAY A BIT FROM EDGE OF PAN

      COOL, THEN CUT INTO SQUARES

      MAKES 12 LARGE SQUARES, OR 24 TRIANGLES

      RECIPE MAY BE CUT IN HALF AND BAKED IN AN 8 X 8 PAN

      You can substitute about 7ounces of chopped cooked ham, bacon, smoked salmon, or crumbled cooked sausage for the green chiles - pretty much anything works. Or make a couple of different flavors. Serve with a nice green salad, and for dessert - make your own sundaes. Everyone loves ice cream! Relax and enjoy the day.

      1. w
        weezycom Jun 11, 2010 09:14 AM

        I'd use the pizza dough more as a foccacia to serve alongside the rest of the meal. Brush with a combo of melted butter and olive oil, sprinkle liberally with chopped herbs, a bit of garlic salt and grated hard cheese. That can be done ahead and sliced into wedges or squares, maybe serve as an app or starter with bruschetta, and if a starter, serve with a nice green salad with a vinagrette. Plus, the house will smell divine with that having cooked just before the guests arrive. And if the kidlets fill up on bread and tomato sauce, how is that really different from feeding them pizza, right?

        For the main, you can do pulled pork or brisket in the crockpot and serve on small rolls as BBQ sliders with cole slaw and figure 3 for the women, 5 for the guys, 1-2 for the kids.

        Dessert, get a Sara Lee poundcake and a good ice cream, some berries chocolate syrup and you're good.

        1. j
          jenhen2 Jun 11, 2010 09:42 AM

          I hear you on the whole losing the passion thing. It can be really hard sometimes, but it sounds like this is a great opportunity to do something casual, fun and easy!

          I think the apps sound great - easy to pick on for adults and kids, and easy for you to pull together, too! I might suggest adding some fruit and nuts to the cheese plate, or some roasted red peppers and marinated artichokes. Baby carrots and celery with ranch dressing might appeal to the kids, too.

          As for the main, I think pizza for a group that big is kind of a pain, personally, and especially given the hot oven issue you mentioned. Someone's idea of a quiche is a good one. What about a pasta dish? Spaghetti Sundays are big in my family. Here's what we do: Saute onions and garlic in a dutch oven (and chopped bell pepper if you like). Add sweet italian sausage removed from casing and break into chunks, and cook through. Add 2 cans of crushed tomatoes and 1 cup of wine, italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Simmer for anywhere from 10 mins to 1 hour. Boil spaghetti. Toss a green salad with a light dressing, serve with galic bread (or focaccia as someone mentioned, made from your pizza dough). This is delicious, easy and fun for a big Sunday meal. It's also inexpensive.

          As for dessert, I think the idea of a pound cake with ice cream is good. You could also make a quick peach-berry crisp with fresh fruit and serve with whipped cream or ice cream. I like that for summer and it's easy to throw together in advance.

          Hope that helps, but mostly, just do what will be fun for you. Maybe at the end of it all, you'll actually think it was fun!!! I hope that's the case!

          2 Replies
          1. re: jenhen2
            melpy Jun 11, 2010 10:35 AM

            Ditto to the pizzas being a pain. I did make your own pizza with 2 kids and I made a pizza for 3 adults for my Aunt, mom, and 2 little cousins. It went well but on the small scale it was a lot of work. I think you said you are in an apt. so I guess grilling the pizza is out? If not that might work better. Otherwise I think I second the pasta idea. So many options.

            Dessert- we do angel food cake with berries and whipped cream. You could even buy the angel food cake. Fruit is such an easy dessert as well.

            1. re: jenhen2
              missmasala Jun 11, 2010 11:42 AM

              I totally agree with jenhen2. I entertain a lot, usually couples with kids (like me!) and pasta is great b/c it's versatile. make a meat sauce (a sunday sauce) beforehand and then all you have to do is cook the pasta. picky kids can eat it plain with butter and cheese. just be sure to make a short pasta, not spaghetti, as you'll need to cook 2 pounds or so and cooking that much spaghetti at once is hard and sure to cause sticking.

              Use the pizza dough to either make focaccia (again, ahead of time) or an appetizer pizza (this type can be served room temp-a la sullivan st bakery)

              as for dessert—i've tried many many but the constant hit seems to be homemade brownies with both kids and adults alike. brownies, strawberries, ice cream or whipped cream—everyone will be happy.

              another option--make a room temp pasta ahead of time by tossing cooked pasta with all your pizza ingredients (ie san marzano tomatoes, basil, mozz) cut up and marinated with lots of olive oil and garlic. Serve with focaccia, a green salad, and, if you feel the need, some italian sausages.

            2. k
              katecm Jun 11, 2010 10:22 AM

              I agree with the others that the pizzas could be a pain. But you clearly do want to use that dough. So instead, what if you did calzones? You could make mini ones and do two different flavors, maybe one with meat and one with mushrooms and spinach, and people can take what they want. You could bake them ahead of time and warm them, or just assemble them and then bake them last minute.

              1. shaogo Jun 11, 2010 10:34 AM

                It seems that entertaining really stresses you out. I understand; sometimes it stresses me out, too.

                I love the idea of simple, good cheese, crackers, olives, baguette and radishes. I'm a big fan of a traditional Italian-style antipasto assortment and plenty of good bread.

                Another poster mentioned putting something on in the crock pot. You could also slow-cook a turkey, a couple of chickens or a brisket the night before... when it's cooler. Then serve that stuff chilled or at room temperature with a huge dark-green salad or just some marinated sliced tomatoes. A nice potato or macaroni salad would be a cool addition, too.

                The pizza sounds like a chore (even if you're using prepared dough) and indeed it'll get really hot. And unless you've got two ovens you can only make one at a time, and for this many people (is it 8 couples or 3 couples; your title doesn't jibe with the text of your post) you're gonna need a whole bunch of sheet pizzas, especially if they're just simple ones.

                Heck, if you wanna use the pizza dough, you can just bake it with a little cheese and use that to anchor your appetizer spread... Even in a small oven you can twirl the dough into breadsticks, coat 'em with olive oil and bake 'em quickly on cookie sheets...

                Dessert? Whatever's on sale at your local bakery. Everyone loves pies/cakes. And heck, the strawberries are out now. Good vanilla ice cream and fresh strawberries (served in disposable cups so you can load the dishwasher and run it before the dessert course).

                Good luck to you. It's depressing and sometimes overwhelming when entertaining becomes a chore. I hope you get through this okay.

                1. MandalayVA Jun 11, 2010 11:06 AM

                  I like shaogo's idea of a picnic/finger food type meal. Cold roast chicken and maybe a cold sliced roast beef, sliced cheeses--perhaps use the baguettes for your guests to make small sandwiches? Making their own sandwiches is usually a big hit with kids in my experience. Make a caprese salad with the tomatoes, mozz and basil, have a green salad and a pasta or potato salad. You can make pretty much everything ahead and you won't be heating up the oven or running around like the proverbial headless chicken. :)

                  1. Hank Hanover Jun 11, 2010 11:12 AM

                    Appetizers:
                    Deviled eggs
                    vegetable tray and dipping sauce such as ranch dressing or vegetable dip
                    Fruit such as Sliced watermelon or a mixed fruit tray

                    Drinks:
                    Iced tea Make some simple syrup to sweeten it with so it will dissolve and splenda
                    Maybe some beer
                    Sangria If you are feeling adventurous

                    Main course:
                    Brined pork tenderloins with BBQ sauce on the grill or in the oven
                    Smoked sausage links on the grill or in the oven
                    If you are going to use the grill, you might want to have some hot dogs for the kids

                    Dessert:
                    Key lime pie
                    takes about 20 minutes recipe on the label of "nellie & joes" key lime juice bottle

                    Strawberry shortcake:
                    Use the sponge cakes from the store

                    Providing some entertainment for the children would be wise
                    if the weather is nice, some balls or a croquet set; a bounce house costs about $100 to rent

                    If the weather is bad, a separate room with TV and dvds; Age appropriate toys; Video games? see if your friends have a console.

                    You don't have to do all of this... Mix and match as you please. try and relax and have fun. If you aren't having fun, nobody is.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Hank Hanover
                      v
                      Val55 Jun 11, 2010 11:40 AM

                      If you are not up to the task of cooking to impress, people love a good deli platter with a choice of breads. Make or buy a salad and a nice dessert and an assortment of beverages and you are in business.

                    2. l
                      lulou23 Jun 11, 2010 04:57 PM

                      Pulled Pork. Cook in crock pot/dutch oven all day Sat (reheat Sun) or on Sunday. Shred, add bbq sauce. Serve with pasta salad using toms, cheese for any vegs or picky eaters.

                      Apps sound great.
                      Agree on angel food / pound cake and berries, whip. Quick, easy light dessert always a hit.

                      1. Cherylptw Jun 11, 2010 07:55 PM

                        I disagree that making pizza is too much work...I make pizza all the time & IMO, it's no more work than some of the other suggestions on this thread. You already have the dough, how hard is it to roll (or pat) it out, top it and bake?

                        One thing I do when making pizza for a crowd is to pre-bake the crusts. Roll out the crusts and put in the oven for about 10 minutes then remove and set aside to cool (I cook mine at 450F. degrees) then later you can top them and right before your guests arrive, you can pop two at a time in the oven until your toppings are hot (if your oven has two racks, you can cook two at a time). When you take out your first two, pop the next two in while your guests get started on the first two. Serve with a salad; maybe put the salad ingredients in individual bowls so everyone can make theirs the way they like.

                        Dessert? A simple mixed fruit salad or bowl or maybe ice cream with fresh sliced strawberries. Easy & simple even for a small apartment.

                        1. j
                          Joebob Jun 11, 2010 08:20 PM

                          BLTs.

                          1. LaureltQ Jun 24, 2010 07:14 AM

                            I like making antipasti skewers. They can be made ahead and people are so impressed by them.

                            1 cherry tomato
                            1 fresh but cooked tortellini
                            1/8 marinated artichoke heart
                            1 pitted kalamata olive
                            1 bocconcini (fresh mozz ball)
                            1 small hunk salami

                            You can make them the day ahead, drizzle or brush with bottled italian dressing (oil based, not creamy) and pull out half an hour before you're ready to serve them, and arrange nicely on a plate.

                            I did those, a board with goat cheese, sharp cheddar, and a moldy cheese, plus kalamata olive tapenade, costco's jalapeño artichoke dip, and crackers with bread, then some fresh pizzas, and a cheesecake with a blueberry sauce. This was for a late lunch following a father's day beer festival.

                            The only thing that I made that day was the pizza, and I could have just as easily gone without it, instead sliced up a tart green apple, and served foccacia or larger bread slices with a nice fresh bruschetta. If you're concerned with not having meat, marinate some boneless skinless chicken thighs with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic,and some herbs like rosemary and oregano, and skewer them, then grill.

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