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

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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. 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. 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. 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. 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

            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

              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. 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.