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Help with menu

I have to host a dinner for my husband's family. There will be 14 people, 6 children and 8 adults. About 1/2 are vegetarians [2 adults, 4 children]. I would like to prepare as much as possible the day before. Two people do not eat cilantro, one does not eat mushrooms, one does not eat spicy food and of course, I need something that will appeal to children. HELP!

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  1. Just off the top of my noggin, hope this can help:

    meat lasagna / veggie lasagna

    Mexican taco/burrito bar with ALL of the fixins (beans and grilled tofu for the vegetarians - I'm sure there's a tempeh or seitan that would work well also if you wanna go that far)

    1. My thought:
      Roast chicken
      Potato, zucchini, tomato gratin
      Green bean, snow pea, shell pea sautee
      Large salad a la antipasto (omit the cheese & meats)
      Strawberry & rhubard crumble with ice cream

      1. i'm with gordeaux, lasagna x 2 so you have one to accommodate each group. serve with a nice green salad & some crusty bread, an easy dessert (brownies, or fresh fruit, or a crumble or cobbler, an assortment of ice cream/sorbet) and you're set! no muss, no fuss.

        1. I also like the lasagne ideas, seems to be the best way to go.

          You can also do something like a baked ham, and for those not eating meat, a large tray of macaroni & cheese, biscuits, some salad and a green bean saute, or even roasted asparagus, or broccoli. Most can be done ahead, ham just needs heating up, and biscuits could be done with a mix. I would just make sure to offer a lot of colorful fresh veggies for all, and a storebought dessert.

          1. Can't tell whether you're in a hot part of the country right now or not. Two suggestions involving meatless ground which I've served to the warm satisfaction of vegetarians and omnivores alike. If it's very warm outside, I'd suggest making moussaka, and serving it cool or room temp. Side would be a bunch of Greek stuff - dolmathes and olives and grilled pita and Greek salad, grilled vegetables and tsatsiki, etc. If it's not so hot outside, then shepherd's pie using said meatless ground is really good - I start with minced aromatics, i.e. garlic and onion, then carrots, zucchini, etc. Mix the "meat" with some Braggs, or perhaps worchestershire sauce to give it oomph. Lovely mashed potatoes, Yukon golds are good, to top - score it crosswise with a fork and bake. Either use a good ketchup or make a nice tomatoey sauce to pass with it.

            1. I like all these ideas. Reading the posts I realize that the big problem is the vegetarians. The children who are vegetarians are VERY, VERY fussy eaters and I do want to avoid having to make another main dish. They do like mac and cheese so could do that but I don't know if adult vegetarians [adults are also fussy - see cilantro, mushrooms, spicy in my original post] would be too happy. I will have to find out if children eat lasagna - I know the meat eating chlldren will eat the one with meat. In fact, meat eaters will eat anything I cook. It is very hot here so that is another problem.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Bethcooks

                If you don't mind me asking, how old are the children who are Vegetarians? I just find that a little odd, especially if they are quite young, is it by their choice or their parents?

                Anyway, I think you should cook what you feel will be eaten, but at the same time, you can't always please those who are perpetually fussy. They will always find fault no matter what lengths you go to please them. Hopefully, they were raised with manners, and will be polite, and fill up on their own food before they come over.

                Another idea I just had, how about salads, like a potato and a macaroni salad? They are filling, you can use whatever veggies you have on hand & that they will eat, and you can do it ahead of time, they are usually better the next day anyway. Just a thought, since you mentioned it's hot where you are, why bother to have the oven on then?

                1. re: Phurstluv

                  My husband's grandchildren who are vegetarians are 8 years old, 9 years old, 11 years old, 12 years old - 3 have been vegetarians since birth so I would say it is the choice of their parents. Two different families - but only two adults are vegetarians. I don't think they will eat potato salad but I think they might eat a pasta salad although they don't eat mayo. That is a good idea. It's a difficult situation which is one of the reasons I need help with this menu. I am hoping some chowhound has a similar problem and can share their wisdom.

                  1. re: Phurstluv

                    we had a situtation like this and we did antipasti platter, meat lasanga, stuffed shell (no meat), salad, and garlic breadreadsticks.

                2. You have some very good suggestions already but here is one more. I did a pasta bar once. Put out spaghetti, rotini and tortelini. Also A tomato sauce and a cream sauce (pesto too if you want). Also put out some meat balls and some seafood. Top it up with some grilled veggies and some salads. Lots and lots of garlic bread. Done

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: julesincoq

                    That's a good idea and there would be something for everyone. I could do everything ahead but the pasta. How did you do the pasta? I know in restaurants they have a way of doing it but have never seen it done.

                    1. re: Bethcooks

                      They just cook it to very nearly done, drain it, then just before service, dunk it in boiling water for a minute. You can certainly cook it ahead of time. And you will make life a lot easier if you read the thread about cooking pasta without continual boiling - turns out all you need is to bring your salted water to a boil, put the pasta in, give it a stir, bring it back to a boil, then shut off the heat, cover the pot, and come back later. Give it 2-3 minutes longer than on the package directions. You can use far less water and there won't be any boiling over. With 14 people you'd probably be making 3 lbs of pasta. With this method, you can do all of it at once in a single 8qt pot.


                      1. re: greygarious

                        Thank you for the helpful information. I would like to do a variety of pastas - maybe 3 types??? If that seems like too many could just do one. Will look at thread now

                  2. good suggestions already... a few more...

                    -chili made with beans and TVP or seitan, cornbread, some roasted broccoli with garlic and lemon, bread pudding / apple pie / or brownies

                    -sloppy joe's with meat and with TVP or seitan crumbles or tofu crumbles, buns or english muffins, some grilled corn and veggies, sliced roasted yams or sweet potatoes, strawberry shortcake

                    --frittatas (less kid friendly), salads, veggies, soup (minestrone or veggie - i'd say gazpacho, but not so kid friendly), panzanella, cookies

                    -polenta lasagna/casserole - layer cooked polenta with a veggie ragu and cheese, garlic bread, broccoli or spinach al limon, eggplant stackers, cannoli or tiramisu

                    -perhaps too casual - breakfast for dinner: strata, baked eggs, hash browns, fruit, etc.

                    good luck!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Emme

                      I thought about the breakfast for dinner idea. I have done many brunches for husband's family so I have lots of tried and true recipes. Not sure if I can do it for dinner. I have done the chili and that worked but don't want to repeat. Maybe the polenta lasagna - do you have a recipe?

                      1. re: Bethcooks

                        No recipe on my part, really. I make polenta and stir in some butter and parm. Layer some in a baking dish, layer in some marinara sauce or ragu, some roasted veggies, lather rinse repeat and end with some cheese of choice and herbs... Bake at 350 til set...