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Need help with Spring Break meal

The older I get, the more I enjoy kids. With that said, I have invited a 12 year old girl, 13 year old boy & a 17 year old young man to visit for a day of horseback riding & arrowhead hunting.

Six adults will be coming too. Don't want to do a pot luck...just want every one to come & relax. Great idea so far, but there is only one problem...I don't have a clue as to what to feed everybody. We will all come in tired & very hungry after bouncing around on horses & shuffling through dirt, so grilling won't sound too good.

Of course, the Chow folks ALWAYS have tons of ideas...so please help me out with some suggestions for a great easy meal. Gotta have dessert too!!!!

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  1. How about Grilled Chicken Caprese Sanadwiches? Everything can be made ahead of time. Have all the sandwiche ingredients prepped ahead of time - grilled chicken, roasted peppers, sliced tomatoes, rolls - and guests can assemble the sandwiches themselves with what they like on them. Serve big bowls of dill pickle potato salad and crunchy slaw. For dessert - a Texas sheet cake is always a hit.

    Grilled Chicken Caprese Sandwiches

    makes 5 sandwiches

    1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders
    olive oil
    salt and pepper
    balsamic vinegar
    2 large balls of fresh mozzarella
    2 large tomatoes
    1 (12 ounces) jar roasted red peppers, drained
    about a dozen large fresh basil leaves
    5 long rolls, split

    Heat a grill or grill to high. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and grill for about 3 - 4 minutes per side or until cooked through. Remove from grill and place in a shallow dish. Drizzle with about 2 - 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

    For each sandwich, open one of the rolls and top with a couple of the chicken tenders. Layer the tomato, mozzarella, roasted red pepper, and basil leaves on top. Drizzle the top roll with a little more balsamic vinegar and olive oil and then place on top of the sandwich. Slice in half and serve.

    Mini Texas Sheet Cakes

    makes about 8 dozen

    for the cake-
    1 cup of butter
    1/3 cup cocoa
    1 cup water
    2 cups sugar
    2 cups flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 cup buttermilk
    2 eggs, beaten
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    for frosting-
    1/2 cup butter
    1/4 cup cocoa
    6 tablespoons milk
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 pound powdered sugar

    Tube of white icing from craft store or grocery store
    Candy stars or sprinkles

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease an 18 x 12 inch baking sheet and set aside.

    In a small saucepan over medium heat add the butter, cocoa, and water and cook until it just comes to a boil. Remove from heat.

    In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt. Pour cocoa mixture over the flour mixture and mix thoroughly. Add the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread it evenly out. Bake for about 18 - 20 minutes or until the cake bounces bake when lightly touched. Remove cake from oven.

    While the cake is baking, prepare the frosting. In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the butter, cocoa, and milk. Bring the mixture to a boil and then remove from heat. Whisk in the vanilla extract and powdered sugar until smooth. When the cake comes out of the oven, immediately pour the frosting over the top and spread it out evenly. Let cool and then refrigerate for 1 hour.

    Remove the cake from the refrigerator and cut into 1 and 1/2 inch squares. Top with a squiggle of frosting and decorate with candy stars or sprinkles. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

    5 Replies
    1. re: eatmyfood

      Love your ideas...do you think I could make the cake ahead of time & freeze & then thaw to frost & serve? Thanks so much for the recipes...don't even have to go searching for them!

      1. re: cstout

        you can freeze just about any cake very well.

      2. re: eatmyfood

        Try frosting the cake frozen, when it defrosts it retains the moisture and is very good.

        1. re: paprkutr

          Frosting cake when frozen...that is an excellent idea, thanks for sharing!

      3. Make a big pot of chili in the crockpot, and set up fixin's ahead; chopped green onion, cheddar cheese, sour cream. Bake a pan of cornbread in the morning before heading out. A platter of fruit and a big grated veggie slaw could be done ahead as well.

        Brownies for dessert?

        All make ahead, and very easy on the cook, the budget, and tasty for guests of all ages.

        1 Reply
        1. re: gingershelley

          My goodness, you can hardly go wrong with a meal like that. Yep, I forgot about the budget thing. Being on a limited budget sometimes curbs some of my enthusiasm, but I just invite first & panic second. You Chow people seem to always pull me through though & everyone goes home with a full tummy.

          Was wondering about the Ramen noodle dish that called for broccli slaw & some other things..never tasted it so don't know if that would work. What about Blanco Chili?

        2. Make a batch of pulled pork in advance then have pulled pork sandwiches. Pre-made potato salad would be nice with it.
          Spaghetti with jarred sauce or pre-made pasta sauce,
          Make a batch of swiss steak in the crockpot before you go riding..will be done when you come back. If you have a fancy rice cooker, it could either pre-make the rice and keep it warm or you can set a timer for it. Everything would be ready then. Ohhhh.. maybe an excuse to buy a fancy rice cooker?

          A hearty soup and french bread would hold everyone off while you cooked something. Doesn't sound like much fun for you but I'm a guy... I'll try to get over the guilt. ;-)

          Edit add on: Or you can stay home and cook like a good Texas housewife. You can have it all ready when they come home from riding ....in the cold rain.

          God, I'm glad you don't have my address. :-)

          3 Replies
          1. re: Hank Hanover

            Hank, how did you know I need a rice cooker???? Yep, I got in a minimalist mood & carted it off to the Hospice store & have been regretting it ever since. I just hate it when I get in one of those moods, toss the darndest things...anyway, your ideas are making me hungry right now!

            Now about that pulled pork, it would be neat if I could make some of those slider bread thingies to put the pork in, how 'bout a recipe anyone?

            Yes, it is a lot of fun for me...I really get into the arrowhead digging thing, my horses are way too big though (that only happened since I was tossed off several years ago).

            Most of all, I like to see people eat...& know they are enjoying the food. So it is a win win for me. Thanks for the great ideas....

            1. re: cstout

              why not just use burger buns for the pulled pork? sliders are little and your peeps will be hungry.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                hotoynoodle, yes, my peeps sure will be hungry....thanks for pointing that out...

          2. I second the idea of chili, and you can always have some hot dogs cooked in there, just drop them on top whole to make chili dogs from. chili is also great served over plain white rice, with a side of potato or macaroni salad, or if you prefer some cole slaw, and what the heck that cornbread sounds good too.

            I'm thinking that at this time of year you are still going to want something warm, but that really depends on where you are and the weather that week.

            6 Replies
            1. re: KaimukiMan

              KaimukiMan...well, I kinda wanted to do a little something different than what the kids get at home...they are so happy when they see something different at "Charlotte's house" to eat. But there is always that idea about things tasting better at someone Else's house too.

              Those kids have been tossed around from foster parent to foster parent & the meals they had were more into quantity than quality. So, if I can introduce a little something different & still stay in my budget, I am totally happy.

              But yep, it is all sounding good...I always like a good pot of chili myself. I am in Tx, so we will be having some spring like weather. Maybe they have never even tasted homemade chili..so will just reconsider that. Thank you for the great ideas.

              1. re: cstout

                oh my, i adopted at age 52 a 7 year old boy from foster care, and he'd had so much food trauma (extreme food trauma, not just being expected to eat stuff he thought disgusting) that his favorite stuff is what he geta to choose and it is usually as bland as possible. But these kids love to see something different or maybe a far better version than they are used to...homemade cornbread is fast and easy, and even biscuits not that hard or a loaf of home bread (or even baked in the oven purchased frozen bread). If they have favorite things they liked from "Charlotte's house" before they might love seeing the repeat and knowing you remembered. Before I adopted I had a family of three girls over to my house for a party a few times a year (I still have them over as their social schedules permit; they are 15, 16, 18 now and my son is 13), and after a while they really wanted the same things every time...guacamole, sliced mango and kiwi, homemade chocolate pudding or sorbet, or bananas roasted with chocolate inside. Sounds like a wonderful event, have fun!

                1. re: Madrid

                  Madrid, so wonderful for you to find a place in your heart for that little boy....both of you are blessed. Unfortunately, the kids that come to my house are always looking for something "different"...they have a very good memory too!

                  That homemade chocolate pudding is telling me they would just love that. Of course they have their favorites, but they also want something new too.....oh well..

                2. re: cstout

                  I'm sure whatever you end up doing they will love it. But hoping to hear what you eventually do - even if it's just peanutbutter and jelly sandwiches. LOL

                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                    KaimukiMan...gosh I am absolutely confused as to what to fix, all these ideas out here are great.

                    Actually, with all these economical dishes, I think I am able to splurge on a "fancy" dish to kick it up a notch.

                    Anybody got any ideas?? Yes, I will let you all know what I will end up fixing...no use saying now because I know I will change my mind a few times...got until Friday afternoon. Saturday is the day everyone is coming.

                    I am copying everyone's ideas into a folder called "what to fix on a budget"...great stuff here. Thanks to everyone.

                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                      To all of you, please read down through all this post...your ideas are just super & I have found a way to use EVERY ONE'S suggestion. I have a lot of shopping to do & you have contributed so much to make it all happen. Read on.....

                      SPRING BREAK MEAL
                      CROCKPOT PULLED PORK - Hank Hanover
                      Am using rub in this link, unless you have a good pork recipe
                      of your own Hank??. http://www.amazingribs.com/recipes/ru...

                      GRILLED CHICKEN CAPRESE SANDWICHES - eatmyfood
                      (just in case someone does not like pork..will serve grilled chicken on the side so someone can just have some of the salad fixings.

                      COLESLAW (any good recipes?
                      )MARINATED RED & WHITE ONIONS
                      QUICK PICKLES - Alton Brown's recipe
                      CROCKPOT VELVEETA / ROTEL - jenscat5 (kids might like to pour over pork)
                      LONG ROLLS (purchased)
                      TEXAS SHEET CAKE - eatmyfood (will freeze per HotoyNoodle)
                      ICED TEA (margaritas for the big kids later)

                      BUT WAIT...THERE'S MORE FOR THIS WEEK..

                      GRANDMA'S SPAGHETTI - RelishPDX
                      GARLIC BREAD - RelishPDX

                      BAKED ZITI - Thimes
                      MEDITERRANEAN PEPPER SALAD W/CHICK PEAS - MrsJonesey
                      NO KNEAD GARLIC BREAD - me

                      MY LUNCH THIS WEEK + FREEZER
                      MEATBALLS WITH SPAGHETTI SAUCE (will make from scratch) - INDIANRIVERFL

                      NEXT MONTH'S HAYRIDE (my idea for another group of kids)
                      CROCKPOT CHILE - GingerShelley (will freeze for now)
                      ROASTED MARSHMALLOWS
                      BROWNIES GingerShelley
                      HOBO SACKS (pink cowboy bandannas for girls & blue ones for boys) bundled & filled with some sort of snacks & then tied to a stick & then stick will be used for roasting the wieners & marshmallows. Bandannas will become their napkins.
                      Any ideas what to put in the sacks? (brownies & what else? Fruit?

                      Well, I told you I used every one's ideas. Bless you all for a bunch of wonderful meals!!! Wish you could join us.

                      Your other suggestions are filed away for other days & meals. I shall think of you as I am making all this wonderful stuff. You people are great menu planners!!!!! Great fun..good food...& wonderful Chow folks...my life is good.

                3. If a cold sandwich would fit the bill, you could make Italian-style pressed sandwiches. Or wraps. Potato or macaroni salad or this Mediterranean Pepper Salad from Smitten Kitchen would be good. http://smittenkitchen.com/2009/06/med...
                  I use the optional tomatoes, add chickpeas and use all the pickling solution. It is delicious.
                  I think the Texas Sheet Cake would be a big hit with kids.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: MrsJonesey

                    MrsJonesey, that Pepper Salad on smitten kitchen is a great idea...will be a treat for anyone. Thanks for the link....I would like some right now!!

                    1. re: cstout

                      You're welcome. It is one of my favorites. When I make it, I usually have some good sourdough bread and fresh fruit and call it a meal!

                  2. My grandma's spaghetti casserole is easy to prepare, cheap, delicious, barely needs a recipe, and is very popular with kids and teens. (The quantities below serve about 6, so if you have 10 to feed, up the ingredients and pan size accordingly.)

                    Cook a pound of spaghetti or vermicelli, and dump it into a lasagna or large au gratin pan (it's a bit too much volume for a normal Pyrex 9x13). Add sauce of your choice (about two bottles worth—one which you can taste the oregano, but not too strongly), a pound of cooked ground meat (I mix beef and pork), a whole can of black olives drained and sliced, and a half a pound or so of sauteed mushrooms if you'd like. Distribute sauce, meat, olives and mushrooms evenly in the pasta, top with a half pound of grated cheese (I use cheddar), then bake for about 30 minutes at 350°, or until the cheese is taking on that GB&D look and the sauce is bubbling.

                    Serve with garlic bread and a mixed salad. (If you use blue cheese or ranch dressing, it's not impolite to dip your garlic bread into the dressing—really tasty that way.)

                    The casserole may be prepped ahead, kept in the fridge, and baked off before serving, but let it get the fridge chill off of it first so it will bake evenly. If anyone volunteers to help out in the kitchen, have them prep the veggies for the salad or make the garlic bread (which can be done outside of the kitchen, like in the dining room).

                    Time to prep the casserole is about 30 minutes or less, so you can have dinner on the table in about an hour from start to finish. I cook the pasta to that point just beyond al dente, so it's not soggy but so it doesn't soak up too much of the sauce while baking. You can also add a bit of pasta water to the sauce to thin it out if you'd like if it's really thick sauce.

                    If you want to use pre-cooked chicken instead, leave out the olives, and use linguine in place of the spaghetti or vermicelli. Linguine just works better with chicken for some reason.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: RelishPDX

                      RelishPDX,,,you are so good to share Grandma's Spaghetti recipe with us, sounds like she was a wonderful lady & knew how to feed a family cheaply & well.

                      This is great to take to the nursing home to give the employees a little treat. Buy a big aluminum pan, make some no knead bread, dress it up a little with garlic butter & spices or whatever. Take some napkins, disposable utensils, plastic plates & a sign saying, "help yourselves". Those folks working 12 hour shifts will certainly welcome a good hot meal.

                      Heck, this is good to take anywhere. As you said, inexpensive & oh so good!!! Thank you. It really does not take much to please someone...just a little effort & lots of love. With that said, let's make it a point to make this dish for somebody this next week.

                      Sometimes "simple" is a very good thing.

                      1. re: cstout

                        Cst, thank you for the kind words. My grandmother was indeed a great woman with a big heart. I can't open my pantry and see the can of black olives in there without thinking of her, a few decades since her passing.

                        I've always found it interesting how food can connect and bond us together so thoroughly. I still remember the moms who cooked for groups of us kids in school for events. No matter what they made, we always thought they were the grooviest!

                    2. baked ziti is always a go to favorite for me, a crowd, and kids. It can all be assembled the day ahead and just put in a warm oven when you go out arrowhead hunting.

                      It was a staple at every high school get together growing up in NJ (that was a long time ago) and I still love it and so simple. I've started adding smoked mozzarella (nothing we ever had growing up) but I love the smokey addition.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: thimes

                        baked ziti...must admit that I have never tasted it...sounds a lot like lasagna to me...googled it & saw several recipes for it....don't know which ones to choose from. Do you have a favorite one? Yep, kids love anything cheesy...excellent suggestion...

                        1. re: cstout

                          Baked Ziti is an excellent idea, too. I've made the recipe linked below from an old 'How To Boil Water' show on FoodTV, when Tyler Florence was the chef. I also made the Provencal Vegetable Gratin from the same show, that's also at the same link. I left out the sausage from the sauce and scaled it down for 8x8 pans since my guest was vegetarian and it was just the two of us eating in front of the TV on a movie night. It still came out great, and I'd gather you can use any sauce you'd like. Both recipes get 5 stars for their online ratings:


                          Tyler's garlic bread with fresh basil went great with both dishes, and is another 5 star recipe:


                          (I'm a huge Tyler Florence fan.)

                          1. re: RelishPDX

                            This is what I have used on my no knead French bread...quite tasty (will try the foodnetwork recipe when I get some fresh basil)

                            1 cup (4oz) shredded mozzarella cheese
                            1/4 cup mayonnaise (homemade would be great)
                            1/4 cup butter, softened
                            1 garlic clove, minced
                            3-4 dashes dried parsley (could sub in some fresh minced basil here maybe)
                            1 French bread loaf, split lengthwise

                            Beat first 5 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended

                            Spread cheese mixture on cut sides of bread. Place cut sides of bread together & cut into slices, or slice each half into 2 inch sections.

                            Bake @ 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes or until desired crispness

                          2. re: cstout

                            yes baked ziti is definitely in the "lasagna-esque" category, but without any of the fuss. I've never really used a recipe for it so can't really recommend one.

                            If I'm keeping it very basic it is just ziti, pasta sauce (I use home-made but growing up everyone used jars), dotted with ricotta, topped with mozzarella and baked until hot and bubbly.

                            When I want to make it "fancier" I'll add sausage, veggies, cubes of smoked mozzarella, etc, etc.

                            It's a great party dish in my opinion. And VERY quick to put together.

                            1. re: thimes

                              Baked ziti is one of those dishes that you can dress up or down...am putting this idea into my folder right now. Am anxious to make this ASAP. Thanks for the idea.

                        2. Get a sack of frozen meatballs and bake them. Add to spaghetti sauce for a cheap upgrade to your choice of pasta. Add to melted Velveeta or Cheez-wiz and put on top of crinkle french fries. Iceberg lettuce with a choice of ranch or thousand island dressing. Hot refried beans in their choice of hard or soft tacos. To add to all of the above, have chopped onions, tomatoes, and shredded cheese. And definately a couple of loaves of bread with large jars of peanut butter and grape jelly always available on the table. This way anybody can grab and go without always asking for your permission. And double the amount of sodas and juices you would normally have. Not to mention my favorite Swiss Miss hot chocolate with a bag of mini-marshmallows so they can have as many as they want on top.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                            Sounds like you are a "pro" at entertaining kids....great ideas...I am just not around kiddos enough to know what they like to eat or not eat. Another folder for me labeled "Kid Food"
                            Thank you.

                            1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                              I love doing crockpot meatballs for parties!! People seem to love them & have rolls & fixin's alongside so people can make their own. You can have rolls, cheeses, sauteed onions/peppers (still good at room temp), spices to shake on, chopped pepperoni, even warm cooked pasta or pasta salad.

                              I also like a crockpot with the melted Velveeta + Rotel cheese for parties. Sounds "cheap" but it always goes over well and I've found it to be popular. Chips + chopped tomatoes/onions/lettuce/refried beans & salsa/guacamole on the side & people can make their own nachos and/or tacos.

                              I also like the pulled pork idea.....Some rolls & coleslaw sounds great!

                              1. re: jenscats5

                                those costco meatballs are also good in a teriyaki style barbeque sauce

                            2. OP is posting to herself here..my hennies have been busy producing a bunch of big brown eggs & was trying to figure out how I could use them for the meal. Well, I thought of a pound cake with several bowls of some sort of sauce to pour over a slice of cake...fruit sauce or some other sauces. Got any good sauce recipes?? Of course I need another dessert too. The sheet cake would make a good contrast to the pound cake, or should I do something different than another cake?

                              Can anyone think of any other "eggy" recipes for main dish or otherwise? Yes, deviled eggs, but please help me out here...have never eaten deviled eggs that I like, tried a bunch of recipes, but never any of them said, "wow". Do you have a good recipe?

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: cstout

                                I love deviled eggs period, so I'm no help there! I like them simple, mashed yolk with dried mustard, mayo, salt & pepper - paprika sprinkled on top. I also like them with tuna salad stuffed in - tuna, mayo, greek yogurt, relish, salt & pepper. Raw veggies minced in as desired.

                                For sauces for cakes - maybe a lemon curd using some of the yolks? Save the whites for later?

                                1. re: jenscats5

                                  lemon curd is an excellent idea...never made it before, but I know I better get to practicing that one. Can I make it several days ahead?

                                  1. re: cstout

                                    I've never made it before either, but it seems easy! And I don't see why you couldn't make it ahead....