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Book Club menu/recipes/something easy?

I'm hosting a book club holday dinner. We normally just do cheese and crackers but this time 'll be serving more substantial food. I get stressed out really easily when I have company because of the load of work and entertaining and I just want something simple/delicious and looks great. I know this may be to much to ask for but thought I'd try. I was thinking along the lines of tapas..? But I'm open to any suggestions. Thanks!!

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  1. How many people? How many dishes? would you like a theme, such as a region? Tapas can be a lot of work unless you choose items that you can make ahead. And by tapas do you mean small composed plates coming one after the other, or a bunch of appetizers to be laid out buffet style.

    1. I'm also hosting a book club this weekend, but I'm sticking to finger foods. Would love some suggestions. I'm vegetarian (but not vegan) and that's about the only restriction. It'll be for 10 people or so.

      5 Replies
        1. re: cleopatra999

          Smart - I'll have to remember that for the next time! Instead, I did a cheese plate with fig & fennel crisps, baguette, and pickled peaches, along with crudités, hummus and homemade beet and sweet potato chips. I made a chocolate truffle cake for dessert, served with clementines, and some of my guests brought cupcakes, so we were set.

            1. re: piccola

              Do you have a recipe for the chocolate truffle cake? Sounds delicious!

              1. re: kristen3

                It was basically this recipe, but I added dried cherries and toasted hazelnuts: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/...

        2. For NYE we did a few things that we put out for people to serve themselves on small plates. **I made everything the day before** which is key for my sanity. Except the tenderloin which was ready to go into the oven and finished after people arrived, rested, then was sliced, other than the meatballs everything came out on plates from the fridge, cheese should come out early so not too cold:

          roasted beef tenderloin sliced
          lamb meatballs made ahead and reheated in cast iron pan in oven with the beef
          couple chunks of cheese
          slices of salami already sliced
          salad/tapa with cooked lima beans and roasted artichoke hearts in a light vinagrette with capers
          crackers, small rolls
          pickled shrimp, delicious southern recipes abound, easy to make ahead
          harissa sauce homemade (easy to buy made)
          horseradish sauce (easy horseradish and cream)
          celery sticks

          How much cooking are you up to? I told people my menu so they brought things they liked to go with. Sorry not a lot of vegetarian options in this menu, I'm fine with it but this was an animal protein group.

          1. Hi All. Sorry I did not write back for a while. I got the sick :(
            Anyways. This party is next week and I am really stressed out, ready to have a panic attack. I am just lookin for a couple of platters to have with some good wine/cheese. Something simple yet elegant. No theme. Any ideaS!? I'm ready just cancel the whole thing! No restrictions. Just don;t want to do anything over the top...just simple and elegant. Any answers would be greatly greatly appreciated Thanks!!!!

            4 Replies
            1. re: Halfmay

              i did a spa party a few weeks ago. all very simple food.... grape tomato, basil, mozz on pretty toothpicks with some good balsamic in a dipping dish; cocktail rye with a schmear of veggie cr cheese, a slice of cuke, and a sprig of dill; roasted veg; tortellini served at room temperature on skewers (if you put them in a vase, they look like a bouquet) next to some prepared pesto; veg sushi; crudites; and cheese fondue in a mini crock with bread, cornichon, apple and grapes. and then i did a giant cob salad (you can keep it veg by omitting bacon and meat). but it sure is a looker. or you could do a caesar with chicken on the side for the vegetarians in the group.

              1. re: Halfmay

                Ok not a platter but…at our last book club I made a big batch of carrot ginger soup. Very easy, delicious and can easily be made in advance and/or in a slow cooker. With it we had parmesan crisps (again easy) but you could sub. toasted baguettes. I served it in pretty bowls, sprinkled each with a dollop of creme fraiche and a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds.

                For dessert I went to local chocolateer and got and assortment of salted caramels and bite size truffles. It was sweet treat to ahve with our coffee.

                I work full time so I wanted to keep prep the night of the book club to a minimum and this worked out great.

                Good luck!

                1. re: Halfmay

                  Here are my top favourite appies that look fancy, a little time consuming, but you can make ahead, and taste great:

                  roasted asparagus wrapped in procuitto
                  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/gi...

                  steamed asparagus wrapped in proscuitto and boursin cheese
                  http://thekittchen.com/2011/12/25/asp...

                  manchego chorizo bites (make ahead and freeze, pop in oven when ready, soooooo good
                  )http://food52.com/recipes/15316_papri...

                  lamb meatballs
                  http://www.chow.com/recipes/13432-lam...

                  proscuitto wrapped shrimp
                  http://www.chow.com/recipes/13439-smo...

                  tomato/boccocini skewers
                  http://www.simplefoodie.com/recipes/m...

                  1. re: Halfmay

                    If you want simple I'd go with foodieX2's idea of a soup or chili or potato soup.

                    Simple vegetarian chili with bowls of toppings that people serve themselves such as corn chips, grated cheese, chopped green onion, hot sauce, jalapenos, sour cream. Or if you must also have the same recipe with ground beef thrown in as a meat option. Make everything the day before including the bowls of toppings so all you have to do is heat up the chili. You could also have small dinner rolls and grapes and the cheeses and purchased chocolates.

                    Baked potato soup would be the same way with bowls of toppings - bacon, jalapenos, sour cream, chopped green onion.

                    It sounds like you are a bit stressed so if you don't want to just buy a bunch of foods to put on platters I'd go with the soup/chili option. If you want to buy I'd go to Trader Joes or Costco (lots of people) and buy a few prepared items - a dip with chips, mozzarella cheese balls, salami, maybe one that goes in the oven like mini quiche or thai chicken spring rolls - and be done.

                  2. Chicken Marbella (recipe all over the interwebs) is a crowd-pleaser that can be served hot or room temp, so it's easy to make ahead in one big pan. Use chicken thighs - bone in or boneless, but definitely skin-on. For a normal batch, I add the step of searing skin-side down to render some fat and yield crisper skin but you can skip that if you leave plenty of room around the pieces in the pan. I'd recommend a half-sheet pan rather than a lasagna pan if you are making more than 8 pieces. Scrape the solids from the marinade off the skin, into the pan, so they don't scorch. I like to add minced onion to the marinade. Most commenters on this recipe in other threads recommend using a lot less brown sugar than the recipe calls for. Although I have a sweet tooth, I agree. I use a quarter to a third of the recipe amount. Serve with couscous or rice, or with good bread/rolls to sop up the yummy sauce.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: greygarious

                      Can you explain why you suggest using a sheet pan rather than a lasagna pan for more than 8 pieces? Iis it the depth of the baking sheet you like or its overall size? thanks.

                    2. Some make ahead items that my family used to do for holiday entertaining include meat/cheese/olive (relish) trays, frittata of all sorts (veg friendly), kielbasa (can be served hot or left to cool to room temp, sliced with good mustard and mini pumpernickel/rye), cocktail shrimp. All of the foods are "portable" too. :-)