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In desperate need of ideas on what to cook my Mother-in-law for dinner!

My mother in law is visiting us in Michigan from New Mexico in a few weeks and I have NO idea what to make her for dinner. She will be getting here early in the evening but nonetheless tired from a long flight. I want to cook her something light and healthy but filling. She has no food allergies but my husband doesn't like seafood. Any ideas would be much appreciated!

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  1. Feature simple grilled meat (your husband can help cook, right?) - steak or chicken, with great summer produce - sweet corn, fresh Michigan cherries, zucchini, tomatoes.

    Depending on how long the trip is from the airport to your home, consider just eating out that first evening so you can all converse rather than anyone spending time in the kitchen.

    3 Replies
    1. re: MidwesternerTT

      Agree! This is Summer. Give her corn on the cob, or a simple salad made with fresh ingredients, and let your DH grill something. She won't be expecting a five course dinner. And you all will want to talk. I imagine that cherries would be quite a delicacy for her if she lives in NM. They are usually expensive when shipped to places where they aren't grown. And you can simply eat them out of hand for dessert. The nicest thing you can do for her is to have a nice conversation with her. Keep it simple.

      1. re: MidwesternerTT

        just eat out the first night. go overboard when everyone is more relaxed.

        1. re: MidwesternerTT

          If she's getting in early evening she may not have the energy to go out to dinner. She may want to drop her bags at the house and get comfortable, especially if it's a long drive from the airport.

          I wouldn't stress, make something simple. Throw something on the grill with side salads. Treat her to dinner out another night.

        2. Probably the easiest is to ask your husband what she might like to eat, He knows her better than anybody.

          1. What will be in season, available fresh and at it's peak in MI at that time?

            1. I would go for a main dish salad--greens, nuts, other fresh salad vegs you like, plus a protein on top. I've usually had this served to me with hot-off-the-grill protein but I bet it would be good with room temp or quickly reheated protein of your choice. Good bread, a nice adult beverage (or several :-), and fresh fruit for dessert. This would do it for me, and I don't generally like salad.

              If you want to go fancy, I love these twice baked goat cheese souffles, both for their flavor and for their ease at time to serve: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

              Ironically, these go great with salad too. You would think I was a gal who liked lettuce. (I guess I do when it's got other really great things around it.


              Anyway, good luck.

              1. An entree salad like a version of salad nicoise using a different grilled protein- because its "composed" on a serving platter it feels elegant yet all the seperate ingredients can be prepped ahead. This version from SE uses chicken:

                Fresh local fruit with homemade whipped cream is an easy sure hit.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Ttrockwood

                  My birthday is during Michigan cherry season, and my mother used to make a yellow pudding Bundt cake, frosted with whipped cream, and the center filled with fresh sweet cherries. TDF.

                  1. re: foiegras

                    My grandmother taught me how to make whipped cream from scratch when i was about seven and ruined me for life....(although sadly i can't tolerate much dairy at all now)

                2. A nice roast chicken always works. It can be room temp....and you can add side salads with whatever is seasonal.....corn....tomatoes. You could also do a potato or orzo or pasta salad. Kind of like picnic fare....it doesn't have to be heated and it's a great casual meal.

                  1. How about fresh pesto over rigatoni accompanied by a tomato salad with evoo.

                    1. Can you ask her? Do you two talk? I'd ask her about a slightly open ended either or menu.
                      We were thinking of grilling chicken or having Italian and a salad…which would you prefer?
                      Don't make something You have never done before!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Kris in Beijing

                        I agree with this approach if you can do it. Leaves your husband out at the middleman. I find that it is easier to ask people what they do not like, are allergic to, or outright hate, rather than saying "what kind of food do you like?" A stay of a few weeks warrants such a question.

                      2. Assume the weather will be a little cooler when she arrives, and possibly her appetite will be less from flying.
                        Something causal and light might be in order.
                        You can serve a plate of cheese, cured meats, nuts, some local seasonal fruit, with some fresh bread, and some wine, iced tea, sparking water, etc. I generally am thirsty after I fly and my taste somewhat suppressed, normal with flying, so something a little picante might be good.
                        If you are to prepare something warm, a butternut squash soup, or gazpacho (if local tomatoes are available) with some old fashioned grilled cheese. You could also do some grilled Portobello mushroom , topped with sautéed onions and gruyere cheese melted on top, with a small corn/tomato/red bean salsa over greens, along side.
                        As most said, let her come in, wash up, let the hugs and kisses get done and relax a little.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: PHREDDY

                          "We are really looking forward to seeing you mom (or whatever). We want to make a treat for you for dinner. What do you like?"
                          'Horses mouth'. LOL
                          If she says: "I don't care. Whatever you have in the house is fine with me. As long as it's got some lime wedges some cane sugar some crushed ice and a double of cachaca" you're sorted. LOL

                          1. re: Puffin3

                            A mojito is always lovely this time of year ... even better if you have mint in the garden.

                            1. re: foiegras

                              Actually you guys, the only thing better than a Mojito is two, one right after the other!!!

                              1. re: PHREDDY

                                Actually PHREDDY, two is too many..........but three is not enough.

                        2. first start with a few double Vodkas, then anything your prepare will be appreciated by all!!!!

                          1. I would roast a chicken before you go, serve cold with a potato salad and cole slaw or another green salad.

                            1. When in doubt make chicken salad.

                              1. have you never cooked for her before? what if her flight is delayed?

                                gahh. eat out on the way home and make a nice dinner the following night.

                                1. The old rule of K.I.S.S. applies here. Go with what you know.

                                  A fresh salad, local corn on the cob (if you have it), and grilled steak or chicken. If you still have local strawberries, perhaps individual strawberry shortcakes. The meat can marinate while picking her up from the airport, and your husband can grill while they all chit-chat. Put a pot of water on the stove and get it boiling so it's ready for the quick cook of corn.

                                  The salad makings can be made up ahead of time with veggies in separate containers so anything overly wet doesn't affect other veggies, then tossed and dressed just before you're ready to eat. Shortcake can be made ahead of time and assembled when ready for dessert - just whip up the whipped cream, and you're good to go.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                    you're not the first person in this thread to assume only the men grill?

                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                      Its not just this thread (but I immediately noticed that too!)

                                      1. re: weezieduzzit

                                        Wait - women grill? I've never seen that occur in nature.

                                        Just kidding. My wife wants me to teach her how to properly prepare and use the charcoal grill. We bought a gas grill a few years back to do fish, but I ended up getting lazy and using it for all kinds of things. We decided to go back to charcoal for most things because it tastes so much better.

                                        Noticed that the OP was a first time poster. Hope we hear back from her.

                                      2. re: hotoynoodle

                                        No, I didn't assume that, hotoynoodle. I'm going with a split responsibility of cooking between the OP and her husband, so the OP is not so frazzled trying to make things perfect for her mother-in-law.

                                        Geezus. Please don't read into things that aren't even there.

                                          1. re: magiesmom

                                            It is bizarre to me that people try to make something out of nothing...

                                      3. Cold roast chicken and a big salad with lovely summer veggies could be all ready to sit down to when you get back from the airport. For dessert, fresh Michigan cherries with really good (home made?) ice cream.

                                        1. Another nice thing might be just to have cheese, crackers/bread, fruit, and charcuterie. In other words, just a robust cheese plate. That can be nice and really relaxing after a day of flying - especially good with wine, of course.

                                          1. I vote for just asking her what she wants. Unless you two don't get along. "Hey mom, shall we go out to dinner or would you rather stay in for a simple meal on your first night here?" Regardless of the answer ask her what she might like and don't waste your time guessing.

                                            1. Perhaps a "Sunday sauce" that's got Italian sausage links, pork ribs, meatballs, pork chops, etc... cook up some Rigatoni and toss it in a bit of the sauce then serve the meats & sauce, and the pasta on separate platters with some garlic bread, and maybe one or two veggie side dishes, and a salad to start things off.

                                              It's a little extra work up front, but the sauce/meats are easy to keep warm and pretty forgiving if she is running early or late. It only takes minutes to cook up the pasta and garlic bread. You can have the sauce prepared way ahead of time, along with the salad.

                                              1. Make nice salad and pick up a pizza from your favorite spot and have it at home....

                                                1. Bear in mind that many flights are delayed these days and she may get in much later than planned. Don't make something so delicate that it can't wait until the next day to be served.

                                                  I'd go with a salad that you know you can make well. For me that's wild rice salad with chicken and dried apricots.

                                                  1. Well, when my (former) mother-in-law was coming for a visit I usually considered dishes featuring arsenic, hemlock.....

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: JoeBabbitt

                                                      JoeBabbit - do you have any recipes you could share for these preparations?

                                                      No, not really. One thing about the MIL is that she loves food and swoons when I cook. But just about all the other things drive me nutz!

                                                      1. re: rudeboy

                                                        "The Borgia Family Cookbook". I think you can get it on Amazon....

                                                      2. re: JoeBabbitt

                                                        Actually my MIL..loved to eat..so I would make all the things she loved to eat, and therefore kill'em with kindness approach,,,,,I know she had to wear stretch pants or warm-ups to go home on the plane after she visited with me...she was just a couple of pounds heavier...what better complement to hear that I can't visit here because when I leave all my clothes are tight!

                                                      3. Thank you all for your suggestions! I especially liked the idea of planning the dinner around local, fresh produce so we went to our local Farmer’s Market on Sunday. We found beautiful greens, tomatoes, asparagus, and berries (blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries). I’m thinking of doing a simple salad with fresh greens, tomatoes, dried cherries, and walnuts. I will also be grilling (my husband is not the only one who grills. Shocking, I know!) corn on the cob, asparagus, and chicken. For dessert, I’m thinking of doing a berry cobbler. My husband will help with the prepping, and then he’ll pick up his mother from the airport, which is only about 30 mins from here so I can grill while he gets her. I think some time alone will be nice for the two of them to catch up, and (hopefully) they’ll get home to a nicely cooked meal!
                                                        I apologize for the delayed response, I have been so busy making preparations for my MIL’s visit! Thanks again for your delicious ideas!

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: SarahNM

                                                          Sounds great!! Mixed berry cobbler, Mmmmmm.

                                                          Good luck :)

                                                          1. re: SarahNM

                                                            Sounds like you've got everything well in hand - the berry cobbler sounds perfect, as does the rest of your meal - enjoy!

                                                            1. re: SarahNM

                                                              Please do give us a follow up and if possible some photos!

                                                            2. How about a breaded veal or chicken cutlet served with a tomato basil pasta? You could keep the pasta portion to a small nest with a nice cutlet.