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Clueless cook with parents dropping by (long)

I do not know how to cook. When I attempt to bake, I usually end up creating a great big ol’ mess. I would love to learn how to cook better and add some dishes to my repertoire. My parents are coming this Saturday and staying until Sunday mid-day. I think that this would be a great opportunity to attempt some things, especially since I hate going out to eat.

A bit about my parents: They are Russian Jews and like traditional Russian Jew food. When they cook for a company of 5 people, there is enough to serve 50. There is no such thing as too much food for company. Now, I DETEST all Russian food and don’t want to make it in the least, which is fine because they’ve lived here for 20+ years. My mom is a great eater and likes EVERYTHING, though her daily diet veers toward the pre-made and processed. For bfast she likes TJ’s frozen pancakes or French toast, she likes their tuna wraps, she loves meat (usually only eats turkey), eggs, seafood, pasta, savory items in general, yogurt, and when going out to eat suggests, “anything but sandwiches.” All jokes aside, her favorite restaurant really is Olive Garden (they live in the suburbs).My dad is harder. He will not eat poultry of any kind and can’t have red meat for his health. He loves buckwheat, cheese, bread, eggs, potatoes, sauerkraut, and especially chocolate. Neither one drinks alcohol very often, nor do they like spicy things. They definitely don’t keep kosher, but pork is a no-go for the most part.

So, anyway, my idea is to have the following ready for them when they arrive around 11-12 on Saturday:

Salad – Greens, cherry tomatoes, feta, roasted sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, and . . . . anything else?

Roasted vegetables – I can actually make this! Baked bell peppers, zucchini, apples, and . . . what else? And seasoned best with what? I usually use olive oil and salt.

Ravioli - ??

Ground turkey for my mom – prepared . . . ???? With rice? With the ravioli and some cheese? My cooking solution is mostly to just add melted cheese to everything.

Chocolate chip oatmeal cookies – favorite easy recipe?? I want to use the Baker Betty 6-ingredient version of oatmeal raisin cookies and sub in chocolate chips for the raisins. My mom is also trying to limit her sugar, so substitutions are welcome.

I will also have lots and lots of fruit, bread, cheese, and some sort of purchased cake. My supermarket of choice is Berkeley Bowl, for any Bay Area folks who are familiar, so any items that you recommend from there are welcome (it’s kind of like a low-priced, super awesome neighborhood Whole Foods with a bakery, deli, incredible produce section, and imported items).

So my specific questions:

1. Any salad additions?

2. Any roasted vegetable additions? Any seasoning recommendations?

3. How the heck do you prepare ravioli well, and how do you season it?

4. What’s an easy, tasty way to prepare ground turkey?

5. Any simple cookie recs that are both mildly healthy and contain chocolate . . . ?

6. What should my dad eat? I am secretly hoping I can fill him up on bread, cheese, and chocolate.

7. And what on earth should they have for breakfast on Sunday? I was thinking a baked French toast casserole made with challah, but maybe that’s too intensive for something they’ve never had before and may not like. I have no idea how to prepare eggs, but maybe they’re my best bet.

Any and all suggestions, tips, musings, and additional food suggestions are welcome! Please keep in mind that things like using a blender and browning butter are completely foreign to me but might me attempted with a good explanation.

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  1. For the ground turkey, try this: http://damndelicious.net/2013/09/24/a...

    If you're thinking of making Ravioli from scratch, don't; at least, not now. Find a good local source for fresh ravioli and ask them how to cook it. (Generally, as soon as it floats, it's done.) Simple butter sauce with fresh sage is good on most ravioli. You can always plan on making ravioli from scratch a Fall project.

    8 Replies
    1. re: mcsheridan

      Don't worry, I was NOT asking how to make my own ravioli from scratch. I simply wanted to buy cheese/mushroom ravioli at the store and have no idea what to do with it, besides just put it in some (salted?) water. I will definitely use your butter sauce and sage idea. There isn't an exact recipe, so do you mean that you melt butter, add sage, drain the ravioli, then toss the ravioli in the butter sage sauce?

      I'm not going to lie. The ground turkey recipe looks complicated to me, mostly because I'm intimidated by mincing garlic and dicing onions. And grating ginger . . . I don't know. Also, why is the rice already cooked? Do stores sell pre-cooked rice (and does it taste like something worth buying?), or does this mean that I make rice beforehand? I've actually never made rice before. I will think about this one.

      1. re: FeeFee34

        breathe! you're starting to panic a little!!!!! You can make the rice while everything else is cooking. BUT timing everything can be difficult when you're just starting out and nervous. Go to the local chinese takeout and get some plain white rice. heat it up with a few drops of water. BREATHE

        1. re: jiffypop

          Thanks! I mean . . . I can try rice. That seems like a useful skill to know anyway.

          The reason I like the idea of cooking is because it's something I enjoy getting preoccupied with. I will mostly have all of Saturday morning to cook; however, you're right in that I never, ever attempt multiple dishes at once. I go one at a time, as otherwise everything gets out of hand (nothing is 2nd nature, so I'm constantly checking cook times and temperatures), so it can definitely get time consuming.

          1. re: FeeFee34

            You don't want to try to cook rice from scratch - that's okay! They sell the stuff frozen in white or brown... just go buy a bag and there's your rice. Dump it right in the recipe when you need it and the pan heat will thaw it out for you in less than two minutes. You can also buy the onion/peppers in a little tub in the veggie section ready to use so you don't need to worry about getting the dice 'just right'. Open the tub and dump it in! (I used them when my hand was injured and I couldn't chop...) If you want to make things even simpler don't worry about the vegetables - Birds Eye sells bags of frozen rice with finely chopped vegetables mixed right in. You can use that in the wrap and it'll be just fine and save you from buying extra products. All you need to do is season it.

            1. re: Kajikit

              I just bought a bag of frozen peas for tonight's little dinner party. No big deal!

        2. re: FeeFee34

          Mario Batali's recipe is very straightforward: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ma...

          Go ahead with jiffypop's suggestion and buy the cooked rice if you're concerned. Cooking rice is simple but, for some, rice can be tricky to get right. Read the recipe again and you'll see why the rice has to be cooked in advance. Once the rice is added, there is almost no additional cooking going on. If you do buy precooked rice, it needs to be hot or at least warm when it's added to the mixture.

          As far as grating the ginger and garlic; do you own a food processor or mini-prep (small food processor)? If so, you can just do it in there. You can peel fresh ginger with the back of a spoon; it's not difficult at all - the skin comes right off - then just slice it and chuck it in the processor.

          General note: As a beginning cook, you should read a recipe through two or three times before you even think about preparing it. In this way, you ensure that you fully understand it, have everything you need, and do anything in advance that may be required.

          1. re: FeeFee34

            In addition to frozen pre-cooked rice, you can also buy jars of minced garlic at any supermarket and sometimes even jars of grated ginger (try an Asian specialty market for that). You may also be able to find frozen chopped onions at your supermarket -- I'm not familiar with Berkeley Bowl.

            Rice can be something to practice another time. Rice is easy, I promise. Cook it like pasta and drain it when it's done.

            1. re: P_penelope

              I'm a huge fan of my $15 rice cooker. One thing I never need to think about.

        3. For the salad go simple with outstanding ingredients. I recommend a heirloom tomato salad with fresh mozzarella and basil. Serve with balsamic vinegar and olive oil 50/50.

          Roast veggies that are in season and are plentiful. They'll have the best flavor for your buck. Again simply season them, just salt pepper and your herb of choice (thyme, rosemary, etc..)

          Salt pepper and then brown the ground turkey, then remove from heat. Sauté onions and garlic until they are soft. Combine together with a some feta and stuff a bell pepper that has its insides cut out and top removed. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes or until you like the consistency.

          For dad you could try rice and cheese in his pepper. My thinking is to make something like this where you can stuff to their liking and avoid making separate dishes for everyone.

          For breakfast loads of fresh fruit, yogurt, granola, cereal, and this egg dish. Bake ahead of time a crustless quiche with cheese and veggies (leftover roasted or whatever you like). You can bake this while you roast the veggies in separate quiche pans or in a muffin tray. I have these individual cupcake molds that are made of silicone that are a great portion for me.

          Don't forget your parents want to spend time with you so don't work yourself needlessly if cooking aint your thing. Buy premade options and bake or serve them yourself.

          1 Reply
          1. re: carrytheone

            The salad and roasted vegetables I think I can handle. I'm in California and have some great produce. I actually never thought to add herbs to the roasted vegetables, so thank you!

            What I want to do is have a lot of food prepared for them already when they arrive on Saturday. That way they can eat, and we can have the whole day to explore without worrying about eating out until dinnertime. Also, it's a cultural thing: the way to make someone feel welcome for us is to have food prepared from the heart available. In copious quantities. There will definitely be a lot of pre-made stuff: bread, desserts, juice, etc., plus we're spending the day in San Francisco, and it would be an injustice to the city not to buy SOMETHING out.

            I have a muffin tray but don't know how to make a quiche. Do you have a specific recipe? They definitely like eggs. Maybe something with eggs, cheese, and sundried tomatoes? And olives? Is that gross?

          2. 1- salad sounds fine, maybe add cucumber? You could impress mom with olive garden salad dressing..... ;) if you don't have parm and romano just use all one kind
            http://www.copykat.com/2009/03/29/oli...

            2- go with what looks good at the market, apples don't seem summery...with the potentially picky parents stick to olive oil and salt/pepper

            What about an easy frittata for lunch? You can bake in the morning and serve at room temp or chilled, basically mixed eggs and veggies baked together. This recipe is straight forward:
            http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipe...

            3- you buy the premade kind from refridgerated section and follow directions on packet, don't try to make your own

            4- dunno, i'm vegetarian ;
            )5- if you are already buying a cake don't bother with cookies also- esp if they need to be low sugar.
            6- your dad will be fine! Frittata and salad at lunch(maybe with store bought rolls?), ravioli with tomato sauce or whatever sauce at dinner, side of roasted veggies, maybe add steamed corn on the cob, storebought cake for dessert
            7- thick slices of sourdough toast top with sliced avocado and sliced hard boiled eggs (make and peel day before, slice morning of), fresh fruit salad on the side. Or layered yogurt/honey/fruit/granola bowl. Or buy frozen croissants that you just need to bake and serve with fruit and yogurt

            6 Replies
            1. re: Ttrockwood

              Hmmm. I feel that people aren't understanding the Russian culture! If there are not at least 5 helpings of 5 dishes for each person to eat, then you have failed as a host.

              1. I have cucumber! Really I have all the fruit and veggies in the world. I was actually going to come back and ask for a dressing idea. Thank you for reading my mind and being helpful!

              2. Welllll, I was thinking of veering more with olive oil and cinnamon and nutmeg and going a little sweet with it. The thing is: I'm in California, and the apples I have are the first of THIS year and quite tasty. And I'm in the Bay Area specifically, and the weather will be 65 degrees, so my theme isn't exactly "summer."

              3. I'm making that. But no scallions, as IDK what they are. Thank you!! I have never in my life needed that many eggs however.

              5. Russians. Plus I think cookies can make a good portable snack for the day. Mostly I just want to try making cookies.

              7. I really like the avocado and egg on bread idea. My dad would love that for breakfast because he's really weird, and I can't believe we're related.

              Thank you for your help! :)

              1. re: FeeFee34

                scallions: you've seen them. Long, sold in small-ish bunches. white at the bottom [where the root is] and then progressively greener the farther up the stalk. Used in probably every asian dish you've ever eaten!

                I'm italian - we're the same way about food, FWIW.

                quick, easy apple crisp: slice apples into a baking dish. sprinkle with cinnamon, brown sugar OR molasses, a squirt of lemon juice. bake at 350 until the apples are soft, THEN sprinkle generously with some granola that you've mixed with a couple of tablespoons of butter. Let the topping brown.

                here's a sun dried tomato, olive, and feta cheese quiche link - you don't need to bake it in a crust - just pour into the [greased!] muffin tins. and you can freeze the rest - makes a great on the go breakfast.

                http://whippedtheblog.com/2009/07/10/...

                COOKIES: you have a lot on your plate already. Betty Crocker has bags of cookie dough mix in several flavors - sugar cookies, molasses, chocolate chocolate chunk, oatmeal, and a few others. Each bag makes about 2 dozen, and you can always dress them up with some additions/tweaks.

                1. re: jiffypop

                  Those bags of mix are GOOD... get the white-chocolate macadamia if you can. It's delicious. Just follow the directions on the pack and you'll have fail-proof cookies in ten minutes flat...

              2. re: Ttrockwood

                Hmm. So I looked at your "straight forward" frittata recipe, and of course immediately got confused.

                What does it mean by: "Add the oil to a 2-quart casserole"

                What casserole?? Why do I already have a casserole? What is a casserole exactly?

                1. re: FeeFee34

                  A casserole is a dish you would bake a casserole in. So any 2 quart dish would probably work. They're usually on the flatter side and made of glass or ceramic, but sometimes you'll see metal.

                  Your salad sounds good, and ravioli is a great way to get something that won't require much prep work.

                  1. re: ErnieD

                    I definitely thought the recipe referred to a casserole DISH, but as I reread it sort of sounded like maybe it meant I'm pouring the mixture over premade noodles or some such. Thanks for clarifying!

              3. Making Omlet in a Bag might be a fun way to share "cooking" on Sunday morning. Good quality zip bags, boiling water, mix/match add-in ingredients, eggs - http://allrecipes.com/recipe/omelet-i...

                2 Replies
                1. re: MidwesternerTT

                  Wow. I read a lot of food blogs and I have NEVER seen that idea before. Hmmm. I'm not positive my freezer bags will hold up. I know water leaks out if I fill them with ice. Have you tried this?

                  1. re: FeeFee34

                    My sister does this when hosting family gatherings, and yes it does work. Maybe get the name-brand bags with "double zip" top, not a "slider" lock. You can read the recipe comments for additional hints from those who have used / modified this specific recipe.

                2. If you've ever wanted to roast a chicken, here's a slam dunk way. And go for the smallest and best chicken you can find.

                  http://www.today.com/id/4401342/ns/to...

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: c oliver

                    Zuni is too salty for me.

                    Easy beginner chicken, thanks to Sara Moulton: salt and pepper a 4.5 pound (roughly) chicken. Preheat oven to 450F. Put chicken on a pan, breast up. Roast for 45 minutes. Done. (Yes, it would be preferable to start breast down, or switch from side to side, but the chance of the breast being a bit overdone is an acceptable trade-off if you don't know what you're doing in the first place, or need to pare your steps down to the simplest method. I would jam the bird neck side down into an angel food cake pan with the opening of the tube covered with foil or a metal jar lid, but I am assuming the OP doesn't even know what that pan is, much less owning one.

                    1. re: greygarious

                      Whereas I love the saltiness of the crisp skin. I love it cause it works every time and, being a white meat eater, I LOATHE it overcooked :)

                  2. for the turkey, want to try a meatloaf? This is Ina Garten's recipe - please don't be nervous. it's actually pretty straightforward, and I reviewed several before posting to make sure that there wasn't anything weird [like the one that called for an egg plus an egg white]. Ina used thyme in here, which is fine, but you can use parsley instead.

                    http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/in...

                    You first make a sort of cooked onion sauce [think of it like the cooked onions you'd add to a hot dog] with the first part of the ingredients. You then mix the onion sauce with the turkey, along with some breadcrumbs and eggs to hold it all together. then form it, and dump ketchup on it before baking. you can do it.

                    You can prep ahead, and put in in the frig. let it come to room temp before baking it off.

                    For the ravioli, I'll tell you how my grandmother made them - no one else around here does it this way, so take it for what it's worth. First of all, heat up some decent jarred spaghetti sauce. Pour some into the bottom of a baking dish [generously cover, but don't drown]. Preheat the oven to about 300.

                    Then. boil some water, and add some salt. drop the ravioli in and scoop them out when they rise to the top. You'll do a few at a time, and put them in a single layer in the baking dish, topping with more sauce, a cover [which could be a piece of foil], and putting in the oven. Keep going with the boiling and layering, making sure to add sauce to the top layer. Let it 'rest' in the oven for about 15 minutes [that's what Grandma always called it - RESTING]. get everyone to the table, and serve with extra grated romano or parmesan, and more sauce.

                    As for the Saturday lunch salad, i'd think about maybe adding some cooked shrimp to increase the protein. but that's your choice.

                    I think the baked french toast casserole sounds perfect for sunday breakfast. Especially since your mom loves french toast. and who doesn't love challah?

                    As for what your dad could eat, what does he usually enjoy at Olive Garden? that's a starting point, at least.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: jiffypop

                      I would like to say that this is the most soothing post I have ever read and that I will definitely try your grandmother's method. This time around I happened to buy gnocchi instead of ravioli, as I thought they'd like it, and I wasn't sure if they even like spaghetti/tomato-based sauces. I also learned that they don't like shrimp, which is news to me, but that was a great suggestion and I'd make a shrimp salad for MYSELF. Thank you for your support!

                    2. The most important thing is that you enjoy time with your family. I'd hesitate to try to learn any new techniques for this dinner/breakfast. It's too stressful. I also try to make almost everything in advance, except one or two things.

                      Your salad sounds great! Buy a nice Italian dressing at the Berkeley Bowl to go with it. Have the salad premade and just add the dressing right before serving.

                      Buy premade frozen ricotta ravioli. 2 bags. Keep them in the freezer until your parents get there. Then boil water and cook according to instructions. Drain and pour back into pot that you boiled them in. Toss with a jar of marinara sauce. Pour onto a platter and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

                      Do not worry about roasted veggies. Serve delicious bread, the ravioli, and salad. That will be enough and they will love it. I'd buy some tasty cookies and serve them and some cake and coffee for dessert.

                      For breakfast, I'd serve fruit, premade croissants, a quiche that you bought and maybe cooked prior to them coming, juice, and I'd serve a breakfast casserole. Here is a great cheesy potato casserole (with a video on how to make it). You can leave out the ham or use turkey ham. It's got a lot of processed foods as you said that they like. It's SUPER easy and very highly rated. http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Cheesy-H...

                      Ina Garten, a great entertainer, tells about when she entertained once and made individual omelettes for everyone. She spent the whole time cooking and was exhausted at the end of the party, and didn't get to spend any time with guests. You parents want to eat well, but if that were the main objective then they would OBVIOUSLY be going to Olive Garden! (wink wink) Please respond back and let us know how it goes.

                      1. Oh! And maybe serve a nice assorted cheese plate for an appetizer to dinner.

                        1. No sweat. They probably already know you don't cook much. Have fun. Maybe look into having dinner at Mama Papa restaraunt in Alameda. Supposed to have great Lithuanian food. It's a start.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: emglow101

                            I've eaten at that restaurant and it was very good. Small, homey, and the portions were very generous.

                          2. I'm going out on a limb here, because you know how to roast veggies and your parents seem to like italian food. I'm going to suggest an EASY roasted veggie lasagna. And there are several shortcuts and products that I wouldn't use [like pre-shredded mozzarella], but it'll absolutely make your parents proud. ready??

                            ROASTED VEGGIES - make a couple of days ahead. store in refrig. My suggestions: zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms. season with salt, pepper, olive oil, a few cloves of garlic, sliced. cut the veggies into small bite-sized pieces. When they come out of the oven, sprinkle lightly with some dried oregano and basil before covering up and refrigerating. you'll need about 2-3 cups cooked veggies total.

                            LASAGNA NOODLES. Get the ones you don't have to boil before you use them. for a 13 by 9 pan, you'll need 9-12 noodles. one box should do it, but i usually get another one just in case. PREHEAT THE OVEN AND BAKE THE LASAGNA USING THE DIRECTIONS ON THE BOX.

                            SAUCE: about 2 quarts of some good sauce that you like.

                            FILLING: 1 and 1/2 pounds of ricotta. mix with 12 ounces of shredded mozzarella, 3/4 cup dried parsley, 1 cup of grated pecorino romano or parmesan, and 2 eggs. Mix all this together, then mix in the roasted veggies. MAKE SURE TO HAVE AN EXTRA 8 OZ OR SO OF SHREDDED MOZZARELLA THAT'LL GO ON TOP

                            ASSEMBLY: take 1 quart of the sauce and add 2 cups of water to it. This will be the sauce that you use to layer the lasagna.

                            Spray cooking spray on a 13 by 9 pan.

                            generously cover the bottom of the pan with the diluted sauce - you'll need close to a cup.

                            add a layer of lasagna noodles - remember that they will EXPAND, so spaces are OK. I usually break some noodles to fill in corners. it's fine.

                            add more sauce
                            spread the cheese and veggie mixture over the noodles

                            next layer: lasagna noodles, sauce, cheese and veggie mixture

                            keep going - you should be able to get 4 nice layers. END WITH NOODLES.

                            Top with more sauce. Cover with foil, and bake according to the directions on the lasagna noodle box. It will tell you to take the cover off at some point. THAT'S when you sprinkle the extra 8 ounces of shredded mozzarella on top.

                            Serve with extra sauce [the undiluted stuff], and extra grated romano or parmesan. you'll be a star!

                            I know this looks like a lot of work, but you already know how to roast veggies, and the rest is mixing and layering. you can do this!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: jiffypop

                              This might fit in very well with your desire to cook before they arrive. And who doesn't love lasagna?

                              I've seen similar recipes that used roasted butternut squash in the veggie mix. Since you mention that it's chilly there, this usually Fall roasted veg might work for you. Start with cubed raw butternut squash from your grocery, unless you're up for a (careful!) knife-work tutorial and muscle work-out. The technique AmyH provided here on CH works very well and is reasonably safe http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9173...

                              1. re: jiffypop

                                3/4 cup of dried parsley?! Are you sure?

                              2. Just for perspective, here's my menu tonight for a little dinner with friends.

                                Zuni roast chicken
                                Rice and gravy
                                Green peas
                                App of shrimp salad on crackers and olives
                                Dessert of vanilla ice cream and boozed up raspberries

                                Easy peasy. The shrimp salad is made and I'm doing the berries now.

                                1. Just a general tip and not particularly related to this visit, but i learned to cook with cooks illustrated recipe books. They explain *everything* which helps the learning process a lot. They leave nothing to chance, and if you follow their recipes precisely you will get something pretty darn tasty 99% of the time. Mark Bittman may also be a good starter source in terms of understanding and not being intimidated (how to co everything cookbook comes to mind). You prob can find these in a library or googling something like "cooks illlustrated chocolate cookies" if you don't want to invest in a book.

                                  I'm also in the don't stress out too much just enjoy yourself camp. Good luck!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: lookingforaname

                                    Oh I will definitely check out the cookbooks. The internet is a great resource, but sometimes there are TOO many options, and recipes on a screen aren't always easy for a newcomer to follow. I do like when there is a simple explanation of the recipe as a whole, pictures for each step, and then the recipe. The pioneer woman does a great job of this on her website. The good thing about online recipes, however, is that I do like a large comments section with tips and experiences. I can't lie. I hate mark bittman's writing. I do love food books in general. My favorite food writer is ruth reichl.

                                  2. Everyone has given you lots of great ideas, so I'm going to recommend something else.

                                    Plan your prep carefully. If you know how to use Excel, make a spreadsheet with your menu items on top; the ingredients for each and then make a master shopping list from that.

                                    Then--a daily list of what has to be purchased and a timeline of what has to be done that day. If you need more than one day to shop and/or prep, this part is the most essential. After you've reviewed your recipes (several times if needed), list everything that has to be done in the order needed. When I have entertain, I plan, plan, plan and refine my spreadsheet til I'm ready to execute.

                                    Can you practice doing anything ahead of time? Brown some butter, use the blender, try one of the recipes (make a small batch if possible).

                                    And lastly as others said, BREATHE. I'm sure that whatever you prepare, your parents will appreciate. And hopefully you'll have gained some confidence doing this, and do it more often.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                      This was definitely helpful advice. I definitely did make a list of ingredients organized by dish. Unfortunately I didn't have too much time to do much of anything before the morning of their arrival, but it worked out quite well, and I tried to stick to techniques I already knew.

                                      1. re: FeeFee34

                                        Glad to know this was useful advise. I forgot to mention that I also list the serving vessel (platter, bowl etc) so that helps the last minute "what should I put it in?" confusion. I've accumulated alot of serving pieces throughout the years and this saves time when I'm ready to serve.

                                    2. I'm reporting back to say that it went VERY well. My parents really appreciate others doing anything for them, so it was an opportunity for me to familiarize myself with the kitchen and for them to feel taken care of. You were all correct in that they would have been just as happy with cold sandwiches and a container of Chips Ahoy.

                                      I ended up going MUCH simpler than all the suggestions but do intend to try making the dishes making later.

                                      For lunch on Saturday I made ground turkey with garlic, onions, and bell peppers; roasted vegetables; gnocchi (store-bought) with Parmesan, butter, and sage; fruit platter with honey yogurt dip; salad; and chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.

                                      For dinner we went to Caffe Sport in North Beach, and they loved the food.

                                      And for breakfast I went super duper simple. I made challah (I really like Semifreddi's) French toast for my mom and prepared a platter of what my dad likes: hard boiled eggs, avocado, cucumber, bread, cheeses, and the last cookie.

                                      Thank you for all your help! I think I want to try the baked ravioli-sauce, fritata, and rice-and-hoisin-sauce turkey ideas at the next opportunity.

                                       
                                      13 Replies
                                      1. re: FeeFee34

                                        Great report! It's always nice to hear (and in this case, see) the results of a food discussion. It's wonderful you all had a good time and your parents appreciated it.

                                        1. re: FeeFee34

                                          What you did sounds and looks perfect! Congrats. And, yeah, practice when you don't feel any pressure.

                                          1. re: FeeFee34

                                            so glad it went well - we didn't have much doubt, ya know. The colors in your photo are gorgeous - you get an A for plating! LOL!

                                            And more important, now they know that you can truly take care of yourself. When are they coming for another visit?

                                            1. re: jiffypop

                                              My mom immediately asked why we don't use tablecloths.

                                              But thank you!! They like knowing that I can care for others too. You know, they love my apartment, but every SINGLE time they come out to visit, San Francisco is FREEZING cold and they wonder why I'm so in love with it. So we shall see. In the meantime I can practice dishes on my boyfriend, who eats anything and everything except mushrooms and bell peppers and pickles (3 amazing foods, but fine).

                                              1. re: FeeFee34

                                                Try the BF on red or orange bell peppers. I don't eat green.

                                            2. re: FeeFee34

                                              That's great! It looks and sounds delicious. Sorry, I didn't realize you'd already hosted them when I posted above. Somehow I forgot today was Sunday already, d'oh.

                                              Do you have any friends who are good cooks and would be comfortable with you hanging out in their kitchens, watching, learning, and maybe helping with prep work, while they cook? I have learned so much from watching other people cook.

                                              1. re: P_penelope

                                                Yes! My own roommate is a GREAT cook. She really emphasizes good ingredients and makes incredible, simple meals in just a few minutes. She's very nonchalant about it but it's almost intimidating how easily she comes up with and executes incredible meals. My boyfriend's also wonderful in the kitchen and a great "test subject" for my cooking attempts because he'll eat just about anything. In fact, I'm thinking he'll be the one who has the great honor of trying the dishes mentioned in this thread ;)

                                              2. re: FeeFee34

                                                Yay!! Huge huge huge success!
                                                You should be really proud of yourself :)

                                                Its also ok to cook for just yourself too if you want practice ;)

                                                1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                  And that's the key. Don't wait until the pressure is on to try to do this stuff.

                                                  1. re: acgold7

                                                    Right! I wanted to try all the dishes and cooking methods mentioned . . . and that was the problem. I've always been a person who can handle one new thing at a time. Not 4 new things in 1 morning, but the posts do make me excited to try new things and know that there's a friendly community to walk me through them.

                                                    1. re: FeeFee34

                                                      FF, I've been on the site for six or seven years and my skill level has improved more than I can describe. CHs will walk you through everything :)

                                                2. re: FeeFee34

                                                  Looks beautiful and I'm sure your parents loved that you went to so much effort for them! I would be so touched if my kids put so much thought into cooking a meal for me. (They're still little and would probably burn down the house in the process.) I like your breakfast platter idea -- simple but perfect.

                                                  1. re: FeeFee34

                                                    Your buffet looks lovely! So glad everything worked out for you and your parents had a great time. I'm sure you'll feel more confident the next time they come to visit.

                                                    Great job!