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Easy (yet tasty) mid-week birthday dinner ideas

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As much as I love to cook, and do so for all my other family members' birthdays, when it hits my birthday I typically opt for something very easy, be it ordering in pizza or a crockpot roast, to save my energy.

This year I would like to cook something a bit more exciting that can perhaps be made in phases in advance and thrown together within 2 hours. There will be 6-8 of us. I really have a hankering for a southern-style meal of fried chicken, but I just think the cleanup and the mess would be too much. Any ideas and planning suggestions appreciated!

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  1. What part of the meal most appeals to you? Mashed potatoes and gravy could both be made a day or two ahead. Biscuits are likely best if made the same day, but honey-butter for topping them could be make-ahead.

    This chicken-fingers prep has day-before marinade, and the uniform boneless chicken may be easier than traditional fried.
    http://shanscookbook.blogspot.mx/2010...

    Would oven prep of the chicken help with timing? This is not "southern-style fried chicken", but is tasty and has easy cleanup

    Krispy Chicken

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees

    Line a shallow baking pan / jelly roll pan with aluminum foil.

    3- 4 cups Rice Krispies
    ½ - 2/3 cups melted margarine
    1 teaspoon salt
    ½ teaspoon pepper
    Cut up chicken pieces, skin on.

    Melt butter and mix with salt & pepper. Crush Rice Krispies. Dip chicken in butter, then roll in crushed Rice Krispies. Place skin side up in foil-lined pan. Bake about 1 hour. Do not cover pan or turn chicken.

    1. I am not ashamed to say that my local grocery store's deli section makes fried chicken on par with mine. They sell a ton of fried chicken and I sometimes get theirs when I don't want to fry any. Now that I think of it, I haven't fried chicken at home all year -:) If you have a similar store such as this, why not consider buying some fried chicken and then concentrate on making sides to go with it? For me, either potato salad or mashed potatoes & gravy goes with chicken (I'm in NC), both has to be home made. I don't like deli or store bought potato salad at all or refrigerated section mashed potatoes. Smoked gouda mac & cheese is delicious with chicken also. Add some fresh green beans with caramelized onion, garlic & crispy bacon and some homemade biscuits or cornbread with honey butter and you're set.

      Make potato salad 1-2 days in advance. Mac can be assembled the day before & put in oven on the day of so can green beans. Potatoes can be peeled & put in water then refrigerated for cooking the next day. You can make gravy to warm up the next day..menu not complicated or time consuming IMO.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Cherylptw

        I like Cheryl's idea the best. Find a good location near you that serves exceptional fried chicken, and have it brought in. You make the fixings for the sides (Cheryl's are great ideas!) and you're good to go.

        1. re: LindaWhit

          Or, if you can give up the homemade fried chicken idea, consider meatloaf. It's great with gravy and all the sides mentioned - mashed potatoes, potato salad, mac and cheese, green beans, biscuits and gravy. It can be prepped in advanced and baked off when needed. Simpler than frying anything. Take it easy, and have a wonderful birthday!

      2. I definitely echo the others… get your yummy fried chicken from the deli and make your favorite sides.

        If you want to do Southern at home, how about Shrimp and Grits or Gumbo?

        For gumbo, I like Alton Brown's recipe and for shrimp & grits I like the recipe from Crook's Corner or from Magnolia's.

        Gumbo - definitely do a day in advance so the flavors POW for you on your birthday. Gumbo needs time to be loved on to do it right. Shrimp & grits can be made and eaten the day of.