LOOKING for: Looking for menu ideas

pixie15February 26, 2009

Hi everyone.....

Help.....we just moved to a new area that likes to entertain with the neighbors. My husband and I have been invited to dinner with many of the neighbors...sometimes more then once. It is my turn.....I am scared.....I am only comfortable cooking for my family. Would anyone like to share a menu with me that you like to cook for company.....does not need to be fancy....more like a fool proof menu that you can prepare most of it before company arrives. Any other tips would be greatly appreciated. I look at all the wonderful recipes in this forum but I get overwhelmed and do not know where to start. Thanks to all of you. Pixie

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This would not be a heart healthy meal (sorry) but it is something that our extended family enjoys when we get together (the children like it too) and its done ahead of time, just needs reheating while the fresh vegetable is steaming. Brisket, potato casserole, fresh broccoli, salad.


1 Beef Brisket, any size
Salt & Pepper
2 onions, thinly sliced
Minced garlic
Mix together:
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup chili sauce
3 TBL brown sugar
1 bottle beer

Lay meat in oven going baking dish. Salt & pepper it, spread garlic over top, spread onions over the garlic. Pour sauce over the meat. Cover tightly with foil and roast at 300* for 3 hours if small 1/2 brisket or 4 hours if large, whole brisket.
Uncover, let meat rest, and pour gravy into a saucepan. Puree with handheld blender, or pour carefully into blender and puree. Slice meat across grain and serve with gravy. If doing ahead, cover with foil, refrigerate and reheat in slow oven.


2 pound package hash brown potato cubes, thaw, drain and pat dry
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (10-12 ounce package)
1/2 cup melted butter
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 pint (16 ounces) sour cream

Combine all ingredients in large bowl and put into greased casserole dish 9 x 13 inches (approximately).

1/4 cup melted butter
2 cups crushed cornflakes

Combine and sprinkle on top of potatoes.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. (Prepare casserole in advance and keep in the fridge, but don't bake it til serving time.)

Here's a chicken menu that we like - chicken, orzo/roasted veggies, green salad. You can get the chicken ready and store in the fridge until baking. And the orzo/vegetable salad is served at room temp, so you can prepare it in advance and then take it out to warm up.

Easy Baked Chicken

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
Ground pepper
Garlic powder
4 T. mayonnaise
4 T. fresh shredded Parmesan cheese
1 c. fresh coarse bread crumbs (or packaged, or panko)
Chopped parsley

1. Season chicken lightly with salt, pepper.
2. Combine mayonnaise, garlic powder and cheese.
3. Put chicken in baking dish and cover with the mixture.
5. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and top with parsley.

Bake at 400 until juices run clear (about 15-20 minutes)


1 small eggplant, peeled, 3/4" dice
1 red pepper, 1" dice
1 yellow pepper, 1" dice
1 red onion, peeled, 1" dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 lb Orzo, cooked

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

3 scallions, minced
1/4 cup toasted Pignoli nuts
3/4 lb Feta cheese, 1/2" dice
15 basil leaves, chiffonade

Mix first 7 ingredients together and place in one layer in large roasting pan.
Roast @ 425 degrees for 40 minutes, turning once.

Mix warm orzo with warm cooked vegetables and all of their juices.
Add lemon juice, salt and pepper and toss together and let cool to room temperature.

Add scallions, nuts, Feta and basil and serve.

Serves 6

Roasted pork tenderloin is an easy meal - put however many you need in a roasting pan or two, seasoned nicely with chopped garlic, salt and pepper and maybe some rosemary, and roast at 400 for about 25-30 minutes, let rest for 10 minutes and slice on the diagonal. Serve with anything you like - a potato casserole and some veggies and salad.

These are just a start - if you need some choices that aren't so basic and homey, but more "polished" - just ask! There are lots of tried and true recipes out there and lots of cooks posting here :)

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 10:34PM
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My suggestions include two recipes for chicken breasts, one served over orzo pasta (rice shaped) and the other served over rice.

I would start with a green salad tossed in a light vinaigrette with mandarin oranges, chopped green onions, and toasted almonds. If you want to add a green vegetable, fresh green beans would go well with either chicken dish. Some crusty bread and butter with the meal would be nice. For dessert, keep it simple with a fruit dessert like a pie, cobbler or crisp topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Chicken Provencal with Orzo
serves 6

6 pc. chicken breast
16oz orzo pasta
3 TB olive oil
2 TB fresh rosemary, chopped
2/3c dry white wine
olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
s&p to taste
1 large white onion
1 3/4c chicken broth
1 28oz can whole tomatoes, chopped
1 t grated orange zest
1/4c capers

Season chicken pieces, brown in oil over med. high heat in skillet. Remove to platter when done.

Add wine to pan to deglaze. When almost all evaporated, add garlic, onion, broth, tomatoes, zest and chicken breasts. Simmer 15 minutes until chicken is cooked.
Add capers and simmer another 30 minutes. Season w/ salt and pepper. Put on a large serving platter with sides, keep warm.

Cook orzo in 5-7 qts. water. Add 2 t. salt and bring to boil. Cook per package until al dente. Drain well and place in large bowl. Combine with rosemary, olive oil and s&p to taste, keep warm.

When serving, pass orzo first, then chicken with a fork and spoon for serving the sauce over the chicken and orzo.

French Farmhouse Garlic Chicken from Chef Janet Wilson
serves 4

4 chicken breast, no skin, no bone
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
40 cloves garlic -- unpeeled
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon basil -- crushed
1/2 teaspoon oregano -- crushed
4 teaspoons flour
3 tablespoons dry white wine
Fresh basil -- for garnish

1. Rinse chicken and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper. In a 10-inch skillet cook the chicken and garlic in hot oil over medium-high heat for 4-6 minutes or until just browned, turning once. Slowly add 1/2 cup of white wine, 1/2 cup chicken broth, lemon juice, basil, and oregano. Bring to a boil, reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 6-8 minutes or until chicken is tender and no longer pink. Use a slotted spoon and transfer chicken and garlic to a warm serving platter. Keep warm.
2. In a small bowl stir together the flour and the 2 tablespoons of dry white wine. Stir this into the pan juices. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for one minute more. Spoon this sauce over the chicken and garlic. Garnish with washed basil leaves and serve.

Serve over hot cooked long grain and wild rice.

Chicken breasts can also be cut up into 1 1/2-inch chunks before cooking, if desired.

note: I prefer to use garlic that I have previously roasted and mash it in when making the sauce for a milder garlic flavor.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 8:46AM
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I posted this on the pot roast thread. It's so good & I don't know anyone who doesn't like pot roast. Make a good salad, use mashed potatoes if you don't want to serve it over noodles & you're good to go with a side of vegetables such as green beans. I'll post a dessert also.

4 lb boneless chuck roast
1/2 tsp each, salt & pepper
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 cup flour
1 medium onion, chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup red wine
8 oz can tomato sauce
1 tsp each Worcestershire, Dijon mustard, horseradish & brown sugar
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
Rub the roast w/the salt & pepper. Cut several small slits in the roast & insert the chopped garlic. Coat w/the flour. Saute the onion in the olive oil in a heavy saucepan until just tender. Ad the roast & brown lightly on all sides. Remove from the heat & add the wine.
Combine the tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, horseradish, brown sugar, bay leaf & oregano in a saucepan & mix well. simmer until the brown sugar is completely dissolved. Pour over the roast & add the honey & cocoa powder. Simmer 1-2 hours or until very tender & done to taste.
Remove the roast to a serving platter & serve w/the cooking juices, discarding the bay leaf.~~I serve this over noodles.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 8:55AM
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Here's one of my favorite desserts. It can all be done ahead & I'm always asked for the recipe. I love something lemony after a big meal.

Lemon Curd:
3 large eggs + 1 yolk
1 cup sugar
finely grated zest of 2 large lemons
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 stick unsalted butter in 1" pieces

In the top of a double boiler beat the eggs, yolk & sugar to mix. Stir in the zest & juice. Add the butter. Place over hot water on moderate heat. (Can use a pyrex bowl over a pot of simmering water.) Cook uncovered, stirring & scraping the pan frequently with a rubber spatula for 15-20 minutes until themixture is as thick as mayonnaise. It will register at 180 on a sugar thermometer (I've never checked the temp.) Remove the top of the double boiler & set aside to cool completely. Will keep refrigerated several weeks.~~

Bread Pudding:
8-10 oz loaf French bread
10 eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 qt milk (I've always used half-and-half)
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
Lemon curd

Butter a shallow, oblong 3 qt baking dish (13x8 or 9x2") & set aside. Preheat oven to 350°. Slice the bread 1/2" thick. Place slices on cookie sheet & bake 10-15 minutes until dry but not brown. Turn slices over when half done. Set aside.
In a large bowl beat the eggs & 1 cup of the sugar, reserving the other 1/4 cup. Beat in the milk, salt & vanilla. Set aside. In the bottom of the baking dish place a layer of the bread slices touching each other. If necessary, break a few slices to fill in spaces. Spread 1/2 of the cooled lemon curd over bread. Make a 2nd layer of bread slices, these slices at right angles to the first slices. Again, break a few slices to fill in if necessary. Spread remaining curd over the top.
Ladle egg & milk mixture slowly all over the top. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour. Put rack in center of preheated oven. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup sugar over top of pudding. Place baking dish in alarge shallow pan, place in oven & pour hot water into larger pan to about 1/2 the depth of the baking dish. Bake for about 45 minutes until top is puffed & just barely colored. Tap the side of the baking dish & when the middle moves only slightly, it's done. Serve hot or at room temperature.~~

Good served with a raspberry sauce. (Puree a bag of thawed, frozen raspberries. Strain out seeds & sweeten to taste.)

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 9:01AM
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And here's an easy chicken dish that has never failed me. It's good with a rice side dish & a green vegetable:

2-4 limes
3 1/2 lbs broiler-fryer parts or breasts
3 TBL butter
1/4 cup flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 TBL brown sugar
14 oz can chicken broth
1 TBL grated lime zest

Preheat oven to 400°. Grate lime zest. Squeeze 2 TBL lime juice & toss juice w/chicken pieces. In a 9x13" roasting pan, melt butter in oven. Mix flour, salt & pepper. Dip chicken pieces in flour & then dip in butter. Arrange chicken skin side down in pan.
Mix lime zest & brown sugar & sprinkle over chicken.
Pour broth & remaining lime juice into pan & bake uncovered for 50 minutes, basting occasionally. Use 1/2 can of broth for boneless breasts. Can add more lime juice if desired.~~

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 9:09AM
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Any of the above recipes will be a hit with your new neighbors.
Let me give you a recipe for "hostess success":
You care enough to prepare a meal, and open your home and your heart to new people. That's it! You obviously have that recipe down pat, so enjoy your dinner party because your guests certainly will!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 11:11AM
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Hi Pixie,

Woodie, Teresa & Ginger have given you some great tried and true recipes. Here are a few hints that help me.

It helps to not make everything from scratch. You could buy packaged salad makings & a frozen or bakery dessert, for instance.

When I'm nervous and/or planning for a lot of people, I write out the menu, including beverages, & note which cooking /serving dish each item will go in. I try to select dishes that can be (at least partially) prepared ahead.

When I make out the grocery shopping list, I also note the menu on the other side of that paper. It's a reminder if I look at an item & think why do I want that, & if an ingredient is not available, knowing which dish it's in helps me figure out a substitute.

I also write a timetable, which seems easier to do by starting from the time I want to put food on the table & working backward from there, For example, if serving at 6 PM & the roast will take 2 1/2 hrs, start it at 3 PM (to give it time to sit before carving. etc, etc.

I get the table set early, & in fact, get everything done ahead that I can.

Something that is nice for you is that you know your neighbors - they aren't strangers.

Best of luck & be sure to let us know how it goes.


    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 3:57PM
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WOW......thank you to all. These are some terrific recipes!! I truly appreciate all of your input. Mostly, you all gave me the encouragement that I needed......and made me realize that I should try to enjoy the process instead of worrying so much. Helping me to put a menu together has helped me to take the first step and the confidence that these recipes are easy and are tried and true. There are a few ingredients that made me think.....like 40 cloves of garlic and cocoa powder with pot roast but I trust all of you and am a excited to give it a try. I especially liked the tips on planning and preparing.....where to start if you know what I mean and being ready with confidence. One neighbor loves lemon so I can't wait to surprise her with this dessert.

Thanks so much....it is like having you right in my kitchen with me.....helping me to decide what to make and to get prepared so I can enjoy my company. I will let you know how it goes.....then maybe you all can help me move on to the more "polished" menus as Woody says. I have been stuck on just knowing what to serve....once I can move past this, I know it will become easier. But please stand by.....I might just need some help before this is over!!!

Happy Cooking to all....Pixie

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 12:00AM
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