Need menu suggestions for weekend guests!
  Re: (...)
Hello. My name is Vicci and I have some major control issues...

When I entertain guests, I want everything to be perfect and I want to do it all myself. We have a vacation home on a lake about an hour away from our farm. During the summer, we have a few groups of friends who spend weekends there. I enjoy planning menus, and preparing the food and the table decorations, but in the quest to have better food, more inventive decorations, etc. each time, I'm wearing myself out. Last week, as we were at the lake house installing a boat lift for the boat that we bought last year for entertaining, my husband brought up the summer's guest schedule and my heart actually sank. And that depressed me because I usually look forward to these gatherings. It's just so darn much work-- cleaning and cooking beforehand, entertaining and cooking during, cleaning afterward.

I am in need of quick, make-ahead meals for these weekends. A few of these guests have very gourmet tastes and I can't just throw chicken on the grill. For example, this was the menu for a Saturday night dinner last summer:

Queso Fundido al Tequila, veggie dippers
Tomato-Poblano Guacamole, tortilla chips

first course
Spicy Tropical Gazpacho

main course
French West Indian Grilled Snapper with Caper Sauce
Rice with Pigeon Peas
Corn & Tomato Salad with Thyme and Roasted Poblanos
Mashed Plantains with Rum
Corn Muffins with Jalapeño and Lime Butter

Coconut Rum Brownies
Grapefruit Granité with Mangoes and White Rum Mojito

Every invitation I make gets a couple of replies like: "And we can't wait to taste what incredible thing you choose to make for dinner this time!"

I've dug myself into a hole and need to gather some interesting, yet easy, recipes for this summer. And I need help.

So, I am appealing to you all-- do you have an easy, knock-their-socks-off recipe (or recipes) which you make for special guests that you can share? The only caveat is that Jack and I don't eat red meat, so it should be limited to fish and poultry.

I would be so happy for the help. Thanks!

my cooking adventures
  Re: Need menu suggestions for weekend guests! by foodfiend (Hello. My name is V...)
"I can't just throw chicken on the grill. "

Yes you can, Vicci, it just depends on what else you do to it!!!

I dug myself into the same hole a few years ago when I bought this house (it has a pool, which friends and family love!!!). Sometimes I feel like there is a sign out front "Lorraine's Hotel, Open for Business" LOL I've learned to keep it simple, fresh, and fun. There's two mags that I have been cooking from the last few years, I'll go through them this weekend and post some ideas / recipes.
Practice safe lunch. Use a condiment.
  Re: Re: Need menu suggestions for weekend guests! by Lorraine ("I can't just throw ...)
Vicci, I agree with Lorraine. Simple, fresh and fun is the best way to go so that you can enjoy your weekend guests and your new boat! Maybe let your guests bring something.

We used to have a trailer out your way where we spent many fine weekends. Some of us would share meals. We let the men do the grilling, (fresh fish if we were lucky). Each of the women would make something, a fresh salad, some cut-up fruit, a specialty cocktail, (lots of those!) We could put together a great meal in very little time and no stress. Most people who enjoy "gourmet" food have a favorite way of preparing something and usually enjoy sharing it.

I will look for some recipes too!


"Drink your tea slowly and reverently..."
  Re: Need menu suggestions for weekend guests! by foodfiend (Hello. My name is V...)
Hi Vicci, my name is Jean and I'm a recovering major controler...

are we related Vicci??? I dug myself the same hole for years - I still can't let go of my own menus/dishes for company, but I have learned - as Lorraine mentioned - it's what you do with it.

Buy a couple of garnishing books and go crazy with simple but skilled dishes. IMO, a perfectly roasted chicken is a thing of beauty and absolutely wonderful to eat - you can't get much easier than that! (I'm not suggesting a roast chicken, it's just an example)

I have a sneaking suspicion your 'gourmet-taste' friends are not cooks and you can blow their socks off very easily, with garnishes and giving your dishes 'gourmet' names!!

Here's a couple of ideas for you that you can play with and make your own - I would serve these to anyone and a couple I have served to CMC (Certified Master Chef) Jon Greenwalt, ACF Academy of Chefs member - now that's cooking for someone!!

Onion Gratin (in the 70s this used to be called 'Gourmet Onions', hated that name so dressed it up)

Onion Gratin

4 cups onions -- sliced (3 large white)
5 T. butter
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
2/3 cup Parmesan Cheese -- grated
Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425°

Sauté the onions in butter until transparent and place in a buttered 1 1/2-qt. au gratin dish or flat casserole.

Beat eggs until light; add sour cream and salt & pepper and combine; pour over onions and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top begins to brown. Serves 8

"This makes a wonderful side dish for just about any meat or poultry."

this one will knock their socks off - and so easy, make ahead!


6 large hard-cooked eggs -- finely chopped
3 Tbsps mayonnaise
1 large sweet onion -- finely chopped
8 ozs cream cheese -- softened
2/3 cup sour cream
3 1/2 ozs Caviar
Lemon wedges & Parsley sprigs for garnish

Rub bottom and sides of an 8" spring form pan with butter, or spray with cooking spray.
In a bowl, combine eggs and mayonnaise until well blended.

Spread in the bottom of pan to make an even layer; sprinkle with onion.

Combine cream cheese and sour cream; beat until smooth.

By the spoonful, drop onto onion and with a wet table knife, spread gently to smooth.
Cover and chill at least three hours or overnight.

At party time, top with a layer of caviar, distributing it to the edges of the pan.

Run a knife around sides of pan; loosen & lift off the sides.

Arrange lemon wedges in open pinwheel and fill center with parsley sprigs.
Serves 12-15

"You can use either Black Lumpfish or Whitefish Caviar in this dish. This appetizer is a great way to have those who have never tried caviar enjoy their first experience. It's best served with small slices of pumpernickel bread, or cocktail bread rounds



8 oz. cream cheese -- softened
2 T. milk
8 oz. crabmeat (fresh or canned and flaked)
2 T. green onions -- minced or chives
1 clove garlic -- minced
4 shakes of Tabasco -- (4 to 6)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Parsley -- sliced green onions

Whisk together the cream cheese and milk until well blended.
Add the crabmeat, green onions, salt, garlic and Tabasco; combine well.
Gently stir in the cranberries; cover and refrigerate two hours.

Garnish and serve with crackers or toasted bread rounds.
Makes about 2 cups.

"Needed an impromptu Superbowl dip one year and this combination worked out very well."

I serve these shimp either in a large (oversized) martini glass or in shooter glasses with a little cocktail sauce in the glass. another easy, do ahead - and for an easy entree serve the shrimp (and all the wonderful goop) over pasta.



oven to 450°. On a heavy baking sheet mix together -
(for ~1 1/2 lbs. shrimp)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. EVO
Kosher salt & cracked black pepper

Add the peeled, but tails left on, shrimp to the b. sheet and toss together with the garlic mixture. Spread out in a single layer.

Roast for 3 min, turn shrimp over & continue roasting till the shrimp are opaque and firm, another 2-4 min.

Transfer shrimp to a shallow dish, cover partially & refrigerate. When the shrimp are chilled, eat those suckers!! Just remember when you transfer the shrimp, scrape the bottom of the b. sheet and get all the great goop for the shrimp.

I'm bound and determined one of these days to stay out of the shrimp long enuf to cook up some pasta and just scrape all that on top!! It is so good!

Also, if you don't have a favorite cocktail sauce -

1/2 c ketchup
1/2 c chili sauce
1/4 c grated red onion
1/2-1 tsp. finely chopped fresh jalapeno
2-3 T. prepared horseradish
1 T. fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt to taste.

This will keep up to a week...I'm told. Just before serving taste and add more lemon juice and salt if needed.
and a delicious side dish salad -


1 ¼ c chicken broth
¼ tsp. grd. Red pepper (cayenne)
1 c dried couscous
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed, spweezed dry
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 T. each: olive oil, seasoned rice vinegar
¼ tsp. salt

Heat broth & cayenne to boil over high heat.
Pour over couscous. Cover and let stand till lliquid has been absorbed, ~5 min.
Add spinach, cranberries, oil, vinegar, & salt. Mix with a fork.

(If I have some feta in frig, I crumble some into this)

and how about this for easy???


1/4 cup fruity olive oil
1 1/2 cups cantaloupe -- diced
1/4 pound thinly sliced prosciutto -- very coarsely diced
grated zest of 1 med. lemon
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
freshly ground black pepper
3 T. Parmesan cheese -- freshly grated, plus extra for serving
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves -- cut into strips

Combine olive oil, cantaloupe, prosciutto, lemon zest, crushed red pepper, salt, pepper & Parmesan cheese in pasta serving bowl.

Set aside to warm to room temperature, or just till flavors mingle.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water till al dente. Drain pasta well & immediately add to sauce in bowl. Sprinkle with basil & toss. Serve at once with extra Parmesan cheese. Pass the pepper mill.

RECOMMENDED PASTA: 8 oz. medium shells (conchiglie rigate).

"If you can close your eyes & visualize Italian antipasto & recall the mouthwatering taste of sliced sweet melon draped w/salty prosciutto, then this unusual-sounding pasta dish is for you. Serves 2-4. This dish is especially welcome on a sultry summer

Serving Ideas : Serve in wide, shallow pasta bowls and be sure to pass the pepper mill.

O.K, I'll stop - it's hard once I get started! I'm sure you must have some 'coffee table' cookbooks (Keller, Trotter, the Beautiful Cookbooks, etc.) - I'm always looking at their presentations and copying them. They can make everyday macaroni salad look fit for a queen!!

And Vicci, lastly, why not (at least TRY) ask your guests to bring a dish everyonce in a while, have a party where everyone brings a dish. What we did with our Pig BBQs every year is we provided the pig, drinks, and lots of food (I couldn't not do this ), but everyone had to bring a dish WITH the recipe and the following year I would give out a recipe book with all the previous year's recipes. Everyone loves those books!! I bet your friends would love to have fun with food with you - given the chance.

It took me a while to learn to let go, but I'm able to every once in a while now...

Retired and having fun writing cookbooks, tasting wine and sharing recipes with all my friends.
  Re: Re: Need menu suggestions for weekend guests! by cjs (Hi Vicci, my name is...)
lol, one of my hobbies was preparing menus for all types of functions. I just loved doing it back when we entertained all the time.

I'd gather cookbooks for ideas and plan for any and all occassions. I think since we are recipe addicts, we do it in the back of our minds with every magazine and book anyway.

Yes, just relax. If someone was graciously entertaining me at their lake house, I'd be grateful just to be there and not worry about 'gourmet' food. I'd rather enjoy the company of my host and hostess than have them fussing in the kitchen.

Please spay and neuter your pets.
  Re: Re: Need menu suggestions for weekend guests! by Half_Baked (lol, one of my hobbi...)
I read this post and wilted. Perhaps it is different in this country, but I would no more go to someones holiday home and expect to be catered for like that than fly to the moon on a broomstick. Gourmets or not, (and I agree with Jean on this) a chicken on the grill and a couple of salads would be more than just fine. And I would bring the salads.

Let it be known the fare will be holiday fare, not restaurant fare, and that bringing a plate of something would be just fine thank you.
  Re: Re: Need menu suggestions for weekend guests! by vannin (I read this post and...)
Sorry Vicci, got carried away with indignation. How about a ham, a big fat leg that will carry you through the weekend in various ways. Maybe a deli meat platter, stuffed potatoes that can be done a couple of days ahead. And let go a little, then a lot as you get more comfortable. Let you visitors do the dishes, and put them away. Have a doze while they are doing it.
  Re: Re: Need menu suggestions for weekend guests! by vannin (I read this post and...)
When I first read this post I felt completely inadequate and not worthy!

Others have echoed my sentiments about enjoyment of your dinner guests... Marinate your chicken or fish, make some nice condiments, ask your guests to bring a favorite side dish to go with your theme…

If it ain’t fun… You don’t have to do it!
  Re: Need menu suggestions for weekend guests! by foodfiend (Hello. My name is V...)

It's taken me almost a year to speak about this, but even though I can barely stand thinking about it, I will.

I gave my parents a 50th anniversary party last year. On my own, 100 guests, in my backyard, thankfully under a tent the Picky One rented at the last moment because it was soooo hot. I of course had to do it all myself, my choice, made all the invitations using vintage photographs, all the food, finding a ca1956 wedding cake topper, which I put on top of the 3 tier columned cake I made and decorated and tried to hold up in 97 degree weather, did I say made and then tried to reheat all the food-setting tables, designing a photo board, handling RSVPs, egads, need more room, more sterno, why hasn't the person who borrowed my chaffers returned them, I NEED THEM NOW , they're drinking more soda than booze, I need more ice, I need more soda, the frosting is melting

I never got a single chance to sit down with my parents on their 50th, nor mingle with the 100 guests I invited.

I so regret that. I was so busy, I never got to putting out the guest book, now, no record, either. I still can't think about it, I would have been so much happier with a smaller, less ambitious menu, to spend time with my folks on their special day.

Okay, we can put the violins away now. Enjoy your guests, the food (while great!) is still just the food. They'll still come, even if the food only takes an hour to cook instead of all day

  Re: Re: Need menu suggestions for weekend guests! by pjcooks (Vicci,[br][br]It's t...)
We should all learn from PJ's tale. It reminded me of my daughter's wedding last summer. We had it at a resort, so I wasn't cooking, but it was a week long family reunion in Estes Park, CO, with a wedding on Saturday. Wednesday was horseback riding, Thursday was whitewater rafting, Friday night was Cubs vs Rockies game down in Denver. In between we were making placecards, picking up dresses, flowers, the cake, getting our nails done yadda yadda yadda.

I was so exhausted at the reception, it was hard for me to enjoy myself. I really wish for a do-over! I have three more unwed children and will definitely take a different approach when the time comes.

Vicci - Simple is elegant. I wish you peace!

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