My husband often invites people over for dinner, sometimes for next weekend, and sometimes for later that day (!). And, to be honest, going out to eat with friends is just not as much fun anymore since our little one has joined the family. It’s pretty hard to get much conversation in while you are attempting to entertain your toddler with sugar packets and crayons, playing referee to keep him from climbing on the table.
We cook at home a lot, and we host friends as often as we can. I love having friends over to the house to share a meal and relax while the kids play. We don’t have to try to keep our toddlers entertained in a restaurant high chair for way too long. Their kids are enamored with our son’s toys (Wow, your Sophie giraffe tastes just like mine!), and we get to take turns watching the little ones and chatting with adults. Sure, there are dishes to wash, but at least we didn’t have to leave the house!
The only challenge is: what to make for dinner? I want to make something that tastes good, and I’m not worried if it’s not fancy. I am not a gourmet cook, but I can follow a recipe. I especially love to use a slow cooker when we are expecting company, so that most of the food preparations are finished hours before our guests arrive. Then we can just finish up a few final preparations after our friends arrive, and we can all enjoy some conversation. (At least two or three sentences at a time – we are talking about a visit in the company of toddlers.)
I don’t typically fuss with appetizers, say what you will. Here are three tried-and-true menus that are sure to please you and your guests, too.
Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala – from The Kitchn, served with Jasmine Rice. Jasmine rice is just the best – make it and eat happy. I follow this recipe exactly as written, put all the ingredients into the slow cooker at once and wait a few hours to enjoy. Don’t forget to serve with fresh cilantro; it makes a difference.
Homemade Naan – by Mic at allrecipes.com. It takes some work. If possible, delegate this recipe to your husband, and then you can concentrate on the other items and last minute vacuuming! It works out well that way in our house. We cook it up on the electric griddle.
Steamed Cauliflower, this I typically do in the microwave. It’s just easy and something simple you can do while the other food finishes cooking.
Blueberry Oatmeal Crumble Bars – from Averie Cooks. I have made these a few times, and so far, I haven’t been able to actually remove them from the pan in “bar” form. They stick to the pan a bit and then come out messy. Or maybe just I haven’t been able to wait long enough till they cool to eat them? Either way, it’s delicious – as bars or scoops. Also good served with vanilla ice cream.
Zesty White Chicken Enchiladas – by Eazy Peazy Meals. This recipe lives up to expectations with degree of ease. It’s pretty quick too, and made as written, the enchiladas come out of the oven hot and delicious. The first time that I made these, my husband declared that they were “restaurant quality.” I’ll take that!
This is certainly not an authentic enchiladas recipe, but it’s a good spin on the dish with a savory white cream sauce. I’ve made them with flour and corn tortillas, and both are tasty. I like to make the chicken and shred it for these ahead of time, then just mix up the filling and the sauce on the stove and pop the pan in the oven.
Old-Fashioned Mixed Berry Cobbler – from Lynette Collins Mottolo at allrecipes.com. This is quick to prepare and hard to get wrong! The recipe calls for blueberries, but I prefer a mix of mostly blueberries and some red raspberries. I’ve also had good experience cutting down the butter from 8 tablespoons to 6 tablespoons. (I know, that is still a lot of butter in an 8X8 pan. This is not a healthy dish…but blueberries are full of healthy antioxidants! Give and take.)
Caribbean Sweet Potato Crockpot Stew – from North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission. Did you know that there was such a thing as a sweet potato commission? Do you feel the world is more complete now that you know? Me too.
Inspired by the colorful sweet potato, this recipe is healthy eating comfort in a bowlful of flavor explosions. I made this for the first time in the summer, and I think it would be even better in the fall. Truly, the ingredients are all healthy, and it tastes so good!
Caramel Apple Crisp – by House of Yumm. This is made in individual portions in small ramekins. It is nicely presented with one for each guest and easy to pop out of the oven and start eating. Simple but so good at the end of a meal. Serve with vanilla ice cream, of course!
Bakery Style Lemon Blueberry Muffins – from Cooking Classy. Just make them. Run to the store and buy lemons now. (Don’t blow your budget and buy $35 worth of lemons at 79 cents a piece like we did in preparation for our son’s first lemonade stand…but that’s a story for another day.) Serve the muffins with coffee, tea, iced tea…sunshine.
These take some effort to mix up, but you can make them a day in advance, and they are totally worth it. The three lemon blueberry muffins that I ate today tell the truth!
I hope you will enjoy these dishes as much as we do! What do you like to make for dinner when you are hosting company? Comment and let me know your tried-and-true menu ideas.