Before I get into the post, I just want to say I am definitely not a gourmet cook. I am kind of a picky eater and don't like to eat a lot of exotic or complex foods. I do like to cook simple yet delicious dishes.
Normally when we have people over we either grill or I cook some sort of Italian dish (spaghetti, chicken parmesan, or lasagna). Hubby didn't get off work until 6:30 last night and he mans the grill, so grilling was not an option. I do the planning and marinating, but he does the actual grilling act. I was tired of doing the same old Italian dishes. Since I didn't have anything on my schedule yesterday, I think I went a little overboard and cooked roast chicken, potatoes au gratin, and garlicky roasted green beans. I made a cheese ball for an appetizer and a caramel cake for dessert. Like I said, I hadn't entertained in a long time and I love to cook. This is not the norm!
First thing in the morning I went ahead and set the table. I've cooked too many dinners that ended up being stressful close to serving time, so I wanted that done and out of the way.
I just used our everyday dishes, silverware, and napkins.
I went into the kitchen at 12:30 to begin the cake. After reading The Help last year, I really wanted to learn how to make a caramel cake. I went to Pinterest and found a recipe, and after I baked it I thought it was the best thing I had ever made. You have to be careful with it, though, because I tried it again a few months ago and it fell, then fell apart when I tried to get it out of the pan. Yesterday, though, it turned out perfect. I wanted to share the recipe but my Pinterest link isn't working any more (thankfully I wrote it down). There are tons of recipes online, though!
I am not the best at making frosting look pretty.
Buttermilk Ranch Cheese Ball
Once the cake was finished, I went ahead to make the cheese ball for an appetizer. I found a delicious and easy recipe on Pinterest for a Buttermilk Ranch Cheese Ball. It is quick and easy! I didn't have a ranch packet because I was going to try to make a ranch mix from scratch, and it still turned out fine. I served it with Ritz crackers. I forgot to take a picture of it.
Garlic Herb ChickenThe first time I roasted a chicken, I made Glamour's "Engagement Chicken." You can find that recipe here. It was a delicious lemon pepper chicken. I am not a big fan of lemon, though, so now when I roast a chicken, I just cover it in a lot of herbs and spices.
Before I began the cake, I put the chicken in a bowl of salt water to brine it. After a few hours, I drained the water, put the chicken on my roasting rack and put the rack in the sink, and raided my spice cabinet. Normally I rub butter all over the chicken before the seasonings, but I forgot that step yesterday and it was still delicious. I coated the chicken inside and out with the following seasonings: kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder, thyme, oregano, basil, parsley, and a little rosemary. I didn't measure; I just sprinkled them on. I moved the rack to the roaster and put it in the oven at 350 degrees. You are supposed to cook a chicken for 20 minutes per pound, plus an additional 15 minutes. We have a nifty digital oven meat thermometer that will sound an alarm when the meat reaches a set temperature, so I put it in the thigh, set the temperature on the thermometer to 180 degrees, and let it go.
(I apologize for the quality of the pictures of the individual dishes; I forgot to take them, so I cropped them from another picture. I will get better with the pictures as I write this blog!)
Potatoes Au GratinThe potatoes take an hour and a half to bake, so I set to work on them next. It is another recipe that I searched for on Pinterest for my Christmas dinner last year. I couldn't find my source for the potatoes au gratin recipe I used (I printed it instead of pinned it).
Potatoes Au Gratin
- 2 pounds potatoes (6 medium)
- 1/2 cup onion
- 1 tsp. minced garlic
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 Tbsp. flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs
- paprika, to taste
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (I did 350). Peel the potatoes and cut them into thin slices to measure 4 cups, then place in a casserole dish. Cook garlic and onion in butter until tender. Stir in flour, salt, and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is bubbly. Remove from heat (I didn't remove from heat before the next step). Stir in milk and 1 1/2 cups of cheese. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for 1 minute. Place cheese sauce on the potatoes and bake uncovered for 1 hour 20 minutes (since I turned up the temperature, I baked for 1 hour and 10 minutes). Mix remaining cheese and bread crumbs and sprinkle over potatoes. Sprinkle paprika on top and bake uncovered until the top is brown and bubbly, about 15 to 20 minutes longer.
The last time I cooked these, I accidentally used cayenne pepper instead of paprika. I don't like spicy food but everyone said they were delicious.
While these dishes were cooking, I set out my serving dishes so I was prepared:
Roasted Garlicky Green Beans
The last dish I cooked was Roasted Garlicky Green Beans, and it is a recipe I am so happy I found on Pinterest. I tweak it, and again don't measure my ingredients. I like to use the green beans from the steamer bags in the produce section. They are prepared and washed, and are usually prettier than the ones you just grab and bag yourself. I prefer to use the small haricot verts, but the store was out when I went shopping.
To make these, I cover a baking sheet in aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray (you can see the pan prepared in the background of the last picture). I spread the green beans all over the pan and pour olive oil all over them. Then I sprinkle salt and pepper on them, followed by garlic powder. I love garlic, so the more the better! I use my hands to evenly coat the green beans. I put them in the oven at 350 degrees (because that is what everything else cooks on) for 20 minutes. They are amazing.
Our guests arrived and my friend brought a delicious spinach salad. I like to serve food either buffet or family style instead of plating the meal, so I took all of the food to the table and it was ready to eat!
We all had a wonderful time talking and getting to know each other last night. I am so happy they joined us!
This isn't my "go to" dinner party meal, but we really enjoyed it, and I had fun preparing it. What are your "go to" dinner party meals?