Menu for a Cozy Lunch at Home

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Howdy, all! Happy Sunday. :) Hope you had a wonderful weekend. Highlights?

Mine include another victory for the Hawkeyes – they were en fuego on their home turf last night! Another highlight? Finding out that YOUR votes got me through to round 3 of Project Food Blog! :D

So let’s see here… We learned my stance as a food blogger in Challenge #1 and how to make homemade pasta and Pasta allo Scoglio in Challenge #2. Challenge #3? Host a luxury dinner party!

So, ok, I served lunch instead of dinner, and there was nothing highbrow about it. See, when I think of the word luxury – sure there’s lobster, caviar and champagne involved – but I also think of other indulgent things like a hot bath, a soft & fluffy oversized robe or a super-rich mug of hot chocolate.

What do these things have in common? The cozy factor. Yes! Inspired, I created my Cozy Lunch at Home luxury lunch menu. Featuring…

Menu

Each course of my lunch menu featured a fresh element, as well as an indulgent, luxurious element. You’ll see. ;)

I started by decorating my table. A plain table is fine for everyday use, obvi, but when I’m hosting a meal, I like to jazz it up a bit!

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I chose a Fall theme, complete with a flickering sugar cookie-scented candle,

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and miniature pumpkins and gourds.

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Inexpensive, but totally gives off a cozy vibe. :)

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I also brought out my Fall-themed place mats to round it all out. Loved all the warm colors together!

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Next I got to work on the actual lunch portion of the show. Whenever I have multi dishes going into the oven at multi times, and at multi temps, I like to write out a game plan. I’m a visual person, so this helps me stay on track!

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I started with the dishes that were going to take the most time to whip up. First was dessert – Fall Apple Crisp! I peeled & chopped 3 Granny Smith Apples then tossed them with ~2 teaspoons each flour and granulated sugar, along with a dash of cinnamon.

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Into a greased, oven-safe dish.

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Next I whipped up the crisp part of the apple crisp (the best part!) Combine 1/2 cup each brown sugar and old fashioned oats then add 1/4 cup each butter and flour.

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Combine with a fork, or clean fingers, until butter is about the size of peas.

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Top the apples with the crisp mixture,

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and pop into the oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the top is CRISP and golden brown. YUMMMMMM!

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Next I got going on the star of the menu – Classic Macaroni & Cheese!

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The macaroni & cheese recipe I used is my Mom’s, and it’s the same one I ate at least once a week growing up. It screams comfort food, and I knew it’d be perfect for my menu.

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It’s cheese-TASTIC and SO creamy!

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I’ll fill you in on the recipe later, but the cheese sauce is made on the stovetop, then baked with cooked noodles in the oven until golden brown and bubbly.

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My game plan was to finish the entire menu by the time my guests of honor arrived at 12:00pm. Guess who showed up right on time? My folks! As some of you may know, my parents prepare a meal for our entire family almost every Sunday afternoon. I thought it’d be nice to return the favor and invite them to MY Cozy Lunch at Home party!

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Thankfully everything was ready by then, and we got right to work nibbling on some apps. Like I said, I like to have something fresh and something decadent in each course of the menu. That way guests can choose how heavy or light they want their meal to be.

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I set out some fresh carrots, celery & French Onion Dip,

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but the clear favorite was Bacon Wrapped Dates! Drooooooool…

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We’re talking sweet, soft dates wrapped in smoky, salty bacon – then broiled to crispy, sweet & savory perfection! I’m literally obsessed with these babies!

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My Dad was too!

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Ok, Mom as well. ;)

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We ate and chatted,

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until it was time for the entree portion of the party!

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You know, whenever I’m hosting lunch or dinner, I always feel the need to go all out. While that may be fun once in a while, most times it’s more than ok to just go with whatcha know. You know?! K.I.S.S. is my motto. :D

Therefore I served a Fresh Vegetable Salad,

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(with multi dressing options)

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Roasted Green Beans (fresh green beans tossed with extra virgin olive oil and garlic salt, then roasted at 425 degrees for 15 minutes)

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and my Classic Macaroni & Cheese!

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And it was good!

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This mac & cheese recipe uses oh-so thick & creamy Velveeta cheese. Yep! You know, you could use reduced fat Velveeta or some other cheese, but it’s never quite as delish as regular Velveeta. If you’re going to go for it – I say, GO FOR IT! ;)

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So glad I did too. The pasta swirls trapped all that luscious & luxurious sauce. Sensational!

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The roasted green beans were off the charts. SUCH an easy recipe and the green beans taste so green beany. You’d love it.

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Heavy mac :arrow: light salad. It’s all about balance.

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We ate it all!

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Saving room for dessert, natch. ;)

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I kept the apple crisp on top of the stove all morning, while the oven was on and working away at other dishes, so it would keep warm.

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It melted the cold vanilla ice cream I served it with and oh. Heavens. was it ever good! A sweet ending to a cozy meal with the people I love the most. :)

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Well, the guests have gone back home, the dishes have been cleaned and I am one happy lady. But before I go sneak off for a Thanksgiving-esque catnap, here are my tips for throwing a low-stress, yet luxurious, lunch or dinner party:

* Prepare anything you can ahead of time. Ie shop a day or two before your party, prepare produce the day before, etc.

* Write out your plan of attack/cooking timeline on a piece of paper and keep it handy in the kitchen. Being able to visually see everything you need to cook will make it less likely that you’ll forget something.

* Allow more time than you think you’ll need. You can always wait 30 minutes to pop something into the oven, but you don’t want your guests waiting on their meal if you’re running 30 minutes behind.

* Don’t try and do too much. Nobody says you have to have 10 courses, or that it even has to be 100% homemade. Take advantage of store-bought foods if you can/want to, and don’t be afraid to plan a simple, satisfying, menu.

* Decorations make the party special, but you don’t have to go overboard. A simple vase of daisies or inexpensive seasonal decor will liven up the place.

* Don’t forget about ambience too. Lit & scented candles, a crackling fire, or music can help set the tone of your party.

* Consider your guests likes, dislikes, allergies, etc. when planning your menu. Don’t serve seafood when a pregnant woman will be in attendance, or if you know dinner guests would prefer a more causal get together, maybe keep your china in the hut. ;)

* ALWAYS have dessert. People may not remember what you served for dinner, but they’ll always. remember. dessert! Whether it’s store-bought or homemade, everyone loves a sweet ending!!

Allllrighty folks – I start my new job tomorrow, so this afternoon will be filled with mucho mental preparations. Wish. Me. Luck!

~~~~~

Do you stress out about having people over for lunch or dinner parties? Would you rather host a party or go to it?

I’ll be honest with you – hosting a meal is pretty high on my stress list and I’d prefer to go to someone else’s party, then host it. However, if you plan ahead, make dishes you’re comfortable with, and don’t try and do too much, you CAN do it! :D

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Comments

  1. emily 10.03.2010

    I love your table setting!

    And the food…delicious! Perfect for fall!

  2. Rachel 10.03.2010

    Looks delicious! I’m with you–I’d rather go to someone else’s shindig than host my own. That being said, every once in awhile, I like having people over & entertaining a bit!

  3. Ms.S 10.03.2010

    Definitely stress over dinner guests, but I love hosting. Mostly I love pulling everything together and having my friends notice. :) It’s an excellent ego-boost, and I’m not ashamed to say it makes me feel awesome. The dishes clean-up afterward I could do without, however.
    Your mac & cheese looks fabulous! I think I need to dig out my recipe and compare to combine parts of each.

  4. this all looks good! i was reading this and my husband leans over and asks about that apple crisp. guess i know what i’ll be making later today… haha :)

  5. Abby Ryan 10.03.2010

    Your mac and cheese looks yummy!!! Hope you’ll share the recipe….Good luck with the new job!!

  6. Kara 10.03.2010

    I love that your family does Sunday meals together! Your menu looks delish~especially the apple crisp~I am going to have to try that one :)
    Best of luck on your first day tomorrow!!

  7. girliefriend 10.03.2010

    I’m comin’ ovah!

  8. That is my kind of dinner… err, lunch party! The mac & cheese looks delicious!

  9. colleen 10.03.2010

    Yummy! I generally stress a lot when I am having people over. Usually end up trying to offer so many choices – results in too much stress. But I do like hosting once in awhile and love going over to someone else’s.

  10. excellent tips, everything on your party menu looked wonderful and i love the funky table decorations! x

  11. I don’t care much about where a meal is hosted, but I prefer to be the one making the food. I cook for my family at my dad and step-mom’s house more than I do at my own place some weeks. For one, I don’t like eating a nice dinner alone. For two, it’s a great excuse to see my family, because we all need dinner! As for stress, it only comes if something I am preparing goes horribly wrong. Fortunately, I’ve been lucky for the most part.

    Your meal looks great, by the way. You seem to have a lot of fun with your family. I’ll get ready to vote for you when the time comes for round three. You’re doing so well…keep up the good work! :)

  12. I would trade quite a bit for one of those bacon-wrapped dates right now…they look amazing! Found your blog for the first time through foodbuzz…keep up the good work…I had to laugh at your “about me”, when you mention being a runner, as long as the crazy midwest weather allows….I can so, so relate!!
    Cathy B. @ brightbakes

  13. AJ 10.03.2010

    I prefer to go to a party than host one. I get stressed about inviting people over. If I go to someone else’s house, I can just relax.

    I had apple crisp this weekend too! It’s the perfect fall dessert.

    I love your interpretation of “luxury” as “cozy.” Way to keep it real. Who eats stuff like caviar anyway??

  14. Amanda 10.03.2010

    Bacon wrapped dates are SO good! I love the balance of light and heavy in your menu planning. I also appreciate you don’t need 203,840 ingredients to throw this dinner party!

  15. Hosting does stress me out a bit, but I still continue to do it because I love cooking/baking for others!

  16. Kait 10.03.2010

    I absolutely love hosting!! Every holiday, tailgate, party, whatever I will take the lead and plan the menu, do the grocery shopping, and cook everything with my mama. I agree, its high stress, but in the end its worth it to see everyone have a great time!
    You’re meal looks like a real winner :)

  17. dmcgirl 10.03.2010

    That looks verfy cozy indeed! Good luck tomorrow!

  18. I would like all those bacon wrapped dates please… and some of that mac and cheese, k? What a fantastic lunch! You’ve got my support, as always :)

  19. Lee 10.03.2010

    Looks good. i definitely prefer going to a dinner party than hosting one.

  20. Sara 10.03.2010

    Awesome lunch, I seriously have a hankering for mac & cheese now…. :) Also those bacon wrapped dates sound just like the kind of thing my boyfriend would devour!

  21. Katie 10.03.2010

    OMG – you are my savior. I tried apple crisp for the first time this weekend and it was a major flop. Going to try your recipe next. I have also been looking for a fabulous homemade mac and chz recipe, so I am anxiously awaiting that one from you!

  22. Jill 10.03.2010

    That mac and cheese looks awesome!

    So, what type of work do you do?

  23. Liz @ Blog is the Blog 10.03.2010

    Looks great, but I’m not surprised. I love to host but yea, it does stress me out!

  24. Liz @ LBBakes 10.03.2010

    Love the lunch approach you took! Very relatable ;)

  25. Bridget 10.03.2010

    How fun! I host so often that I’ve got it down to a science. I enjoy hosting but I really enjoy being served since it’s so rare. Looking forward to hearing about the new j.o.b. Hope you have a good first week.

  26. Sara 10.03.2010

    What a great lunch! I love your table setting. It’s so cute!

  27. Cute lunch!! The Mac and Cheese looks so good! Also those placemats are adorable.

  28. SallyGirl 10.03.2010

    Hosting absolutely stresses me out, particularly because my friends pretty much exist on crap and wouldn’t know good food if you force fed it to them for weeks! Seriously, how depressing is it to get all excited over your chicken masala or curried veg over rice only to have your guests arrive with the “Oh dear God, what are we eating?!” look plastered all over their faces?

    Your place mats are adorable!! Don’t ruin them by having kids, that’s what happened to mine. ;)

    p.s. Next time, puree a can of white beans and add it to your sauce. Totally can’t taste them, they don’t change the texture, and hello… FIBER!

  29. eemusings 10.04.2010

    Attend, for sure!

    I’ve never hosted a full on dinner party, but you can bet it’ll be the first thing I do once we move to a bigger place.

  30. Sara 10.04.2010

    What a great looking lunch!!!! Mac n’ Cheese definitely says comfort food and your sounds DELICIOUS!! And I’m drooling over the apple crisp. Yuuuuum!! :)

  31. RhodeyGirl 10.04.2010

    LOVE the placemats, and just sent a vote your way. Good luck!

  32. LOVE the menu! I have been dying for homemade apple crisp. Definitely making it soon. I would have loved to come to your cozy lunch party…you did a great job!

  33. I loved that you stayed true to yourself and kept it cozy and comforting! Great job! you have my vote…again:)

  34. […] Iowa Girl Eat’s Luxury Lunch […]

  35. Kath 10.04.2010

    I think your luxury lunch is perfect! I prefer making a “cozy” simple menu like yours when I’m entertaining. And I so agree with you that not everything has to be homemade.

  36. Teresa 10.04.2010

    Always stress, always make waaay too much, always run behind. Hmmm – I think I’m going to try again – maybe – someday….

  37. That looks like an awesome, stress free, happy lunch party! congrats, you get my voted!

    http://whitneysamusebouche.blogspot.com/

    Whit

  38. Amanda 10.04.2010

    i love your blog, i make alot of your stuff, today i made the apple crisp :) sooo yummy!

  39. […] « Menu for a Cozy Lunch at Home The Ice Cream Sandwich You’ve GOT to Try! […]

  40. a 10.04.2010

    Read this post the other day but couldnt stop thinking about the mac and cheese and the apple crisp.
    Just finished assembling YOUR recipe for apple crisp and will be putting it in the oven after dinner. Thanks :)

    I love your cozy lunch party because this is food I actually eat with my family!

  41. soppitysup 10.04.2010

    Real Mac and Cheese is a Real luxury. GREG

  42. Nancy 10.04.2010

    Can you use quick cooking oats rather than old fashioned oats? My boyfriend LOVES apple crisp, and I’d like to make them for him – but of course I only have the quick cooking oats in the cupboard for my cookies :)

    Hope you can help!!

  43. Jessica Lee 10.04.2010

    You made a fabulous meal there! I love dinner parties, hosting and attending. But I do like hosting more, it’s a little bit selfish but I love the good feelings I get when I know other people are enjoying themselves.

  44. Natty 10.04.2010

    Rumake is the best stuff ever! Try putting a piece of pineapple in the center of the date or a macadamia nut. They’re a must on our Thanksgiving table. Good work!

  45. Jacob's Kitchen 10.05.2010

    Great post! It all looks really delicious, and I LOVE those place-mats. Nicely done. I voted!

    Good luck! Fingers crossed for us both to go through to the next round! =)

  46. Liz 10.05.2010

    Gorgeous looking family lunch!

  47. Sues 10.05.2010

    I love this! Luxury makes me think of being cozy too :) The mac and cheese looks sooo good :) Good luck!

  48. Katrina 10.05.2010

    Oh my. I LOVE mac and cheese! Yours looks amazing. And I couldn’t agree more. Pumpkins, especially the baby ones, give off a serious comfort vibe. Love you blog! You’ve got my vote.

  49. Jessica 10.05.2010

    Congrats on winning fan favorite the first round! And everything looks fabulous for this round too! Hope we both make it to the next round! :-) You have my vote!

  50. sophia 10.06.2010

    Love this. Comfort food at its finest. I’m feeling warm fuzzies in my heart right now, but I wish it was in my stomach.

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