Sunday, May 10, 2009

Menu Planning

I've come to learn that I really and truly enjoy entertaining at our house... specifically when I get to plan an entire "menu" for whatever get together we are hosting. I usually (ok, always) end up really stressed, and have a mini panic attack over everything coming together, but somehow, we always pull it off. Maybe it's because Dan is a pro at speed cleaning while I start preparing dishes, maybe it's because I don't pick overly complicated things to make, but whatever it is - Dan and I make a great party throwing team, and now I'm here to share the latest...

Dan and I are lucky enough to live close to both of our immediate families - mine being so close we could walk there (if it would ever stay above 55 degrees for more than a day at a time). Because we live close by, holidays often consist of driving back and forth to home-cooked meals prepared by each of our moms (and dads). So, since we are also lucky enough to have families that get along great, we decided that for Mother's Day, we would cook for them... and so began another party planning extravaganza! I hand-stamped invitations for my mom, my gramma, Dan's mom, and Dan's sister using a deep purple Stardream cardstock and gold ink, and sent the cards off in matching Stardream gold envelopes. Then time for my favorite part - planning the menu!

Here's what we had for our Mother's Day dinner -
- Spinach artichoke dip served with Roasted Garlic Triscuits (my absolute FAVORITE)
- Bowtie pasta salad
- Tossed garden salad
- Creamy parmesan mashed potatoes
- Baked asparagus
- Grilled chicken marinated in Kraft caesar marinade/dressing
- Grilled steak (seasoned to perfection by Dan)

And for dessert -
- Layered strawberry cheesecake bowl
- Banana cream pie

Somehow, I managed to time everything wonderfully and Dan's grilling ended just 3 minutes before the asparagus was finished and just as the potatoes set into a perfect consistency. (*Wipes sweat off forehead*)

Here's the best part - nearly all of these recipes came from back issues of Kraft Food & Family Magazine that Dan's mom gave me a couple months ago. Seeing as I work on a Kraft account at work and am often looking at recipes in pieces we produce, it was a lot of fun working with them to put together a cohesive holiday meal. And, just how I love it - everything was really simple!

Here is one of my favorite bookmarked sites - the Kraft Food & Family Magazine archives, with links to all of the recipes!! Recipes Galore!

And because no post about food is complete without a recipe, here's the step by step for the Layered Strawberry Cheesecake Bowl, which was a huge hit. You may remember my plans to make this for Easter, which fell through due to my (2nd) stomach flu... so I was really excited to finally make it!

Layered Strawberry Cheesecake Bowl
3 cups sliced fresh strawberries
3 Tbsp. sugar
2 pkg. (8 oz. each) neufchatel cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups milk
1 pkg. (3.4 oz.) instant vanilla pudding
2 cups thawed Cool Whip, divided
1 frozen pound cake, cut into cubes
1 square semi-sweet chocolate (I didn't use this because I am deathly allergic to chocolate and wanted to be able to enjoy some of this dessert) :)

1. Combine strawberries and sugar, set aside.
2. Beat cream cheese with a hand mixer until creamy, gradually adding milk, and then dry pudding mix. Mix well.
3. Blend in 1 1/2 cups Cool Whip.
4. Break out your fancy trifle bowl and spoon half of mixture into the bottom.
5. Add the pound cake cubes as the next layer, and the strawberries as the third layer.
6. Spoon remainder of cream cheese mixture on top of strawberries, drizzle with chocolate (if using), and top with remaining Cool Whip and a whole strawberry for garnish.
7. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

A few things I learned while making this dessert:
1. Neufchatel cheese, which is essentially cream cheese with 1/3 less fat, does have a different flavor than regular cream cheese... but it works perfectly for this dessert.
2. Sometimes, finding a new hand mixer for $10 on Black Friday isn't as great a deal as it seems. This bad boy has settings 1-5, as most hand mixers do... but 1, which is supposed to be "low", is more like what you would expect to be a 4 or 5 on the scale. Because of this, I had cream cheese and milk splattered ALL over the place in the kitchen. I guess that's why they call it a backsplash. Lesson learned - buy a decent mixer, or rig up some kind of shield next time. I can only imagine what this thing would do set on 5 and using the "power boost" button.
3. If making this, take a picture before anyone digs a big spoon in to it. It really is pretty all layered up, but after one serving is spooned out it is officially just a tasty mess.

Although I did take my own picture... this was easier - Image (and recipe) from

1 comment:

Mrs. Lawler said...

Thanks for making this Mothers Day so wonderful. The food was delicious....and the company always great.

Mrs. Lawler

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