Some of my favorite people!

So I tried to do a fun thing last week for my friends. I threw a “favorites” dinner! I asked each of them their favorite dish for different parts of a meal. Appetizer, Drink, salad, main course and dessert. They … Continue reading

Ask Leah – Cooking for a Crowd

Whether you’re hosting your family’s next reunion dinner or your intimate dinner party for four has turned into eight, there’s always a dish that can satisfy the hungry hoard without dirtying every pot you own. We fondly refer to these as “one pot wonders.” Let us share a few of our favorites with you to get your gears turning!

How do I cook for a large group without losing my mind and wrecking my kitchen?

  • Simplify your entrees. You’d be amazed how much this helps when it comes to planning a dinner party. Instead of serving tacos, opt for enchiladas. You’ve got everything in one container and you can easily bake up enough to serve the masses. While they’re in the oven, you’ve got ample time to whip up homemade chips and salsa, Spanish rice or refried beans.
  • If you have your heart set on Italian, choose a baked ziti or lasagna rather than spaghetti and meat sauce. Again, with all your entree ingredients in one pan, you’re making the clean-up process so much easier for yourself. You’ll also have time to mingle with your guests during the cooking process.
  • A pot roast smothered in mushrooms, onions and potatoes does double duty, too! You could easily play off this concept with baked chicken, as well.
  • Bust out your crock pot for some homemade chili or a carne asada stew.

With so many filling dishes to make, this list could easily go on for days! What are your favorite dishes to make when you’ve got a packed house?

Lasagna Pasta

I’m such a Texas girl!  I am a WIMP when it comes to cold weather.  Y’all know by now that cold weather, does however, urge me to hit the kitchen.  So last night I invited some friends over for dinner.  When I suggested that I was going to make a big pot of warm and filling spaghetti with tomato meat sauce, it was met with a less than enthusiastic face from one of my friends.  Something about the spaghetti noodles not holding onto enough sauce to make it taste good…?  Anyway… I decided to come up with a compromise.  I made a creamy pasta sauce with ground beef and sweet Italian sausage.  I stirred in some goat cheese for richness and ricotta for creaminess.  (think some sort of blend between a 4 cheese alfredo and a tomato meat sauce)  I used penne pasta (it “holds” onto more sauce than spaghetti- LOL) and baked it lightly under a layer of shredded mozzarella.  I served it with a pepperoni pizza salad and garlic bread made from an Olive Branch baguette.  (We sell those in the store for only $1.50, by the way) It hit the spot!  It was creamy and full of lots of spices and flavors.  It was filling and perfect on a chilly night.  Hope you like this one!

Lasagna Pasta

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground Italian sausage
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 12 leaves fresh basil (I chopped mine, but you could leave the leaves whole)
  • 1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 1 container ricotta (15 oz)
  • 2 Cups heavy cream
  • 12 oz shredded mozzarella
  • 1 pound penne pasta boiled al dente
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large dutch oven, brown together the meats with the minced garlic until it is crumbled and cooked all the way through.  Drain.
  2. Add the basil and the crushed tomatoes.  Once it gets hot, taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to your taste.
  3. Add the heavy cream and stir in the goat cheese and the ricotta cheese until they are melted and well incorporated.
  4. Once the pasta sauce is hot and well mixed, turn the heat off and add the cooked pasta and stir it all together until the pasta is well covered.
  5. Add ½ of the shredded mozzarella and stir again.
  6. Pour the pasta into a 13×9 baking dish (I use a glass dish) top the pasta with the rest of the mozzarella and pop the whole thing into a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes.