View Full Version : Dinner Party Dilema

08-17-2000, 12:38 PM
A few of my girlfriends are going to come to my house this Saturday to watch my three kids (ages 6,4,2) while my husband and I go out to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. I would like to make them a nice dinner to have while we are out. I am considered the cook of the bunch and would like to make something nice and different that they don't normally get at home.
Here are the criteria:
It needs to be something that I can make ahead so they can heat it up, or whatever, when they have a chance.
One girl is a vegetarian.
Another girl is allergic to broccoli, zucchini, pineapple and beans (poor girl).
Another does not like chunky tomatoes or too spicy food.
Kind of tricky isn't it?
Any suggestions would be of great help.

08-17-2000, 12:50 PM
What about CL's Spaghetti Pie (you can skip the meat and add mushrooms) or the Spinach-and-Mushroom Lasagna? Both are very good and can be made in advance. I'm also assuming that since you listed "chunky tomatoes" that your friend is okay with tomato sauce? There is also a pasta dish - Perfect Pasta and Cheese - from March '97 that has mushrooms and a cheese sauce that is pretty tasty and can also be made in advance. You might also want to check out the recent lasagna thread for more ideas.

08-17-2000, 01:01 PM
I'm thinking that tofu or ricotta stuffed manicotti (possibly with spinach) would be a treat. Most people don't like going through all that effort for themselves. http://www.cookinglight.com/bbs/smile.gif It can easily be made ahead and heated the night of your dinner. Served up with a big salad or a side of fresh fruit, you'd have a wonderful meal that would appeal to all three friends.

Depending on your vegetarian friend (is she lacto-ovo? does she eat seafood?) another idea occurred to me -- and that would be something along the lines of a quiche or souffle. There have been some killer recipes floating around on these boards for quiches, and I'd be happy to point you towards recipes...

08-17-2000, 01:19 PM
Along the lines of Lorilei's suggestion on manicotti, I just tried a new recipe from one of my vegetarian cookbooks that was excellent! It was supposed to be cannelloni (and homemade to boot), but I didn't have time to make it and they don't sell it in the supermarket, so I used the filling for manicotti instead. The filling consisted of ricotta cheese, goat cheese, Parmesan cheese, spinach, lemon zest, fresh herbs and walnuts. The sauce was a purée of fresh tomatoes and roasted garlic. Delicious!

Anyway, if you'd like the recipe, just let me know.

08-17-2000, 01:20 PM

Your recipe sounds delicious. Could you please post it?



08-17-2000, 01:21 PM
Mmmm... lindarusso, I'll take the recipe in an instant http://www.cookinglight.com/bbs/smile.gif

It sounds delectable! Could I ask where you found it?

ha http://www.cookinglight.com/bbs/smile.gif -- looks like two of us are drooling at the same time!!

[This message has been edited by lorilei (edited 08-17-2000).]

08-17-2000, 02:15 PM
Lorilei and Mlynn,

Here's the recipe. I got it from "Fields of Greens" by Annie Somerville. It comes from the Greens Restaurant where Deborah Madison was the founding chef (she published another cookbook called "Greens"). Both cookbooks offer what I would call gourmet vegetarian cooking.

This recipe (as is true of many in this book) looks pretty intimidating, but many steps can be done in advance and the whole thing can be assembled and refrigerated until baking time.

I cut down on the labor by using frozen spinach (I just can't stand to wash and stem all that spinach - even if it would taste better that way!) and using store-bought manicotti. The recipe will loosely fill 12 manicotti. The recipe gives no further instruction on how to actually make the pasta sheets, but I could probably dig that up somewhere too (from my adventures in making fresh linguine and ravioli).

If you are fond of sauce, I would definitely recommend doubling - even tripling - the amount of sauce - it's very good and was too sparse in our opinion (I made it for my in-laws and they loved it).


Roasted Garlic-Tomato Sauce:

1 head garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled and seeded, about 3 cups, or 3 cups canned tomatoes with juice
1/2 small onion, diced, about 1/2 cup
salt and pepper
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 bay leaf

The Filling:

1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, diced, about 1 cup
salt and pepper
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large bunches of spinach, stems removed and leaves washed, about 16 cups
3/4 teaspoon minced lemon zest
1/3 cup walnut pieces, roasted
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as marjoram, thyme, chives, and parsley
1/2 pound ricotta cheese, about 2/3 cup
1 egg, beaten
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, about 2/3 cup
2 ounces Montrachet cheese, or other creamy, mild goat cheese

2 fresh pasta sheets, about 10 ounces

1. THE SAUCE: Preheat the oven to 375º. Rub the garlic with a little olive oil, place it on a baking sheet and roast until very soft, 30 to 35 minutes. When garlic is cool, slice off the top of the bulb and squeeze the cloves out of the skin. Puree them with the tomatoes in a blender or food processor.

2. Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan and add the onion, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a few pinches of pepper; sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes. When the onion is soft, add the sherry and bay leaf and simmer for 1 or 2 minutes, until pan is nearly dry. Add the tomato-garlic puree and 1/4 teaspoon salt and simmer, uncovered, over low heat for 30 minutes. (TIP: Add up to 1 teaspoon sugar after simmering sauce to balance the flavor if the sauce is acidic.)

3. THE FILLING: Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a few pinches of pepper; sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the onions begin to release their juices. Add half the garlic and sauté until the onions are soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer onions to a bowl.

4. Heat the remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet and quickly wilt the spinach over medium-high heat with 1/2 teaspoon salt, a few pinches of pepper, and the remaining garlic. Remove the spinach from the heat, drain, and cool. Squeeze out the excess moisture a handful at a time, then coarsely chop.

5. Add the spinach to the onions along with the lemon zest and walnuts. Set aside half the fresh herbs to sprinkle on top after baking and add the rest to the spinach-onion mixture.

6. Place the ricotta in a bowl and stir in the egg. Set aside half the Parmesan cheese to sprinkle over the cannelloni; add the rest to the ricotta with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Combine the spinach and onions with the ricotta mixture, then crumble in the goat cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

7. ASSEMBLING THE CANNELLONI: Cut the pasta sheets into 12 4-inch squares (or comparable size to accomodate the size of the pasta sheets).

8. Preheat the oven to 350º. Lay the pasta squares on a work surface and spread 1/4 cup of the filling along the edge of each square. Roll loosely; the filling will expand during baking.

9. Ladle 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce into the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Place the cannelloni close together in the dish, seam side down, and ladle the remaining sauce over them. Use a pastry brush to spread the sauce evenly, particularly on the ends, making sure the pasta is covered with sauce.

10. Cover and bake for 20-25 minutes. Sprinkle the cannelloni with the reserved Parmesan and fresh herbs just before serving.

Whew!! Eat and enjoy - it's worth the extra effort!!!

08-17-2000, 02:28 PM
Oh, thank you!!! Thank you for sharing!! (and for all that typing!!)

I've been meaning to buy her cookbooks, and just have never gotten around to it. All of her recipes look so delicious.

http://www.cookinglight.com/bbs/smile.gif Will make it and think of you.

08-17-2000, 02:36 PM
Thank you all so much.
I have a couple of questions.
Lindrusso, how much frozen spinach did you use? That recipe sounds ssssooooooooooo good.

I like the idea of a Quiche. I have never made a quiche before. Could you post a recipe for a spinach quiche (no mushrooms, please, a dislike I forgot to mention)? Can you make a quiche ahead of time and heat it later or do you eat quiches cold? Is the preparation of a quiche involved?

08-17-2000, 02:44 PM
Here's a good recipe for spinach quiche. It can be served warm or at room temperature. I wouldn't say its preparation is involved at all -- and you can use a prepared pastry crust to make things even easier!!


1 - 9 inch deep-dish pastry shell, baked
1 tablespoon butter
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion, peeled and diced
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
8 ounces herbed Feta cheese
2 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
6 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Melt butter in a medium skillet. Add garlic and onion. Saute over medium heat until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Add spinach, mushrooms, Feta, and 2 ounces Cheddar cheese. Stir thoroughly, then add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon mixture into pastry shell.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour into pastry shell, allowing egg mixture to thoroughly combine with spinach mixture.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Sprinkle top with remaining 6 ounces Cheddar cheese and bake an additional 35 to 40 minutes, until set in center. Allow to stand 10 minutes before serving.

08-17-2000, 03:20 PM
This is such a great resource. Thank you.
I went from not having any ideas to now having too many.

Can I use egg-substitute in the quiche?

If I serve the quiche I think I will serve a fruit salad with it.

Any recommendations on what to serve with the cannelloni?

08-17-2000, 03:29 PM

thank you for going through so much trouble. These sound delicious. I can't wait to try this.

thanks again,


08-17-2000, 03:44 PM
S - I used 1 10-ounce package of frozen spinach and it seemed to be plenty. I served a Caesar salad and fresh, crusty bread with the cannelloni. Pasta is always so filling that I feel like it doesn't need too much in the way of side dishes. Oh, and we topped of the meal with CL's fresh Strawberry Pie. Yummy.

Lorilei and Mlynn - No problem! I needed to get this recipe typed into Mastercook and you all got me motivated. It's chilly and rainy here in Indiana today, so I'm spending the day with Cooking Light and Mastercook - at least as long as my 3-year-old is napping! I never did make it to the grocery store, so it looks like I'll be "cooking w/o a plan", but don't worry, I'm not apologizing!!

08-17-2000, 04:19 PM
S -- I think egg substitute would be fine in the quiche. I've heard that others use it with great success. (See the Healthy Living boards for further assurance).


08-18-2000, 10:41 AM
I use egg substitute all the time in cooking - I can never tell a difference.

With the cannelloni, you may want to serve a spinach salad - since it has a little in there, it would go together.

Here's an easy, really good spinach salad dressing recipe:

Parsley Dressing
½ Cup Sugar
½ Cup White Vinegar
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. Green Onion
1 Tsp. Worstershire
1 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley
1 Tsp. Yellow Mustard

Mix all ingredients well. Pour over spinach. Toss well just before serving. You could put any sort of toppings on there that get around your friends dislikes/allergies.

08-18-2000, 12:55 PM
Spinach salad would go great with the cannelloni. I am going to make that dinner Sunday night for myself.

One more question. I am a little fuzzy on how to prepare the quiche ahead of time. Should I go ahead and make it and let it sit out until they eat it? It may be a couple of hours. Should I bake it for 15 min and then let it sit in the fridge and let them cook it the rest of the way when they want to eat it?
Can I make it and put it in the fridge and then have them heat it up later? If so, how should they do this?
They will probably eat it a few hours after I leave.

I'm going to apologize here (Sorry guys from the other post)........
Sorry for my ignorance, thanks for the help.

08-22-2000, 09:59 AM
I just wanted to say that I made the cannelloni with spinach, goat cheese and walnuts last night. The sauce is delicious, and would taste good on angel hair. The cannelloni (actually I used manicotti shells) was delicious, also. I'll definitely make this again. I don't think I would make it on a weeknight again, though. But the preparation is worth it when you want a special meal.