My mom is THAT mom who puts bows around bath towels for guests, hosts baby/wedding showers for people she hardly knows just because she is known for throwing them so well and she always can find an excuse to host a dinner party.
When it comes to entertaining, let's just say I'm a work in progress. I jump at any opportunity to have people over to our house. I love planning the menus, setting the table and making sure the house looks perfect. However... I have NOT mastered the art of cooking dinner for large groups of people... this is where my story begins.
Jeff (my husband) comes from a big family. There are six kids and all of them are married or have a significant other. And they all live nearby. Well last week, Jeff and I decided to have a few of the siblings over for dinner on Friday night. Word spread and soon our small dinner party consisted of ALL the siblings, parents, and grandparents for a total of 16!
I was thrilled with the idea that everyone was coming over. I have the house all decorated for Christmas and again, love any chance to host. But one thing haunted me... what can I make for dinner to serve 16? I wouldn't normally be concerned about what meal to serve, but I don't have a good track record for making meals for Jeff's entire family.
Example 1: Last year around this same time, Jeff's whole family came to our house for Chicken Tetrazzini. It was my mom's recipe, and she swore that everyone would rave about it. The best thing about it? You don't even have to precook the chicken. You mix all the ingredients together, stick the casserole in the over and 40 minutes later you have a "ready to serve" meal. This was not true in my case, I followed every step of the recipe perfectly and put the dish in the oven. 40 minutes later, the dish was no where near being done. Then 1.5 hours into cooking, I started serving the tetrazzini thinking surely it was cooked. Nope. The chicken was still as raw as could be. After attempts to broil and microwave, the night resulted in me ordering Pizza Hut and crying on my brother-in-laws shoulder.
Example 2: This past summer, Jeff's family begged me to try the same dish again "because it looked so good". So, I attempted round 2 of the Chicken Tetrazzini. You better believe this time around I precooked the chicken. And again, I followed the recipe to a tee. The dish cooked thoroughly, so I was thrilled... until everyone took their first bite... I promise the recipe called for exact amount of cayenne pepper I added, but let's just say there was not a dry eye in the place. The dish was so spicy eyes were watering and everyone that night left with a severe case of heartburn. I think round 3 will be perfect. Pre cook the chicken and no cayenne pepper.
This leads me to Friday night... Baked Ziti. Another one of my mom's recipes that "everyone loves". I made the dish the night before, so I was well prepared. Then, while everyone was munching on appetizers, I put the ziti in the oven for 30 minutes, just like the recipe said. An hour and a half later, the ziti was still only luke warm in the middle, so my father-in-law and I spent the next few minutes microwaving each serving of ziti individually. Meanwhile, the Pioneer Woman's "The Bread" that I was too busy to keep an eye on, was rapidly becoming charcoal... to the point that moments later the fire alarm was going off.
Thanks to boxed brownies and ice cream the meal wasn't a complete failure. I don't doubt that the recipes are delish. I just have to muster enough confidence to attempt round 2.
Bake: 350 Degrees
6 Uncooked, boneless, skinless breast halves
(or chicken strips) cut into large bite-sized pieces
8 oz. angel hair spaghetti – break into 1” pieces before cooking; cook; drain
Combine: ½ c melted butter
2 – 10 oz cream of chicken soup
1¼ c sour cream
1 jar button mushrooms (drained)
¾ c chicken broth
Pour over cooked spaghetti – mix well
Add: 1 tsp cayenne pepper – mix
Uncooked chicken – mix
Pour into greased 9x13 baking dish
May be made 2 days ahead and refrigerated.
When ready to bake, sprinkle Pepperidge Farm dressing over the top. (I like to add in about a cup of fresh parmesan cheese with the dressing mix and make sure that the dressing mix is really crushed)
Melt ¼ c butter – pour over crumbs. Bake.
1 lb. Ziti Pasta
1/2 lb. Bob Evans Italian Sausage
1/2 lb. Ground Beef
1 Onion, Chopped
52 oz. Newman's Own Sockarooni Sauce
8 oz. Provolone Cheese, Sliced
1 1/2 cup Sour Cream
8 oz. Mozzarella Cheese, Sliced
2 tbsp. Parmesan Cheese, Grated