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Knock their socks off with a family-friendly menu

By on August 21, 2008

photo by Allerina and Glen MacLarty
If you’re frugal, you’re probably used to streamlining your menu plan. Maybe you make an incredible roast when company comes over, but what about when you want to break away from the expected? The following menu can make a family gathering special without being a repeat of your holiday meals. While this meal plan isn’t the cheapest, it’s much cheaper than everyone dining out. It’s perfect for a family gathering because it’s elegant but still casual. No one is going to excuse themselves and try to leave early. And too bad for anyone who arrives late.


1 French baguette
6 plum tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup fresh basil, stems removed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups fresh mozzarella, sliced or shredded

Preheat oven to broiler setting. Slice the baguette into sections. In a large bowl, combine both types of tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, basil, salt and pepper. Set aside for 15 minutes. On a baking sheet, evenly arrange the baguette slices. Lightly brush slices with olive oil. Broil for 2 minutes, until brown. Spread the tomato mixture evenly over the baguette slices. Top the bread slices with mozzarella. Broil until cheese melts.

Stuffed Mushrooms

20 to 24 large mushrooms
1 pound ground sausage, browned
2 teaspoons Parmesan
6 tablespoons seasoned breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
3 teaspoons onions, chopped
1 cup cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 425 F. Clean mushrooms and remove stems. Set aside caps and chop stems. In a bowl, add browned sausage, Parmesan, breadcrumbs, parsley, salt and pepper. Melt butter in a skillet and add onions, and cook until tender. Add onions to sausage mixture. Stuff mushroom caps and sprinkle on cheddar cheese. Cook in oven for 8 to 10 minutes on a nonstick pan.

Perfect Pesto and Pasta

2 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 black peppercorns
1 cup firmly packed fresh or frozen spinach leaves, stems discarded (wash and pat dry)
1 cup firmly packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup cashews, toasted lightly and cooled, or substitute with pine nuts or walnuts
1/2 cup fresh, grated Parmesan cheese
zest of 1 lemon
1 pound linguine or penne pasta, or your favorite, cooked according to package directions

Mince garlic. Using a mortar and pestle, mash garlic, salt and peppercorns to form a paste. In a food processor, puree spinach with basil, oil, wine, cashews, Parmesan, lemon zest and mashed garlic paste. Toss with pasta. Serve pasta as a side with chicken or steak or as a main dish.

Roasted Broccoli

2 heads broccoli, cut into florets
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 fresh lemon

Preheat the oven to 400 F. In a large bowl, toss broccoli florets with the extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt, pepper and garlic. Spread the broccoli evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until tender. Remove from oven and cut lemon in half. Squeeze lemon juice over broccoli to desired taste. Place in serving dish. Serve. Optional: Serve with sliced lemon, so each person can control their own lemon flavor.

Frozen Yogurt Pie

2 (8 ounce) containers vanilla or strawberry yogurt
1 (8 ounce) tub whipped topping, thawed
2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
1 (9-inch) graham-cracker crust

Fold yogurt into whipped topping. Combine well. Fold in strawberries. Spoon into crust. Freeze for 4 hours. Garnish with additional whole strawberries if desired. Let stand at room temperature 10 minutes before serving. Store leftover pie in freezer. Options: Try various fresh fruit and yogurt. — Moor, Ohio

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