What to cook for Friends Dinner #20180326

If you’ve talked to me in the past two years or read any of my weekly menu plans, then you probably already know about Friends Dinner. It’s a weekly dinner rotation that I participate in with (currently 5) other families. We each take turns hosting and providing all the food (except for a few times a year when we decide to have a potluck) for a weekly dinner. It’s currently on Monday nights, and while it is a lot of work when it’s my night to host, for the five other nights I just show up, eat, and enjoy time with friends and their kids. It’s a wonderful thing. The stressful part is always coming up with something to cook. In massive quantities. Here’s a list of stuff I have either made or enjoyed, mostly so I can raid it later when I have no idea what to make.

Ground beef is on sale. Hooray! Make these things:

  • Sloppy Joes. Last week, when it was once again not my turn, we were served sloppy joes, oven baked fries, and veggies with dip. There was some spinach dip and King’s Hawaiian Bread as a bonus, with a jug of juice or wine for those who were interested. It was great! And tasty! And I didn’t have to cook or clean up!
  • Meatloaf. 4 batches are now required to feed the hoard. It’s great in crockpots (and other households are usually willing to lend a crockpot or other appliance when it’s not their turn to cook dinner), and sides like mashed potatoes, salad, or some steamed green beans round out the meal. Not sure you have enough food? I never am, so I grab a few loaves of crusty bread at the store.
  • Burgers. Especially if it’s nice outside and you can just go grill at a park. Grab some condiments, a few bags of chip, and cut up some fruit. BAM. Delicious. Hot dogs are also good with or instead of the burgers, or brats if you’re feeling fancy.
  • Meaty marinara and noodles. If you’re from Minnesota, you pretty much just say “make spaghetti” and everyone knows what you’re talking about. The noodles don’t even really have to be spaghetti noodles. No one ever calls you out. Serve it with some garlic bread, a few extra (cooked or raw) veggies, and if you’re fancy also make some kinda alfredo sauce, because options are wonderful. Are there people who don’t eat noodles for whatever reason? Just fry up some cabbage and spoon the sauce over that. It is SO good, and if you plan just a little the sauces can be made the day before and reheated. I only sometimes plan that much.
  • Lasagna. Same concept as above, but prep it the day before. Figure out how many pans are needed (I think we may be up to 4 pans of lasagna at this point), adding salad and garlic bread to stretch out the meal.
  • Meatball subs. Again, pretty much the same as the two previous items.
  • Tater tot hotdish. It’s well known here. It is wonderful. It is amazing. I have never made it myself, but I love it so so so so much when other households make it.
  • Tacos. With all the fixins. I’m extra happy when there’s a ton of chopped up lettuce because then I take all the ingredients and make myself a taco salad. If there are Doritos, I crush those up and add them to the salad too. Then I do a happy dance and eat 2-3 servings. Just make sure you have extra sliced up limes, and be prepared with some margarita mix. The very best part of tacos having tacos for this giant meal is that everyone gets to decide what their fixins will be, and any leftovers are easily made into breakfast burritos that you can throw in the freezer and enjoy anytime.
  • Chili. Just make sure you have some tortilla chips, shredded cheese, and sour cream. Also good: chili dogs, chili mac, chili cheese fries, chili topped baked potatoes.
  • Stuffed peppers, which I would are tasty in casserole form, in a crockpot, or in the oven. If you’re looking for a little variety, the same filling can be made into VERY tasty zucchini boats.
  • Swedish meatballs. Serve them with mashed potatoes or with noodles. If you also have some lingonberries, I will do happy dances. I’ll still do happy dances without them, but with lingonberries, there will definitely be at least two extended happy dances. Whatever veggies are fine.

Beef chuck is on sale? You’re such a baller. Make this stuff.

  • Pot roast. It is so flipping good, there are 10,000 recipes out there, and you can either throw it in a crockpot or make it the day before. It’s flexible, it’s wonderful, it’s probably in my top 10 dinners of all time. Serve it with whatever- mashed potatoes, rice, green beans, rolls, salad, or any other filler you want. Mac and cheese? Sure. Go for it. I would happily eat it.
  • Mississippi roast. See above, but this time with pepperoncini peppers. Yum!
  • Balsamic beef roast. Because it’s delicious. It’s not really different from the last two when it comes to sides. Just a different roast recipe that is also delicious.
  • Tacos, but this time fancier! This is also great with pork shoulder. Either way, do yourself a favor and cook it the day before, then just reheat the meat and put stuff out in bowls. Same concept as ground beef tacos described above, but about 10 times more wonderful. It doesn’t matter how much meat you have, there probably won’t be any leftover.
  • Beef stew. Just cube up the roast and throw a dart at a recipe. Just kidding, don’t throw any darts. Cook up the stew the day before or throw it in crockpots and let the magic happen while you’re at work. I highly recommend serving it with some extra rice to stretch it out. Salad and crusty bread are delightful sides.
  • Shredded beef sandwiches, but please please also cook up some peppers and onions, then top with some cheese. Or just add some BBQ sauce. It’s so frickin good. Same concept as sloppy joes or burgers above when it comes to sides. If you’re feeling super fancy, find out if the Loves will loan you their panini press. Spoiler: they 100% will loan you their panini press.
  • Sauerbraten because you’re fancy, but in a slow cooker because it’s helpful. No one has actually made this for Friends Dinner. I’m just wishing that someone would make this for Friends Dinner.
  • Korean (maybe) slow cooked beef. I don’t know if it’s actually Korean, but serve it with rice or mashed potatoes, cooked veggies, and be blown the heck away.

Chicken is on sale. Or it’s not, but it’s still relatively cheap. Go for it!

  • Make more tacos.  Preferably with chicken thighs. All the same fixings. I recommend grilling the chicken because it’s easy to get a lot done.
  • Stirfry! Serve it with some rice. Make a lot of veggies. Try adding some dumplings from Trader Joes then instantly regret deciding to make them for 6 households.
  • Make more pasta. Chicken alfredo FTW! All the same sides as “spaghetti” above.
  • Seriously, just grill it. This works beautifully with almost any kind of bone-in chicken. Serve it with some kinda salad, or on buns, or with chips. I don’t care. Maybe marinate it in Italian dressing first. Or throw it in a bag with onions, garlic, and seasonings. Or not. Or have some spinach artichoke dip from Costco or make it yourself. Or don’t, that’s cool too. Can you tell that I’m really ready for it to be grilling season?
  • Jerk chicken. I’ve never made it, but I should really try to get Robin to teach me how. I don’t care what the sides are. This is SO good.
  • Aunt Grace’s Chicken. She’s not my aunt, but she bakes bone-in chicken and rice with a few cans of Campbell’s cream-of-something-soup. She’s pretty great. Throw a salad on the side so that we can take a break from the richness between servings.
  • Chicken pot pie. Costoc sells a giant one that is delicious. You could also make your own (big, full-sized pie size) version with store-bought or homemade crust, OR make it in casserole form and put biscuits on top. Serve it with even more salad.
  • Chicken enchiladas. Just make sure to serve it with rice and beans, please. Thank you.
  • Just buy some fried chicken. You’re out of time, but you have a little extra cash. It’s tasty! Open some chips, put out some carrot sticks or fruit. If you have fruit on your countertops the kids will ask for it anyway, so may as well put it out. This is also great for taking to park when you don’t want to grill.

It’s been a month or two since we had breakfast for dinner. Mix and match this stuff:

  • Bacon. You’re a baller, and also everyone loves you. Bake it in the oven so you don’t go insane.
  • Pick one: pancakes, french toast, waffles. Toppings are good, but we’ll be just as happy with some maple syrup.
  • Fruit! Grapes, cantaloupe, strawberries, other berries, it’s all good stuff.
  • Whipped cream. The kids will love it, but they can’t be trusted with it. We can’t really be trusted with it either, but it is tasty to have around.
  • Hashbrowns. I make em cheesy. Preheat your oven to 375, melt 1 stick of butter and combine it with a cup of sour cream, 1 can of Campbell’s cream of cheddar soup (straight, not diluted), 2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese, and some seasoned salt and black pepper. Mix, mix, mix, then add 1 bag of frozen Ore Ida Southern Style Hashbrowns and bake it for about an hour until the top is golden. For Friends dinner, I always make a few double batches and bake them for more time (still til golden). PLEASE let it cool for 10 minutes before letting people dig in, this stuff stays hot.
  • Eggs. Scrambled are great! Over easy are great if you have a big electric griddle! Some kind of baked egg casserole is also awesome! I love eggs!
  • Biscuits and gravy. You’re a rockstar and everyone loves you. Want to know what’s also delicious? This same gravy over baked potatoes. Try it.
  • Breakfast Hash. There are a ton of recipes out there, but Chris makes my favorite hash of all time. Eat it with an over easy egg and hollandaise, your life will never be the same.

There are many other things you can make or buy, here are just a few:

  • Sandwiches. Seriously, I want someone to use the Love’s panini press. They will lend it. You can make meats, or just get some deli meats. Super tasty.
  • Pizzas! Homemade, Papa Murphy’s take-and-bake, and just as carry out from a chain. It’s all tasty stuff.

No one ever has room, but once in a while desserts are awesome.

  • Costco-made Key Lime Pie or Cheesecake. It’s always good.
  • Brownies. There are plenty of tasty box mixes.
  • Ice cream– mostly in sandwich form. Once in a blue moon, someone will do Sundaes with bananas, chocolate shell, and whatever other toppings they can come up with. Sundaes for 6 families is always ridiculous.
  • Rice Krispie Treats.  Ezra, the child who doesn’t like chocolate, with thank you. All the children will actually thank you. Many of the adults will too.
  • Cookies! Homemade or store bought. Always devoured.
  • Sugar cereal. It’s really a great dessert, especially since it confuses the little kids.

I’m sure that I am forgetting something awesome that someone made. I could probably update this every month, and still not end up covering all the good stuff my friends create. I’m thankful for the consistent time together more than anything else but delicious food is a very welcome bonus.


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