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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

I've come up with a menu for that special date

Less than a week away is my son's girlfriend's graduation. We'll be hosting a dinner that evening for our family, my son's girlfriend and her parents, a total of 8 of us. I've decided on a menu. I took all of your comments and think I came up with something very doable for me.

It's high points:
  • much of it can be done ahead (like the roll dough, the potato salad, chopping the rhubarb and vegetables)
  • it uses some produce from our garden
  • it also uses a cut of meat which I got a good deal on at Cash & Carry
  • the menu is not too fussy
  • it contains no dairy
  • and it features some all-American foods, like pie and potato salad
Here it is:

Herb-crusted roast pork loin (Cash & Carry for $1.68/lb)
Potato salad (a very typical summer American food, and it's easy to make ahead)
Garden lettuce and spinach, garden strawberry, garden green onions, celery, toasted almond salad
Overnight dinner rolls
Casserole of summer vegetables (zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic -- these will have to come out of the grocery budget)
Watermelon pickles
Rhubarb and blackberry pie

I'll put out something snack-y, too, for before dinner.

I considered a barbecue, but our weather in the PNW can be so unpredictable in June. We're expecting more showers later this week, and that could bleed over into the weekend.

What do you all think? Any other suggestions or advice?


  1. The menu sounds great! My only suggesions are:
    1-serve apple sauce alongside the pork (a must have at our table)
    2-if looking to trim costs, while the vegetable casserole sounds pretty and delicious, a cheaper alternative would be something like honey carrots (carrots are usually pretty cheap), which could be done ahead.


    1. Good suggestions, Carol. My family does really enjoy honey-mustard glazed carrots, and I do have a lot of carrots on hand. I may add that or sub that, depending on what I find on Friday at the produce stand (I often find peppers and summer squash on deep markdown there, a reason for the particular medley I'd thought of).
      I thank you for your suggestions. We all have our blind spots, and mine is probably entertaining.

  2. I think your menu sounds delicious. I have a lot of pork roasts in my freezer and so I'm interested in the herb crust you put on yours. Are zucchini, peppers and tomatoes in season where you are at? If not, I agree a cheaper alternative would be better and I love the carrot idea. My family loves cooked carrots so that may indeed be a better option. I cut mine a special way so they even look appealing. Put the knife at 10 o'clock and cut the carrot, then rotate they carrot a quarter turn and cut again at 10 o'clock, keep doing this. You will have interesting chunks of carrots and bite sized also. I only put butter and brown sugar on them and the entire pan is eaten at dinner.


    1. Hi Alice,
      The herb crust is garden herbs -- finely chopped, rosemary, thyme, oregano, garlic and onion powder, combined with kosher salt and black pepper. I put a thick rub of this mixture all over the outside of the roast and allow to sit in the fridge for several hours, the roast. It makes fabulous drippings for a gravy to go with the roast.
      Thanks for the carrot suggestion. Cutting them nicely would make them "special".

  3. I think your menu sounds wonderful as well. As an introvert, I often times have difficulty figuring out what to say once my guests are here. Last Saturday, we had a visiting pastor and his wife over for dinner. We hadn't seen them in two years, so I thought of some questions to ask during dinner before they came. I started off with, "What has the Lord been doing in your life since we saw you last?" The conversation flowed easily from there and I didn't have to pull out my other questions. I'm not sure how well you know your son's girlfriend's parents, but maybe having some questions in your back pocket to jump start any lulls in the dinner conversation might be nice. Melissa

    1. Hi Melissa,
      Good idea, about conversation starters. Thank you! I, also, have trouble thinking on the spot with visitors. We've never met her parents, so only know a little bit about both. But my son's girlfriend is a lovely young lady, so her parents must be lovely, as well. I know it will all go fine, but I'm still a bit nervous.

    2. I find I get so involved in the preparations before a big meal with invited guests, that I often forget to pray. When I do remember, things always go so much better. Melissa P.S.--They're probably just as nervous as you are :)

    3. Thank you for the prayer reminder, Melissa. I'll remember that!

  4. Herb crusted sounds like a very different way of serving pork with spices not typical in China. I don't think potatoes are served too often, so the American version is a good one. I like the casserole of vegetables with garlic, will bring colors to the plate and complement the herbs on the roast, although honey carrots sound very delicious. Watermelon pickles will be interesting to serve, and provide the sweet sour. So is the pie. I don't think the Chinese use rhubarb or berries often. I think your menu is perfect for the evening, and much can be done ahead. Do her parents speak English? Maybe nonverbal cues become all the more important, but I'm sure hosting is something you do very well.

    Have a nice day!!


    1. Hi YHF,
      I don't think they use rhubarb, either. My son's GF had never had rhubarb pie before, when I made it for her the last time. This pie will be a bit of a twist on that last one, so also new to her.

      They speak very little English. Her mom just a tiny, tiny amount and her father not at all. It's interesting, because in the school system in China, English was/is taught to elementary school children. So my son's GF is very fluent in English (and she's been in the US for about 6 years). So much so, you would never guess it wasn't her first language. My son knows a little Mandarin, now. Angie will have to be our interpreter.

      Thanks, you have a nice day, too!

  5. The menu sounds very good, but I would not have 2 fruit pies. I would probably opt for a fruit pie and a plain cake or bar of some sort. That way if anyone does not like pie they still have something to end the meal.

    1. Hi Anne,
      It's actually one pie -- rhubarb-blackberry in a double crust. The rhubarb is from our garden and the blackberries are from the freezer from last summer's wild-blackberry picking. But you're right, two fruit pies would feel redundant, unless there was something very different about the two. Thanks for your input!

  6. Lili,
    Your dinner sounds lovely. It is very gracious of you to host the graduation dinner for Angie and her parents.The food sounds lovely and making it ahead sounds perfect. I have a funny story. We were hosting a student from China.
    My daughter thought it would be fun to share a room. She is an only child. When the girl arrived she refused to share a room with my daughter and demanded my room. I was so shocked that I let her have my room. I shared with my daughter she had bunk beds we had fun. :) I came down one morning and the girl was eating cereal with the cat sitting on the table drinking HER MILK OUT OF HER CEREAL BOWL.I had to laugh my cat did not get on the table but she had never had a pet and did not see the problem (eww)
    Culture is a funny thing and I explained in America and my house we will do it my way. That day She moved into Kristi's room She learned to eat what I made for Breakfast,Lunch and dinner and ate the things I planned for snacks or she could spend her own money and buy other things that she liked. I was single preschool teacher and
    did not have the money for her to just grab anything in the cupboards. The rest of the visit went better. She learned how our family did things and I think that was how it is suppose to be. She came from a wealthy family
    and was an only child with a 2 parent income. I said all that to say: You are a wonderful, organized,creative person that makes wonderful meals and runs a wonderful home. Your dinner will be amazing! Just be your wonderful
    self. It will give Angie's Mom and Dad a tiny peek into your life. I think it will be fun for all of you.
    Have a great day.

    1. Thank you for sharing that, Patti! Very, very funny! And so funny about the cat. eww, is right! You were right, the intent of staying with a host-family is to live as one of the family, and see how the hosts' life might be different from yours (the student's).
      Thank you for the vote of confidence.
      have a great day!

  7. Your menu sounds lovely, Lili! It's always a little scary to meet new folks, especially when they mean a lot to someone you already care about. I like all of the suggestions that others have made, and don't really have anything else to add. Except--will you have whipped cream to go with the pie? ;)

    1. Hi Laura,
      thank you. You're right, this matters more because these are potentially very important people in my son's future life (and ours, as well). I suppose that's why I'm fretting over every last detail. Thanks for your support!
      Probably no whipped cream. Does sound good, though!

  8. my understanding, from the Mandarin teacher, is that many Chinese are lactose intolerant, as dairy isn't in their normal diet. As much as I love whipped cream . .serve it on the side, in a separate dish for dinner guests to help themselves, or not. : )

    1. Hi Carol,
      Good thinking. I'm lactose intolerant, myself, so whipped cream on the side is an "always" thing for our house. I have often heard about lactose intolerance being more prevalent in other cultures. when coming up with a menu plan, ice cream came up as a suggestion for dessert. But then we thought again, and you just don't know about other's dietary restrictions.


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