Weeknight Dinner Party Menu + Romaine Salad Cups

Now that we have 2 kids, I find that we are having people over even more, especially in the evening. We have cocktail hour outside with our guests while Ezra plays in his jammies, then we put both kids to bed and enjoy dinner with friends. The key, however, is having the food made in advance. This week we had a small weeknight dinner party for 4 people and I did an easy, make-ahead menu. To make a very simple menu seem more special, I did twist on the usual salad presentation, and doctored up some box brownies.

The fun part I thought was this "salad", in which I put toppings inside of Romaine leaves. You can really fill them with anything you might put in your usual salad, just chopped up smaller, and they look pretty out on a platter. 


Guests brought wine, which we had outside before dinner, along with a bowl of nuts (simple!).

  • Broccoli Lasagna

    • Sauté finely chopped broccoli and thin slices of red onion with garlic and olive oil. Layer the broccoli mixture with no-boil lasagna noodles, ricotta, and marinara. Shredded mozzarella on top. Bake at 375ºF for about 45 minutes. I prepped the lasagna ahead and popped it in the oven about an hour before we ate.

  • Romaine Salad Cups

    • Lay Romaine leaves out on a platter and fill with your favorite salad toppings. I used grated carrot, sliced bell pepper, diced red onion, feta crumbles and sunflower seeds. I made a simple dressing by mixing store-bought pesto in a jar with a splash of red wine vinegar, and a little more olive oil.

  • A nice baguette! (With butter, of course.)

  • Cashew Butter Brownies

    • For dessert, I made a box mixture of brownies according to package instructions. I poured the batter in a pie dish (a little prettier), then I placed dollops of cashew butter (you could use almond or peanut) and used a wooden skewer to swirl it around. I made this ahead and left it in the fridge until we sat down to dinner. Then I popped it in the oven to bake while we ate so it would be warm out of the oven for dessert.

Happy cooking and have a great weekend!