Q. I will be cooking (alone) for about 15 people and would love some simple recipe suggestions that will be easy to execute, but also delicious. Main dishes, side dishes and dessert. – Lana, Greenville
A. This is a common challenge when entertaining in order to serve a nice dinner, but still be part of the social gathering. A big part of the planning process includes determining what can be done prior to the guests’ arrival to minimize what needs to be done while they are present. Entrees that can be par-cooked such as crusted chicken or salmon, roasted items like poultry or pork, and braised items that can hold for long periods of time in liquid like beef short ribs or sirloin tips are all good items. Side dishes that are quick to finish like roasted potatoes, rice pilaf or pasta bakes relieve some time pressure as well. One of our favorite items to make for dessert when entertaining is chocolate lava cake. It can be completely prepared ahead, but unbaked, and since it bakes in about 22 minutes it can be popped in the oven as the entrée is served and just about the time the main course is finished, the cakes are ready. Viola!