Tuesday, March 24, 2015

An Easy Dinner Menu - Perfect for Company

Mysterious Visitors

On Friday I was visited by a swarm of about 50 loudly buzzing bees, who seemed to be doing everything in their power to come in through our (fortunately intact) kitchen window screen.  Their visit was so dramatic and brief, I described it in my post, A Mysterious Visit By Bees.  What I didn't mention in that post is that I was cooking with honey in my kitchen when the bees appeared.

Trying a new recipe isn't so risky, when you trust the source!

Some friends were coming over for dinner that evening.  Like I often do, I was taking a risk and preparing a recipe I had not tried before for my guests.
Pam Anderson's Shove-it-in-the-Oven Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Almonds recipe looked marvelous to me, so I had decided I would try it. 

I've written about other Pam Anderson's recipes before - on September 22, 2014 and October 1, 2014I found this recipe on Pam's website, but I also highly recommend her cookbook, Perfect One-Dish Dinners: All You Need for Easy Get-Togethers. I purchased it after a friend served us a delicious meal made completely from this cookbook, and I've made a number of really yummy things from it as well!  Click here for details, pricing and reviews:


In the first step of the Chicken Tagine recipe, honey, cinnamon sticks, apricots and water are boiled together to make a glaze. 

Is this what attracted the bees?

The bees showed up just about the same time I noticed the intoxicating aroma of the simmering honey, fruit and spices. It took me a minute to put it together, but then I wondered if it had been the scent of my cooking wafting through the open window that had summoned the bees? 

I noticed that some of the bees disappeared when I began to chop up an onion (that was strong enough to make me cry) on a cutting board just under the open window. Perhaps the onion odor made the fragrance emitting from my house less appealing?  Shortly after I finished boiling the glaze, and removed it from the stove top, the bees were all gone.

It could have been that these bees were on the move - swarming and looking for a new hive, as was suggested in some of the comments on my post last week. Somehow though, even if that was the case, I think it was the scent of my cooking that drew them to my window.

Perfect Appetizer

Part of the fun of entertaining is planning a menu.  I like to have an appetizer ready for when guests arrive. I thought the asparagus tart recipe I found at HipFoodieMom.com would be a nice way to start the meal, although I had never made this recipe before either.  I substituted  fontina cheese instead of gruyere - and it was delicious!

A lovely, easy menu for company

Although this recipe is quick to make, the flavors in Pam Anderson's recipe for Chicken Tagine are complex, and it is a very “company worthy” meal.  This North African dish is typically prepared in a special earthenware pot, but Pam's version can be made in a roasting pan. I prepared it in a ceramic casserole dish, nice enough to serve from at the table.

To round out the meal, I provided tri-color pearled couscous, lightly steamed snap peas, and a coarse bread with the Chicken Tagine.  A dry Riesling seemed to pair quite nicely with it.

Frozen Mocha Cheesecake

When I entertain, I always offer dessert!  Coffee and a frozen mocha cheesecake was just the right way to end this meal.  I will publish that practically foolproof recipe on this blog tomorrow.

Had the bees actually found their way into my kitchen, preparing this meal might have become difficult. Fortunately, they did not - and I was completely ready when our invited guests arrived.

Do you have a favorite meal you make for company?

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  1. Yummm . . . I hate to admit it, expecially after reading (and drooling) over this, but my favourite go-to meal for company is chili. Eaten with nacho chips. Sigh.

    1. Our company gets chili a lot as well, Diane!! We make a southwest version with pinto beans - and we usually serve it with grated cheddar and “Frito Scoops” !

  2. I am more traditional I guess but then again I don't cook for a lot of company like you do. I like to grill (that way hubby does most of the work!) or I do big holidays but that is about it. I like to cook sometimes but I just am not very good at it any more. Trying to get everything done at once stresses me out!

    1. That is the beauty of this chicken dish Rena - it can all be done ahead. Put the roasting pan in the oven when company gets there - and then just stir in the apricot glaze and cilantro before serving. The dessert recipe I am posting can be done earlier in the week and just taken out of the freezer a short while before you eat it.

  3. I am having trouble leaving a comment today but I usually fire up the grill when we have company which isn't often or I am on holiday duty. Ham's and turkeys.

    1. Both your comments did show up Rena. My husband grills a lot too. I have to admit - I think the honey glazed spiral cut hams from Costco are much better than any ham that I can cook! Maybe you would share your secrets for a good ham with me? :)

  4. Yum.
    Company usually gets Indian food. A chicken dish, a beef dish and at least one vegetable dish.
    We get the left-overs, which keeps us happy for days.

    1. I love Indian food - and we unfortunately don't have an Indian restaurant anywhere close!

  5. So weird that the bees swarmed your window - glad they couldn't get in! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe - it looks so good and I will definitely be giving it a try!

  6. I was glad the bees couldn't get in too Lana ... it was odd, especially since there is nothing blooming here yet!


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