Dinner with Friends

The hubby and I love to host friends for dinner! We love bringing friends together, spending time with them over a delicious meal and having great conversations. In addition, I absolutely love the planning, the prepping, the cooking, etc. I can spend hours looking over recipes deciding just the right thing to make for the group we are having over. The only part of hosting I don’t like is the clean-up! 🙂 Thankfully, the Mr. is good at taking charge and getting it going. I will totally admit it…I am a messy cooker!

Due to our schedules these last few months, we have not had friends over in what feels like FOREVER! Thankfully, on Tuesday night, we changed that! We had our good friends Becca and Cam over. Man, did it feel good to finally host again! It was such a nice, relaxing evening! Good food (if I am allowed to say that) and even better conversation! As they are expecting a little one very soon, this may be the last time it is just the four of us 🙂

As the weather has definitely turned to fall here in Seattle (possibly even winter), I have really been wanting to make soup. So, I knew right away when thinking of something to make that the meal would include soup. And, what goes better with soup than a grilled cheese sandwich? In addition, I also have these awesome dishes we got for a wedding gift that are soup and sandwich plates from Crate & Barrel. I had been dying to use them (as well as my Panini press)  🙂

So after searching for soup and grilled cheese recipes, I decided on Tomato, Basil & Cheddar Soup and Crispy Prosciutto Caprese Panini’s (found in a Williams-Sonoma Catalog). Man, were they amazing. Both recipes were easy to make and tasted delicious!

While I finished prepping dinner, I started by serving prosciutto, Boursin Garlic & Herb Cheese Spread, rosemary crackers and olives (I can’t remember exactly what they are called…but Becca & I love them)! Boursin cheese is my fall back starter…so good and so easy to put on a cheese plate!

Tomato, Basil, and Cheddar Soup (makes 6 servings) – found on More Fruit Please (link above)

  • 2 28-oz. cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cups of vegetable broth (I didn’t have so used chicken and it worked just fine)
  • 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup basil, chopped, loosely packed
  • 2 tsp of oregano
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Over medium heat, add the olive oil to a large pot. Add the chopped onion and allow to cook until tender, about three to four minutes. Add in chopped garlic and cook for an additional two minutes. Pour in the two cans of tomatoes (juice and all) and the vegetable stock. Stir in the basil, oregano, sugar, and salt and pepper. Place the lid back onto the pot and allow to simmer ten minutes. At the end, stir in the Greek yogurt and cheddar cheese until well blended. Use either an immersion blender or food processor to puree the soup if you prefer a smooth texture. Garnish with chopped basil and grated cheddar cheese if desired.

Crispy Prosciutto Caprese Panini (makes 4-6 servings – slightly adjusted) – found in Williams-Sonoma Catalog

  • 3/4 oz. fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 8 slices sweet batard, cut on 1/2″ thick (I couldn’t find so just bought a loaf with crusty edges
  • 8 oz fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 8 thin slices prosciutto
  • 1 large heirloom tomato, cut into 8 slices, each 1/2″ thick

Directions: In food processor, combine basil and 1/2 cup oil; blend until almost smooth. Set aside. Preheat electric Panini press to medium. Brush one side of each bread slice with plain olive oil. Lay slices, oiled side down, on work surface; brush top side of each slice with basil oil. Layer cheese evenly on 4 bread slices. Place prosciutto slice on each cheese-topped bread slice; top with 2 tomato slices. Top each with one of remaining bread slices, plain olive oil side up. Place a sandwich or two on Panini press; close lid. Cook until bread is crisp and cheese is melted, about four minutes. Repeat to cook remaining sandwiches.

Shaved Fennel Salad (makes 4-6 servings – slightly adjusted) – found in Super Natural Every Day Cookbook)

  • 1 medium-large zucchini, sliced into paper-thin coins
  • 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and shaved paper-thin
  • 1/4 cup dill
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea Salt
  • 4-5 generous handfuls arugula
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese

Directions: Combine the zucchini, fennel and dill in a bowl and toss with lemon juice, olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside and let marinate for 20 minutes to an hour. When ready to serve the salad, put the arugula in a large bowl. Scoop all of the zucchini and fennel onto the arugula, and pour most of the lemon juice dressing on top. Toss gently but thoroughly. Taste and adjust with more of the dressing if needed. Serve topped with shaved parmesan cheese.

Note: original recipe called for feta and pine nuts – will probably try that next time! Also, I had no idea how to shave the fennel. What finally worked best for me was a potato peeler 🙂

Hope you enjoyed these recipes. I highly recommend giving at least one of them a try! I was so happy with how they turned out. The pup is driving me crazy, he is dying for some activity. Time to wander down to the village and get him outside while we have a little bit of sun. Was a big week of cooking so hopefully I will be back later to share a few more recipes 🙂 Have a great Saturday!


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