Every time my pals Doreen and Keith come to the mountains for a golf weekend, I offer to make Friday night dinner. More often than not, it is a combined effort where I bring some veggie sides and Keith grills his favorite dinner – chicken.

One weekend this past May – yes MAY – the temperature dropped into the thirties. Grilling on the back deck was not an option. Of course we still played golf (bundled up as if we were skiing) but we decided to cook dinner inside, at our house, instead of out on their back deck. Not wanting to miss out on any of the fun, I set a menu that I could make in advance. That way I am out of the kitchen, heading to the course in time to hit a few warm up balls.

After Golf Dinner with Best Pals

Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms
Bacon and Blue Cheese Bites

Chicken Milanese with Herb Salad and Lemon Vinaigrette
Chili Crusted Salmon with Pimento Cheese Grits
Baked Tomatoes

S’mores Cupcakes

The appys are made in advance and frozen until you are ready to bake them off, about fifteen minutes before the guests arrived. Vinaigrette is made several days in advance. In a food processor or blender combine shallots, lemon juice, white balsamic vinegar and a bit of Dijon mustard. Pour in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Delish!

I pound chicken breasts between plastic wrap to make sure that they cook quickly and evenly. Brush each side with mustard and dredge in bread crumbs. Sauté the chicken in olive oil and butter and place onto a baking sheet. You can do this a couple of hours in advance. Finish the dish in a 350° oven for about 10 minutes.

The salmon is easily prepared before your guests arrive. Squeeze lemon juice over a whole salmon filet. Sprinkle with spice rub. Mine combines brown sugar, chili powder, onion and garlic salts, ground cumin and paprika. You can prepare the salmon hours in advance then finish by baking in a 350° oven for about 20 minutes.

Ratatouille is a dish that combines veggies with fresh basil, tomatoes, and is topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. I sautéed onions, bell peppers, garlic, zucchini, yellow squash and eggplant. Stir in some crushed tomatoes and fresh basil. Pour everything into a casserole dish and top with cheese. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Finish the dish in a 350° oven until its hot and bubbly.

Have you noticed that everything is done before the guests arrive and that all of the dishes are finished in the oven at the same temperature? This, my friends and fellow foodies is my secret to being a relaxed hostess, one who sips her wine with her friends while dinner comes together. When it’s time to serve, everyone chips in and transfers food to waiting platters. We then sit down, toast our good fortune and enjoy the real reward for two days of playing golf in very chilly weather – just another (very yummy) chicken dinner.