The Lexingtonienne



A long, long time ago… in a galaxy far, far away… I had a normal, adult job. I got up every Monday through Friday morning and showered for it. And then I drove to work all alone in my quiet car while I soaked up all the important news on NPR.

Now I have a mom job. I report to work every day. (In the words of Violet, the Dowager Countess, “What is a weekend?”) Some days I get a chance to shower (hooray!), and I catch bits of what’s happening on The Outside by straining to hear the Today Show over a discordant orchestra of 18 different “educational” toys that are all making noise at the same time.

Last month, my two galaxies collided when my former bosses, Aaron & Gretchen (pictured here at our wedding four years ago – look how wellested I look!)…

Wedding with A&G

Photo by Jonathan Adams

… wanted to come meet my new boss (I believe you’re familiar, but just in case):

13 months

The plan was that they’d come over around 6 pm, hang out with Eleanora for a bit, and then she would go to bed and the adults would have dinner. I was super excited about this – what a great, easy plan! – until I realized something. After a few minutes of visiting, Mike would head upstairs to give Eleanora a bath and put her to bed – a process that would take at least 30 minutes – leaving me downstairs to play hostess all by myself while also trying to prepare dinner.

It would be shabby to leave my guests sitting in the living room alone while Mike and I were both occupied, so I had to come up with a menu that could be prepared mostly in advance. This way I would be free to visit with my guests. Also, the meal needed to be appropriate for dinner in January — you know, no salad with chicken on it or cold sandwiches. Here’s what I came up with.

We started with a small antipasto tray – olives, pickled vegetables, peppers, parmesan crisps, some nut mix, and cornichons (all purchases from Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s) – and glasses of prosecco.

antipasto tray

Have I told you by the way that Eleanora LOVES cornichons? They’re these teeny little pickles that are SUPER sour. They give her chills, that’s how sour they are… and she eats them right up.

13 months

13 months

After the pickle lover had gone to bed, we served the first course: a Brussels sprout salad with dried fruits, Marcona almonds, and Manchego cheese in a champagne honey mustard vinaigrette. (Recipe in this post.) This salad is pretty amazing, y’all, even Brussels sprout doubters will agree. Aaron and Gretchen said it was the best salad they’d had in a very long time. (I heard this compliment as “best salad EVER!!!” but Hubba Bubba reminded me they said it was the best “in a long, long time.” Thank goodness for his accuracy.)

brussels sprout salad

As we cleaned up from the salad course – a small job since we all devoured every bite – I turned on the toaster oven, where I had earlier placed baguette slices spread with butter and sprinkled with garlic powder – and in a few minutes, hot garlic bread was ready. From a simmering pot on the stove, I ladled white bean chicken chili that I made earlier that day into soup bowls, and dinner was served with “fixins” of sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, and sliced scallions for each guest to dress as desired.


When we sat down for the chili course, I set the oven to preheat. By the time we were finished with our chili, the oven was hot. Earlier in the day I had made up a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough – just the classic Tollhouse recipe, nothing fancy. Then I put the dough into Tupperware in the fridge. After dinner, I scooped the dough onto a cookie sheet, and about 15 minutes later we were eating fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven.

chocolate chip cookies

I’m not saying this was some kind of perfect menu. It certainly wasn’t fancy. But I loved it, and it allowed me to visit with my guests and not be in the kitchen cooking. And since I did so much in advance, clean-up at the end of the night was also minimal. If you’re looking for an easy dinner party menu, I recommend it. And even if you’re not having your bosses over anytime soon, promise me you will at least try this Brussels sprout salad.

Antipasto tray
Brussels sprout salad with champagne honey mustard vinaigrette (pdf)
White bean chicken chili (pdf)
Garlic bread
Fresh baked chocolate chip cookies (recipe on the Tollhouse chocolate chip bag)
Prosecco, chardonnay, pinot noir, and sparkling water

Serves 4 for a first-course or side salad

brussels sprout salad

  • 2-3 pounds Brussels sprouts
  • 1/4 C roasted, salted Marcona almonds (regular almonds will also work)
  • 2 T dried cranberries
  • 2 T dried blueberries
  • Shaved or very thinly sliced Manchego cheese to taste

Have prepared:

  • a large pot of boiling water on the stove
  • a large bowl of ice water

Peel the leaves from the Brussels sprouts and discard the cores (or save them and sauté them with butter the next day). Blanch the leaves by dipping them in the boiling water until they turn bright green. This step is VERY quick – only a few seconds. Quickly remove the leaves from the boiling water and plunge them into the bowl of ice water to arrest the cooking process. You want the leaves to be brightly colored and al dente. Drain the leaves and dry them well; several turns in a salad spinner will do it. You can do this step in advance and keep the leaves in a bowl or plastic bag in the fridge until ready to use.

In a large bowl, toss together the Brussels sprout leaves, almonds, cranberries, and blueberries. Toss with vinaigrette (recipe below). Plate, and top each serving with a few shavings or thin slices of Manchego cheese.


  • 3 T champagne vinegar
  • 1 T red wine vinegar
  • 1 T + honey
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 3/4 C olive oil

Combine all ingredients and emulsify (i.e. shake it up real good) in a blender or cruet. This recipe makes more dressing than you need, so you will have plenty left over to do it again!



  • Comment by Amy — February 17, 2012 @ 8:43 pm


  • Comment by Bonnie — February 19, 2012 @ 5:52 pm

    I’m going to try this, promise. I think the reason I loved the first brussels sprouts receipt was because of all the butter. haha

  • Comment by Elizabeth — March 2, 2012 @ 12:05 pm

    You are amazing, Hannah. Seriously, can you come over and teach me how you do these things?!

  • Comment by Elizabeth — March 2, 2012 @ 12:06 pm

    You are amazing, Hannah. Seriously, can you come over and teach me how to do these things?

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