The key to faking the soup course is to avoid canned soup. Purchase a high-quality boxed soup (butternut squash is a great choice) instead. Then, garnish it with store-bought creme fraiche and a sprinkling of nutmeg or parsley.
A palate-cleanser is served between each course. Lime sorbet is a common choice because you can pick it up at any market. Just use a melon baller or small ice cream scoop to fill small glass dishes, and store them in the freezer until you need them.
Take the prep time out of the salad course by buying fresh, precut salad mix. For the dressing, use a high-quality brand or find your favorite mild vinaigrette recipe online; put all the ingredients into a jar and shake well just before serving.
You can serve any starch you'd like, but potatoes make this course easy. Just toss quartered red potatoes or fingerling potatoes in an herb-flavored creamy dressing or yogurt dip of your choice (a plastic storage bag works well for mixing). Place the potatoes in a single layer in a greased shallow baking dish or foil-lined pan and bake at 400 degrees F for 30 or 40 minutes, turning halfway through.
Often, the most time-consuming part of a five-course meal is the entree — it doesn't have to be. Let your favorite restaurant help. Just order a plain protein (steak, chicken, tuna, etc.) to go, then make your own elegant topper. Try a bleu cheese cream or marsala wine sauce.
Five-course meals traditionally finish with a warm, fruit-based dessert. Skip the frozen pie and call a local bakery. Ask them to prepare a pie or tart but without baking it so you can do it at home just before your meal. They do all the work; you take all the credit!
A five-course meal starts with light flavors, with each course getting a little bolder than the last. Often, each course is paired with a wine that brings out the unique flavors of each dish (though beers have found their way into this tradition, as well). Once you've settled on your menu, do a little online research to find out which wines (or beers) pair with the dishes you're making.
For more cooking tips, check out:
Super Moms guide to cleaning & cooking for the family
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