For an entree, I was feeling like fresh spring vegetables, and about pasta, and about cheese sauce (which would preclude meat for Monica. So, inspired by a long-ago entry from izzylobo, I served this:
1 12-oz. package florentine fettucine (a mixture of spinach and spinach-less fettucine)
2 tbsp. oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tbsp. minced garlic (people less enthusiastic about garlic might use one or two cloves)
1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and chopped (Giant Eagle gave us really good asparagus--it was really tender and tasty)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 16-oz. jar alfredo sauce (I used Ragu Light Parmesan Alfredo.)
1/2 tsp. italian seasoning
2 Italian plum tomatoes, chopped
1. Heat the oil over medium heat until hot. Add the onion and cook until translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Stir in the asparagus and cook for about a minute, then stir in the bell pepper and cook until the asparagus and the pepper are crisp-tender (probably about 4 minutes, though I didn't time it). Stir in the alfredo sauce and Italian seasoning and heat through.
2. Meanwhile, cook the fettucine following the package directions.
3. Stir the tomatoes into the sauce and serve hot.
Serves 6 fairly generously.
If I were to make this again, I'd add a bit of salt and black pepper; I put some on my own serving, which woke up the flavors nicely.
I noticed that Dani didn't take much and didn't eat much of what he ate; I hope that it wasn't put off by the flavor.
We had been hoping that Deanna would join us, and we'd been planning to make trifle for dessert, because we knew it was a favorite of hers. But we found ourselves short of both Deanna and preparation time. So I persuaded Lori to let me try a wacky mix of high-class and low-class that I'd been pondering for months or years:
1 box of 10 Twinkies
1 package Jell-o instant pudding (we used sugar-free cheesecake flavor)
Milk as called for by the pudding recipe
Fruit (we used about 2/3 of a 1-pound container of strawberries, and about 2/3 of a 1-pint container of blackberries)
Whipped cream (we used a spray can)
1. Mix up the instant pudding and chill for 5 minutes according to package directions.
2. cut the Twinkies into thirds, so that the pieces are more or less cubical.
3. Using half the twinkie pieces, make a layer of Twinkie pieces on the bottom of a square-sided bowl.
4. Spread half the pudding over the Twinkie pieces.
5. Top with a layer of fruit.
6. Repeat to add another layer of Twinkies, pudding, and fruit.
7. Top with whipped cream.
Serves 6-8. (We served 5 generously, and had generous leftovers for me and Lori the next day.)
If I were going to do this again, I would use our glass trifle dish, and I would carefully arrange the Twinkie pieces on their side, so that the cut sides would be against the sides of the bowl and the creme filling at the center would clearly reveal the Twinkie-ness. I would also sprinkle the Twinkies with a few tablespoons of Grand Marnier or other liqueur and top them with apricot preserves, as in a typical trifle--I meant to do that for this one, but I forgot.
This really worked extremely well. The Twinkies actually stood up a bit better than our typical scratch-made sponge cake (though leaving out the liqueur may have contributed), and this provided a nice contrast of textures. I would cheerfully make and eat this again, and not just when I was trying to do weird culinary tricks.