Menu planning is next on my list of things to do.  My friends enjoy main course salads and I think Ina Garten’s Roasted Butternut Squash salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette, with a few additions, will work perfectly.  Because I want to make this a main course salad I’ll grill some chicken tenders, cut them in bite sized pieces and add this to the salad.  I marinate the chicken tenders for about 30 minutes using a packaged herb marinade that is available in most markets.  This gives the chicken extra flavor and keeps the tenders, which are much smaller than a typical chicken breast, moist.

I also want to add some apples (the apples can be sliced and will keep their color if you put them in ice water with a squeeze of lemon), and substitute candied pecans instead of the recipe’s walnuts.  The squash is perfect for fall and the dried cranberries make it very festive.  I will serve a warm baguette (cut into individual portions) and serve it with a crock of butter.

The salad and bread are filling and I’m preparing carrot cake for dessert so I will keep the menu simple.  The cake can be made the day before the lunch and the salad can be assembled the morning of.  This will make things easy.  I like to allow time to set up the beverage station and to put any finishing touches on the house.

I set the table Wednesday evening so I am ready for my guests.

To be continued…