I made this menu last Saturday night for some friends and some long-lost family (another story). It was slightly laborious considering I'd had the flu all week, but since it was a tried and true menu it ended up being easier to make than finding something new and more casual. It's nice to have a menu down pat. The key is trying it out on different people :)
Butter Lettuce Salad with Cucumbers, Radishes and Yellow Peppers; Herb Vinaigrette
Winter Squash Soup with Minced Apple garnish; baguette
Fennel Crusted Roast Pork, individual Potato Fennel Gratins, Sauteed Haricots Verts
Lemon Yogurt Cake, homemade Whipped Cream, fresh berries
I really love this meal and I love how much I can make ahead. This makes for a calm and relaxed hostess :) Here is what you can prepare ahead of time: lemon cake, whipped cream, potato fennel gratin, spice mix for pork, herb vinaigrette, squash soup, minced apple garnish. My mother-in-law sent me individual bakers from Paris so I used the occasion to use them--they are perfect for gratins. However, previous to owning such these little bakers, I used a Pyrex 9x12 glass dish and it worked perfectly too.
P.S. this is the menu I've had on my blog (right-hand column) for months so perhaps its old news. I'm posting about it anyway in case it somehow escaped your view. It's too good to not share...again. Thank heavens for the Barefoot Contessa and Epicurious.