Julie Van Rosendaal's tasty TV dinners please any couch crowd

Here are tasty ways to feed a crowd — and get them involved in assembling dinner.

Dispense with the aluminium tray meals and create something convenient and delicious

Pork sliders are hand-sized hits for coffee table eating. Here are a few ideas for creative TV dinners on busy nights. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

TV dinners no longer consist exclusively of meat and gravy, veggies and a dessert, all frozen in a sectioned aluminum tray.

Most any one-dish meal you can eat with just a fork — baked pasta, curries, noodles, stew — makes an ideal dinner to eat in front of the television.

But if it's more of a social occasion and you have a few extra people on the couch, here are a few flavourful recipes to feed your crowd — and maybe even get them involved in their own dinner assembly.

Pan sliders

Start with a package of those soft dinner buns that are stuck together.

Slice it open crosswise and treat it like a giant sandwich.

Fill it with cooked ground beef, roasted chicken or turkey, scrambled eggs or bacon. Use caramelized onions and cheese to hold it all together.

Bake it in the oven and pull apart to eat.


Canola or olive oil, for cooking

1 lb ground beef

Barbecue sauce to taste

1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 package of tray buns

Mayonnaise (optional)

Handful or two of grated aged cheddar or Gouda


Preheat the oven to 350 F/177 C.

Drizzle some oil into a skillet set over medium-high heat.

Cook the beef, breaking it up with a spoon until it's no longer pink.

Add enough barbecue sauce to moisten it — or more if you love it saucy.

In a separate skillet (or in the same one if you move the meat to a bowl), cook the onion in another drizzle of oil until golden.

Slice the whole sheet of dinner buns crosswise, opening it up like a book.

Slice the buns so they open like a book. That will save time when filling and baking. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

On the cut buns, spread mayonnaise (or mustard, if that works with your filling) and spread with the meat mixture and onion. Then sprinkle with cheese.

Put the top of the buns on top and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until warmed through and the cheese has melted.

Serve immediately.

Serving: Feeds nine to 12.

Braised pork carnitas

Carnitas, or "little meats," traditionally are made with braised pork and oranges.

You could use the same technique with beef. Perhaps toss in chili powder, salt and pepper. Brown, then braise with a cup or so of beer or stock.

Traditionally, carnitas are cooked with oranges. A couple mandarins are perfect; there are always a few squishy ones in the box.


Canola or olive oil, for cooking

1 two to four lb pork shoulder, untied

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 to 2 onions, halved and thinly sliced

2 to 3 garlic cloves, crushed

Beer or chicken stock

2 to 3 mandarin oranges

Small handful of cilantro (optional)


Preheat the oven to 300˚F/149 C.

Set a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add a drizzle of oil.

Brown the meat on all sides, seasoning it with salt and pepper. Let it sit to develop a nice crust on each side.

Transfer to a plate and add the onions to the pot.

Cook for a few minutes, loosening up any browned bits in the bottom of the pan.

Stir in the garlic.

Set the pork on top of the onions and pour in enough beer or stock to come about halfway up the side.

Tuck in a few halved mandarin oranges, squeezing some of their juice over the meat first, if you like.

Toss in a handful of cilantro (or not).

The toppings for pork carnitas can be adjusted depending on what pleases your crowd at home. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Cover and cook for three to five hours or until the meat is very tender.

If you like, remove it from the oven and prod the meat a bit or flip it over halfway through.

Spoon off any excess fat. If you like, cool and refrigerate, then lift off the excess fat before reheating.

Shred with forks. Toss with juices and broken-down onions and oranges. Add more salt if it needs it.

To crisp the meat, spread the shredded meat out into a pan and put it into a hot oven at 400 F/204 C or so. Or put it under the broiler for a few minutes to give it crispy edges.

Serve with small corn or flour tortillas with purple onion, crumbled feta, avocado and cilantro — or whatever you like.

Serving: Lots.

Hoisin pork lettuce wraps

These don't have to be pork. Ground turkey or beef also work well.

You can even try roughly chopped shrimp or veggies, such as sweet potatoes, rutabaga or Brussels sprouts. Chop and roast or cook right in the skillet.


Canola or vegetable oil, for cooking

Sesame oil, for cooking

1 red pepper, seeded and diced

1 lb ground pork

2 tbsp soy sauce, or to taste

Small handful of cilantro, chopped (optional)

Few green onions chopped

1/3 cup hoisin sauce, or to taste

Chopped peanuts, for serving

Small red or green leaf or butter lettuce leaves, for serving


Set a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a drizzle of canola and sesame oil.

Sauté the pepper for a few minutes until it starts to soften.

Add the pork and cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon until it's no longer pink.

Add soy sauce, cilantro and onions to the pan.

Lettuce wraps let your guests get involved in making their own dinners. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Break everything up and stir to combine until it's cooked and excess moisture has cooked off.

Add the hoisin sauce and stir to heat through.

Serve the pork mixture in a bowl.

Top with peanuts. Use lettuce leaves to wrap, roll and eat.

If you like, serve extra cilantro and peanuts alongside for people to add to their lettuce wraps.

Serving: Four to six.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener


Julie Van Rosendaal

Calgary Eyeopener's food guide

Julie Van Rosendaal talks about food trends, recipes and cooking tips on the Calgary Eyeopener every Tuesday at 8:20 a.m. MT. The best-selling cookbook author is a contributing food editor for the Globe and Mail, and writes for other publications across Canada.