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As much as we all like to think our relationships with other people are meaningful and sacred, most of us probably have a few friends who make us grimace when we see their number pop up on our phone. It’s more effort than it should be to hang out with them, and sometimes expending all that energy just to keep a conversation going is not worth it. But if we don’t spend some time with those friends, we risk losing connections to a past we aren’t quite ready to let go- and sometimes, those friends are the only ones who’ll come through for you when you need a ride to the airport.

Luckily, a group of my old college friends and I worked up the courage to vocally express this conundrum to each other. We recognized that we want to stay connected but we also admitted that we’ve all avoided each other’s calls a few times. So, we formulated a plan that satisfies the basic friendship requirement of spending time together while also avoiding the clumsiness that comes with trying to relive dorm life. The result: Monday Night Dinners.

MND works like this: every Monday night at 7:30pm, we all gather at one person’s house. Each of us is armed with our own prepared dish to share. It’s basically a crapshoot potluck- sometimes we end up with six dozen cupcakes and sometimes we have a fulfilling meal. Then we decide if we want to watch a movie or play a board game or something else that requires little effort. The beauty of MND is this: it’s on a Monday night. Everyone has some Tuesday morning obligation, so there’s no guilt when one of us stands up around 9 or 10pm and says, “Well, it’s about that time.” And with no pressure to force conversation, it actually flows nicely and is quite amiable and we all remember why we’re friends in the first place.

Here’s the thing: unless you prepare something on Sunday night (or stop by the deli on your way), there’s not much time between leaving work and MND to whip up something splendid. Until now, that is. After weeks of messing around with various ingredients and recipes, I’ve finally created a dish that can be ready in under half an hour and tastes expensively time prohibiting. If you don’t have the equivalent of a Monday Night Dinner, you can take this to your next lame work function or family get-together.

Ingredients:

1 package of sheet dough
Pint of cherry tomatoes, halved (the long way)
Log of goat cheese (butterkäse works too, if you don’t like goat cheese)
Pint of fresh strawberries, sliced
Fresh orange wedges
Olive oil
Butter
Salt and pepper

-Preheat oven to 350° F.
-Toss tomato halves with enough olive oil to coat them, and add salt and pepper to taste (don’t add too much salt, or you risk drying out the tomatoes).
-Spread tomatoes on aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and bake 10 minutes.
-Meanwhile, cut the dough into 8 squares and lay them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. {Sidenote: People seem less impressed if they know you used pre-made dough. Just so you know.} Brush squares with a light coat of melted butter.
-Take tomatoes out of the oven and turn it up to 400° F. Squeeze orange wedges over the tomatoes, just enough to get a hint of flavor on them.
-Divide the tomatoes evenly on each of the dough squares.
-Crumble the cheese on top of the squares. How much you use depends on your taste preferences.
-Bake for 15 minutes, or until the dough edges are golden.
-Let cool for a few minutes and put strawberry slices on top, in whatever artsy way you desire.
-Pack away and go. Serves 8.

As long as they’re warm by the time you get to your destination, you’ll be good to go. Have a beer, play some Snatch and be satisfied knowing that you put as much effort into your dish as you do into your pseudo-friendships.

by Lisa Bahr
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