I love to have people over to our house. I am a terrible hostess, and I always forget something important. I also prefer not to spend the entire time in the kitchen or cleaning up. I am, however, all about the eating and laughing. Sometimes at the same time. Which is interesting. But at some point, someone does have to make or buy food. Sigh.
My parents recently came to stay with us for five days. They live hours away in another state, so it’s always a treat to have them come stay for a few days. I especially love overnight guests because you don’t have to worry about bedtimes and you can continue your conversations late into the night.
With my parents’ recent visit, I did a bit of prep work ahead of time that kept us from resorting to take out pizza or chinese (nothing wrong with that sometimes!) AND kept me from spending hours in the kitchen while they were here. It also allowed us to eat super healthy. Well, if you don’t count the cherry pie. And the strawberry rhubarb pie. Topped with frozen yogurt. At least the yogurt was sort of healthy-ish….right?
Here are my favorite do-ahead preparations to make sure the hostess can still enjoy the party. (All of these tips also make weeknight dinners a snap!)
I love cold salads. I love that I can spend a few hours in the kitchen making up a few and then they keep in the fridge for days, tasting yummier and yummier as time passes. Make a few of these and then all you have to add are grilled hot dogs or burgers and you have a fine meal (and you have lunch and maybe dinner the next day too!)
Potato Salad – My favorite is a mayo based with onions and celery and topped with hardboiled eggs.
Zesty Quinoa Salad – from All Recipes. I’ve made this one at least 3 times already this summer.
3 Bean Salad – a basic cookbook staple. I like mine with black beans, kidney beans and garbanzo beans.
Oriental Salad – from my Mom. My kids love this one. Cabbage. Seriously.
1 small cabbage chopped coarsely
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup toasted almonds
1 pkg dried ramen noodles broken into pieces
1/2 cup oil
1 pkg flavoring from ramen noodles (chicken or oriental)
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons vinegar
(Blend part 3 together well or put in a jar and shake vigorously, with the lid on of course!)
Put all 3 parts together just before serving to keep crisp
Cleaned and chopped veggies
I chop them to dipping size, which means they can easily be diced, chopped, and sliced further in a snap for stir fry, roasting (drizzle with olive oil bake at 400 for 30 mins or so), topping lettuce salads, or mixing into omelets.
- Colored Peppers
- Green Onions
- Red Onions (big slices)
- Radishes (maybe not for roasting!)
Hard boiled eggs
Keep 6-8 hard boiled and peeled eggs in the fridge. The eggs make a quick snack, or can quickly be turned into deviled eggs or mashed up for egg salad for lunch (or dinner for your daughter when your phone chimes to remind you that she has gymnastics in 10 minutes and you haven’t fed her dinner yet!)
A bowl of fruit
Keep a bowl of washed, seasonal fruit on the counter for easy access between meals. Peaches, pears, plums, apricots, bananas….sigh. Fruit heaven.
I also keep a bowl of washed berries and grapes in the fridge ready to add to any meal. Throw a handful of berries and grapes on a bed of lettuce, add some sliced green onions, feta or blue cheese, and some lightly toasted almonds or pecans and you have a serious main dish summer meal! AH-mazing!
Cooked and chopped chicken
Cook up and dice 3-4 cups chicken and you can easily top a salad with it (see above, oh yeah!); or mix in some mayo, green onions, grapes, and a small squirt of mustard for a summer chicken salad. Serve on a bed of lettuce, in a wrap, on a croissant, on toasted bread – oh the options! You can also add some into a stir fry pan with your veggies for a faster (rather than starting with raw chicken) stir fry meal.
An Open Heart
As I wrote in Isn’t it Time for a Coffee Break chapter 4, hospitality isn’t about your stuff or your ability. It’s about your willingness and your heart. If you host with love, you can’t do it wrong.
I think the most important preparation you can make is to have a heart that is open and ready to serve and love those who come through the doors of your home. If your hard boiled eggs explode on the ceiling (not that I know aaaanything about that!), and you dump a salad on the floor, or your cat climbs on the table to lick the breakfast dishes clean – if you can respond with a gracious and kind heart, and not get focused on yourself, then it’s a success. It’s about reaching out to others and welcoming them in love.
If that’s the only preparation you make and then you call for pizza delivery, then it’s a success.
What about you? What things have helped you get out of the kitchen, or out of yourself and welcome people into your home? I always need new ideas and would love to hear from you!
photo credit: main photo by theswedish on sxc.hu, text added by Amelia.
heart by sudaphoto on sxc.hu
veggies by geertcolp on sxc.hu
eggs by mzacha on sxc.hu