Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What's Cooking Wednesday - Do What You Do Best

I've heard a lot of people talk about ways to make hospitality easier, and one of the best suggestions I have heard is to pick out one or two menus and stick to them for a while.  Pick out a main dish, some sides, a bread, a few appetizers (or just little munchies), and a dessert that your family likes to eat and you know how (and can afford) to make.  Then just make that every time you have guests. 

We like to have lots of different people in our home over a period of time, and they probably do not realize that we served the same thing at our house last Sunday after church, too.  Even if they do (I am sort of letting the cat out of the bag here!), does it really matter?  The main point is that being hospitable does not have to be stressful.  It can be fun for the guests and the cook, if the cook is relaxed and knows she can manage this meal for a crowd.  It gets easier every time you put it together.

I do not always stick to this plan.  I have gotten more and more used to cooking ahead for a crowd over time, so I now have quite a few of these options available to me when I need them.  It seems they go by season: in the summer I like to (have Edwin) grill hamburgers or kebabs, with some cold side dishes; in winter we lean towards heavier things like roast beef, brisket, or lasagna.  As long as your family likes it they will not care if they see it over and over again.  And you will know just what to buy at the grocery store.

Here's what I've been cooking lately:
  • Beef brisket, with a semi-homemade BBQ sauce (Sam's sells them big & cheap.)
  • Hash brown potato casserole: 32 ounce bag of frozen hashbrowns mixed with 16 ounces of sour cream, 2 cups of shredded cheese, chopped onions, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1 stick melted butter, & yes, the dreaded cream-o-chicken soup.  Top it with crushed crackers, cornflakes, or whatever you like and bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes.  Edwin's mom made this famous for us and I will not mess with the recipe, though you could do a homemade substitute for the soup if you want.
  • Baked beans: Have I mentioned we do most of our entertaining on Sundays?  This is the day we can really enjoy feasting and forget most of our dietary requirements of the week.  This is why we have things like potato casserole and baked beans. Yum.  I learned the baked bean thing from my mom, watching her dump in lots of stuff along with good-ole canned pork-n-beans.  It's impossible to measure; I just know what it is supposed to look like (color).  I pick out the disgusting pork blobs but leave the juice in the beans, then add ketchup, brown sugar, chopped onions, a little mustard, and sometimes BBQ sauce.  If you top it with a few bacon slices you get many extra bonus points!  Cook it in the oven with the potatoes, till it is thickened and bubbling.
  • A big green salad, or cut up raw veggies: This helps with the guilt feelings associated with the above combination of food!
  • Rolls or buns in case people want sandwiches, or just to be eaten on the side.
This menu really lends itself to making ahead; though as long as the meat is cooked on Saturday I can whip up the rest on Sunday morning before church.  Even though it is ready to eat, it is still nice to have some munchies sitting around while the guests arrive and get settled.  I usually cut up some peppers or carrots and have hummus, along with some crackers.  We might add some chips & dip or salsa to that or some popcorn.  Just something easy so we (this is really my issue) do not starve before the food gets on the table.  When we grill food in the summer it is even more important to have something substantial to eat as it takes a while to cook 15-20 burgers!

Most of my entertaining is casual, because we are just casual people.  But you could also come up with a meal that is fancy that you pull out on special occasions.  (My Christmas Eve feast is getting easier to do now that I have stuck to mainly the same dishes for a few years.)  Having a plan, like in most areas of life, will make entertaining easier no matter what the occasion.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.  Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.  As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace...
I  Peter 4:8-10


Marcie said...

Sounds good to me,you have made me hungry.I have found cream-o-mushroom soup is a great substitute
in the hash brown potato casserole,that's what I use.
It's always nice when a person can have a good meal
everyone can enjoy and not have to spend hours in the
Aunt Marcie

Gail said...

Yummy, one of my favorite meals. Like Marcie, I have used cream-of-mushroom soup, but usually stick with the original. I won't, however, make a special trip to the store for it, so it just depends on which of the "cream-of's" is in the cabinet.
You put me to shame in the entertaining are so good at it.

Julie Jamerson said...

Great ideas, Tracey! I have a friend here who fixes the same meal every time we have a visiting preacher for a Gospel Meeting (Revival). Deciding what to serve is often the biggest barrier to hospitality for me, and it would be so simple to make that a non-issue... Adding a plan for that to this week's to-do list!