Friday, June 12, 2009

What to Make When Company's Coming

I'm always looking for simple, fun ideas for preparing meals when we invite guests into our home. Joel and I feel strongly about the importance of developing hospitality in our hearts and putting it into practice long before we have an abundance to share from or have a completely-decorated home, perfect table settings, expert culinary skills, etc. I've found that many times people are blessed by that very incompleteness. While I've experienced blessing through many a people serving me out of the amazing skills, gifts, and wealth God has given them, I've also experienced times when those atmospheres of seeming perfection just served to intensify the temptation I was feeling to compare, complain, and struggle through my own issues of discontentment. I have seen where it does bless others - and yourself - when you don't wait to practice hospitality. (You know...wait until you have a nicer home, more money, prettier dishes, feel more confident in your entertaining skills, etc.) We just want to open our home, spend time building relationships, enjoy community, and seek to meet others' needs - whatever those may be. Sometimes people just need to hang out and enjoy a good time and easy discussion. Sometimes there are bigger problems in people's lives that they may be more willing to share with us over dinner in our home, giving us an opportunity to provide support and encouragement for their particular need. Other times we're caught off guard by how much our guests blessed us! So many great things happen when "church" also happens outside the church walls. We don't do this enough. Not as often as we've felt led. But it's an area in which we want to keep growing. So we choose not waiting to do it. And one of the ways we're working on that is in simplifying the endeavor of entertaining people in our home. We have several foolproof meals that we serve when having company over. We do branch out of this, of course, but when we find a meal that just works well for having others over, we aren't afraid to use it again. And again. And again.

Check out Southern Living's website for instructions on creating one of my new favorites, Lean Green Lettuce Tacos. I couldn't get the picture on my blog, for some reason. And I don't have time for that. So you'll have to go there to see it. I love the idea of serving the lettuce leaves in a glass bowl; it makes it so much prettier!

I recently made these lettuce tacos, and it was a hit at our house, so I'm thinking I will make this in the near future when we have someone over. When I do cook a meal for someone, I like to choose things that provide lots of fix-ahead flexibility. This is because my crazy children tend to surprise me with certain needs right at cooking time. So we choose menus that don't limit us to doing all of the cooking in the hour right before guests arrive. That way we're not rushing around desperately trying to get ready at the last minute, dealing with unexpected interruptions or delays. I'm not a good multi-tasker, so this is an important one for me.

We've also gotten creative with what entertaining looks like, and I highly recommend this. Especially when you have a budget to consider. Sometimes it's not about serving a big meal. Sometimes it's just inviting a family over for homemade ice cream and sundaes on a summer night, after we've all eaten dinner at our own homes. We love doing this with our family friends who have kids, and we just throw them in the backyard to play, or we all go outside. Hosting outdoors definitely cuts back on some of housecleaning efforts in preparation! Because Joel and I are currently leaders of a rather large community group at our church, we find that it helps us to usually have two or more couples over at a time. And we feel fine asking people to bring something. They usually ask anyway. But definitely make it a group effort! Maybe it's a bring-your-own meat cookout scenario. We love doing this! Especially with larger groups. Or you can have grill-your-own-pizzas night. My friend Shelly and her husband once invited our family over for this, and it was an idea that I tucked away in my mind to use in our home. (I copy and steal ideas from people all the time.) Ask your guests to bring one or two pizza toppings to share and you provide some more, then prepare the dough (recipes for this are all over allrecipes.com) and everyone can pile up their personal pizzas from the plethora of topping offerings, and you grill them for everyone.

And in the next few days, I'll share some more recipes I love for entertaining. But please, please help me out. Let me know your best simple meal plan for hosting others (simple is essential for this girl) in the comments section. I wish I had more readers and we could do one of those fun linky things, but alas, I'm not that popular. So, do you have a favorite go-to meal you like to serve guests in your home?

8 comments:

Amanda said...

Oh I've got plenty to say on this issue, but I'll keep it short and sweet as I hope to see you in the very near future! (Did you get my FB message?) But some of the things I've learned for company to be accomodating and frugal, is always have an appetizer. wheat thins and cheese, carrots and hummus.. something for them to snack on. that way your guests get a little in their tummy and arent ravenous by the time dinner comes around. Because dinner meats cheeses vegetables can be more expensive and I sometimes feel as if i need to make enough to ensure seconds for those larger appetites. But if i've served some apps and let them munch for a while before dinner then ive found i dont need to make a double recipe. Also, I can't emphasize the importance of incorporating rice, pasta or potatoes into a meal. Big bang for the buck. As for recipes, I have a lot, but i'll share them with you in person..:)

Kate said...

Great post Hannah. I have quite a few favorites that I like to make for guests. I'm always trying new stuff, so I can't say I have one great go-to recipe. I'm all about meals that I can prepare ahead of time. I used to be hesitant about trying new things for guests, but I've eased up on that now. I've learned it's okay if I don't create perfection all the time! Sometimes it just doesn't work out (like the time I tried to reheat frozen enchiladas for ya'll!), and I'm learning to be okay with that. I think people just appreciate you opening your home.

Meaghan said...

the tacos look sooo good! i can't wait to try them!

Shelly said...

i like to make different stuff but i do have a chicken recipe that is super easy from southern living that i really like and i make brown rice to go w/it and i have a yummy meatloaf recipe that is super easy and delicious b/c let's face it when you think of meatloaf you think of 'gross' and it's good w/mashed potatoes. however, i want to be more 'cool' w/my food choices instead of so much like a mom---meatloaf and chicken are mommish, don't you think! oh well, they are tasty! the pizza thing is cool though. i need to use it again! good post hannah!

Hannah E. said...

Shelly - will you share your chicken recipe?? I know we'd all appreciate it!

Anyone else have a recipe to share?

Lisa Johnson said...

My new favorite: Jeff grill chicken breast and I make fried rice. I love this because I can make the rice way earlier, I can have all the veggies chopped ahead of time, you can scramble some eggs to go in there ahead of time. When all is ready, throw it together, fry it up in olive oil and douse with soy sauce and whatever spices speak to you. Dessert? Bedazzle ice cream. If there are more than three ingredients it counts as gourmet. Trust me, I know. . .

alicia kristine said...

Such a good post! We have recently started to entertain and this is challenging on a budget... I'm glad to know we are not alone in trying to be creative and genuine at the same time;)... as always you are an inspiration Sister;)

alicia kristine said...

that sounded so funny like we never have had anyone over... honestly I have not done much entertaining since the kiddos and the few times we did I just felt like it didn't go well... kids screaming, just different when you are used to wine tastings and adult things like that... also the dynamics change with couples with kids... it's a lot... keep up with the good ideas!