Food for When Family Comes a Knockin'
Looking to achieve "hostess with the mostest" status? I've put together a list of tips and am sharing some of my favourite family-approved recipes.
Since moving away and getting married I've stepped into this wonderful, sometimes stressful world of hosting. I've hosted new friends for Thanksgiving dinner, parents for long weekends and, the biggest of all, we're hosting our wedding here in a couple of months. I know what you're thinking "Say what? I thought she said she got married a year ago!" It's complicated but I promise to explain in a future post. So over this past year and from helping my Mom and Aunts host large groups my entire life (not to mention daily Food Network research) I've come up with some practical themes to live by when entertaining guests. Are you ready to get this party started?
1) Make Breakfast Accessible
Breakfast Burritos or Mini Spinach and Mushroom Quiches are perfect for the day of arrival. They are easy to eat, packed with familiar ingredients and overflowing with flavour. You can prepare and wrap them up the night before, plus you'll have plenty of extras to munch on for the rest of the visit. I also think baked goods are an absolute "morning must" when you're having guests stay over. Muffins, loaves or coffee cakes can be made in advance, left out on the counter and remain tasty for days on end. My favourites to bake are Banana Walnut Bread, Chocolate Muffins or this Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Nut Loaf.
But probably the most crowd-pleasing breakfast dish is (drum roll please) a trusty, crusty casserole. I swear you could feed an army with a casserole and um hello can you say bang for your buck! My 3 favourites are this Breakfast Sausage Casserole, Ree Drummond's Cinnamon Baked French Toast and the more elegant Spinach, Mushroom and Cheese Breakfast Casserole. Real talk ... when Kalo and I's parents are in town, we always have places to be and sights to see so pulling a preassembled, even pre-baked, casserole out of the fridge is a dream on those busy mornings. I swear with a little planning and some baking a day or two before you'll have plenty of accessible, delicious options for your guests to enjoy.
2) What's for Lunch? NOTHING!
Often we're out and about during lunch hours and starving the moment we walk in the door from a full day of touring. To satisfy the hunger I like to have all the ingredients for different dips, snacks and appetisers on hand. After some minor chopping everyone gets a chance to decompress and nibble on something light, fresh instead of eating a heavy meal out. Depending on what you're serving for dinner here are some of the dishes I love to make: Greek Nachos, Bruschetta (add fresh mozzarella), Grilled Corn and Bean Salad (serve with tortilla chip scoops). BTW this can be as simple as setting out some chips, salsa, salted nuts or even a veggie platter. The idea is to use these snacks or apps to drive your theme home which we'll chat about in my next tip.
3) Pick an Evening Theme
Who doesn't love a good theme night? I know I do! Get your guests excited about a Mexican fiesta with Chicken Tortilla Casserole or Roasted Salmon Tacos. Maybe your family prefers Italy, try Loaf Pan Lasagna or Shrimp Scampi and Pasta with Herb Breadcrumbs. Another crowd-pleaser is "homemade Asian takeout," some of my favourites are Chicken Ramen Stir-Fry and Cauliflower Fried Rice. Nightly themes are also great if more company is coming over and they want to bring a little something. Instead of the go to "just bring a bag of ice," your guests can get involved by making some guacamole for the taco bar or buying different flavours of gelato for the end of your Italian feast. Overall, you'll notice I'm not about fancy when cooking for a big group, for me it's all about comfort and love. And finally the best advice I can give is to think large so that A) you'll have plenty for everyone and B) let's be honest leftovers are where it is at.
4) Always Have Sweets Handy
Remember that your guests are on vacation (holiday for the UK folks) so they'll definitely want to indulge and your job is to indulge them! I've selected some sinfully delicious desserts that you can either make in advance or enlist some help and have fun baking with your loved ones. I've mentioned these Lemon Ricotta Cookies before but here they are again, they're that good. Valerie Bertenilli's Peanut Butter Brownies with Salted Pretzels are a mash up of all the flavours practically everyone loves. But this warm Caramel Cake with vanilla ice cream will change your outlook on life! I've been craving it since Thanksgiving when I made it last. But maybe you're not into baking? Consider this ... all is fair in love and entertaining so feel free to take some shortcuts. Purchase éclairs, cheesecake or chocolates from the store, you'll get no judgement from me!
5) Little Touches Go a Long Way
In this post I've talked a lot about the recipes I love to cook for my family but really it's all about them. Your guests' favourite flavours are what should drive you and your ultimate goal as a hostess should be to make the people staying in your home feel as special as possible. PREACH! But in all seriousness, pay attention to the brands they like and have them in the house. Avoid items they can't stand. Get the fixings for a dish they've been craving. Let's step outside of the kitchen because this pertains everywhere, for example have towels, the blow dryer and bars of soap out so your guests don't have ask. Teach them how to use the shower or other appliances. It's these little touches that will make your guests feel welcome and show how much you appreciate them for making the long trip.
I'd love to hear what you all do to prepare for visitors that way we can add to this list of tips together. Leave comments below about your next hosting gig. I know living abroad we certainly get our fair share of overnighters so I need all the help I can get. For now, remember to think grab-and-go for breakfast, fun apps for the afternoon, pimp out dinner with a theme, everyone loves chocolate and lastly always go the extra mile.