With the major holidays just around the corner, chances are excellent that you will be feeding people outside of your immediate family at some point during the coming weeks or months. While you might be roasting a turkey or glazing a spiral ham for your main holiday meal, it can be difficult to come up with ideas for filling meals in the days before and after the main event. Check out these tips on how to make sure everyone is satisfied during their stay at your home.
Serve a Hearty Breakfast
Breakfast can be very simple, but it should be filling at the same time. Buy, rent or borrow a coffee maker that can brew 24 or 36 cups of coffee at once; even if you have only eight or ten people staying at your home, if they want more than one cup, you'll be up and down making more coffee if you have only your 10- or 12-cup carafe full at any given time.
This meal can revolve around bread, muffins and other foods that are easy to prepare in advance. Make them yourself or order a big batch from your local bakery. For the ultimate in ease, place a bowl of fresh apples, oranges and pears in the center of the table for guests to help themselves. If you want to take a bit more time, slice up a couple of cantaloupes or honeydew melons.
Rely on Takeout
You might not want to spend a lot of money on takeout, but something as simple as pizza can be relatively inexpensive and satisfying. If you're in a hurry, you can even order your chosen fare online, at sites such as http://picklemans.com, and schedule delivery for a time that is convenient. Paying for it via credit card ahead of time allows your guests to simply open the door and accept the food without feeling awkward over who should pay for what. (Be sure to include a tip, either via cash in an envelope by the front door or by charging it to your credit card at the time of your order!)
If you don't want to serve just pizza, make a big tossed salad or order some wings or garlic bread to serve alongside the pie. Don't forget beverages! Try mixing a bottle of lemon-lime soda with a few cups of bottled fruit punch and a half-gallon of lime or raspberry sherbet in a large punch bowl. Whether or not you add spirits is up to you.
Put Your Guests to Work
As a good host or hostess, you should, of course, expect to bear the brunt of the extra chores and cleaning. This does not mean that your guests get off totally scot-free, however. A good guest should offer to help, and you should graciously accept in most cases. If someone asks if they can help, good jobs to assign might include loading or unloading the dishwasher, peeling potatoes, making a salad or setting the table.
When it comes to mealtimes, it's perfectly acceptable to ask your guests to help themselves some of the time. For example, if you have a variety of breads, cold lunch meats, raw vegetables, canned soups and potato chips, it's fine to show your visitors what you have and suggest that they help themselves to lunch whenever they are hungry. This is also a great strategy to employ the day after a big meal, particularly if there are leftovers that anyone can nosh on.
When entertaining a crowd around the holidays, flexibility and a good attitude will go a long way in making the occasion less stressful for everyone. By taking a few shortcuts in the kitchen, whether that means ordering out, using paper plates or asking your cousin to chop up vegetables, you can spend more time attending to your guests and less time cooking and cleaning.