The Relaxed Hostess: Minimize the Stress of Entertaining
- 2007 3 Nov
“For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:28)
Are you dreading the stress of holiday entertaining? Often, our unwillingness, or reluctance, to have guests over stems from pre-conceived ideas of what the result should be. As with anything, the more I’ve hosted dinner guests, the more comfortable I’ve gotten.
I was a Director for Pampered Chef for a little over 2 years. It was fun, and I loved visiting over 160 kitchens and getting to know the hostesses. One method I learned quickly: Stick with the same 2 recipes for about a six-week period. I improved my presentation, got more efficient with each party, and enjoyed the guests more.
Know Thy Recipe!
I have instilled that plan into my entertaining (or hosting) in my home. So, my first recommendation is: Know thy recipe! Try your recipes on your family first, and if it’s a “hit,” choose some side dishes that go well with it; write the menu down and file it away to be used on your guests. You’ll eventually be able to memorize some of the recipes.
One side dish recipe I’m known for is my Zucchini Noodles (see recipe below). We have a garden, so this is a great way to use up all those monster-sized zucchini’s for a tasty, mouth-watering side dish. Many kids have discovered a love for zucchini in our home. Which leads me to another tip on recipes: I look for recipes that not only taste good, but also require minimal kitchen time, or at least minimal time when the guests arrive.
Try to plan out your menu a few days in advance and get to the store right away. Making notes or lists helps, and also keep your favorite “stand-by crowd-pleaser” menus taped up inside your cupboard doors -- easy to find in a pinch. I’ve also purchased Costco white binders with sheet protectors that I’ll slip recipes or ideas from magazines into. You could even label one “dinner,” “dessert,” “decorating ideas,” etc.
I often work backwards with my lists and time. I’ll call it the 3-Day Countdown! 2 days before, I’ll ask, “What can I do today to lighten my load?” If we have company on Saturday night, I’ll make a list for Thursday, Friday and then Saturday. After work on a Thursday I may head to the store and get all my shopping done. On Friday I may marinate my meat, make up my salad dressing, toast my nuts, or even set out my dishes.
The day that my guests are going to arrive, I love to stay home. I usually try to pick up and clean a little (if I stay on a regular cleaning schedule, the “light” cleaning is fast!). Then, I love putting my table together, making my dessert, and just enjoying my home and the creativity that flows from entertaining. I love the “bringing it all together” feeling. Being organized and able to cross things off your list prior to this day makes the preparation enjoyable.
If you are a deadline person, this method should work for you. I work fast under pressure and my sister-in-law often calls me (jokingly), “June Cleaver on speed!” For some reason, I kick into “high gear” when I know I have only 3 hours before 12 guests, or even 4 guests, arrive.
Experience the Power of Delegation
I may have a gift for kicking things into high gear, but gone are the days when I’d rather do it all myself. I’m always tempted to do more than is required, but I’ve learned that when people ask what they can bring, I should assign them a course -- an appetizer, bread, salad or dessert. The more families we have, the less cooking I have to do.
It’s easy to spend days in elaborate preparations that just rob us of our time. Again, looking at our hidden motives, I ask myself, Am I trying to impress? When I’m stressed at the last minute before guests arrive, I know I’ve slipped back into old habits of not preparing in advance. My personal goal is to be finished with everything ½ hour before guests arrive. I like to sit down with my husband then and relax ……….. aahhhhh!
Now, here are my fabulous Zucchini Noodles! A real “hit” with company and a great side dish! They are a wonderful substitute for pasta and can be served with an Alfredo sauce (below), or with any kind of meat or spaghetti sauce. Anywhere you’d eat pasta, you can substitute zucchini noodles.
1. Take approximately 12 zucchini and create long ribbons with you potato peeler, starting at the top of your zucchini and peeling wide ribbons down the length of it. Continue turning and peeling until you use all of the green, and continue until it becomes too thin. Discard the rest (or use in soup).
2. Heat a large skillet on medium-high and add olive oil and Zucchini noodles. Sauté for approximately 2-3 minutes. Do not over cook (they will be soggy). Add salt and pepper.
3. Make your favorite Alfredo sauce to add to the noodles and serve!
My favorite Alfredo sauce: Press about 10 garlic cloves and sauté in olive oil in a small fry pan. Add 2 cups of whipping cream and heat on high until it starts to boil, then turn down to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add 1 cup parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.
Sandy Coughlin is a wife and mother of 3. She loves her family and loves blessing other people's lives by entertaining in her home. Sandy’s husband, Paul, (who used to be the reluctant entertainer) has come on board, and they often offer hospitality together. Sandy and Paul co-authored a book called Married but Not Engaged (Bethany House, Aug. 2006). It's written to women who are married to "checked out" or emotionally absent men and who want to create a more satisfying, intimate relationship. This article was adapted from Sandy’s regularly updated blog “4 Reluctant Entertainers,” which you can visit at www.reluctantentertainer.com. Get more information on Married but Not Engaged by clicking here.