Monday, February 2, 2009

At the Heart of Hospitality: A Plan

Organization and planning ahead:
Know Thy Recipe!
Have a plan!
Make lists!
Experience the power of delegation!
~ Sandy Coughlin

First of all: I love a plan and I love organization. It's so fun for me to check off an item on a list of to-do's. Done and done. See how much fun that is!

Sandy mentions four main things when it comes to planning ahead when playing hostess: know your recipe, have a plan, make a list, and delegate.

Know Thy Recipe!
I have to admit that I'm not great with this one. It depends who is coming over for dinner, but I tend to "try things out" on my guests. It's not a great idea, but I've done well with it so far. I don't try out new main dishes on my guests very often, but I've tried out various appetizers, side dishes, and desserts on my guests. But if I know my guests well and know that they're adventurous, I'll plan on something new...and if it fails, we can always order pizza.

Here are some dishes I've served to guests many times and they always turn out delicious:
  • Easy Pasta Casserole
  • Spinach and Artichoke Dip
  • Grilled Chicken
  • Grilled Vegetable Skewers
  • Quick and Easy Chicken and Rice
  • Salad Pizza

Some of the dishes that I've tried on people that were really yummy:
  • Fish Tacos
  • Sliced Grilled Steak on Blue Cheese Biscuits
  • Pear Cranberry Side Salad
  • Hummus
Knowing my recipe is something I need to work on, but it's fun to try out a new recipe on friends and family, just not on the newbies.

Have a Plan!
Planning the menu is something that comes easy for me because I already have a weekly menu plan. I try to plan it out about 4-6 weeks in advance. Sometimes I move things around if there's a particular sale going on, but usually we stick to the plan. This helps when having guests over as well. It's nice to know you have all the ingredients in the pantry, and even ingredients for a back-up plan if necessary. Like I said, I love planning a menu so this is fun for me. Here's how I plan my weekly menu for each day:

main dish:

I do this for each day of the week and at the bottom of the sheet (for easy tear-off) I put the grocery list. I usually get most of my items in one stop then stop in weekly for fruits and veggies. That way I don't have an excuse for not making dinner and just ordering out. It has really helped us stay in our budget.

Make Lists!
Yet another thing I love to do. It's nice to have a list made out in advance of preparations when having guests over. I like to ask myself if there's anything I can do ahead of time (like a day or two before) so I don't have to do it on the day of. For example, I'm hosting our small group this month. I'm planning on making Cincinnati Chili and Triple Chocolate Sour Cream Brownie Bites for dessert. They're coming over on Tuesday, so on Monday I will make the brownie bites and brown the hamburger for Tuesday. Since it's mainly a crock pot dish, I will chop my veggies tonight so tomorrow morning I can toss them in the pan with the meat, canned goods, close the lid and let it simmer. Being organized and crossing things off of my list is something that I enjoy.

Experience the Power of Delegation!
This is a hard concept for me because I want to be the hostess that can do it all. But I can't. I can, but I'm not always at peace with it. (This is an area in which I struggle in other aspects of my life as well.) So, if someone asks if they can bring something, I say yes, look at my menu and tell them something that they can bring. I usually try to make it fairly simple like bread, a beverage, or a side salad. Nothing that they have to spend a lot of time making.

"It's easy to spend days in elaborate preparations that just rob us of our time." Again we must look at our attitude when serving our guests:

1. Am I feeling stressed or burdened by the need to impress?
2. Am I putting my guests first (i.e. not the dirty dishes in the sink after the meal)?
3. Am I expecting something in return?

Sandy tries to have all of her cooking done 3o minutes before guests arrive so she can sit and relax with her husband before the guests knock on the door. I'm not good at that and I don't feel comfortable with that yet. I'm still working on my timing and I admit that I'd feel nervous if I had time to sit and I forgot something. This is something that I will work towards as I grow in my hostessing skills.

All quotes are from Sandy Coughlin from 4 Reluctant Entertainers. This is the second of her "Ten Commandments" to hospitality. Please read what she has to say regarding being organized and having a plan. Thanks!


Live.Love.Eat said...

All good stuff and ideas. I have most of it down except for relaxing 30 min before. I am usually at it right up until the minute!!!!

Coop de Coop said...

4-6 weeks of menus planned out? Side dishes too? You are amazing! Would you be willing to share those?

Jessica said...

I'll try to remember to post my 4-6 week menu for next weeks WFMW. It's been a huge time saver, stress reliever and has really helped us stick to our budget.