Entertaining - A Time Line.... - Penny Lane Blog at Allrecipes.com - 209865

Penny Lane

Entertaining - A Time Line.... 
Dec. 6, 2010 5:51 pm 
Updated: Dec. 13, 2010 2:38 pm
Do you have difficulty when entertaining getting all the food on the table - hot and all done at the same time?  Entertaining is a nightmare when you are still stuck in the kitchen - chopping and dicing - juggling pots and pans with a sink full of dirty dishes as the door bell rings and your guests arrive. 

I have been working with a young woman lately, although her cooking skills have improved enormously - timing is still an issue for her.  We are working together on everyday dinners in preparation for her big Christmas dinner. 

I thought I would feature a dinner party that I hosted last Saturday.  Of course you are going to serve a different menu - the logic is the same.   Examine each recipe and decide what can be done ahead. 

6 guests - 4:30 PM arrival - Dinner at 5:30 - 6 PM   - Saturday

I always allow myself a half hour for unexpected  emergencies or late guests. 

Aim for 5:30 hope for 6:00PM. 

Decide on a menu -  Stick to it.  Gather your recipes and have a written plan.  

Baby Back ribs were on sale so I decided  Ribs and Chicken were the meats of choice.

The Menu
Caprese on a stick and crackers for appetizer  Caprese on a Stick
BBQ Baby Back Ribs & Chicken
Acorn Squash stuffed with Nutty Citrus Rice  Nutty Citrus Rice
Shaved Brussels Sprouts   Shaved Brussels Sprouts
Green salad with red pears, dried cherries, glazed pecans and red onion.
(Blue Cheese Dressing, Thousand Island Dressing and Poppy Seed Dressing)
Marianne's Blue Cheese Dressing
Fresh Baked Focaccia  Baking Nana's Disappearing Foccacia
Dessert - brownie bites baked in mini muffin cups and vanilla ice cream.

Planning begins with making the shopping list and checking ingredients.  Be thorough here - trips to the store for missing ingredients waste time and money.

Thursday or before:  Shop for ingredients.


- Make the poolish for the foccacia and set aside - this doesn't have to go into the refrigerator.

- Prep the ribs, I remove the membrane, pack with a dry rub and wrap tightly in plastic wrap - into the refrigerator until tomorrow.  (this will take no more than 20 minutes)

- Place chicken (I used thighs) in marinade in a ziplock storage bag - into the refrigerator.

- Prep the acorn squash. (half a squash per person)  Cut in half - scoop out the seeds, lightly salt with kosher salt and a tiny bit of nutmeg.  Place face down on a baking sheet - add about a cup of water and cover tightly with foil.  Bake at 350 for about 35 minutes until tender but not mushy.  Remove from baking sheet place in microwave safe baking dish - face side up, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

- Prepare your salad dressings.

- Select your plates & your flatware - if you have the space set the table - if not set aside.  Select the table cloth and place mats etc...  salt & pepper shakers etc.    Choose your serving dishes.  Even if you don't have room to set them out - at least have them identified and together. 

- Friday night - prepare the foccacia dough - place in your baking pan or sheet pan - top with garlic olive oil, Parmesan cheese and cover - into the refrigerator.

- Run the dishwasher - you are going to need space tomorrow.   Make sure the bathrooms are clean and the dusting has been done - cleaning and cooking do NOT mix. 


7:30 AM - Remove ribs from the plastic wrap - double wrap in heavy foil and place on baking sheet(s).   Pre-heat oven to 250

8:00  AM - Place ribs in oven and forget about them. 

Empty the dishwasher - and clean up the kitchen.

8:30 - Make the Nutty Citrus Rice.  I use a 1/2 cup scoop (think ice cream scoop) Fill each acorn squash with the rice mixture - cover and back into the refrigerator.  Clean up.

9:30 -  Clean and shred the brussels sprouts - use the food processor - place in storage bag in the refrigerator.  Dice the green onions or shallots and measure the nuts for this dish.  Set aside.   You can Pre-cook the bacon too.    (I do pre-cook the bacon - pour off all the grease except what clings to the pan and set the pan - covered on a back burner - for later use.

Make the green salad - if you don't have room in the refrigerator for the serving dish - at least get your greens ready and bagged.  The cherries and red onion ready. 

Prepare the glazed pecans.  Spray a non stick skillet - toast nuts for a few minutes on medium heat until they are starting to smell good - sprinkle 1 tsp of sugar over the nuts and using a silicone spatula stir and shake as the sugar melts.  You can add a bit more sugar during this process if you want.  When sugar has melted - dump nuts onto a piece of parchment or wax paper to cool.  (BTW - these can be made days before.)

Clean up.....

11:00 AM - Check the ribs - they should be very tender - watch out though -  there will be a lot of hot juice.    If they aren't tender enough - back into the oven for another 1/2 hour.    Remove from oven and let cool in the foil packs.  When cool enough to handle - remove from foil and set in a baking dish - cover and into the refrigerator. 

Clean up - AGAIN. 

Now - it should be about noon.  If you want to bake the brownie bites now - do so.  I prefer to make them after dinner as they only take about 15 - 20 minutes to bake and they only require one bowl and spoon to mix.  Then I can serve them hot with the ice cream. 

Assemble the Caprese on a Stick - into the refrigerator.

Run the dishwasher.    

Drag out the Weber from the garage.  Load the chimney with the newspaper and the charcoal. 

Time to shower - relax a bit. 

2:30 - remove the dough from the refrigerator -set aside to warm up.  Unload dishwasher.  

3:30 PM - Gather your serving dishes.  & serving spoons etc....
3:45 PM - Light the chimney for the BBQ  & Preheat oven to 400 degrees
4:00 PM - Remove the ribs & Chicken  from the refrigerator and set aside.  Gather your tongs etc.
4:10 - Put foccacia in the oven and set timer for 20 minutes.  
4:15 - Dump the coals and scoop them all to one side - I cook the chicken indirect.   Place the chicken on the cool side of the BBQ - skin side up- cover with lid.  You will have to check them and move around a couple of times - but they pretty much cook themselves.

Remove the Acorn squash from the refrigerator.
Remove the shredded brussels and assemble the needed ingredients - place by skillet.
If you haven't already assembled your salad - do so now.   

Place the Caprese on a stick and some crackers out.

4:30 - Remove bread from oven - your house will smell great - turn oven to warm - about 200 degrees.  This will be used to keep the chicken warm.  

Guests start arriving.  (We almost always have our friends bring what ever they want to drink)

4:45 Check the Chicken - when done place covered in the oven to stay warm.

Place Acorn squash in the microwave - heat for 20 minutes on 50 percent power.  You know your microwave  - so adjust accordingly.   

Ribs go on the Weber - indirect - slather with BBQ sauce and glaze.  You will have to do this in batches - keep ribs warm in oven with the chicken.  (I use a huge roasting pan for this in the low oven  or in the gas grill set on low - you could also use a counter top roaster, set on just warm.)

5:15  Heat the pan for your brussels sprouts.  This dish cooks in about 10 minutes.  

Plate the ribs and chicken & brussels sprouts - slice the bread - the acorn squash is ready to roll as is your salad  -  you are ready to serve.  

Now you can pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy!  ( Note - although cooking with wine is great - it is better to not drink any until the meal is ready to serve. Adding wine by the glass adds to an extremely delayed dinner - at least for me!)

This is actually a more complex meal than our Christmas feast - at least in terms of timing.  Did you notice how often I said, "Clean up."   Do your dishes as you go and you won't end up with a heck of a mess.   

When planning think backwards - "We want to eat at 6:00 ....meat need to rest.... etc..."  Allow for carving time....this menu didn't require carving time but with a Prime Rib you MUST allow for resting and carving time.  For a large roast it should rest at least 30 minutes and then carve.  I use this time to make the gravy and cook the bread or Yorkshire Pudding. 

UPDATE -   12/08/10

Ok - "Mrs. Time Line" is all messed up.   It is impossible to make a time line if you don't know the PLAN. 

It's Tuesday night  ....the bath rooms are clean and the house is dusted. I still have to vacuum...sigh.... I will do that tomorrow.

My Hero is coming HOME - this time I had advanced warning - well a general idea - somewhere around Wednesday - I have been plotting and planning this dinner. Pork Roast etc... well here it is & I haven't heard from him and I didn't defrost the pork roast.

Plan B - Tri-Tip is defrosting - this can cook tomorrow or the next day - it will wait for them.

I have potatoes ready to peel - oh and carrots & green beans too. Maybe Mariannes Corn? Yorkshire Pudding? Can you tell I don't have a plan! This is bad news. 

Sigh....menu planning.

I have a ham in the refrigerator....maybe ham?

What did I say - have a menu and stick to it!  
Sometimes you have to fly by the seat of your pants. 
By Wednesday afternoon I was a bundle of nervous energy - no news as to their travel plans or arrival time.  What is a woman to do besides pace the kitchen floor? 

 Turn to the Buzz! 

The great folks of AR kept me company all afternoon.....plotting and planning.  Tri-Tip was out....then I thought of dinner out...but NO if they have been traveling for days on end the last thing they would want to do is go OUT to dinner.  I know they love Mexican food and have missed it terribly.
Then Carrie struck with the inspiration I needed!  SOUP! 

No Tri-Tip - No Pork Roast - No Ham.
Soup!    Tortilla Soup with corn tortillas - cheese and sour cream. 
I got to work - chop - chop....stir  - stir.  Soup simmering.....  then about when I had given up.....

DING - DONG!  6 PM - They were here!    

We are doing the happy dance!  Tomorrow we are decorating the Christmas tree and enjoying our time together. 
Thanks for keeping me company and holding my hand....  I am certainly thankful I had "help in the AR kitchen"  today!   I needed a few friends and you guys were there.  :)

I will let you know what I do with that Tri-Tip roast!   Tomorrow is another day!

Dec. 6, 2010 6:27 pm
Lots of really great hints Nana. I notice you say to choose the salt & pepper shakers the day before. fil them also, I have been caught in the middle of serving and suddenly relized oe or both were really low:)
Dec. 6, 2010 6:31 pm
Gosh - that is a last minute hair raiser for me - darned that S & P .....LOL.
Dec. 6, 2010 6:33 pm
Thank you Baking Nana, not only for the good ideas but for some good recipe/menu ideas. I rarely think about starting my prep that early, but can see that I'd be doing myself a favor.
Dec. 6, 2010 6:34 pm
Or Carrie - serving butter that is rock hard! When serving butter I pull it early and plate it - covered on the table.
Dec. 6, 2010 6:37 pm
Great blog BN! I don't entertain often, but timing is always an issue for me. And my dinners are usually buffet style so I don't even have to deal with the table setting and all that! I hear you about the wine too- best to wait to enjoy it with your guests if you want the food to come out at a reasonable time lol!
Dec. 6, 2010 6:37 pm
Toni Jo - for Christmas I had a minimum of 20 people here - one table MUST be set and ready the day before - the other ready to set early Christmas morning. Goes so much smoother. These things take time....and I need time for a shower too!
Dec. 6, 2010 6:38 pm
Puck - that early glass or two of wine can set me back an hour! Geez - one of those lessons learned.
Dec. 6, 2010 6:49 pm
Wow are you one organized woman! From someone who struggles with that, thank you for a great blog. Really interesting! And appreciated.
Dec. 6, 2010 6:51 pm
Great menu & menu planning. I am saving this...I love to entertain and have an 80 year old house. No big kitchens or open kichen / liivng area plan. This is a keeper. Thank you Baking Nana!
Dec. 6, 2010 6:51 pm
Jena - this is a learned skill - noboby is born with it. It come by experience. You will find your own time line.
Dec. 6, 2010 6:53 pm
You are welcome Maggie - there are loads of things you can use to help along way. Crock pots - rice cookers. I put them all to good use.
Dec. 6, 2010 6:57 pm
We are hosting a get together of 22 people this weekend. Your ideas and schedule have already benefited us. Thank you, Baking Nana!
Dec. 6, 2010 6:58 pm
You are welcome Mike - enjoy and Merry Christmas! BTW - whatcha cooking Mike?
Dec. 6, 2010 7:23 pm
Another thing: make sure your candles are ready--with wicks cut 1/4" and have lighter handy. Have music all picked out and on the CD player. These can be done on that Friday. On Saturday morning you can make sure you have cold water ready to pour into glasses at the last minute (guests love to be able to do something). Very good advice, BN. You will save much time for many people.
Dec. 6, 2010 8:25 pm
Oh geez - the candles! I have often forgot to even light them! Thanks for the reminder Marianne.
Dec. 6, 2010 8:35 pm
Wow, Nana! I'm in awe! So after the last guest leaves, do you get to collapse? Mom did something pretty cool on T'giving. She set the table ahead, complete with serving dishes. Inside each serving dish she put a notecard indicating the dish that would be in it (making sure everything would fit). When a serving dish was pulled to fill, or to bake in, the note card was left behind in it's designated place on the table so we'd know just where to return that dish. It really helped!
Dec. 6, 2010 8:51 pm
Great blog Nana! I had never heard the term "poolish", but then I had never looked at a foccacia recipe before. Great tips.
Dec. 6, 2010 8:53 pm
Nothing like a plan. I plan pretty much everything I do...never been one to fly by the seat of my pants. Interesting read.
Dec. 6, 2010 8:56 pm
That is a great idea Mimosa! I do the post it notes on the platters etc...but never thought of leaving them on the table. Oh and by the way - I only collapse when everything goes haywire. Otherwise - if I have a plan and it works - I am all good. :)
Dec. 6, 2010 8:58 pm
ElCay - for me a plan = peace of mind. The only time I have been cuaght off guard is when the gathering seems too easy - big mistake!
Dec. 6, 2010 8:59 pm
Magnolia - poolish is like starter - just not sour as it hasn't sat for days. Same idea though.
Dec. 7, 2010 4:09 am
You are organized! This is a great blog, full of great tips!
Dec. 7, 2010 6:43 am
Thanks Sueb. I have had lots of practice getting food out on time. I cook for one family once a week where they pick up there dinner at Noon - Dad goes to work at 2:00 PM. Another one that I deliver - I have to leave the house no later than 4:30. Timing is everything.
Dec. 7, 2010 7:22 am
Great organizational skills, Baking Nana! Thanks for the help.
Dec. 7, 2010 7:43 am
You are welcome Lace. I am hoping that this will help a few people as we head into the Holiday entertaining season.
Dec. 7, 2010 8:51 am
Thanks for such an interesting and helpful blog :) I have never really had the opportunity to entertain, but after all the great tips and advice I feel much more confident that I would be able to do it.
Dec. 7, 2010 9:39 am
rachmaree - I use this same method to get dinner on the table each and every night. I am glad you found it helpful.
Dec. 7, 2010 9:50 am
Now write it all again instructing how to do this if you don't have two days to prepare.. ;) I've never really entertained anyone (yet) but it looks like organization and preparation are key! Not my forte! lol. but now I know who to ask for help the first time I have a dinner party :P
Dec. 7, 2010 10:04 am
Hi Alex - if I didn't have 2 days I would choose another menu. The Ribs and Chicken are a 2 day deal. There is so much that can be done days and days in advance. Don't wait until Christmas Eve to select - wash and iron the table cloth or to fill the salt and pepper shakers. I try to de-clutter the day of little tasks as much as possible.
Dec. 7, 2010 10:29 am
i agree, prep is the key. i always make something new or different, too. thinking it's good to have something out of the norm for a special day, but those things take a lot longer, too.
Dec. 7, 2010 10:38 am
zeebee - I too often make something new but I am experienced cook - for someone just starting off I recommend sticking with methods and recipes that you are familiar with. I often use entertaining to serve at least one thing that DH doesn't like. He isn't thrilled with brussels sprouts - so although he tried them - I had friends to share them with. :)
Dec. 7, 2010 10:45 am
Great blog! Timing is the hardest part for me too! I'm getting better at it. Thanks for the tips!
Dec. 7, 2010 10:52 am
yep...i got the winning lottery ticket (i just know it!)...coming to that next dinner party and btw...i can help in the kichen! :)
Dec. 7, 2010 10:54 am
good thinking, Ba'nana. i'm lucky there isn't much my DH won't eat. though i do have to put the veggies on his plate for him, because he will not take them for himself! LOL
Dec. 7, 2010 11:19 am
Wow! Incredibly thorough list. I make myself lists of what to do when and that does help. I'm a bit time challenged myself. :)
Dec. 7, 2010 12:30 pm
Thanks for stopping in Ellen. It actually took me longer to write out this blog than it did to cook the dinner! My notes to myself are obviously not detailed like this - but I do have a checklist and refer to it often.
Dec. 7, 2010 12:32 pm
gderr - Hope you have the winning ticket! Of course I would put you to work in the kitchen - we could kick out one tremendous meal!
Dec. 7, 2010 12:34 pm
zeebee - my DH grew up eating NO vegetables - he has come a long way and will try most everything but it is really nice to share these dishes with people who love them. :)
Dec. 7, 2010 12:36 pm
Pam - having 3 children under foot makes staying on task a LOT more difficult. When I am on a roll in the kitchen the last thing I want is to stop to wipe a runny nose and pour more juice. :)
Dec. 7, 2010 1:12 pm
That's great advice! Wish I had read this several years ago! Had to learn the hard way, but I've got it down pat now. Doing the dishes as you go is such a great tip, but I always still end up with a mound! And no dishwasher. And the no drinking during prep and cook - another lesson I learned the hard way! LOL!
Dec. 7, 2010 1:17 pm
Oh, and I meant to mention, I saw that you recommend crock pots and rice cookers - my friend once put the corn for a Thanksgiving Day dinner in a Mr. Coffee coffee pot. A very resourceful man he was!!
Dec. 7, 2010 1:32 pm
Well now Mary - that is a new one! The coffee pot! Imagine that! Learn something new every day! As for the dishes - if my grand daughters are here - they are great about drying and putting away. Such a big help. :)
Dec. 7, 2010 7:36 pm
Oh, dear BN.... I've saved this blog to my favorites. I must follow your plan for Christmas Eve dinner, which will be at our home. I love everyone's add-on ideas as well. This is a keeper. I learn so much around here. Thank you!
Dec. 7, 2010 7:51 pm
Well - thank you Candice. What are you serving? This really is a learning and sharing place - it's why I love it here. :)
Dec. 7, 2010 9:22 pm
Wish someone had given me such a good blueprint way back when I was first married. We had no need for entertainment because our meal stretched all evening. My poor DH used to joke that we had to hurry up so we were finished in time for breakfast. Now, like you, I form a plan and make a master list which gets taped to the cabinet above my work area. I'm saving this blog for my daughter because she still doesn't quite get it and thinks I'm anal with my lists.
Dec. 7, 2010 10:11 pm
BSM - I think most of us have learned the hard way. Years ago I gave each of my daughters and DIL a book with the standard recipes for Thanksgiving and Christmas and a time line. I know they use the recipes - maybe not the time line as I have heard a comment or two about 10 PM dinners. LOL....
Dec. 9, 2010 4:28 am
Thanks so much for sharing "the rest of the story" with us. It is heart warming to hear about you and your loving family. From reading your blogs and posts, I suspect you may have the gift of hospitality! These days, that is as rare as a Burmese ruby.
Dec. 9, 2010 7:05 am
Ah - you are very sweet Bibi. My guest room is always ready for company. :) Thanks for stopping in.
Dec. 9, 2010 10:18 am
Thank you BN for the wonderful tips! Printed and saved. :) Timing isn't usually an issue for me its remembering to get everything at the store. Hope all is well!
Dec. 9, 2010 10:59 am
Thanks K-Dub. Getting all the ingredients is such a challenge - thinking you have everything and then finding out that someone used the last of the eggs and didn't say anything. Hmmmm..... who would do that? LOL. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas!
Dec. 9, 2010 12:58 pm
Aaahh... Sumthing I totally suck at... Timing :( Learned lots from this blog.. Will be especially useful for me bcoz I'm getting married next month & moving from Srilanka to London. There I'm not gonna have family to help me keep to time when hosting a dinner party... Thanx a lot.. But I still don't quite get how u do it all so efficiently.. Ur really talented nana.
Dec. 9, 2010 1:03 pm
Those are a lot of excellent tips Nana! and an equally good blog too, as the tips just keep on coming! One tip that I am very regimented in is to clean as I go...
Dec. 9, 2010 1:29 pm
cuppycake: It just takes practice - and I have had lots and lots of practice. Although this was a dinner for friends the same principles apply for every meal. I imagine that you must be so excited to start your married life. Congratulations!
Dec. 9, 2010 1:31 pm
Gibby - Thanks for stopping in. The clean up is so essential - besides the mess - all those dirty dishes take up space! I actually will clear my counters of anything that I am not going to be using. It really helps. Thanks again.
Dec. 9, 2010 1:58 pm
Kuddos on your diligence to stay with a plan. I would have pulled my hair out by then.
Dec. 9, 2010 6:28 pm
Ah - but with a plan and a goal it is all very under control - doesn't matter if you are cooking for 8 or 80 - I have to have a plan & a goal. :)
hi-desert Kath 
Dec. 9, 2010 8:59 pm
Timing is everything! I make notes to myself and plan, plan, plan. Then this past Thanksgiving I discovered the sweet potato souffle in the oven and the glazed carrots still in the refrigerator after dinner! Those little sips of wine while cooking will get you every time. My new rule is: The cook gets a glass of wine as a reward when ALL of the food is on the table. My husband insists that nobody missed the other dishes.
Dec. 9, 2010 9:45 pm
hi-desert Kath - Glad I am not the only one that has done that! But then darned - all that work and all those left overs! One trick about the stuff in the frig - when I can - I make a shelf just for food to be served - so there is no hunting. I have a second frig which helps. As for the wine - well yep - I make sure to have EVERYTHING done and served and THEN and only then can I drink a glass of wine. I like the tip above about the post it with the dish that gets left on the table. Hmmm....if there are post its on the table there must be food somewhere else! LOL.
Dec. 10, 2010 7:56 am
My mom did lots of big parties and dinners. I always used to help her, and then tried it when I was on my own. It was so hard! I was doing everything just like her. Then I realized--I don't have a live-in full time teenage assistant for grunt work! Oh yeah, if there's a buffet table be sure there's a bowl for wrappers (sugar, etc.) and dead teabags and lemon rinds and stuff on the table.
Dec. 10, 2010 8:02 am
Hi bumble - yep, have a soux chef helps a lot. My two grand daughters can really help...even if it is just drying and putting away the pots and pans etc... Good tip about the discard bowl. :)
Dec. 10, 2010 12:25 pm
Thank you so much.. & Yes baking nana, very excited indeed! About exactly a month more.. nervous about moving away too. Never been out alone.. Not even to a friends house for a few hrs...
Dec. 10, 2010 1:59 pm
Wow - cuppycake - this is going to be a big transition for you. I love London - it's a great City. You will have to keep us posted on your big move.
Dec. 10, 2010 3:48 pm
Incredible list - I'm gonna copy this down as a rough draft when I try my hand at a party. I'm a nut when it comes to listing everything down so this type of thing is perfect.
Dec. 10, 2010 8:51 pm
Hi Faith! Thanks for stopping in. As the years have gone by some of this stuff just is second nature but I do still go over each dish I am making and define what can be done ahead - of course there is always the turkey that gets done an hour too soon or the roast that takes for ever to get to temp. Those things can't be helped, most of the time - but it really helps me to stay on task. :)
Dec. 11, 2010 5:27 am
I definitely will :) so nice to know there are people here who I can actually share these important events in my life with.. & nice people too...
Dec. 11, 2010 5:30 am
I've been entertaining for years. Enjoyed every minute and all my family appreciated my efforts. But I think I finally burned out. I've had lists lists lists and piles, piles of dishes to clean up afterward. It takes me about 3 days to get the house back to normal. Once I decided to wait to make my signature homemade mac n cheese until christmas morning after church. I was moving so fast that I became dizzy and almost passed out. Tons of wonderful memories and now it's time to pass the torch and become a guest!!
Dec. 11, 2010 5:41 am
I have a great tip. I always serve prime rib and alaskan king crab legs for christmas dinner. I couldn't figure out how to cook crab legs for 20 while the roast and other dishes were in the oven. Then it hit me last year. I put the crab legs in my big electric roaster on the rack with a lil water in the bottom. They steamed up beautifully. Everybody just helped themselves and they stayed nice and warm!! I always split the crab legs length wise prior to cooking to make it easier for my guests to eat!!
Dec. 11, 2010 7:05 am
Lol. I could totally relate to your blog. I recently discovered a love of cooking and baking. After learning many new recipes, I wanted to share them with my family (BIG family). Well, I tend to go over board. Try cooking 23 recipes (including dessets) for about 60 family members. Needless to say after the first few times, I too have a timeline. It's a 3 days timeline not including shopping which I start 4 days prior. I love my family and I love cooking for my family so all this work is actually fun.
Dec. 11, 2010 7:37 am
peterson625 - I have offered to pass the torch to one of my kids and so far they won't hear of it for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Easter is now at my daughter or son's house. That is a great tip for the crab legs! The roaster - how perfect is that! Thanks.
Dec. 11, 2010 7:41 am
Cooking Student - That is a BIG family! Like you, I really enjoy cooking for my family - pure joy. We even enjoy the clean up! :)
Dec. 11, 2010 9:18 am
Actually If the whole family came, it would be around 70 people. I come from from a family of 11 children. When you add in all our kids, spouses and grandchildren, it's off the charts. We had to break up into groups. But believe it or not, I still have to cook for some of satellite celebrations. They call and say "Auntie Mary, I just can't seem to make the mac n cheese as good as you. Any chance you could make a little extra for my house?" I'm such a sucker!! I think the next step is too invite them over for a cooking class
Dec. 11, 2010 3:18 pm
peterson625 - It's time for a Mac & Cheese Inservice! Your's is the kind of recipe that when you are gone people will be posting, "My Auntie used to make the best Mac & Cheese - unfortunately none of knows how to make it......" Thanks for stopping in! Oh, btw - I would like to come to YOUR house for Christmas dinner. :)
Dec. 11, 2010 8:48 pm
Baking Nana - I agree. I would like to make sure my mac n cheese recipe outlives me!! Maybe you could hava a sayonce (not sure if I spelled that right) to contact your auntie and get the recipe (just kidding). Or if that fails, start trying to recreate the recipe. Regarding the original content of this blog, the key to my success in entertaining is planning and making my lists for the big day a couple months before. Organization is essential to pull off a dinner party. I start shopping for dry goods and nonperishables a full month ahead. I shop and prepare as much as possible up to 3 days before the party. I set my table the day before as mentioned in prior blogs. Prepare and freeze as much as possible in the weeks before. I'm so happy that the art of entertaining at home with foods that don't come from a carry out container is still alive. I think people are finally getting back to wanting to know what they're eating. Even is something made turns out to be a big flop, It's what memories are made of. Have a Merry and Blessed Holiday.
Dec. 12, 2010 7:24 am
What a useful thing to post! It's a running joke in our family - how late our holiday meals are often served! One addition, though...Even if guests bring their own libations, they will need wine and highball glasses, ice and mixers. Also iced water in a big pitcher. Refrigerate the mixers in advance, if there's room in the frig. Find a spot (preferably away from the cooking area and with room to serve the appetizers as well) to place these things, check glassware for spots and wipe if needed. You can do this in the morning. Take out the mixers and fill the ice bucket (don't forget tongs!) 20 minutes before arrival time. This allows guests to serve themselves without asking you where everything is in your kitchen, while you play hostess and welcome others.
Dec. 12, 2010 8:56 am
Jubead - Good tip about setting up the bar early. When the refrigerator is really full I put the drinks in an ice chest under the table the bar is set up on - then use a long table cloth to hide it. Funny how no matter where I set up the appy's people still end up in the kitchen!
Dec. 12, 2010 3:28 pm
Great blog, great comments and input from all!!! I don't entertain much at home but I cook and take lots to other places to enjoy. I have several "bags" that have the temperature controlled linings to keep hot things hot or cold things cold. They are a MAJOR help and can BE used if staying at home too. I also have picked up several Warming Trays from Thrift stores that are PERFECT to put hor'devoures on to keep warm. You can even put a warmed dish on them to keep it warm. Just used one Friday night at my sisters. I had made little Egg/Sausage in Wonton Cups and they were a hit! In fact, my sister picked them up from my house in the afternoon and by the time I got there that evening----I didn't get one!!! They were already all gone!!! Everyone loved the warming tray and the fact that I only paid 99 cents for it!!! (always plug in and make sure it warms up before buying) I think I have 4 or 5 of them now. LOVE THEM!!! Rice cookers, crock pots, roasters are all GREAT tools to use for entertaining. I also use the styrofoam coolers I get from mail-order meats under the table like B'Nana said when the fridge/freezer is full. Keep one or two in the car too for those shopping trips! Happy Entertaining Everyone!!! BE Well and Bake Well my friends!!!
Dec. 12, 2010 5:11 pm
All the the hints here are great reminders. Due to a tight budget, I start 6 weeks ahead to take advantage of sales, buying only fresh foods during the week before hostessing a dinner. One hint that I found really important and haven't seen on the list is to make sure that you have plenty of containers for leftovers. There is nothing more embarrassing than to offer someone a to go plate and then not have a container to send it home in.
Dec. 12, 2010 6:07 pm
Mich - good thought. I have take out containers but only because I cater. Shopping the sales is essential if you really need to stay on budget. I (or someone should do a blog on entertaining on a budget) :) "Christmas is coming and the Geese are getting fat - please put a penny in the Old Man's hat...."
Dec. 12, 2010 6:08 pm
Grumpy - those bags are GREAT! I have several and they live in my car. I deliver food daily and they are wonderful. Also when I do my big shopping all perishables can go into those - making numerous stops possible. :) Thanks for chiming in!
Dec. 13, 2010 5:21 am
All great ideas. I also use the big insulated bags to allow me to make several stops while out shopping (especially when the weather is warm to keep foods cold). I also use my crockpots, rice cookers, electric skillets, roasters and those styrofoam coolers that I get from food gifts that were shipped to me. I get my take out containers from the $1 store. But I'll admit it gets kind of expensive. I cook year round for many people in my family and they don't always return the containers. Anybody have any ideas on how to get people to return them?
Dec. 13, 2010 7:03 am
Ah - containers! I love my Snapware and don't send those anywhere. You know those containers that rice comes in from Chinese take out? I put out a stack of those with a marker. They hold quite a bit of food and I don't need to worry about them coming home. I also use a lot of zip lock bags - same idea.
Dec. 13, 2010 11:57 am
Baking Nana -Chinese take out containers. Great Idea. Thanks
Dec. 13, 2010 12:27 pm
peterson625 - one thing I have done is hit the holiday clearance sales immediately AFTER the holiday. I stock up on any "disposable" containers and even some of the "not-so-disposable" if marked down enough. I have BEen known to share Easter items in "Valentine" containers, Fourth of July in "Easter", etc. You get the idea - lol It's the insides they want. Especially if you are talking - leftovers to take home ; ) Many times you can find solid colors even on clearance and I snatch those up! Especially from Christmas because you can use the RED for Valentines and the GREEN for St. Patrick's Day and no one is the wiser? I also watch for Lock & Lock and even Ceramic and Stoneware pieces to purchase on clearance and close-outs for those "extra-special" give-aways where either I don't ask for the container back and/or don't "expect" it to return and am okay with that ; ) For people that you cook for regularly? You might label the bottom with - "YOU MUST RETURN THIS DISH FOR REFILLS" It "might" help ; ) BakE Well my friends!!!
Dec. 13, 2010 1:41 pm
Grumpy47 -You're a very resourceful woman. Thanks for the great ideas!!
Dec. 13, 2010 2:38 pm
One of the things that never seem to come "home" are my quart canning jars. :/ I have taken to putting my labels on them - still I go through way too many of those. Now I save glass jars etc.... from pickles etc.... I use those to give away.
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Baking Nana

Living In
Corona, California, USA

Member Since
Aug. 2009

Cooking Level

Cooking Interests
Baking, Grilling & BBQ, Frying, Stir Frying, Slow Cooking, Asian, Mexican, Italian, Healthy, Quick & Easy

Gardening, Hiking/Camping, Camping, Boating, Walking, Fishing, Photography, Music, Charity Work

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About Me
Every morning my granddaughter calls and says, "Good morning Nana. Whatcha doing? Are you baking Nana?" Hence my name, Baking Nana. I love to bake bread and never get tired of it. Yeast is additive! Visit me at BakingNana.com If you would like to contact me directly please use the 'Contact Me' on my site. http://bakingnana.com/contact-me/
My favorite things to cook
I go through phases, Asian for a while then Italian then on to something else. I love experimenting with new flavors and different spices. Some times my husband will ask if we will ever have "ordinary" food again. Once in a while I have to toss him a burger just to keep quite! Actually, he is a good sport and my favorite taste tester.
My favorite family cooking traditions
In our family if it is your birthday you get to choose the menu. We have had some really interesting meals. In March we have 5 birthdays so we do one big party - what a crazy menu that is! Christmas dinner is very traditional. Sausage rolls, Prime Rib, Yorkshire Pudding, gravy, Green beans with bacon, Mashed Potatoes (the really fattening kind) and trifle for dessert. If I were to dare to omit any of those items I would be lynched.
My cooking triumphs
Mastering really great bread is probably my biggest triumph. I am always so pleased when I create a perfect Asian dish.
My cooking tragedies
There have been a few but none so horrible that I can't laugh about them now.
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