Last fall my home group (small group/community group/Bible study) reconfigured and we needed a new home to rotate to. I offered up mine. Because not everyone in group both lives and works in the city, it can turn into a long day for the people who have to travel to that night's venue by 7:15 if they go home and eat dinner first. For some reason, in my mind, this translated to "let's have everyone over for dinner!!!"
I had never had people over for dinner before. I have NO clue why I would volunteer to do so for weeks on end. But I did. Heck, most meals I cooked for myself were of the "eh... it's cooked through so it's gotta be safe to eat" variety.
Okay, that's not entirely true, but I didn't think they were necessarily good, ya know? So I had to get my act into gear and just go for it. And pray no one contracted e. coli or salmonella while at my house.
Some things I learned:
1. No one really cares that I don't have matching plates and silverware for a large group, people are just happy to hang out together.
2. Cheese can fix a variety of errors.
3. People don't have particularly high expectations. Make what you like and they'll like it.
4. Salad is easy and balances out most meals.
5. Don't aim for perfection, aim for togetherness.
It should be noted that I'm not trying to make anything that's high cuisine. I'm often just walking in the door from work and throwing it all together. Sometimes I'll make things in advance that I can just pop in the oven. Folks seem to be happy. I'd say they're lying but they keep coming back. And, it turns out, I love having people over for dinner. So, if you're afraid of having people over, I'm sharing some of the menus I've make in the past couple of months. All are exceedingly easy. But if I share some of mine with you, I have to ask you to share yours with me. I'm always in need of ideas.
Ina Garten's Potato Salad
Salad (brought by a guest)
Make homemade dough, let everyone top their own and toss in the oven in pairs at 500 degrees. Slight party snafu? My smoke detector goes off when my oven is at 500 degrees. It's best to be safe and invite several guests who are at least 6'2" so they can man the alarm.
People chose from the following toppings: caramelized onion, spinach, tomato, pesto, ricotta, feta, mozzarella
Salad with homemade tahini dressing
It's Winter and I Want Comfort Food!:
Pioneer Woman's Lasagna (people loved it. It was dense and heavy. Definitely not high cuisine, but there's a time and place for everything. And there was no way I was making a bechamel sauce. I used real parmesan cheese though because I have my limits.)
Turkey Spinach Meatloaf with Mashed Red Potatoes (A favorite of mine)
Time Crunch/Brainless Crockpot Recipe:
Roasted chili pepper potatoes (cut potatoes into chunks, toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and chili powder. Bake until crispy.)
A good, solid dinner for friends you love:
World's Best Chocolate Chip Cookies (Brown the butter, use good chocolate and use salted butter for a salted caramel undertone)
Dinner with a Gluten & Dairy Free Friend: