Oh yes I did just throw an impromptu dinner party for 15 ! Truth is, this is not uncommon in my house. So, I thought I would share some strategies on how to manage this seemingly impossible feat.
Who were these people ? These were nine guests from France who we were expecting. We were to house them for perhaps a week. So tonight, in what we thought was the first night of their visit, we thought they could simply settle in. However, it turns out they decided to stay only one night, so this would be our only chance to visit with them. Dinner was served.
My family totals 6, not counting the baby granddaughter, so we had plenty of hands. This is the first tip.
1. You must train your children (and partner) from an early age to clean up after themselves in the kitchen, so the kitchen is not a fright when you go to use it. You must teach them basic cooking skills so they can effectively sous-chef (assist) you in a pinch.
2. The next tip is similar: Keep the house reasonably tidy on a regular basis. Ensure your house is curated (meaning get rid of what you don’t need), clean and organized every week. Pick a day and keep to it. Then when opportunity strikes, you will be ready.
3. Keep some basic decorations handy. I use candles and nice napkins. Guests seem reluctant to use our cloth napkins, so I keep some paper ones on hand. My candles are oversized white tea lights available at both Costco and Ikea. I place them in glass candle holders for ambiance. They come in little metal holders which prevent wax mess and get recycled.
4. Have a set of dishes you can make quickly from things on hand, from the freezer and the pantry. Have ingredients for these recipes on hand most all the time. Have a ready-to-go festive drink as well. Mine is Pellegrino which I keep stocked in the pantry.
In our case tonight, we made Paleo chili with all the trimmings, green salad and fruit salad. ( Always have those last two side dishes !)
Here’s the rough recipe for Paleo Chili :
- In a large soup pot, saute a tablespoon of green chilis, canned or fresh, in a couple tablespoons olive oil. You may also include minced garlic.
- Brown about three pounds lean red meat in this flavored oil. Season with lemon pepper, cumin and chipotle chile powder, coating the surface of the meat lightly with each spice all across the area of the pan. ( This could be done with ground turkey too.)
- Saute some Mirepoix (roughly chopped carrots, onion and celery at a 2:1:1 ratio) and add that to the meat.
- Add a cup of frozen or fresh corn.
- Sitr and get mixture dry, caramelizing, and very hot.
- Add 1-2 cans full flavored beer (not paleo) or just water. Keep your face out of the steam. The alcohol cooks right off.
- Then add a can each of tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, and diced tomatoes.
- Bean eaters (not Paleo) can add two cans here. I kept ours on the side since you never know the dietary constraints of guests.
- Simmer and adjust all seasonings, salt last.
- Serve with corn tortilla chips, chopped scallions, (lactose free) sour cream or substitute, salsa, and guacamole. Cheese eaters may add grated cheese. These garnishes are all set out for people to add at their discretion.
Here is my Gluten free but too-sweet-to-be Paleo Quick Berry Cobbler:
Spread a 2-3 berry-deep layer of red fruits on the bottom of a 13X 9 "ish" baking pan. These could be frozen or fresh raspberries, strawberries, cherries, or even blueberries, or better yet, a random combo of these. Pour off any dilute water from melting fruit.
Make the topping. Mix the following until crumbly:
- 1c gluten free flour
- 1c sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tea spoon salt
Spread over berries.
Melt one stick of butter or 1/2 cup coconut oil and pour evenly over crumbs.
Bake at 350 degree until crust is golden brown and berries are not watery. Pro tip: bake on an edged pan lined with parchment. Start watching the cobbler at about 25 minutes.
Keep conversation going by offering herbal or decaffeinated tea after dinner.
Let guests help if they arrive too soon and clean up afterward. It is better to be doing things together than to have people idle and awkward. Don’t think that everything has to be perfect. It is more important that you are warm and inviting.
Now you are all set to throw an impromptu New Year’s Eve party. Happy New Year !