How to cook for people at home and also keep your sanity

The past two months have been busy at the tiny house though thankfully not stressful. Because of the looser restrictions, we have been able to entertain some guests and it was a fun learning experience.

It is only the start but here are some of my realizations following my slew of domestic adventures on how to be the hostess with the mostess from the kitchen.

1. Keep it small and relaxed.

The biggest group that I have cooked for is eight. A full table but certainly not a festival. What makes it easy for me is I cook family-style meals, all for sharing, and I do none of the fancy-schmancy stuff. Just honest, straightforward good food that lets the ingredients speak for themselves. Often five ingredients max.

2. Plan and prep ahead.

I will always thank the high heavens for the magic that is the shakshouka and hummus breakfast combo. The hummus and spiced tomato sauce for the shakshouka can be prepared in advance and the only thing I need to do in the morning is heat some flatbreads and poach eggs in the shakshouka for breakfast that guarantees a good day. Homebaked bread and eggs never fail, too!

3. Cook something you know how to cook!

There are recipes I would like to try – cauliflower buffalo wings, jackfruit rendang, and mushroom risotto – but it is not time to experiment when cooking for guests. For this occasion, it is best to cook signature dishes that you are confident in making. Now is the time for favorites that have always been proven a winner. My go-tos are our vegetarian sandwiches, black tofu, and seafood.

4. Utilize small pockets of time.

Multi-tasking is required in the kitchen, especially if it is small. I cook my pasta and fresh tomato sauce at the same time, set the table while the eggs poach, and prepare drinks while the sandwiches toast. There is always something to do and getting the timing right helps a lot in putting a good meal together.

5. Enjoy!

Cooking is a lot of work. Why else would chefs be so cranky all the time? The only reason I have not chased people off with a broom is I enjoy it. Even if it is busy and exhausting, I find the entire activity therapeutic and not stressful.

To me, there is meaning in it and feeding people is an opportunity for me to express myself and my values. It is just a lot of fun – from sourcing local and sustainable ingredients to preparing them in the simplest way possible.

As of this writing, restrictions have returned and it is possibly the reason why I finally have time to write about this. I have zero complaints. Now is the time to relax, recover, and find new inspiration in making good food.

I hope one day we can share a meal together, too. What are some of your best tips for entertaining at home?

57 thoughts on “How to cook for people at home and also keep your sanity

  1. Growing up, I had to cook for the family and it usually meant cooking for more than ten people who had dietary restrictions and personal preferences. Since then, I started resenting cooking… so now I donโ€™t do it much, and when I do, I make sure to cook enough for a few servings so that I donโ€™t have to cook for a while. Now hubby just does it ๐Ÿ˜‚

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  2. I also entertain a lot, Micah, and often 21 people as that is the number of our family members. I also like to prepare as much as possible in advance so that would include all salads, starters and puddings.

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      1. Often we do a hot roast lunch – very traditionally English with roast lamb, roast potatoes, green peas, peas, brussel sprouts, etc. Sometimes we have a braai (barbecue elsewhere in the world) and I often have tea parties with cakes and scones or confectionary.

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  3. My rule for having guests for dinner is to do as much ahead of time as possible. The largest group I served was 22. The adults had an appetizer in the living room while the children ate their dinner at the table. We swapped places, and we had our meal as the children had dessert. A treasure hunt kept the children busy while we ate dessert. That was Christmas day, after I had played the organ for the church service. After that year, we had our family gatherings at church. John’s sisters were in charge of Easter and Thanksgiving.

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      1. For Christmas we always have a chicken casserole that everyone loves. Back then I was working full time and cooked the chicken in several batches weeks ahead. John took the meat off the bone, and we froze it. A couple of days ahead, I assembled the dishes, and John packed them in the refrigerator. I also prepared individual frozen cranberry salads well ahead of time. After we lived in England, we always had a steamed Christmas pudding for dessert. That was made at least a month ahead. John’s sisters brought an appetizer and a green vegetable. It was always a relaxed meal, because Christmas was over at that point.

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        1. Wow, thank you for sharing these, Anne. I can imagine you and John working together in your kitchen. It made me smile! Your food and family sound lovely. I hope you are able to celebrate the holidays this way again this year.

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  4. All of this is good advice for entertaining. Your meals looks like works of art. This last year has really found me cooking at home more and even enjoying it. I now see it as a creative endeavor – at least some of the time. I do whole heartily agree to only prepare the tried and true when one is having guests. Though sometimes it can be fun to try something new as a group. We recently ordered some Argentinian empanadas from a local store (take out). We added salad and fruit. Figuring out what we wanted and seeing how we all liked it made it a fun experience. Thank heavens we will soon be able to entertain more in our homes. We entertain in an informal, relaxed way. Thanks for your post, and enjoy your day!

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    1. Thank you, Betty, and that is good advice actually that reminds me of Barefoot Contessa. She always says storebought is fine on her cooking show! I am glad you are enjoying homecooking more. To me, it is therapeutic, especially when cooking with produce we grew ourselves. Recently, we had lasta with our own homegrown mushrooms, bellpeppers, chillis, and herbs. It was so satisfying to eat. Also looking forward to a tomato harvest this summer. I like your suggestion on entertaining – fun and exciting! I would love to attend your dinner party. Hoping you could host some good ones in a few. Have you been vaccinated already?

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      1. Dan and I have both had the first shot. My daughter and a friend visited us recently. The friend had both her shots. So, our dinner was just the four of us. I do like having just 2 other people – or all our kids – which is 4. Your pasta with all those homegrown vegetables sounds so delicious! Enjoy your day!

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        1. Thank you, Betty. Yes, cooking for family is always nice, and in a small, intimate group even nicer. I hope you get your second shot soon and stay safe and healthy. And yes, it was so satisfying to eat meals out of homegrown ingredients – can’t be any fresher than that!

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  5. It is now over 2 years since we last entertained at home and whatever is on the table, the best thing really, is just being together with family, or with friends! It would be lovely to visit you both and perhaps see some turtles as well! Here, the spring weather is changeable and so we make the most of our days with thoughts of travelling again later in the year. Keep well, Ashley ๐Ÿ™

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    1. That would be a dream! We hope to meet you and Carol when the world opens again. Seeing the turtles and the eggs is life-affirming, an experience we would recommend to everyone. Also, would love to cook for you and hear your input on the food. In the beginning, I always tell Markus to give me his honest opinion otherwise he will be stuck eating food he does not like. And agreed, company and conversation is important but it does not hurt to have a nice dessert. Haha! What is your favorite dessert actually?

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      1. I love puddings, sticky, gooey, all things bad. Carol loves fruit, fruit, fruit, and so fruit it is for both of us ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ™

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  6. All of this food looks amazing! I long for the day when I can invite people over for dinner again. I look for ways to make things ahead of time to reduce the amount of last minute prep. For Christmas, I make my stuffing and glazed carrots in the crock pot. It means less fussing when guests arrive. I agree to stick with simple, straightforward food that you know how to cook!

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    1. Thank you, Michelle. We wish the same for you. How is the vaccine roll out in Canada? And yes, I agree with prepping ahead of time. I have not cooked for a holiday and imagine it a big job. My mother is very good at feeding the masses though. She is an amazing cook and she does Filipino food so well. What are you go-to dishes when entertaining?

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        1. That is incredibly fast compared to here! I hope everyone there gets vaccinated by the end of June. It will make a big difference for your people and the world. We can only hope that things here will also improve.

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          1. I hope things pick up for you too. We donโ€™t manufacture the vaccines in Canada so we are at the mercy of other countries to export to us. The EU is making noise about limiting exports so that could derail our plans since our supply comes from EU and USA.

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  7. Right now – I just wish I could be a guest at your home! What delish looking food!!! *Mouth waters*
    Honestly with all the madness that was 2020 – the ONLY good outcome was not entertaining people at home (and in general). ๐Ÿ™ˆ I love cooking but can max cater to 3-4 people. As soon as that number increases – I just stress out so much! I’ll definitely keep your tips in mind whenever we next host people.

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    1. Thanks. Come by when the world allows! 3-4 is already very good! Well done. I started with one – Markus. Haha! In Bali, two years ago, I cooked for a couple of friends who invited us over for dinner. My confidence grew gradually. What are your go-to meals when having people over?

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      1. I usually do – mashed potatoes (doesn’t get easier than that), pasta (I have 3-4 different recipes depending on the group), some salad or roasted veggies (because how much easier can it get than throwing veggies inside the oven), hummus (with store bought pita bread) and garlic bread. My main highlight is always dessert – since I love baking! Cakes, cupcakes, cheesecake, brownies, puddings – whatever I’m in the mood for that day.

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