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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Guests on a Budget

"I don't have enough money for guests" is a refrain I've heard many times. Too often people feel that either they must spend hundreds on entertaining company, or they must forgo opening their homes to visitors entirely.
I claim to be extremely frugal but have no qualms having guests. How?

Entertaining Guests without Breaking the Bank
Warmth. Atmosphere matters more than food. If you're trying to impress, remember that guests enjoy themselves much more in a welcoming happy home with simple food than fancy food in a cold stark house.
Presentation trumps the money spent. Caviar smeared unappetizingly on a plate is far less impressive  than an artfully presented rainbow salad tied with a green onion (would you like a recipe?) or a colorful garnished soup.
Impressive low cost dishes. You can make fancy dishes that look expensive with a little more effort. Beggar's purses in homemade pastry dough or crepes and filled with a yummy veggie mix, or vegetarian spring rolls in homemade egg roll wrappers and homemade dipping sauce, or lemon meringue pie are all impressive.
Homemade bread. Always fancies up a meal and impresses. Sesame, nigella, caraway, and poppy seeds or even raw oats and sunflower seeds sprinkled on to an egged loaf can spiff up even the plainest loaf without costing too much.
Roshco Silicone Twelve-Cup Muffin Pan with Sled, RedMini everything. Make each guest their own roll instead of a large loaf, make mini fruit cups instead of a fruit salad. Mini pies (chicken, shepherd's pie, or kibbeh) or quiches can be quite fancy looking and don't cost much. I use my silicon muffin pans usually to make mini pies. 
Multi-course meals. When I make a fancy meal, I usually first serve a bunch  of salads and dips with my homemade bread. Next course is soup, usually with homemade croĆ»tons. By the time the main course comes around, people usually are quite full and eat only small portions of  the most expensive part of the meal- the meat.
Vegetarian? Non meat alternatives can also be fancy and usually cost less than having a meat course.
Stretch the meat. By chopping up chunks of chicken or meat and mixing it with cheaper legumes, starches, or veggies, you can have a larger meat dish, but spend less money than if you were serving smaller portions of pure meat. Succotash, stir fry, chili, chicken pot pie, lentil beef shepherd's pie are all tasty examples of stretching meat dishes.
Filling, cheap sides. Rice, potatoes, and in season vegetables are a good accompaniment to the third course.
Serve the guests yourself. When you bring each guest their own portion of food, they won't be eating you out of house and home. I tend to serve the meat dishes myself from the kitchen, and put the cheaper fillers on the table.
Serve what can be eaten. Expect all food on the table to be finished. If you need leftovers, set them aside before the meal, don't wait till the end. If you're serving wine at the table, but don't want the whole bottle finished, remove it from the table after everyone has had one serving.
Potluck. When all else fails, consider asking your guests to each bring one dish. This helps offset the cost for the hosts and makes the guests feel like they repaid the favor of being hosted.

Do you ever have guests? What is your method to ensure that you aren't breaking the bank, but still are able to entertain guests?


This is part of Works for Me Wednesday

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