This Easter could potentially have passed by without any family getting together, without any “special” aspect to the day. I couldn’t have that. Easter is too important. It’s one of the days in a year that I believe always deserves new memory-making. And circumstances put me in a position where I could be passive and let it pass as an ordinary day, or I could do something about it. So I thought, WWP31WD?
What would the Proverbs 31 woman do?
It took less than a second for the answer to come. She would cook, and the people would come.
So I seized the opportunity to host my second holiday. Although, the first one barely counts. Last Christmas Eve, I had a total of seven people at the house, myself included, which is about five people more than I have ever cooked for at one time. I was a little nervous, but took an easy route in two big pots of chili on the stove- one beef and turkey, the other venison. I mixed up a Mexican style salad, and my boyfriend’s mom made everyone a grilled cheese. It was a perfect meal for a chilly night and all I really had to do was make sure the chili didn’t burn. Even in light of my limited responsibilities I forgot about one basic necessity- drinks. When everyone arrived I mumbled and stumbled through the few options we had in the fridge, mentally smacking myself on the head for my lack of foresight.
Oh well, it turned out great. The house was beautifully decorated for Christmas, the fire in the fireplace warm and inviting, and I couldn’t have asked for better company. The night ended with a sense of everything right in the world.
But this time around, this Easter, it was time to step up my game a bit. I didn’t want to rely on another one pot wonder. Not that there is anything wrong with a good pot of chili, but this time there would only be four people eating, so it was the perfect opportunity to see if I could create another decent, edible holiday meal, but something different this time.
I only really started cooking, and when I say cooking, I mean not just something you pull out of a box, transfer to a baking dish and then stick in the oven for 20 minutes, in the past two years, more or less. At first, even a simple box taco kit gave me its share of trouble, including tortillas so burnt that the house smelled for over a week and a raccoon literally walked up to the tortillas thrown out the back door, smelled them, and walked away leaving them untouched.
So this was a big deal for me. This process of learning how to host and cook for multiple people, it’s exciting yet a little nerve-wracking. I’ve come to enjoy cooking for others and it’s a way to show love, to show others we care. I just sent up a little prayer that I wouldn’t have to order a pizza by the time company arrived.
And, while there are a couple things that can be improved upon, everything was not only edible, but seemingly enjoyable. I even remembered the drinks! ….though, not the ice, but progress is progress, right?
Nothing burned, no smoke alarms went off, no one died of sudden food poisoning, everyone had a good time and left with full bellies.
Success, I say!
Here are a few things I learned through the process. These may be common sense, or even altogether unneccesary, for the more practiced hosts and hostesses, but for those with little practice and just starting out, like myself, these may come in handy and help reduce stress and worry when cooking time arrives:
- Plan ahead. Plan out your meal at least a week ahead of time, including any side dishes, any dessert, all of it. Gather all your recipes in one place with easy access, whether printed out from the computer or written down on a sheet of paper. Ensure to account for adequate serving sizes to feed your guests. Overestimate if need be, better to have leftovers than not enough.
- Create a grocery list and bring it, and a pen or marker, with you to the grocery store so that you can mark off each item as you put it in your cart. This way you will not forget anything.
- Shop at least a couple days ahead of time for groceries. Especially around the holidays, store shelves may be emptied of staple items during a busy day full of last minute shoppers, and you don’t want to be left scrambling to find one particular item at the last minute.
- Make whatever you can the day before. If you can make a cake the day before, or cut fruit, do what you can that can be wrapped and put in the fridge until the next day.
- Plan out your timing. Write down on how much time each dish needs to cook and if it needs to be put in the oven, on the stove, or in the crock pot. Try to arrange to spread things out among different cooking sources, so not everything needs to be put in the oven, or everything needs to be put on the stove. Then plan ahead of time what you needs to be put where and in what order. Know what time you need to start. If something needs to be put in the crock pot at 10 a.m. to be ready or dinner, start getting things out at 9:45.
- Always allow a little extra time. I learned that even if a recipe calls for 20 minutes cook time, I sometimes underestimated prep time-whether it’s peeling or slicing or mixing. Also, with some recipes, even after the called for 20 minutes of cook time, I’d find it isn’t done and needs 10 more minutes. Give yourself leeway so you’re not left rushing at the last minute. Rushing causes mistakes and under-cooked food.
These are the six things I did as a completely amateur cook and host to prepare and serve a holiday meal. Along the way I learned a few things to make things better for next time, but these tips allowed me to avoid stress, and as a result, according to my boyfriend, I seemed to pull it off “flawlessly.”
Have any of your own ideas on cooking for others with little experience, or stories to share of your own amateur kitchen endeavors? Comment below!