Organization and planning ahead: Know Thy Recipe! Have a plan! Makes lists! Experience the power of delegation!

Often our unwillingness, or reluctance, to have guests over stems from pre-conceived ideas of what the result should be. As with anything, the more I’ve hosted dinner guests, the more comfortable I’ve gotten.

I was a Director for Pampered Chef for a little over 2 years. It was fun and I loved going into over 160 kitchens and getting to know the hostesses. One thing I learned quickly was to stick with the same 2 recipes for about a six-week period. I improved my presentation and got more efficient with each party, and was able to enjoy the guests more.

I have instilled that plan into my entertaining (or hosting) in my home. My first recommendation is to “Know Thy Recipe!” Try it on your family first, and if it’s a “hit,” choose some side dishes that go well with it; write the menu down and file it away to be used on your guests. You’ll eventually be able to memorize some of the recipes. One of the side dish recipes that I am known for is my Zucchini Noodles! We have a garden, so this is a great way to use up all those monster-sized zucchini’s for a tasty, mouth-watering side dish (posted below). Many kids have discovered a love for zucchini in our home. I look for recipes that not only taste good, but also require minimal kitchen time, or at least minimal time when the guests arrive.

Try to plan out your menu a few days in advance and get to the store right away. Making notes or lists helps, and also keep your favorite “stand-by crowd-pleaser” menus taped up inside your cupboard doors, easy to find in a pinch. I’ve also purchased Costco white binders with sheet protectors that I’ll slip recipes or ideas from magazines into. You could even label one “dinner,” “dessert,” “decorating ideas,” etc.

I often work backwards with my lists and time. I’ll call it the 3-Day Countdown! I’ll decide 2 days before, “What can I do today to lighten my load?” If we have company on Saturday night, I’ll make a list for Thursday, Friday and then Saturday. After work on a Thursday I may head to the store and get all my shopping done. On Friday I may marinate my meat, make up my salad dressing, toast my nuts, or even set out my dishes.

The day that my guests are going to arrive, I love to stay home. Even though I usually try to pick up and clean a little (if I stay on a regular cleaning schedule, the “light” cleaning is fast!) I love putting my table together, making my dessert, and just enjoying my home and the creativity that I’ll talk about in another post. I love the “bringing it all together” feeling. Being organized and able to cross things off your list prior to this day makes the preparation enjoyable.

If you are a deadline person, this should work for you. I work fast under pressure and my sister-in-law often calls me (in a joking way), “June Cleaver on speed!” For some reason I kick into “high gear” when I know I have only 3 hours before 12 guests, or even 4 guests, arrive. (See photo above that Abby drew of her Mama!)

Experience the power of delegation! Gone are the days when I’d rather do it all myself. I’m always tempted to do more than is required, but I’ve learned that when people ask what they can bring, I should assign them a course — an appetizer, bread, salad or dessert. The more families we have, the less cooking I have to do.

It’s easy to spend days in elaborate preparations that just rob us of our time. Again, looking at our hidden motives I ask myself, am I trying to impress? When I’m stressed at the last minute before guests arrive, I know I’ve slipped back into old habits of running behind and not preparing in advance. My personal goal is to be finished with everything ½ hour before guests arrive. I like to sit down with my husband then and relax.

Now here are my fabulous ZUCCHINI NOODLES recipe! A real “hit” with company and a great side dish! They are a great substitute for pasta and can be served with an Alfredo sauce (below), or with any kind of meat, or you can serve with spaghetti sauce. Anywhere you’d eat pasta, you can substitute zucchini noodles.

Zucchini Noodles
Take approximately 12 zucchini and create long ribbons with you potato peeler, starting at the top of your zucchini and peeling wide ribbons down the length of it. Continue turning and peeling until you use all of the green, and continue until it becomes to thin. Discard the rest (or use in soup).

Heat a large skillet on medium-high and add your olive oil and noodles. Sauté for approximately 2-3 minutes. Do not over cook (they will be soggy). Add salt and pepper.

Make your favorite Alfredo sauce to add to the noodles and serve!

My favorite Alfredo sauce is: Press about 10 garlic and sauté in olive oil in a small fry pan. Add 2 cups of whipping cream and heat on high until it starts to boil, then turn down to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add 1 cup parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.

ENJOY!

Since Abby drew the picture above, I thought it would be fun to share the apron she made for her American Girl doll with her Christmas sewing machine!

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