Learning – always be willing to try new things. Use the Internet or library, along with your favorite cookbooks, for recipes and unique ideas. Try new recipes with your family first!

When it comes to entertaining, I consider that “learning” is having your normal outlook broadened with the way other people do things. Watch what they do. Take bits and pieces from dinner parties and repeat those ideas, but in your own style and on your own budget! Or, how about if we re-spark our ideas a bit, when it comes to hospitality or entertaining? Maybe we need a new twist, or new ideas to get us excited about the whole concept!
Besides using cookbooks or magazines (my messy cookbook cupboard to the left), I have also learned to use the Internet or watch cooking shows on TV for new ideas! Some of our favorite family entertainment has been watching, “Good Eats,” with Alton Brown, on the Food Network channel. Our friends up in Portland have a TV attached to the wall above their bathtub, where they love bathing and watching cooking shows at the same time!

Or, look in your refrigerator or freezer and see what needs to be eaten up. Then pop those ingredients into the computer and see what kind of new recipes you can come up with. Last night my 14 yr. old son, Elliot, cooked up the best corned beef hash. He took leftover potatoes, carrots and corned beef, I found a recipe in a magazine, and he went to town cooking it. DELICIOUS!

I got all excited when an email came through last night from my friend, Faye. Faye is a retired Kindergarten teacher who has a love for people. She and her husband Roger are so very hospitable! Here was their story last night:

“Our friends moved into their new home just before Christmas. The guys were playing poker there Saturday night, so we took a simple carry in supper an hour beforehand. Two of us brought green salads, one lady made cookies, brownies, and fudge, Roger got the pizza from Costco (did you know that you can call ahead and order?), and we had such fun! I took all paper and plastic plates, cups, forks, and napkins, and we put all the trash in tie garbage bags, which we took home with us, so there was no mess in their brand new home. (Nobody spilled either!)”

What a great idea! It’s the whole “Take and Bake” concept, but you’re literally taking it into someone else’s home! And it sounds like they had a lot of fun.

A different approach to hospitality is taking meals to your neighbors or friends when in need. I ran a “meals ministry” at church for 2 years. I had a list of ladies who wanted to use their gifts in helping others, by bringing meals to shut-ins. We brought meals to homes with new babies, people who experienced sickness or death in their family, or whatever unique situation warranted a meal. I learned rather quickly what I could prepare for others, since my time was limited.

I would buy a roasted chicken, fresh bread and salad ingredients at the store. I’d whip up a salad; layer it in a large zip-lock bag and seal. My kids would help by making a pan of brownies. Maybe 20 minutes tops to pull it all together and bless another family.

I challenge myself to branch out and keep learning!

What are some of the ways you sharpen your learning skills with cooking and entertaining?

(Picture at very top: one of my favorite books, “Food Lover’s Companion”)

I couldn’t help but add a picture of Paul and Abby going to the “Daddy Daughter Dance” on Friday night. If you want to read more about what Paul had to say about this night, go here!