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Unexpected Visitors for Dinner…


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The unhappy fact is that I simply haven’t the energy I used to. And when an opportunity to invite folks to dinner arises, I want to be able to say “Great” without panicking either over having nothing on hand, or being too tired to cook anything.

This happened late yesterday. We ran into old friends and said…do come to a quick dinner on your way back home if you can fit it in.

“What on earth can I serve?” I ask DH. OK. Toasted cheese sandwiches? Ed says: “pulled pork on a bun with salad”. Right. I have a packet of frozen pulled pork. Ditto buns. BBQ sauces in the garage fridge. Not homemade, but they’ll do. Salad stuff always. Ice cream is fast and no problem. I always have cream.

I have frozen homemade lasagna…but thawed stuff is often not as good the second time around. Fine for family, but not for guests. I can always throw together an impossible pie: meat, vegetables, cheese, biscuit topping. But somehow…it's had its day.

What dishes freeze and then thaw really well? Preferably one-dish dishes.

What recipes you can throw together at the last minute with stuff which you are likely to have on hand in the freezer or pantry? (Please keep in mind that we live in the middle of nowhere and can't run out to pick up a missing ingredient.) Thanks.

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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Darienne, one thing I always do is double up the cheese sauce for mac & cheese. I then freeze half of it, for a quick dinner when I don't feel like doing much. Some folks may find that a bit pedestrian, but we are happy with it. I used to freeze the made up mac & cheese but I found that upon thawing & re-heating, the pasta had absorbed too much of the sauce thus ending up with a rather dry and mushy pasta.

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When I was the "short order cook" for all the teenage boys that randomly arrived I had a few strategies. Here is a tiny glimpse into what I found to be helpful:

- I cooked pasta, rinsed well, and froze in one to two serving quantities. Defrosted in the microwave and then tossed with whatever was around - even just oil, garlic and parmesan and topped with lots of roughly ground pepper - score! Pasta can be tossed with so many bits that are lurking in the fridge - the "cheat" is finishing with cheese and/or cream if they can not stand on their own (cream can be frozen in small portions)

- we called them "steak bites" and the original idea was from The Pioneer Woman. I kept lean beef in the freezer in thin enough pieces that I could take them out and start slicing them within 20 minutes. Rough chunks then massaged with garlic powder and worchesteshire or soy. Let sit just a few minutes and toss into a pan of sizzling butter. Probably 5 minutes till done. Served in a roll as is or with thin sliced cheese on top that melted from the meat heat, or over some of that pasta from the freezer.

- stocking pickles helps if fresh vegetables are not readily around. I always had a cucumber bowl (click) and carrots can be made into a raw salad either grated or thinly sliced and marinated.

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Homemade pesto in the freezer has saved me on many occasions, as has a bag of frozen shrimp. Both defrost very quickly and can be ready while water boils for pasta. Note: best to add fresh grated parmesan cheese to pesto after it's defrosted, but that's a staple in my kitchen so no big deal. Stir cheese into pesto or do a quick saute of shrimp w/ garlic and herbs, and serve with pasta. Or if I especially love my guests, they get both: sauteed shrimp over pasta with pesto.


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Chicken curry and basmati comes to mind. You can serve lots of small bowls with fruit, hot peppers, yogurt, raisins, whatever.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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Well, the first solution, Darienne, is to refrain from inviting them when you run into them.

Barring that, of course (I am an inveterate inviter-over-on-short-notice), I have a few things that are always in my freezer. As mentioned, pesto and peeled and deveined shrimp. Rolled pizza shells; with a 15-min tomato sauce, good cheese, and a few veggies, you can treat people to homemade pizza in minutes. Similarly, blind-baked pastry shells. I can make a quiche and a salad for a light supper very quickly. Add a little purchased charcuterie, and you have a nice meal. I usually have a cake in the freezer--a pound cake, which keeps well and can be served with fruit and/or ice cream, or a cheesecake. Cookies. Fruit coulis or whole fruit lightly cooked in a syrup.

You mentioned toasted cheese; not a bad idea, with good bread and cheese. Also, fondue: if you have some decent bread in the freezer, you can cut it up, throw together the fondue and salad, and people will swoon. Lots of wine. Chocolate for dessert. Nuts (from the freezer) sauteed quickly with some salt/spices for an app.

On the refrigerator side. I make a a big pot of rice on the weekend, lightly poach several chicken breasts that can be smashed to order, and chop several bunches of scallions. I can make fried rice in seconds all week. I do this for myself, but have also used it to do quick meals for company, and it is always terrific, seasoned with aleppo pepper, a little sesame oil, anything else I want to throw in (shrimp, the traditional eggO.

For more do-ahead stuff for the freezer, beef bourgignon keeps well, and good black bean soup that can be garnished with rice, onion, and lime and served with a salad.

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Well firstly I know it's obvious but people are probably happy just to see you and are very grateful that you would invite them over. If an old friend bumped into me and ended up serving cheese sandwiches, I'd probably feel really honoured that they are comfortable serving me something so "pedestrian"... shows that we really ARE friends and don't need to impress.

Having said that, I know it's nice to have something more complete to offer.

I find that Indian (or at least my version of inauthentic Indian) often works quite well from dried/tinned ingredients - some dried lentils/dal and a few tins of tomato make a decent dal once I add spices and maybe some onion or garlic. Usually there is SOME kind of vegetable in the fridge that i can turn into a fresh side dish, like a grated carrot salad, or a side curry, or even opening a jar of pickles or chutney.

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The people in my life are always happy to have Breakfast for dinner. Quiche made with a grated potato crust and some spinach and cheese is good with a salad. But waffles or pancakes and bacon or sausage are always a hit. The ingredients are always around and easy to throw together at a moments notice. And it's an easy one to let people help make. That makes them feel special and you get more time to talk.

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A common oh-why-don't-you-eat-with-us-in-an-hour dish here is puri sabzi. The sabzi is made from whatever vegetables you have on hand, 90% of the time involving potatoes. If you only have potatoes, that will do just fine too. Spices are all store cupboard things round here so that's easy. Puris are a brilliant dish because they are quick and easy, look impressive and are delicious. Grab some yoghurt and some pickles and you have a simple and delicious meal that no-one will complain about.

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Puff pastry - add cheese and you get cheese pinwheel/straw for app; add meat/veggie fillings and you get pie for main or add sausage to make sausage roll; sprinkled with sugar and you get palmier for dessert.

Pasta, fresh and dry, are always on hand. Pair that with either a red jar sauce or just top with a fired egg, toasted breadcrumb and a little cheese.

Curry powder + coconut milk = broth for noodle. Add frozen fish/squid/beef balls. Miso + butter is another nice broth for noodle. Egg + frozen corn (mixed with butter) goes nicely with that noodle.

Chinese sausage + egg + rice + frozen corn/pea = fried rice.

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Thanks to all for a plethora of great ideas. I’m not sure why I get so frozen (easily thawed, good as new) when these occasions arise.

I might add something left out of my initial post. Many of our friends are our age, and although we eat just about anything, I am dismayed by the number of proscriptions which go along with serving meals. “We don’t eat this…he doesn’t like that…I am allergic to the other”. Right. That just about leaves us with glasses of water. Perhaps Janeer was right…don’t invite them in the first place. :raz:

Our Friday night guests (expected) were difficult to feed with the likes, dislikes, and allergies. Gluten is always a problem one. Our Sunday night guests (unexpected) were ostensibly easier. “Oh, we eat anything”. Until they got here and the food was put out. She was diabetic and I didn’t know. Still she was wonderful about it and that was fine. Plus they stopped off at a grocery and brought scads of food with them.

Elsie: Ed makes his Mother’s Macaroni and Cheese and I never thought of that. There’s the old…”we don’t do carbs” thing tho…

Heidi: Didn’t know you could freeze cooked pasta. Should keep some fresh pasta in the freezer.

LindaK: Always have pesto on hand.

PtEater: Are you suggesting cooking the chicken or thawing cooked chicken?

Janeer: couldn’t fine rolled pizza shell on Google. Also…you can keep rice in the fridge for a week? We usually bag and freeze ours in portions.

StuartLS: I like the Indian idea…but then the husband of Friday dinner doesn’t do hot or spicy. I like to do Mexican usually…but it was out.

Ellen: Waffles. Right. With fruit. And chopped nuts. And yoghurt, or cream, or whatever.

Jenni: lovely Indian ideas.

Annachan: right. Puff pastry in the freezer. And canned coconut milk.

I need to make a list. :rolleyes:

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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Omelets with things in them -- cheese, vegetables, what have you. Or a frittata. That, with a salad and something easy for desert (fruit, cookies, ice cream). You can add bread, potatoes or rice for the people who eat that and those who don't can pass it by. An appetizer of nuts or cheese and crackers (no-carbers can leave off the crackers), some olives. If you have some frozen fun things on hand -- like gyoza or cheese straws, etc. -- that are quick to heat up, those make a nice addition to the appetizers, as well.

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I keep some tasso ham (Polcyn's recipe) frozen in 1/2 lb chunks for easy thawing.

If I have last minute guests, I use the tasso and either dried or canned red beans for RB & rice (I use dried if I have time and canned if I don't).

Tasso also works in jambalaya. Neither of those dishes require anything that I don't keep on hand at all times (trinity vegs, tomatoes for jambalaya etc...). I will also add shrimp to the jambalaya if I have some on hand.

I keep Besh's recipe for cajun seasoning mixed up and it works for either of the above dishes though the tasso is strongly flavored so you don't need a lot.

Edited by BadRabbit (log)
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You're a better person than I am! I must admit, I don't think I could bring myself to cook for no-carbers. That sounds really harsh, but I just wouldn't be able to make them anything that I would want to eat - I prefer rice at a meal or at least some other starch if that's not possible.

Various eggy things definitely sound like the way to go here. Protein rich, most people like, quick and easy etc. However, I'm a non-egg eater so cannot suggest anything helpful beyond that.

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I'm assuming you always have chicken stock in the freezer, great to thaw, sautee some onion and garlic, toss in some chopped veg (in my case usually chard or spinach, tomatoes, and zucchini) maybe some pasta, and a poached egg and call it dinner. You can throw together biscuits or corn muffins pretty quick for those who are pro-carb. I always keep cookie dough (usually a roll of World Peace Cookies) in the freezer for impromptu desserts.

Dietary restrictions that have a medical basis clearly are a different matter, but if you come over with no notice, "you git what you git and you don't throw a fit" in the words of my 5 year old :laugh:. I find breaking out a good bottle of wine usually smooths any rough edges on the meal as well...

If you ate pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry? ~Author Unknown

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Stuartlikesstrudel - (mmmm strudel!) This is the one time I actually use my microwave. I throw a potato or two - depending on how many I am serving - into the microwave until almost cooked and then peel and grate them on the biggest grater I have. Toss with butter, salt and pepper and lightly press them into the pan. Put in the fillings and eggs like usual and bake. I don't know about healthier, but it tastes good and saves me from making a pastry crust. And I always have potatoes on hand.

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I second omelettes. Hard not to go wrong -- easy to make, makes use of whatever you happen to have lying around, and actually gives the guest somewhat of a choice.

"Hatch chile and Chinese sausage for me!"

But, since that's already been suggested, here's a new one -- linguini with a white clam sauce. I keep a couple pounds of cooked clams in shell cryo'd in the freezer along with small containers of blanched minced basil frozen in olive oil. And I always have canned clams and clam juice in the pantry. So, I can whip up something that tastes like I spent all day on it in around 20 minutes. Ask guests to "pick up a baguette" on the way.

My procedure is to have the frozen clams in a bowl, and the clam sauce mostly done by the time the guests arrive. Then just toss in the basil, add the clams for a couple minutes, and everyone has a glass of white wine while the pasta cooks.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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I don't know what climate you have in the middle of nowhere, but if it's a nice day, there are not many things that are faster than a quick bbq! Some chicken breasts, steaks, pork, even fish. To be ueber prepared you cold freeze some already marinated meat, thaw it in cold water. Add a nice salad and some bread (or rice or beans or lentils or...) and you're done. Added benefit is that the party is outside, the kitchen a minimum mess and the food good :-)

I fire up the grill almost every day and dinner is usually ready in less than an hour, including heating the grill and prep (if any).

Also great to put some corn in the husk on the grill if it's in season in nowhere :-)

Other than that I'd also go with pasta, there are even some pretty good ready made sauces you can buy, doctor them a bit and you're done.

If you have a bit more notice AND can get to a store, a roasted chicken is always great too.

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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Some repeats, some new.

pasta - w frozen pesto

- carbinara (we always have bacon, eggs, parmesan)

- alfredo (we always have cream, parmesan)

add frozen peas to the latter two if vegetable is a challenge

- clam sauce (keep can of good clams around. Not perfect, but fast and good)

- frozen red sauce

Quiche - we always have flour, eggs, cheese. I like the potato crust idea, but have to try it

Frittata - eggs and whatever. Serve with bread which makes the carbs optional

"noodles" - spaghetti noodles, veg fried, meat of some kind (smoky ham is good if you dont have something 'authentic'), soy sauce, sesame oil. Can add a LOT of cabbage to this. Can vary seasoning for a more chinese or filipino flavor.

I like the idea of steak bites. Might have to add that to our repetoire.

We're lucky, we can grill if the husband unit goes and gets all social like that.

(we can also walk 1/4 mile to the grocery, but there isnt time with our invites. Its usually a 'right now' thing).

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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I like the idea of steak bites. Might have to add that to our repetoire.

I forgot to mention the Lawry's seasoned salt! I only massage with the seasonings and let the meat sit for the time it takes to get the pan with butter hot. Though it might sound like a salt bomb, it is not.

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We always have frozen chicken breasts on hand, but having time to thaw them is a problem if you haven't planned ahead - so the solution for a quick meal is to make pulled chicken which doesnt require thawing. I usually use pulled chicken for either tacos or pulled chicken sandwiches. Just put the frozen chicken in a pot with water and seasoning (keep it simple for bbq pulled chicken, add things like cumin, chili powder, etc for tacos) and boiled till the chicken is essentially overcooked and pull-able. The bonus there is that you don't need to tend to it while cooking. Shred the chicken with forks, then return to the pot with either some of the resulting stock for tacos, or some bbq sauce for sandwiches. Then just make your sandwiches or tacos (with the usual toppings)! Healthy, easy, tasty. Also freezes very well.

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My fallback is something that's already cooked: I have a freezer full of chili, gumbo, bean soups, etc. Most of these are easy to "stretch" a bit, go well with bread/crackers/chips on the side for the hungry ppl who always want more, and can be bolstered with a salad course to start.

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Lots of answers to ponder, Sylvia, Bad Rabbit, Jenni, Genkinaonna, ScoopKW, OliverB, TheNoodleIncident and HungryC. Thanks all.

Lots of good pasta ideas. A bit of a problem with the low carbers and gluten-free types. (Hmmm...one sure thing. Dog people seem to eat anything. :wub: )

Short order cooking is out I fear and the middle of nowhere is also in the Great Frozen North (Ontario).

Probably the pulled chicken is a good idea. We eat mostly pulled beef and even better pork, but I am amazed at the folks who eschew pork big time. Most people will eat chicken (not my favorite) and, in fact, chicken with a stir-fry was the dish we served Friday night to the folks who couldn’t, wouldn’t and didn’t. Not a dish I would pick, but it worked well and that's what they asked for in the end.

Best for me to make a solid list of things which I can throw together or thaw from the freezer without problems. …and hope most guests can come for the mid-day meal and will eat spicy/hot. :raz:

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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