entertaining · hospitality

My Five Best Tips For Hosting a Dinner Party

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Hosting a group of people for dinner is something I love to do!

Laughter,

Good food,

Fellowship

are all enjoyed as we gather around the table.

We hosted a party of ten at our home this past weekend and it was such a blessing!  Here was my menu:

Beef Enchiladas
Chicken Enchiladas
Sweet Corn Cakes
Black Beans
Upside down German Chocolate cake
Lemon Pound Cake with Cherry Compote

Cares are lifted as we talk, share and pray.  The burdens that were brought in are eased by the joy of coming together for a few hours, and it all happens around good food.  Hmmm, I think that is often the part that makes people afraid to host others – all the work and prep of the food.  Am I right?

I want to help with that and share with you my Five Best Tips for hosting a dinner party so you can enjoy your gathering as much as your guests!

  1. Prepare ahead as much as possible. In the menu I served this weekend, everything but the corn cakes were made ahead of time!
    1. Find a dessert you can make and freeze – Cake layers, cookies, brownies, pie crusts, biscotti – all freeze well and you’ll have one whole course of the meal done a week or more before the party!

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      Desserts made ahead of time are such a help!  This Upside-Down German Chocolate Cake is n’t pretty until you flip each piece over as you serve it, but it’s soooo good!
    2. I made Beef and Chicken Enchiladas at my recent party. I roasted the chicken and browned the hamburger several days beforehand and froze it in freezer bags.  I made the Enchilada sauce the day before.  The day of the party, all I had to do was layer the tortilla shells, meat sauce and cheese.49d48c02-32d4-4fd0-bfa6-7960691df327-16821-0000095519839c17_file8c9fea67-be38-4989-a635-b9e04aee9dfc-16821-00000957553b8d31_file
    3. Set the table the day before or early in the day.
    4. Get the coffee maker ready to perk.  The smell of coffee brewing as guests arrive is so welcoming.
  2. Keep it simpler by serving the food buffet style.  I let my guests choose where they would sit.  Their napkins and glass were at the table, but their silverware was at the end of the buffet line, ready to pick up.IMG_8590
  3. Let guests bring an item for the meal, if they offer.  At my recent party, I made the main dish, a couple sides and the dessert.  My guests brought a salad, chips and salsa, ice and beverages and ice cream.  That was a great help!
  4. Make your home cozy with candlelight.  Don’t burn the overhead lights – use lamps, high and low, strands of twinkly lights, and add jar candles around the rooms.
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  5. Don’t strive for a perfect home in which to entertain, just make sure it’s straightened up and the bathrooms are clean.  Having guests over is a good motivator to clear away clutter.  If need be, get a friend to come over and help you put things away.

Good food, a casual setting, and some good fun are all ingredients for a great time!  When you prepare these things early, you’ll enjoy the time with your guests, and that alone will make them feel truly welcome and glad you invited them over!

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What keeps you from hosting friends for dinner?

Why not refresh yourself and others by putting a dinner party on your upcoming calendar?

denise a

home · hospitality · refreshment at home · summertime · Uncategorized

Full Home ~ Full Heart

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This has been a full summer, and I’m not necessarily talking about how busy it’s been.  I’m referring to the fullness  in my home and my heart.  You see, we have had the joy of hosting many people here.  We have had our church family here in small and large groups.  We hosted prayer meeting, after service fellowship, children’s Bible Club and women’s Bible study.  I’ll share the events via some pictures and explanations.

Continue reading “Full Home ~ Full Heart”

Christian Life · entertaining · hospitality · Hostess Goals

Serve the Gospel

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Wow.  I love being a hostess and having people in my home!  It’s just a blessing to throw open the door and invite them in.  I love sharing what I have cooked or baked.  It’s also fun to just share a steaming cup of coffee in ceramic mugs.  It’s fun setting out my pretty dishes, linen napkins and basket full of silverware so everyone can help themselves to a casual buffet-style meal. I also love setting the table for a sit-down brunch or dinner.  Either way, bowls full of steaming hot foods are shared while the conversation pours out easier than the full pitcher of tea.

Southerners are typically noted for entertaining.  We have books written on the subject and even magazines overflowing with recipes and tips for success, but for a follower of Christ, if one ingredient is missing we will have served that food in vain.  As a child of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must share the Gospel.  It must be as natural a part of our conversation as adding the bananas to the Banana Pudding.  Oh yes, it’s that important. Let me share why.

First, our home is really the easiest place in which to share the Gospel – the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.  We’re on our own comfortable turf.  We have control over the conversation topic and we can steer that subject matter in a causal way to the Theme of Themes.

Secondly, the Gospel should flow from a believer’s heart in a way that serves others.  Because Christ served in humility by dying on the cross, we learn to serve others by sharing with them the Truth that will do far more for them than our fried chicken or Coconut Cake.

Lastly, our ultimate goal in opening our home must come from a heart that desires to bring every person who walks in our door to an understanding that Christ loves them and offers eternal life through a relationship with Him. The conversation may be brief, but it should be even more important than making sure everyone’s glasses stay full.

How to do that?

  • Look for an opportunity to share your own testimony of how you were saved.
  • Ask gentle questions .
    • How do you see God at work in your life right now?
    • Do you have any spiritual beliefs?
    • Do you believe in a heaven and hell?
    • How do you think a person goes to heaven?
  • Share with your guests something the Lord has taught you in His Word.
  • Open the door for them to return to do a Bible study with you.

This conversation should be as natural as you offering another biscuit.  Make it part of the table talk as you’re enjoying dessert and coffee. The more we do it, the easier it will become.

Even if your guests are all believers, share the Word together.  Ask what God is teaching them, what burdens they are bearing and how you can pray for them, then do it before they leave your home.

I’ve failed miserably at this over the years, but the Lord has been awakening in my heart the need to serve the Gospel each time my doors open to a guest.  It’s the most important Theme of any social gathering in my kitchen and I pray it is in yours, too.

How do you share the Gospel in your home?

Denise Signature 150 px

Gifts · hospitality

Hostess Gift Guide

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When someone invites you into their home, they’ve gone out of their way to do so.  What do you to do let them know how much you appreciate their kindness and hospitality?  There are lots of creative things to do, and I got to share a few fun/frugal ideas on my daughter’s You tube channel today.  I hope you’ll go here and check out the whole video we did together!

My mind has been reeling since we filmed that video and I’ve thought a whole list of other ideas you could give to say Thank you!

  1. Buy single, large plates as you  find them on sale or at Goodwill shops.  Use them to fill with piles of cookies or goodies.  No need to return the plate!
  2. A special book or cookbook is a long-remembered gift.
  3. Bags of Coffee or a box of Teas, as well as a container of cream, if you know their preference.
  4. Room Spray in a mild fragrance
  5. Bath splurge items – Bath bomb, bubbles or special soap
  6. Special Kitchen soaps and dish cloths
  7. Oven mitts, or hot pads tied together with a pretty ribbon
  8. Olive oil – Even special flavored oils would be nice, accompanied by dipping spices
  9. Bakery or homemade bread and a jar of jam (maybe even also homemade!)
  10. Gift card for a special place for dessert
  11. Pretty pads of paper for kitchen memos and a pen
  12. A guest book for them to log the guests that come into their home.
  13. Cloth napkins
  14. Spices or herbs in pretty jars
  15. Holiday cookie accessories – Sprinkles and/or cookie cutters

Don’t go empty handed this holiday season.  Be a gracious guest and let your hostess how much you appreciate them inviting you into their busy lives and home!

Do you have another suggestion for a hostess gift?

Denise Signature 150 px

 

entertaining · Fall · hospitality · snack

Bridal Shower & Fun Food

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I love hosting showers – Bridal showers, Baby showers – they’re just so much fun!  It’s great to get a little creative with the display of the food, as well as the decor, but then the food can be a whole mixture of things you wouldn’t normally put on your menu, like snack foods.

I got to host a bridal shower here a couple weekends ago and using the Theme “Fall in Love” I decorated with fall items, and fixed fall-type foods.  Here was the menu:

Chili Bar
Fritos ~Hot Dogs~Crackers
Cheese Ball
Munch & Crunch Mix
Veggie Tray ~ Hummus ~ Ranch Dip
German Chocolate Cupcakes
Cider~Iced Tea~Coffee~Water

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Today I’m going to highlight and share the Crunch & Munch Snack Mix – it was a new recipe to me and I loved it!  From the way it disappeared during the shower, I think everyone else enjoyed it, too!  It’s another Gooseberry Patch recipe. It’s the perfect blend of a little spicy and a little sweet. It mixes up in ten minutes and takes 25 minutes to bake.  I doubled the recipe, and would advise you to do the same.  You have a whole bag or box of each of the ingredients; it only makes sense to use it while it’s fresh!

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup mini pretzels
  • 1 cup corn chips
  • 1 cup oyster crackers
  • 1 cup roasted, salted pumpkin seed kernels
  • 1 cup honey-roasted peanuts
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper – I left this out.  Add if you love spicy foods!

Toss together first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; set aside. Whisk together butter and remaining 6 ingredients in another bowl; pour over snack mix, stirring to coat. Spread mix in a roasting pan; bake at 300 degrees for 25 minutes, stirring after 12 minutes. Cool completely; store in an airtight container.

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For the decor, I used large, square flannel scarves as “runners” and then used all my fall pumpkins, gourds, bittersweet branches and even some branches from outside.  I filled a tall vase with the real branches and tied cardboard leaves on.  I asked each guest to take a leaf off and write her best piece of marriage advice for the bride-to-be.

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We had a great time honoring the bride and the fellowship we enjoyed around the fall foods was a special blessing!

I hope you’ll try the snack mix – it would be great for any gathering or even movie night at your house!  You might make up small bags-full for your favorite Halloween Trick-or-Treaters!

If I told you the snack mix was my favorite thing I served that wouldn’t quite be true because THE CUPCAKES…Oh my!  You’ll have to wait until next Monday for that recipe, though.  Until then, enjoy Crunching and Munching!!

With love from my country kitchen,

Denise Signature 150 px

Appetizer · hospitality · summertime

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My dream of being a gardener is happening slowly, but at the steady pace of a novice.  I really have not much of an idea what I’m doing.  My husband is becoming quite the green thumb, too, as he helps plant, water and harvest our little raised beds. We have three now, and I was so excited to receive my newest edition of Southern Living this weekend and find an article about raised bed gardening! I really want to expand each year.  There’s just something so special about growing herbs, flowers and vegetables that you get the pleasure of using in your home and cooking!

One plant that was producing quite well last week was our Banana pepper plant.  I like them pickled, but I wondered how I could use them fresh.  Wellllll, I found a special appetizer that was A.Maz.Ing!

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These sweet peppers got filled with a little cream cheese mixture that had sweet red pepper, red onion, Cheddar Cheese, diced cherry tomatoes and a little salt and pepper.  I kept it mild.  There are some recipes that call for hot peppers, but we aren’t crazy about those spicy varieties.  So for our tastes, we kept it on the sweet and savory side, and it was wonderful!  I forgot to mention that the pepper gets wrapped in a little blanket of bacon before it’s popped under the broiler for a few minutes!  If you need a killer appetizer for a summer party, this is it!  Here’s the recipe and a little tip as to how I put mine together.

Cheese-Stuffed, Bacon-Wrapped Banana Peppers

  • 6 large banana peppers
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 3 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup diced tomatoes – I used cherry tomatoes for sweetness!
  • ¼ cup diced red onion
  • ½ small sweet red bell pepper, diced
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper
  • 3 thick cut bacon slices, cut in half – I found that 1/2 slice of bacon was plenty for each pepper,but if you want to go crazy with the bacon, use a slice for each pepper.
Directions:
  1. Cut tops off banana peppers. Remove seeds.
  2. Combine cheddar cheese, cream cheese, tomato, onion, bell pepper, salt and pepper. Mix well.
  3. Fill a small plastic bag with the cheese mixture.  Cut a hole, about 1/2 inch in one corner.  Squeeze the cheese mixture into the peppers. (See picture below)
  4. Wrap with bacon slice. Secure with a toothpick. Place on a rack with broiler pan. Broil for 4-5 minutes per side until golden and oozing.

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If you have access to banana peppers, you need to try these appetizers.  They’re so good you might want to make them the main course!

Who else is gardening this summer?  What are you growing?

With love from my country kitchen,

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Appetizer · dessert · entertaining · hospitality

(L)Oven Monday – Entertain with Appetizers

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Last week I had a group of women over for a night of fellowship and I wanted to serve refreshments that were tasty, but not too heavy.  So I dug into my recipes (some I’ve share here on the blog) and pulled out three appetizer dips!  I had a couple that were sweet and one that was savory.  Appetizers are fun because you can make a little meal with them.  The ladies enjoyed them and it was fun to watch them go back for more.  Here are the ones I chose for our party.

Tex-Mex Black Bean Dip

Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Chips

S’mores Dip

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This Tex-Mex Black Bean Dip is great as an appetizer or served with a meal of Mexican foods!  It’s super good and really fast to put together!  You can make this ahead and pop it into the oven or microwave to warm up.

Tex-Mex Black Bean Dip
Ingredients
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained – I always use Bush’s Beans
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup diced tomato
1/3 cup mild picante sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Preparation

Place beans in a bowl; partially mash until chunky. Set aside.

Heat oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add beans, tomato, picante sauce, cumin, and chili powder; cook 5 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; add cheese, cilantro, and lime juice, stirring well. Serve warm or at room temperature with fat-free corn or flour tortilla chips.

*If you want to make this extra decadent, put softened cream cheese in the bottom of the dish and spread to cover, then pour the bean dip over top of it.  Yum!

 

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Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Chips

If you want to do this ahead of time, mix up your fruit, but wait to add the sweet things into it right before your party.

Ingredients:

  • Variety of fruits, diced – Strawberries, blueberries, fresh pineapple, etc.
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (more or less to taste)
  • 3 tablespoons fruit preserves, any flavor (I used strawberry)
  • 10 (10 inch) flour tortillas (or use Stacy’s cinnamon chips or cinnamon graham crackers)
  • melted butter or butter flavored cooking spray
Cinnamon sugar:
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cinnamon
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix kiwis, apples, raspberries, strawberries, white sugar, brown sugar and fruit preserves. Cover and chill in the refrigerator at least 15 minutes. This is best made the same day and not too far ahead of time so your apples don’t start browning and the fruit gives off so too much juice and it gets runny.. This salsa can also be serve with cinnamon graham Crackers. Best when made and eaten the same day.

For the Cinnamon Chips:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Coat one side of each flour tortilla with melted butter or butter flavored cooking spray. Sprinkle tortillas with desired amount of cinnamon sugar. Cut into wedges and arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Spray again with cooking spray (not necessary if using melted butter).
  3. Bake in the preheated oven 8 to 10 minutes. Repeat with any remaining tortilla wedges. Allow to cool approximately 15 minutes. Serve with chilled fruit mixture.

 

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This dip is heavenly!  It literally takes less than ten minutes to make and have ready to serve!  It’s always a winner!!  And if you don’t leave the party with marshmallow or chocolate somewhere on your face, you did NOT have a good time!  Ha!!  I think it’s impossible to eat this dip and not wear it!!

S’mores Dip

Instructions:

  1.  In a cast iron skillet place two cups of chocolate chips.  Place in 400 degree oven for a couple of minutes, until chocolate begins to melt.  Smooth out chocolate with spatula.
  2. Cover completely with marshmallows.  Place back in oven and watch carefully until marshmallows turn a light golden brown.
  3. Serve dip immediately with Graham cracker squares.

All these dips are simple and so good!  A party like this would be great this summer!  You could even do your S’more dip on the fire pit!  I hope you’ll try these soon!

What is your favorite food to serve or to enjoy at a girl’s gathering?

With love from my country kitchen,

Denise Signature 150 px