Whew! What a few weeks it’s been. Sorry for the delay in updates on the blogging front but we have had the builders in at home and the new kitchen extension with an oak frame and cedar shingle roof is just about finished. For those of you who have seen the progress in the flesh or in my photo’s over on flickr, you will know what a mess it has been. I have dust in places you wouldn’t believe!
Suffice to say progress here should proceed without further setbacks. I am just glad the main construction is done, plastering and electrics are in. Painting is going on right now, and then it’s my favourite part where I get to buy some new nicknacks and pick out some fabrics for the upholstered pine benches that we are going to be using for seating round one side of the kitchen table. If you can visualise it, the main table is in one corner of the room and will have an old pine pew which our carpenter friend Jay has cut down to fit the space. The other side will have a mix of chairs I have already got as well as a few auction finds, and I will be matching them all in with the same fabric seating. A pink gingham is current favourite, though knowing how often I change my mind it may well be different when I get the final photo’s done. If you are wanting a new extension, partial or full re-roof then I can recommend roofersstokeontrent.co.uk to fix you up – they were great. And no they aren’t paying me to say this, the lads all worked hard and the only delays have been to do with re-routing central heating pipes and getting rid of some old asbestos insulation boards they found around where the old cooker was. Still I’m glad it’s all sorted and I have already been mixing up a few new recipes ready for autumn. Until then eat well.
There seem to be many more people aware of gluten free products that are available nowadays, not just from specialist suppliers, but from your regular supermarket. I know only too well the problems that eating wheat can cause, and it took me a long time to figure out that my bloating and lethargy were related to what I had been eating.
By following an elimination diet I was able to eventually narrow it down to gluten containing foods. As a real pasta lover this proved difficult as I really love that comfortably full feeling after a big macaroni cheese with fresh crusty farmhouse bread.
Fortunately there are gluten free pasta’s available usually based on tapioca flour and though the taste is slightly different it comes down to the right sauces that you put on it that gives it the flavour and yumminess! Here again you need to check that the sauce hasn’t got any hidden wheat flour or soy sauce listed in the ingredients, as both of them contain gluten.
I have learnt to make my own bread using a bread maker and a mix of specialist flours that I buy from my local farmers market. The guy that runs the stall is a celiac and all his stuff is just perfect for me. Big shout out to Dave!
I am gluten intolerant, not celiac, but I find a lot of the products designed for them, can help me too rather than taking the time to read all the labels I can just get the main basics from them and know I will feel good after cooking any meals using their ingredients.
Few things in life are more rewarding than cooking at home for guests or family. Although it may seem simple on the surface, preparing a home-cooked meal comes with its own list of “to-dos,” and your plans can easily go awry if you don’t take a methodical approach in your preparations. The important thing is to establish an order in which you will tackle each of the steps to set up your kitchen and eating area so that you can make things as easy as possible for yourself and your guests. Below are some practical tips to help you with the preparation process, hopefully to make the experience as stress-free as possible.
Step 1: Identify the Recipe
This is priority number one; you have to know what you’re going to cook before you can cook anything. There are literally thousands of healthy, nutritious, and easy-to-prepare meal recipes on websites such as foodnetwork.com and allrecipes.com. You can choose any one of these recipes and then adjust the portion amounts based on how many guests you are expecting.
Step 2: Procure the Ingredients
Once you have identified what you will be cooking, make a list of the ingredients that you’re going to need according to what the recipe requires. Do a quick “sweep” of your cupboard, refrigerator and spice rack to find out what ingredients you may already have on hand. As you confirm what you have versus what you still need, you can cross items off your list. Once this is done, make a quick run to the store to purchase the ingredients that you lack.
Step 3: Set Out All of Your Cooking Materials and Ingredients
The type of cooking utensils you’re going to need will largely be determined by the recipe that you select. Set out the various pots, pans, spatulas, etc. that you’re going to need to get the job done, and group them in light of how they fit into the preparation process. It’s frustrating to try and make a frantic search for a whisk or a particular measuring cup in the “heat of the moment”, where a few seconds of preparation on the front end could curtail this type of stressful cooking experience. Also make sure to have all of your ingredients on hand and within eyeshot so that you can seamlessly move through the different food preparation steps.
Step 4: Cooking: Begin with the End in Mind
It’s a good idea to arrive at a rough estimate of how long it’s going to take to cook your dishes, so that you can gauge your preparation times in light of when your guests are scheduled to arrive. A mistake that you’re going to want to avoid is having every single item ready and sitting on the table right when your guests show up. Part of the fun of having company over is the personal interaction and chit-chat that takes place before the meal is fully ready. If your guests arrive to a completely finished meal, they’re going to feel almost like they’re on an “assembly line” and that you’re in a rush to get them back out the door. Allow for a little bit of extra time after they arrive before you begin serving the meal. There is an art to this, however; you don’t want to keep them waiting forever either. It’s also a good idea to set out finger foods such as nuts, trail mix, or a fruit tray to give them something light to munch on while they wait.
Step 5: Multi-Task While You’re Cooking
Prioritizing your preparations will help give you time to multi-task while your dishes are cooking. Begin with the item that’s going to take the longest time to cook, and then let the other dishes follow suit in descending order, according to their respective preparation times. Use any down-time to begin preparing the table with fresh linens, silverware and plates.
Step 6: Serving the Food
It is perfectly acceptable to set everything on the table in a “family style” manner; this actually denotes a more intimate setting, which adds warmth to the experience. Also remember that in the realm of cooking for guests, more is always better than less. When entertaining guests, it is a sin to run out of food! Make sure that you have prepared enough for everyone there to eat to their hearts’ content, and even take some home if they choose to.
Spending time with family and friends over a meal is one of the simple pleasures of life. Utilizing these tips will help ensure that you’ll have a good experience when you’re cooking at home for guests. Just remember to relax, have fun, and enjoy every part of the process, knowing that you’ll be creating moments that will be remembered for years to come.