How I Plan A Meal At Home

Posted on 20. Jul, 2013 by in Uncategorized

 

Because free meals taste the best...

Flickr-Jacob Haas

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.

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