When I bought my dining room table, I wanted to fill it with people. I don’t do that nearly enough because it takes a lot of time, effort, and money. I really love to feed people though. Planning times around the table or cooking meals for people brings me life. It allows me to use something the Lord has gifted me with to (hopefully) bless others. I constantly have to remind myself isn’t about perfection, it isn’t about proving yourself. It is about having people around the table to connect. It is using what you have and where you’re at in life and serve others.
The worst dinner party is the one you don’t have.
So I invited seven girls over for dinner this week. My goal was to gather people around my table and feed them a home-cooked meal but after crunching numbers to see what my budget would be I saw I only had about $30 to spare (#daveramsey). I needed to feed eight people and create an environment that was welcoming for about $3.75 a person. I could have ordered a pizza or bought a frozen lasagna (bleck). But I want people to feel valued, connected, and loved at my table and that involves being intentional with what I serve and how I present my table.
So, I took this as a challenge. I wanted to keep the meal simple and stress-free. I am a recovering perfectionist and cause myself a lot of unnecessary stress because of the pressure I put on myself. You can ask my friend Trish about the time I decided the first full week of school to host dinner club. Of course I then decided it was perfect time to paint two bathrooms and six chairs dining room chairs. I ended up in tears because I couldn’t find fresh Eucalyptus for a centerpiece. She called me out for being stubborn, prideful, and basically crazy (which I was totally being all those things). Or you can talk to my friend Amy about the time I cried over a messed-up cheesecake that I had remade three times in the middle of the night because I wasn’t happy with the first few tries. When I went to serve it, the crust was too hard and I couldn’t cut it so she literally had to take the spatula out of my hands before my meltdown got worse. I haven’t made cheesecake since. Clearly I need help. Serious help.
As I started planning, I took an inventory of what I had on hand and in the freezer. I always have different flavors of olive oil and balsamic vinegar (if I ever end up on Hoarders, my olive oil/balsamic collection will be most likely be why). My spice cabinet is always stocked with my staple spices and I have custom spice mixes ready to go.
I am not a Crock-Pot cook even though I strive to be but I knew to keep the meal easy, using the Crock-Pot would be the best option. I went to Pinterest and started scouring recipes that would involve dumping ingredients in and turning it on before I left for work. I found a pretty simple Tortellini soup that looked promising and from there I figured out what else I wanted. If you are eating soup, you need bread and salad, so from there the meal planned itself.
French Bread with Olive Oil dipping sauce ($2 for the french bread, used spices and oils I already had on hand and of course altered the recipe for my personal taste)
Caesar Salad ($6.94, grabbed a bagged Caesar salad mix and supplemented with bagged lettuce)
Creamy Tortellini Soup ($11.80, I used this recipe as a starting place and altered it to make it taste better, I also doubled the recipe in fear that I wouldn’t have enough)
Mocha Brownies with Salted Caramel Ice Cream ($3.38, I splurged for name brand chocolate chips, $2.97 for the ice cream).
Drinks: Water, La Croix, Coffee (all on hand)
I wanted to purchase nothing extra for decorations or centerpieces. I always stock up on fun napkins when I am at IKEA and I typically have cardstock and sharpies (#teacherprobs) so I knew I could throw together place cards. I found Sharpies to match my eight place settings and coordinated the place cards with the settings. My dishes are statement pieces so in order to kept the table clear of clutter, I decided that the food would be the centerpiece. Most of my bakeware and cookware is the same brand so the colors go with each other. The night before I filled up a few glass bottles of water and put them in the fridge so during the meal I could have them on the table to avoid people having to refill their own glass. To add a little bit more personality, I baked the desserts in individual servings.
Total time: about 30 minutes of prep and set up
So in conclusion: it doesn’t take a lot of time, effort, or money to have a great time around the table. No more excuses for not having people over. This may be a new series!
Now for the giveaway!
Are you so excited? I know I am. I get to share one of my favorite products! I am a firm believer that good olive oil and balsamic vinegar can break or make a meal and there is nothing better than dipping warm, crusty bread into a perfectly spiced dipping sauce. I have put together a sample size of one of my favorite oil/vinegar combos from a local store in Branson (Tuscan olive oil and aged Balsamic Vinegar) and an Italian spice mix so you can make your own dipping oil! I could make a meal out of bread and oil. Seriously. Give me all the carbs.
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- Comment on this post with one of your go-to meals for guests.
Commenting will close on Friday, February 3rd at 11:59pm. The winner will be selected randomly Saturday morning. May the odds ever be in your favor!