Monday, April 6, 2015

Make ahead meals for company.

My folks had company this week. Bobs' sister, her husband and their 2 grandchildren. I always cook for family get togethers and things like this because I love it and have the time. One of my goals when cooking like this is to see how far I can make that dollar stretch. I feel like I totally succeeded with this one. 9 meals for 6 people at just about $100, so roughly $2.00 a meal (and leftovers). Part of making this work is using some of the same ingredients in different ways throughout the meals. My second goal is to make the meals appealing to everyone which includes making them simple for the server. 


Mornings can be a test at any time but if your having company you add the confusion of different schedules. Maybe your an early riser but they sleep late (or vice versa), adding kids to the mix and your rise and shine breakfast time can be all over the map. Easy single serve portions or things that can be heated and then let set til everyone cycles through avoids running back and forth to the kitchen or feeling like you have to be up before everyone so you can be prepared.


How easy is that?
We do Sunday morning breakfast anyway, so I just doubled up what I made and put the extra into a ziplock bag and into the freezer. These can be warmed in the microwave, toaster oven, laid on cookie sheet and heated in the oven or even in the toaster. A plain waffle can be a blank canvas to fit any taste. Set a few thing conveniently together like butter, syrup, fruit and yogurt or even eggs and a small pan. I think these are perfect especially with kids, butter and syrup for a breakfast, pb&j for an afternoon snack, and ice cream and fruit for a desert.

Whatever your favorite waffle or pancake mix just double it. I don't like to mix more than double at one time because the last ones cooked just don't seem to turn out as well. If you need more than double take a break in the middle and mix up another batch.



To go with these I put a cup of blackberries out of the freezer in a sauce pan with 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of water and a teaspoon of cornstarch. Heat just until the sugar is dissolved and the consistency is like gravy. Pour into a mason jar and let cool.

Mini Omelets

Super easy and basic, but with a few simple sides they can become whatever you want. Eggs, sausage and cheese cooked in a muffin cup. Having some sliced onion and bell pepper or salsa for people to add as they like makes it personalized.
Grease your muffin tin first. 1 pound of sausage browned and divided between 12 muffin cups

12 eggs whisked together with a splash of milk. I don't add salt or pepper because the sausage has plenty of seasoning. If you know what your guests like you could peppers, mushrooms, onion or whatever suits you, straight in here. Fill your cups to just below full because the eggs will puff up a bit.

 Top with a little cheese.
Bake at 350* for about 25 min and let cool.
These disposable tin pans are great for a big project that is going to be sent off. We reuse them for camping and cook outs. Set you egg muffins in a single layer and allow to cool completely, uncovered, in the fridge then cover with foil.


Having company doesn't get you out of all the regular farm chores, although you may be able to incorperate a few of the chores into the fun of the tour. Kids may find the menotiny of filling every rabbit feeder/chick feeder fun, but you still have to be present. Having a lunch prepared that doesn't take a lot of time away from your guests or make the whole morning pressed to get through can give you the time to enjoy having them. Although a bologna sandwich or a frozen pizza might be a quick answer, with just a little prep ahead of the visit you can do it soo much better. 

Ham/Turkey and cheese sliders

Ham/Turkey and cheese sliders will take about 10 min to make and can be set in the fridge til you need them and only about 5 min to heat. Served with baked beans, chips and a veggie tray with dip. This is the quick answer for a day that you have plans to do, go and see the most stuff. Once they're heated they can be left to sit and as everyone filters through they can grab a couple and continue on. Maybe some are golfing or some went to the park or a walk in the woods. We love our anitiqueing so you may not see us for a while. These are easily packed in a picnic basket, eaten cold or warmed up and left for those that are grazing through the kitchen.
Doesn't get any easier than this.
2 packages of 12 dinner rolls cut in half sandwich style. 1 1/2 pound shaved turkey or ham (or what ever suits you). Lay out the bottom of the buns in the pan and top with meat of your choice.

 Top with cheese of your choice. I did turkey and swiss and the other pan with ham and cheddar.
Put the tops of the buns on and tada. Cover with foil and store in the fridge. Since there isn't anything moist to them they don't get soggy. When your ready to eat them you can set the whole pan in a 350* oven for about 5 min and have a warm sandwich ready to be taken out to picnic table. I sent some baked beans that I had canned, and when you serve you can set out whatever 'toppings' you might like, pickles, mustard, quartered tomato slices...

Pizza Sub

 A supreme pizza sub made ahead and wrapped in foil can be reheated in about 30 min and lil pizza bites for the kids are great to eat room temp or heated and eaten with the adults. Easily heated then served at the picnic table, with little to clean up. A toasted french loaf keeps it from getting soggy and the foil makes it quick to reheat (not bad cold either). Assuming you know your guests, you can adjust to whatever the 'minimum of the majority' is. Since it is in sandwich style, if everyone except one like onion, you can do 3/4 of the sandwich with and the rest without. If your not sure what every one likes, as I wasn't, go with the basics and set the extras on the side to be added.
1 French loaf cut in half. The top half I spread with butter and sprinkled garlic powder over. Toast under the broiler (maybe just a second less than I did lol). This will give it some texture and help keep it from getting soggy.

Spread bottom of sandwich with pizza sauce, layer whatever meats you like. I used sliced ham and turkey, again I'm cooking for people who's tastes I'm not sure of and feel like ham and turkey are a safe choice. Top with bell pepper rings. On the top half put all of your smaller toppings, red onion slices (milder in case not everyone is an onion fan), mushrooms, black olives...
Top with cheese. Put most of the cheese on the top half, this will help keep all the small pieces from escaping when you try to put the sandwich together.
Bake at 350* just until the cheese is melted. Remember that everything is going to be reheated so just that minute before you think it's done is perfect.

Let cool completely. Wrap in foil. Since everything is already cooked it can be eaten cold or heated in the oven for about 30 minutes at 350*.

Pizza bites

Some kids do eat supreme, but for those who don't, individual pepperoni pizzas. Cheese and pepperoni rolled up in a crescent roll. What more can I say?
Nothing more than a little pizza sauce spread on a crescent roll, a couple of pepperoni and 1/3 of a mozzarella cheese stick. Roll up and bake until slightly golden.


Easy is the way the go, but, this is company and you do want to serve something nice at some point. Supper is the time to do it. After a day of adventure and everyone sit down together and visit, share their stories from the day and other days, will help (especialy with kids) stick the memories into their mind.

Swedish Meatballs

In my opinion you can never go wrong with meatballs and noodles. Creamy and comforting,  tastes like you spent the day slaving over it but in truth it was easy, twice! A nice loaf of homemade bread on the side (hint, a good project to do with kids...) and mmmm. When I make meatballs they never last long, so there was no way I could get by with sending this off and not having some for my family. I have a basic meatball recipe and just adjust the seasoning and or sauces to suit the meal (aprox 30 meatballs).
2 lbs hamburger
1 lb ground pork or sausage
1 med onion diced
half package of crackers or about as much bread crumbs
2 T steak sauce
 2 eggs
 1/3 c milk
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
For this recipe I added 1T Worcestershire sauce and 2 T parsley. Mix everything in a large bowel and portion out to about golf ball size. I like to bake them on a rack so the fat runs off. Bake at 350* for 40 minutes.

While they are baking you can work on your noodles and sauce. I doubled the rest of the recipe and we ate one of the casseroles that night. If you don't want to eat it then you can freeze it and have for another time or you can can set half the meatballs aside and freeze for later. For one casserole boil 1 bag of egg noodles til just before they're done (unless you want to eat it as soon as done), again this will be reheated so to keep it from getting mushy you want the noodles just under cooked. In a separate pan heat 1/4 cup oil and 1/4 cup flour like you would for gravy, add 2 cups boiling water, 1 t paprika, 1 t salt, 1 t pepper and 3/4 cup sour cream. Cook for about 3 min and taste for seasoning. If you like it turn off heat and add 1/2 cup more hot water. Since we stopped the noodles before done they will absorb some more liquid when it's reheated and finish cooking. Pour drained noodle into the bottom of baking dish, top with sauce and stir together. Set meatballs on top. Let cool then wrap in foil to store in fridge or freezer. To reheat, place thawed casserole in oven with foil on, at 350* for about 1 hour.

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Just sayin' it sounds cool, no one has to know how easy it is! I watch and when they go on sale buy up. This one was 9lbs for $15. Cut into 1/3rds your paying $5 per meal. I made this for 6 people based on the way my family eats.

In a skillet saute 1 crushed garlic clove and half of 1 onion in 2 T olive oil and add 1 shredded carrot. Add a splash of wine, water or stock to get them cooked to soft and a teaspoon of crushed rosemary. Turn off and set aside to cool. You can pour this into a separate bowl to speed up cooling and even set in the fridge.

In another pan prepare 1 cup of dry rice. Any rice you like will do, follow the directions for what you choose with the difference being add 1/2 raisins. I think this would also be great with apricots, but my son hates them sooo.... When your rice is finished it has to cool also. Once both mixtures are about room temperature mix them together. We ate half for supper that night. The other half roll up into a log in plastic wrap and freeze. 

When your ready to stuff your tenderloin make sure it's completly  thawed. With a long knife cut a slit in the center end to end trying not to cut through the side walls.

Take your frozen stuffing out just when your ready to use it. It takes a little finagling to get it into the slot you have made. Because it's frozen it wants to stick but with some patience you'll get it.

Rub the outside of the tenderloin with olive oil and season. I used Asian fie spice because it has a bit of a cinnamon taste to it and goes well with the raisins, but if you don't have or like it, salt and pepper are also perfect.

Bake on a rack at 400* for about 45 minutes. Since the stuffing is frozen it effects the cooking time. If you were going to serve immediately I would check with a meat thermometer. 145* is the suggested temp for pork. Otherwise wrap in foil and allow to rest, this will allow it cook a little more and when you reheat it, it will help to hold the moisture. Store in refrigerator and reheat in foil, at 350* for 30 minutes. 

That's seven different meals. With one extra bag of noodles which I counted in my shopping total and the extra waffles, that's 9 x 6 people= roughly $2 per person at just about $100 for the grocery shopping.  A nice veggie tray, salad and or chips to go with the meals wouldn't add a lot of cost. Of course there were some things that came out of my cabinet that aren't counted in the cost, but on the other hand we enjoyed the leftover meat and cheeses....

Meatballs! my basic recipe and alternatives.