Like a lot of us this season, I have houseguests for the next week and today I spent a few hours prepping my refrigerator and freezer for feeding a crowd. I’m no stranger to having a lot of mouths around my table, but unlike an ordinary Friday when I don’t mind spending time in the kitchen cooking for my kids and their friends, I don’t want to be busy cooking the entire time my guests are around. Instead, I prefer to spend as much time with them as possible, while still feeding everyone really well.
There are two ways I do this: first, I make a list of what I’m going to make for breakfast, lunch and dinner on the days I know that we will be home to eat so I have loose meal plan in place for the duration of the visit. Second, I prep quite a few things in advance so that meal making is really more like meal assembling. Here’s what I made this week to keep my houseguests well fed:
- To help keep everyone cool I put a batch of cold-brew coffee and tea in the refrigerator. I prepped a large jar of each, and will make a new batch every night before I go to bed. If you really want to make things special, whip up a batch of homemade maple vanilla coffee creamer and honey simple syrup to flavour these cold, caffeinated beverages.
- In the summer, there’s nothing better or easier than a fresh fruit crisp. I took the ‘crisp’ part of my favourite recipe and tripled it, storing the mixture a lidded container in the freezer for quick and easy desserts. When it’s time to make dessert, I’ll only need to toss some berries or stone fruit with sugar and flour, cover it with my pre-made topping and pop it into the oven while we’re eating dinner.
- Scones are essential. They can be made, cut and then baked straight from the freezer when needed. I made a few batches of these strawberry white chocolate scones (I did a mix of blueberries, blackberries and strawberries this time) and am saving them for breakfast later this week.
- Speaking of breakfast, I like to keep things really simple when I have overnight guests, but that doesn’t mean they can’t also be impressive. Yogurt and granola parfaits is one my favourite easy options. The granola can be made a few days ahead of time and stored in jars on the counter. Then, it’s just a matter of setting it out containers of yogurt, fresh fruit, and chia seed jam, alongside a few bowls and spoons, and guests can help themselves to breakfast. This also works great for a group that may wake up at different times. In my house, my toddler is up before 6 am and my teens don’t roll out of bed until closer to noon, but everyone eats the same thing and it takes no time to put it together.
- Another popular breakfast item in our house is fried rice topped with an egg. I make the rice ahead of time and warm it up while I cook the eggs on the stove. Serve with a side of toast and hot sauce and no one will be disappointed.
- If you’re feeling ambitious you can also make a batch of our popular pancake mix and keep at the ready for when you want to make pancakes for your friends. Last year, I received a large electric frying pan like the one my parents used when I was a kid. This has been a lifesaver when it comes to cooking for a crowd. I can make eight pancakes in one go, which makes quick work of an otherwise time consuming task, depending on how many you’re cooking for.
- DIY smoothie packs are essential for self-serve breakfasts or refreshing mid-day snacks.
- You already know my thoughts on storing cookie dough balls in the freezer (hint: it’s essential), so make a few batches and keep some tucked away for later in the visit. I like to bake some a few each day so there are warm, homemade cookies to go with afternoon tea and coffee.
- Making a big batch of hummus is another way to you can prepare for your guests. I serve it with veggies for a quick snack or side dish for lunch, but I also like to use the hummus as a sandwich spread.
- I like to prep as much fruit as possible in advance. This year I cut up a watermelon and pineapple, and stored the pieces in a lidded container in the refrigerator. Not only does this give us a quick grab and go snack, but it also allows me to make a fruit salad with little effort. In addition to the cut fruit, I also fill a large fruit basket with whatever I can find at the market and grocery store and keep some berries and cherries on hand, too.
- For quick and easy dinners you can do the following: combine chicken and marinade in a ziptop bag and pop in the freezer until needed or make a large batch of pulled pork and keep it in the fridge or freezer, as well. When it’s time for dinner simply heat the pork and serve it with toasted buns, coleslaw and corn on the cob.
Now it’s your turn: how do you like to prepare for feeding your houseguests? Feel free to share your tried and true ideas in the comments.