I think there are two reasons why people don't open up their homes in hospitality (well, maybe more than two, but let's start with these). They lack the vision of the impact it will have and they don't feel they have the skills to pull it off.
Let's focus on equipping you with all you need to host a small group of people at your home. First you have a choice to make: Do you want it to be Simple, Special or Spectacular (or heading in that direction)? This will depend on your experience, the time you have allotted to prepping for the meal and what the occasion is.
I plan to give you outlines of Simple, Special and Spectacular Dinner plans on the Heartistry blog. We will start with a Lemon themed dinner. Mostly everyone can find lemons in their grocery stores, they are not expensive and work well as an ingredient in the meal and to add in for the decor.
Are you ready?
Our basic meal will remain the same. We will use Lemon Chicken from Southern Living. For the recipe, head over to : http://goo.gl/m9J4HH. (By the way, there are countless recipes online. I just picked one that looked very straight forward.) It is super simple and won't take long to prepare. It only has 8 ingredients including the salt, pepper and lemons. Serve with rice and a simple green salad. Serve a small bowl of store bought lemon sorbet for dessert (or ice-cream if you can't find sorbet). Got that?
Now the fun begins!
Buy a few extra lemons and place them in a glass bowl on the table. If you have yellow napkins/serviettes you can add them.
If you want to get more fancy, take a moment and add the napkins/serviettes to the glass. Easy right? And more fun and festive!
Serve your simple meal, relax and enjoy your guests and you have made a start! Well done!
Are you ready to step it up a little? Use the same recipe but this time buy a bunch of white flowers. Take your lemons and push a chopstick, skewer on even a pencil (not the lead end) into the lemons. Add the lemons into the flower arrangement! Now you look like a real pro!
After the Lemon Chicken meal, you may wish to serve some lemon bars, lemon meringue pie (my husband's favorite dessert is South African lemon meringue- see photo) or a little lemon flavored cookie with your lemon sorbet. You can bake them if you feel inspired or buy them ready made. When your delighted guests leave, remove the lemons from the flower arrangement and use them in a long, cool drink. You have prepared a very special meal. Excellent!
Are you feeling ready for a bit more of a challenge? Let me share a secret. You will be amazed at how easy it is to make something look spectacular with not much extra effort, so here goes.
Use the same Lemon Chicken recipe. When you serve it, place the rice on the plate first, add the chicken breasts and then garnish with slices of lemon. If you can get hold of some lemon leaves, add them as well.
When setting the table, add yellow or lemon-themed napkins/serviettes. You can arrange the white flowers with the lemons in them, but make the arrangement larger and grander! Use lemons as part of the decor. If you are feeling very creative, purchase a piece of white cotton fabric and sponge paint lemons onto it with fabric paint (I told you this was going to be spectacular).
If you want lots more fun ideas, head over to the Heartistry Pinterest Lemon Decor Board. Just a warning; this can be overwhelming, so promise me you will only try one or at the most two ideas. https://www.pinterest.com/HeartistryInfo/lemon-decor/.
Your dessert will bring this delicious meal to it's spectacular finale! Buy lemon sorbet and enough lemons to set aside one per person for the dessert. Beforehand, cut off the top third of the lemon, scoop out the flesh inside (use it for the meal). If you have space in your freezer, fill the lemon skin cups with the lemon sorbet, place them in small glasses so they remain upright and put them in the freezer. If you don't have space, freeze the lemon cups and then remove the sorbet when you are serving dessert and scoop the sorbet into the cup. Practice beforehand to make sure you have the right size dish in which to serve the dessert so that the lemon remains upright. Garnish with a strip of lemon peel and mint (if you can get it.)
The choice is up to you. Will it be Simple, Special or Spectacular? The main "s" to take into account is Start! Unless you START to reach out and try, you won't have the joy of seeing what joy an evening together with family, friends and even strangers can be!
Please share your Simple, Special and Spectacular photos with me so that I can share them on our Heartistry Facebook page. And I would LOVE to hear what you think about this idea, so please add your comments!
Please share this blog with your friends too!
P.S. Wonder why I have done so many lemon meals? My husband has written a book called LEMON Leadership which you may want to check! (http://lemonleadership.com)
Sign up for newsletter and receive free 12-page e-book by Lyn Johnson~Packing PhD
P.P.S. In case you want to cook for a crowd!
This recipe is excellent and I have used it many times:
Lemon Chicken for 20 servings
1-2/3 cups lemon juice
1-1/4 cups olive oil
1/4 cup and 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
10 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons finely chopped red bell pepper
2-1/2 teaspoons salt and 1-1/4 teaspoons ground black pepper
9 pounds of chicken thighs (If buying from Costco, use 3 multi-packs of chicken thighs.)
In a bowl, mix the lemon juice, olive oil, Dijon mustard, garlic, red bell pepper, salt, and pepper. Set aside 1 cup of the mixture to use for basting. Place chicken in a large plastic bag, and marinate at least 20 minutes in the refrigerator (longer better- move chicken pieces in bag to maximize marinade effect!)
Preheat oven to 425°F. Remove chicken from marinade and place in a single layer in a large baking dish, skin side up. Line baking dishes with foil! Reserve the marinade. Use a pastry brush to brush a little melted butter on to each piece of chicken – don’t skip this step! Makes the chicken look brown and beautiful. Bake for a total of 50 to 55 minutes, until the skins are crispy brown, and the chicken is cooked through, juices running clear (thighs have an internal temperature of 175°F). At about the 25 minute mark, baste the chicken pieces generously with reserved marinade. Let rest, covered in foil, for 10 minutes before serving.