Saturday, 8 November 2008

simple entertaining

Beauty That Moves
I moved out on my own at a pretty young age. At 19 years old I was packing up and moving into my first apartment. I remember standing in the kitchen of my family home, my mom rummaging through her cabinets as she handed me her old Tupperware, mixing bowls and measuring cups to help my own kitchen get started. She also handed me a piece of advice.

simple entertaining

“Remember, just because you are going to be paying your own bills and will be on a tight budget doesn’t mean you can’t entertain. When your father and I were newly married, no matter how poor we were, we always had friends over. Be sure to keep popcorn and teabags (to make iced tea with) in the house at all times, along with a deck of cards, and you will have all you need to entertain friends.”

And so I have always kept these items on hand, and they have proven useful on so many occasions when money was tight, by choice or otherwise. For the most part, the company that I am serving these things to these days are the many, many children in our neighborhood. When I became a mother, one of the things I had hoped for was to offer the friendly house that was fun to be at… you know the saying, be careful what you wish for. On a typical summer afternoon I can be found hosting 8 or so kids in the backyard. I can attest to the fact that one cup of popcorn kernels turns into enough popcorn to feed the entire group! And they think your house is an awesome place to hang out, which is so much better than your own child thinking someone else’s house is more awesome…
simple entertaining

A quick note about butter… I don’t add it. Of course you could, but it is an added expense and I make popcorn the old fashioned way, using oil and a heavy bottomed pan with a lid on the stove top, so that provides enough fat/grease for us. No air popped for this family... The second the popcorn is done I dump it into a large bowl and season it with sea salt. The first time I served it to the very hip (and friendly) 14 year old boy from up the street, he told me he had never tasted popcorn so good. He asked if it was buttered and I told him no - he couldn’t believe it! He just wouldn’t stop going on about this simple bowl of popcorn… it was pretty funny. When I asked what kind he normally had he said microwaved… “Oh, I understand. Here, have some more of the real thing.”

I'd love to hear some of your tried and true, simple/frugal entertaining tips that you love- please share with us in the comments, thank you! The ideas do not need to be specific to the holiday season, but with that quickly approaching we could all use some fresh inspiration!

::Updated:: Good morning everyone! I am editing this post to add some instructions as there were a couple of requests within the comments.

Iced Tea
Place 4-5 teabags (and a sprig of mint or lemon verbena if you like) into a 1/2 gallon sized heavy glass pitcher.
Bring about 2 cups or so water to a boil in a small saucepan.
As it comes to a boil add sweetener if you like, about 1/2 sugar or honey works for us. Stir to dissolve sweetener.
Pour immediately into glass pitcher. Let this steep for several minutes, it's fine to just forget about it for a while.
After the tea bags are nicely steeped, fill the pitcher with cold water, remove tea bags and serve with ice!
Please be aware when adding boiling water to glass... I've never had a problem with glass cracking, but if the glass is cold it could happen.

There are many ways to do this... here is how it happens in our house.
Have a large bowl standing by.
I use a 6 quart, heavy bottomed stainless steel pot with a tight fitting lid. To this add 1/3 vegetable oil of choice, turn the heat up to medium/high, let the oil heat just a bit, then add 1 cup popcorn kernels. Cover with the lid and put on a pair of oven mitts if you have them, otherwise grab a couple potholders. You will hold on to the pot lid/and pot for most of the time shaking often. It'll take a minute or two for the first kernels to pop, then it is a quick process taking only another couple of minutes. SHAKE OFTEN!! Once there is a 2-3 count pause between pops - you are done! Carefully pour it into your large bowl and season with sea salt right away, it sticks better when it's hot. We use a finely ground, pinkish in color salt that is so yummy and full of minerals.

Hope this helps!