This blog will not be adding more posts but will remain open for you to access the information that will remain here.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

simple entertaining

Heather
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.

Popcorn
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!

36 comments:

Posh And Trendy said...

It would be a little hard for me to come up with a better idea then your popcorn and Ice tea because that's exactly what we always served our friends over a hand of cards. One of my friends always made the best popcorn and when asked what she did, she said she used bacon grease to pop it. I don't guess it is heart healthy but it sure was good.
The other thing we sometimes did was make our own pizza. You can make enough pizza to feed a crowd for very little money. I use to cut it into small squares and place them on a plate like finger foods. It was always a big hit.

kiewies said...

I think that's wonderful advice. And your tea looks yummie!

annette said...

What a fantastic idea! I'd like to entertain more. My dream is to have our house as the cool house to be. =)

Alexandra said...

The easiest meal I ever served was to the friends of my college roommate. I had a veggie and dip plate, drinks, and a make-your-own sandwich arrangement with buns, condiments, lettuce, and one flank steak, broiled, cold, thinly sliced. In that way one kilo of meat fed eight or nine people with teenage boy appetites, which is a pretty good deal!

Lady Laura said...

When I was newly married, my teenage, junior-high school brother used to stop by my first apartment everyday on his way home from school.

Couldn't figure out why. Finally asked him. He said it was because I made a picture of iced tea everyday and had popcorn. He could watch his cartoons in peace and have a nice, healthy afterschool snack.

I really came to enjoy his visits and our afternoon tea & popcorn!

Lalycairn said...

Homemade pizza! And a really cool thing is to do fondue. I know it's old and dated, but even for kids, sitting around, cooking your own stuff in hot broth, and then havng a chocolate fondue for dessert is FUN! We use an assortment of vegies and chicken. And you don't need a fondue pot, a bunch of forks and an electric wok will work just as well. :)

Loving the whole popcorn thing. I finally got DH convinced that microwave popcorn isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Fleecenik Farm said...

We dug a small fire pit in our yard, hubby plays the guitar. One cup of hot cocoa and we are god to go...

amanda o said...

you know i have never made popcorn that way before...but i am darn sure going to try it out!

Frogdancer said...

The popcorn thing is great for kids parties too. I always make a couple of dishes of airpopped popcorn as soon as the guests arrive. It fills them up beautifully.
Pancakes are another great way to feed people for little money. (I also cooked these for my son's 13th birthday party. Each kid had one or two pancakes BEFORE I brought out the party pies/sausage rolls/cocktail franks. Saved me a fortune. And the kids adored it.

Tara said...

I'm sold on the popcorn idea. We stock up on corn-chips by the case, but popcorn would be so much cheaper and no bag to throw away. I'm all over it.

Meg said...

Homemade hummus does the trick around here. We always have peeled carrots sitting in water in the fridge ready to go.

Compostwoman said...

We do popcorn and hot chocolate and toasted marshmallows over a wood fire in a log circle in our wood...the children whittle and peel the sticks to toast the marshmallows on, and help to gather the sticks to make the fire...the water for the hot chocolate is boiled on the fire and the corn is popped in 2 sieves over the fire...

for pics, see my blog under forest schools tags..

ALL the children LOVE doing this...

and its what my DD wants for her 8th birthday party ( in 3 weeks ime...)


so cheap and eco friendly!

She sure is strange! said...

That's how my dad did popcorn! I used to love it when we'd have a popcorn night!!! Bad mom here, we do the microwave stuff when we do it, but its the low fat kind. I need a good skillet.

Molly

katef - www.picklebums.com said...

I want our house to be the place where everyone feels welcome and happy... we do the popcorn thing too. Does anyone know if you can save regular home grown corn for popping or do you have to have a special variety?

nikkishell said...

Oh yes popcorn is a good treat for the kids! Mine think it's great. How do you make your iced tea?

Anonymous said...

Katef - there is a special corn that you can raise in your home garden for popcorn. It makes little kernels. Hope this helps. Popcorn is my all-time favorite lunch!

daisymum7 said...

We have always had a nice yard no matter where we lived now we have a huge back paddock so when things are tight and we haven't seen friends or family for a while I send out invitations to a BYO picnic in the paddock. Everyone packs a picnic lunch and some chairs and we hang out under the trees or play cricket or football with the kids.

No pressure nothing fancy sometimes just chicken sandwiches and if the budget will stretch I make a chocolate cake big enough to feed everyone.

Simple, easy and cheap

Sarah said...

What a great story from your Mom! I also keep popcorn around. I recently bought locally grown popcorn from a guy in VT. It tastes COMPLETELY different that whatever popcorn I have bought in the past from, I assume, the midwest.

crazy christensen family said...

How do you do this without causing a fire? I tried it once and almost burned my kitchen down. The counter, linoleum and pot all were casualties in my efforts.

Anonymous said...

We love popcorn! We enjoy flavoring our popcorn by sprinkling dry jello on top while it is warm. Just mix and serve!
Ruth, PA

Elizabeth said...

Great post. Popcorn and hot chocolate are the way to go here. :>

Thimbleina said...

Always have homemade soup in the freezer (Veg soup being cheap to make) so that you can just pop in a pan and warm through for lunch with bread which we always have. Ideal in these cool months. Always have pasta and tin tomatoes in the cupboard and cheese in the fridge add garlic and oregano and you have a dinner dish for lots

Sheila said...

I love this post! I need to simplify my thinking and realize that it doesn't take much to enjoy my friend's company. I need to make more time to be this house like I always wanted. We always buy popcorn in bulk because there is not better than fresh hot popcorn plus for kid's movie nights it is the ultimate snack (the movies come free from the library or local video store they invite friends and we make it dark like the theater!!)

Sadge said...

When I graduated from High School (many many years ago) one of my graduation presents was a popcorn popper - an electric one you'd cook the oil and corn in the bottom, and then flip it over into the big domed lid to use as a serving bowl. I made so many friends in the dorm, fast, when I went away to college with that present!

Last Christmas, my sister sent me a Whirly-Pop. It's great! It even works over a propane camp stove. Popcorn is now a standard part of my camping happy hour - what a luxury!

Anonymous said...

My make popcorn the same way, and like you, don't butter it. Olive oil to cook the corn in is plenty enough to make the salt stick! We go to the library (at least) once a week, bring home a big stack of books, make a big batch of popcorn, and everyone settles in devour their books and their popcorn. My kids call it a popcorn party! :) (Although we don't drink it, my parents used to always make Kool-Aid to go with the popcorn. "Pennies a glass", and all that. :))

For other "dinner party" entertaining, I'm queen of the "one-pot" dishes, from pasta to soup, and this is usually a great budget stretcher. But what always makes the meal and gets all the rave reviews is a loaf or two of homemade French bread, which takes minimal ingredients and effort..."pennies a loaf", if you will!

kate said...

my son loves it when we pop corn. he thinks of it as a special treat, which i like. he does not need to have candy or ice cream to think he's eating something special.

every friday we make pizza. we call it pizza friday. (so original!) this is a great and inexpensive crowd pleaser. a little cheese, a little sauce (which we often make, too) is all you need, but we also will add grated carrot and zucchini or chopped spinach. yum! and fun, too!

rhonda jean said...

Hi heather, love your post and the photo. Thanks for including the recipes. :- )

Simbelmyne said...

My best entertaining idea yet? Baked Potato Party!
Bake a bunch of potatoes (I use aluminium foil which isn't very frugal, but I recycle or reuse it)
and then let everybody grab and top them however they like. Cheese is the most popular, in my experience and I always have that around the house.

Thanks for the uplifting post!

Chookie said...

Another cheap and popular food, when in season: watermelon!

Karen said...

i do use an old-fashioned (ala early 1980s, lol) air popper, electric. it's so much better than microwave. .. i don't even own a microwave. i season with vegan butter and sea salt, or with olive oil, a spray of braggs, and sea salt. I'm afraid to burn myself using the pot method, but I'll try someday.

I, too, am determined to be "that" mom and have "that" house, the "hangout" house, someday. this will be especially nice when they are teenagers, i think ... growing up my house was NEVER that house ... and i always regretted that i never quite felt comfortable in my own home with friends.

isn't it amazing how our parents get more and more right with their advice as the years move on?

suzan said...

Real popcorn is the thing. I have the best memories of my dad popping corn for us. This was usually a winter treat and properly made over the fire using an old mesh wire basket that I believe was just made for popping corn. Thank you Heather for a lovely post!

Mrs. Anna T said...

Wonderful ideas. Thanks for the encouragement to entertain for us low-budget newlyweds!

Amy© said...

My house tends to be the gathering place, and that's just fine with me. I always have popcorn and tea bags too... I also keep coffee at the ready (for us moms lol) and simple things like apples and cheese, tortilla chips and salsa, or peanut butter and crackers. I really think it doesn't matter so much what you serve... what matters is the attitude you serve it with! :)I'm glad I found your blog--I'm sure enjoying reading through it! Thank you! :)

Mandi said...

No butter?!? Butter is the whole point of popcorn!

Tracey McBride said...

I love your philosophy as well as your great ideas (and very clear photos!). I too am one of the many fans of stove top popcorn...my dad made it in a huge copper and stainless kettle when we were young. He'd fill a large paper grocery bag with it and we would all pile into the family car and watch a movie at one of the last Drive-In theatres (before the land was sold to housing developers). A 2 gallon thermos jug (with spigot) held our delicious sun tea. It was frugal fun for our large family.
Thanks so much for the great blog...and thanks to Mrs. Anna T from Domestic Felicity for pointing it out!

Warmly,
Tracey

Jennifer said...

We are big popcorn for teatime fans, but I confess, I use a microwave - with real popcorn. My children are still too young to use the stove for popcorn, so we bought an inexpensive (and recyclable) stack of brown paper lunch sacks, put 1/3 cup bulk kernels in, fold the top 1/2", staple, and then carefully fold them up like the not-so-healthy (for you or the environment) store variety. Whenever we want popcorn, my son pulls out a bag, pops it into the microwave, and in two minutes we've got a lovely bowl full.