This post is a request and I am quite excited about sharing my tips with you. Plastic containers can quickly become a nightmare for some people. It is very tempting to save yogurt boxes, hummus or sour cream containers. Stop it immediately!!! I know, I sound very harsh when I say this, but believe me, my life has changed since I stopped this madness.
Packaging is part of the product and once the product is consumed, the packaging needs to go into your recycling container. Do not allow others or yourself to persuade you into keeping excess amount of plastic containers as they will accumulate very fast in your house. You will go nuts trying to store them, finding covers or stacking them.
My suggestion is to start fresh by emptying out the entire drawer or shelf where you are currently storing your plastic containers. Wipe out the storage place and make it clean as that’s how it’s going to stay from this day forward. Keep only those containers that have lids that actually fit properly on them. No broken boxes or cracked lids please! If you cannot find a lid or a container that matches, chuck it immediately. Do not go through any what if I find it later in your mind. Act now and get rid of stuff; don’t worry you will only buy what you need from now on.
You have to make a promise to yourself to always buy the kind of plastic containers that can stack and have the same lids. In Canada, we have brands such as Tupperware, Glad, Ziploc and Rubbermaid selling containers that are in different sizes as well as those that can stack. You could buy the size that suits your needs the most or you could have two sizes.
Plastic containers are only meant for food storage. They are not meant for warming food in the microwave. If you have been warming food in the microwave in these containers, you should stop immediately even if they are BPA free.
I buy Pyrex or Corningware glass containers for storing food. The lids are plastic and are sold separately but so worth the price. I always store leftovers in the refrigerator in these containers as I can warm and serve in the same container. Do you really want to be storing in one container, warming in another and washing two containers for one dish? Not me!!!
When people come to my house, they can’t believe that I house my plastic containers on one tiny shelf in my kitchen. I must admit I wasn’t always like this and I had an entire shelf unit filled with plastic containers in the basement of my previous house. When we moved to this house I decided that I wasn’t going to follow that route any longer. Even though I have lots more storage in this kitchen, I am using it wisely.
Stop the plastic container madness today and pare down. Trust me, less is more! A.K.
The above picture is not by KC
From the moment the invitations are sent, to the moment the first person rings the door bell, there is a lot of planning involved when entertaining at home. As most of you know, hosting a party at your house is not always an easy task especially if you only have your two hands and no one else to help you. The little details involved in planning and executing a great party lies in time management. It’s not just about the food as the whole house has to be cleaned, organized and prepared for your guest’s arrival. This does not happen overnight. It takes me a few days to plan everything and I know first hand that it can seem very daunting to someone who has never done it before.
Hands down, menu planning is one of the hardest parts of hosting a party at your house. It is hard because you have to cook or order just the right amount of dishes with enough variety to please the guests. When preparing a menu, it is important to keep a few things in mind such as the age of the guests, their cultural background, food allergies, diet restrictions, the season and their likes and dislikes if you are aware of them. Sometimes it can get tricky. For example, you might have 30 guests between the ages of 1-90 yrs old. It’s impossible to satisfy everyone’s taste palette with every single dish that you serve. In this case, it is essential to have a variety of textures, colours, consistencies and flavors.
I’ve been told often by my guests that I go overboard in preparing the number of dishes that I am serving. I do this on purpose!!! I want every single guest to be able to enjoy a couple of the things that are on the table. Some people like dry food such as appetizers or salad, whereas there are guests who won’t even touch a salad! Gravies are a must for some people and they cannot eat their meal without gravy on hand. The same goes for desserts. Always have at least three desserts at a party. Everyone does not like chocolate, coffee, cream or fruit in their dessert. That’s why you could serve an apple flan, tiramisu and brownies on the same night and allow your guests to choose what they want to eat.
That being said, you have to accept that every dish you make will not necessarily be liked by all of your guests and that is perfectly okay. It does not mean that it didn’t taste good. It just means that everyone has the right to a different opinion when it comes to food. If they have ample choice, they will go home happy and have lots of nice things to say about your food.
Clients ask me what menu items they should choose for their event and I always ask questions about the guests that they are inviting and what they are planning to make themselves. We create custom menus for the client’s needs. We don’t always like to give them a set menu as that is very limiting and does not necessarily satisfy all their needs, so we give them options to choose from.
Creating a menu which has a little bit of this and a little bit of that is what makes it extra special for your guests. In the future, I am going to provide you with some menus to use at parties that you may be hosting at your home. For now, experiment with different cuisines and try making new things for your family. Who says we can’t have a chicken tikka pizza or Singaporean rice all in the same meal? It’s all about variety and experimentation.
Here are a few general categories that I like to use when deciding a buffet menu for myself or for a client:
Drinks – Hot
Drinks – Cold
The number of items to serve under each category will depend on the event, indoor or outdoor, the number of guests, if you have any help on hand and how long the party will be for. Let’s say that you are planning a brunch for 15 adults. I would suggest 5 appetizers, 2 main courses, 2 sides, 1 salad, 3 desserts, two hot drinks and two cold drinks. Breaking this down even further, I like to serve one drink such as a mango milkshake as the guests are arriving along with a tray filled with a variety of nuts, dry fruits, mini chocolates and candy. This gives them something to munch on while they are chatting with each other. It also shows that you care about them since you offered them something almost immediately after they arrived at your home.
Since I mostly host buffet style meals, I like to keep two separate tables for food and desserts and drinks. I use the table in my dining room for the food and the table in my kitchen for desserts and drinks. If you do not have two tables, you can use a kitchen counter or a coffee table for the same purpose. You can also use an extra table from somewhere else in the house and cover it with a nice table cloth. It can then be placed in the hallway or against a wall and used to serve anything you like. Use what you have to create separate stations for guests to get their food. It not only makes it interesting for them, but it spreads out your guests over the house so that no one room is crowded. When having a barbecue for my guests on our deck or in the back yard, I like to use two tables in exactly the same manner.
In order to take things a step further, it helps if you use candles and seasonal decor all over the house and if you color coordinate things. For example most of the dishes I have are cream or white. Just by changing the table cover, napkins and plates to say black and white plates, orange table cover and orange napkins with gold and silver flat ware, I am able to create a fall inspired table. On another occasion, I may use blue dishes, platters, blue glasses, white, blue and turquoise plates with white napkins and white cutlery. For me this would work well for outdoor entertaining as all of these blue and white items are plastic or melamine made for that purpose. In short, use what you have but try to coordinate things. You don’t need to have a lot of items for entertaining, but try to always buy items to match what you already own.
Once I’ve set the table, which is usually the night before, I write down the names of all the dishes on little pieces of paper and place the papers in each dish, platter, bowl or tray. This helps me a lot on the day of the party. It keeps me in track of what is on the table, in the fridge, on the stove, microwave or oven. I cannot forget anything as the empty bowl with the written reminder will keep me in check. Also, I won’t have to run around at the last minute trying to figure out which bowl to use for what item.
Sometimes I use warmers or chafing dishes to serve the main courses. This works well when you have more than 20 guests as you don’t have to worry about the food getting cold or refilling the dishes as often. The warmers I have allow me to place any heat proof dish directly on top of it. So I can take it out from the oven straight to the table and not have to worry about it.
When setting the desserts and drinks table, I like to use trays to categorize items. For example, I place the pitchers of water and juice on a tray and all the crystal glasses I’m using on another tray. If using a punch bowl that day, I place it in the centre of the table as it’s very big and acts as a centre piece. I like to place tea cups or mugs on a tray as well so that when I’m serving tea or coffee, there’s no dripping onto the table cloth. This allows everything to have a designated spot and things look tidy and clean. As for dessert, leave ample space on the table for placing a couple of desserts, bowls, plates, forks, spoons and cocktail napkins.
If you are giving away favors to your guests, you can place them on the dessert table or on an entry way table so that you don’t forget to hand them out as they are leaving. Also, if you would like to give close family and friends some food as they leave; make sure to have plates, foil or boxes handy so that they make take whatever they like.
It makes life so much easier to have everything written down and posted on your fridge way before the event. As I prepare each dish, I tick it off on my list. If you are preparing the meal yourself then you can use that list to buy ingredients for each dish. This way you won’t have to run to the grocery store at the last minute. If you are having your meal catered, then you can set your table with the relevant dishes, bowls, platters, stands, cups, glasses, cutlery etc. to go with your menu.
Planning is important at every step. It is the main secret of hosting a good party at your house. The guests come to meet you and to enjoy themselves at your house. They may not remember what they ate at your place a few months from now, but they will always remember the effort you put in to entertain them.
Here is a fabulous post by A.K on how to tame the craziness in your kitchen. We will be doing a series of these over time. Look forward to Taming of the Cupboards & Shelves or Taming of the Pantry or even Taming of the Kitchen Drawers. You will find some great ideas on how to manage your time in the kitchen below- I know I implement a lot of these and we are just a family of 2! And if all else fails... you can always do what A.K's adorable son says in this song he made up the other day! (Recognise the tune? What a classic!) How cute! W.P
Families come in all ages and sizes. We have got families with young children, seniors, single parents, bachelors, spinsters, working moms, and stay at home moms or dads. A home/family could consist of 1 to however many people living in your house with you. Lots of responsibility, time management and efficiency is required to make time spent in the kitchen go smoothly. We want to make it short and sweet as there are lots of other tasks that need to be taken care of!
Everyone has their own schedule whether it’s for work, school, University or at home. So much is involved in keeping a family and home functioning so that things can happen on time especially during the two busiest times of the day; morning and evening. For those families with young children, mornings are filled with things to do such as getting the kids ready for school, preparing breakfast for everyone, making sure it’s eaten, packing lunches and being certain that everyone arrives to their destination in time. A similar scenario awaits some families in the evening. Parents and kids are at home. Dinner has to be on the table. The kids have swimming classes or soccer practice. Homework has to be done and everyone has to get a decent night’s sleep.
Oh, but it doesn’t end there! Once the kids are in bed, the dishes have to be washed, kitchen tidied up, a load of laundry started, then a load in the dryer and clothes folded and hung. Then it’s time to take out everyone’s clothes for the next day, tidy the family room, get a bag ready with library books that need to be returned, worry about what everyone is going to take for lunch and what the family is going to have for dinner the next day! That’s a lot for one or two parents to do considering that they might have had a tiring and stressful day at work or even at home with a young baby and several errands to run. This should be a relaxing evening where the mom and/or dad can spend some quality time together after the kids have gone to bed.
Here is where we come in to help you simplify the breakfast, lunch and dinner on the table dilemma. There is no right or wrong way of organizing yourself in the kitchen, but there are some methods that I have been practicing over the years that have worked for my family. Things will be different for smaller or larger families, but you can adapt whatever tips you like and use them for your benefit. Below are a few tips that you can follow to make life easier for yourself. It takes the guesswork out of the picture and everyone knows what they will be eating for the next meal. This means that if mom is still at work and it’s time for dinner, dad will be able to serve the family a meal without feeling stressed.
A Meal Plan: I know this sounds daunting and hard, but it’s actually quite easy. It helps to save money, time and reduce the possibility of food going bad since you only have what you need. For example, create a plan that runs from Sunday to Saturday and write down what you have planned for breakfast, lunch and dinner for each day. Then take a look in your pantry, fridge and freezer to see what you have and what you need to buy. If you are going to be eating out or ordering food, make sure to write it on the meal plan.
Grocery Shopping: Once you have made your meal plan, it’s easy to do the groceries. Just buy the ingredients required to make those meals.
Food Prepping: After coming home from the grocery store, don’t just put the food away. Spend one hour that day to prep the food for the week. For example if you know you are going to make a stir fry tomorrow night, cut all the vegetables and put them in a box so that when you come home from work tomorrow, you’ll be able to make it within 20 minutes. Also, cut up fruits such as honey dew melon, strawberries, pineapple and mangoes and store then in boxes in the fridge. They make great after school snacks and you can also use them for lunches.
Freezing Portions: Every time I cook, I make enough for two meals. This not only saves me time, it also reduces utility costs and there’s always extra food in the freezer. The trick to freezing portions is to package it immediately after cooking so that it is fresh. For example, if your family consumes 12 chicken meatballs in gravy at a time, make 24. Freeze 12 in a box and take it out of the freezer the night before you are going to be eating it and put it in the fridge. When you come home that night, you will only have to make a salad, warm some Indian flat bread and heat up the chicken meatballs in gravy.
Cooked Items That Freeze Well: Lentils, soup, meat curries, meat sauce, shredded chicken, minced meat, meatballs, cooked vegetables (except potatoes), casseroles and lasagna.
Meal Accompaniments: It’s always very comforting to know that you have a week’s worth of frozen meals in the freezer. If your dinner menu for today says spaghetti and meat sauce with Greek salad, you can easily take out the meat sauce from the freezer, boil the spaghetti and prepare the salad. Also, having kebabs in the freezer can be a God send for those nights when company shows up and you need something to serve.
Chores: There are little hands in your house who would love to help if you would let them. Remember, your children will help you if you give them small daily tasks that are their responsibility only. For example my 5 year old sets the table. I put the plates, glasses and cutlery on the table for him and he is responsible for placing it on everyone’s mat. Why don’t I do it myself as I will be much faster? Well, you see it’s not just about being fast, accurate or neat; we have to do things as a family. This teaches every member of the family responsibility, respect for each other and appreciation. These values are taught at home and at school. My 10 year old empties the dishwasher and helps me put away groceries in the pantry. When he wants something, he doesn’t have to ask me for it, as he already knows where it is since he put it there. I’ve got sections in my pantry for different items, but that’s an entire post by itself. Since he’s older, I’ve also taught him how to make salad. It keeps him busy and he enjoys it. My 7 year old loves to clean, so I give him a cleaner and a duster and he cleans the appliances, tables and cupboards. I have never used money as an incentive to make my kids help around the house. Instead, I’ve spoken to them about the importance of doing things together as a family and how it gives us more time together to do things we enjoy. You don’t want your kids to remember you as a tired, grouchy and overworked mother or father. I’m sure you want them to remember you as a loving, caring, thoughtful and relaxed parent. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of doing everything yourself because you are not good at asking for help or even worse that you think that no one else will be able to do that task better than you!!!
To summarize all this, I’d like to say that your time spent in the kitchen should be short, fun and productive so that you may spend quality time with the important people in your life. If you manage your time effectively, you will find that these everyday tasks will not seem as daunting to you.
It’s always great to get your feedback. Please let us know how these tips help you and if you have any tips of your own to share. Also, leave a comment in our Comments/Feedback section. We’d love to hear from you.
Dessert is often a pain for those hosting dinner parties, me included. Everyone has different tastes or allergies and there is always too much left over. So I decided to do a couple of individual servings and use my book shelf as a dessert shelf and let people pick and choose what they want to eat. I made 1 hot dessert though- deep dish chocolate chip cookies with ice cream.. individual servings in ramekins as well, but those could not be put on the shelf as they disappeared as soon as they came out of the oven! This is a great idea when you do not have enough space on your dining table + it's fun for guests and best of all- easy clean up and minimal wastage. W.P
So I hosted an Iftar at my place on Aug 3rd and I wanted to invite quite a few friends- and I made our space work for us by placing food all over - we had a dessert shelf, cutlery was in another corner, drinks were elsewhere, and some hors d'oeuvres were placed around the living room. It not only looks great, it helps keep a smooth flow around the house rather than have a crowded dining table. Of course sit down dinners are my norm, but this particular buffet style is great for a casual group of friends over for dinner.
hAPPY eATING & kEEP sMILING
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