Monday Menu: Planning for houseguests

Summer always brings much-anticipated visits from friends and family, but if you don’t plan ahead, you can get overwhelmed and stressed out trying to feed all those extra mouths. I like to plan meals that are mostly made ahead (I don’t want to be in the kitchen while everyone else is having fun!), with lots of built in flexibility so everyone can personalize their plates (especially important when there are a bunch of kids in the mix). With a fridge stocked with plenty of beverages and healthy snacks (yogurt, fresh fruit and veggies), and a good stash of homemade cookies, you’ll be ready to enjoy your visitors!

Arrival day: Homesick Texan Carnitas, slaw, guacamole, and Dulce de Leche Ice Cream

Panini Night: 2 kinds of good sliced bread, 3 cheeses (I like cheddar, provolone and Havarti), some sliced deli meat, thinly sliced tomato, arugula, maybe a jar of roasted red peppers or some caramelized onions. Set everything out in little bowls and let each person assemble their own sandwich. I don’t have a fancy panini press; I just toast them on the griddle and press them down with a cast iron skillet. Add a salad and some chips!

Pasta Night: Asparagus, goat cheese and lemon pasta (I realize this menu leans heavily on Smitten Kitchen recipes, but they’re always reliable!). Cook extra pasta and leave it plain for the pickier kids who want plain marinara or just butter and cheese. My kids like the goat cheese but pick out the asparagus. Garlic bread (use a big 1-lb. loaf of soft Italian bread to feed a crowd) and a simple tomato salad.

Breakfast ideas: Doughnut Muffins (that’s what my kids call them because I make them in regular muffin tins) and smoothies; Spinach and cheese strata or Baked French Toast and bacon; Overnight Orange Rolls and Velvet Scrambled Eggs with Fresh Herbs.

Last week on Home Baked

Unclogging the sink

Stenciled Star Wars Cake

Monday Menu: Vacation at the Cottage

Monday Menu: Vacation at the cottage

We don’t have a cozy little lake cottage, but maybe you do? We have a couple weeks free in August if you need someone to make it look lived in…

But seriously, sometimes the most frugal (and relaxing) family summer vacation option is renting or borrowing a cottage, cabin or condo for a week. It’s not an all-inclusive resort, but it does have a kitchen. With a little planning ahead, you can have easy, budget-friendly meals and not break the bank by eating out every night. Here are my top five tips for an easy week of home cooked meals on vacation:

1. Make a menu. Keep it simple. What are your family’s favorite–but easy–meals? Make ingredients work double duty whenever possible.

2. Make a couple of freezer meals ahead of time and bring them your cooler. If you have the space, bring your slow cooker.

3. Find out whether there’s a grill at your destination. Burgers, hotdogs, brats…and s’mores for dessert!

4. Don’t forget to stock supplies for easy breakfasts and lunches: cereal, muffins, sandwiches, yogurt, fruit.

5. Do plan a meal out if you can!

Monday: Arrival day…something quick for dinner! Pasta with cheese and pepper, salad.

Tuesday: Marinate some chicken in the morning…grill it in the evening. Make sure there are leftovers. Asian Cabbage Salad (make the dressing at home and bring it in a jar), maybe some oven fries.

Wednesday: Crockpot pulled pork sandwiches (make ahead, freeze, and reheat in the crockpot while you’re at the beach).

Thursday: No work: Leftover Asian Cabbage Salad with grilled chicken strips. If that’s too healthy, open a bag of chips. Maybe take 10 minutes and make some Fruit Crumble.

Friday: Grill again! Steak, hotdogs, maybe some fish? Potato salad would be nice (bring small new potatoes that don’t need peeling, add a mustardy vinaigrette). S’mores!

Last week on Home Baked

Empty the basket!


Monday Menu: The Grilling Edition


Do you like to cook when you’re on vacation?