how to host friends last minute for dinner!

This past weekend was a cold one.  I was home with a sick baby and working on some projects while the bigs were at baseball practice.  In comes a text from a long-time friend saying that she'd be close to us that evening because of a sports event for her daughter.  I saw the times of the games, knew I wanted to see them, and invited them over for dinner.  Time for all my talk of freezer meals and make-ahead things to be put into practice, right?

I didn't even ask Benjamin, just told him when he got home the plan.  It was too late for a slow cooker option and when I checked the freezer I saw an 8x8 of Apple Crisp.  That was quickly taken out and placed on the counter to start to thaw.  I made something similar to  this recipe and when I was making it knew for that evening we only really needed half the recipe, so I opted to put the other half in an 8x8 and freeze it.  When freezing I didn't bake it first, simply made it as if it was going to be placed in the oven, and then covered it up and stuck it in the freezer.  We thawed it for a solid afternoon and then it baked at 350 for 60-75 minutes until warm and bubbly.  

Next, in walks the Instant Pot.  You may remember I was a bit skeptical about this appliance and like many of you, didn't really need to add another "thing" to my kitchen.  I find I'm using it just about everyday now and in this case it was my perfect option to have dinner on the table and also allowed me to double a recipe.  I had picked up the massive bag of broccoli from Costco and also that famous Kale Salad because it's just such a winner.

So, what's for dinner?  I searched Pinterest which can be super helpful, but also hard when you aren't sure how good a recipe will be.  I ended up going with this recipe for Beef + Broccoli.  I doubled it, but could have made even more- that's why I love and recommend getting the largest Instant Pot you can afford.  Eat now, have leftovers, or this would freeze well too!  Although you may think it would be ideal if the broccoli could cook along with the beef, that wasn't the case here so here's the run down of what we did.

  • Double the Recipe for Beef + Broccoli.  Wegmans has beef already thinly sliced so that saved time.
  • Pick up some cheese,  salami, crackers, and make sure you have beverages on hand.
  • Once home I got to making the beef and while that cooked prep my broccoli to be roasted and got out rice.
  • When the beef was done we transferred it to a Le Crueset to be heated when ready. Recipes like this are always going to taste better the longer they get a chance to hang out.
  • Wash out the Instant Pot and Make Rice in it!  Yes, we use the Instant Pot for Rice too.  It's no-fail and the Instant Pot keeps it warm without burning it.
  • Roast broccoli at 375 for 20-25 minutes with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Mix the salad, put out the cheese, get out glasses.
  • Once the broccoli was done I put in the Apple Crisp!
Welcome your friends, send the kids to the basement, and in this case everyone ate as they were hungry and served themselves.  Our kids stayed up past their bedtimes and I was thankful to catch up with good friends.  I got to see one of the basketball games and didn't feel stressed by the end of the meal because clean up was so simple (and my husband is a champ and did a lot of it!)

More importantly though I think it worked because this year I've been committed to having margin in my life, and in our family's life.  I've done a load of laundry each day with these color catchers and we sweep the floors each night.  I'm not going to let this season feel burdensome because that's what people want me to think of it as.  It's a season of abundance- there is a lot of a lot of things.  Lots of emotions, lots of laundry, lots of food.  And on last Saturday, lots of little boys and one girl who I remember when she was Evan's age!  One friend whose known me since before I met Benjamin!  One heart and soul that felt super full and thankful, and continues to be into this week.

So, don't let the last minute things stress you out.  Leave room for them.  Plan as you can for them yes, but don't say no because some voice is telling you, "that'd be too much."  Maybe for you in a season you're walking in it would be.  Maybe though if you really think about it, it would fill you up in the best ways.  I know it did that for me.

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