As much as I love to have people in my home, I know that not everyone is that comfortable with it. I am still working my way through a whole series on overcoming hospitality obstacles, but I wanted to share the way I recently pulled together a gathering. Here are my 5 steps to a simple snack set-up. Please see the Facebook video for more details.
Step 1 – Date, time, purpose
Since this was for the regular meeting of our small group, these details were already set for us. Our gathering was on a Sunday afternoon, 4-6 pm. We always have a snack and fellowship time before we dive into our lesson. So I did not have to make any decisions on this essential planning elements. You may find yourself in a similar situation, or you may have complete flexibility. If you are new to hosting, I suggest that you avoid meal times. Start out with something simple like a snack set-up
Step 2 – Determine Menu
I am the first to admit that I still have issues having everything ready at the right time, so I try to pick a menu that contains at least a few items that can be prepared ahead of time. For this occasion, I decided to make a cool dip and cool salad, purchase a cool dip/spread, serve fruit and only prepare one warm dip.
The recipes are available at these links:
(And in full disclosure, I was running around at the last minute trying to get the kitchen straightened back up before the guests arrived, and I turned the oven off while the Creamy Cheesy Artichoke Dip was still doing its thing. It was only during the Facebook Live video I tried to squeeze in that I realized that the dip was missing and as in fact sitting in a cooling oven. Fortunately, I had time to get it back in and was able to add to the table right as my friends were arriving. So you will just have to imagine the most beautiful Creamy Cheesy Artichoke Dip you have ever seen.)
The bread and crackers and the fruit were served on larger, flat trays to bring some balance to the table.
Step 3 – Decide on set-up
I like to serve food from my dining room table simply because it can be set up ahead of time and not get messy in the preparation process like the kitchen sometimes can. I typically put the tablecloth on the night before to a) make sure that it fits properly and has no visible stains, and b) to help pull some of the wrinkles or creases out. If you have read many of my posts are seen many of my Facebook videos, you know I have a chambray tablecloth I love to use. You can find a similar one here. I simply added a few cloth napkins down the middle to give it some visual interest.
To me, a centerpiece of some sort is essential, but spending a lot of money on one is not. I just grabbed a ginger jar off the shelf and added flowers from the yard. There is not much still blooming here in late August, but I found enough variety to give it some color. Those Shasta Daisies, Stella D’oro Lillies, and Knock-out Roses have served me well over the years. I plan to add some more cutting garden type flowers next spring. I would love your suggestions on what to include.
Step 4 – Prepare
There is nothing more frustrating than preparing a delicious dish and then not having the proper serving piece to put it on. I like to set out my serving pieces on the table ahead of time to make sure everything fits and works well together. It’s much easier to rearrange empty serving dishes than it is to shuffle full dishes at the last minute. I even label them so I don’t forget what goes where.
I hate to be rushed at the last minute and especially do not like trying to dodge guests to finish setting things up (I love our house, but the flow from front door around to the dining room / kitchen area can get super tight). So I try to have everything ready at least 10 minutes ahead of time. This obviously didn’t work this day with the Artichoke Dip still in the oven until the last minute.
Step 5 – Enjoy
After all these years of hosting, I am still working on being able to take a breath and relax once the guests arrive. Sticking to the 5 steps to a simple snack set-up outlined above has certainly helped me be able to be more present and enjoy the fellowship and food without worrying about perfection. And isn’t that the whole purpose anyway?
By the way, we have a Facebook Group specifically designed for our friends who also love making great food for good friends. We would love for you to join us and share your entertaining and hosting tips and questions.
Stay humble, work hard, be kind.