I’m pleased to welcome Aviva Goldfarb to Peeking Between the Pages today. I reviewed her cookbook SOS! The Six o’Clock Scramble to the Rescue yesterday (my review) and I have to say again how wonderful I think the cookbook is. My mom has snuck it out from under my nose now so I’m sure we’ll be seeing a recipe from there soon at home. lol. Without further delay let’s sit back, relax, and enjoy Aviva’s guest post entitled COMPANY COMING? A PROVEN RECIPE FOR STAYING CALM…
Did your husband just invite several colleagues and their spouses over to break bread? Have you offered to host a birthday dinner for your sister-in-law? These kinds of situations don’t need to send you into a tail-spin or cause a lot of stress. Below are a few easy and straightforward steps to help you pull off a day or evening of low-stress, casual entertaining while allowing you some time to socialize and enjoy yourself too!
1. Decide on a reliable, easy main dish plus two simple side dishes. The key words here are reliable and easy. Don’t try to prepare something that needs a lot of “babysitting” or attention right before being served or that is very labor intensive, like putting together massive amounts of homemade sushi! Some dishes that don’t require significant amounts of extra work are baked chicken recipes, pastas or casseroles. The new SOS cookbook (SOS! The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue: Earth-Friendly, Kid-Pleasing Dinners for Busy Families) contains many dishes that would be perfect for entertaining. Some of the lighter dishes such as Cream of Asparagus Soup (recipe below) could also serve as a first course or side dish for dinner. For an elegant yet snappy salad, use pre-washed greens, dried fruit, crumbled cheese, and chopped nuts.
2. Choose some trouble-free appetizers or munchies to set out before dinner. These can include sliced fruit or a bowl of grapes, cheese and crackers, and even popcorn or nuts.
3. Clear the kitchen counter and unload the dishwasher ahead of time. With a clear work space everything seems to go more smoothly. With an empty dishwasher, you can load the dinner dishes right after you eat, making room on the counter for ice cream and cookies, whipped cream and berries, or another near-effortless dessert.
4. Make a meal plan and set out the ingredients before you start cooking. Have you ever had the experience of cleaning up from dinner only to realize you forgot to serve part of the meal? Well I have, and ever since, I have started keeping a list on the counter of everything I plan to serve.
5. Set the table in advance, including bringing in extra chairs, if needed. Making the table look nice is a great job for the kids, and they might even like to make place cards, pick the tablecloth, or make a centerpiece with flowers, candles or other decorative items. Ideally, this should all be done before guests arrive, and it may even keep the kids busy while you cook.
If you stick to some of these basic guidelines, you’ll find that hosting a meal doesn’t have to be something that causes you to lose sleep or break out in a cold sweat the on the day leading up to the meal. The key here is to be organized and to have a plan. If you’ve got that squared away, everything else will fall into place and you’ll be able to create a relaxed setting for your guests and yourself to enjoy.
Cream of Asparagus Soup with Fresh Croutons
Prep + Cook = 30 minutes
When we were in Costa Rica last year, we stayed in a tent camp in the rainforest that was very rustic, except for the French-trained chef who prepared our meals. I was shocked when our kids not only devoured his asparagus soup, but asked me to get the recipe so I could make it at home. Although the chef shared his recipe with no measurements or instructions (just the ingredients written in Spanish!), I’ve finally managed to create a very close facsimile to his soothing tropical elixir.
1 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 tsp. minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
2 russet (baking) potatoes, peeled and diced
1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
32 oz. low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 tsp. dried tarragon, or 1 Tbsp. fresh
1 baguette (use 1/2 for croutons and reserve 1/2 for serving)
1/2 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
¼ cup half and half or heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a large saucepan, heat the butter and 1 Tbsp. oil over medium heat. When the butter starts to bubble, add the garlic and stir it for about 30 seconds until it becomes fragrant. Add the potatoes and asparagus, and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring often.
Add the broth and dried tarragon (if using fresh tarragon, add it with the salt and pepper) and bring it to a low boil. Cook, stirring often, for about 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender.
Meanwhile, to make the croutons, cut half of the baguette into thin slices and lay them on a baking sheet. Brush the tops of the slices with olive oil and bake them for about 10 minutes until they are crisp and just starting to brown at the edges. Remove them from the oven and set them aside.
Add the salt and pepper to the soup and puree it using a standing or hand blender. Stir in the half and half or cream, and serve it with the croutons.
Scramble Flavor Booster: Season the soup with freshly ground black pepper or lemon-pepper seasoning. For a meatier meal, stir in some crisp crumbled bacon into the soup.
Nutritional Information per serving (% based upon daily values):
Calories 320, Total Fat 12.5g, 19%, Saturated Fat 4g, 20%, Cholesterol 10mg, 3.5%, Sodium 567mg, 23%, Total Carbohydrate 43g, 15% Dietary Fiber 4.5g, 18,5% Sugar 2.5g, Protein 10g
About the Author
Aviva Goldfarb is a mother of two and the author and founder of The Six O’Clock Scramble®, www.thescramble.com, an online weekly menu planner and cookbook (St. Martin’s Press, 2006), and is author of the new cookbook, “SOS! The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue: Earth Friendly, Kid-Pleasing Meals for Busy Families” (St. Martin’s Press, 2010).
Thank you so much for this terrific guest post Aviva! This recipe sounds like a little piece of heaven. I can’t wait to try it myself especially as asparagus is a favorite of mine!
I have a terrific giveaway to offer my readers! It’s for 1 copy of Aviva’s cookbook SOS! The Six o’Clock Scramble to the Rescue plus one 3-month subscription to the Scramble recipe service (described at http://the scramble.com – a $19.50 value)! That’s one really great prize! To enter…
- Leave me a comment with a way to contact you and tell me what your favorite meal to cook is. No email – no entry so don’t forget it please.
This giveaway is open to US & Canadian residents only and I will draw for the winner on Sunday, July 18, 2010. Good luck everyone!