Making New and Old Friends: Dinner for 6 plus Children

I finally made it! Today I received in the mail a thank you note from a family we invited to dinner last weekend. The note said, "You are a great cook." Never in my life, ever have I been told that I am a great cook. -- well actually I started to feel it in France. Jean started to say "That was great. You are getting good." But today receiving that note I knew it was real. The irony is I only cook a few things well, but I have figure out how to do it easily, reasonably priced and so it tastes good. To be honest, though, I think half of it is the fact that the dinner parties are nice and intimate.

We have found that two other couples plus children is the perfect size. I don't have to rearrange tons of tables and chairs. I have enough dishes and silverware, and you can actually visit and talk to 5 other people. Jean and I have realized since eating alot more at home in France that entertaining is fun and your guests love it. People love being invited over for a homecooked meal and an intimate gathering. It doesn't happen enough -- in fact for many people it never happens.

So here is my secret. Find one or two meals that are easy for you to prepare. Invite only 2 other couples plus children. Set up a separate kids table and make sure there are DVDs available as well as plenty of games or dressup clothes which will keep them entertained forever.

Grocery shop the day before

Salad - my signature salad is mixed greens, candied pecans, dried cranberries, goat cheese and a balsamic vinagerette that I make myself

Roasted potatoes, garlic, and red peppers (cut up and put in throwaway pan with olive oil and salt and pepper)

Steamed vegetable (I buy something usually frozen such as green beans or broccoli) - steam on the stovetop

Meat, chicken or fish. Marinate in the morning if you can and slow cook late in the day. Don't make it difficult, use lots of garlic, a marinade or just red wine or beer for meat.

Wine and desert - ask your guests to bring wine and desert which frees you up financially and from worrying about having enough.

Once a month or every other month invite two different couples over and you will be amazed how much you enjoy getting to know knew or old people better in an intimate setting and how much they appreciate it.

P.S. We like doing it on Friday night as it leaves the entire weekend free and is a nice way to bring in shabbat as well.