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Monday, August 14, 2023

Summer Dinner With Guests Using What I Had on Hand

Hi friends, how was your weekend? Did you find some time to relax and recharge, or were you in go-go-go mode Friday through Sunday?

I was medium busy. We had company for dinner Sunday, so I spent most of the weekend cleaning, cooking, and rearranging furniture. I didn't have access to a car to go grocery shopping before Sunday afternoon, so I just decided to work with what I had on hand. In the end, it all worked out, dinner was delicious, and I enjoyed the challenge. Here's what I found in our freezer, pantry and garden to use for a "company" meal.

(Is it food porn if it's basic humble foods?)

I had a whole chicken and a package of little smokies in the freezer for the meat portion. I barbecued the chicken whole.

After the chicken had sat for 20 minutes, I cut it apart (like I do for roasted chickens), giving us a total of 10 pieces of chicken, 4 breast portions, 2 legs, 2 thighs, and 2 wings. This was a casual meal, so eating with our hands was definitely in the plans. 

While I was parting the chicken, one daughter was heating the little smokies. I'd bought these packages for 49 cents on markdown at Grocery Outlet a few months back and kept them in the freezer.

For vegetables I looked to my garden. I picked 2 large cucumbers, several ripe tomatoes, and a small bowl of basil leaves. I made a dressing of home-grown garlic, home-grown oregano, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Just before serving, I grated in some Parmesan cheese.

I also dug some of our potted carrots. I cut the greens off and scrubbed the roots, split in halves, and oven-roasted them. I like to leave just a tiny amount of the carrot tops still attached -- evidence they're home-grown.

I needed a starch, so I made rosemary-olive oil bread (a French bread recipe adding chopped fresh rosemary and using olive oil in place of vegetable oil). I doubled the recipe, so this made a very large loaf. We served this sliced with butter (nothing quite like real butter).

And for dessert, a blackberry pie. My husband picked 1 1/2 quarts of blackberries from our property early Saturday. I baked the pie later that afternoon.

In addition to chilled water to drink, I also made a pitcher of blackberry lemonade, using (of course) juice from our blackberries plus lemon juice, sugar and water.

It was a warm day, so I set up a table on the deck where we could enjoy the lovely evening breezes. We lingered over the table until the sky overhead darkened. A lovely evening with lovely guests.

Although I spent a good chunk of the weekend cleaning and prepping for company, there are a couple of  side benefits that I get to enjoy for days to come. One, the next day's meals are easy to throw together. Chicken sandwiches on rosemary bread along with little smokies made easy lunches on Monday. And Monday's dinner was a simple pot of chicken and dumplings with leftover salad and more fresh blackberries. The other side benefit is I get to now enjoy an extra clean house and tidy outdoor living spaces until we mess it all up again. 

I'm a bit tired this evening, but I'll be back tomorrow with another post.


  1. The meal looks so good. I'm sure your guests, as well as, your family enjoyed it. You generally have a well stocked freezer and pantry, so I'm not surprised that you were able to pull together a delicious meal without going to the store. Enjoy your clean house and leftovers. Definitely an extra benefit of having people over.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      Thank you. I think we all enjoyed the meal. And we've enjoyed the leftovers and the clean house, as a bonus.

  2. That sounds like a lovely dinner you made! We started with only having my dad over then we added my MIL (she's been having memory/anxiety/weeping/depression issues for a while) and then we added my daughter who brought a co-worker so we ended up with 6 people! There was a lot of conversation, laughter, and pure joy for Sunday afternoon. We also roasted a whole chicken, with home grown cooked carrots, green beans, rhubarb custard pudding, homemade chicken gravy and zuccini brownies with ice cream for dessert. It was a very pleasant day after a very long difficult week. We didn't have much leftovers and the most enjoyed part was the carrots and rhubarb pudding as the guests almost argued who got to empty the bowl. I think I'm going to use your idea and make a new fresh batch of chicken and dumplings sometime this week as that sounds delicious.

    1. Hi Alice,
      what a fun Sunday you had! I love those impromptu gatherings that turn into almost a party. Your meal sounds delicious. How do you make rhubarb custard pudding?

    2. Mom's recipe! I cook down rhubard with water then in a mug I put 1 tablespoon of a dry custard powder (we get that at a local Dutch store) with sugar (as much as you want) then fill the mug almost to the top with water. Mix well and add into the cooked, hot rhubarb until thickened.

  3. Lili and Alice, you're both making my mouth water! Both meals sounded delicious!!!

    Lili, I chuckled over your comment about enjoying the challenge of cooking from your freezer/pantry. This is something that I also enjoy doing. When we have company, it's more often than not last-minute notice; and my husband's first impulse is always to run out to the grocery store (which, thankfully, our budget will support) to pick up something specific for the dinner. But I always try to tell him, "Relax, I have this under control", because our home is always blessed with enough food to feed a good meal extra people (if they're not impossibly choosy), with a little creativity; and I'd rather take my time making my on-hand resources into a nice feed and straightening up around the house. The process of bringing an impromptu meal off successfully is a lot less stressful to me than adding in a rushed (15 mile round-trip) foray to the supermarket to my day. Besides, it's one of the skills I'm most proud of, as a homemaker, as I'm sure it is for many of the rest of you. (wink) Best, Everybody! Sara

    1. Hi Sara,
      I agree, this is a skill to be proud of. It makes life simpler to just use what I have and not always head out to a store. And with the price of gas these days, I hate to use extra to make a special shopping trip. (Gas was $5.09/gallon at the budget station this morning!)

  4. Lynn from NC Outer BanksAugust 15, 2023 at 2:58 PM

    That looks like a lovely dinner and Alice's sounds delish as well. I am always so envious of your plethora of blackberries!

    Like others, I enjoy using what I have on hand. My daughter delights in telling the story when she was coming home one time for Labor Day. I thought it was just going to be her. When she arrived, I learned another couple was coming and I had no dessert and they were en route! Luckily I had a cake mix (I'm not as good in the homemade cake dept as many of you). I made the cake, added homemade white icing and then fresh strawberries and blueberries I had on hand to make a "Flag" cake. I was a whirling dervish til they arrived but the cake was appreciated and the story lives on between the friends and my daughter! Lynn

    1. Hi Lynn,
      what a wonderful memory and testament to your ingenuity!
      My mother always used cake mixes. She said they were more reliable for a successful cake. And you turned a mix cake into something very special and memorable! Great job!

  5. If I hadn't just finished dinner, I would be drooling from looking at your grilled chicken. At this time of year, with all the garden produce, it seems natural to take advantage of that. I'm sure your guests were very satisfied. Then I read Alice's comment and thought, wow, so many good meals!

    My son is home for 10 days from his summer internship. He was about an hour away from my in-law's, who have a huge garden, so he ate a lot of produce this summer. My husband helped him move out, and they were gifted with more produce from my in-laws, so I'm trying to work my way through that right now. I made a fresh pasta sauce from 5# of tomatoes tonight, which cut the number of tomatoes they sent us *almost* in half. The recipe I have is very tasty, but it calls for the meat of the tomatoes to be hand-grated. After doing that, I wondered why I couldn't have used a food processor instead. Faster and less messy.

    Lili, I noticed that you have the plates and glasses upside down in the picture. Is that to keep the bugs off?

    I hope you feel rested soon. This was a fun post to read. :)

    1. Hi Kris,
      That's great your son could see family so much this summer. And what a blessing to receive all of that produce. I'm sure you'll put it all to great use. The pasta sauce made with fresh tomatoes sounds delicious!

      Yes, I set up the table early in the afternoon and wanted to keep the glasses and plates clean. I put the napkins and silverware under the plates. So it also helped keep the napkins from being blown away.

      Thanks, I'm more energetic today. I was sure tired on Monday though. I must be getting old!


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