If you are subscribed to my newsletter (which, you should be if you aren't! See gray box on the top of this page to make it happen!) then you might've read about the internal dilemma I had on Sunday over a simple ham dinner. Imagine, if you will, finally moving (what fills like) millions of boxes and furniture parts into your disastrous, renovation-filled house on Saturday, which is already full of carpet remnants, loads of dust from sanding down walls, painters tarp strewn everywhere, and messy floors you haven't bothered to mop in 3 weeks because…well…why bother. Flash forward to Sunday, the next day, when you realize your family hasn't had a real meal all week and decide to dig through your freezer to find something reasonable. You find a whole ham, toss it in the crockpot, satisfied that they will eat something other than corndogs for dinner.
Then you have a thought.
“This is a big ham. We won't eat all of this. Shame to let it go to waste. I wonder if I should invite the neighbors.” Next thing you know you have a family of 5 coming over for dinner in a few hours. And while you have a big ham cooking, you haven't gone grocery shopping all week, have no idea if you even have enough food on-hand to feed that many people, don't shop on Sunday so going to the store is out of the question…oh yeah…and your house looks like a tornado personally targeted it.
Does that ever happen to you?
No? Just me? Yeah, probably. I'm nuts.
I'll spare you the long version of the story but let's just say I learned a great lesson about setting aside perfection, and just doing the best you can, simply because you have good intentions behind it! We did some speed cleaning (aka hiding as much crap as we can as shown in THIS CLEANING HACKS VIDEO of mine), and I rummaged through my pantry, fridge, and freezer to come up with enough food to feed 4 adults, 2 teenagers, 1 tween, and 4 littles.
It turned out AMAZING! And I didn't spend a DIME on dinner!
I ended up making Brown Sugar Slow Cooker Ham, Easy & Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes, Strawberry Spinach Salad (with the tastiest homemade poppy seed dressing!), mashed sweet potatoes, roasted carrots, and I even busted out a Chocolate Bundt Cake for dessert (that has secret ingredients you won't believe). And I don't even like to cook! And I didn't burn anything! Not going to lie, I was proud of myself. So proud, I thought I'd share all the recipes with you and show you how I pulled it off!
I broke it into a 4-post series so you wouldn't be stuck reading one giant mega-post. See all the food I made below and click around if you want the recipes and details on how I made them.
First up, let's talk about the sweet potatoes and roasted carrots, since those were easy easy lemon peasy.
SIMPLEST MASHED SWEET POTATOES:
I rummaged through my pantry and found 2 lonely sweet potatoes. Not enough to feed 11 people, but enough for a small side-dish to serve with other things. There are typically 2 ways I do sweet potatoes:
- Boil them. Drop them in a pot full of boiling water, skin and all, and let them boil until super soft (a fork goes in easily with little to no resistance). No need to slice or dice, just drop them in and go! This is an easy, low-maintenance way of doing it. Not as flavorful though, so I prefer method #2 when cooking for adults…
- Bake them. Toss them in a hot oven, skin and all, and let them bake until super soft. I've done 350 degrees (for 1.5 hours), I've done 450 degrees (for 30-60 minutes depending on the size), and everything in between. Doesn't matter, just keep an eye on them and when they are mushy, they are done. Don't poke them first, or else the yummy juice comes out while cooking and makes the bottom of your oven a mess. No need to wash them first either! Just pop in and go.
Squeeze them out of the peel. Warning, peel is HOT! The peel should literally slide right off! Remove the rough ends and any dark spots and squeeze everything else into a bowl, then mash with a fork until you get the consistency you like. My family will eat them 100% as-is, but when cooking for other people I'll add a Tablespoon or two of butter, and maybe 1/4C brown sugar to the potatoes while mashing/mixing them.
You could candy some pecans or almonds to put on top if you wanted to be really fancy, otherwise you are good to go! So easy!
I found a 1/2 bag of carrots in my fridge leftover from Easter. Again, not a ton, but enough to make a small side dish to serve with other things. Roasted carrots are a favorite at our house. Here's how I make them:
- Peel and dice them to desired size (unless they are baby carrots, then they are good to go!)
- Put in a bowl, pour in enough olive oil to coat the carrots (maybe 1/4C? No idea, I just eyeball it…)
- Add seasonings of choice. I usually do salt, pepper, a little rosemary and thyme. Stir it all up.
- Put on a baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees until they have reached your desired softness, most likely 15-30 minutes depending on how big your carrots are. I've done 450 degrees for more like 12-15 minutes before because I was in a rush. They weren't as good but turned out fine.
This is basically how I roast all my veggies, and I've never had any I didn't like! They all turn out soooooo good.
Now for the other recipes!
You'll find those in the other posts, so click on the picture and it'll take you to the full recipe that you can print out:
Completely frozen ham…with a sweet brown sugar coating…made entirely in the slow cooker…trust me, you need this in your life! So easy to prepare, I did it in under 2 minutes running out the door on my way to church.
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I only had about 8 medium to small potatoes, not enough to make mashed potatoes for a crowd. I made these cheesy scalloped potatoes. Not only were they easy, but they made a HUGE pan and were SO SO SO SO SO SO good!
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Admittedly, I'm not a salad person. I rarely make them at home (lots of work and ingredients, don't hold up as leftovers, and my family isn't crazy about them…3 strikes in my book!). However, when I do make a salad to please the masses, I ALWAYS ALWAYS make Strawberry Spinach Salad. Super super DUPER easy, delicious, and I always have the ingredients on-hand (thanks to green smoothies and berry-loving kids), so it's a no-brainer. This time I made a simple and delicious homemade salad dressing for pennies, that has made me swear to never buy dressing again, it's so good!
For the post and printable recipe go HERE.
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Last but not least, I decided to bust out a quick dessert. I didn't have time (nor desire) to make anything from scratch, so I went to an old favorite…a Chocolate Bundt Cake to DIE for…made from a cake mix! Yes, you read that right. I added a secret ingredient this time that not only used up leftover Easter candy, but made it just about as Heavenly as it could possibly get.
See the post and get the recipe HERE.
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So there you have it!
- You can feed a crowd good, homemade food without spending…well…anything!
- You do NOT need a perfect house…or meal…or plates…or decorations…to do something good for friends.
We dusted off our table, sat on our old, broken chairs, pulled up an outdoor picnic table in the dining room for the kids, hid a few boxes, and enjoyed getting to know our neighbors – all fanciness aside. It was perfect. I'm convinced that because it was so “down-to-earth”, we really had deeper conversations and got to know each other on a better level than we would have otherwise, and we now know we will be lifelong friends with them.
Hope this inspires you to host a little more and stress a little less. Either way, happy eating and Bon Appetit!