Friday, August 1, 2008

What to Serve When Guests Pop In

When I sit down to read one of my favorite Dorthea Benton Frank's novels (typically a tale of the southern lowcountry), the author always seems to describe two women sitting in a cozy kitchen, sharing a cup of coffee, delicious sweets and a meaningful conversation. I love that image and I often reflect upon it when I have friends and family come over.

I'd love to create an atmosphere in my home (and of course, my kitchen since I am a Diva In the Kitchen!) of warmth and welcome! In our busy lives, it would be nice to have a place where you can slow things down a bit and share quality time with the people you care about.

So how do you do that?

For me, one of the things I like to do is have coffee and cakes available at a moment's notice! Nothing kicks off a more welcoming atmosphere than the smell of coffee brewing and cake warming in the oven. I usually stock up on petit fours at the grocery store and put them in the freezer. When a friend stops over, I get the coffee pot going, turn the oven on and pop the little teacakes in! Easy, yet rich in hospitality.

Another thing I like to do is serve sweet tea and sausage balls (especially on the porch!) As many people in the south would say, sitting on the porch is a way of life. It represents sharing conversation and once again, slowing down just a bit to keep in touch with neighbors.

I have found that making little "goodies" ahead of time and freezing them, really goes a long way when faced with entertaining unexpectedly! The key is to make it look simple and without thought!

You don't want to make your guests feel they have put you out in any way, so having something prepared for their visit will make them feel right at home!

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Easy Chicken Pasta

Easy Chicken Pasta

What's For Supper Ya'll?

White Beans, Pasta and Chicken
8 ounces dried cavatappi, fusilli, rotini, ditaloni, or other short pasta tubes
1 15- to 19-ounce can cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chicken broth
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
12 ounces cooked chicken, shredded
1/4 cup snipped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley sprigs (optional - I usually skip it)
Olive oil (optional - but I recommend at least a little for moisture)
1. In a large saucepan, cook pasta according to package directions; drain well and set aside.
2. In a blender or food processor, combine 3/4 cup of the beans and the chicken broth. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Place bean puree in pan used for cooking the pasta; bring to boiling. Return pasta to pan.
3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook garlic in 1 tablespoon hot olive oil for 1 minute. Add tomatoes; cook for 1 minute. Add the remaining beans, shredded chicken, snipped parsley, pepper and salt. Heat through.
4. Add the tomato mixture to hot pasta; toss to cost. Top with parsley sprigs and additional olive oil. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.
Posted by Stacy Nelson, Easy Dinner

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