Stretching Meals for Unexpected Guests
I think I’ve lucked out — plenty of my friends live in my immediate vicinity. One even lives in the next apartment building over. This does mean, however, that people are in the habit of dropping in all the time, since they always ‘happen to be in the area.’
I don’t mind the visits. I enjoy having my friends over. But, as a good hostess, I always seem to wind up inviting them to stay for lunch or dinner, or offering them a snack. This can be a bit of a problem — I generally plan my meals in advance and only have an appropriate amount of meat or another item defrosted.
In general, I try to avoid throwing out my entire plan for dinner. Even if I have to change it fairly dramatically, my goal is always to stick to the same general ingredients. In part, it’s to avoid changing my meal plan, but it’s also due to general stubbornness on my part. I dislike the idea of going out to dinner just to save work for the cook. After all, I enjoy cooking or I wouldn’t have offered.
I’ve had to get creative on how to stretch dinner for two into dinner for four. The obvious solution is usually to divide the main dish into small portions and add another side dish. In most cases, this can work pretty well. I do rely on some other methods for stretching out food, though, especially if I want to serve more of a main dish. How you extend a main dish can really depend on the meal itself. If, for instance, your entrée relies on a heavy sauce, you may be able to get away with just adding to the sauce and tossing in a few more vegetables. I’ve done it with curries quite often.
Slicing can be the key to stretching many ‘one-piece’ dinners. If, for instance, I was serving grilled chicken with rice and veggies, I could slice up the chicken in the kitchen and pile it on top of the rice. Voila! It’s the same meal but the rice is now part of the entrée, making it easy to serve larger portions.
I often use appetizers to stretch my dinner menu. You can treat appetizers as simply the action of a good host — they can entertain guests while you focus on getting dinner on the table — but they’re useful in making sure that a small main course is sufficient. I do try to keep it simple, though. I’ll set out a basket of bread or some fresh veggies and often leave it at that.
It’s important to remember that any meal can be stretched, as long as you’re able to add a little more food into the equation.