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Unexpected guests, love them or hate them, you gotta deal with them (unless you want to pretend you’re not home). Whether they’re hungry or it’s just that host/hostess guilt, you gotta feed them too. Whether they give you an hour warning or no warning, I will show you step by step how to cook for unexpected guests with what you already have.
1. Check your fridge / freezer / pantry.
Your fridge, freezer, and pantry are your best friends in the kitchen. Look first before deciding anything. Take note of everything you have. This will help you plan what you’re going to make.
TIP: Try to choose from your fridge, then your pantry, and finally your freezer.
Items from the fridge go bad first, so it’s the perfect opportunity to use them.
Don’t forget your pantry.
There are a lot of canned goods or other items (like rice) you may be storing in your pantry that can add more bulk to your dish. This can be in the form of canned vegetables, protein (like sausage or spam), and carbs. Additionally, you can even make another dish using stuff from your pantry. If you don’t have any pantry items, consider buying them for their long shelf life.
Your freezer should be your last resort when it comes to meat.
If you have frozen vegetables, you’re solid. Meat needs to be defrosted and can take forever. Check out this article for safe ways to defrost.
2. Choose meals that are quick and/or low maintenance.
You have guests over. You want to spend time with them, right? Choose meals that are either quick and/or don’t require you to be hovering over it the entire time.
3. Stuff your guests with snacks.
Have any snacks lying around? Use it to your advantage. Not only does everybody likes snacks, but it will buy you time and fill them up a bit.
4. Enlarge your meal
Add more vegetables
Make a side dish. Sometimes when I don’t buy enough protein (meat usually), I make side dishes made of primarily vegetables. It’s a simple way to add vegetables to your meal, but in this case, a way to stretch a meal.
Leftover or frozen vegetables
I don’t know about you, but even when I try to buy vegetables enough for the week I always end up with some leftovers. Like I mentioned earlier, check your fridge first. Identify if there is anything you can use up. If not, look at your freezer. If you’ve been following me for a while, I always say to have some frozen vegetables lying around. Frozen vegetables allow for portion control and for those days when you need to whip up something quick. These are one of those days. You need to make extra and you need to make it fast.
Mix different proteins
Sometimes we think we need to have only one type of protein in a dish, but that doesn’t need to be the case. I always have chow mein with seafood, pork, and chicken from any Chinese restaurant. If we can easily enjoy that, then we can easily prepare it ourselves.
Double your sauce (if applicable)
Not every meal you’re going to make has a sauce, but if it does then you’re in luck! Double the sauce and add more vegetables and proteins. You’ll have a larger dish easy.
Use rice / noodles / potatoes
Oh man, I gotta love rice. If there’s one thing Filipinos or any other Asians will do when they’re trying to stretch a meal or just balling on a budget, it’s to add rice. Rice goes with ANYTHING and will fill you up like no tomorrow (gotta love carbs). The storage life on this is almost nonexistent.
If you’re trying to mix it up, you can opt for noodles that you probably have lying around for pasta.
You can also use potatoes if you have them. An easy thing to do is to make roasted potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, pop them in the oven, and voila. You can most likely add this to what you’re planning already. Potatoes go well in a variety of stews.
There are so many ways to evolve or enlarge your meal to fit more guests. You just need a little bit of open-minded and knowing what you have in your kitchen.