The Very Word "Entertaining" Can Be Hugely Intimidating
First off, let's chuck the word "entertaining."What I'm talking about today isn't about doing the Martha Stewart thing at all -- it's about hospitality. Hospitality isn't something one is talented in and another is not -- it is something that is cultivated, much like a plant. All it takes is a welcoming home a good meal (I can help you with that) and a warm and welcoming attitude (that's your department).
If you're going to practice hospitality, you need to keep your perspective -- don't invite someone over who will intimidate you the first time around. You need allies at this time -- comrades, amigos. You don't need to be intimidated as you take your first baby steps toward hospitality.
Keep it simple, sister!
The first rule is to keep it simple. I would suggest a big CrockPot filled with some terrific chili, a big green salad, some cornbread and some friends to enjoy it all. The kind of friends that you ask to bring dessert -- that's the type of guest you want for your first entertaining/hospitality venture.
Set your table, grab some flowers (anything you can find in your yard) and throw them in a pitcher for a country effect. Set the table with some red and white checked napkins or tablecloth and you're all set.
Here is a recipe that has earned raved reviews from my Menu-Mailer subscribers (you can get a sample menu and shopping list from my web site if you want one: www.menumailer.net ) and is in my newest book, Saving Dinner:
Really Easy Mixed Bean Chili
1 can pinto beans -- rinsed and drained
1 can black beans -- rinsed and drained
1 package taco seasoning mix
1 jar salsa -- your favorite
1 package frozen corn -- 10 oz.
1 sweet potato - cubed (this makes the recipe special)
Dump it all into a CrockPot, set on low and cook for 6 to 8 hours. Mix well before serving. How hard is that? Serves 6 (easily doubled to serve more).
Nutritional analysis per serving:
283 Calories; 1g Fat (3.4% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 55g Carbohydrate; 15g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 584mg Sodium. Exchanges: 3 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Other Carbohydrates.
Homemade Taco Seasoning
I prefer this, but sometimes I use the packaged stuff (my health food store has it without the MSG):
1 cup dried minced onion
1/3 cup chili powder
2 Tablespoons cumin (I actually add an extra tablespoon -- we love cumin)
4 teaspoons crushed red pepper
1 Tablespoon oregano
4 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
Combine all ingredients and store in a cool, dry place. When you're using for Mexican dishes, use about 1 Tablespoon or so per 1 pound ground beef, chicken or beans. More if you like the extra flavor.