Cooking On A Budget: Food, Fun and Family

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Food, Fun and Family

Some years back when I closed the doors to my restaurant I was at home taking care of closing details, re-organizing my home and doing some much needed deep cleaning.  At the same time I was searching for work and sending out resumes.

During the lapse from closing the restaurant and my next job, I used to plan out "Fun Fridays".  When the weather permitted, I would try and transform our wrap around front porch into a fun Friday get together and plan on eating out there.  I nicknamed our wrap around front porch "The Lido Deck". On one of these occasions I purchased a few brightly colored orange silk Lillie's and a few palm leaves.  I stuck the flowers and leaves in the shutters and set our table with palm tree themed place mats.  Along with the purchase of some really inexpensive plastic palm tree margarita glasses and some frozen drink mixes, we were all set for a Caribbean themed dinner.

Another fun Friday was packing our picnic basket full of sandwiches and snacks and drinks to be shared at a picnic table along the Connecticut River. I still had a red and white checkered table cloth from when my mother owned a restaurant/bar so Italian night was born - drippy candles and all!

I eventually landed a job so our food budget back then was stronger than it is now.  My husband had been to Florida to work with a friend of his and they ate at a restaurant where they served Oysters Minnesota. He made so many comments about it I actually called the restaurant and asked them for the recipe.  They gladly gave it to me.  So, I prepared the oyster dish for him as an appetizer for another fun Friday spent on the Lido Deck.  Other nights I would use the fine china and set up an "elegant" dining table atmosphere.

If you take a look around your home - your dishes, your glassware, table cloths or place mats and candles to name a few you can come up with a dinner theme.  Be creative for not a lot of money!  Transform what you have into something different and special.  Have a nice surprise for your wife or husband and children awaiting and turn your patio, porch, dining room or kitchen into something out of the ordinary!

So if you have an everyday set of dishes and are fortunate enough to have chinaware - bring out the china and transform the ordinary table into something special.  Take Friday nights and make them special - something different and fun.  It doesn't have to break the budget - make a Mexican theme with tacos or burritos or enchiladas for dinner.  Find colorful bowls and have some salsa or a guacamole dip and chips set out for a snack. Serve the dinner on brightly colored plates or a platter family style.  Find some colorful Indian corn which is readily available this time of year and decorate your table with that.

Bring the kids together for hot dogs and burgers and chips and have an indoor outdoor picnic in the living room even in the colder months.  Have some board games ready and eat and laugh while playing scrabble or monopoly or a trivia game.  Turn an otherwise boring night into a food filled, fun filled memory.

Go to the movies in your own living room.  Get a movie or re-watch a movie from your library.  Make homemade popcorn with popping corn and oil in a deep sauce pot.  Add some butter and Parmesan cheese for a different flavor. For spicy popcorn make a small dish of cayenne pepper, salt and chili powder or paprika and sprinkle that on the popcorn. Sit in the living room at tray tables or use the coffee table, side tables - whatever you have.  Make a very simple dinner of tomato soup, grilled cheese sandwiches and popcorn.  The whole idea is to turn your ordinary into "out of the everyday".

Balloons are inexpensive and they make rooms festive.  Most of all it's making family memories surrounded by food that will last a lifetime. Oh, and one last thing - take pictures!
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