This article was originally published on Better After 50.
My husband and I just hosted two couples at our summer home. It wasn't the first time. These friends have come for a communal retreat for the past six years. It's an easy group because we love to do the same things and we move between shared activities with ease -- biking, golf and most importantly, eating.
This visit was no different than the last and this is how it went. On day one, they lumbered off the New Bedford Ferry weighted down with coolers and grocery bags. We were excited to see them and their goodies. As they passed off their bags to us, the lists of delights began to flow:
"Here's the two-pound parmesan chunk you wanted. Oh, I brought my own tea -- and I have that bread you love from Bradley's -- I had it sliced."
"Oh, and Ina Garten's Orange Yogurt with walnuts and raisins -- I know you love it so I made it for you guys."
"Hope you don't mind I brought a bushel of kale and two baseball bat-sized zucchinis that I thought we could grill up." (I hadn't told them I have a new bountiful veggie garden).
"Oh and wait 'til you try the phenomenal blended scotch I've discovered."
We hadn't even pulled out of the ferry lot and the women were in menu planning mode. Meanwhile, the guys had stacked the bikes, golf clubs and bags into our embarrassingly oversized car (we call it "The Beast") and were instantly in deep conversation about biking routes.
Upon arrival at our home, I summoned my girlfriends into the kitchen, as I needed help. I'd been wanting to try out Farro, but needed a support team to brave the cooking task. Turned out none of us had ever prepared this "ancient grain" and so began our group cooking. Immediately, we were totally ensconced in re-reading the prep directions for the third time when the men appeared saying they were leaving to hit golf balls. We barely looked up.
That's pretty much how the visit played out. Predictably, the couples sectioned off into "Defending the Caveman" roles -- Darwin called this one right."
It makes me chuckle when I witness how the male/female natural divide is bizarrely stereotypical and predictable. Yet here we were, three women happily in the kitchen reviewing the weekends meals while the men busied themselves with pumping up deflated jeep and bike tires, rewiring the Internet connection (no joke) and discussing our household electrical challenges.
Alas, women to the chopping boards -- men to the grill! Seamless from the get-go, we began our own version of a domestic square dance.
I am writing this piece as the weekend draws to an end. I hear them busy in the kitchen preparing the last lunch (I'm staying clear and am thrilled to have the excuse of writing -- I'm totally done with meal prep at this point).
And as we sit down to this last lunch (see photo) all we can say is "Move over, Ina Garten!"
We all are amazed at what we have created this visit. With one large pre-grocery shop before they arrived, we only visited the local farmers market once and managed to turn out outstanding, healthy feasts that morphed brilliantly into substantial next day meals.
I can proudly say we mastered the Dinner Becomes Lunch challenge and the Lunch becomes Breakfast hurdle.
So, if you're looking to stretch your meals creatively across a weekend with a full house of guests, here's some ideas:
First Nights Dinner Next Days Lunch
Cold Farro Grains
We added cranberries and chopped walnuts to this recipe so the next day, it was even more delicious and we actually didn't add the corn until the next day.
Butter lettuce and Kale Salad with avocado tomato and toasted hazelnuts -- lightly dressed with lemon and basil oil and plenty of salt.
Marinated grilled chicken breast in olive oil, lemon and herbs
Swordfish with our favorite rub (we keep in the freezer)
Next day sliced thin to top off yesterday's salad
Radishes with butter and salt with dinner... Next day's addition to salad.
Corn on the Grill for dinner becomes part of next day's salad fix ins and Farro toss-ins.
Breakfast Becomes Lunch and Lunch Becomes Breakfast
A basket full of local hard-boiled eggs from the nearby farm makes for great snacking all day long.
PB & J Farm Style: This is our pre-biking staple. Wild-diced strawberries on toasted multi grain bread with Justin's peanut butter ($$$ but great). Next Day Panini Grilled PB & J made with Homemade Strawberry Jam and Justin's on Multi Grain Bread from yesterday's beach sandwiches. Just reheat them on the Panini and enjoy for any next day meal or next day snack.
Oh, and here's my friend's secret "Ina" yogurt recipe she traveled to us with that lasted for three bountiful breakfasts and someone's lunch.
Ina's Orange Yogurt with walnuts and raisins http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/orange-yogurt-recipe.html