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Figuring out what to serve guests when you can’t cook can be a serious pain. I’m not necessarily talking about bad chefs here, although they’re definitely included in this. But, sometimes you just don’t have time to cook, even when you’ve known long in advance that you’re having guests. It happens; work, kids, life in general. Life is really time consuming. So, either way, you will on occasion have guests coming over and have no idea what to serve. Here’s a few ideas.
Ideas to Serve Guests When You Can’t Cook
Etiquette says takeout is okay if it’s a last resort, so let’s go ahead and talk this one out. I saw a morning talk show once where the personality suggested picking up Asian and then putting it on fancy plates. Personally, I would be pretty annoyed if you invited me over then served me whatever Asian cuisine YOU like from whatever restaurant is closest to your house. If you’re going to do this, I’d rather you just ask me what I like. Actually, I always check my menus before I serve guests, whether I’m cooking or not, but maybe that’s just me. The point here is, if you’re going to do takeout, you need to do something from a nicer place and beware of serving spicy food to people who don’t like spices.
Think the fancy plates make a difference? I’m going to go with yes. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to serve takeout, right? I don’t recommend lying about cooking, so to show your guests that you really did want them to come over you can dress up the food a little. I’ve found a couple of colorful options for you (I use the blue color), but you can also use a mirror finish like this that will look pretty fancy. Now, if this is a last minute dinner, I wouldn’t worry about fancy plates whether you get takeout or not. Your guests know you didn’t have time for anything. Use the paper plates and be done with it.
An Easy Dip
Assuming takeout is not for you, you’ll have to come up with other ideas to serve your guests when you can’t cook. What’s the most important part of serving dinner? Taste. What’s the next most important part? That they go away full! You don’t want to serve something that fills your guests for an hour but makes them pick something else up on the way home. No bueno. My suggestion for both taste and filling guests up is to serve an easy dip. People love chips and dip. You can make your dip so easy it’s actually just store bought or one of those mixes that only requires you to stir a packet into some cream cheese. Of course, there are plenty of easy dip recipes out there. I recommend something cheesy. If you really are a terrible cook, try Velveeta with Rotel over the stove. It’s two ingredients, you can do it!
Now that you’ve already started filling them up, you can serve a salad and not worry if they’re going to be hungry or not. Salads do not require cooking. Here’s an article about how to make fancy salads, but don’t overthink it. Here’s my suggestion. Use chicken and lettuce. If you don’t want to cook chicken, pick up a package of chicken slices in the deli section. Now, what type of dressing do you have? If it’s a vinaigrette, add strawberries, feta or mozzarella, and nuts. For ranch, make it southwest with corn, tortilla crunchies, and cheddar. If it’s Caesar, the only extra you need is croutons. If you want to cook your own chicken, it will go very quickly if you cut it up first, then put it in the pan with olive oil, salt and pepper. No need to get crazy.
Have you ever met a person who hates tacos? If so, send them my way, I want to meet them too. I know I went on a rant about food bars a few weeks ago, but there are some that make sense to serve your guests when you can’t cook. Tacos are one of those. You don’t need to know how to cook to make tacos, and you also don’t need much time. All you have to do is get a meat ready and then your guests do the rest of the work. If you’re not much of a chef, I recommend ground beef or turkey with one of those seasoning packets from the store. If you can cook and just don’t have a lot of time, you could do whatever filling you want. Some pre-peeled and deveined shrimp might be nice. You could even do two meats if you have enough space for two pans at once.
Your Famous Dessert
Did I mention you don’t have to serve all of these? If not, you don’t. You only have to serve enough to fill them up, so perhaps you do a dip and a salad and call it a day. But, if you think you don’t have enough food, or if the food you cooked is not the best, you can always wow them with a dessert. Even if you do takeout, if you have a great dessert, you might as well make it. A lot of people who can’t cook still know how to bake. Of course, if your problem is time and not skill, dessert might not be an option. That’s fine. You don’t have to serve dessert at all. It’s a bonus course.
That’s it! When you have a hard time thinking of what to serve guests when you can’t cook, just stop thinking. Pick a quick, easy meal and don’t worry about impressing anyone – after all, they’re getting free food. 🙂 Let me know what other easy ideas you have in the comments!