Our Sunday suppers were put on the back burner this summer, mostly because it was difficult to coordinate everyone being available and in town at the same time. I didn’t mind too much, though. There’s a season for everything, and summer might not be the time to try and corral everyone for dinner on a bi-weekly basis.
Now that school is back in session, I decided to kick off September with the first Sunday Supper of the fall, and while it was admittedly foolish to invite 15 family members for dinner on the same weekend that Rob was out of town, Ben was playing in a hockey tournament, Jackson had a social calendar penciled full of more plans than I’ve had in the past six months, and the baby is teething, it was a surprisingly simple task thanks to five minutes of advanced planning and a meal made of nothing but make-ahead foods. Here’s how I got it done:
Saturday - 10:30 a.m.: Jackson has a scheduled guitar lesson at our house at that time, so I plunked Matthew into the highchair with a snack and sent Ben upstairs to do homework while I made a double batch of our favourite chilli.
Saturday - 8:00 p.m. After the first hockey game of the day, dinner out with the boys, getting Matthew settled for the night and sending Ben off to another game, I went into the kitchen and made an apple cake for the next day’s dessert, as well as a party mix (see below) for Sunday afternoon pre-dinner snacking during the baseball/football games and tennis match that I knew would be on TV.
Sunday – 8:30 a.m. I prepped the cornbread by whisking the dry ingredients into a bowl and stirring the wet ingredients in a glass measuring cup, which I covered and popped into the fridge. I made sure there was enough milk and water for the kids, and I made a list of the beer I needed to pick up on my way home from hockey.
Sunday 2:30 p.m. After the last hockey game of the weekend, I secured the beer, slid the chilli into the oven to warm, combined the cornbread ingredients and baked them into a fluffy dinner accompaniment. Jackson and I also worked together to whip up some quick-pickled jalapeños, a must-have condiment in our house (also, if you try this recipe you’ll never buy them again), and grated a big chunk of cheddar cheese.
Sunday 4:30 p.m. Fifteen of our favourite family members arrived. I set out bowls of pretzels, crackers, hummus and party mix, passed around cold beer and cider, and quickly assembled a condiment tray with the jalapeños, hot sauces, cheese, and sour cream. I cut the cornbread and placed it into a breadbasket, and set out bowls, plates, spoons, and cups for the kids.
Sunday 5:30 p.m. The chili was removed from the oven and I announced that dinner would be self-serve from the stovetop. Everyone helped themselves, we crowded nine kids around our table – baby included – while the adults ate and watched sports. The apple cake followed, and was served with vanilla ice cream and coffee, and the house was empty and returned to order by 7:30pm.
Toffee and Pretzel Party Mix
I saw the new Martha Stewart book, Appetizers, at Costco last week, and when I glanced through the pages, one party snack mix in particular caught my eye. In addition to the typical cereal/pretzel/nuts combo, this one also included toffee bits, which when melted, bind some of the ingredients together to create a sweet and salty treat that people can’t seem to get enough of. While I don’t have a photographic memory, I did take note of the recipe and this is my version of what I saw.
- 2 cups square wheat cereal (like Shreddies)
- 1 cup pecans
- 1 cup peanuts
- 1 cup pretzel sticks
- ½ cup toffee bits
- ½ cup butter
- 1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
- 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp. prepared or Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Preheat the oven to 325° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Combine cereal, nuts, pretzels and toffee bits in a bowl and set aside.
3. Melt the butter. Add the rosemary, brown sugar, mustard and salt. Stir well and pour over the dry ingredients. Toss to combine.
4. Spread the mixture in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet, and bake for 15 minutes or until the toffee is melted.
5. Cool and break into pieces. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.