Dinner with Friends

Last Saturday we had the pleasure of inviting some good friends over for dinner.  It has been too long since we’ve been able to do that.  Our house has been in rennovation mode and I’m just not comfortable having people over with a door in the middle of the living room or a mattress in the family room!  Over the holidays our projects were wrapped up and we were ready to host again.  The other family, like ours, has two kids but there is the added fact that the dad’s have a friendly relationship stretching back over 20 years.  After dinner we experimented with chocolate fondue-a first for my kids.  My son’s face was bright red from sugar and had chocolate stretching his grin even wider than normal.  Then we trooped down to our fireplace and told stories of when the two dads roomed together and told bad jokes (Why did the owl dress in armor?  He was a KNIGHT-OWL!).

There is joy in the simple act of having friends over for dinner.  It need not be fancy-we’ve had people over for chilli on a cold winters’ night.  Or it can be fancy- one of my favorite meals to make for people is a chicken wrapped around tomato, basil, zucchini and grilled along with a creamy risotto and a triple chocolate brownie for dessert.  Having friends over to share a meal is something elemental that does more than just feed our bellies; it builds connections within our community.  Many neighborhood groups have supper clubs or other type get togethers to have neighbors over.  Friends who live in downtown Troy just hosted a full-on 60s themed cocktail party for no other reason than they wanted to have a party.  And my favorite example- Pennslyvania’s Dinner Day.  Dinner Day is an official holiday in Penn; the second Saturday of January.  Its mission in simple: Build Bridges, Not Fences.  The Dinner Day website explains further “invite your neighbor to dinner as a celebration of the values that make America a terrific place to live. Ask a neighbor you’ve never met or one you’ve only waved at, but never taken the time to get to know. Take a moment to break some bread together in one of your homes or out on the town. Either way, be sure to build a bridge to your neighbors and take down any fences that have kept you apart.”  Jeffrey Smith, the founder of Dinner Day, PA, has said “You can change the fabric of your neighborhood…just by stopping neighbors in the street and inviting them for dinner.”

I’d like to have friends and neighbors over for dinner more often.  We live on a small street and one of our neighbors hosts an annual BBQ for everyone.  That one event has allowed us to meet and greet most of our neighbors.  And every year I’m thankful to the hosts for creating such an easy event for our street.  What happens in your neighborhood and what can you create?  Who knows what could come of just getting together with friends and neighbors?  I’ll leave you with my recipe for Beef Strogonoff that I made for our past Saturday event- it is so easy.  I paired it with some fresh bread and our friends brought a yummy salad with poppy-seed dressing.

BEEF STROGONOFF (serves 4)

  • 2 lbs. sirloin steak (or other cut you prefer), browned with salt & pepper and cut into 1-2 inch cubes
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 2-4 Tbsp. sherry/marsala
  • Mushrooms (optional)
  • Egg noodles

Brown the meat and cut into chunks and place into a crockpot.  De-glaze the pan you browned the meat in with the sherry and add the de-glazed liquid and crunchy bits to your cockpot.  Add the cans of cream of chicken & mushroom and cook on high for 3-4 hrs.   About half an hour before serving, add the mushrooms to the crockpot if you desire and cook the egg noodles according to package directions.  Serve the strogonoff poured over the noodles.

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