Great Minds Eat Alike: Thursday Night Dinners
We started our Great Minds Eat Alike series in order to mix up the usual BGSK offerings with interviews and submissions by cooks and eaters whose mentality towards cooking and eating meshes with ours. Today we are incredibly excited to bring you College and Stephania, the founders of Thursday Night Dinner, a site dedicated to getting together with your friends, cooking, crafting, and having fun. All things we can get behind!
We’ve long been admirers of Thursdays, since you know from our Mag Club tradition that we adore the promise of a good dinner party or potluck with our BFFs. Like us, they stumbled upon a dining get-together with their friends, though theirs happened every Thursday night instead of just once monthly. And, what started as a way to all watch TV together became something much, much more: a night of friendship, food, and crafting. Eight years later, Colleen and Stephania run thursdaynightdinner.org, a site that brings the fun and friendship to readers everywhere. And right now, they’re bringing it to BGSK.
–Cara and Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOKS
**Thursday Night Dinner**
Thursday night dinners are all about cooking, crafting, and girl-time. After eight years, our Thursday night tradition has become a staple in our lives that keeps us in touch with our friends, initially taught us how to cook and helps us continually refine our skills and inspires us to make cute crafts. As career driven women, we are quite the busy bees. Thursday nights are our nights to have some down time, hang with our friends and relax. Over the years we’ve learned some great ways to keep our get-togethers low-maintenance and stress free. Whether you’re having a weekly dinner with your girlfriends, a backyard BBQ or a formal dinner party, here are our favorite seven tips on how to entertain without the stress.
**Tips for Entertaining without Stress**
1. Plan the menu. If it’s a really casual, weekly dinner you don’t need to plan too much in advance. We typically send around a text or email a couple of days before or even the morning of our Thursday Night Dinners and ask what everyone is craving and what they have in their kitchens. We switch back and forth from experimenting with new recipes to working with what we we’ve got and pick up the required additional items from the store.
If you are having a step up from a weekly dinner to a more formal dinner party, we suggest planning the menu ahead 2-5 days in advance (depending on the workload of the menu). This allows plenty of time for you to stop by any specialty stores, pick up fresh produce from your local farmers’ market, and prep. There are plenty of recipes that you can make ahead of time or can at least get some of the chopping, dicing and baking done the day before.
2. Share the workload. This is a big one! We’re big believers in asking your friends and family to help out. Ask a few people to cover the appetizers, wine, and the dessert and/or station some people in the kitchen to help with cooking and cleaning duties.
3. Use fresh flowers. Pull a few from your garden, grab some from your local farmers’ market or even pick up a bouquet from the bodega. Flowers are a great way to bring beautiful hues of bright color to your table and you don’t have to spend a fortune. Arrange them in various mason jars or if you are going with a more formal dinner party stick to two or three simple sleek vases. Such as this one.
4. Go outside. If the weather is appropriate, gathering friends and family outside is great because you don’t have to worry about your house or apartment getting messy. Also, people tend to congregate in the kitchen. While this can be fun, worming around a bunch of guests while trying to cook or tidy up, can definitely cause a bit of stress to the cook/host. So send everyone outside to enjoy your backyard.
5. Plan for alternative diets. Avoid the awkwardness of having a vegetarian tell you kindly that while she’s happy to be at your party, she can’t eat the steak entrée or the girl with the peanut allergy being unable to eat your Pad Thai with crushed up peanuts all over it. Without getting crazy and trying to cater to every diet need, do always have a substantial vegetarian option—and we mean something that actually has protein and is considered an entrée, not just side dishes. When there are dicey ingredients involved that aren’t integral to the recipe but that people could have serious allergies to, leave them on the side for people to add—such as serving the peanuts with your Pad Thai on the side instead of throwing them into the recipe.
6. Invite people that you like. This may sound like a no brainer, but sometimes we get caught up in inviting people that we feel like we should invite for whatever reason (the co-worker who isn’t really a friend but is kind of involved in your co-worker circle, for example). As long as there won’t be feelings dramatically hurt otherwise, just stick to having over people that you really, genuinely want to be there, so everyone has a much better time.
7. Have a group clean up. The worst thing about having people over for dinner, in our opinion, is the clean-up after. Don’t be afraid to ask people to help you tidy up a bit. If your friends are like ours, they’ll just start doing it anyway, but don’t feel like it’s rude to say something like, “Hey Ruby, could you help me gather up some of the dishes?” Inevitably, Ruby will be happy to help and it will probably spur a couple of other people to ask what they can do, too.
–Colleen and Stephania of Thursday Night Dinner