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Is this tacky?

It used to be that when I had people over for lunch or dinner, I would cook everything (maybe have one or two premade appetizers), but def. cook the entrees and sides. Lately I’ve noticed that on those rare occasions I have guests, I would make one or two side dishes from scratch but would serve ready-made entrees (e.g. ribs, roasts, fish) and appetizers from the stores (Trader Joe's, Sprouts). I just feel like I have more energy to enjoy the company when I don’t have to slave over the stove. However, it got me wondering how the guests would perceive the short-cuts. If you were invited to someone’s place for a meal, would you be disappointed if everything wasn't homemade?

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  1. Eh. You're opening your home to me and serving me a meal. As long as it's not, say, Kraft mac n cheese or hamburger helper, I'd just be thankful.

    47 Replies
    1. re: linguafood

      What is wrong with Kraft Mac and Cheese or Hamburger Helper. I would love to try Hamburger Helper. I don't think I have ever had it.

      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        Hamburger helper is legally palatable only if you are in some states if you know what I'm saying....

        1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

          I promise you. I will buy hamburger helper sometime this week (or next week). I got to try this stuff.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            I had it 4-5 times as a kid, I think you have to buy the beef separately, then mix it all up or something like that.

            1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

              <I think you have to buy the beef separately,>

              About than 20 years ago, I was this close to buy the hamburger helper until I realize I need to buy the meat separately. Then, I didn't.

              I think it is time for me to follow up a life long journey.

            2. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Please report back! Could be an interesting thread! How about a Hamburger Helper thread - only those who participate by buying one and eating eat can comment and compare observations!

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                No you don't. Trust me. My father (and grandfather before him) worked for General Mills and got stuff at discount; my mother was a horrible cook. So I grew up with Hamburger Helper. It's essentially dried pasta or rice, amped up so it cooks quickly, with dried or manufactured spices, sauces, etc. The point is you brown up a mess of hamburger, then add the contents of the box and water and -Voila!- instant dinner. It did introduce me to things I never had before - like their stroganoff - but if you have anything like an adequate kitchen and time I don't think they're worth it.

                Kraft Mac and Cheese: again, it's powdered stuff to be reconstituted. If you can make a basic white sauce, it's just as easy to add your favorite grated cheese to it and pour it over macaroni. (Disclaimer: I last made Kraft Mac and Cheese several decades ago: it may have been "improved" since then).

                As for the original topic: if you invited me for a meal and served a store-bought entree or sides or dessert I'll say "thank you" and appreciate the trouble you went to for me. And I'll enjoy the company and conversation.

                1. re: tardigrade

                  Once, long ago, I made my stroganoff for a friend (before she became vegan!) She complimented me saying, that is so much better than mine, so I though wow even though she wasn't really into cooking, and then she laughed and admitted that, well, hers was Hamburger Helper. I still appreciated the compliment though!

                  1. re: coll

                    OK, the bar was low, but still, it's a compliment!

                2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Go for it. I can tell you it's not nearly as interesting as Spam.

                3. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                  In the same league as Hamburger Helper is the godawful Tuna Helper. My mother served that all slop the time in the 70s; she thought it was healthier than Hamburger Helper because it had fish instead of beef. I just threw up in my mouth even thinking about it.

                  1. re: Kat

                    Tuna Helper seems more healthy, but less iconic. I will try hamburger helper first.

                    <My mother served that all slop the time in the 70s>

                    They have tuna helper as early as 70s? I thought it is a relatively new thing.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      Introduced in 1971. I don't specifically remember Mom making it although she may have, she was always on the latest fad. But it was ubiquitous in the '70s.

                      1. re: coll

                        Thanks. I didn't know people were into the "seafood is healthier" in the 70's. I thought it is a newer thread. I looked up wikipedia. You are correct. Thanks again.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          Hey, there are also the Asian Helper too. Got to try that one too, eventually:


                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Asian Helper! I'd almost give this a try sometime. But it surely can't beat the La Choy cans.

                          2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Tune was viewed as a "diet" food for the "ladies" back then. And therefore, healthier, I guess...

                            1. re: sandylc

                              In the 1970s, I worked with a woman (granted she seemed to be anorexic before I ever heard the term): she ended up in the hospital because ALL she ever ate was canned tuna. To this day, I try to only make tuna salad or whatnot once or twice a month, at most.

                        2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          I recall that a few years ago they renamed it just "Helper" so that the choice of animal was up to the consumer. But since I haven't bought it in decades, I don't know if that caught on or if they went back to different packages for different proteins.

                          1. re: greygarious

                            Yes, they currently have Tuna, etc. Helper, and have for as long as I can remember. I will say that I used to be a fan of the Tuna Helper Fettucine Alfredo made with all milk/no water, but they have recently ruined it by bringing the sodium down to extremely reasonable levels. It's not good anymore.

                            1. re: foiegras

                              I think the Tuna Helper came a little after the Hamburger, but it's definitely an oldie but goodie.

                              1. re: coll

                                After reading these responses yesterday, I had to throw together a tuna noodle casserole.
                                Total comfort food!
                                Am I the only one who LOVES the leftovers even more?

                                1. re: monavano

                                  If you're the cook, it's only natural to like the leftovers more. Queen for a day!

                          2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            No, I distinctly remember tuna helper as the Friday night sub for hamburger helper for a few years in the mid 70s. Thankfully my mom eventually went back to cooking "real" food.

                            1. re: debbiel

                              for us it was a treat as we only got any type of fish when dad was out of town.

                              1. re: debbiel

                                That's what I'm saying, Hamburger Helper in early '70s and Tuna Helper a few years later, after seeing the market for this type of thing.

                                  1. re: grampart

                                    Ha, I remember that! Love their Jetson kitchen table, guess it was food of the future.

                          3. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Haha. Yes, Mac and cheese and sautéed veggies. That's a meal. :)

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              A serving size is 1/4 cup (!) and contains 33% of your daily sodium intake, for starters.

                              1. re: LeoLioness

                                Ugh maybe I should retract my above remark.

                              2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                my ex wife was the master of Kraft Mac & Cheese and Hamburger Helper. 5 to 6 days a week. Did I mention ex wife?

                                  1. re: genoO

                                    Let me guess. When you two got in arguments, she used them are leverages and weapons, right? :)

                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      Well, I believe you just answered your own question. It is pretty awful.

                                      Like many on these boards, I do have a soft spot for Kraft dinner, but I would not serve it at a dinner party.

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        For years, I begged my mom to make Hamburger Helper. She insisted on a home-cooked meal every night whereas my friends all got the "good stuff." My dad convinced her to let us give it a go and well...should've listened to my mom.

                                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                                          My mom was the exact same. My cousin got all the "cool" stuff-frozen tv dinners, boxed spaghetti dinners and things ike Tang and ho hos. I was convinced I was deprived until I had to spend a long weekend at their house. That stuff got old quick!

                                          1. re: foodieX2

                                            Less than one box and I was over it. We actually ordered out from the local Italian deli that night while mom grinned in victory! I must thank her for so many years of wonderful, loving, home-cooked, balanced meals. More and more I'm realizing just how critical that is to long-term habits and behaviors.

                                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                                              Apparently, they (hamburger helpers) must taste pretty good to many people since they sold well.

                                            2. re: foodieX2

                                              <That stuff got old quick!>

                                              This described my experience as well. I bought three hamburger helper because they were on sale. The first box was pretty good, but the second box got old. Now, I don't have the urgent to make my final box.

                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                and so to the furthest back of the pantry it goes, where it was born to live out its cursed and unwanted days.

                                                1. re: hill food

                                                  I remember a lot of food pantries ordering Hamburger Helper from my company. Just sayin', better than throwing it out!

                                                  1. re: coll

                                                    Had Hamburger (and Tuna) Helper through 3 1/2 years of college (the 2nd half of the 3rd, then 4th years, got married, so lived in married student housing and got to cook for real). No cooking (legally) in the dorm rooms, but we had an electric skillet hidden in a trunk, then boxes of H.H. and raw ground beef in the teeny weeny fridge--beef got so old it turned black, but we just cooked it into the H.H. anyway. It's a wonder I lived to tell the tale. No H.H. in my household in 40 years now.

                                                    1. re: coll

                                                      coll - that is far better than languishing.

                                          2. re: linguafood

                                            I agree linuafood. Usually I do try to let guests know what's on the menu ahead of time. Sometimes they even say wow that's a lot to do, let me bring something.

                                          3. Speaking as someone who avoids processed foods as much as possible, I'd hate to be served prepared food from the supermarket (who knows what additives are in it). A home-cooked meal is what I expect at a friend's house, but it can be VERY simple (salad, baked potato, roast chicken, e.g.). Olives/nuts for apps, a scoop of good ice cream, and I'd be happy.

                                            10 Replies
                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                              Great points. I don't want to be a food snob when people are being gracious enough to invite me over, but I don't want all of the sodium, sugar, and additives, either.

                                              Where is the line between health and snobbery?

                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                If I tried to avoid the sodium, sugar, and additives from processed foods in eating at people's homes - I'd have to decline just about every meal invitation from a good percentage of my family members. Which I think falls pretty squarely in the "snobbery" category.

                                                That being said, I think there are all sorts of ways of dealing with friends and family who aren't the world's greatest cooks. Whether it's not showing up hungry and eating a 'polite' amount but not a lot or offering to bring a dish (and then mostly eating your own food), there a ways to deal with less than awesome food.

                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                  sandylc: who says that most of the folks who cook at home don't use sodium, sugar, and additives?

                                                  plenty of folks think that stuff is just fine along with high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavor and color, saturated/hydrogenated fat, etc.

                                                  1. re: westsidegal


                                                    I agree...

                                                    But not everyone does, which is the point,

                                                    1. re: sandylc

                                                      AND not all purchased foods contain them.

                                                    2. re: westsidegal

                                                      My pantry has all sorts of stuff, everything from sodium hexametaphosphate to Ultra-tex 4. I'm sure some people would object to some or all of it but they generally aren't invited.

                                                    3. re: sandylc

                                                      I suspect the line is right here. Really? You can't ignore the sodium, sugar, and additives for one meal at the home of a friend?

                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                        Lately I've gone with: eat some, but eat less.

                                                        Today for instance I roasted a couple of pork tenderloins since some family members were coming over. The sides they brought were Bob Evans microwave things. I didn't pile my plate but I had some. It's not going to kill me; in fact, the real problem is those things can taste good enough to take a person off the home-cooked path (from which I've strayed a lot over the last year, over this very problem).

                                                      2. re: pikawicca

                                                        This is frankly the kind of bar that would cause me not to invite someone for a meal, even though I generally cook from scratch. I just can't guarantee that I don't run out of time/energy for whatever unforeseeable reason, and have to order (very good, non-chain) pizza, which I am not going to guarantee the ingredients of.
                                                        If an actual allergy were involved (celiac, anaphylaxis) I'm very conscientious. For example we recently met a family whose child has a mystery anaphylactic allergy, as in they have not yet determined the cause and currently have a long list of foods to avoid including additives, food dyes etc. I'd jump through hoops to feed this family. But to accommodate general othorexia, not so much.

                                                      3. Just be honest about it. I dont know which stores you are talking about but if you mean regular grocery stores, the guests will definitely be able to tell. I know a few people who would believe that I roasted a chicken if I bought a rotisserie from the grocery story..but definitely not many. Just find some easy recipes .... homemade is so much better.

                                                        However, your guests will never say anything if you dont.

                                                        You could always just invite them over for a wine and cheese.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: kpaxonite

                                                          Yes, I'm honest about Trader Joe's catering my dinners, but I'm beginning to think I need to step it up a bit. :)

                                                          1. re: SilverMoth

                                                            If the food is good and you are happy, that's all that matters. Breaking bread with friends is not so much about the food.

                                                        2. First of all, as much as I love good food, when I go to a friend's house I am more interested in the company and the conversation than what is served. Unless I am served something like raw chicken, I tend to be very forgiving about food in that setting.

                                                          I have had a few all-homemade meals at friends' houses recently that included tough overcooked scallops, soggy slimy roasted chicken, and cheddar and swiss cheese squares on toothpicks.

                                                          Not great food, but great people and nice evenings. I am perfectly happy if the host considers what I might enjoy (i.e. most of my friends know that cilantro tastes like soap to me) and made sure I had it.

                                                          More power to you that you can find well-made entrees that you can take home. You could invite me over any time.

                                                          7 Replies
                                                          1. re: chicgail

                                                            Right. That's how I feel when I've been invited to someone else's place. As long is it's not overly processed or "mac n cheese" or "raw chicken", I'm happy with what's served and spend time with people I enjoy. I guess I just don't want people to feel like I didn't make an effort for them.

                                                            1. re: SilverMoth

                                                              If you're spending high quality time with them and eating tasty food - I really don't think that a 'lack of effort' would be a fair criticism. One of my first dinner parties that I planned, I placed a very ambitious "to do" list for myself. By the time the party actually took place I was exhausted and could not have been that much fun to hang out with. Lesson learned.

                                                              1. re: cresyd

                                                                Yes, thank you for that. I used to prep for days and I'd be exhausted.

                                                                1. re: SilverMoth

                                                                  It's no fun to host a meal if you don't enjoy the work. We'd prep and cook for a couple days before a party and we were tired, but we never dreaded it. Give yourself a break and do potluck. This way you and your guests still get homemade but the onus is not all on you.

                                                                  1. re: SilverMoth

                                                                    There are people on CH who would think you were dropping the ball if you used dry pasta in your homemade lasagna rather than making your own fresh pasta sheets, or bought the vanilla ice cream that tops the cherry pie you made from scratch. Don't sweat it. Do what you are comfortable doing. There is no need to advertise your shortcuts. It wouldn't bother me, and to those who WOULD criticize, I say "Go stuff yourself!"

                                                                2. re: SilverMoth

                                                                  the fact that you have gotten your home in shape for the event and will be doing most if not all of the clean up is very much AN EFFORT imho

                                                                  1. re: SilverMoth

                                                                    Pleasant company with a relaxed hostess is a recipe for a great evening.

                                                                    If you make a couple of killer sides and serve me a good supermarket rotisserie chicken, I'll be a happy guest. If you have the time and energy to step it up, there's room to do that without going to the other extreme.

                                                                    Fantastic food with an exhausted, stressed-out hostess is no fun, all-around.

                                                                3. My go to stores are Trader Joe's and Sprouts. So I usually get from their frozen food section things like Spanakopita and Samosa. And from their refrigerator section, ribs and fish. I'd just reheat them in the oven.

                                                                  1. This is a(nother) situation where the question is:

                                                                    Is it about the food or the company?

                                                                    If it's somewhere on the 40-60/60-40 range for you, then look at increasing the homemade food a little; think about the crockpot or sheet-pan-suppers to reduce stress.

                                                                    If it's way more about the company, ask people to bring stuff, or do snacks and have board games, console games, cards, karaoke => change the focus from food to fellowship.

                                                                    If it's waaaaay more about the food, then "plan harder" to stretch out the time [soup days before that only needs reheating, sides that can be in the oven at the same time as the main] and simplify your menu so you can produce what you want to serve.

                                                                    Pick the option that reads as the lowest stress/ most fun for you.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                                                      How about just being up-front before hand?
                                                                      If you are serving roasted grocery store chicken and a few 'deli' selections just say so in advance.
                                                                      Recently I asked a few people for a quick dinner before going to a ball game and before hand said: "When you get here let's all order some chinese food delivery?" The vote was unanimous.

                                                                    2. When I have people over I would never EVER dream of serving them premade things. I would never let myself live it down. I would feel extremely uncomfortable serving such food to guests.

                                                                      I realize that if I held everyone to my standards I'd never eat a meal as a guest. I don't hold everyone to my standards though. Though if somebody continually served shit, I'd probably say something or offer to bring meat and cheese or something edible, or offer to cook or bring decent food or something like that.

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                                                                        That's a great point. I have higher standards for myself then I would ever impose upon others, but I still don't want to eat garbage as a guest in someone's home.

                                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                                          sandylc: it's quite a stretch to assume that all (or even most) homemade food is good and all purchased food is "garbage."

                                                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                                                            I didn't say that, either.

                                                                            You are intent upon putting words in my mouth.

                                                                      2. No, I would not be disappointed.

                                                                        I think I probably have very few friends who truly make everything homemade - and perhaps a few who think that because they 'defrosted the veggies themselves', that counts as homemade.

                                                                        I have friends that I've made over a shared fondness of food, but far fewer that I've made over a shared fondness of cooking. But they're wonderful to spend time with - and I'd take ready-made food any day over very poorly made food inclined to make me sick (friends, I love ya - but.....).

                                                                        1. It wouldn't bother me to eat a pre-made meal as a guest in someone else's home.

                                                                          It would bother me to serve a pre-made meal in my home. Why? I'm not really sure.

                                                                          The takeaway: damned if I know.

                                                                          1. <However, it got me wondering how the guests would perceive the short-cuts.>

                                                                            They are your guests, so you know them the best. I personally do not think it is a problem for informal get together.

                                                                            <If you were invited to someone’s place for a meal, would you be disappointed if everything wasn't homemade?>

                                                                            For most cases, no, not at all a problem.

                                                                            1. Isn't the purpose to get together with each other, food is just a vehicle for that.

                                                                              1. I think it's all in the 'curation' of the prepared items (tee hee, that should send a few folks over the edge ;) I like to focus my attention on one or two items, like homemade entree and dessert. Sometimes I'll buy dessert--there are some TDF things to buy out there. And keep the rest simple ... simple preparations of good fresh produce.

                                                                                I don't look a gift horse in the mouth ... but whether I enjoyed the meal or not might influence how I respond to a future invitation. If the meal wasn't enjoyable, I'd probably suggest going out or coming to my place instead. But I don't expect anyone to slave in the kitchen for me making every last thing from scratch.

                                                                                1. i would be THRILLED to have food that isn't homemade.
                                                                                  don't go looking for an unnecessary guilt trip.
                                                                                  you are doing GREAT.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. " If you were invited to someone’s place for a meal, would you be disappointed if everything wasn't homemade?"

                                                                                    For me it is about the camaraderie and the conversation. Food is a "bonus".

                                                                                    The only time I could see that store bought could be a problem would be if the host belonged to some sort of supper-club and was dishonest (i.e. passed off prepared food as "from scratch").

                                                                                    1. "Should I invite guests to a dinner a party and serve Hamburger Helper" reminds me of years ago when a Paris reporter showed up at half a dozen top-flight restaurants and ordered nothing but a fried egg and a glass of water, just so he could write an article about reactions.

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: Querencia

                                                                                        A savvy choice of a 'simple item' to order ;) I think cooking a fried egg perfectly is quite challenging.

                                                                                        1. re: foiegras

                                                                                          The story goes that Michelin 2* chef, Albert Roux, used to ask applicants for jobs at his La Gavroche restaurant to fry an egg as part of the interview process. He reckoned that if the chef could demonstrate the appropriate level of care to something seemingly so simple then s/he was the sort of person he would give a job to.

                                                                                      2. Is it tacky? No. Why would it be tacky? Unless you are throwing the containers away and claiming it to be homemade I don't understand how it would be tacky.

                                                                                        To me, using pre-made short cuts, entrees or apps is no different than having an event catered. Just another means to the end.

                                                                                        I don't even think you need to make disclaimer when handing out the invite. Would it be nice to get their input if you are doing take away chinese or indian? Sure, the same way its nice to know up front if there are any food aversions or allergies. But anyone who is going turn down a dinner because everything isn't homemade in not a friend in my book.

                                                                                        And honestly there are some folks where I am glad the food is not homemade, LOL. One of my dearest friends doesn't cook. Most of her attempts have been god awful nightmares. Luckily she laughs about it and usually has husband grill something or has her housekeeper make something.

                                                                                        Then there are some ready made stuff you WANT to make for company. TJ's pork belly for one, their french lentils for another. Both so good they enhance the meal, not minimize it.

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                          I have a friend who whenever she hosted a dinner party, I'm convinced I got some kind of low grade food poisoning. I know enough about food poisoning to not point fingers and it was never so bad that I needed to see a doctor or miss work. But, the case of 'funny tummy' post every meal with her.....sigh.

                                                                                          I would have loved to once show up at her place and just see TJ containers/wrappers everywhere. But aside from dubious food preparation talents, she's lovely and I enjoy spending time with her otherwise.

                                                                                        2. I recently pre-ordered, and had delivered to my home, a Prantl's torte. No-one even hinted at disdain for that confection.

                                                                                          I will eat whatever you serve. My brother, a long-time chef, says he is just glad to be invited to dinner and someone else is cooking. He doesn't care what the menu is--he doesn't judge. There is room for everything.

                                                                                          And, yes, I hold myself to a higher standard than I expect elsewhere. A few places I have learned to simply say, "I'll come early and help you cook", as I often do with friends who seem to be too busy prepping the bar to notice they are missing key ingredients to their meal like lemons and garlic or any vegetable. Love them, but I always bring a few things. Keeps us all happy.

                                                                                            1. Just curious. How would you feel?

                                                                                              I would not care. You took the effort to provide the meal. I'll be gracious to accept what I'm given and have fun with everyone too. :-)

                                                                                              1. I appreciate each.and.every. dinner. invite.
                                                                                                Maybe you can do a semi-homemade version, like make pizzas from the TJs pizza dough, or buy a rotisserie chicken that you shred for tacos, or cook up some fresh ravioli that they sell. Low effort but feels a little more homemade.
                                                                                                There are also any number of dishes you can make ahead and freeze so the day of your party all you do is put said frozen homemade dish in the oven.

                                                                                                But overall you should enjoy your own dinner party! A little planning and prep in advance plus help from the store will reduce last minute prep.

                                                                                                1. Is this a Dinner Party, or friends getting together over dinner?
                                                                                                  Sometimes for a DP, I feel I need to make nearly everything. But even then, I often purchase the dessert.

                                                                                                  <<I will eat whatever you serve. My brother, a long-time chef, says he is just glad to be invited to dinner and someone else is cooking. He doesn't care what the menu is--he doesn't judge. There is room for everything. >>
                                                                                                  This, too. I also cook for a living. I'm always happy that one of my friends has invited me over. Home cooked, or ordered in, is totally fine with me.

                                                                                                  1. Many, many of my "entertaining guests" efforts basically involve me in the kitchen whilst my partner chats comfortably with guests over the lovely aperitifs and canapés I have made.
                                                                                                    When they are called to the table, I serve their appetisers, pour their wine, serve bread,ask for any dietary requirements!

                                                                                                    Fuck - I must be at work!!

                                                                                                    That being said, I love my hospo job because it's in my blood, and I have a hard time of letting it go. Sometimes it is really nice to go simple - some of my best parties have been up scaled antipasto platters, cheese boards, dessert platters, help yourself coffee and tea stations, mini buffets, potlucks etc.

                                                                                                    It depends on what you are aiming for. Obviously, the nicest goal is to enjoy good food with good company. It can be done, quite easily, and yes, if you want that fairly good lasagne from a supermarket - go for it!
                                                                                                    But, the caveat - make sure it is a good product. There are some quite decent store bought meals nowadays, and if they give your more time with your guests, then I say go your hardest.
                                                                                                    (Saves on washing up, too!)

                                                                                                    1. When my friends invite me over, I am grateful for whatever they serve – whether they slaved all day in the kitchen or the buy take out. Whatever goes! I appreciate the invite and also enjoy their company.

                                                                                                      1. While I like Ina Garten's style: make 1-2 things, buy 1-2 things, I just can't do that when I invite friends. I'd rather make everything, but spread the cooking over several days.

                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: pine time

                                                                                                          I've done Ina's way (and prefer it) and I've painstakingly made every morsel, but I would bet money that my guests not only would not know the difference in most cases (mmmm...tastes good), but that it doesn't correlate to the success of my endeavor.
                                                                                                          That comes with the constraint that my store-bought items are carefully chosen for taste and quality.

                                                                                                          1. re: monavano

                                                                                                            I agree 100%. I am the only one who cares how much of the stuff was cooked by me, everyone else just wants to eat good food.

                                                                                                            1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                              I agree as well. When I have people over I make everything from scratch (except desserts since I hate making desserts and I usually farm those out to anyone who says "what can I bring").

                                                                                                              But sometimes I wonder if anyone really cares one way or the other. They just like good food. The thing is that I, myself, am usually disappointed by store-bought takeout food and that's why I opt to make it all.

                                                                                                              But when I go to other people's homes for dinner, I don't care one way or the other if they cook it all or not. I wouldn't serve prepared food to guests, but sometimes it's a blessing for someone to serve it at their house.

                                                                                                        2. I hope you won't question yourself over this anymore!
                                                                                                          I'm delighted to be invited to dinner so that we can be together and eat. While the food itself is always a highlight for me, it is still secondary.
                                                                                                          I'll appreciate your kindness and effort, whether it is spent in the kitchen or checkout line.
                                                                                                          Keep on keepin' on, Silvermoth. :)

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. I was about to say "I would never do this" until I realized that I almost never make a dessert, it's always something I get at the bakery or other store.

                                                                                                            So no, not something I'd have a problem with. Do I want to go to someone's house and eat Hamburger Helper? No, not really. But I can't imagine anyone I know doing that. I've got no problem if the flank steak for the salad came from Whole Foods or if the mac-n- cheese is from the local bbq place.

                                                                                                            1. I'd honestly rather eat good food at home and then hang out for cocktails and enjoy the good company. As much as I love Trader Joe's and Sprouts, I'm not fond of their pre-made entrees. Most of them are a salt lick and they all taste like they came out of a package. I guess I'm leaning towards it being tacky.

                                                                                                              I think making the main dish from scratch and outsourcing sides/bread/ salads/dessert is easier to pull off if doing it all from scratch isn't an option.

                                                                                                              1. if you went to all that trouble to get me there....and it tastes good.......and you let a lil liquor flow, I'd still count you as one of those great contributors to humanity.

                                                                                                                Those that don't, do not deserve your largess!

                                                                                                                1. I have no problem paying for good food. Free food holds no attraction for me unless it's good. So if it's between free half ass food and paying for good food, I rather pay. That means we meet friends out - no cooking, no cleaning. I don't invite people over unless everyone is cooking, more or less from scratch.

                                                                                                                  1. No. I would be happy that you had the time to spend with me and I would enjoy your company. I wouldn't care if you ordered pizza or Chinese and did none of the cooking yourself.

                                                                                                                    1. It wouldn't bother me at all. Any meal that I don't have to cook is a bonus. If you are gracious enough to invite me into your house and feed me, I'm going to be gracious enough to happily accept what you offer.
                                                                                                                      I've done a similar thing myself - I had the same friends over twice in one month. One time I made a huge Middle Eastern vegetarian meal with everything made from scratch. The second time I got takeaway pizzas. It was what I felt like doing and my friends didn't mind at all.

                                                                                                                      1. Ready made is absolutely fine. We rarely make desserts - it's why there are patisserie shops and supermarkety counters.

                                                                                                                        1. Personally I wouldn't care what you served (scratch-made or pre-made) because I'm there to see you and spend the time and food (like booze) is just one of the essentials to fuel the conversation.

                                                                                                                          I also didn't grow up on KD and Hamburger Helper so if those were on the plate, so what? The absolute minimum bar is safe for consumption.

                                                                                                                          EDIT: Chemicalkinetics - did you get around to buying your box of Hamburger Helper?

                                                                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: wattacetti

                                                                                                                            I will, but not this week. Not because I am lazy, but because I have a lot of fresh foods that I need to finish this week. I don't want to waste food if I don't have to. I guess I can buy the box first, and then use it later.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                              You can buy the box and use it 10 years from now ;-) Good for your survival pantry.

                                                                                                                              1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                You know. You are so right. I never thought of it as a "survival pantry". If only they also sell dehydrated meat.....

                                                                                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                                  Oh, they do. Hormel has some nice stuff ;-)Sort of like MREs.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                    I just bought three Hamburger Helper: Beef Pasta (cooking now), Philly Cheesesteak, and Stroganoff.

                                                                                                                                    It is still being cooked. It does remind of the Rice-A-Roni thing. Packaged seasoning, packaged dried rice/pasta and add water and milk. Bring to boil and simmer.

                                                                                                                                    I didn't follow the recipe because it asks for 1 pound of ground beef with only a tiny package of pasta, so I cut down to about 0.6 pound of beef. Even with 0.6 lb of beef, it still looks like a lot of beef.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                                      I don't have a problem with trying anything once, you never know what might strike your fancy. If nothing else, it will make a good story!

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                                        Different than Rice-a-Roni: no catchy jingle.

                                                                                                                                        It's been a couple of hours. How was it?

                                                                                                                                        1. re: wattacetti

                                                                                                                                          The hamburger helper was fine Not bad. I can it getting boring after repeat eating, but it is fine to eat once awhile. I didn't mix the powder as much I should, so the sauce wasn't homogenized. Interesting, I actually had a heartburn feeling about 1-2 hours after the meal, and I rarely have a heartburn. The last time I had one is more than a year ago for sure. Maybe way too much meat.

                                                                                                                                          I am taking the leftover for my lunch today.

                                                                                                                            2. i think it depends on the host. i have a friend who hosts people with a menu entirely made of costco food (100% of the time), but i wouldn't trust her to do more than boil water (and costco food isn't bad), so in her case, it's expected and not an issue.

                                                                                                                              now, with friends that pride themselves on exceptional cooking skills, if they hosted me and didn't cook anything (though of course there can be extenuating circumstances), i might wonder why i didn't make the grade! but ultimately, it's about spending time with friends for me, so i'm always just happy to be there, regardless of the meal.

                                                                                                                              personally, i cook everything, but plan menus that allow me to cook at least part of the meal in advance. i'll often do the dessert the day before, and plan side dishes that are assembled the day before or that morning. that way i only have to (actively) cook the main on the actual day.

                                                                                                                              parties are a mix of both - storebought cheese but homemade crackers, etc.

                                                                                                                              15 Replies
                                                                                                                              1. re: poochiechow

                                                                                                                                What?! You don't make the cheese from scratch??

                                                                                                                                1. re: foiegras

                                                                                                                                  of course they make their cheese from scratch.from the cows they raised since calves

                                                                                                                                  1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                                                                    Far as I know, even Martha buys her cheese ;)

                                                                                                                                  2. re: foiegras

                                                                                                                                    i know - how GAUCHE. and sometimes i buy the crackers, too. shhhhhh

                                                                                                                                    edited to add: i don't host all that often (not enough space) so that's why the extra effort. if i did it all the time, i'm sure i would go with more of a mix of already prepared/homemade.

                                                                                                                                    i hope i didn't sound like a jerk in my previous post...

                                                                                                                                    1. re: poochiechow

                                                                                                                                      Don't tell anyone but I also get the olives from the olive bar, rather than curing my own.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: masha

                                                                                                                                        You don't pick your olives from your olive trees in the backyard?

                                                                                                                                        1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                                          It's better to fly to Italy (or another Mediterranean country where olives are native) and pick them there ...

                                                                                                                                          1. re: foiegras

                                                                                                                                            like any one needs such an elaborate excuse to go to Italy. it's the cash that's the issue.

                                                                                                                                            besides the olives still have to be cured, which would then require a prolonged stay. I suppose one could learn cheese-making and flour-milling while one is at it and forage greens in the lazy afternoons after the dew has burned off and before the wine kicks in.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                              No no, you cure them once you're back at home.

                                                                                                                                              And I like the idea of milling your own flour, for your own crackers ... that ready-made flour is for lazy people, I now realize.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                  Who doesn't have one of those at home??

                                                                                                                                      2. re: poochiechow

                                                                                                                                        I'd sooner make my own cheese than crackers.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                          I made crackers ... once. They were fabulous, but you can buy really good crackers too.

                                                                                                                                          The meatloaf at my gourmet grocery is way better than some homemade versions I've been served ...

                                                                                                                                          1. re: foiegras

                                                                                                                                            I made crackers ... once as well. Mark Bittman's recipe. Very simple, very tasty, much easier to buy a box of Cheese-Its, and since I never do that I've never needed to make crackers again.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: ennuisans

                                                                                                                                              I don't care for cheese crackers, and I was really disappointed when making them from scratch that the taste was ... just like the ones you buy. I made several kinds at once ... the plain ones I liked the best, but after fighting the difficult dough, rolling it out & cutting shapes ... they really needed to be life-changing to do that again. Crackers ain't cookies.

                                                                                                                                              And sadly, the older I get, the less I care about impressing anyone.

                                                                                                                                  3. I would enjoy it more (probably) if everything was fresh, as I generally don't like many ready-made foods. But, I don't think it is tacky, and I would prefer a relaxed host over perfect food.

                                                                                                                                    1. If it is your house, you serve whatever you want to serve. Anything goes--even if you were to drive out and pick-up food or if you were to make every item from-scratch--whatever you serve is perfectly acceptable and if your guests do not appreciate it (regardless of what it is), then I would probably not invite them again.

                                                                                                                                      1. been to numerous homes where prepared "things" were served. didn't give it a second thought until now.

                                                                                                                                        no wouldn't bother me at all. don't care & happy to be there.

                                                                                                                                        1. Two friends just don't cook, plus they're used to coming to my house for home-cooked dinners, and I always make 'em an indulgent dessert. So, just being invited by them for dinner is great by me, even if it's delivered pizza and snackettes from CostCo.

                                                                                                                                          1. With a lot of my friends, I would feel safer with premade--not necessarily less at risk of food poisoning (not usually, anyway) but less likely to have to choke down a few bites, then push the rest around my plate to make it look like I ate more.

                                                                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                                                Yup. Call me arrogant, call me a food snob, but my own cooking has just ruined me for a lot of other people's food. And I don't even claim to be a really top-notch amateur cook, much less compare myself to a pro. It's just there there are a lot of truly bad cooks out there, who don't know it.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: MsMaryMc

                                                                                                                                                  It's very true that your palate changes when you cook well and use good ingredients. I'm finding that I can't eat a lot of things because I just don't enjoy them.
                                                                                                                                                  Phony flavors really stand out to me now.