On a recent Sunday I found myself facing a dilemma. I was up to my eyeballs doing mountains of laundry and getting 2 sons packed to go back to school the next morning with last minute shopping of toiletries for good measure. I was also awaiting the overnight visit of my sister and husband who were travelling from Canada in uncertain weather and a great distance. It had been more than 6 months since we we last together and I wanted to be hospitable in spite of the chaos of sending kids back to college. This would also be the last chance to sit down around the table with our 3 sons alll together for a long time. I decided a make ahead menu, a casual but inviting table setting and keeping it simple would have to rule. Not knowing when our visitors would arrive meant I needed a meal that could sit and be kept warm as long as necessary.
I set the table way ahead of time with casual dishes that could all go into the dishwasher and fuss-free linens. I piled the dessert dishes on a tray at the end of the table, ready to serve. On the same tray I set a vase of flowering witch hazel from my garden. Simple but inviting nonetheless. Potted houseplants or a bowl of fruit could have also stood in for a centerpiece.
Throw-together salad of greens with goat chesse, dried cranberries, pecans and clementines, all on hand
Crock Pot roast of pork with honey, cranberries and orange zest
roasted sweet potato rounds
rice pilaf with apples, currants and sliced almonds, all on hand
Individual Sticky Toffee puddings, a favorite of my sister’s
The meal was easy, all make ahead and held up until our weary travellers arrived. Wonderful aromas greeted them with a hearty “welcome!” with nary of stitch of laundry in sight!
Sticky Toffee Pudding
(adapted from Five Points Restaurant, NYC)
1 c boiling water
10 oz pitted dates
1 t baking soda
1 1/2 c flour
1 t baking powder
1 stick(8 T) butter, room temperature
5 T sugar
2 large eggs
1 t vanilla
Toffee Sauce: 1/2 pint heavy cream, 1 c brown sugar, 4 T butter
For the puddings: Preheat oven 350F. Pour water over dates, add soda, let stand for 5 minutes to soften dates. With an electric mixer, cream butter, sugar and beat in eggs. Add date mixture and vanilla and blend on low. Gradually add the combined dry ingredients. Pour into prepared individual mini Bundt pan or in an 9 inch round baking dish, coated with butter or spray oil.
Bake 30 minutes if in large pan, 20 minutes if individual sizes. Poke holes in pudding with a skewer to have sauce penetrate.
To make toffee sauce, bring cream to a boil, add sugar, add butter and boil 3 minutes. Serve hot over pudding. This was the only thing I made at the last minute.
I’m thinking a similar dessert was served at Downton Abbey! It will make your family moan with abandon and delight, unlike at the abbey. Wishing you many simple Sunday suppers, surrounded by your family and good conversation.