Home-made recipes are always the best ones; they’re full of originality and flavor that no store could replicate. Growing up and helping my mom cook was always an adventure. When I would ask her how much of an ingredient would go into whatever dish we were making (cookies, lasagna, tortilla wraps… you name it we made it), her answer was always “this much” or “until it tastes or looks right.” The dishes were always made with the same ingredients, but it was all done by taste and eye.

Now, as a young girl, this stressed me out. I always wanted the food I made to be as good as my Mom’s (we all know Moms have this miraculous way of always making the best food). But for as long as I watched her, there was never a recipe she didn’t alter to fit our family’s tastes.

My mom’s philosophy for cooking is something I’ve taken into account with my own cooking now, as well as into how I plan things. I’m like a sponge when it comes to new ideas; I love adding, deleting and changing things to make for a more interesting recipe whether it is food or an adventure out of town.

A random Tuesday some weeks ago, a group of friends and I did just that. I was invited me to dinner for homemade enchiladas. I eagerly asked her if she wanted me to bring anything else and I was given the nonchalant “whatever is fine,” leaving me with a blank canvas to paint upon. My mind began to color in thoughts of margaritas, homemade tortilla chips and mariachi bands. After a couple failed attempts to Google last minute mariachi bands, I quickly settled on bringing margaritas, homemade tortilla chips and guacamole.

This night would be the birth of our first “family” dinner – a night for fun without the outrageous prices and no need to dress up. We all sat around in the kitchen sipping our flavored margaritas (some stronger than others), laughing and talking about our day and intoxicated board games. So by popular demand, I bring you the recipe for your own family dinner night!

  1. Pick a theme!  – Brainstorm your ideas for a theme – what you can make, what you can drink, what everyone likes/dislikes to adjust to each personal taste (that’s the glorious thing about homemade meals, you don’t have to be that pain-in-the-butt who asks you to remove every item and then add twenty other things like you’re at a buffet).
  2. Pick a time. – It’s important to pick a night of the week everyone can attend, how often you want to do these dinners and a time for everyone to make it. The more input you have the more creative you can get!
  3. Set a budget. – Pick a reasonable amount of money that you want to spend on the meal and divide it evenly. For the first couple of weeks, a few friends and I we’re stuck paying for meals for 10-11 people every week until we decided on $10 a person to cover food and drinks!
  4. Open door policy. – Each week a core group of people come to our Tuesday night dinners, but we welcome everyone to bring whoever they’d like. Kids and adults alike make the dinners feel more at home and cozy and again, more input allows for more creativity.
  5. Clean up that night. – Don’t be stuck with a mess the next day, get everyone involved in the cleaning process!
  6. Plan for entertainment for after the meal. – While dinner is the main course, kick back and bust out the board games! Again, inexpensive and entertaining fun. Karoake, swimming, watching a movie to go with the theme… all of these can be done in your home!

These family dinners have become my escape from reality without the traveling expenses. From learning about my friends’ cultures, hometowns and life-history to laughing until my stomach hurts in a slightly-intoxicated game of Apples to Apples, I have never felt more connected to a group of people than I do with these friends!

Words Marissa Nicole

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