Cooking For Guests This Summer?

During the summer months, vacations, visiting family and friends, and opening our homes to travelers is at an all time high. I guess everyone is trying to make the most of summer vacation and the warm and sunny months of the year. This means  that a lot of us are cooking for guests. In fact, in a few weeks my sister, Elina, will be coming to Florida with her husband and their two little girls. I am so excited to see them and can’t wait til they finally arrive.

However, when vacationers enter our home, we are unfortunately not on a vacation ourselves, and still have to go to work and perform the daily chores and errands. Since I want to spend as much time with my guests as possible instead of standing next to the stove when I’m not at work, I have figured out some rules of thumb for these situations.

I have two goals when it comes to feeding company.

#1 I want my guest to be pampered and indulge in some tasty munchies. 

Admit it, food ranks pretty high on the list of importance when you’re on vacation. You always remember if the food was great or not so much.

#2 Spend as little time in the kitchen as possible.

Is this even achievable?

I’ve had several people ask me for some ideas of what to serve visitors.

“My family is expecting  a lot of guests this summer and I will be doing all of the cooking. I am planning to serve these pancakes for one of the breakfasts and your goulash for one of the dinners. Olya, may I ask you which recipes would you recommend for me try and serve the guests?” Tanya

If it’s in any way possible, do as much work ahead of time as you can. Trust me, it is SO worth it.

Focus on the dishes that will not lose their quality or texture if prepped ahead of time, and in the reheating process.

Here are some ideas of meals that you can make ahead of time, or do a significan amount of prep for:

Honey Garlic-Glazed Meatballs.

They are wonderful. Cook them, freeze. Unthaw them in the refrigerator the night before. The next day, all you have to make is the sauce. 5 minutes of work. It really doesn’t get better than this. By the way, every time I serve them, I get rave reviews. I don’t think there’s been a time when someone didn’t ask for the recipe.You can also use these same meatballs and serve them with tomato sauce (which you can make ahead of time too, or use store-bought), or make them into Swedish meatballs.

Cheesy Chicken Meatballs.

You can also bake and freeze these, but I prefer to prep them, cover and store in the refrigerator until I’m ready to cook them. The topping is so golden and crisp this way. It takes about 30 minutes to prep them, or an hour at the most if you’re just taking your sweet time, listening to music, etc.

Cabbage Rolls, Lazy Cabbage Rollsor Stuffed Mini Peppers:

 Cook and store in the refrigerator or freeze. They taste even better the second day.

Elegant Chicken and Rice Dinner:

Talk about impressive. This chicken is so delicious, juicy and crispy. Do all the prep work, refrigerate for up to a day, and then cook. You can also freeze the prepped chicken, unthaw in the refrigerator and then bake. Make sure to keep the baking dish at room temp for at least 20 minutes if you’re using a glass casserole dish.

Tender Chicken Patties:

Chop and mix all the ingredients. Refrigerate or freeze. All you have left to do is to cook them.

You can do the same thing with Chicken Kotleti.

Chicken Kebabs With Mushroom Veloute Sauce. Brown the kebabs, make the sauce and refrigerate. Bake for dinner. You may need to add a little liquid to the sauce.

Chicken Riggies.

This is a great option because it cooks really quickly, so you can prep all the ingredients, refrigerate and you’ll have dinner in 30 minutes. You can also freeze this meal with great results. Almost any pasta dish freezes really well. Ziti, Stuffed Shells, Manicotti, Lasagna. Make sure to undercook the pasta a bit and add a little more sauce/liquid than you need. Unthaw and reheat in  a skillet or oven.

Beef Stroganoff or Beef Goulash.
 Cook, refrigerate and reheat. You may need to add a little broth/water.

Mom’s Braised Potatoes With Pork.

Cook, refrigerate and reheat. I love reheating it with a little butter in a nonstick skillet and adding some shredded cheese.

Pelmeni, Vareniki, Pierogi, Ravioli.

I don’t think it can get any easier than this. Boil the water, cook for about 5 minutes, serve.

Cod With Zucchini and Tomatoes, Broiled Salmon.

Prep, refrigerate. Cook.
Broiled Salmon is definitely on the list of the meals I make most often. Elegant, healthy, delicious and probably the easiest to make too.


Smoked Salmon Cake.

Make ahead of time. Refrigerate for up to 2 days in advance.

Chicken Quesadillas.
Make the filling and spread between two tortillas. Refrigerate. Brown on both sides in a skillet to serve.

Turkey Pinwheels With Roasted Veggie Spread.
Make a large batch. I never have any leftovers:).

Pasta Salad, Crunchy Cabbage Cucumber SaladRussian Salad “Olivie“, Crab Salad.

  Prep ahead of time. Store the dressing separately. Dress right before serving.

It’s so fast to make, I usually make it right before serving. However, it stores really well too. Refrigearte or even freeze and then simply reheat.


This side dish probably wins the award for being the fastest to make. Prep veggies ahead of time. Refrigerate. 5-7 minutes of cooking and it’s on the table.

Scalloped Potatoes.

Prep, refrigerate and then bake.

It’s our tradition to grill at least once when we have guests staying for a few days. It’s so bonding to grin at each other as we chew on our juicy kebabs and spread butter  on our baked potatoes with blacked fingers.Why not take dinner outside? Kebabs, steaks, chicken, pork can be marinated the night before, or even days before. Cleanup is a breeze too. Grilled Shrimp cooks in less than five minutes and brings you the taste of the tropics, which is perfect for summer. It’s perfect paired with Tomato and Roasted Corn Salad.



Buttermilk Pancakes.

If you don’t do anything else on this list, make these pancakes for your guests. It’s easy, quick and a morning with homemade pancakes is perfect.

Cheesy Egg Puffs.
I like making these because you can make a large batch in a short amount of time. They are fluffy, hearty and look cute and fancy.


Almost all desserts can be made ahead of time. Cakes, Cake Rolls, Cupcakes, Bars, Cookies.

You can even freeze cookie dough in balls, and then bake as many as needed. What an awesome shortcut!

Here are my favorite desserts to serve to guests:

Cannoli Cake.

This cake is on the list because of its flavor. It’s THAT good.

Cranberry-Raspberry Cake Roll.
The cake roll literally bakes in 5 minutes.

Tropical Fruit Salad.
Cut all the fruit except the apples and bananas. Make the pastry cream, refrigerate. When serving, whip up the heavy cream, fold into the pastry cream and mix all the fruit, adding apples and bananas last.

Strawberries and Cream Mousse.

Perfect for a hot summer day. Refreshing, creamy and cold.

Raspberry Piece of Cake Cake.

This is probably the one I make the most and the most requested recipe as well. Isn’t it awesome that it’s so easy?

Apple Upside Down Cake.
This is one that is so quick to make I whip it up right before dinner, put it in the oven and as we’re coming to the end of the meal, the incredible aroma of baked apples has everyone eyeing the oven expectantly. Oh wow. There is nothing better than a warm slice fo this cake with a cold glass of milk.

Cheese Blintzes With Cherry Sauce.

Make the blintzes and the sauce ahead of time. Refrigerate and brown the blintzes in a skillet to serve and reheat sauce.

Soft Raisin Cookies.

Both children and adults will be thrilled when you set a plate of these cookies in front of them.

Poppy Seed Rugelachs.

Make the dough anf filling ahead of time. You can either refrigerate the dough or even freeze it. Pull it out to unthaw and quickly get a batch in the oven.

Whew! What a long post! I hope you can use it as a reference guide to come up with ideas of what will work for your family.

Who else is expectecting visitors this summer? What are your favorite meals to serve guests?

Let’s sit back, enjoy our visitors and make them feel at home, as stress free as possible.


  • Tanya

    Olya, Wow!!! Thank you so much for compiling all of the recipes together like that, describing each recipe and providing feedback in what to expect! I was really worried what to do make for so many people who are visiting our family, because as you know, everyone has such different taste preference. Now, with help from you, I am feeling really excited and confident that everyone will leave happy, satisfied and with good memories. I cannot thank you enough for such an amazing answer! May God pour His amazing blessings upon you and your family!

    I have a really good blueberry sauce recipe that I would like to share, so that you can share with your guests. It’s a delicious and healthy blueberry sauce which can be served on pancakes, waffles, cheesecake or ice cream. You can use fresh or frozen blueberries and it’s equally good. First time I tried this sauce was at my work with an ice cream and I liked the sauce so much that I asked the cook for the recipe. She told me that she found the recipe on This recipe has over 407 reviews with 5 stars. Yes! It’s highly rated, supper easy and supper good! Here is the recipe, with my adjustments:

    2 c (fresh or frozen) blueberries
    1/4 c water
    3/4 -1 cup fresh orange juice (2 oranges) + zest
    1/2 c white sugar
    1/4 c cold water+ 3TBsp cornstarch
    1/2 tsp almond extract
    In a saucepan, on medium heat, combine: blueberries + 1/4c water+orange juice+ sugar. Stir gently and bring to a boil.
    In a cup, mix together 1/4 c cold water+cornstarch. Gently stir the cornstarch mixture into the blueberries. (Do not mash the berries.) Simmer gently until it’s thick to coat the back of the metal spoon, 4-5 min. (It will still be a little runny. It’s ok, because after refrigerating overnight, it will thicken even more.) Remove from heat and stir in almond extract. Taste and see is your sugar and almond extract needs adjustment. ( I don’t like things when they are overly sweet.) Cool and then pour into a clean glass jar and refrigerate overnight.

    Try it in the morning with your pancakes and cream cheese frosting. It’s so
    good that you’ll be pronounced the best cook at your house. Tanya

    • olgak7

      Hi Tanya!
      Wow! Thanks for being so encouraging. I really hoped it wasn’t too confusing:). And thanks for the recipe. I happen to love blueberries in many different ways and this recipe sounds delicious, especially with the addition of orange juice and almond extract. Yummy! I will definitely have to try it this summer while blueberries are in season. We make pancaked very often on the weekends, I’ll try it out soon.

  • Natasha of

    I definitely agree that it’s best to do as much ahead as possible. I’m having family at my house for the weekend (in about an hour actually!). I pre-made nalesniki, strawberry puree for lemonade and made my salad dressing. 🙂 Feels good to have all that done. More time to spend with the people I love.

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