Barbecue Tips

Barbecue tips! How to prepare a barbecue on a budget in record time for the boss...the whole office...or your mother-in-law.

It's 2:30 p.m., Wednesday afternoon, you've just dropped off Sally at ballet practice, picked up the dog at the vet, and are about half-way through shampooing the carpets when the phone rings. You pick up the receiver, cheerfully greet your caller, and scream bloody murder.

"You're what?" you scream into the phone.

"I'm bringing home 20 people from the office for a barbecue at our house tonight."

"No you are not!" you say.

He says, "Yup, Honey, that's right, the boss thought it would be a good idea."

You say, "Are you out of your mind?"

"He's right here, Honey, hold on."

"Hello," says your husband's boss.

"Hello," you say reverting to your normally cheerful telephone voice.

"So, your husband says it won't be a problem if we bring our new client to your house today for a barbecue dinner?"

You say, "Well, of course not," as you bite your nails and scream silently.

"That's great," he says, "no wonder he always says such marvelous things about you. You're a real champ!" As an added bonus he says, "You'd tell me if this was a problem, wouldn't you?"

"Well, of course I would," you say. "When shall I expect the gang?"

"Oh, not too late, around 7ish," he says. "Thanks again, see you then."

"Yeah...," you say. In the background you hear him slap your hubby on the back. "She's a real trooper-don't let that one get away."

Before the receiver hits the phone, you're halfway to the fridge. As you hum several bars of "You've Lost That Loving Feeling, you've found the eggs, and put them on to boil. (When in doubt, make deviled eggs. They're always good, no matter the occasion. In this case, they're quick.) As the eggs boil, your mind has already chosen new potatoes and chives as another dish. Small red potatoes are the perfect size, but if you have big ones, it's only a matter of cutting them into cubes, wrapping them in foil, adding lots of butter and grill. Add chives after you take them off the heat. Chives should be found in your kitchen herb garden, if not, they're at the grocery store-both dried and fresh.

Dessert...what to do, what to do. Cheesecake, boss's favorite! Graham cracker crumbs, butter, that. Get out your grocery list and commence writing. Okay: cream cheese, one can of canned cherries with thick syrup, one container of non-dairy whipped topping. Perfect! What else do you need?

Let's see, garlic bread is good with barbecue. Okay, add that to the list.

A vegetable tray: broccoli, celery, cauliflower, carrots, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes. One package of dip. Add cheese cubes. Viola! Veggie tray. Now you have a potato, a second vegetable, dessert, bread, but what about meat?

You want to stick with hotdogs and buns, but last time you were invited to the boss's house for shrimp scampi and t-bones.

What to do, what to do? Can't afford it? Okay, compromise. Shut off the eggs-they're done by now-grab the list and head to the grocery store. Pick up marinaded chicken breasts, a medium size ring of shrimp with shrimp sauce, two packages of hotdogs and buns, a bag of potato chips, a couple of packaged toss salads, and croutons, and two loaves of garlic bread. Add a case or two of beer, ice, two bottles of wine, and two big bottles of soda. Don't forget the cheesecake ingredients.

Pick up Sally on the way home form the grocery store, park the car, make the cheesecake and place in fridge to set. While Sally's scouring the basement for the little white Christmas lights, chill the wine, beer and soda in a tub of ice by the backdoor. Quick, time is a wasting, remove all the light bulbs in the house and replace with 30 watt bulbs. (No one needs to see what you didn't get done.) Remove the bathroom and kitchen lights, add enough scented candles to create a romantic, yet alluring atmosphere.

Ask Sally to move all of her outdoor toys to the sandbox while you cut the veggies-she'll be happy to help out. Heat grill, put potatoes on, slice the chicken and slap them on. (Only takes a few minutes on the grill.) Set shrimp ring out. Leave garlic bread in the foil package and put on grill last.

Shower, towel dry and fluff hair. Dab on a bit of perfume, lipstick and mascara and put on a playful sun dress. Wear sandles or go barefoot. DO NOT LOOK AS THOUGH THIS WAS A BIG DEAL.

Bring veggie tray and dip to the picnic table. Put silverware inside a large mug and place on picnic table, add napkins. Help Sally decorate the shrubbery with white lights. Not enough lights? Use candles.

Bring out your best deep dish plates and toss a beautiful salad. Set wine glasses on the counter for easy reach if anyone wants wine, and bring straws out for the kids' soda. Garnish with deviled eggs. Save the hotdogs and potato chips for Sally and her older brother.

Last minute checks include: Scrub toilet and bathroom sink-everyone will use them at one time or another this evening; remove all cleaning equipment-shampooer, mops, etc.; remove all dishes, put into oven if you have to, just get them out of sight; make sure all beds are made; pick up magazines, or any other item in the living room, and make small stacks.. If time, remove stacks to back room, if not, stacks are preferable to scattered debris. Light candles, put on soft music, and take one last look in the mirror. If time permits, have one drink-only one, more than that and you might not come across as the hostess with the mostest, but rather a sloshed bimbo.

Remember, never let them see you sweat. It isn't pretty.

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