Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Cooking for a Crowd

Several times a year, we have opportunity to cook for a crowd in our home, and I'm sure
many of you do too; be it  for family, friends, holidays, graduations, or weddings.  I do really enjoy the prospect, and though I couldn't do it every week... now and then is wonderful.  With the coming of Passover, Easter, Mother's Day and Graduation celebrations,  many of us will be cooking and planning something for a big group. 

 Here are a few tips that can help:
1.  Cook foods that are classic and commonly liked.  I find it easiest to cook the old favorites for big crowds, because I know they are sure to please, and I am familiar with the outcome; less mistakes and surprises.
2.  Cook foods that can be prepared a day or two ahead and consider main dishes that can be made a week or two ahead and frozen.

3.  Limit the amount of foods that need to be cooked in the oven: for instance.  Plan your main dish and perhaps a side or two that can all fit in the oven at once, to make it easier to have all of it warm at the same time.

4.  On the same lines, prepare a few dishes that can be served cold, and made ahead, such as salads. or plan an entire party around cold dishes, such as sandwiches, finger foods, cheeses, cold meats and salads.

5.  When making desserts, plan desserts that can be made in big pans.  Or plan farther ahead, and make  handheld desserts, such as cupcakes, hand pies, or a variety of "Mini Desserts and cookies".  Bake and freeze these more than a week ahead of time.

6.   Consider one big dessert rather than several small ones (This one is a reminder to myself, because often my own inspiration wears me out, and I want to do more than is needed... just keep it simple Sweetie).

7. If you are cooking several hot dishes, utilize crock pots and large roasters.  We often use our large roaster to cook a turkey or  brisket.  This leaves the oven free for baking rolls or side dishes. I have also used the large roaster for other things like to making a huge batch of baked potatoes for Olga's graduation potato party.  My Mom gave us a Crock Pot Trio for Christmas this year, which is wonderful for large crowds.  This weekend I will be using for company.  I will put slices of roast in gravy, mashed potatoes and gravy all in separate crocks.
8.  Buy big aluminum disposable pans like these rolls are in: Sam's and Cosco sell these in
 bulk.  I don't use aluminum on an every day basis, but these large disposable pans are wonderful for large recipes, and for making clean up quick and easy.  They are also wonderful when bringing food to a pot luck, because you don't have to worry about retrieving the pan if you need to leave before all the serving and eating is finished.  They can be lined with parchment paper if you want to protect your food from the aluminum, or to make removing something from your pan a little easier.
9.   Make lists and plans a week ahead if possible, and shop early.
10. Get most of your cleaning done 1-2 days ahead.
11. Plan seating and table setting a day ahead.
12. When I know I am having a crowd, I have it on  my mind through the week, planning and writing down ideas as they come to me.  This has always  helped me put all together smoothly.
13. Remind yourself to relax and enjoy the process.  It is a creative job; enjoy the creativity.

Meal Suggestions for a Crowd

1.   Meat and Potatoes: (any meat will work) 
A Large Roast or Brisket  Cooked the day before, can be cooled and nicely sliced,
 then re-warmed the next day with gravy or barbecue sauce. 

..Serve with:
2.    Pre-made mashed potatoes or
3.    Potato Casserole  
5.   Vegetable Casserole

.other main dishes
6.   Chili Relleno Casserole: Served with beans and rice
7.   Shredded Beef Burritos  Served with Taco Salad
8.   Chicken Spaghetti

.soups and stews are wonderful and simple
9.   Chili and other soups and stews are great and can be  rounded out with wonderful breads, muffins and salads, as well as adding condiments that go good with them such as cheeses, sour cream, lettuce, tomato, chips etc
10.  Green Chili

..Try a food bar
11.  Potato Bar
12.  Taco Bar
13.  Homemade Pizza Bar 
14.  Salad Bar
15.  Appetizer Bar

..casseroles can be made ahead and frozen
18.  Lasagna

…… sandwiches cold or hot are wonderful for a casual meal
19.  Sloppy Joes: Served with a variety of salads and chips
20.  Shredded Barbecued Beef Sandwiches: Served same as the Sloppy Joes

..if all else fails, there's always: 
21.  Spaghetti and Meatballs
Dessert Suggestions for a Crowd

2.  Sheet Pies: Any type of pie can be doubled up
     and made on a Sheet Cake Pan and made into a Slab Pie
3.  Peach Cobbler (make it a double)
4.  Tres Leche Cake (make it a double)
5. Cheese Cakes or other desserts doubled and made in large cake pans.
6. A variety of handheld desserts that can be made up ahead and stored or frozen, such as cupcakes, hand- pies, cookies and bars

Serving and Table Setting
Formal or informal, china or paper, silver or plastic, buffet or family style, picnic or place settings;
I can honestly say that we have done all of the above for a crowd.  Buffet, picnic, paper, and plastic are without a doubt the easiest choices preparing a meal for a large group,  but there are occasions when, to me, I'd rather set the tables with my prettiest tablecloth, china and silver.  Usually Christmas Eve, Easter and Mother's Day are the days I like to do it that way.  The rest of the time, it is casual.  Yet, even with casual meals, an atmosphere of beauty, fun,  and joy can be created with a little decorating and creative ideas.  Here are a few for any occasion.

1. Flowers: Every season brings a new color theme. Whether picked from the back yard, or bought from the store, I can't resist them.  Enjoy yourself, and make it a challenge to arrange and decorate.  It brings such a lovely atmosphere into your home.  I like to keep arrangements up for weeks, or at least as long as the flowers will last.
2.  Tablecloth, Dishes and Silverware:  I love the challenge of deciding which tablecloth and which dishes to use for each occasion.  I like to keep a variety of tablecloths handy for different seasons.  Disposable ones work great as well, for informal occasions, and kids functions.  Then comes the decision of dishes and silverware.  Consider collecting a few types of all of the above for various times of the year.  If you are using plastic silverware, you can put it in a cute container to add to the decorations, such as baskets, decorated mason jars or little carry-alls designed specifically for that purpose.

3.  Place Cards:  Place cards can become the most delightful decorating tools.  You can make place cards out of scrapbook material, trinkets, plants, baked items, pinecones; Click here for more ideas from Pinterest.

4.  Paper Plates: You can a buy paper or plastic  plates in bulk 
at places like Sam's or Costco, or purchase them at the Seasons
end at half price or even more from places like Hobby Lobby other craft outlets.  Paper plates can be pretty, and can be used to set a nice table.  The silver paper plates on the left are from Hobby Lobby, and I have loved using their variety of colors on many occasions.

5.  Napkins and Napkins Rings:  Napkins are a necessity  but can also be a fun way to add pretty decorations and party favors, like at this Christmas brunch.

6.  Centerpieces and Decorations:  Use your imagination and whether you use candlesticks, flowers, or items that go with the theme of  your meal, don't be afraid to add color, texture and substance to your table and buffet table.

These are all just a beginning of ideas to get your inspiration going.  Enjoy your family and friends, and remember to do all in the spirit of hospitality.  I desire to bless those who come to my home with welcome, love, good food, beauty and comfort.  These are the most important keys to a wonderful gathering.


  1. Thank you so much for the wonderful post! we have a family of 10; so when ever we invite friends or family over we have a very large crowd! :) I am so inspired with all your amazing ideas! We are having all our family over this Sunday for our Easter so we will be implementing several of your ideas. :)
    Thank you again!!
    Lots of love and hugs!!
    Jessica from To Everything there is a Season

  2. Hello Pam, this is a very complete list with such good ideas! You always have such lovely dinner parties! I will look at some of these ideas and make some notes!
    Blessings and Have a wonderful Easter holiday...
    He is Risen!
    Love, Roxy

  3. Pam, I love this post. I needed this splash of creativity. Love the flowers!

    I know you put a lot of effort and love into setting your home up for your family when they visit. Such a blessing!

    I'm going to be coming back here to look at the recipes and ideas and I'm jotting down on my shopping list "pick up pretty flowers" :-)

    Thank you so much for sharing!


  4. This post has been full of such wonderful ideas. I appreciate all the suggestions for entrees and desserts. I know I will be using these ideas the next time I have company.

  5. Hi Pam! This is a terrific post! What a wealth of inspirational ideas...we have a large family so I am definitely going to keep some of these ideas on hand! Thank you for sharing!

  6. Dear Pam, This post is really something I need to print up and put into my notebook of great ideas and such. Planning really does make things go much smoother! Your poss always are filled with such great advice and yummy recipes!
    I want to thank you for joining me for my very first Link Up!
    Please come to the party each week and share the love and all your yummies!
    Love, Roxy