Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tips for Feeding a Crowd

Did you realize that Thanksgiving is next week? I didn't until a friend mentioned it yesterday. I have long been a believer that pregnancy and childbirth cause moms to lose brain cells. (Ever found the phone in the fridge?) I am now convinced that the adoption process works the same way. I think I lost a couple of weeks somewhere back around September. Anyway, with the holiday fast approaching I thought I might share a few tips for feeding a large crowd of people. These are lessons that I've learned the hard way over many years.

My first "ya'll come" party (open to anyone with no concrete invitations or RSVP) was about two months after my wedding. I've been feeding crowds ever since. A lot of this may be common sense to many of you, but as I said, these were lessons hard learned for me.

1~Menu and Shopping List~Make out your menu and shopping list well in advance. Note items that can be purchased ahead and items that must be purchased the day before the event separately.

2~Vary Cooking Methods~Choose meal components that are cooked in different ways. If every menu item must be baked in the oven, it will take forever to prepare and something will be cold.
Example: Ham and sweet potatoes in the oven, macaroni pie in the crock pot, green beans on the stove, and jello salad chilling in the fridge.

3~Make What You Know~Choose recipes that you have experience with. I often pick one new side or dessert recipe for a big meal if I am very comfortable with the other recipes that I am using. If the new menu item is a flop, I can fall back on the others.

4~Gather Supplies~Gather all of the ingredients for each recipe before you get started. It makes the day go much more quickly.

5~See If You Are Missing Anything~Set your table the day before (if this is possible in your home), including the serving dishes and spoons for each recipe. This way, if you need to borrow an extra casserole dish from a friend, it won't catch you by surprise.

6~Make Ahead What You Can~Choose as many items as possible that can be prepared in advance. Items like jello salad, pies and cakes can be made a day or two before the big day.

7~Plan Your Timing~Make a schedule for cooking. Take each menu item and work back from meal time considering length of cooking time and prep time. Plan a time to start prepping, a time to start cooking, and a time to take it out of the oven.

8~Make a Checklist~Make a list of your menu items. Mark each item once when it is prepared, and mark it a second time when it is served. I can't tell you how many times I have gotten to the end of the meal and realized that I left something in the fridge.

9~Get Out Of The Kitchen~Try to schedule your preparations so that everything is done 10 minutes before time to eat. This way your meat has time to rest before being carved. And, you can get out of the kitchen to greet your guests.

10~RELAX!~All of these people are friends and family. If something doesn't go right, they will understand. If all else fails, take a lesson from "A Christmas Story" and roll with the punches. "That was the year we were introduced to Chinese Turkey." Remember...if something does go wrong, it will probably go into the family archives as a great story one day!

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