Cooking for a crowd recipes are not as “scary” as they sound. Unlike home cooking, large gatherings require that you use a dinner planner if you are going to be cooking large amounts of food; whether it be a sit down dinner, a buffet or even a cocktail party. This must hold all details of the gathering from the very start of the preparation to the presentation of the food.
These diner ideas will help your preparations move along much more smoothly and help to prevent embarrassing moments at the end when guests arrive. When your guests arrive, you should be “ready and waiting” for them, able to spend quality time with them and have plenty of food ready. This is what makes a successful party; one that everyone remembers.
The very first thing you must know, when cooking for a crowd, is how many people will be present for the meal. Make a note of this number in your dinner planner. It will also help when you start the cooking to know how many children, how many men and how many women. This will aid in figuring the portion sizes, thus figuring how much food will be needed.
If you are familiar with your guests, write down any special need foods; perhaps you will be entertaining diabetics. If this is the case, you should provide a diabetic dessert along with a regular dessert for the other guests. If you know of favorite foods or dislikes of your guests, this is the time to make notes of those also. Perhaps a guest is allergic to fresh mushrooms; by all means do not put fresh mushrooms on anything.
The best advice I can give you is to make notes of everything you can think of. You will be surprised how important these little insignificant details will become when preparing your party foods.
Many of us dress up our dinner tables with nice tablecloths and cloth napkins when cooking for a crowd. When we do this, we take the risk of getting many different types of stains. The first thing to do to prevent these stains is to starch our table linens to prevent stains from soaking in. But be prepared! Know ahead of time how to remove stains.
The next thing you must make notes about when cooking for a crowd is what your dinner ideas are. This will determine the type of meals you will be preparing for your gathering. A sit down gourmet dinner will be approached in a different way than a buffet meal. If you want to have a sit down dinner, you must provide table space and chairs for all guests to sit down together.
You have already listed in your dinner planner the number of guests; men, women and children. Use this information to decide if you can comfortably entertain all your guests at a sit down dinner. If this is not possible, then you might consider a buffet in which your guests might find comfortable seating throughout your home grouped with other guests.
If this does not sound reasonable then consider a cocktail party with a selection of appetizers and drinks. In this case most guests will choose to stand and socialize with other guests. Whichever you do, when you learn to write all the information down as you go, you will find it much easier to organize. This is all part of your meal planning process.
When cooking for a crowd, select one of your dinner ideas for your theme. This could be a special holiday like Christmas or New Years. Perhaps you will want to use holiday recipes such as for Christmas or Valentine’s Day. Maybe it is a birthday or anniversary. If it is not a special day or occasion, make it one. Come up with some theme; build your party around that theme.
A theme gives an opportunity to add colors and decorations to your home and in the food. Any special occasion will be reflected in your food and how to set a table for the event. Special themes get the conversation going with your guests and helps with having a successful party. Again, I stress write everything down! This will guide you in selecting recipes and garnishing the dishes once they are prepared.
The next step when cooking for a crowd is selecting a menu that goes with your dinner ideas that you have selected and wrote down in your dinner planner. Meal planning is much easier if you focus on dinner ideas or themes. If you have favorite recipes which you have cooked before, use them and adjust the proportions to the number of guests.
If not then ask family and friends for favorite recipes or search through your cookbooks and recipes to find something special. I lived my life when a meal always started with the meat; then vegetables, salads and dessert recipes were added to complete the dinner. I still find this the easiest to begin. Remember to write all dinner ideas down in your dinner planner!
Budget cooking for a crowd might be a big consideration for you. If you are having a large gathering, it requires more food than you would normally buy. Food is expensive! At this point know exactly what you can afford to spend on your food. This will help to narrow what foods you will want to purchase.
This is one reason I always start with the meat selection; it is the most expensive part. Chicken and turkey are among the most inexpensive proteins; and can be prepared in many delicious and elegant dishes. When budget cooking for a crowd, great flavor and a beautiful presentation can cover for inexpensive foods.
For meats, you might want to offer a choice of two; perhaps a delicious chicken dish and a beautiful presentation of a bowl of flavorful meatballs. Also consider cooking pasta for a crowd; it is so cheap to do and most people love pasta. Again, make your notes!
After selecting the main focal point (meat) of your meal, add the side items; starch, vegetables, salad and dessert. Whenever I do budget cooking for a crowd, I like to present one very special dish; it is usually a special dessert.
It doesn’t have to be expensive; just elaborate is some way. This could be in size, shape, decoration and of course, taste. I find this easier to do in desserts than in other dishes; also dessert is at the end and this is what guests remember most. Write it down!
Read over the recipes that you have chosen. Write down the times it will take to prepare, the ingredients and special equipment you will need to go shopping to purchase. Also, write down any special cooking information.
The most important point to stress in cooking for a crowd is FOLLOWING YOUR DINNER PLANNER; DO NOT VARY FROM THE PLAN. With all these notes that you have taken, now is the time to sit down and write out your cooking guide every step of the way. These steps will relieve much stress, and see that the meal stays on schedule. You will be a total success!
CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE BARS RECIPE
In large bowl, cream butter and sugars; add eggs, vanilla and water and beat well.
Combine flour, soda and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well.
Fold in chocolate chips and nuts; press into three greased 10 X 15 inch baking pans.
Bake in preheated oven at 375F degrees for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown.
Yield: 8 dozen bars.
FRENCH DRESSING RECIPE
Combine all ingredients and process until smooth. Makes about 3 ½ cups.
Do you have a personal experience with cooking for a crowd? Crowd gatherings range from 6 or more people. Share your success and disasters!
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