Cooking for a Crowd

I often feed large crowds, whether it’s just a couple of families joining ours for dinner…or whether I’m feeding an entire soccer team like I’m doing this week.  I think it’s rather fun, because apparently weird things like this make me happy.  Big pots of food…lots of smiling people eating from the big pots of food…what could be more fun than that? 

Cooking for a big crowd doesn’t have to be stressful.  I think the keys for avoiding big crowd feeding freak out are:

  • Make a thorough plan including very detailed lists
  • Prepare as much food ahead of time as possible
  • Keep the menu simple

You don’t have to make a four course meal with fancy dishes to make the crowd happy.  I’ve actually found that less is more, both for my sanity and for the joy of the people I’m feeding. 

Like take today for instance.  For lunch today, I fed the team Tammy’s Chicken Pasta Salad (a big hit, by the way!) and a big bowl of cut up watermelon.  That’s IT.  The pasta salad was the main dish, the side dish and the vegetable all wrapped up into one big pot of goodness.  The watermelon was a perfect compliment to the salad and the girls raved about it all (like I had made the watermelon all by myself or something?).

Then I pulled out the homemade fudge brownies, homemade ice cream and hot fudge sauce…which I’d made five days before and stuck in the freezer.  They LOVED it.  It was easy to make ahead of time and wow was it a crowd pleaser.  They all left our house patting their tummies and saying, “Thank you SO much for lunch…it was amazing…wow I can’t wait until tomorrow” and all that good stuff. 

You wouldn’t have to serve homemade ice cream…or even offer any ice cream at all.   Simple brownies would have been fine too…I just really wanted to give the girls a great treat.  And since I could make it all ahead of time it wasn’t at all hard.

Okay, here are some pictures of my cooking preparations last week.  I did the majority of the cooking for the five soccer team meals all in one day.  It is making my life SO much simpler this week!!! 

Please take note of all the messes in the background.  There’s not really a good way to cook a huge amount of food without making big messes.  Oh yeah, and my stock pot is my friend.  We have SO gotten our money’s worth out of the stock pot.

I got groceries on Wednesday morning then dumped it all over the kitchen floor…

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This is actually only part of the groceries.  Probably only half of it actually.  But you get the idea.

I got to work then right away browning 18 pounds of hamburger meat.  (Actually, I believe Matt was home at the time and he got all the meat in the pot for me.)  Once it was in the stock pot cooking, I started the ice cream machine with homemade ice cream

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Once the meat was finished cooking (18 pounds took forever by the way!), I separated it and seasoned some of it for the nacho bar, set aside some of it for beef enchiladas and made the rest into lasagna sauce.

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After the hamburger meat was finished, I cut up bunches of chicken breasts and cooked the pieces in olive oil for Tammy’s Chicken Pasta Salad and for chicken enchiladas.

Then, I began to assemble chicken enchiladas, beef enchiladas and lasagnas.

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Assembly lines rock. 

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I borrowed two huge pans from our church kitchen for the lasagnas. 
Now that is a lot of lasagna!

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I baked a gignormous amount of brownies.  I allowed them to cool, then I cut them…

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…and froze them in pieces. 
When I served them, I just popped one into a bowl, topped it with ice cream and hot fudge. 
Easy!

It took several hours of work on Wednesday (with a lot of other things squished into the day like reading to the kids and checking handwriting books while meat cooked) but now all I have to do each day is pull food out of the freezer and make the sides to go with the meal!!! 

Now tomorrow, let’s have a little chat about how I compromised a little bit on some of the ingredients I used, shall we?  Stay tuned…

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Comments

  1. Emily says

    These might be silly questions but I’m curious… how do you thaw/reheat the brownies? How do you thaw the homemade icecream, or get it soft enough to serve? I want to start making and freezing more things, I guess I’m just not sure how to reheat things and have them taste like they were just made.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I didn’t reheat them actually…just thawed them and put them into a bowl with ice cream and hot fudge. They were still a tiny bit frozen even and WOW was that good!

    I left the ice cream out on the countertop while I served lunch and by the time it was dessert time, it was just soft enough to serve!

    [Reply]

  2. Lisa says

    Ok, looking at all this food was just too tempting and I had to have your ebooks, both the chicken and the beef ones! I already have the pie one and the tortilla ones. Maybe soon, I’ll have the whole collection! Your recipes rock!!!!

    [Reply]

  3. Nancy says

    Laura, just a little tip that I have found helps to stretch the ground beef. When it is just done browning, I remove the pan from the heat and use a metal pastry cutter to cut the pieces even smaller. I find I can use less ground beef for my recipes because the flavor goes further (farther?). It works for me in large recipes, too. Hope this helps. Love your blog!

    [Reply]

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