February 21, 2013

Hostessing: Feeding a Crowd

Over the past few years, I have become accustomed to having 15-20 people in my home for a meal at once. It's common for churches in my area to have small groups that meet in people's homes, and we often host these events. When I first started making these large meals, I had a hard time figuring out how to feed so many people without (1) spending a lot and (2) having enough so everybody was full.  These meals are informal and I have found that buffet style works best for my house. I've compiled a list of simple and inexpensive meal ideas that I've tried and found successful.

Main Dishes
1. Mini Sub Sandwiches
  • Make sure to have a choice of meats and cheeses (at least two) and common toppings/condiments. I like to have most of these: lettuce, pickles, black olives (my favorite), onions, mustard, miracle whip, & ranch. 
  • You can buy bulk sub rolls at a warehouse club or even at your local Walmart. If they are too big, just cut them in half. 
2. Baked Potato Bar 
  • Plan to bake your potatoes at least three hours before guests are to arrive if you will have to make two batches. If they finish baking early, make sure to cover them with foil to keep them warm. Baked Potatoes usually hold their warmth for a while, so if they come out of the oven a little early it will be ok.  
  • You'll want to provide plenty of toppings like butter, sour cream, shredded cheddar, bacon bits, & green onions.
  • These have a delicious sauce that you can choose to put on top, but I usually just put it inside the sandwiches.
4. Sloppy Joes 
  • My sloppy joe recipe is simple: brown as much hamburger as you will need (1 pound makes enough for about 5 sandwiches). After you've drained the grease, add equal parts ketchup and BBQ sauce and a dash of chili powder. You can even add a teaspoon of Honey Dijon mustard and/or diced onion for some extra flavor. Just mix it all up, adding ketchup and BBQ sauce until you get the consistency and flavor you like.
5. Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
  • Buy canned tomato soup and add milk instead of water to make it creamy. The more soup you make, the more milk you will need to have on hand. 
  • Use a large griddle to make up to 8 grilled cheese sandwiches at once. You can even slice your sandwiches in 4 vertical strips, easy for dipping.
6. Fettuccine or Spaghetti
  • Just remember that you will need more sauce than you might think because a large batch of pasta sucks up the moisture in the sauce quickly. You don't want to serve your crowd dry noodles. 
7. Wraps
  • These are great in the summer! You can play with the filling to make it your own. 
8. Taco Bar or Cheesy Enchiladas
  • A taco bar is simple, just have your toppings ready and serve the meat and tortillas warm. 
  • You don't need much for enchiladas- I just stuff mine with chicken or beef, cheese, and a bit of enchilada sauce. Pour more sauce and cheese over the top before baking. You could even add black olives and/or green onions on top. Find the recipe on the can of enchilada sauce.

Can't Go Wrong Side Dishes:
  • Potato Chips (SunChips are tasty and a little more healthy than your average chip)
  • Salad (Try different/seasonal toppings like cranberries, strawberries, candied nuts, etc.)
  • Baked Beans (I like to buy canned baked beans and add a bit of smokehouse BBQ sauce for flavor)
  • Assortment of Fresh Fruit (pair this with spring/summer foods like sandwiches or wraps)

Easy To Please Desserts:

If you have other ideas for simple and inexpensive ways to feed a crowd, feel free to share! I'm always looking for new ideas. 

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