Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cooking for a Crowd and a Recipe

In the Kettler house, I am used to cooking for 4 people. Even though there are only 2 of us, we like to have leftovers for weekday lunches. And most recipes are made for the average family size of 4. However, when the dinner table expands in our house and I know I will be feeding more than 4 people, I plan ahead, and then plan some more. 

This past weekend, we had several great friends come to visit. We were all running in a Ninja Challenge 5k Saturday morning, so I decided to make a pasta dish to carb up!

Our team name: Karate Men Bleed on the Inside!
With all our buddies traveling in, Ryan and I wanted to treat them to a home-cooked meal! Ryan was an awesome sous chef and helped me get everything ready (including several grocery trips). All this doesn't come naturally though, I have picked up a few tips over the past few years and thought I might share with you! Also, scroll down to the bottom for my Trash recipe, and no this isn't actual garbage, it is a baked chex mix recipe that has been in my family for years. Awesome and Addictive! 

Chex Mix Called Trash

What are some of your "tips" for cooking for a crowd?

Tip #1 - Plan Ahead

You don't want to be caught with your Chef pants down!! Start with what kind of food you want to serve and plan ahead. Here are some questions to start with:

  • Is there a theme to the party or get together?
  • What produce will be in season?
  • How many people?
  • How much do you want to spend?
  • Do any of your guests have special diets or food allergies?

Tip #2 - Always have enough food

Better to have more than not enough food. It only took one time for me to learn this lesson and I have not had the problem since. If a recipe makes 4 servings and you have 8 people coming over for dinner, double the recipe AND add an extra side dish or salad to make sure there is enough to go around.

Tip #3 - Cook for them, not you

The first thing to remember is you are cooking for your guests! I would be happy serving roasted beets over herb infused quinoa, but not everyone would enjoy that. I have a wide range of appetites among my friends and family. Vegetarians, gluten-free, dairy-free, nut allergies, shellfish allergies. Be sure to keep all of these in mind when planning your meal. If a large crowd is expected including guests you don't know as well, always go for the safe side: offer at least one vegetarian meal that doesn't contain nuts. Also, try to stay away from really exotic flavors and ingredients. Some people might not be as experimental as you.

Tip #4 - Prepare ahead

The last thing you want to do is disappear to the kitchen while your guests are there. They have come to visit with you too! Try to plan meals that are easy to prepare ahead of time and that only require cooking time, or make something ahead and reheat once the guests arrive. Here are a few menu ideas:

Tip #5 - Don't try a new recipe

I added this tip in last minute because this has happened to me before. I got all excited about cooking for a group and decided to try a new recipe that sounded delicious. This went wrong in so many ways! I had to keep referring to the recipe since I wasn't familiar, all the while trying to entertain our guests. I completely missed several key steps and it turned out awful! Hey, it happens to us all. 

Chex Mix Called Trash

Serves: Makes a gallon bag worth
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour

4 cups Chex cereal (I like to use Rice and Wheat)
2 cups cheese crackers (Reduced fat Cheez-its are the best)
2 cups Bugles (Can replace with Cheerios for a bit healthier version)
2 cups pretzels
1 small container of mixed nuts or favorite nuts
1/2 stick butter
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried oregano
2 T Worcestershire 
3-5 dashes of favorite hot sauce 
1 cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

Chex Mix Called Trash

Preheat oven to 250F. In a large baking dish (I like to use a large, cheap turkey roasting pan to make stirring easier), mix the chex, pretzels, cheese crackers, bugles and nuts together. 

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and add the dill, oregano, garlic powder, Worcestershire and hot sauce. Stir to combine and remove from heat. Pour over the chex mixture and gently stir to incorporate the butter-spice mixture. Pour the cheese over the mix and gently stir again to incorporate.

Chex Mix Called Trash

Bake in the 250F oven for an hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Let the mixture cool completely and serve or store in zip-lock bags or containers for up to a month.

Chex Mix Called Trash

This is a great recipe for parties and holidays!

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