Loaves and Dishes

Wendi Spraker

As I write this, it is Monday. After a super busy weekend what I would like to do today is to be as useless as the “g” in lasagna. Alas, that is not going to happen. As soon as I finish writing this column, the sun will come up and the day will begin with some housework and writing a website article. You are jealous now, aren’t you?

To be clear, here is why I’m tired, on Thursday this past week, my daughter Sarah surprised me with a request (begging) me to prepare a full meal for 55 people and deliver (and serve) it on Sunday afternoon for the crew at her new job. That sounds like one of those reality shows, doesn’t it? “You have 3 days to prepare a full meal for 55 people, what will you fix? Ready, set, GO!” I love that my kids still believe that I am Wonder Woman even though they are grown, but 55 people?

This made me think that you might also like some pointers on how to easily feed a large crowd of people on short notice. The very first step is to grab a cup of coffee and pretend like you know what you are doing. The second is to assess how you will cook and serve the meal. Personally, I own four crockpots (it’s like a bad habit, I know), the two giant ones are perfect for this job.

For a large crowd, I recommend coming up with a menu that is a mix of homemade and store bought. For example, make the main dish and one side, buy the dessert and the other side dish. It’s good to remember that homemade sauces are always the best – so you can do something like buy a bag salad and make a homemade dressing – you will wow them every time!

Therefore, I gave them the choice of the following meals: Hot dogs, coleslaw, chips and dessert; Grilled BBQ chicken, coleslaw, chips and dessert; Spaghetti, Italian bread, salad and dessert; Fettuccine Alfredo, italian bread, salad and dessert; or Barbeque Sandwiches, chips, coleslaw and dessert; Chili and fixings, corn pudding, salad and dessert.

How do you know how much to fix though? It is simple math. You can refer to the info below the next time you plan a party:

Appetizers: Allow 3 pieces of appetizers of each type you will serve per person. Offer at least 2-3 different appetizers.

Meats: Allow ⅓ – ½ lb of meat per person.

Side Dishes: Allow ⅓-½ cup per person per side dish.

Bread: Allow 1-2 pieces per person.

Desserts: Allow one serving per person. (Ex: Pies are cut into 8 slices, for 55 people you would need 7 pies).

Non-alcoholic Drinks: If individual servings (like cans or bottles), allow 2-3 per person. For Drinks by the gallon, remember that there are 16 8oz servings per gallon. So, for 55 people, you will need 3-4 gallons of beverage. This can be divided between the available beverages.

Alcoholic Drinks: If individual servings (cans or bottles) allow 2 per person. Figure ½ bottle of wine per person.

In case you are curious – they opted for the BBQ dinner. I ended up buying 18 lbs. of pork shoulder and slow cooking it for 24 hours, adding the sauce a few hours before dinnertime. I made coleslaw using Ina Garten’s recipe (you can find it online) using 2 heads of cabbage and a few carrots and then made the dressing. I bought 64 buns, 4 of those huge bags of chips from Sam’s Club and a tray of 84 cookies as well. A basket of fresh fruit – bananas, clementines and grapes (easy finger foods) rounded out the dessert offering. The venue provided Iced Tea – 4 gallons as well as water in bottles. Everyone ate as much as they wanted and we had only a little left over.

If you want the recipe for any of the above which can easily be adapted for a large crowd, simply check out my website (www.loavesanddishe.net) where you will find the recipe for easy homemade spaghetti sauce, Fettuccine Alfredo and Easy Summer Party BBQ.

So, as I move my sleepy self out of this chair, I’ll be confident that while most of my skills would be totally useless in the wilderness, at least I’m helpful for party planning. Party on friends and eat well!

Here’s a shout out to Brenda Goad who emailed me that there is a blessing box at Delta United Methodist Church in Sandy Ridge that is managed by Troop Leader Lenea Brown and Troop 2072. There is another blessing box at the Lawsonville Community Building maintained by the Lawsonville Girl Scouts and their leader Amanda Joyce. Thanks Girl Scouts and Brenda!

If you are aware of any other blessing boxes in the county, please drop me a line at wendi@loavesanddishes.net. I would also love to hear about your adventures in cooking for large groups of people – what are your secrets and fun stories?


Wendi Spraker