Sunday, June 27, 2010

Hosting a Crowd

This weekend, I had a bunch of friends over, from Thursday till mid-Sunday (with people arriving at varying times), which meant lots of cooking for me (I TRULY enjoyed it). I wanted a menu that would appeal to lots of people, work for large crowds (at the height of everything, we had 20 people here total between adults and kids), and not be too much work. I think it all worked out (even my friend who eats gluten-free was able to enjoy a few things, though I wished I had more on the menu for her).

I planned my menu about a week ahead of time, choosing things I have cooked more than once (several of which are on this blog) and made a pretty extensive grocery list (though I still ended up running out for a few forgotten things). I also tried to create menus that were flexible--meaning if I didn't feel like making one dish one day, I could substitute it with another from the next day.

I also gratefully accepted all offered help. My friends were FABULOUS and cut vegetables, boiled water, shredded cheese...all kinds of helpful jobs (including helping me keep up with the mountain of dishes!!). It became a truly fun event to cook, with everyone standing around in the kitchen enjoying munchies like mango salsa and homemade hummus in between preparing a meal.

Here are some of the recipes I made:

For snacks, we had Hummus (I only used 1/2 cup of the Tahini, more of a to-taste thing) and Samantha Hunter's Mango Salsa. This is SOOO yummy and easy. Use the fresh ingredients for sure.

Samantha Hunter's Mango Salsa

2-3 mangoes, peeled and diced
2-3 cups chopped and seeded tomatoes
2 shallots, minced
1/2 big bunch cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 T. ginger, minced (I use a micrograter to get it tiny)
2-3 T lime juice (about 2 limes)
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients and let sit for a couple hours before serving

Here are some of the other recipes I had:
Giada's Lasagna (pictured here). With this one, I substituted cooked Italian sausage and mushrooms for the ground beef. This was an AMAZING lasagna, if I say so myself. Simply delicious.
Served with: Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese (yummy and pretty easy). For dessert, we had Fruit Pavlova (pictured above).

For breakfast the next day, I did baked apple pancakes (basically, you layer apples on the bottom of a pie plate, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, then top with pancake batter. Bake at 350 until done; about 10-15 minutes).

We went out for lunch, then for dinner, prepared Giada's Baked Fettuccini, Insalata Rustica (read my notes here for the changes I've made to the recipe), Pan Roasted Chicken Breasts with Chausser Sauce, and for dessert, DH's favorite dessert, Ina Garten's Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars.

On the last day, I made an egg bake for breakfast, then had burgers and homemade potato salad. I tried to make the last day's dishes far lighter in prep work because we'd all been staying up WAY too late talking and laughing :-)

All in all, I think everyone had a great time, and I know they left with full bellies! One of my friends brought along these AMAZING peanut butter truffles. Loved them. I think spending time in the kitchen with good friends is one of the best things in life :-)



  1. This woman cooks with the fury of three Italian grandmothers! An amazing hostess. . . I was honored to be part of this get-together.

  2. Aw, thanks, Jennifer! It was so awesome to have you there, too :-)

  3. I'll have to second that! What a fabulous weekend! :-) Amazing cooking! And, she makes it look so easy!!! Thanks Shirley, you're the best!

  4. LOL, it was all pretty easy stuff, Jen! With the margaritas and the conversation, there was no way I was going to try anything too complicated :-)


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