For the past two years, we’ve been having a (Sorta) monthly open-house style lunch for our church volunteers and their families. We don’t require RSVPs, my husband simply says, “Maria is making this and this, bring something if you want but you don’t have to. If we run out we’ll make ramen or box Mac n cheese”. For the record, we’ve never run out.
We’ve had anywhere from 17-39 people over. (I actually write down who was there for what meal, because I’m a data junkie.) Homemade Tamales in December are our big draw.
My goal for these meals: it needs to be delicious, affordable, and able to be 90% fixed ahead (we usually do lunch, so I need food to be kept warm while I help at church then everyone arrives at 12:30, so I have about 15 minutes of fast prep to do something fresh.) And I also like things that will appeal to picky kids and adults too. Usually something with options or deconstruction-ability.
Dessert is almost always homemade ice cream or cheesecake. Both can be made days ahead and served nice and cold. Most people don’t make their own ice cream, so if you want an easy wow dessert, go for cheesecake. My recipe is so easy and adaptable.
Main dishes- to keep it cheap and able to be kept warm I think about soups or sauces to stretch a small amounting meat (and I’ll make spaghetti or angel hair pasta in that 15 minute window fresh before guests arrive), or our favorite taco beef or a Mexican spiced pulled pork because of toppings people require far less meat than if you were grilling a hamburger for each guest.
Last years’ menu…
French onion soup and Salad and chocolate croissants (Feb 18)
Aranchini with marinara or arrabiata sauce and salad and chocolate cheesecake (March 18) (This was delicious, but I was frying these inside while guests arrived. It’s cheap, but labor intensive. I also made spaghetti noodles.)
Ancho Orange Pork or Ground Meat Tacos with all the fixin’s and Raspberry sherbet (May 20)
Skyline Chili and caramel apple cheesecake and pumpkin cheesecake (Oct 28)
Tamales and hot chocolate and homemade marshmallows and gingerbread cookies (Dec 17) (Tamales stretch meat like nobody’s business, but they take a looong time to cook.)
Tonight, I’m serving Beef and Mushroom stroganoff, homemade Mac n cheese, salad with homemade ranch , and Salted Caramel Butter Pecan ice cream.
Actually I think people will come over if invited no matter what you fix. But if money has been the factor for choosing to not host a small crowd, I hope a few of these ideas will help.
How about you? What meal is your go to when cooking for a crowd?