“I’d love to host some dinner parties this summer in our new house, but I never know how much to cook, especially for a large group. Any tips on serving in big numbers?”
One of the most frustrating aspects of cooking for a crowd is the fear of running out of food.
I HATE seeing an empty pan on my serving table! So, how much should you buy? Too little, and you risk running out, too much and you’ve spent more than you need to.
Here are some general guidelines to help you calculate how many people you can serve with that raw chunk of meat on the butcher’s shelf…
When planning a meal, it is always better to purchase too much meat than not enough. Always be prepared for people with larger appetites.
The “Mystery Guest”
One trick I use is to add a “mystery” guest for every 4 confirmed.
In other words, I plan 5 portions for 4 people, 10 portions for 8, 15 for 12, etc. If there are leftovers, the cooked meat will keep in the refrigerator for several days or the unused portions may be frozen for long term storage.
Q:Regarding dieting, healthy eating, and shopping…I’m curious if you find special challenges on this endeavor since your a chef or if your knowledge of food helps.
I’m not a chef, but I do love food and my knowledge of nutrition has been very slowly expanding since I had my son. I find myself often wishing I knew more about the taste dynamic of different herbs, spices and foods that would help me to come up with more tasty versions of healthy dishes. Any tips?
What with jobs, getting settled in, school, hobbies, and…other stuff…many of us can look back on that first year or two of married bliss and admit that those wonderful memories didn’t always extend to the kitchen.
A hautemealz.com gift subscription (monthly, or a full year) is a great way to make sure those crazy kids are enjoying healthy, delicious, and easy-to-prepare meals, that fit their budgets and hectic schedules.
Cooking for little ones (and not so little ones) often presents some unique challenges.
While, obviously, you want to provide them with nutritious meals, it can be a pain in your….patience…to get them to eat the foods that are best for their growing bodies. We’re all probably well aware of the food plate and the number of servings our children need of healthy grains, proteins, fruits, vegetables, and calcium products.
Getting them to eat these nourishing foods…well, that’s another matter altogether, isn’t it?
Here’s the good news when cooking for children: you do not need to incorporate all the important nutrients into every dinner. This is not Chopped, and the judges won’t send you home for not using all of the ingredients.
If the dinner table has become a battle ground, if the kids are marching to the table, already prepared for war…go guerilla on them! Avoid pitched battles and sneak those healthy foods behind enemy lines when they least expect them.
Let’s face it…raw cucumbers, thinly sliced and sprinkled with salt, are freakin’ awesome, and make a much healthier snack than potato chips! But don’t just chuck a bowl of them in their face like a hand grenade…just set them out of the table, let them see you nibbling a couple yourself, and their own natural curiosity will eventually spring the trap.
Jungle warfare, baby!
The same holds true for melon and cantaloupes. These make excellent snacks and are a much-needed fruit in these important diets for little ones.
Here’s another biggie: If they don’t like apple slices…DON’T GIVE THEM APPLE SLICES! How hard is that? I don’t care if YOU love apple slices, if you do…great, YOU eat them. Give them some options. The goal here is not notches on your rifle-stock, it’s winning the war, long term!
MESS HALL FARE
There’s an old saying that an army marches on its stomach, and many a war has been lost not to bad planning, or bad soldiers, but to a lack of good food.
By the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.
Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids, in our MY KITCHEN Outreach Program.
Bad attitudes, lack of motivation, poor school performance…all of these “symptoms” have been tied to a lack of proper nutrition.
Regardless of what we think we can or can’t cook, the reality is that our kids cannot live on macaroni and cheese alone. It’s been tried and tested and failed miserably.
Try mixing things up whenever you can while keeping meals kid friendly. It is important that you try to introduce whole grains, proteins, and vegetables whenever possible at meal times around your home. Remember the “2 out of 3” rule:
Kids (and many adults) are quicker to accept a new dish if at least 2 out of every 3 ingredients are familiar favorites. Their favorite peanut-butter and jelly can be a Trojan Horse for whole-grain bread or crackers. Shredded cauliflower, carrots, or broccoli virtually disappear inspaghetti sauce. Land mine that home-cooked macaroni with cheese sauce (not that glowing-orange powdered junk) with fresh cooked peas and carrots.
You get the idea!
Cooking healthier meals for kids is now easier than ever before. Fresh fruits and vegetables are best whenever possible. However, if you cannot manage fresh, or frozen, at least avoid “canned with syrup” (swimming in sugary tooth-rotting sweetness) whenever possible. Frozen is far preferable to canned when it comes to both fruit and vegetables, as there are often fewer additives.
Turn their ration of milk into dessert (and get a healthy dessert at the same time) by mixing it into a frozen fruit, like ourBlueberry Slush.
TRAIN THE TROOPS
Encourage your children to try new things rather than cooking the same few meals over and over again that you know they are likely to eat. This prevents two things from happening. First of all, it helps you not to get bored when cooking for your children.
Second, it allows your children to try new flavors and textures and form opinions about them. By trying new things they will learn not only about the things they dislike but also the foods they really enjoy.
Kids tastes change over time. It’s frustrating, I know, to spend time and money preparing a meal only to have your child push the plate away and say “Yuck.”
Hey peeps, the hautemealz.com crew is going to start teaching a sort of “intro to home cooking” series of workshops for underprivileged kids and families.
For the sake of this question, assume we’re discussing people with a near-zero level of kitchen experience. I’m working on some themes for our “syllabus”, and I’d like you to answer one question for me, from the perspective of home cooking…
“What makes bad food/a bad meal?”
No rules, no guidelines, no “level of expertise” required. Read into that question anything you want, but PLEASE respond with something helpful. “Bad cooks”…is not helpful, lol.
We believe that, with the proper education, good , healthy meals can be prepared simply and on almost any budget, and that’s what we want to teach.
I was talking to a fellow business person at our Chamber of Commerce meeting this morning about next week’s KOIN6/ Impact NW Toy Drive, and how we are cooking a big Italian dinner for the families and kids that come in for toys on December 14th.
After I told her all about it, she asked me an interesting question. “So, why did you choose to work with the toy drive?”
I’m sure she was expecting me to say that we’re doing it for the kids, or because we feel a ethical or spiritual responsibility to give back (and both of those are true), but they’re not my reason why.”I do it for my Mom,” I told her.It seems that most of the focus during the Christmas season, especially at an event like the toy drive, is all about the kids (and that’s a good thing!), but as a daddy myself, I can’t help but think about the parents, too.
As terrible as it seems, to think of a child waking up on Christmas with nothing from “Santa”, how much more terrible must it be to be that child’s parent?
How crushing and desolating would it be for a mom or dad, already (obviously) in a tough place, to wake up on Christmas morning without a single gift for their child to open?
You see, one December, about thirty-five years ago, my mom and I were in a tough place. Recently divorced, a glitch in the welfare system had temporarily stopped my invalid mom’s meager monthly allotment of food stamps and disability coverage, and we were broke…I mean, living on nothing but boiled potatoes and government cheese, stoney broke. (I know some of you have read this story, bear with me.)
My mother was getting up every morning not knowing what she was going to feed her child that day, of if the power would be turned off that day, or, God forbid, if I’d get sick and need cold medicine, or something.On top of that, Christmas was coming and there was nothing. Nothing.Then, just a couple of days before Christmas, someone, at someplace very like the ImpactNW Toy Drive, gave my mother a small box of toys, a roll of wrapping paper, and some scotch tape.
They weren’t fancy toys. In fact, they weren’t even new toys…but they were something. Something to wrap and put under the tree, something to see her child run out early Christmas morning, laughing and excited, and tear into. What someone gave my mom was a gift far greater that whatever I unwrapped that morning, they gave her a glimmer of hope, a momentary lifting of her flagging self worth, and maybe even a little whisper from above saying, Hey Betty, I haven’t forgotten you guys…
I owe someone for that. To pay-forward what someone did for my mom.
That’s why I do it.
So, I encourage you, whether you want to be a part of what we’re doing with ImpactNW and KOIN6 (and, yeah, I’m gonna hit you up for that in a second), or whether you have a local church or community toy drive, or even if you just know a neighbor or co-worker who’s in a tough place and maybe needs a little whisper from above… pay it forward.
It doesn’t have to be expensive; it doesn’t have to be fancy…believe me, I know.
I personally guarantee you, every penny we receive will be spent on the meal, and any extra will be donated to ImpactNW to buy additional toys and gifts. If you include your contact information with your donation, ImpactNW would be happy to send you a tax-deductible receipt for your donation, as well.
If you can’t give much, I totally understand, every little bit really does help.
If you can’t give anything financially, I really do understand that too…and ask that you would give the most important gift of all…please pray for the families and children that are in need this season, and ask God how you can help.
He has something for you, trust me.
If you’re local, and would rather donate a new, unwrapped toy, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll make a plan to pick that up from you before December 14th, or get you the location of your local drop-off.
Usually in emergency situations, the power goes out and your refrigerator, freezer, and oven become useless.
Stocking your kitchen with the right ingredients and equipment ensures that you’ll be able to prepare healthy meals even in times of crisis.
Fresh water is number one on the list. Keep a minimum of one gallon of water per person, per day, and an extra stash for pets. “If stored water was bottled at home, we recommend replacing it every 6 months, and if it was commercially bottled, it should be replaced each year,” says the Red Cross.