It seems like every time our enormous family gets together, I somehow get assigned the task of putting together a menu of our meals. In all fairness, I usually offer to help out so it's my own fault. :) There were 51 people at the ranch this year so it definitely took a lot of planning. I also didn't want to cook (or eat) a bunch of junk either so not only was I having to create a menu for a large group, but a healthy one at that! I'm happy to report that it was a success and I thought I'd share a few tips for how to successfully feed a large group.
M o n d a y
dinner: summer soup and salad (everyone was just arriving so it wasn't anything fancy - in fact, I wasn't even there yet)
T u e s d a y
lunch: taco salad + watermelon
dinner: grilled hamburgers, salmon burgers and black bean burgers with watermelon strawberry fruit salad, chips + salsa
W e d n e s d a y
lunch: taco pizza (black bean spread, lettuce, pico de gallo, cheese, cilantro and salsa sour cream drizzle)
dinner: whole wheat spaghetti with San Marzano tomato sauce, steamed broccoli + corn on the cob
T h u r s d a y
dinner: pulled pork or roasted vegetable sandwiches with pesto aioli (I'll be posting this recipe soon!) + summer fruit
F r i d a y
lunch: tortellini pasta salad with sandwiches
dinner: vegetable soup with garlic bread
S a t u r d a y
lunch: pinto bean chili + cornbread
dinner: baked sweet potatoes with southwest toppings (sauteed spiced corn, black beans, grilled peppers and onions, pico de gallo, sour cream, cheese, avocado and cilantro) + green salad
B r e a k f a s t
Everyone gets up on their own schedule so we didn't have a designated "breakfast time". It was a fend for yourself kind of situation but there was always a steady stream of whole wheat pancake batter and a hot griddle to make your own + a pan of scrambled eggs + a pot of steel cut oats every morning so everyone came in and made their own.
S n a c k s
People tend to get the munchies right during dinner prep time. There's nothing more inconvenient than having people loitering around the kitchen while you're trying to chop vegetables, so we assigned someone to be in charge of a snack every day (usually they put it out at 2 p.m.) Here's a few ideas: hummus with pita chips + veggies, crackers + cheese, chips + salsa or a tray of sliced fruit + nuts.
A s s i g n m e n t s
My mom put together the assignments of who was in charge of each meal while at the ranch. None of the men folk were included in this for our family, but I suspect that's because we don't have any cooking types in the Nielson males. What seemed to work well was having two people in charge of the meal. There were always more willing hands to help if needed, but it was nice knowing who was divvying up assignments for that meal.
M a k i n g i t f u n !
As much work as it was, I actually loved being in the kitchen with my sisters and sisters-in-law (and sometimes my nieces helped as well). We talked, laughed and listened to a lot of George Strait. Time spent in the kitchen usually are some of my favorite memories.