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Volume I
September 30, 2002

Getting It Together

         Plan, Plan, and Plan! That is the key to pulling off successful group menus. Step by step, here's a checklist to think through when you host your next event.

  1. Where-Where are you gathering? Tour the kitchen facilities to know what you'll be working with. Plan menus that will utilize the available appliances (ovens, refrigerators, microwaves, BBQ grill, etc.) If no refrigerators are available, will you use coolers to keep food cold and safe? Perhaps you won't want to serve egg salad croissants at that beach party if you have to keep everything cold in limited cooler space. Also, is seating and table space abundant or scarce? If guests will be standing, finger foods, like buffalo wings, would be more manageable to eat than, say, steak!

  2. When-Will your event be in the morning, afternoon, or evening? Reflect on what guest's appetites will be at different times of the day. For example, people are generally more hungry in the afternoon period between lunch and dinner and will devour appetizers and beg for more. But light refreshments at an evening party would go over great as guests would most likely be full from dinner. Will the weather be hot or cold? Folks generally eat less in hot weather. The temperature of your menu will come into play here too. Do you really want to serve that favorite soup recipe in 90-degree weather?

  3. Who-The ages of the people you are feeding will influence the amount of food needed too. Children and elderly eat less than the high school pep club would. However, consider that girls (and sometimes women) have a tendency to grow finicky when their male peers are about.

  4. What-Now that you've considered the W's of meal planning, it's time for the fun! What will you serve? Never forget about the budget. Peruse recipe books or your Cook'n software for fun ideas. Centering your menu on a theme can help you narrow down food choices.

  5. How much? There are a few ways to "guesstimate" how much food you're going to need. Using a standard portion size chart, {Link to "But how much will they eat?"} multiply the recommended portion by the number of guests for the amount needed. Alternatively, you can come up with your own portions based on how and when the food will be served. For example, the portion size for soup to wet the palette would be about 1/2 cup. But for the main course, you'd probably want to plan for a full cup per person.

  6. Make your grocery list and check it twice to ensure you've got everything you need.

  7. Enlist volunteers! Remember, you want to enjoy the party, too. If you're completely worn out, how will you?

  8. Plan your cooking time (click here for an example). {SCAN of Time Plan} Segment your food preparation hours into 5-15 minute intervals. Then, reviewing your recipes, fill in what needs to be done and when in order to get it done by serving time. A plan such as this will help you organize oven and counter space. It will help you utilize any volunteers, and it will help you remember everything you planned to do. Basically, this list will keep you smiling and keep you from running around like a headless chicken!

  9. Clean as you go. There's probably nothing more discouraging than saying goodbye to guests, knowing you've got a sink full of pots to scrub and a kitchen floor slippery with grime.

  10. Gain food-safety savvy. The easiest way to lose your "great-cook" reputation is to have people get sick shortly after your party. Be cautious not to cross-contaminate foods (i.e., keep meat knives and cutting boards separate from salad knives and cutting boards). Warm foods to appropriate serving temperatures, and keep cold foods chilled. After everyone's been served, get the food out of the sun or off the counter and into the refrigerator. This will ensure that your leftovers keep you from getting sick later in the week.

  11. Take notes. Learn from your experience by keeping a "journal" of each gathering you host. Did you have enough food, volunteers, time, tables, and flatware? What worked? What didn't? What could have made the job easier? Write down all the helpful hints you've discovered. Then next time the gang's coming over, half your work will already be done.

         * DVO welcomes your kitchen hints and cooking or nutrition questions! Email us and we'll post your hints and Q/A's in upcoming newsletters! *

Feeding a Crowd

Crowd Pleasing Eats
Getting It Together
Common Serving Portions

Celery Crisper
Party Planner
High Altitude Baking
Parsley-the Sobriety Herb!

Great Truths
The Final Word on Nutrition and Health
Safety Parking

Neighborhood Night Games
3 Games to Play
Olympics for the Aged

The Skinny on Nutritional Analysis

Great Recipe from the Purdy Family
Comments from HomeCook'n Subscribers

Frugal Gourmets Requested
Announcing Cook'n with Pillsbury

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