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Volume II
November 7, 2006

Be Prepared for Your Crowd
By Amy Hunt

Surveys have shown that many people regard entertaining as stressful as having a root canal, especially if you don't regard yourself as an expert chef. To avoid the trauma, you can hire a private chef or caterer, or take everyone to a restaurant or function hall. But sometimes these options simply don't work--whether due to cost, or space availability, or more likely that you want your guests to feel an intimate, at-home ambiance.

It goes without saying that planning ahead will relieve the stress of cooking for a crowd and help you to get out of the kitchen faster. Here are a few tips to help you with your advance plannin:

  • Don't forget to use Cook'n to help you! Cook'n's menu planning and grocery shopping features are a great asset for planning special events like this.
  • Make a list of all dishes you plan on serving, and consider the cost of the ingredients you will need as you choose your recipe(s). Stay with the types of dishes you're comfortable preparing. Go for familiar food with a twist and easy but beautiful presentations.
  • Start with smart shopping by stocking up on pantry items a week in advance and for perishables one or two days in advance. That way when you forget something, you have time to run back to the store.
  • Select menu items that can be made a day or two in advance so you are not exhausted and can enjoy the party. Select foods that can be served cold or at room temperature and that can be served family style on large platters for quick serving.
  • Decide in advance which recipes to make first. Plan cooking and preparation times accordingly.
  • Be sure you have pots, pans and serving dishes large enough to prepare and serve your recipe(s).
  • Try to incorporate healthy foods into your menu by thinking of ways to add fruits and vegetables to your menu; they are inexpensive, filling and healthy. Don't be afraid to add color because the more colorful the food, the higher the nutrients.
  • Crockpots are perfect for keeping foods warm. Plan on borrowing an extra one for a large party.
  • To keep foods cold, nestle the serving dish in a bowl or tray of ice. An ice chest can also come in handy.
  • Be realistic about how much you can do by yourself. Enlist help and delegate chores so you don't get overwhelmed.
  • Buffets mean folks eat more, so if you want to serve this way, remember your guests will have a tendency to eat one-third more food because it all looks so good. Think about lower calorie options for those that are concerned about their waistlines.
  • Set the table the night before if you're planning seating arrangements. That helps to reduce confusion among your guests as well as yourself. Arrange seasonal accessories the night before so you'll have plenty of time to enjoy your guests.
A little advanced planning can make all the difference between delicious food & fun times and disaster! Also, Dan wanted me to add the following tips that he learned from the School of Hard Knocks:
  • Don't get mad at your spouse for not doing enough when things go bad!
  • Asking your spouse for specific help ahead of time is much better than getting mad minutes before or (even worse) during the event! (I'm not saying Kathy has gotten mad at me...I'm just...guessing that this would be a good tip, yeah...that's it.)
  • Poor planning does not constitute an emergency on your spouse's part (well, OK, maybe it does but nice during the emergency...please! :))
  • Make a List! Keep a pencil and paper in your pocket and when you think of something that needs to happen for the party to take place, JOT IT DOWN! It's too hard to keep track of it all in your brain...and when your brain gets full, you will get stressed. Not only does jotting it down relieve your stress but your spouse can look at the list and find ways to help without being asked!
  • Finally, let the men watch the football game before and/or after the's tradition.
  • Don't tell Kathy about this newsletter article...let's just keep it our little secret. OK? :)
If you have any additional tips that you'd like to add, please post them on the Cook'n Club Forum (if you're a Cook'n Club Member)...or e-mail them to

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