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Large Group Menus

If you’re looking for fun, well thought out, easy to recreate and serve, delicious menus and recipes for your next large group event, you’re in the right place.  I’ve been directing large group cooking for years from primitive Girl’s Camps with only fire pits and grills to a 4 day Youth Conference for 230 to a back yard Luau for 170 of our closest friends.   I’ve learned a few things along the way and I’m here to share them with you.

Below you’ll find links to menu ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner, parties, and camping.  These links will take you to pages with multiple menus already created for you.  Each menu links to its own page complete with Game Plan/Time line and all recipes. This is all you need if you’re new to cooking for a crowd.  The menus and recipes are very easy to prepare and serve.  All recipes can be assigned out to volunteers to make in advance.  Go for it!

 

Links to Large Group Menus

Looking for fantastic field tested menus and recipes for large groups when you’re cooking for a crowd? These links will take you to the meal of your choice, with lots of great recipe options.

 

Creating Your Own Large Group Menu

Each of the Aloha Dreams menus has been designed to minimize your stress levels by using proven recipes and techniques.  Each recipe in every menu was specifically chosen based on your ability to make part, or all, of it in advance. These dishes all hold very well once prepared without drying out or losing their appeal.  They are easy to make and most of all, THEY TASTE GREAT!!  But should you decide you want to create your own menu, there are some things you’ll want to consider.

A successful large group menu must take into consideration:

  1. The theme and venue
  2. The palate of your guests
  3. Preparation time
  4. Transportation of ingredients and finished food
  5. Assistance
  6. Your cooking appliances & electrical availability
  7. Your serving/warming appliances
  8. Your storage facilities and refrigeration and freezer space

Let’s look at each of those menu considerations in a bit more depth:

Successful Large Group Menu Considerations

The theme and venue

Supporting the theme of the event with your menu selections just adds that much more fun to the activity.  Keep the theme in mind as you’re choosing your various recipes.  Another fun way to pay up the them is with buffet labels.  I really appreciate when good items are labeled on a buffet.  Folks may not be able to tell by looking what’s in your dip.  A buffet label will not only tell them, it’s a great opportunity to 

One way to do that is with food signs.  Food signs are an important part of any large group buffet line

I really appreciate when buffets are labeled. Believe it or not, that spinach and crab dip really could be something completely different. Not only is it a nice touch, it’s also helpful – especially when more and more Americans have food allergies. (Are those sugar cookies or peanut butter cookies? I can’t tell!) Buffet labels are something that many (not all) hotels and caterers already provide. It’s becoming more common at weddings and formal events, but you can really do this for any events – even for entertaining at home. While buffet labels serve a utilitarian purpose, there’s no reason why you can’t have fun with them!ch more fun to the activity.  One way to do that is with food signs.  Food signs are an important part of any large group buffet line

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If time and resources permit, you’ll want to decorate the table to support the theme.  Colorful table cloths and flowers go a long way. I also like to serve on

Fine Line Settings 6 Piece Square Platters Serving Set + Utensils (Heavyweight Plastic)

Finally, I always have theme-appropriate music playing in the serving area and during the meal.  Nothing sets the stage for 230 hungry teens to hit the Western-themed Youth Conference dinner buffet better than the theme to ‘Bonanza’ playing in the background!  They love it.

You are not going to be able to cook the same menu for Girl’s Camp (with no stove) that you can for Youth Conference (with 3 professional ranges).  Not that I haven’t tried.  And learned.

The palate of your guests

Also, you are not going to want to cook the same meal for Youth Conference that you do for the Ward Adult Christmas Dinner.  If you’re cooking for youth, there are things they love (hamburgers, pizza, chocolate milk and nachos) and things they are just plain tired of (can anyone say Baked Potato Bar?).  Adults, on the other hand, enjoy the opportunity to explore new tastes and recipes, such as “Mushrooms in a Dijon Cream Sauce” (heavenly, and you will win LOTS of fans with this one!).   Keep these things in mind as you are selecting your menu.

Preparation time

For those items not being made in advance, consideration must be given to the preparation time of the menu items.

Transportation

There are several things to consider here.  First of all, you need to consider the volume of the food you’re picking up yourself (another good reason to get volunteers to help cook) and ensure that your transportation vehicle is large enough to hold it all.   Are you picking up the meat, dairy or freezer items yourself?  You’ll want to bring enough large coolers to hold all your items plus some ice to keep them cold.  Speaking of ice, you’ll either need enough coolers to transport it or arrange for large quantity ice delivery to your venue.  Serving ice cream?  Don’t forget some dry ice for the cooler to keep it cold.  And bring some gloves to handle the dry ice too.   Plan to have volunteers meet you at the venue to help unload.

Assistance

And speaking of volunteers…..unless you have access to a professional kitchen (with plenty of counter space, oven capacity, and refrigeration/storage capacity) you do not want to cook these menu items yourself.  Trust me.  I do this on a regular basis, and even I don’t want to cook all the menu items myself.  Your best approach is to select 1 item to cook yourself and then delegate the remaining items. I provide each of my volunteers a link to the recipe and the quantity needed.  Most people are intimidated with cooking quantities to serve more than 20 or 30.   So what I do is divide my anticipated guest list by 20 or 30 (at most 40) and then solicit 5 or 6 volunteers to each make that item.  This ensures that the food is consistent, conforms to our needs and is a known (meaning very good) quantity.  Don’t get me wrong, potlucks are fun, but this is neither the time, nor the place.  If (and only if) there is a professional kitchen available, these items can be cooked at the venue. Otherwise, the items can be cooked at the volunteer’s home and transported to the event to be held in warming devices such as slow cookers or roaster ovens.

Your cooking appliances & electrical availability

This is a BIGGIE.  You have to make sure that you do not require 3 items to go into your (2) ovens at the same time.  You can have the best casserole in the world, but if your oven space is already committed you’re in trouble.  The good news is that there are multiple ways to skin that cat.  You can cook in the oven, on the stovetop, in a roaster oven or in a slow cooker.  Once the food is done it can be kept warm for a short period in the oven or roaster oven, slow cooker, or even a cooler.   You just have to make sure you’ve charted it out.  It’s really all about logistics.

This looks like an ideal holding area right?

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Yep, that’s what I thought too.  It was beautiful: 25 foot of counter space with 10, count ’em, 10 duplex electrical outlets. I have died and gone to serving and prep heaven.   A perfect staging area for our meal warming in 4 roaster ovens and 6 slow cookers.  We plugged everything in several hours in advance, turned the settings to Low and went on with our business.   Life was good, until I did a quick check 30 minutes later, only to find everything stone cold and turned off.  Seems those 8 electrical outlets WERE ALL ON THE SAME CIRCUIT.  (Who does that??).   So my tidy, handy holding area was dismantled and the roaster ovens and slow cookers sent to locations through out the building on tables, the floor (please don’t tell), whatever I could find.  My tidy vision, dissolved into…

…THIS:

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  • Your serving/warming appliances

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  • Your storage facilities and refrigeration and freezer space

The first rule in cooking for a crowd is to choose the right recipes.

A successful large group recipe must take into consideration:

  1. Be easy to delegate with minimal instruction, require no complex preparation or precision
  2. Be scalable, using standard quantities purchased at big box discount stores, such as Sam’s Club and COSTCO
  3. Be able to be made in advance, or at least prepped in advance
  4. Hold really well
  5. And most importantly, taste REALLY GREAT!

Each of my Aloha Dreams Large Group Recipes meets these criteria.  They have each been tested in large quantities by me and, most importantly, received RAVE REVIEWS when served.  Check back often as I will be adding more regularly!

I’ve personally served every one of these recipes to a wide variety of people.   Many are also teen (and tween) tested and get an enthusiastic thumbs up based on their strict approval criteria. Best of all, these large group recipes are easy to make whether you’re cooking for 20 or 200 or beyond! All the ingredients are scaled to match the larger quantity ingredient sizes at Sam’s Club, making preparation instructions clear and easy to delegate.

Side Note: In a large group of people (especially youth) you’re bound to have several people with gluten intolerance, nut or fruit allergies and vegetarian, vegan or Paleo preferences. Because the nut allergies can be life-threatening none of these menus include any nuts or nut products. Regarding preferences, I’m an unashamed omnivore/carnivore, but the true definition of a lady or a gentleman is someone who makes everyone around them as comfortable as possible (thank you, Blast from the Past).  With that in mind, especially when serving a large group of youth, I will typically make up a nice salad bowl and/or fruit platter to serve 10 or so.   I keep this on the side and anyone who expresses an issue with the buffet selection is directed to it.

So, let’s look at each of our recipe criteria in a bit more depth.

Successful Large Group Recipe Considerations

Be easy to delegate

Do yourself a favor,  send around a sheet for volunteers to sign up

 

Be scalable, using standard quantities

Be able to be made in advance

Hold really well

And most importantly, taste REALLY GREAT!

Not everything is for everyone, but unless I get multiple rave reviews, a recipe doesn’t get to remain in the AlohaDreams line up.

I’ve included a punch list and time line with each menu to remove any worries.  Each recipe was specifically chosen based on your ability to make part, or all, of it in advance. These dishes all hold very well once prepared without drying out or losing their appeal.  They are easy to make and most of all, THEY TASTE GREAT!!

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