I did a meal for 140 missionaries about two weeks ago. The first thing I did was about a week before the meal, I bought two turkeys, each around 25 pounds, and I cooked them in roasters pans using my Spanish Turkey recipe. We had turkey for dinner that night, along with mashed potatoes, corn and peas, and rolls.
Later in the evening, when they had cooled down, I de-boned them, putting all the meat into one of the roaster pans, putting it into the freezer, and freezing the broth from the other turkey.
Then three days before the meal, I went to Sam’s Club and bought everything else that was needed. I bought around 50 pounds of hamburger and several #5 cans of pinto beans, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and corn. The next day, I pulled out my other three roaster pans and my large canning pot and I cooked all the hamburger. I then added all the ingredients to make Tammy’s Taco Pile-Ons.
The Taco Pile-On recipe is a real easy and inexpensive meal to make that I use when I have to feed a large group. We had a version of it in our buffet at the restaurant that we owned; only we had small cubed potatoes mixed in with it. Actually, you can make any variety that you like, but canned beans are the easiest and cheapest to add.
All of these pans went into the fridges. Then I mixed together two large mixing bowls of bread. One bowl was for Poppy Seed bread. The other bowl was for Apple Coconut Bread. Measuring is the most difficult part of baking for me, so if I am making a large batch, I just pull out my two large metal bowls and measure flour into one, and then measure flour into the second. Then do the same with the sugar, eggs, etc.
It is less work than making one batch and then turning around and making a second batch. That way, I only have the flour, etc. out only once, and use only the measuring cups one time. It goes faster and is easier. I also doubled my recipes and then doubled them again. So one batch of bread uses 12 cups of flour and 10 cups of sugar. I bought the large glass measuring cup that measures 4 cups at a time. That way if I need 12 cups, I only fill my cup 3 times (as 3 x 4 = 12). See how this is easier and faster? I can make 21 small loaves in almost the same amount of time someone can make 4 loaves…so why not make more and give bread away?
I also use baking spray, (which is different than cooking spray…it has flour mixed in with it) to spray the pans as this makes the whole process go faster, and makes sure the bread does not stick. After the bread is done. I leave it in the pans to cool down. In fact, I leave it in the pans until I am ready to cut and serve it. I do not put the bread in plastic or other containers. (If you think of a bakery…their products are not covered or in a container).
Sweet breads do best not covered, especially, my recipes as the top is crunchy. However, I do not want the bottom to dry out, which is the reason I leave it in the pans. I put all the pans of bread to the church in boxes (leaving the bread in the pans) and only took the bread out of the pans when I was ready to serve it.
Another thing I did, was to gather up all my utensils, knives, soap, sponges, etc. and put it in the car the night before. You never know when you go to a different kitchen if they will have exactly what you need…I just plan accordingly and take everything I think I will need.
I made a list of every dish I was serving then gathered and put into the car everything item I thought I would need. That way, the morning of the event, the only thing I had to put in the car were the food items from the fridges.
As you can see, I broke the work up over several days, and did things step by step. This is the way to do any large task.
The morning of the meal, four other individuals came to help me. I had asked 4 people who were real easy going, but good cooks and hard workers. We chopped up the lettuce and tomatoes. We put the shredded cheese and sour cream in containers with serving spoons. We opened the many packages of chips I bought and filled baskets and set them out on the tables.
I also brought 8 quarts of my home made salsa and we put it into small bowls with serving spoons and put it out on all the tables.
We put all the other food on 3 long tables where serving lines could go down both sides of the tables. We had the plates, bowls, etc. first, and then the bread cut up in trays, then the turkey and hamburger, then the cheese, lettuce, tomato, salsa, and chips.
Two other tables against the wall had small plates with strawberry shortcake on it.
I do not believe in serving people at events such as this. When you put the same amount of food on each plate and serve it to people, I can guarantee that you will throw away a vast amount of food afterwards.
People are not cattle. They do not all eat the same amount of food. Some will eat more, some will eat less. Some are vegetarians and will not eat the meat. With our meal, they could easily make a salad and eat salsa with chips. Those who are glutton-free could actually eat everything except the desserts.
I had three types of meat combinations. Individuals could choose what they prefer and only take food that they like, thereby eliminating waste. It also goes faster to let them go through the lines and the food stays hotter in the big roaster pans. I have been to many events where I was served cold food…not ever a good thing.
Yes, I do have to admit that being served is always nice and does make you feel important…but as the host or person in charge of the meal…I have to ask myself this question, “What is more important? To make them feel good that I served them? Or to allow them their choice to choose how much food and what items they want and that the food is hot.”
I go with the latter and it has served me well through the years. People always leave full, happy, and say they felt welcome and comfortable. AND, I did not kill myself serving them and therefore do not mind entertaining because I haven’t made it such a chore. (A secret to life and entertaining that took me years to learn, but sure has made my life easier…relax, chill out, and enjoy your friends…)
Seek to Bless; Not Impress