How do you cook for large crowd? Part 2 – Planning
How do you plan the meal for the large crowd?
If you have followed along our first part,you may have guessed that prayerful planning is the next logical step .We went through couple of meal ideas from spaghetti and meatballs, soup and salad, pulled pork sandwiches,BBQ chicken plate,tacos to name a few.
Our first grandiose plan was to make chicken enchilada with rice and beans, sopapilla cheesecake for dessert. We quickly realized that enchilada casserole is far easier to make then rolling tortillas for 100s of enchiladas.You would agree right? Great thinking Emily and Camille! We also changed sopapilla cheesecake to cookies at that point. Wise step I would say.
Serving through Taking it to the Streets ministry has many advantages. We didn’t have to do the ground work. Place to serve and logistical details were already laid out for us. Ministry provides serving plates, bowls, utensils, napkin, drinks. We only had to bring cooked food. Recently they added tables for our guests to sit down and enjoy the meal. Tray and table system worked beautifully together to make sure everyone was served on time and well fed.
Couple of points that we thought through as we planned our big day menu (and changed parts of it)
- Keep it simple.You have heard it before. This is not the time to display your gourmet cooking skills. Prepare the time tasted recipes. Go through your list of easy recipes and think which one you can multiply number of times.
- Be aware of your kitchen capacity. Most of us are not the professional cooks. We are home cooks. Cooking for our family is the most we have done. Most of us do not have mega pots and pans. Most of us have small kitchen with single oven and limited refrigerator space. However do not let the space and equipment alone be the reason to say ‘NO’. Pray about it. Trust in God, He provides in ways you cannot think of. People have cooked in small apartment and tiny kitchen to serve in this ministry. Our God equips.
- Know the serving size. How much chicken-rice-beans/person? What pot and pan you are using to carry and serve at the place? How many serving each pot/pan has? We used the biggest aluminum pans that we can find (20 by 12) for enchiladas and smaller ones for rice and beans.You do not need to buy everything in big size.You need to think if it will be reusable for individual family purposes if unused. Great tip from Emily.
- Write down all the details on paper or phone and carry it with you while you are shopping. It is easy to forget and miss things.
- Shop with at least one of your cooking partner. We did. It was fun. It helps with the doubts that come when you are shopping at such large scale. We probably calculated the cups, pounds and cans couple of times while we were shopping, even though we had it written down. We changed original ‘ranchero beans’ to ‘refried beans’ on fly as we had planned originally. It turned out to be convenient and better plan but came with quick recalculation.
- Can the part of the meal be prepared ahead? Does it need to be cooked on stove top or it is oven baked or both? We all did part of the cooking, a day in advance. It helped us greatly.I benefited from prep ahead cooking that Emily did. She boiled her chicken a day before, which freed up her big pots that I borrowed later in the day. Huge help for me.
- Can you optimize the cooking time? I did most of my cooking on Friday morning for the casserole.I boiled the chicken first and cooked the rice in the chicken broth. It saved time by not having to bring the water to boil again and rice was cooked in the broth goodness.
- How well the menu can be delegated among your helpers? Is your menu easy to divide and conquer or will it be unevenly distributed among your cooking team? If it is unevenly divided, is it easy to throw it together like pot of soup?
- Is the final dish easy to transport? How well you can secure the pots or pans? Will it spill over with sudden break, uneven gravel road, and slick rainy road(Yes,it does rain in Texas sometime!)? Something to think about.
- Does the meal taste good at the room temperature/cold or must it be served hot? We want to serve the hot meal to our friends but it can be challenging to keep the meal hot till the point of feeding. Your cooked food will likely spend some time sitting at your kitchen counter/table, some more time to travel and some time again to set, scoop and serve at the place. So it is important aspect of menu planning.
Our shopping cart and checking lanes raised curiosity. Smile and answer the questions you may get. Small conversation can open the doors and windows for those who are hearing, possibility to bring one to Christ. Who knows where God is leading you to plant seeds?
Regardless of what your menu is, do not forget to pray throughout. You get clarity with time under God’s guidance.
“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:3