Cooking for a Crowd | Meals You Can Make Ahead

When it comes to entertaining, are you the kind of person who welcomes it or the kind who panics?  I must admit that I do both.  I love having large get-togethers but often panic during the planning stages.  Will there be enough food?  How do I know how much to make?  Will it be done on time?  All very valid questions and concerns.  My solution – cook as much of it ahead as I can.  Meals you can make ahead can be true lifesavers when it comes to cooking for a crowd.

We ended up having both sides of our family for Thanksgiving – one side on Thursday and the other side on Friday.  My husband and I both come from a large family so we had 20-30 guests for dinner, two days in a row.  Here’s how we accomplished the “feat”.

We had the traditional turkey dinner on Thursday.  My siblings will bring anything I request so I was sure to “farm out” anything that I could not make ahead.  I knew I could do the desserts ahead so I made those (pumpkin pie, pecan pie and a cheesecake).  I have a great make ahead mashed potato recipe that can go into the CrockPot so I did that.  Cranberry sauce (yes, my mother always cut the slices straight from the can so that’s what they all like!) and corn for the kids – easy peasy.   I toasted the bread cubes and chopped the veggies for the stuffing the day before so that was easy to assemble and bake.  I actually found a great recipe for make ahead gravy ( and it turned out to be pretty good. And I did the turkey of course (one baked early, sliced and into fridge and the second done at dinner time).


And on Friday, I knew we would all have turkey on Thursday so I opted to do baked/roasted chicken pieces instead.  Again, I washed the chicken and seasoned it early.  The only thing I had to do right at dinner time was to peel and slice some apples for “baked” apples, which is actually done in the microwave and is totally hands off after it all goes in (very easy and doesn’t require room on top of the stove or in the oven).  I made a spinach salad ahead of time and the dressing was made early in the day too.  We had leftover pie and dessert from Thursday and my sister-in-law brought more dessert (just in case).  And another sister-in-law brought mac and cheese.  The chicken baked all afternoon and was easy to serve right out of the oven.

Planning ahead and cooking ahead is the only thing that saved me… well, that and family members who also supply food!  I am always on the lookout for recipes that I can make ahead.  We had two fabulously good home-cooked meals and we all kept our sanity in check.

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