Entertaining a Crowd

I love entertaining.  It is so wonderful to be able to welcome people into your home and serve them delicious food and drink.  Our house right now is not ideal for entertaining large crowds, but we can manage to host a pretty good medium-sized party.  My husband (who is an avid winemaker and homebrewer) always has the drink part covered and I am left to make sure we have an awesome meal!

This past weekend was my baby girl, Matilda Jane’s baptism into the Catholic faith.  We had about sixteen close family and friends attend the ceremony and luncheon at our home following her baptism.  For our Matida’s baptism, I decided it would be best to make food that could all be prepared ahead of time since we would be heading straight from the church to the party.  I don’t like being in the kitchen preparing food when my guests are over because it doesn’t allow me enough time to mingle and truly host.  If I am going to throw a party, I would like to make sure I get to attend it as well.

When planning your menu for your guests it is important to think about the type of event you are hosting, the number of people attending, and the types of food your guests would enjoy.  If it is a smaller group, then perhaps you will choose to do a plated meal, if a larger crowed, then generally buffet style is the way to go.  Menu planning is one of my favorite parts of hosting an event!

Here is the menu I decided on for my Matilda’s baptsim –  Chicken Salad on Croissants, Ruthie’s Spinach Salad, Caprese Pasta Salad, Apple Spice Bread, and Cake (which was provided by my in-laws).  My husband complimented these food choices with his own home-brewed beer, as well as a special beer called “Matilda” (fitting, right?), wine and champagne.

Entertaining Tip:  When having a party of six or more, always answer the door with a drink in your hand.  This will let you guests know that it is going to be a festive, relaxed time from the start!

Here are some of my recipes for entertaining a crowd:

Ruthie’s Spinach Salad
3/4 C. salad oil

1/2 C. sugar

1/2 C. red wine vinegar

3-4 cloves garlic

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

8 cups washed and dried baby spinach

1 C dried cranberries or cherries

4 ounces feta cheese crumbled

I/2 to 1 medium red onion thinly sliced

4-6 slices bacon -cooked and crumbled

1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

For dressing–combine all ingredients in a container with a tight fitting lid.  Cover and shake well to blend.

For the salad–combine all ingredients–toss with dressing just before serving.

Six servings

Note:  This salad is WONDERFUL!  It is a perfect balance of sweet and savory.  Also, in this case, the salad is best slightly overdressed.
Caprese Pasta Salad
Easy summer salad. Great side dish to take to picnics or bbq’s.

Cook time: 20 Minutes
Prep time: 15 Minutes
* 1/3 cup of olive oil
* 1/2 cup of drained, oil packed sun dried tomatoes
* 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar
* 1 tablespoon of capers
* 2 cloves of garlic chopped
* 1/2 teaspoon crushed red peppers
* 1 lb of fussili pasta
* 1 1/2- 2 cups chopped, seeded tomatoes
* 8 ounces of braided, marinated mozzarella chopped into 1/2 inch pieces. I use one from Trader Joes that has a good kick to it.
* 1 cup of packed fresh basil leaves
* 1 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
* 1/2 cup of minced, pitted black olives

* Blend first 6 ingredients in a processor until tomatoes are coarsely chopped.
* Cook pasta in a large pot of salted, boiling water until tender but firm to bite.
* Drain pasta and transfer to a large bowl.  Add dressing to hot pasta and toss to coat.
* Add chopped fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, Parmesan and olives.
* Toss well, cover and chill for an hour.  Bring to room temp before serving.  Can be made 6 hours ahead.

Chicken Salad
1 whole rotisserie chicken
1 cup mayo
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
Debone entire chicken and shred.  Combine chicken, mayo, salt, pepper, and rosemary.  Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.
Serve on fresh croissants.  Makes 18 croissant sandwiches.  

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