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Family Reunions – Potluck Favorites and Crowd Pleasers

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Family Reunions – Potluck Favorites and Crowd Pleasers

Feeding the Masses

Well, there’s nothing I like to talk about more than how and what to feed a huge group of people. No really, I honestly LOVE talking about it. As in, if you don’t want to spend at least 37 (ok, 58) minutes of your precious time, you probably better not ask me any questions related to this subject. Yeah, yeah, I need to get a life. But until then, let’s talk about feeding a crowd, shall we??

You see, I’ve had my fair share of experience in this department. From about January 2015 to November 2017, my family and I (along with lots and lots of other volunteers and helpers that I recruited – basically, the ones who couldn’t avoid me quick enough) regularly fed between 85 to 125 construction workers and office personnel building an LDS temple in my area. I planned the menu, recruited help, and my kids often helped pack the brown bags stuffed with a treat, napkin, water bottle and utensils. I think all said and done, we served upwards of 30 lunches for this hungry group.

To say that I became extremely proficient in creating menus for large crowds (and doing an insane amount of dishes after) is an understatement. But the experience made me even more passionate, if that’s possible, in regards to all the details related to feeding lots of people. I mean, if you’re going to go to the work of making an amazing meal, you might as well make it to feed 100, right? Er, or maybe not.

Crowd-Pleasing Potluck Favorites

Over the years, I’ve learned a thing or two about what works (and what doesn’t) when feeding a crowd. From my experience with the construction crew lunches, as well as countless family reunions, I’ve developed a repertoire of go-to dishes that are not only delicious, but also crowd-pleasing and easy to prepare in large quantities.

Let’s start with one of the most popular meals we served to the construction workers – Sweet Pork Cilantro Lime Rice Bowls. This customizable dish was a total hit every time. I used a combination of recipes, but the basic idea was to serve shredded pork (either this tomatillo pork or the sweet pork from this recipe) over cilantro lime rice, with a slew of tasty toppings like shredded cheese, chopped tomatoes, sour cream, guacamole, and those dreamy cilantro lime dressing (served in large squeeze bottles). The real hit was when I found these crispy fried jalapeños to serve on top – my gosh, everyone went crazy for them!

Another crowd-pleasing favorite was Sloppy Joes. This meal is so easy and always a hit. You can go all out and make homemade rolls, but I’ve found that this meal is just as satisfying with good ol’ store-bought buns. For a slightly different twist, we also did BBQ Pork Sandwiches, which were equally popular.

And let’s not forget about the Slow Cooker Red Beans and Sausage with Rice. This hearty, easy dish quickly became a favorite among the construction crew. Who knew a “little out of the box” menu item would be such a hit?

Feeding the Masses: Tips and Tricks

One of the key things I’ve learned over the years is that when it comes to feeding large groups, you don’t need to go all out with fancy, complicated dishes. Keep it simple, my friends! A hearty main dish, a fresh side or two, and an easy make-ahead dessert is a pretty much perfect plan.

Slow cooker meals make an excellent starting point for large group menu planning. They’re usually straightforward and can often be made ahead of time and frozen for easy reheating. Another trick is to focus your homemade energy on the recipes/components that really need that from-scratch touch, while taking some shortcuts on the rest. For example, make the sloppy joe filling homemade, but grab those buns from the store.

When it comes to quantities, I’ve learned that it’s better to err on the side of making too much rather than not enough. But I’ve also found that you don’t need as much food as you think you do. My faithful helpers from the construction lunch days would have to tie my hands behind my back to prevent me from making triple the amount of food we actually needed. I’m so worried about running out that I over-prepare and end up with tons of leftovers.

Some general rules of thumb: plan on about 1/4 to 1/3 pound of meat per person if it’s being served with other things, and side dishes will usually feed more than the serving size in the recipe states. For example, a recipe that serves 6 for a regular meal will likely feed 8-ish when served as part of a larger potluck spread.

And let’s not forget about make-ahead opportunities. Most main dishes, desserts, and even some sides can be prepared well in advance and frozen for easy reheating on the big day. Cookies, brownies, and bars freeze beautifully and can be made weeks ahead of time. Just be mindful of things like potato salad, fruit salad, and dairy-based dishes, which don’t tend to freeze as well.

Putting it All Together

When it comes to feeding a crowd, especially for a family reunion or potluck, the key is to keep it simple, make as much as you can ahead of time, and don’t be afraid to delegate and accept help from others. With a little planning and some of my tried-and-true crowd-pleasing recipes, you’ll be able to pull off an epic family reunion meal that has everyone raving.

And if you ever find yourself in a situation like mine, where you’ve got a hodgepodge of sloppy joe contributions, just embrace the chaos and enjoy the compliments on your “secret recipe.” After all, that’s half the fun of feeding a crowd, right?

Now, who’s ready to start planning their next family reunion menu? Head on over to homecookingrocks.com for all the inspiration and recipes you need to make your next big gathering a delicious success!


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