Weekend Entertaining For A Big Crowd

Fun, Food Filled Weekends

Party Prep:

We have many family gatherings hosted at our house.  The cousins are able to get together and have sleep over’s and make memories.  The grownups are making memories of our own also….  It is a wonderful bonding time filled with a lot of love and laughs!  Fun Food Filled Weekends as I call them!

The prep starts way before company comes, but it’s never work for me, because I am passionate about cooking, making everyone feel at home and best of all, I am passionate about making memories!

The first thing I do is clean the house, it’s important to me for everyone to be comfortable, and the cleaner the better.  The bathrooms are the most important; no one is going to be comfortable if they are grossed out!  Remember the guests are here for a weekend, showering in a clean shower with fresh smelling towels is essential!  It makes everyone feel welcome and cared for.  Not an easy feat for 20.

Our guest bathroom does not have a linen closet, so my newest idea for my guests comfort, was to move a dresser right near the bathroom with everything- plus extra, of what everyone might need.  I have shampoos, conditioners, soap, toothpaste, hair dryer and extra toothbrushes and razors in one draw. Bath towels and wash cloths, beach towels for the hot tub and pool in the next.  The lower drawer holds sheets and blankets, which I am going to purchase those bags that flatten them to nothing, to make more room.  I even made room for a lost and find, if I like it; it might be mine drawer, (gentle reminder to the kids not to forget their stuff) for the many bathing suits, kid’s things, sunglasses and socks that get left behind.  If socks were hundreds, I would be rich!

So when the weekend is over, I take everything that has been used then wash and put everything right back in the dresser for the next time. I place a dryer sheet between the blankets and towels to keep them fresh smelling until they are used again.  It also makes it easier for me to be organized.

I always set up a drink bar, so everyone can make their own drinks.  Goes for the kids too.  When guests stay that long they have to be able to help themselves or they feel like a burden having to ask you, all the time.

In the spring, I try to have cut flowers from the yard like tulips and lilacs, it makes the house more welcoming, and I use hydrangeas and roses in the summer.   Every year I buy a Gardenia bush for the back patio…….the smell is amazingly wonderful.  I sometimes take a couple of flowers and float them in a glass bowl of water for a centerpiece for my table….How I love, when a light wind blows and floats the scent of gardenia around the house.

During the winter months, I use candles for that welcoming feeling.  In my two front windows, I always have candles burning when I know company is coming.  I believe it symbolizes that I am ready and waiting and welcoming my guests for their arrival.  I usually have at least one scented candle in the house, but not more the two; you don’t want to overpower the room or your wonderful aromas seeping from the kitchen.  Throughout the house I have accent candles burning for a slight reflection and the effect is a soothing and a comfortable atmosphere.

 

 

 

 If you have dimmer switches use them, big bold lights make you feel cold.  Many dimmmed lights create an atmosphere, One big bright light is annoying. My cousins just love having the fire place going…so when I can, I light a fire, and it’s burning when they arrive.

Food Prep:

I decided on this past Fun Food Filled Weekend, I was going to make lasagna with fresh home made Lasagna Noodles.  Making dishes such as Lasangna and Chicken Pepperoncini, lets you prepare the dish before company comes, and store it in the frig.  I have two refrigerators just for that purpose.  Pull dishes out of the frig when your ready, it frees up your time to have some  food filled fun, for yourself!  It all feels like work if your not enjoying yourself, and your company came to see you, so you want to be available.

So I put my pot of sauce on and while that was simmering for hours (Secret Recipe) I began my Lasagna Noodles.

Lasagna Noodles

2 Cups Flour

1 Teaspoon Salt

3 Eggs

1 1/2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Mix together flour and salt.  On counter or flat surface, pour out flour and make a well into the middle.  Intothe well, crack eggs and add olive oil.  Mix egg mixture incorporating flour a little at a time, until all flour is combined.  Knead dough until smooth.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile; I fried up some chicken for Chicken Pepperoncini.  Recipe: http://bellasbanquet.com/?p=104  Video:  http://bellasbanquet.com/?page_id=695  When the family is coming, that has to be made!  I want to make everyone happy …remember!

One of my favorite things to do, is use kitchen tools in different ways in which they were intended.  Here I have cookie sheets doubling as a baking pan, because I needed the baking pans for my lasagna….Improvise!  It works!  My favorite improvisation is to use a cookie cooling rack on the outdoor grill for small items that would normally slip through the slates, such as shrimp, scallops or asparagus. Works great!

Prep for Red Potatoes for Smashed Potatoes:  I clean and chop the potatoes before hand, place them in a pot filled with water with a top and place them in the frig, so they are there waiting for me.  Preheat your oven, throw your prepared dishes in the oven, turn on your potatoes, dry your salad, slice your bread and you have dinner for a big crowd easily!

 

Time to make the Lasagna noodles.  With my kitchen aid attachment, I took 1/8 of the dough at a time and with plenty of flour for dusting when needed.  I rolled the dough through the pasta maker, slowly turning it to a smaller setting with each pass through, until I reached number 7 on the attachment.  I made the layers thin, and I made many noodles, using two rolls of dough.  That will make two medium size pans of lasagna, or 1 big thick lasagna, depending on the size of your pan.  Use corn meal and or plenty of flour for dusting pasta, so the sheets won’t stick together before lasagna assembly.

Now, every Italian knows, you can’t have dinner especially lasagna without salad.  The trick to a crispy salad is to wash the lettuce in very cold water, I even let it sit in the frig with ice in the water in a stainless steel bowl.   When you’re ready to use the lettuce dry the lettuce completely!  A salad spinner is the best tool for that, but spin the lettuce twice or more, emptying the water out with each spin.

Now that’s a BIG SALAD!  Well it is for about 20!

Thank You Charlotte for making this beautiful salad and teaching me some of your salad tricks <3

This beautiful wonderful creation is not mine.  Our cousins bring this from SI.  I know when the party is started when this gorgeous bag comes into my home…..It’s like slow motion…The bag gets handed to me…I take it with a smile and a thank you…I unwrap the paper carefully not to rip the bag…I lean in…. and take the biggest deep breath in….ahhhh…the aroma is like I just stepped in the bakery myself.  I quickly close the bag hoping to keep the aroma in, so I can have one more delicious whiff, before I have to serve it.

Even though I am passionate about the whole experience of having such a big crowd for the weekend, it can be a lot of work.  What I have learned in my many …many….. (Well let’s not go there) years of entertaining is, the art of delegating.  My Hubby does the yard, and helps me with some of the cleaning.  He usually does the floors for me.  The kids are great at doing the grocery shopping for me or cleaning their bathroom (I always check it though)

My wonderful family always …always bring in a ton of wonderful food also!  This helps tremendously with the cost, which enables us to have more get togethers.

Charlotte brought Oreo Cookie and Cream No Bake Cheese Cake and my favorite, besides Cannoli’s, which Charlotte also brought :) is Margie’s Jewish Apple Cake this is a family recipe handed down.

 

Margie’s Jewish Apple Cake

Cake:

3 Cups Flour

2 1/2 Cups Sugar

1/2 Teaspoon Salt

3 Teaspoons Baking Powder

1 Cup Oil

1/2 Cup Orange Juice

4 Eggs

2 1/2 Teaspoons Vanilla

Cake Filling:

4 Small Apples-Washed-Peeled and Cut Up

2 Tablespoons Cinnamon

5 Tablespoons Sugar

In large mixing bowl mix all cake ingredients together.  In smaller mixing bowl mix the cake filling ingredients together.  In a greased bunt pan pour half of the cake batter, the half of the cake filling then remaining cake batter.  Top with remaining cake filling.  Bake in a preheat 350 degree oven for 1 hour and 45 minutes.  Let cool.  Serve.  Enjoy<3

Margie brought a super sized pot of Italian Wedding Soup.  She also always brings my favorite cheese and SI bagels……same aroma experience…… ahhh

Tina brought a big pot of chili w/ rice and all the trimmings.

I always try to have a pot of soup or chili in the house during a company weekend.  It gives an alternative for someone who might not like what is being served, or a bite to eat that anyone can just help themselves to.

Italian Wedding Soup

Meatballs:

2 lbs Ground Chicken

2 Cups Seasoned Bread crumbs

1 1/2 Tablespoons Garlic Powder

1 1/2 TablespoonOnion Powder

2 Tablespoons Dried Basil

2 Tablespoons Dried Parsley

1/4 Cup Pecorino Romano Cheese- Grated

4 Eggs

1 1/2 Cups Milk

Soup:

Drizzle Olive Oil

2 Onion-Diced

2 Carrots-Diced

3 Heads Escarole-Cut Up

5 Slices Bacon-Cooked and Chopped

3 - 32 Ounce Cans Chicken Broth

1 -14.5 Ounce Can Beef Broth

1 Pound Ditalini Pasta

In large mixing bowl, combine all meatball ingredients and mix until just mixed, do not over mix.  Form meat mixture into small bite size meat balls, set aside.

In large pot, with olive oil, sauté onions and carrots until soft, add in cooked bacon and escarole, let escarole cook down.  Then add in broths and meat balls and simmer for 30-40 minutes.

In separate pot with salted boiling water, cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain pasta and place back into pot with a little of the soup broth so pasta doesn’t stick together.

Place desired amount of pasta in bowl, add desired amount of soup.  Serve.  Enjoy<3

We always have bacon, eggs and pancakes for breakfast.  I am well known for my pancakes!  The recipe is top secret too!  Shhhh (Aunt Jemima Mix Original)  Let the batter rest after you mix in the water, and do not mix again.  Put batter on medium heat griddle with butter and only turn once and no moving that pancake around!  They come out soft, moist and fluffy.  During the fall season, I have a specialty pancake http://bellasbanquet.com/?p=55      Which is a big hit!

I have to say, that Jeff stepped it up this past weekend though.  Before I could start, he was in the kitchen with home fries, hash, eggs (cheesy eggs and fried) and toast.  Nice!  Wait until next time…The breakfast game is on!

For lunch there was Roasted Vegetable Pannini’s made on more SI bread…ahhhh ….mmmm…..wonderful

Roasted Vegetable Panini’s

2 Eggplants-Peeled and Chopped

5 Red Peppers-Chopped with Seed Removed

3 Onions-Chopped

1 Head Garlic-Cloves with Paper Removed

1 Head Broccoli-Florets Cut

4 Carrots- Chopped

1 Container of Sliced Mushrooms

1 Pound Mozzarella Cheese

1/4 Pound Brie Cheese

Drizzle Olive Oil

2 Tablespoons Italian Seasoning

Drizzle Balsamic Vinegar Dressing-Good Seasons

Wash and dry all vegetables thoroughly.  On cookie sheet, add all vegetables, except eggplant and mushrooms, drizzles with olive oil and season with Italian seasoning, mix with hands.  Drizzle with balsamic dressing.  Roast in oven for about 30 minutes or until vegetables just start to get soft, turning vegetables with spatula carefully, every so often.  Add eggplant and mushroom and continue to cook for another 20 minutes or until just soft.

On bread cut length wise add the desired amount of roasted veggies to the bottom bread then top with the desired amount of mozzarella and Brie cheese.  Place top of bread on and grill sandwich in a Panini maker or on indoor grill on medium heat, with a weight on top, brown sandwich on both sides until cheeses are melted through.  Serve.  Enjoy<3

As I said, our Fun Food Filled weekends are about all that Fun and Food shared with family, so Fun Food Filled Family Weekends are jam packed with fun.  We have fires outside for toasting marshmallows and S’mores, even during the winter with the hot tub going, pool games, water fights and craft times.  We also try to plan something special…One weekend we went sleigh riding.

                                

This past weekend  the whole bunch of us went bowling, by the time everyone arrived it was bowling for 25!  What a blast! Talk about making memories, I know I will always remember this weekend and our bowling event!  I would bet, the kids will also.  During a lull of our Saturday, could you believe a lull… The big kids went to the mall, so hubby, the wonderful guy that  he is, took the little ones to the fire house, to slide down the fire pole and then for ice cream!

The Memories

The shared talks, lasting way to late…..the laughs for, or at someone……the noise, running through the house……the tight hugs…….the first boyfriends…..the girlfriends we like….front teeth that finally came in…….Knowing we will get together again soon<3  Enjoy<3

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One Response to Weekend Entertaining For A Big Crowd

  1. Humor News says:

    Wow Excellent blog!

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