3 easy crowd entertaining ideas to steal

My husband and I do a fair amount of large scale entertaining with food always being a central focus. So that we don't run out of food or spend our entire evening in the kitchen or at the grill, we run a tightly controlled event that to all appearances seems to be running itself. Here are three of our best entertaining ideas you are free to steal.

Taco Bar. For feeding a crowd of 50 or more, a taco bar is an easy way to feed guests without being chained to the kitchen. Crock Pots keep pre-made taco meat and refried beans hot, while bowls of shredded lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, and other toppings are kept chilled by setting the containers in bowls of ice. I also set out a large bowl of tortilla chips on the buffet table for guests who prefer nachos along with a portable microwave for melting the cheese. This enjoyable fare pretty much takes care of itself which frees us up to handle other tasks.

Make ahead. We hold neighborhood barbecues twice a year and discovered that it's hard to stay on top of the grilling for this many people. What we do now is grill several dozen hamburger patties and bratwursts before our guests arrive and keep them piping hot in the oven. Once the barbecue starts and hubby fires up the grill, I'll haul out the pre-grilled meat for the first wave of hungry guests.

Easy portion control. One of the toughest parts of entertaining a crowd is estimating just how much food will be needed. The easiest strategy for managing portion control is to limit the size of the paper products being used. For plates, I'll use the smaller luncheon sizes which measure 9" across instead of the dinner size plates which measure 12." I'll also set out 8 ounce beverage cups instead of the more generous 12 ounce size. Smaller sized dinnerware automatically controls portions making it much easier to estimate the amount of food needed for your event.

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How to seat a large dinner crowd in your home.