The holidays are all about spending quality time with friends and family — often while gathered around plates of delicious food. However, feeding a crowd can take know-how and a tiny bit of courage. Sue Balcom, our Food Services Supervisor, has both. She leads a team of 5 dedicated food service staff who prepare meals for up to 500 employees a day, and cater around 300 corporate events per year!
We asked Sue to share her best advice for planning a holiday dinner. These tips will make your meal more memorable — and will leave you smiling once you find your seat at the table too.
1. Keep it simple. This isn’t the time to experiment with new, complicated dishes. When planning, select easy recipes with basic ingredients you can source locally. Driving all over town in search of a rare spice or out-of-season produce will quickly drain your holiday spirit.
2. Plan and prep. Leftovers are much better than running out of food. Find out how many guests you will be serving and plan for a 4 oz. portion of each food per person. Make your grocery lists carefully so you only end up at the store once. Then peel, chop, and prep anything you can ahead of time. This will leave you with more time to mingle once your guests arrive. “I like to prepare as much as I can a couple days ahead, especially my pies,” says Sue. “I just bake them that day, so they are fresh.”
3. Include family favorites. Tried-and-true traditional dishes are a must. For Sue, they include creamy corn casserole and baked sweet potatoes. These recipes are generally less stressful in the kitchen and can be sentimental to your guests. Consider creating a family cookbook to record those memories.
4. Have plenty of options… and a few surprises. “I like to make two entrees,” shares Sue. “That way I know everyone will have an option they enjoy.” She also recommends including a unique vegetarian dish — and finds that usually guests will all try it. If others want to contribute, ask them to bring a special side dish. This allows you to try something new too!
5. Treat your guests! Pies, cakes, and pastries are a sweet way to end any special meal. Sue takes it one step further and sends everyone home with a special jar of her homemade jam.