Best Food Choices for a Crowd

Some people cringe at the thought of hosting a crowd, not because of the people, but because they don't know where to start regarding food.

Cooking or catering for a crowd doesn't have to be a stressful situation when food choices are made based on what can fill the bellies of guests in the easiest fashion. Here are some pointers that can get any host or hostess started.

1. First, the person hosting the party should realize that "you can't please everyone all of the time." However, efforts can be made to please as many people as possible. Start by making a list of foods that have a past track record with friends and family.

2. For those who are still baffled regarding menu options, think about foods that can be stretched a long way and that are relatively filling. This will cut down on the preparation and the need to have multiple dishes. For example, pasta dishes are generally hearty, can be cooked in bulk and will appeal to the masses. What's more, if its prepared without meat or a meat sauce, pasta is also a great option for vegetarians.

3. Use restaurant party package menus as inspiration. Restaurants are in the business of pleasing diners. Most will have a party menu with crowd favorites. Refer to this menu when crafting a home event. Have a dish of pasta, a tray of poultry or meat, a vegetable dish, and perhaps a starchy side of potatoes or rice. Salad and bread will continue to fill up guests.

4. For more inspiration regarding party menus, consider these ideas:

* Baked chicken: Buy chicken in bulk from the supermarket, purchasing various pieces of the bird. Marinate and bake until done. Chicken is a dish that most people enjoy and is easily prepared.

* Barbecue sandwiches: If the party is a casual affair, use slow cookers to prepare pulled-pork, brisket, and even slow-cooked turkey as the basis of sandwiches. Topped with sweet or savory barbecue sauce, guests can build their own sandwiches and be quite filled in the process.

* Eggplant rollatini: If time is of the essence, pre-sliced and cooked eggplant slices can be purchased in bulk from a supermarket or neighborhood warehouse store. Simply fill with ricotta cheese and mozzarella, then top with marinara sauce and bake. Another vegetarian option that will also appeal to the meat-eating crowd.

* Paella: This rice and mixed-protein dish has Spanish roots. It can be made with chicken, pork, beef or seafood. It's essentially a hearty stew. Because it also can be made in large quantities, paella is a good choice for party crowds.

* Cobblers: When it comes time for dessert for guests, instead of time-consuming cakes that need to be sliced and served, consider a fruit cobbler that can be made in a large pan and then spooned based on how much guests desire.

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