Hospitality for a Crowd - Part VI--Dinners

One of my favorite enjoyments in life is a good dinner with friends and family followed by long, lingering dinner conversation. I love to see the faces of those I love round the table, happy and enjoying each other and the food. What a blessing! To see 28 of our dearest for five days running…priceless!

Just the part of our crowd that was 22 yrs. and younger at the top of the falls in the Flume Gorge, Franconia State Park, NH.
Remember that my priority when we have guests is to enjoy them. And recall that when we had our crowd of houseguests, we were touring New England each day, so we were gone all day and there was precious time to prepare a nice meal. Yet I wanted to feed our guests a tasty dinner. Hours of touring every day meant that everyone was hungry when they got back to our house. Dinner had to be easy to prepare, yet delicious. Once again…advance planning, preparing ahead of time, and freezing made it all possible.

Our freezer full of food.  Most of this was gone by the time the last guests left.
Here are some dinner ideas that can be prepared ahead and frozen:

–Marinated Chicken for Grilling - Toss boneless, skinless chicken breasts in ziploc bags, pour in some Italian dressing, seal, and freeze. The dressing will marinate your chicken. Just thaw and grill.

–Sauces for Pasta

#1 – spaghetti sauce - your favorite homemade spaghetti sauce should freeze wonderfully; thaw; heat; serve over pasta.

#2 – bolognese sauce – delicious, hearty pasta sauce. I like Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe found here. I made five quarts worth, and it fed 13 of us (before other people arrived.)

#3 - Pesto Sauce – serve over a curly pasta (like cavattapi) with sliced, grilled chicken. (A curly pasta holds the pesto well.) Note: the chicken can be grilled, sliced, frozen, thawed, and reheated moments before adding it to the hot pasta and pesto. Mmmm.

This was less than half of the pesto I made.
–Chicken Pot Pie – My all-time favorite do-ahead and freeze meal! I make these for just our family and freeze them too. It is a family favorite! My recipe comes from the King’s Arms Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg and can be found here. I made three of them, and then when we found out more guests were coming, I made two more in loaf pans. This recipe is a lot of work, but it’s soooo worth it!

–Soft Chicken Taco Meat

#1 – for soft chicken tacos - easily served with tortillas, cheese, salsa, and sour cream. Serve with tortilla chips and salsa on the side.

#2 – for chicken taco salads – quick and easy. Set it out like a taco salad bar and include: tortilla chips, lettuce, black beans, the chicken taco meat, shredded cheese, chopped tomatoes, salsa, and sour cream. It’s a one dish meal!

Soft Chicken Taco Meat

3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 -2 T. oil
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 16 oz. can stewed tomatoes
1 jalepeno pepper, seeds removed, minced
1 bay leaf
1 T. chili power
1 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. oregano

Poach chicken until cooked through; shred.

In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat and saute onion and garlic about 5 mins., or until tender.
Stir in undrained tomatoes, chopped jalapeno, bay leaf, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and 1/4 t. ground pepper. Add chicken and stir well. Simmer for about 35-45 mins., but don’t let all the liquid evaporate.

Serves 6. (I made five batches to fed 27.)

–Garlic-Studded Pork Tenderloin - Cut 10 slits in a center cut pork tenderloin and insert a peeled garlic clove in each slit. Rub the tenderloins all over with a mixture of dried herbs…anything you think would be tasty with garlic. Place tenderloins in Ziploc bags and cover with your favorite marinade; mine was a mixture of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Cook at 375 degrees until meat thermometer says it has reached the proper temperature for pork to be done. I recall that it took a long time to reach that temperature with so many in the oven at once, and I think we bumped the oven temperature up to 400 at some point.

–Hamburgers – Hamburger meat can be mixed with your favorite add-ins (we like A-1 sauce and Montreal Steak Seasoning with ours), shaped into patties, and frozen flat on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, you can stack them with a piece of waxed paper between them and place in a Ziploc bag. They take very little time to thaw. When the men are grilling, the ladies can make a big fruit salad.

A word about grilled chicken: Grilled Chicken is so wonderfully versatile. (Not to mention, grilling chicken is a great way to keep a teenage boy busy!) Season, grill, slice or cube and freeze. It can then be: added to pasta dishes, made into fresh chicken salads with greens, be made into chicken wraps for lunch, be made into chicken salad sandwiches, and more!

What to serve for side dishes? The beauty of these meals is that they require very little to go with them! We had a BIG green salad most nights. Twenty-seven eaters will go through about 20 cups of lettuce (one large box of organic springs greens mix at our grocery store) each night for a salad. I tossed in various tasties with the lettuce: bleu cheese and dried cranberries, tomatoes and feta, strawberries and pecans, etc. I vaguely recall that we might’ve made rice to go with the pork tenderloins, since they took awhile in the oven (also served a green salad).

The one and only picture I took of the dinner serving line.
I picked up baguettes inexpensively on the bakery surplus rack, cut them into hunks, and froze.

You can also take a loaf of French bread, slice it, butter it (or butter it with garlic butter), wrap it tightly in foil, and freeze it. Then all you have to do is thaw it in the aluminum foil, and then pop it in the oven still in the foil to bake. Simple.

For beverages, we had available: water, milk, wine, and beer.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of postings. If you never host 28 people at your house for an extended amount of time, I hope you can at least adapt some of these ideas for a smaller group, or even just for your own family. I hope it’s inspired you to offer hospitality to others, because “houses full of love have elastic walls.”


  1. What a pleasure to read this series. Thank you for the time you spent writing and sharing the wealth!

    I am unable to see the food photographs in these posts, though the people photos are fine. Don't know if anyone else having the same problem...

    deb meyers

  2. You are most welcome, Deb! I'm glad you enjoyed them.

    You might try refreshing your page to see the photos. I had that problem one night, but refreshing fixed it. Hope that helps.


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