Anyone who knows me, knows I LOVE to cook. Really love it. So when it came time to celebrate my 50th birthday there was no thought of using a caterer. My house; my cooking; my party.
Amazingly, I almost didn’t have a party. I’ve had a string of life-changing, awful things happen in the last six weeks and was in no mood to plan or hold a party. But that’s the funny thing about life – it is never even. Life is ups and downs, struggles and triumphs, pain and joy. And these last six weeks are no exception. While bad things happened, so did good things – like the birth of my first grandchild! – so I am thankful to the friends who talked me into have the party. Especially since by the time of the party, I had moved on from loss and sadness and was once again living in joy and hope. Besides being a self-proclaimed awesome cook, it turns out I am also pretty strong and resilient, so life is worth celebrating no matter how you ‘feel’.
So back to the party… because I love to cook and I love to entertain, I have a chronic problem…. I over-cater for parties. I was expecting 25 people; I cooked enough for 50. Thankfully most of it will freeze well and people took doggie bags home with them! My philosophy is that it is always better to over-cater than under-cater!
My tips for mitigating wastage when over-catering:
~Serve foods that freeze well so you can have the left-overs another time.
~Have disposable containers on hand and encourage guests to take some of their favourites home with them.
~Put half portions out and keep the other half in reserve in the fridge or pantry. Have someone designated as the ‘topper-upper-er’ who checks on things through the evening and tops up the items that are getting low. Putting out smaller portions and topping them up limits the chances of food poisoning for your guests and allows you to save what is un-eaten for another day.
One of the limiting issues with holding the party at home and cooking myself is that I work full time which leaves little time for preparation, decoration and cooking so I decided to go with hot food that could be done in crock pots and just bubble along all day and keep warm all night. Being originally from America, I also thought it would be fun to do some Southwest food that not many Aussies get to have often. A dear friend also offered to do a charcuterie/cheese/grazing table for me. It was a huge success! Thank you Penny! So after one trip to Costco in Melbourne and four trips by three people to Woolworths for the things we kept discovering I had forgotten, we were ready to go!
The menu for the party included:Chili Con Carne with all the optional toppings:
– fritos, sour cream, coriander, spring onions and shredded cheddar cheese
Southwest White Chicken Chili
Corn Muffins with Cinnamon Honey Butter
More Time Saving Tips:
~ For the charcuterie table, cover the table with a disposable plastic table cloth. At the end of the evening, after removing the food that is safe to keep and the trays and containers, you can just fold it up with all the bits and pieces that you’re throwing out on it and put it all in the rubbish bin in one swoop. A huge time and mess saver!
~ For drinks for a party, use large dispensers and fill with mixed drinks (make sure to include non-alcoholic options too) and let guests serve themselves. For my party, it was BYO so people could drink what they wanted without my having to purchase a huge variety of drinks (and potentially waste unused portions) but I also included a 6 litre dispenser filled with Pimms Cocktail and another filled with Sangria and an 8 litre dispense filled with ice water. (See below for drinks recipes).
We all had a wonderful night and I am so glad I decided to have the party. One of my daughters and her boyfriend flew from interstate for the event and came early enough to help set up, and more importantly, to help clean up afterwards! It was great having a relaxed evening talking with good friends and eating good food. Have a look below for some of the recipes from the party.
The Pimms Cocktail was made by combining one litre of Pimms, 1.5 litres of ginger ale, 1.5 litres of lemonade (that’s Sprite or 7-Up in America), ice and one large punnet of strawberries (halved with leaves removed), one large chopped up cucumber and one bunch of fresh mint leaves.
Sangria was was added to the dispenser with ice, sliced oranges and a punnet of raspberries.
Water and ice were put in the large dispenser with slices of lemons and limes.
Note: I’ve included the link to http://www.usafoods.com.au in the recipes because you simply cannot got those ingredients anywhere else that I know of in Australia. I do not receive any commission or payment from them at all.