FUN/DIY/ Holidays/Parties/ How-Tos/ RECIPES

How To Feed A Large Crowd Without Cooking Or Baking

Need to feed a large crowd of people but don’t want to turn on the oven?
Want to have a party without showing up exhausted from cooking? 
Do you want to know how to create a lite and healthy, well-rounded meal without spending much time in the kitchen?

Well, this post will tell you how. Actually, it will tell you how my sisters and I did it. A week ago today, we threw my youngest sister a baby shower.  We had about 20 people coming, and we wanted to have a beautiful array of food, but did not want to spend much time making it all.  My youngest sister was only in town for a few days, so we didn’t want anything to keep us from spending as much time with her as we could, and we were not interested in hanging out in a hot kitchen for that spent time!
Our solution was to make our own Hearty, Healthy & Delicious 

We wanted it to be hearty enough to pass for dinner, so we made sure we included toppings that were filling and hearty– protein and carbs along with typical vegetable toppings and fruit.  Some of our protein toppings included shredded chicken, bacon, cheese and nuts. (could also use hard boiled eggs and beans.)  For carbs, we included whole-wheat mini bow-tie pasta noodles, and served bread along with the salad.

{that is my sisters hand, don’t you like her funky green nail polish?
I’m so bummed I didn’t get good pics.  My camera quit on me right at the beginning of the shower}

So how to do this without slaving over a stove/oven? 

Here is what you do:

~Make a grocery list of salad toppings (the ones we used are listed below)

~Go to Wal-mart, buy ingredients for toppings.

~Stop by Sam’s Club (which is usually right next door to Wal-mart) and pick up a few Rotisserie Chickens and their Spring Salad Mix.

~Swing by Panera Bread (or any bread store/bakery), and pick up a few loaves of Asiago Cheese Bread.

~Hit your local dollar store for paper products.
*I went to the dollar tree and found clear, hard plastic bowls that were the perfect size for our toppings.  I knew all the colors of the vegetables and toppings we used would make art on the buffet bar if we used clear bowls.  They also had large, clear hard plastic bowls, so I bought 3.  One for punch, one for the spring salad mix, and one to hold sliced bread.
I was delighted that they had small, clear serving tongs, 4/$1.00!  They also had a punch ladle and small, clear punch cups.  I found little coffee stirrer type straws, they were blue and white (matched our shower colors) and were the perfect size for the punch cups.  

Once you have all your supplies, it is just a matter of chopping and putting the toppings into Ziplocs until ready to use. We kept chopping to a minimum by buying veggies that were conveniently packaged, for example-shredded carrots, grape tomatoes, shredded cheese, heat and serve bacon.  Convenience was the way to go to keep it simple enough to get it all done and enjoy my sister!

Our Menu:
Hearty, Healthy & Delicious Salad Bar With A Trio Of Salad Dressings
Chocolate Cupcakes w/ Cute Cupcake Toppers
Lemon Refresher Punch-I may be posting about this, gotta find out if it is a “secret” family recipe or not:)

That’s it!  Simple, Simple, Simple.

The Lemon Refresher and Cupcakes can both be made the night before, which again, helps with simplifying.  We were going to make homemade dressings, but then decided to buy it instead. We stood in front of the dressing aisle, a bit stunned by all the different types of salad dressings.  We choose Briannas Fine Salad Dressings, mostly because the bottles were pretty:) but also because they had 3 different types that we thought would suit most tastes.  We got Poppy Seed (my favorite and the most popular of the evening), Blush Wine Vinaigrette, and Caesar.

This Salad Bar idea would be great for groups large or small, and even though we went a bit crazy with the number of toppings, you really could minimize that, too. The feedback we got from those attending the shower was all positive.  We even had a number of children there, and they loved it too!  Yes, there were lots of vegetables, but there was also a lot of fruit, shredded chicken, pasta noodles and cheesy bread, which kept the kids happy and satisfied.  

I will be doing this often, whether it is for a ladies luncheon, a bridal or baby shower, or just having another couple over-it would work well in many situations.  I do love to cook and bake, but sometimes it is just nice to just have a break and keep the oven off!

Our Salad Bar:
Spring Mix Salad
3 Dressings
Shredded Rotisserie Chicken
Chopped Bacon 
Whole-Wheat Bow-Tie Pasta
Sliced Strawberries
Mandarin Oranges
Dried Cranberries
Green Peppers
Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Feta Cheese
Sunflower Seeds
Sliced Almonds
Asiago Cheese Bread

*** I Am Pleased To Be Linking Up To These Wonderful Blog Parties. *** 

This post is linked to:

Friday Favorites @ Simply Sweet Home
Saturday Is Crafty Day @ Along For The Ride
Weekend Wrapup Party @ Tatertots & Jellow
Saturday Night Special @ Funky Junk
Tasty Tuesdays @ Beauty & Bedlam

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  • Johane Levesque
    September 11, 2012 at 12:41 am

    This is an excellent idea. As a professional chef, I have to give a word of warning on such a set up: Keep all volatile foods in safe temperature zones.

    IE: If food is meant to be hot, keep in a crock-pot or warmer at over 180F. If it is meant to be cold, keep it on ice and as much as possible just around 32F.

    Volatile foods are meats, shellfish, eggs, anything with mayonnaise or mayonnaise base sauces/dips (think Cesar, ranch dressings among others…), fish, cold cuts, deli meats, cream, fish, shellfish – yes I did say fish and shellfish twice, these two items can be really dangerous, but this entire list is volatile and problematic for food poisoning if these are not kept at proper temperatures.

    Anything from this list of foods should be properly stored, and at room temperature absolutely NO MORE THAN 2 HOURS! So only pull out your volatile foods at the very last minute, and make sure to put them away first. Keep in mind that this does not mean that vegetables can be kept at room temperatures much longer.

    The only exception to this rule is cheese, and then only just. Cheese should be pulled from the refrigerator about 1 hour before service in order to come up to room temperature, so that it can be served at its best. In this case cheese can be at room temperature for about three hours, 1 hour to be in peak form, and then 2 hours for service.

    You want your party to be remembered for the food, fun, and laughter everyone enjoyed there. You don’t want it to be remembered for food poisoning.

  • Anonymous
    September 10, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    Thats a great idea. Especially when you are having women over and you know everyone will want something light. Another great idea is a nacho bar. Super easy. I like to cook the meat the night before and just warm it up in the crock put. Cans of chili in another crock pot and then grated cheese, olives, peppers, salsa, tomatoes,sour cream, corn…whatever on the side. The kids love it too. Thanks for the idea.

  • Vonda
    July 13, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    Yes! This looks amazing–I so want to have a party and try this.

  • Linda
    June 17, 2010 at 1:59 am

    It was delicious!!! I didn’t see the asiago cheese bread, but oh, my goodness, the toppings for the salad! It was the salad bar to beat all salad bars!!!

  • malia
    June 15, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    ok i LOVE this idea… brilliant!

  • Jerri
    June 15, 2010 at 6:51 am

    Sounds like a great salad bar! Thanks for linking up for Friday Favorites!

  • Amy Bowman
    June 14, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    thanks for all the positive feedback everyone! @betty jo & @ julie-I am so diggin’ the idea of different types of ‘bars’ I feel some experimenting and future posts coming up with your suggestions!
    @ sarah-wish you were there, too! i know you’d fit right in and it would be so fun to talk to you in person for a change!

  • Brenda
    June 12, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    Wow, wonderful, I love it! Thanks for sharing!
    CCome join the fun! I am having a “Celebrations” giveaway!
    Have a great weekend!
    Love, Brenda
    Deck The Halls of HOME with JOY!

  • Laura
    June 12, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    What a fabulous idea! I love all the fun colors.

    Thanks for sharing at Saturday is Crafty Day!
    Laura @ along for the ride

  • Apron Senorita
    June 12, 2010 at 6:51 am

    Great idea!! I love the fresh foods.

    Yoli 🙂

  • Jennifer
    June 12, 2010 at 7:44 am

    I can’t tell you how much I love this idea. Genius!

  • Lindsay
    June 11, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    LOVE THIS idea! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • Donene
    June 11, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    What a great time saving idea! I love salads!

  • Shana
    June 11, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    What a great ideas!!!!

  • Sarah @ Mum In Bloom
    June 11, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    Great job Amy. It’s nice to keep it simple, especially when the goal is to spend time with family. My kids love a salad bar & when hubby’s away working we’ll often hit a salad bar for an easy dinner. Your photo is still great & I wish I had been there for a taste 🙂

  • Susan
    June 11, 2010 at 11:03 am

    Oh, I love it! What a beautiful table! I am sure it was a big hit with all the ladies. 🙂

  • Sandra
    June 11, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Perfect, I like how you think. I hate heating up the kitchen with my ovens in the summer. Chicken salad bar will be on my menu weekly from now on.

  • Julie
    June 11, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    I love the “make your own” idea – I do this all the time when I throw parties because I like to enjoy them and not kill myself. I’ve had a lot of success with a make your own fajita bar, top your own mini pizza, and a sundae bar for dessert.

  • Betty Jo of joy with less
    June 11, 2010 at 10:39 am

    Hi Amy, so nice to meet you. I followed your link from a tweet by welivesimply. Your blog is awesome. Is that your kitchen in the header? I loooooove it! I have done the salad bar for a gathering before and it is wonderful. My late sister-in-law was “famouse” for her salad bars, sandwich bars, and sundae bars. Poppy Seed is my favorite dressing too but I have never had Briannas. Just looked up the ingredients and it is gluten free – yippee! I will be looking for it right away in my area. I’m now subscribed to your blog and following you on Twitter. I’ll also be adding you to my blog links. Have a super day!! ♥

  • Lacey
    June 11, 2010 at 4:07 am

    What a wonderful idea. I will be doing this for our next gathering

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