By Brenda Hyde
I have prepared and served buffets for 12 people as well as 150. The basics are the same, and numbers should not intimidate you. Catering is expensive and often does not meet your expectations, so why not do it yourself? The recipes I give are for 12 because it is an average number of guests, but you can multiply the amounts as far as you need to. Let's start out with the tips, and then the recipes.
The menu is simple and inexpensive. Good food is not necessarily the way to go. You will find that if you have a mix of children, older adults and those in between, you need to keep it basic, but tasty. Over the years I have discovered these basic rules and tips:
* Always have regular and decaf coffee hot and ready to serve. DO NOT run out. Angry mobs have been known to gather waiting for coffee. I have seen it happen.
*If people ask to bring food then LET them! In the case of our buffet menu, we have a wonderful fruit salad for dessert. If your guests ask then request they bring holiday cookies or breads. Have clean platters/plates ready and waiting. Serve them near the fruit salad. Set up a smaller table as a dessert buffet for a nice touch.
*IF you have the budget to use nice disposable plates, napkins and tableware then do so. Otherwise, mix and match your own, and borrow some if you have too. An eclectic look is good. I have sets of china I picked up for $10.00 or less at antique shops that work great for this.
*Holiday Decorations are so simple for buffets. Use one large tablecloth over the buffet table and place sprigs of pine with red ribbon bows attached, and pinecones in small bowls along with potpourri., in-between the platters and bowls. Candlesticks are also very nice. You can also put phone books under the tablecloth to set some bowls higher than others.
*Relax, and keep the mood light. There is no sense entertaining if you become overwhelmed and don't enjoy yourself. Ask your guests to bring their favorite Christmas music, and games. Be sure to have coloring books and kid's games on hand also. Follow the simple tips I have given and have fun!
The Buffet Menu:
Vegetables and Dip
BBQ Cocktail Franks
Shaved Ham: Watch for sales on a nice, boneless ham. You will only need a half of ham, but a whole ham is less expensive per pound and will come in handy for lunches and other family meals. Ask at the meat counter to have it shaved, not sliced. Layer the ham on a nice platter; this will be your biggest dish. Garnish with green onions. Prepare ahead and wrap tightly with plastic wrap.
Rolls: I recommend bakery rolls that are assorted to save you time. Be sure to have at least white and wheat rolls, if you can add rye rolls, all the better. Have at least a total of 2 dozen. You can serve these in napkin lined wicker baskets.
Relish Tray: A nice tray will have dill and sweet pickles, olives, some type of peppers, and green onions. However, IF you are really on a budget there is NOTHING wrong with both types of pickles and the green onions. These are inexpensive and often on sale. A divided dish works well for these.
Vegetables and Dip: This is a list of the vegetables you will need for approximately one dozen people, and a dip recipe follows. You may either use a platter set up for dips, or a large platter with a pretty bowl placed in the middle for the dip. Be sure to arrange the vegetables nicely, and mix the colors.
1 pound baby carrots or carrot sticks
1 pound bag a radishes
2 green peppers
small head of cauliflower
Cream Cheese Italian Dip
2 - 8 ounce block cream cheese
2 envelopes dried Italian dressing mix
2 cups plain yogurt, or sour cream
2 tablespoons milk
Beat all items in a small mixing bowl with electric mixer until blended. Refrigerate. This makes 4 cups which may be too much, but it also makes a great chip dip. It's better to have too much than not enough!
BBQ Cocktail Franks
Large package cocktail franks (3 1/3 pounds)
BBQ sauce to cover, approximately 1 quart
1/2 small onion
1/2 green pepper
Chop the onion and green pepper into small pieces. Add to a crockpot with the franks. Cover with BBQ Sauce and mix together. Set the crockpot on low. These are the best when simmered for long periods of time, so start them in the morning if possible. Stir occasionally. If they are cooked low and covered with the sauce at the beginning you should not need to add more. Serve these directly out of your crockpot or transfer to a serving bowl just before eating.
Brenda's Fruit Salad
2 large cans fruit cocktail
1 medium can mandarin oranges
1 can pitted dark red cherries (not pie filling)
1 large can pineapple tidbits
1/4 cup coconut
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 8 ounce block cream cheese
1 small jar marshmallow cream
1 tablespoon orange juice
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Drain all fruit, and rinse cherries. Combine all fruit in a large bowl. Mix JUST the dressing ingredients together well with a mixer or whisk. Add to the fruit and gently mix with a wooden spoon.
Note: Bananas do NOT work well in this. You may substitute other fresh fruit.
Beverages: Know the people you are inviting. I would always have the hot coffee on hand to start and then add from there. Punch is always fun for adults and children. You can also serve hot chocolate heated in a crock pot. Use your imagination!
Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer, wife and mom to three.
For more recipes and entertaining tips visit her at http://oldfashionedliving.com/recipes.html