How To Feed A Gathering, Enjoy Yourself, AND Have A Clean Kitchen!

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Several readers have emailed me asking about ideas for Christmas entertaining when hosting gatherings. Seeing as how this is the best time of the year, we don’t want to be sweating away in the kitchen when our family comes to pay call! (Mama would object to me using the term “sweating”. She says ladies do not sweat, we “glisten”).

Here is what I would do for a meal for a gathering.  The best part is, you can start making it today! My timetable begins preparations three days before the event, and leaves you relaxed and with a clean kitchen when your guests arrive!

(Simply click on recipe title to be taken to the recipe and tutorial on how to make it!)

2 to 3 days before the gathering:

Shop for all groceries, make dessert. Refrigerator cakes are wonderful for large gatherings because they can be made so far in advance and rather than getting dry, they actually get better as the days go by. On the day of your event, simply open the fridge and dessert is served!

Personally, I would make one cake per ten to twelve people.

My recomendations are:

Coconut Cake

Butterfinger cake

These two are crowd pleasers!

1-2 Days Before Gathering

Set table completely. Make sure you have hot sauce and crackers. If you are serving Chili, make sure you have shredded cheese, sour cream, and any other toppings your family likes.

Make your main course. Stews and Chili are great this time of year. More filling than soups, their warmth and meal-in-one convenience can’t be beat for serving a crowd! Whats more, to multiply this chili or stew recipe, all  you need to do is double all of the ingredients EXCEPT the meat! The same amount of meat will be just fine if the recipe is doubled, making it very economical. A double recipe will feed at least ten to fifteen people.

Chicken Stew. This is my personal favorite. Also easily customizable if you are feeding one or more vegetarians. Simply use a can of vegetable broth and mix up a separate pot with all the other ingredients except chicken!

Soups, Stews, and chili are wonderful if left in the fridge a day or two (they actually tastes better!) as the flavors have time to develop and blend.

My Crock pot chili can easily be made in a pot on the stove or just fire up the crock pot a day or two before.

Allow stew or chili to cool and store in the refrigerator.

Day of Gathering:

Heat up stew or chili. Make bread, I suggest:

Dixie Cornbread


Southern Hoe Cake

Both of these are always hits with my family and friends. I would make about a pan of bread for every eight people or so. This is the only thing you have to bake on the day of the gathering and it is quick! You can even assemble your dry ingredients in a plastic bag a few days ahead of time.

As your guests arrive, your house will be filled with the aroma of your stew or chili, your kitchen will be spotless, your table set, your bread warm, and they’ll wonder how you did it all so effortlessly!




For all of the recipes I have posted in the Holiday Baking category (including gift mixes), click here!

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  1. You read my mind, Miss Christy! I want to enjoy my company, so preparing ahead of time is a must. Thank you for your wonderful and timely advice.

    Also, in case I get so busy in the kitchen and running around:

    Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

  2. Wooooweeee, all these great recipes make me wanna hit that kitchen….right now! I’m headin’ to the North GA mountains in the near future and these recipes would be sure to be a crowd pleaser. Oh, Taco Soup would be too….that’s a great make-ahead soup. Thanks for today’s post! ~waves to Christy-poo~

  3. I love making a really good chocolate cake….warm and gooey! I also love the Apple Dapple cake…that seems to be a great crowd pleaser!

  4. I like to make a pot of taco soup, corn bread, salad, Texas chocolate sheet cake, I just open a couple can of peaches or fruit cocktails.

  5. I’ve always liked the expression, “Horses sweat, gentlemen perspire, but ladies GLOW.” Not sure where that phrase came from. “Glisten” works almost as well, though – it sounds so dainty.

  6. this is another good cake to make ahead of time..and is yummmy.. my sister just asked me to make one for our Christmas Eve dinner…

    Sunshine Cake

    1 (18.25-ounce) package yellow cake mix
    4 large eggs
    1/2 cup vegetable oil
    1 (11-ounce) can Mandarin oranges with juice
    1 (16-ounce) container non-dairy whipped topping
    1 (5.25-ounce) package instant vanilla pudding
    1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple with juice
    Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C). Grease and flour 9 x 13 x 2-inch pan. Set aside.
    Combine cake mix, eggs, oil and mandarin oranges with juice and beat for 2 minutes with electric mixer. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 40 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.
    While cake is baking, prepare the frosting by mixing together whipped topping, pudding mix and crushed pineapple with juices. Chill in refrigerator to set. Frost when cake has cooled.
    Makes 12 servings.

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