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Ideas for Casual Make-Ahead Dinner for 30

So I volunteered/was chosen to cook a dinner at my church for around 30 people. It will be casual and it doesn't have to be anything too fancy or time-consuming, I just want something that will please. The tough part is that there will be a few vegetarians there, and the location is about 30 minutes away and I'll have to cook everything at my house and bring it there. We might not even be able to warm things up, so serving at room-temperature might have to do.

So far I think I'll bake a lot of bread to go with whatever else we serve. The main dish is what I need you guys for. Any ideas for serving a crowd this size? Anything is helpful, especially specific recipes. Thanks in advance.

Also, if you have a great dessert that would work I'd love to hear it as well.

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  1. Will you have access to an outdoor location? One option might be to use some grills - you can always grill up some mushrooms and other veggies for the vegetarians. Otherwise, I would probably focus on salad-type meals - some Cous-Cous dishes do pretty well at room temperature, too.

    3 Replies
    1. re: cloudship

      I'll be able to grill at my house before traveling with the food, but not once we arrive. Thanks for the idea. The cous-cous idea sounds fun too, it made me think of "Orzo with Everything" from epicurious, which I've heard is great to make-ahead, but haven't tried yet.

      1. re: JVHcook

        Orzo goes a long way since one box makes a lot. I like Barefoot Contenssa's Orzo with Roasted Vegetables. I have made it in advance keeping the roasted vegetables, dressing and cooked orzo separate and then assembled right before serving.


        1. re: JVHcook

          Funny I was going to suggest orzo with everything. I love that recipe and I make it ahead all the time.

      2. Does eggplant stew or vegetarian chili sound like it might work?

        1 Reply
        1. re: enbell

          I was thinking something similar. A batch of veggie chili, a double batch of beef chili, replace the bread with corn bread, and either a big bowl of cole slaw or a big bowl of black bean/corn/tomato salad.

        2. Lasagna! Hot lasagna stays hot under foil for quite a while. And it is easy to make vegetarian. Now vegan is an entirely different issue.

          1 Reply
          1. re: mojoeater

            Not really. Vegan lasagna with silken tofu instead of ricotta is pretty easy, and very tasty.

          2. I've used this site for large-amount recipes: <http://lotsofinfo.tripod.com/index.htmll> The recipes aren't the most exciting in the world and I usually doctor them up a lot, but it's a good reference for gauging the amounts of the ingredients you'll need to make similar dishes on a large scale. (If you look on the left hand side of the home page, there's a link to recipes expressly designed for 50 people.) Best of luck.

            Best of luck.

            1. If you are able to plug in slow cookers, you might consider pulled pork on buns, and then serve coleslaw, macaroni salad, and three bean salad. That way the vegetarians get to eat and have some protein as well.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Godslamb

                +1 on pulled pork in crockpot. I made that for my son's baptism last year and I had ZERO leftovers. I also had another crokpot with meatballs in marinara, some lentil mujadarra for the vegetarians (can be served cold) and a bunch of salads.

                Does anyone know if you could plug a crockpot in your car (on the keep warm stetting) using a DC to AC adapter like this one?


                You could put the crockpot in the trunk so that it doesn't hurt anyone if there's an accident.

              2. Since you're making bread, what about just stuffing the dough? Along these lines and filling can be as creative/complicated as you want.


                You could also make a catatiello which I've recently started making--for meat eaters.


                You can have dipping sauce, or not. Fill with roasted vegetables or have them on the side (or just a big salad). If you want to go with more complicated, a torta rustica would be easy to bring, too, and you could do both vegetarian and meat ones:


                As dessert goes, a Texas sheet cake feeds a lot and is easy to transport. I like this recipe but use coffee instead of water:


                1. So we've just been asked that they would prefer not to have chili or lasagna, because apparently they have been too popular of a choice for their last few dinners...
                  So now we're thinking of doing a pasta/orzo/cous-cous salad along with an asparagus side to go with it as well.
                  That roasted vegetable orzo looks good, anyone have any other recipes that they've tried out and were pretty good?

                  1. Just wanted to update that I made the Orzo with Roasted Vegetables from Barefoot Contessa and it turned out great! I multiplied the recipe (originally for 6) by 6 and there was only about 1 helping of leftovers. I served it with some grilled cilantro rubbed chicken, and everything turned out well.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: JVHcook

                      Glad you liked it! I have also made it with quinoa for a change and it is great too.