Cooking for a Crowd: 4 Moms, 35 Kids

As I was considering the topic of cooking for a crowd I realized that some would consider our normal dinner preparation as cooking for a crowd.  I generally think of groups larger than our regular 12 when I think of a crowd, but certainly when we have company it would qualify as a “crowd”.  So for this post I’ll share a recipe for an inexpensive family favorite, some tips for planning a menu for company a crowd and two of our favorite ‘company’ recipes.

Be sure to see what the other moms of many are cooking up.  Oh and don’t forget that you can add your own favorite ‘cooking for a crowd’ recipe at the bottom of this post and check out many others!

Connie @ Smockity Frocks
Deputy Headmistress @ The Common Room
KimC @ Life in a Shoe

Lentil Chili

This recipe is one of our family favorites.  It fits nicely into our budget and I can make our money go farther if I use all lentils instead of the beef.  Our whole family LOVES lentil chili so I have to make a HUGE batch to satisfy everyone.  I can also make it stretch by serving it over rice, especially nice if we have company drop by unexpectedly.


1 onion, chopped
1 tsp. cumin
10 c. water
1 lb. dry lentils
2 tsp. salt
2 c. salsa
29 oz. canned tomatoes, crushed
1 lb. ground beef
1 tsp. chili powder

Brown ground beef with the onion, drain.  Add lentils and water. Simmer 1 1/2 hours.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes.

Variations:  Omit meat and double the amount of lentils for a vegetarian dish.  Serve over rice.  Top with cheese and/or sour cream.

I double or triple this recipe to feed our family of 12.

Menu planning for company

Here are some things that I’ve learned to make hospitality easier and more relaxing for us and hopefully more enjoyable for our guests.  A side benefit is that we can easily have company 3 times a week (when I’m not pregnant) and not feel too overwhelmed or disrupt our regular schedule.

  • I have a much looser food budget when we have company so that we can have nicer meals with easier preparation.
  • I keep my recipe choices more traditional.  (There are a lot of picky eaters in this world.)  I almost always serve a meat or pasta dish rather than beans and rice, fish or more ethnic choices.
  • I choose recipes that I can prepare ahead of time and keep warm (or cook)  in the crock pot.  This allows for the preparation to be done when it’s most convenient for me and the kitchen mess can be cleaned up well before company arrives.    When guests arrive we simply sit down and eat.  Dinner is warm (and not burned) when we’re ready to eat whether our guests are early or late.
  • I like to have several sides available.   I generally serve two vegetables with an everyday dinner, but with company I will add one extra side.  This helps make the main dish go farther, ensures that everyone finds at least one vegetable that they like and no one leaves the table hungry.
  • I like to always have homemade bread available.  It’s another great filler.

Of course hospitality is much broader than having another family over for a sit-down dinner, but that is a whole different post.

Here are some of our favorite company recipes:

Cranberry Pork Roast

This is a  nice traditional meat and potatoes meal with a unique twist of cranberry, so that your company has probably never had it before, unless they’ve been in our home.


4-5 lb. boneless pork loin
16 oz. jellied cranberry sauce
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. cranberry juice
1 tsp. dried mustard
1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Put the pork loin into the crock pot. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over roast.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Use the juices from the roast to make an AMAZING gravy.  We always serve this with mashed potatoes because it would be a shame to waste this gravy.

This recipe will feed 15-20.

Ground Beef Stroganoff

A less expensive dinner option for a larger crowd.  I am particular to recipes that are served over pasta and/or rice when having company because it’s very easy to stretch to feed more people if your husband invites another family or two over at the last minute.  When that happens I just make more pasta and/or rice and heap the plates high.


2 lb ground beef
2 med. onions, chopped
1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced (you may do more or less)
2 T. butter, melted
2- 10 3/4 can cream of mushroom soup (substitute ‘from scratch’ varieties)
16 oz. sour cream

Brown ground beef, drain.  Add onion and cook until onion is tender.  Add mushrooms and butter, cook until mushrooms are tender.  Stir in flour,  garlic salt and pepper until mixed.   Mix in soup and place in crock pot.  Cook on low until a half hour before eating, then stir in sour cream.  (Everything is cooked when you add it to the crock pot, so there is no need to leave it in the crock pot all day.)

Now it’s your turn, what are your favorite ‘feed a crowd’ recipes?  Link them up here and your link will show up on all four of the 4 Moms blogs.

Please enter your recipe name in addition to the name of your blog, so that people can find the recipes they are most interested in. Remember to link to the specific post with your recipe and please, provide a link back here so your readers can share in the fun! (links that don’t follow these guidelines will be removed)

1. Smockity Frocks
2. Raising Olives – Lentil Chili – Cranberry Roast – Stroganoff
3. Raising Arrows {Lunch for a Bunch}
4. Phoebe @ GettingFreedom(Baked Beans for a Crowd))
5. Amy @ Finer Things (Cavatini and more)
6. Anita (cooking for a crowd or the freezer)
7. DHM, cooking for a crowd
8. Cyndi L. (Inside out turkey cheese burgers)
9. KimC (pudding, bread, enchilada sauce)
10. Cooking for the multitudes (Balancing Beauty/Bedlam)
11. Linda @ Gluten-Free Homemaker (Mexican Lasagna)
12. Plymouth Rock Ranch (Whole Wheat Pumpkin Spice Waffles)
13. Betty-
14. Alicia’s Homemaking–Bean and Sausage Stew
15. Milehimama (Tips to stretch food and Swiss Steak)
16. HoosierHomemade{Homemade Meatballs}
17. Girls and sunflowers (dressing for the masses!)
18. Gwen T
19. Raising a Quiverfull (Shredded pork tacos)
20. Empty the Pantry Casserole
21. Big pot of yummy Lentil Stew @ Every Precious Joy
22. Vickie (Crock Pot Burritos & Lasagna
23. Amber (Plaza III Soup, Potato-Cheese Soup)
24. Dewey’s Treehouse (White Vegetable Lasagna)
25. NerdFamily Food (Chicken, Spinach and Corn Enchiladas)
26. Angela @ Blissfully Single
27. Mrs. Hearts
28. HoosierHomemade{Make-Ahead Meals}
29. Kitchen Stewardship – 4 kinds of Pasta Salad for a Crowd
30. Olivia@Of Such is the Kingdom (Pasta Salad)

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You may be interested in the other 4 Moms cooking posts;  cooking from scratch, menu planning or feeding your family on a budget.

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25 Responses to Cooking for a Crowd: 4 Moms, 35 Kids
  1. chantelle
    April 22, 2010 | 8:07 am

    I am enjoying this series so much, thank you! 🙂 One question, do you need to soak the lentils overnight first?


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Thank you! 🙂

    No need to soak the lentils overnight. Unlike most legumes, lentils are almost a “fast food”. They are very versatile and a great option as a substitute for ground beef.


  2. GapGirl
    April 22, 2010 | 8:51 am

    Thanks for the tips. Besides feeding 7 mouths (almost 8) on a regular basis, I am forever having out of town company staying with us and having to feed many more…. which really leaves me wondering what to cook… (without serving the same meals every time they come)

    Can’t believe you have only 80 days left!!! Im only 14 weeks… I still have quite some time but Im counting every single second!!! I can’t wait


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    CONGRATS! Very happy for you all and hope that everything goes well.

    I don’t allow myself to count down until I get to 30 weeks. But I find that I’ve been counting down how much longer I have until I get to count down. 🙂


  3. Natalie
    April 22, 2010 | 9:02 am

    Love this! I am from a family of eight, but am now married and doing “small family cooking”. With a one and two year old, we have found that hospitality is more manageable for us if we invite several smaller families at once and make “big family food.” I love jambalaya and chili especially, but I have also tossed a pork roast and some cranberry sauce together, and yes, that is an amazing combination!


  4. Jamie
    April 22, 2010 | 10:02 am

    I am so horrible in the kitchen… “feeding a crowd” for me usually means pizza. I can’t stand the kitchen and I really, really do not like cooking, so I keep everything as simple as possible. Our crock pot is one of my best friends. That being said, I love your hamburger strogonaff recipe. I have used that (it’s pretty fool proof, so even I can make it) lots of times, too. It’s a hit with my whole family, and Chris in particular. One night I was making it, but had to get Miryam somewhere so Chris finished dinner. When I got home, he looked kind of disappointed. Apparently, he didn’t know one of his favorite dishes was so easy to make! Whoops. Oh, well, it was funny :). I also do a lot of rice and pasta meals. But for me, it’s mostly because they are hard to screw up!


  5. bunny
    April 22, 2010 | 10:04 am

    I am enjoying this series and getting to know some of the other moms.


  6. bunny
    April 22, 2010 | 10:05 am

    I am enjoying getting to know some of the other moms. Also getting inspired to cook more often, again.


  7. Gentile
    April 22, 2010 | 12:17 pm

    i love all the recipes! i need more! lol


  8. Smockity Frocks
    April 22, 2010 | 12:35 pm

    We make a similar stroganoff. It’s a family favorite!


  9. Mama Mirage
    April 22, 2010 | 2:08 pm

    Linked to an old post because it’s the biggest recipe I have.


  10. Lorie
    April 22, 2010 | 2:45 pm

    I use lentils, along with carrots, onions, celery & green peppers, to stretch my ground beef. I cook a pound of lentils at a time, freeze them on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper, store them in the freezer in a ziploc & they’re ready to use whenever I need them.


  11. Leslie
    April 22, 2010 | 10:08 pm

    Can I have your recipe for your homemade bread? I’d like to try to make some.


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    We are currently experimenting with our bread recipe. We had used the same one for years and then nearly a year ago we had an incident that involved pickled wheat (long story, but suffice it to say that if you store your wheat in used gallon buckets be sure to use lemon and not just bleach to clean them out if they were previously used to store pickles.)

    Anyhow, we are still having some ‘issues’ and tweaking things. It probably doesn’t help that different people make bread nearly every time. I do hope to post one when we have figured it out again.


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    This is the recipe that we have used with good success in the past.

    It doesn’t have you soak the flour, but is a good, basic recipe to start out with. 😉

    I’d love to know how it goes!


  12. stacey
    April 24, 2010 | 9:27 am

    Are lentils a “generic” name for beans, or are they a specific type of bean??


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Lentils are a specific type of bean. You can use green or brown lentils in this recipe. Lentils cook more quickly than beans and do not require overnight soaking.


  13. mrstrooper
    April 25, 2010 | 11:31 pm

    Love the Cranberry Pork Tenderloin recipe! I made it in the crock pot this morning before church and came home to a delicious meal. Thanks for the recipes!


  14. Julie
    April 26, 2010 | 7:32 pm

    When I told my husband that we were having Lentil Chili, he moaned. He’d never tried it and the only other lentil dish I’ve made he hated. He ate it anyway, though. He’s so good! Anyway, at the dinner table he ate his first bowl of Lentil Chili and he started to ladle himself some more. When asked what he was doing he said he was getting more Lentil Chili because it was sooo good! He even said I could include it in the rotation! That’s saying something! Two of five kids ate it, the baby doesn’t count, though. She couldn’t eat it. The others will eat more next time.

    Thanks so much for this recipe! I can’t wait to try more!


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Our family has had a similar experience with this recipe. It doesn’t look great, but tastes wonderful.


  15. Brandae
    April 26, 2010 | 10:11 pm

    My friend Kimarie referred me to your blog – I love it! I made your lentil chili recipe today with some adjustments (used baked chicken breasts instead of ground beef and tossed in a few cups of cooked brown rice). We topped each bowl with some shredded cheddar and then dipped focaccia bread into it – DELICIOUS! It was my first time using lentils, and I’ll be making this again! Thanks a bunch!


  16. Kryzde
    July 15, 2010 | 12:49 am

    So odd that I was looking the other day for a stroganoff recipe I could use and freeze a bunch (for long days when I just dont have time or will not be here and my faince has to cook … ewwww lol) Gonna have to try this one! Just have to figure out what to use in place of the soup as I normally prefer to make my own sauce but dont really know what I would want in the stroganoff. Thanks so much and I love your blog even though I dont comment much I am here all the time! We only have 3 kiddoes at the moment ages 8, 3, and 2. But as I am only 24 I definatly would like to have more just need to make sure we are prepared for that as well as give my body a rest since I lost 2 and then my last 2 were at 36 and then 29 weeks (actually went into labor at 26 the first time but they stopped it like 10 times). I do have a question for you about cooking though. With a large family and cooking to freeze what kinds of pots and pans do you absolutely have to have? I am trying to get some quality pans that will cover most of my cooking needs without having 20 pans around here and would love wo know what you find most used and durable and what you really dont have a need for! Thanks much for your blog as we have found many helpful ideas here!!!


  17. Heather
    October 2, 2010 | 2:44 pm

    Would you share how you make gravy from the cranberry pork roast? Thanks so much!


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    I mix some corn starch with water to make a paste then add that to some of the juices from the roast. Cook and stir until thickened (adding more corn starch/water mixture as needed). Season with a bit of salt, if desired.


  18. Tiffany
    April 22, 2012 | 8:09 am

    Thanks for sharing. I cook most Friday nights for about 50 at Kid’s church. 40ish kids and 5-10 staff. Some of the favorites, Cornbread and chili, Creamed chicken over mashed potatoes, Egg bake with Cinnamon toast, spaghetti and garlic bread. The Chicken was my fav. Milk, cream of chicken soup,cooked chicken, frozen veggie mix over spuds.. “SOUPER” easy 🙂


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