A cooking marathon for folks and friends

… and how to organize a successful holiday buffet party for 15 people in 1 day and half and not die. No recipes in this post, my purpose is only to give you some ideas for a holiday buffet menu where all preparations are intended to be easy to pick and eat in plastic dishes, standing, talking, mingling.

Even though I don’t have any picture of the event, not even of the food because I was so busy and concentrated before, during and after that I really had no chance of taking pictures, even though I was saying, I want to tell you about this my experience.  It was the first time that I organized a whole lunch buffet for 15 people cooking completely by myself (muuuum where are youuuu!?) and because it turned to be an appreciated and successful event I am sure that some of you can find useful some of the strategies, methods, and tips that I learned myself. It was a holiday small event that we organized at our house for Michael’s parents and a group of family friends. Date and time: Saturday, December 12, 2009 h. 12:00pm. The cooking marathon started on thursday at 5:40pm and ended … well practically at 12:00pm when the guests started to arrive. I can confidently say that the organization and schedule was quite efficient. So here it is my chronicle…


Aim: Lunch buffet for 15 people

Scheduled: Saturday, December 12, 2009 h. 12:00pm

I decided the menu the weekend before the event and made sure to buy and have in the house everything I needed within thursday night. Planning is critical not to go crazy at the last minute because you don’t have this or that, and you must fit another food shopping experience into the already tight cooking schedule… First and foremost:

– plan your menu and stick it somewhere where it is very visible
– based on the menu prepare your list for grocery, and list of possible tools that you may need. Keep the list somewhere handy and visible and keep filling it as things that you may need come on your mind
– do your food shopping in advance and make sure that you have all you need within two days from the event.





Pizza with escarole
Potato gateau
Salame and coleslaw rolls


Caprese salad
Spring mix salad
Cheese and crackers fantasy


Farfalle, piselli e prosciutto (bows pasta with peas and ham)
Teriyaki meatballs with tomato sauce

Fresh fruit plate
Chocolate and orange cake


Schedule and preparation

Food shopping done between wednesday and thursday.


Thursday night

Pan di Spagna for the cake (sponge cake) and potato gateau.
h. 5:40pm: put on water to boil, peeled and sliced potatoes. Potatoes in cooking pan
h. 6:00pm: prepared batter for cake, in oven by 6:25 (baked for about 30-35 minutes).
h. 6:30pm: prepared eggs and cheese mixture for potato gateau
h. 7:00pm: potatoes are cooked, mashed and mixed with the eggs/cheese mixture
h. 7:15pm: potato gateau in oven (will bake for 40 minutes)

Friday afternoon

Escarole pizza, sauce for pasta, cream and assemblage of cake, salame rolls
2:00pm: prepared pizza dough, let it rising for 1 1/2 hour
2:20pm: preparation of the sauce for pasta (1-sautée onions with oil, 2- prosciutto, 3- frozen peas, 4-whipping cream, 5-parsley)
3:00pm: coffee break 😉
3:20pm: prepared escarole for pizza
3:45pm: pizza dough is spread in baking pan, filled with escarole, second rising
4:00pm: whipped cream, melted chocolate for cake, mix chocolate cream mixed cream for cake
4:25pm ca: pizza with escarole in oven
5:30pm: cake is cut, sprinkled, filled with cream, assembled and decorated
6:00pm: coleslaw are sautéed
6:30pm: assembled salame rolls with coleslaw
7:00pm: assembled in plate the Caprese salad without dressing
7:30pm: dinner with chicken salad (leftover in the fridge)
h. 8:15pm: I declare the day over and die on the sofa watching some brainless show

Saturday morning

7:30am: wake up, coffee and breakfast by Michael 🙂
8:30am: prepared tables with plates, tissues, silverware, decorations and candles, pull out trays
9:00am: cheese selection on cheese board with crackers selections in bowls, pineapple cleaned and sliced
9:30am: prepare tomato sauce for meatballs and pull out meatballs from fridge :-). I used a package of Teriyaki and Pineapple meatballs bought at Costco, they are fully cooked you only need to heat them before serving. They are good and tasty. It is one of the very few prepared food that I can buy, and it is a good help when you have to do a lot of cooking in a short time.
10:00am: dress Caprese salad, green mix in bowl with a choice of two condiments in gravyboats, all can go out
10:15am: put on water for pasta, cook pasta al dente, warm up pea sauce and assemble
10:40am: cut and slice pizza and potato gateau, arranged in trays
11:00: arranged meatballs in large plate with sauce in a small bowl in the middle
11:30: preheat oven at  200F, heat in the order: pizza, potato gateau, meatballs.
11:50: remove stuff from the oven. All appetizers and salads are out
12:00: get ready for guests to arrive

The bar

Having someone taking care of the bar is absolutely critical, Michael did a great job on this. He made sure to have available both hot and cold beverages. He arranged a nice bar counter for the guests to help themselves with the following:
– plastic cups, glasses, and mugs;
– a large thermos of warm coffee;
– a selection of tea (with a teapot always warm on the stove);
– bottles of white and red wine with openers;
– a cooler full of ice with beer and white wine on the side of the bar counter:
– non-alcoholic beverages (specifically apple and orange juice)..

Tips and suggestions

1) Cover with lids or plastic wrap all the things that you prepare in advance, and keep them in a cool place or in the fridge.
2) Save one cup of the cooking water when you drain the pasta, you will need it to make the pasta well moist right before serving.
3) Keep pasta and meatballs in the oven during the first mingling phase. Bring them out when all guests are arrived and have started to enjoy appetizers.
4) Arrange the tables and chairs, sofas and whatever you have in a way that guests have available some surface to put their plates or glasses on. Even very small occasional tables covered with decorated cloths and placed between chairs serve this scope nicely.
5) Have handy a small bin for your guests trash.


P.S.: If the party happens in your house plan for cleaning and make your place nice and comfortable for your guests, as you see above this time is not considered in this account 🙂

PP.S.: If you like the idea of a printed menu to display on the table as I did, I tell you that it has been appreciated by my guests. Some fantasy and a little Photoshop action and there it is!

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