Archive for Everyday

Turkey Tetrazzini for a Crowd

I made this turkey tetrazzini for the retired folks at my church. We were having an amazing speaker so we had a nice crowd of close to 60. Turkey Tetrazzini worked well for a large crowd and for the confined space I had to serve in. I adapted this recipe from a couple of different ones but the predominant recipe was from The Pioneer Woman (Rhee Drummond).

Turkey Tetrazzini for a crowd

Difficulty: Medium due to large quantity

Time: If doing the pasta like I did the night before in smaller batches then about 6-7 hours.

Ingredients for 75:

8lbs spaghetti
20T butter
2 heads garlic
3 onions, diced
3T thyme
6 lbs mushrooms
3 t salt
1 bottle white wine
1 1/2 cups flour
20 cups chicken broth
40oz cream cheese
15 cups cooked turkey or chicken (poached is good, I bought deboned, rotisserie style from my favorite warehouse store to save a bit on time for such a large crowd)
7.5 cups frozen green peas
1 1/2 pounds bacon, cooked and chopped
24 oz grated Monterey jack cheese
20 oz cups grated parmesan cheese
20 oz panko bread crumbs

How to make turkey tetrazzini for a large crowd (75 people)

Cook pasta until almost done. Drain, rinse and set aside. For such a large crowd, I did this the night before in 8 different batches, drained, rinsed, let cool and put in Ziploc bags.

In a really big (industrial size) pot, heat butter over medium-high heat and sauté onion and garlic until tender.  Add the quartered mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook until the mushrooms begin to get soft but are not complete. Add the thyme and wine and cook until reduced by half.

Add the flour slowly and stir. Cook for about 5 minutes then add the chicken broth. Cook until the mixture thickens. This will take a while when cooking for such a large crowd. While you are getting that to thicken, cut up the cream cheese into smaller cubes so it will melt easier.

When the mixture begins to thicken, add the cream cheese and stir it until it mostly blends with the mixture. Add the other cheeses and stir. Then add the chicken/turkey, peas, and bacon. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Place 1/4 of the pasta in a large industrial style cooking container. Add 1/4 of the mixture and stir to incorporate. Top with Panko bread crumbs. Repeat for the remaining pasta and mixture for a total of 4 large casserole dishes.

Turkey Tetrazzini for a crowd

Bake the dishes at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes until the sauce bubbles and the bread crumbs are toasted.

Turkey Tetrazzini for 75

Meal Idea

I served this with a large mixed green salad with toasted pecans, feta cheese, craisins and a raspberry walnut vinaigrette and a piece of garlic bread. A perfect meal.

Cooking for a crowd at church – Meatloaf with tomato relish, macaroni and cheese, and stuffed zucchini

I am cooking for a crowd at my church again this Sunday for our Anniversary luncheon. We are 61 years old and going strong! This is always a bit intimidating as it is not just the smaller group of retirees I cook for once a month. This is the entire congregation, hungry after a sermon and ready to eat! Yikes!!

Menu for 80 people

Meatloaf (my mom cooked this recipe for me when I was at her house last time. It’s from Tyler Florence and really good, but I’ll probably leave off the bacon).

Stuffed Zucchini for our vegetarians in the crowd (I’ll add this recipe later but it is stuffed with tomatoes, black beans and lentils)

Macaroni and Cheese

A veggie (not sure what until I get to the store)–>ended up doing a stuffed zucchini that was really good!

Salad (with tomatoes and cucumbers)

Dessert (this will be store bought because they’ll do something better for 80 plus people than I can)

Garlic Bread

The Plan

I’ll stop by the church today and borrow some institutional size pans so I can get some items prepared at home today and Saturday. The make ahead list includes:

  • Shopping for the food
  • Tomato relish for the meatloaf
  • The stuffing for the zucchini
  • Grating the cheese for the macaroni
  • Veggies for the salad cut

Below is my first list. I’ll rewrite this thing 5 times this weekend as the pressure builds but this is my menu, shopping list and initial timing for Sunday morning to determine make ahead items!

lunch for 80

The Volunteers

You can’t do this without help so I’ve kindly asked for and accepted help from several folks. There is a team to setup the Fellowship Hall for us to eat and enjoy beautiful table decorations, someone to collect money, folks to help me in the kitchen, and folks to clean up afterwards.

It takes a village….better yet, it takes a church to feed a crowd. Folks who nourish each other’s souls everyday will have their stomach nourished this Sunday. Can’t wait!

Concert Food

Most of us live in or near a city that offers outdoor concerts. Whether they are casual, on a grassy area with kids running around, or they are at an outdoor venue like Chastain Park in Atlanta, they are a blast. Part of the fun is bringing in your own dinner and eating it while listening to some great music.

We did a post over the summer about packing a picnic for the casual outdoor concerts. Next Saturday, we are going to hear Kayla Taylor Jazz over at the Mable House and thought we should do a post about what to bring to an outdoor concert that is at a little more of an upscale venue than the local park! Side note: If you live in Atlanta, you really should come to the concert. It’s kid friendly, free, and she puts on a FABULOUS show! Kayla has been a great friend of mine for years and she is a huge McNack’s supporter!! Go see her. You won’t be disappointed.


What to bring for concert food? Here’s a sample menu!

Wine – Don’t forget an opener and glasses. If you really want to be classy, bring a wine chiller so you don’t have to keep opening up your cooler to refill!

Summer Cocktails – Don’t forget the ice!

Specialty Meats and Cheeses – You can pack them separately and then display them on a platter once you get to your table. If you are not a table, you can put what you like on your plate straight from the container.

Pork Tenderloin sliders – Make and slice your meat before you leave and put into a container. Pack your rolls separately as well as any condiments that you might like. Don’t forget a spreader for the condiments.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts – you can always add bacon to this just keep the bacon separate so it doesn’t get soggy.

Parsley Spaghetti

Arugula with Parmesan – great, light and easy salad.

Meals for Friends

Melissa and I have a friend who has just been diagnosed with cancer. We were talking about how we wished she lived in Atlanta so we could cook for her and her family. Of course, the conversation snowballed into, “Let’s do a post about what to cook for friends when they are sick, have surgery, or you just need to bring them a meal!”  Here are some tips and ideas if you are making a meal for a friend, no matter what the reason is:

  • Whatever you bring, make sure you pack it in disposable containers. No one wants to wash dishes or have to keep track of who to return what platter to.
  • Always ask about allergies, food aversions and doctor requirements. Why waste your time making food some people in the family can’t or won’t eat?
  • Consider kids. If the friend you are cooking for has small children, take them into consideration when choosing your menu. Homemade macaroni and cheese is usually a big hit with them.
  • You don’t always have to fully cook the food. There are times that I will “prepare the food” and write instructions on the lid of the disposable container with the oven temp and how long to cook for.
  • Make enough for leftovers. As long as you are making a meal for your friend, you may as well make two, as long as it freezes well.  When I make spaghetti pie, I always make two. One to eat and one to freeze!
  • If you bring a salad, make sure you pack the dressing separately so the lettuce doesn’t wilt. Bagged salad is perfectly acceptable.
  • If there is a meal sign up, look at it! Most people will indicate what they are making when they sign up for their day. This helps to prevent 15 chicken and broccoli casseroles.
  • Don’t expect that your meal will be eaten on the day you deliver it, unless you know for certain otherwise. Your friend might still be working on leftovers from the day before!
  • If you are cooking for someone who is sick or had surgery, be sensitive to their stomach! Chances are they are looking for more comfort food as opposed to something with a lot of spice.
  • People always cook dinners. It’s nice to also bake a loaf of banana bread or pick up some muffins and fruit for breakfasts!

Need some ideas for what to make? Give some of these a try. Mix and match to fit the needs of your friend and what you already plan to make.

Broccoli Casserole – you can add poached chicken and rice to this to make it a great full meal casserole

Carnitas – Bring the meat and all the fixings! You can go ahead and put some meat aside in a resealable baggie to freeze or let your friend do it.

Middle Eastern Salad

Pasta Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette

Chicken Soup

Artichoke Soup

Arugula Salad with Parmesan

Oven Fried Ranch Chicken

Turkey Tetrazzini

Chicken Parmigiana

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Zucchini

Roasted Potatoes

Parsley Spaghetti

Syrian Noodle Rice

Garlic Green Beans

Pork Tenderloin

Picnic Food

Kitchen Tips

When the weather is nice, it’s a great time to pack a picnic and head outside to a festival, concert in the park, or quite spot by a lake. We have a local summer concert series by our house and we often go with a group of friends. Sometimes we all bring food to share, and other times each family packs their own. Here are just a few ideas of food that travels well and is great for a picnic.

Picnic Food Ideas:

Hummus with Pita Chips


Cheese and crackers

Chicken Wings

Pasta Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette

Middle Eastern Salad

Arugula with Parmesan

Tomato Cucumber Red Onion Salad

Zucchini with Feta Cheese and Tomatoes

Turkey Roll Ups

Caprese Salad on a Stick

Blackened Steak Salad



Vacation Food: Easy meals with minimal seasoning

easy baked chicken recipe

When you go on vacation, do you remember to pack a bunch of spices for your meals that you plan on cooking? I don’t plan what I am going to cook in advance and I almost always forget to bring a bunch of spices. It is so frustrating. I am also too cheap to buy spices that I only need a teaspoon of once I’m there.

I just got back from vacation and I cooked 4 easy meals while I was there with little or no seasoning. They were each under 30 minutes to prepare for 8 people and I did not need anything but salt and pepper. The flavor came from some store bought sauces/dressings.

Vacation Food Ideas

  1. Dinner salad with broiled salmon
  2. Ham steak with baked beans and salad
  3. Salsa verde chicken with rice, black beans and roasted asparagus
  4. Pork Tenderloin with tart cherry glaze, rice and snow peas

High Level Prep Instructions for Vacation Food:

1. Salad with broiled salmon – just sprinkle the salmon with salt and pepper, cook at 450 degrees for 8-12 minutes. With your favorite salad greens, toss with store bought salad dressing of your choice, tomatoes and croutons.

2. Ham steak with baked beans and salad – make a simple salad again with the remaining salad dressing, tomatoes, etc. Bake the baked beans for 30 minutes. Quickly sear two ham steaks (I buy Smithfield because they are soooooo good, one feeds 4 people). About 4 minutes per side on high heat in a dry pan (no need to add anything).

3. Salsa Verde Chicken with rice, black beans and roasted asparagus – Cook chicken according to the linked recipe. While the chicken is baking, start the rice (according to package directions) and heat the black beans. Then prepare your asparagus, then toss the prepared asparagus with salt, pepper and a little of the salsa verde. When ready to broil the chicken, broil the asparagus too. Five minutes and dinner is ready!

4. Pork Tenderloin with tart cherry glaze, rice and snow peas – Prepare the pork tenderloin according to the linked recipe. While the oven is preheating, start the water for the rice. After you put the pork in the oven, prepare your snow peas. Glaze the pork until done. After the pork is finished and is resting, heat the snow peas with a bit of the same glaze over medium high heat until crisp-tender. Slice the pork and serve it up!

Special Occasion Luncheon for 70 People (pt 3 of 3)

What a day! I’d love to say everything went off without a hitch, but that would not be 100% accurate….However, it was pretty darn close. Thanks so much to Denise for being with me step for step. It actually worked out so well that we had several moments of twiddling our thumbs in the kitchen.

I arrived at the church at 8:30 after dropping the kids at school. After unloading everything from the car, it was time to get organized. I turned on the ovens to preheat, started simmering the Red-Eye Glaze again (after simmering for 4 hrs the night before, it still was not reduced enough to a glaze yet). I then started with the white bean ragout. The largest pot I had at home did not have enough room for the beans too, so I transferred about 3/4 of the ragout to a new pot, turned on the heat and started opening can after can after can of cannellini beans. After opening 20 cans of beans manually and rinsing them, I was happy when Denise arrived. With the beans added and the pot warming up, they were done other than final tasting and tweaking for best flavors. But that will come later.

Next was the vinaigrette to both marinate the vegetables on the salad and for the dressing. Denise chopped up the artichokes, hearts of palm and roasted red peppers. I made the vinaigrette with red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano and olive oil. Done and in the fridge!

We moved on to the bread. We wanted something with some crunch and to help sop up the yummy ragout, so we decided on crostinis. I had bought some good crusty bread from the Costco bakery, we sliced thin rounds, brushed moderately with olive oil, dusted with garlic powder, sprinkled with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and popped them in the oven. We made 3 1/2 large trays (well, technically 4 but I burned some and had to toss them out). We made these early as the zucchini was going to take the oven space for the last-minute preparation.
Luncheon for 70

Next up, the pork tenderloins. I brought my All-Clad Double Burner Griddle (gotta get one if you don’t have one. Perfect for pancakes, quesidillas, grilled sandwiches, etc).
We used this to quickly sear the meat on all sides to provide color, texture and flavor to the meat. Doing this for 20 individual loins took about 30-40 minutes. Denise chopped the parsley for the garnish, washed and trimmed the zucchini, and topped the loins with their first coating of the glaze. Did I mention that it was fantastic to have Denise with me this year!!
Luncheon for 70

Quick check of the clock and we are ahead of schedule! So, on to the zucchini. A lot of people don’t like zucchini and I really have no idea why. When you ask them, they generally say it is mushy, has no flavor, or it is watery. Once again, this is in the preparation. Yes, zucchini (like most vegetables) is probably 90% water. So, why would you boil it in water and expect it to taste like something other than water? For this preparation, we opted on roasting (best way to bring out a veggies true flavors). We sliced them thin lengthwise, coated them with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika and oregano. Then laid them out on three large sheet trays ready to pop in the oven 10 minutes prior to service.
Roasted Zucchini

Time to look at the list again and the clock. It’s only about 10:30! Bread-done;Salad-prep’d;zucchini-prep’d; beans-simmering;pork-prep’d. Wow! Way ahead of schedule. We took a breath, I showed Denise how pretty the Fellowship Hall was decorated, talked through the service aspect and returned to the kitchen.

Meat in the oven at 11:00, glazed 2 times while cooking and again when we took them out. They completed in about 30 minutes which gave us 30 minutes to let them rest before cutting them, always key with any meat!!
Pork Tenderloins

We decided to go ahead and toss the salad, plate it and let the servers put them on the tables for all the guests for when they sat down.

Once that was done, it was time to cut the pork and get ready for the craziness of plating about 65 plates as quickly and cleanly as possible. We recruited a couple of volunteers for the service line and we were off. Time to eat and take a breath!! Everything was really well received and very much appreciated. We received so many wonderful comments about the meal but my personal favorite was the deep and sincere gratitude for the love that was put into each dish.

Thanks to Bruce Dick for most of these great pictures.
Missed part 1 or part 2? Click on the links.