We have had lots of struggles and challenges in our lives, but we've had even more blessings!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Pasta and Salad Type Bar"

    I have shared all of the 'details' for 'The Hot Dog Bar' we had done for our son Benson's high school graduation party.
    Then I shared all about the " "Mexican Style" Bar" we did for Brandon's Open House.
    Next down my list of such buffets to share about, comes the "Pasta and Salad Type of Bar" we did for our son Brent's Open House. (Brent graduated in 2008). But instead of only having ingredients available which attendee's could build their own concoction from, we had cooked up pasta dishes and made pasta salads which they could pick and choose from (or have some of each if they so desired). So I've debated, do I wait to post this particular "bar" until after I have posted all of my recipes for it, or do I go ahead and post it and then later, after I have posted said recipes, go back to the "bar" posting and add links to the recipes?
    I debated it for awhile. Then I remembered this paragraph from the previously posted "bars".
    " Seeings how we will soon be entering the season of such open houses, I figured now was a good time to share the other such 'bars' we had done for our son's graduation open houses as well."
   Therefore I decided to go ahead and post about the bar. Many of you would be using your own recipes for the various dishes anyways. For those of you whom are interested in my recipes for them, keep checking back (or sign up to get our postings via email ;->). Within the next couple of weeks I shall be cooking up said recipes, so that I can have good pictures of the dishes to post with their recipes. o:-) Aw-w the sacrifices I make for my blog. ;-p!
   You are more than welcome to use this idea. For graduation open houses. Or parties. Or any other reason/occasion you come up with.

    Here is how things were lined up, down the length (two 6 or 8 (?) foot folding tables) of our:
                      "Pasta and Salad Type Bar"

~ Plates - a couple of tips here concerning the type and size of disposable plates to buy.
     - First, about the type.
       - Setting out plain ole paper plates is like asking for trouble. While they are less expensive than other varieties, they are also far more problem-matic!!! I'm not going to go into details, I KNOW you know what all I'm referring to.
       - We are not much fonder of styrofoam plates. Those things have such a tendency to crack. And way to often if you try to cut something on them, you unknowingly end up slicing all the way through the plate. Annoying!
       - Then there are the thin plastic plates. Avoid them! They too are very problem-matic!
       - Our disposable plate of choice, is actually the card board type of paper plate. They hold up better when being carried. They are less likely to be sliced through when your cutting. And they are still far more 'budget friendly' than some of the other available options.
     - Secondly, about the size. If space is available, they will fill it. Period. (Or at least 98% of the time they will!)
       - So, if you put out the large 14" plates, they will fill them. Even though half of the people in attendance will not eat that much food and thus end up throwing lots away.
       - And while you don't want to spend your money on providing food that's only going to end up in the trash bins, you don't want to look like a 'cheapo' either. So avoid the 7" plates. Those are good for the cake or dessert table, but not the main buffet.
      - Our preferred size is the 9" plate. It holds a good amount of food. And if when it's empty somebody (or somebodies) want more, they usually aren't afraid to go up for seconds. Some will even go for thirds.
~ Chicken Tetrazini. Pre-made. Pre-baked. Again heated through to be served. If you don't have access to the style of Chaffers like caterers use, you can often rent them. HOWEVER, a much more budget friendly option, is to borrow electric roasters from friends and use them to do the trick. Go HERE if you don't know what methodology I am referring to. (Use that method, only set the roaster on a low temp.)
~ Spaghetti. Mix your spaghetti sauce right in with your cooked spaghetti noodles. This to can be pre-made and then heated again to be served. Just make sure you don't cook your noodles one hundred percent through before mixing them with your sauce, or you'll end up with mushy ones. :-[   This too needs to be kept hot on your buffet.
~ Parmesan Cheese. It's up to you. You can use the green canned variety. Or, you can buy big bags of the real stuff at GFS or some similar place and serve it. You can either serve it by putting out a bowl of it with a large spoon in it, or pick up glass shaker jars for it. (I come across them all of the time at mission type stores!)
~ Alfredo Noodles. You can make your own yummy Alfredo sauce and mix it with mostly pre-cooked noodles, or you can buy a tasty bottle or jar of the sauce at the store and use it. This too needs to be kept hot on your buffet.
~ French Bread. Believe it or not, the most cost efficient way to provide this is not the make it yourself method. Go to Sam's Club and buy the big bags of two loafs for under $2.50 a package. Cut the loafs up into about 3" pieces and put them in a linen lined basket on your buffet.
    If you want, you can put butter next to it, but we didn't.
~ Bowls. Again, type and size rules apply. The only difference being that often it is okay to use the styrofoam bowls for tossed salads.
~ Lettuce. Unless it's really on sale, or you have grown your own, it's more cost effective (and time efficient) to go to GFS, Sam's Club, or some such place and buy the huge bags of it. HOWEVER, we recommend that you do not do so until the day before your going to use them! That's the best way to avoid having it go soggy on ya.
    For a good looking bowl of salad greens, we have been mixing two bags of plain shredded lettuce (NOT the kind with the shredded carrots, etc. in it) with one bag of 'spring mix' (it has spinach leafs, etc. in it).
~ Shredded Cheese. We bought the 5 pound bags of shredded cheddar.
~ Bacon Bits. We offered a bowl of 'Real Bacon Pieces' (TM) (they come in a bag) instead of the imitation bacon bits. Ever so much tastier! And not much of a price difference either.
~ Chopped Tomatoes. Go HERE for a tip about doing them up ahead of time.
~ Chopped Eggs. Two to three days ahead of time, hard boil, rinse twice with cold water and then let your eggs sit in cold water for 8 minutes. Use a paper towel to hold your eggs while you peel them. Place all of the peeled eggs on a tray or paper towel lined cookie sheet and set in your frig to cool for about twenty (20) minutes or so. Remove from fridge and chop eggs (some people use their food processors to do so, I just use a good knife). Store in an air tight container in your refrigerator, until about a half hour before serving time. WARNING - the smell that comes out when you open the container can be very strong! Thus you might want to walk outside to do so, and even stand out there holding the bowl for a couple of minutes, before putting it on the buffet.
~ Croutons. You will be amazed with how thrilled people get, when you serve the large sized, mixed type of breads croutons. So fun!
~ Ranch Dressing. This is the type of dressing that you will go through the most of, so go ahead and buy the big gallon jug of it. If there's any left over, you can put it in a smaller container in your fridge. You know you'll use it up. With chicken nuggets. On baked potatoes. Your kids will dip their pizza in it. Etc.
~ Thousand Island Dressing. While this type is far less popular, there will be somebody in attendance whom will be ever so thankful that you had it available.
~ Italian Dressing. Some people will take some of this, sprinkle the parmesan cheese on it, and then dip their french bread in the mixture. Others will only use it for their salads.
~ Red Dressing. My current favorite is Western(TM). It use to be Catalina(TM). Just please make it's a red dressing, not that orangie kind of stuff. Thank-you. ;-p
~ Cold Pasta Salads. We served three different kinds. One had crab in it. Another had small cheddar cubes. You can make your own or pick them up at a deli counter or GFS cooler.
~ Napkins.  NOT the store brand, literally fall apart after three uses, type. Goodness! Most cost effcetive and usage efficient, are the 'dinner style' ones at GFS.
~ Forks.   Also Knives if you expect lots of young children (their parents will want to cut the spaghetti and such noodles into teeny bits). Or, if you put butter next to the french bread.   
   Personally, I HATE plastic silverware, so I borrow the real kind from our church's kitchen. After the event, I either hand wash it, or put it in a plastic bag lined box to take home and run through our dishwasher, then return it. No harm done. (Make sure you get permission from the kitchen chair person ahead of time!)
~ Wet Wipes. Buy a big bulk box of individually wrapped ones and put them in a basket at the end of the buffet. Many a person will be glad you did!

   We offered Pink LemonadeIce Tea and Water to drink ( in the large orange colored Igloo(R) coolers). We had black markers sitting next to the 9 oz. plastic cups so people could write their names on their cups. (<-- Bonus tip there)

    We didn't serve a dessert because Brent didn't want any. We did however set out baskets of two types of mints. The red and white stripped kind, and the little chocolate covered, individually wrapped kind. Both kinds went over well. Especially since some of the dishes were a bit garlicky. ;-p

    Go HERE for bonus tips about keeping cold foods cold, etc.

    When I went through our pictures from this graduation open house, the only good picture I found of the food, was one of one of our nieces holding her plate of food. I didn't have prior permission to use her picture, therefore I had Benson take this picture to use for link-ups.

    Like I said, You are more than welcome to use this idea yourself. For graduation open houses. Or parties. Or any other reason/occasion you come up with. However, if you do, we'd really like to hear what you and others thought about yours!!!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
  I 'plan' on linking this particular posting up to:
~ "Foodie Wednesday('s)", hosted by Bibi, at 'Daily Organized Chaos' (there is nothing wrong with living with chaos as long as it's organized)  (http://www.dailyorganizedchaos.com) 
~ "Whatever Goes Wednesday('s), hosted by Michelle, at 'Someday Crafts' (http://somedaycrafts.blogspot.com/)
~ "Recipe Swap Thursday('s)", hosted by Alison, at 'Prairie Story' (http://www.prairiestory.com/) 
~ "Full Plate Thursday('s), hosted by Miz Helen, at 'Miz Helen's Country Cottage' (http://mizhelenscountrycottage.blogspot.com/)
~ "Sweet Tooth Friday('s)", hosted by Alli, at 'Alli 'n Son' (Parenting and Life with a side of Chocolate) (http://alli-n-son.com/) 
~ "Foodie Friday('s)", are hosted by "Gollum" (aka: Michael), at 'Designs by Gollum' (http://designsbygollum.blogspot.com/)

and then next week, linking up to:
~ "Melt in Your Mouth Monday('s)", hosted by Jane Doiron, at 'Make Ahead Meals For Busy Moms .. and other delicious recipes!' (http://www.makeaheadmealsforbusymoms.com)
"Making Your Home Sing Monday('s)", are hosted by Nan, at 'Mom's the Word (I love to hear)' (http://momstheword--livingforhim.blogspot.com/).
~ "Homemaker Mondays ... Yours, Mine & Ours", are hosted by Jen, at '11th Heaven's Homemaking Haven' (http://rtheyallyours.blogspot.com/).
~ "Market Yourself Monday", are hosted by Sumo, at 'Sumo's Sweet Stuff' (http://sumossweetstuff.blogspot.com/)
~ "Delectable Tuesday('s)", hosted by Stephani, at 'Home Sweet Farm' (http://www.ourjourneytoasimplerlife.blogspot.com/)
~ "Tuesday's Tasty Tidbits", hosted by Susan, at 'Permanent Posies - Creative Chaos' (http://permanentposies.com/)
~ "Tempt My Tummy Tuesday('s)", are hosted by Lisa, at 'Blessed with Grace' (http://blessedwithgrace.blogspot.com).
~ "Tuesdays at the Table", are hosted by Cole, at 'All The Small Stuff' (http://allthesmallstuff-cole.blogspot.com/).
~ "Kitchen Tip Tuesday('s)", are hosted by Tammy, at 'Tammy's Recipes' (http://www.tammysrecipes.com/).
~ "Tasty Tuesday('s)", are hosted by Jennifer, at "Balancing Beauty and Bedlam" (http://www.beautyandbedlam.com/)


  1. Hi Cheryl,
    Your Salad Bar looks great. What a good idea for entertaining. You really have it organized. Thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday and please come back!

  2. Great ideas! And I wish I'd been invited to your open house.....good eats! Thanks for linking up to Making Your Home Sing Monday!


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