When you're throwing party, the food may be one of your biggest challenges, especially if you've got 20 people coming. Include foods on your menu that appeal to guests of any age. Keep it fun and interesting to encourage youngsters to dive in to your buffet fare. With a little imagination, your guests will enjoy the spread.
Prepare roast beef the day before the dinner party. Place the roasts in the roasting pan after rubbing the outsides of the roasts with herbs and spices of your choice -- salt, pepper, oregano, paprika or garlic powder -- or use a time-saving prepackaged dip mix. Insert the meat thermometer into the largest roast to monitor the cooking process. Roast the beef at 325 F until the internal temperature reaches about 145 F and let the meat rest for about 10 minutes before carving.
Purchase about 10 lbs. of potatoes to prepare au gratin potatoes to serve on the buffet. Slice one or two onions and mix them with the potato slices. Create a simple sauce for the potatoes by using cream of chicken soup, thinned with milk or ranch dressing. Mix everything together, top it with cheddar cheese and bake until the potatoes are tender.
Mix up a large tossed salad, adding a variety of different vegetables to the lettuce. Cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, shredded carrots and shredded cheese will appeal to guests of all ages. Fill small bowls with less traditional salad ingredients such as sliced pepperoni, hot peppers and black olives. Choose several different dressing flavors to serve with the salad.
Make a tempting and colorful fruit salad using cubed watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries. Use a gallon-size glass bowl so the fruit salad will be visible through the sides of the bowl for added impact. Frost the bowl by rinsing it in water and placing it in the freezer until just before time to serve.
Arrange the buffet before your guests arrive. Use a pretty tablecloth to cover the banquet table. Place the plates at the end of the table where guests will begin serving themselves. Put the tossed salad, dressings and the fruit salad on the table next to the plates. Add the potatoes and then place sandwich rolls in a large basket lined with a cloth napkin. Set up a chafing dish next to the rolls and fill it with sliced roast beef. Add some condiments such as horseradish, mustard and mayonnaise in pretty little bowls. Place the silverware and napkins at the end of the table opposite the plates. Don't forget to put serving spoons and forks next to the potatoes, salads, roast beef and condiments.
Set up a beverage table separate from the buffet table. Plan to provide between 60 and 80 drinks for 20 guests. Offer a variety of cold drinks, including soda, iced tea, lemonade and ice water. If you plan to serve cocktails, provide two drinks per hour per person for two hours and then one drink per hour per person thereafter. Keep an ice bucket filled and set out plenty of glasses and cups.
Set out desserts after the guests finish eating. Clear space on the buffet table for desserts or add them to the beverage table. Provide a selection of three or four different sweet treats or serve a sheet cake cut into small squares. Make a pot of coffee for your guests and set out cream and sugar.
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