Some of these would need to be heated up prior to serving: chili, pasta salads, quiches, make-your-own sandwiches (cold-cuts, chicken salad or other protein fillings, condiments), jambalaya, gumbo, gazpacho, falafel (frozen homemade or store-bought) w/ hummus and salads... if you put "make ahead" into the "search the hotline" box on the left side of the hotline webpage you will find several past threads that might give you ideas. A buffet-style taco bar with pulled pork is mentioned often (which is an awesome idea I can't take credit for).
I recently made Waverly's Pan Bagnat for a lunch. It is a fabulous, gorgeous, filling salad in a sandwich that can be made a day ahead of time. Her version on food52 is now part of my lunch repetoire!
Wow, thanks. Lots of great ideas.
How about do-it-yourself fresh pita breads, which you can warm in the oven, with an assortment of veggies (grilled or fresh), feta or other cheeses, hummus, grilled chicken, etc?
Crostini topped with marinated raw tomatoes + a a green salad (maybe of arugula, chickpeas, & parm) is a nice, easy vegetarian option. Smoked salmon toasts: good dense bread toasted & topped with spicy mustard, smoked salmon, tomato, and a little arugula (and a little red onion and/or a drizzle of olive oil on top if you like). Love the pasta salad mentioned above, also. Avocado toasts are simple and delicious too, you can add tomato and red onion to it also if you like, with maybe some scrambled eggs on the side (OK, kind of breakfast-y but call it brunch...). Good luck -- simple food made with love can be the best food!
I love this salad of Amanda's. You can use a rotisserie chicken if you don't want to heat up the oven.
Search around for no-cook pasta sauces. You just marinate the ingredients and pour over hot pasta. They are fine at room tempertaure and usually leftover are good cold. They only rely on good ingredients.
The easiest and best is chopped tomatoes and minced garlic marinated 1/2 hour at least, in olive oil with salt and pepper, toss over hot pasta with torn basil leaves.
I also like this tuna one:
...finishing my post...
google 'no cook pasta sauce' and you will find a varitey with artichokes etc.
Throw in a salad and crusty bread and you are good to go. Make easy desserts like crumbles and crisps. Leftovers are good warmed for breakfast.
A "make your own" salad or sandwich bar - just lay out all the ingredients and let people assemble their own. Sliced bread, a variety of cheeses and sliced meats, a cutting board with tomatoes for slicing, chopped veggies, salad dressing, mustard and mayo. Everyone will be happy and you won't end up as a short order cook catering to different tastes.
Also, don't be afraid to enlist your house guests to do the chopping!
Alternatively, quiche is very quick and easy, especially if buy a premade crust. A veggie quiche and a green salad is an elegant lunch, though it does mean turning on the oven. Blech!
I also have lots of overnight guests, and I would advise getting a panini machine. A sandwich is nice , but a make-your-own panini assembly line is a blast! It also makes good use of all those odds and ends of leftovers from the previous night's' feast: grilled veggies, knobs of cheese, olive fig tapenade, slices of steak, chicken, or fish. Keep a few loaves of ciabatta bread in the freezer at all times, and you'll be all set.
Get two loaves of good bread (whole wheat or sourdough, and a baguette). Slice the bread and rub raw garlic on half the slices (divide garlic'd and non-garlic'd between two plates). Put out three kinds of cheese (cheddar, ParmReg, goat) with a sharp knife, box grater and butter knife. Add a platter with sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, olives, artichokes (canned drained are fine), store-bought pesto, avocado slices, lettuce, sliced onion, and deli meat. Make a container of tuna salad (that's not really cooking, it's just preparing) and add a jar of nut butter and one of jam (for picky eaters/children). Done!
Make a huge quinoa pilaf and let guests help themselves from the refrigerator. Also a great gazpacho or for that matter any soup that is no cook and done in a blender is easy. Have ingredients ready for smoothies for breakfast, or a light lunch and really encourage guests to make their own from a base recipe of yogurt and bananas. You can also marinate a batch of London broil or other economy cuts, and find the grill master among the group. Have him/her grill extra for next day sandwiches. Extra grilled corn on the cob can become a hassle free corn salad the next day as well. And there is nothing wrong with a huge box of salad greens with any veggie, nut, or fruit thrown in.
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