(Family Features) - Whether small and spontaneous or large and organized months in advance, family reunions are fun! Celebrating our common history and heritage is good reason to gather, but most of all I appreciate the good food and catching up on the latest family gossip.
I love being in charge of the menu planning, and I've learned some secrets for success:
- Ensure that you have a somewhat balanced menu by assigning different menu parts-salads, desserts, side dishes.
- Start by asking certain family members to bring the dish they're "known" for.
- Be sure to include dishes that are treasured by the family-that dessert, side dish or appetizer that Grandma was famous for and will be missed if not on the table.
I always make this irresistible Macaroni & Cheese for A Crowd. Since it's a real crowd pleaser, I usually make two pans and they both disappear. Collect the compliments and make copies of the recipe to share. And I bring this yummy casserole in a disposable dish-if the dish gets lost, I don't feel badly!
Everyone appreciates having a role to play:
- Create a family cookbook of cherished family recipes; use self-publishing cookbook software or tap your local office copy center for ideas.
- Have an artsy family teen design a family "crest" that represents your heritage.
- Ask the amateur photo bug in the family to be the reunion's official photographer and share photos by e-mail or snail mail after the party.
- Choose an enthusiastic family member to arrange activities-games, skits, sports, or a slide show of the family; ask another to plan decorations.
- If your family includes toddlers, arrange for teens to babysit so adults can visit.
Don't forget to put out a big bag or barrel for easy trash collection, and a container for recyclables. Disposable serving dishes, plates, glasses and flatware are a good idea for a large gathering-saving on the cleanup makes more time for fun.
For never-fail, crowd-pleasing dishes that will make your reunion memorable, plan the menu by starting at www.VeryBestBaking.com.
Jenny Harper is Consumer Test Kitchen Project Manager for the Nestlé Test Kitchens and VeryBestBaking.com.