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Tips for Serving a Multi Course Meal (without a personal chef!)

Tips for Serving a Multi Course Meal (without a personal chef!)

Someday I will hire a personal chef to cater a party for me. Actually, someday, I absolutely will hire this personal chef team and sit back and enjoy being served throughout an entire party. That will be a treat in itself, however, I also really love to cook and serve for my parties. I enjoy the whole process of planning, executing and serving dishes to my guests. Many of my parties are fairly simple with serve yourself or buffet style dishes of foods. Occasionally, I like to serve multi-course meals (either plated or family style) and when I do, I like to use the following tips/tricks/hacks to make the dinner more enjoyable for everyone involved. 

Tips for Serving a Multi Course Meal (without a personal chef)

I am the first person out there that will recommend hiring out (or purchasing out and bringing in) for large parties and life events. I value the talents of others and their ability to make my life easier more than I can say. These tips will work for just about any type of party, big or small, but they still require the work be put in. Hiring a chef, ordering catered items, renting dinner ware, hiring a cleaner or hiring a server are absolutely time and sanity saving options for important events. This list is for someone who really wants to do it themselves, whether because of circumstances or because they enjoy it.

These tips will also help for those trying to save money in their party budget for other area. I do stress that you know your limitations however because saving a few dollars here or there and being disappointed in the end will only make it feel like you wasted the money you did spend. I enjoy throwing parties, preparing dishes, and cooking foods. I’m pretty good about timing things out as well. I am terrible at getting the house spick and span before a party. I often hire that portion out and do the entertaining part of it all myself. Know your talents, your limitations and your resources and have a fantastic party!

1. Prep what you can before the party day.

This seems easy, right? Prep anything and everything you can for your party before the big day hits. It is trickier than it seems however because some items don’t keep as well as other items. Anything that you can prep without compromising the quality should be prepped as far in advance as possible. When creating my menu, I often try to get at least one or two items that can be prepped prior to the big day on the menu. Some menu items that can be prepped early include soups, sauces, vegetable cutting prep and many dessert and drink items. Need a simple syrup for your speciality cocktail? Whip one up nearly a week in advance and store in your fridge. Want to serve a dessert of cookies under ice cream? Prep the cookie dough up to a couple of months in advance and store in your freezer. This works great for home made crackers as well!

2. Pre-plate what you can before the party begins!

A lot of my multi-course parties combine a mix of serving dishes family style and plated. Family style is easier on the chef (and whoever does the dishes afterwards) and the plated style of serving is often easier on guests. I tend to serve the dishes that have to be made or finished during the party as family style and pre-plate (or even pre-dish for an all family style meal) what I can. Salads can often prepped an hour or so before the party, wrapped in cling wrap, and stored in the fridge. If you are serving an individual cheese course or a cheese platter you can also prep these early and put in fridge, just make sure you get it out with enough time to get it to room temperature before serving.

3. Include Entertainment at the Party

Include some form of entertainment at your party so that time between courses goes unnoticed. A little time between courses is actually great because it gives your guests time to really savor the course before it. Too much time can be a drag, but with the rest of these tips and a little entertainment no one will notice a time slag. I often do a photo booth, music, questions at the table or even drink pairings that guests can talk about in between courses.

4. Serve a menu that doesn’t all need to be served HOT.

Planning your menu carefully is very important when you are doing it all and wanting to actually sit down and enjoy your meal with your guests. I try to serve at least a couple of items that can be serve chilled or at room temperature. Salads, appetizers, cheese plates and desserts are easy places to put in items that do not have to stay hot before serving.

5. Utilize warming and cooling appliances.

Take advantage of any and all warming and cooling appliances that you have in your home. I clean out my fridge as much as possible before a coursed meal so that I can pile in pre-prepped plates of items or pre-cut elements that will come together for a portion of the meal. My oven, if not in use, is set to warm and all hot dishes are carefully stored in the warmer so that they can still be served. (Be careful to not let hot food dry out in your warmer. Cover with foil and try not to put in to stay warm for too long.) My crock pot is typically in use for sauces or soups that are prepped in advanced, but need to be served hot.

What tips do you use when serving a multi-course dinner to friends or family? Comment below!

Posts with Multi-Course Menu Ideas:

Differences between first pregnancy and second pregnancy

Differences between first pregnancy and second pregnancy

When I was pregnant with my first kiddo I introduced a series on this blog called “Mommy Mondays” which were all pregnancy and motherhood posts so that I could share the many things that were coming up in pregnancy and the experience, but not overwhelm readers with all things baby. I didn’t know how I was going to handle blogging about this pregnancy. Mostly, I haven’t handled blogging at all this pregnancy until very recently! I still don’t entirely know how my pregnancy will play out here on the blog, except that today (a Monday) I’ve decided to share a bit about my second pregnancy. 

When pregnant the first time around I took photos each week of my growing bump, I had project after project in preparation for the baby’s arrival, and I was soaking in all things baby at the time. This second baby has been a whole other ball game. 

The differences between my first pregnancy and my second pregnancy

I’m now almost rolling into my third trimester of my second pregnancy. This pregnancy, especially in comparison to my first pregnancy, has been… well, rough. I was told that each pregnancy, like each child, can be very different. For me, this has been very true. Some ways that things have been different:

Differences between first pregnancy and second pregnancy

After the birth of my first son. I’m currently pregnant with my second son, and this pregnancy has been a whole new ballgame!

1. I’m less scared about birth, but more scared of those first few weeks and months with baby.

The first time around I was very frightened of the birth experience. I didn’t know what to expect, even though I had read the book cover to cover! I had watched multiple documentaries in preparation. I had taken classes. I’d learned breathing techniques. I had a detailed birth plan. Even with all the preparation, and confidence in my knowledge of what was supposed to happen, I was very scared about the “what could happen” bit of it all. My birth plan didn’t go completely as planned, and it was an incredibly LONG birth, but now that I’ve been through it, I am not as scared this time around. Heck, I made it through that one! What I am really scared about are those first few weeks and months of having the baby home.

Before having my first child I was thrilled by the idea of bringing my little bundle of joy home from the hospital. I would handle any scary thing that birth would throw at me just because I knew in the end, I’d have a cuddly little baby that I’d love more than anything.

Well, the first few months with my first son were very difficult. First, no one told me what to expect in the first few days of postpartum. I didn’t expect the continuous contractions to keep happening or how they would make me feel. I certainly didn’t expect to have a physical and emotional reaction to my baby crying. (Or, lets be honest, ANY baby crying.) Then there was the fact that my first child was a difficult infant. He didn’t sleep. Nursing was difficult. There were health scares. It was hard. I’m wavering a bit now thinking about going through those days again, especially because I will be going back to work much earlier with this kiddo than I did with my first. While I know that I can handle birth and I’ll bring my loved baby home with me, I’m less excited about those first few weeks than I was with the first child.

Finally, I’m scared of getting postpartum depression again. I never want to feel that way again. I’m working with doctors and will be working with counselors in efforts to hopefully avoid going through those months again with this second child, but I also know that it can happen and does happen.

Differences between first pregnancy and second pregnancy

Me at 25 weeks in my second pregnancy. I’ve gained more weight this time around, and I feel that it has made things harder.

2. I’ve gained more weight.

I’ve gained more weight with my second pregnancy than I did my first. I feared that I would have this problem in this pregnancy and what it would mean for my body and my pregnancy. I’m still afraid what it might mean.

There are three major differences between my first pregnancy and my second when it comes to my pregnancy weight gain— my age, my activity level and my resources.

Age: I’m now 4 and half years older than I was with my first pregnancy. Over the past few years my ability to bounce back from weight gain has diminished pretty steadily. (Part of this is due to the discovery that I have hypothyroidism More on that later.) I don’t know that my age has made a huge difference in my weight gain from my first pregnancy to the second, but I do feel that it has made a bit of a difference.

Activity Level: When pregnant with my first child I used public transportation to go to work where I walked for 5 miles a day. I wore a pedometer in those days and averaged 12,000 steps daily. In addition to all of that walking, I would work out three days a week. I worked approximately 30 hours a week and spent most of the rest of the time working on projects, keeping up the house and hitting the gym. I was not fit by normal means, I weighed 191 when I got pregnant with my first child, but I was active in my day to day activities. Now I work at a desk, I commute 2 hours a day by car and I then go straight to work on my computer at home. I rarely have the chance to hit the gym as I am gone approximately 12 hours a day and then work more when home. I probably average around 2,000 steps on a good day nowadays. It isn’t so much that I don’t value fitness. It is more that I value having a roof over my head and am working the best I can within my situation. Can I do better some days? Yes, for sure. The change in activity level is likely the biggest difference in my first pregnancy weight gain to this pregnancy.

Resources: My first pregnancy I was part of a medical study for overweight pregnant women. The study postured the idea that overweight women (women whose BMI put them in the obese category) should not gain the recommended 11-20 lbs of weight and instead shoot for no weight gain at all in pregnancy. I’ve avoided talking about my experience with this study because I do not want people reading about it and thinking that it is healthy to not gain weight at all in pregnancy. The recommended weight gain in a pregnancy is important for the health of the mother and baby. The study was specifically trying to see if overweight women could have a healthy baby while gaining no weight, and if the lack of weight gain could help in preventing many of the weight-related high-risk scenarios in late pregnancy and birth. Nearly all the women in the study (including me) gained weight during their pregnancy. But those participating in the study gained less than those who were in the control group. The study may end up changing weight gain recommendations for obese women in the future, but currently the recommendations are still the same 11 to 20 lbs.

I was in the part of the study that were encouraged to try to not gain any weight during our pregnancy. I was watched by a team of doctors, I received several sonograms to measure my son’s growth, I turned in a weekly food diary of everything I ate to a nutritionist and I received a lot of coaching on food and fitness throughout my first pregnancy. I gained 4 lbs in my first pregnancy and I did avoid the weight-related high-risk pregnancy and birth complications. I’ve gain 7 lbs so far this pregnancy, which is putting me right at the recommended weight gain for obese pregnant women and my doctor is not worried, but it has been hard for me to deal with as I started out heavier with this pregnancy than the last. I feel that it has affected my overall feelings of the pregnancy and my health.

Differences in my health between my first and second pregnancies

Swollen ankles have been a common thread throughout this summer. OUCH.

3. I’ve been much sicker this pregnancy.

I had a few issues with my first pregnancy that are really regular and normal for most pregnancies. Still sucked at the time and people who hadn’t had those fairly normal pregnancy symptoms thought I had it really bad, but overall, pretty regular. This pregnancy I’ve been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, had the flu, have had 4 infections, had pre-cancerous skin cells removed in surgery, have fallen twice and had incredibly bad edema and pain when active. It has been a whirlwind and a lot of medical bills to boot. Some is to be blamed on having a toddler at home coupled with the lowered immune system that comes with pregnancy. Some is weight related.

Thankfully, through all of this, the baby has been growing well and doing great in all the tests and utlrasounds. Also, I haven’t had to be hospitalized or had any big labor scares, so I count myself as pretty darn grateful.

The only clothing I've bought my son so far and I'm nearing the end of my pregnancy!

My second son currently has three onesies to wear. Not quite the wardrobe he will need in Mid-November!

4. I’m a lot less prepared this time around, but I also am not worried about it.

I had everything planned and prepped before baby number one came along. Everything was purchased, saved, cleaned, packed and prepped weeks before his arrival. Frozen meals were stacked high in our freezer weeks before his arrival. Random closets were organized just in case I needed to get something from them in a hurry. Heck, his name was picked out years before pregnancy even came into the picture. This pregnancy, even though it too was planned, I am prepared for nothing. I have no name picked out. I have no baby items (we gave away most everything because we weren’t planning on having another child for sure until fairly recently) and haven’t really prepared too much so far. The room isn’t prepped. Our house is basically an unorganized disaster. I have no ideas on what I want to do for birth this time around. And, I have a mountain of things to accomplish at work (and here on the blog) before his arrival.

I also am not worried. Something about doing this the second time around makes it all just a tad less stressful. I know that we will get what we need to have. I know that somehow work and everything else will work itself out. We have started to prepare a bit more as we are hitting the third trimester. I signed up for Honest diaper bundle boxes a few months ago and have already stocked up on diapers and wipes to last us some time. We purchased a larger car and planned for daycare arrangements for when I go back to work. I’ve checked in with my insurance to get a breast pump and plan our financial costs for the birth. There is still a lot to do, think about and purchase. But, for the most part, I’m still not too worried about it. (Check back with me in a few weeks though!)

Reasons I'm more excited about my second pregnancy than I was my first

All the cool moms know Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

5. I think I am even more excited about this little one than I was my first, and partially, it is because of my first.

I was excited for my first son. All that planning and preparing was in my excitement of meeting my first child and all the adventures that we would have. Somehow, I think I’m even more excited about this little guy and I think I owe it to my first son. I know how amazing he is and I know the fun and adventures we have. I am excited about sharing that with a second son. In addition, maybe because I am an older sibling, I am excited to see the relationship between my first and my second grow into a life long (hopefully) friendship. I can’t wait to introduce him to all of the traditions we have. I can’t wait to see his personality develop. I simply can’t wait.

Differences between first pregnancy and second pregnancy

Lots of differences in growing kiddo number two, but one thing remains the same… I’m totally in love.

Overall this pregnancy has not been my favorite of the two. I’ve struggled a lot about him not feeling the love because we aren’t preparing as much or there aren’t as many photos of his mom while pregnant as there were when I was pregnant with his older brother. I’ve struggled with him not feeling as important because I’m choosing to go back to work earlier or because we didn’t have his name picked out for ages like we did his brother. I’ve struggled with health and happiness during this pregnancy. We’ve struggled with money and time this pregnancy. I’ve struggled.

However, I’m already so stinking in love with my unborn little one. I’m ridiculously excited to introduce him to his brother and his father. I can’t wait to see him in the arms of our families and friends. Mainly, I can’t wait to snuggle close with him (as I’ve done a million times with his brother) and sing him a special song that he knows is his song from me.

What was different for you in your second pregnancy compared to your first? Or, if you are a sibling, what things did your parents do for you to make you feel special and appreciated?

Italian Dinner al Fresco Menu with Free Printables

Italian Dinner al Fresco Menu with Free Printables

Pregnancy cravings are no joke. Add to that my desire to entertain… well, a simple craving for an Italian meal turned into a multi-course extravaganza. I researched formal Italian meal courses and found out that Italians, they know how to dine! Out of my research (and cravings) came a 9 course meal that lasted four hours long!

I can’t say that the entire inspiration for this party was my pregnancy cravings… though, they certainly took a big role! The other inspiration was Kohl’s. When Kohl’s asked me  how I celebrate summer I knew the answer was “Dinner al Fresco” and went shopping with that in mind. After coming across the Bobby Flay Home collection of melamine tableware I knew that I’d be serving an outdoor Italian feast.

Read on for my Italian dinner al fresco menu, table decor resources AND free printables so you can throw your own outdoor Italian feast!

Italian themed dinner menu and free printables — A Well Crafted Party

Italian themed dinner menu and free printables

Free Printable Wine Tag

Resource List

Menu for an Italian Dinner al Fresco

Italian Dinner al Fresco:

In my massive craving for Italian food I went on a research binge to find out different ideas for a coursed out Italian meal. What I discovered is that Italians LOVE their food! A formal Italian meal has several different courses to it. Now, typically they wouldn’t list the aperitivo course on a menu because it is meant as a sort of opening to the meal. But, I just love a big full menu, so I included it. Below is what I did for our Italian meal. Please note that I am not Italian, nor have I had the pleasure of going to Italy. I wrote my Italian menu from researching different ideas and coming up with recipes. They may or may not be authentic Italian food. However, the menu items are delicious. Also, I used Google Translate to help me figure out how to word the menu items on the menu I created.

Apertivo Ideas for Italian Dinner

Aperitivo:

The opening course that usually features a cocktail, Prosecco, champagne, wine  or sparkling water may also be accompanied by light appetizers. I served Prosecco, Italian Olives & Caprese Bites.

parmesan stuffed grilled artichokes

Antipasto:

The antipasto course is slightly heavier than the apertivio course. Sometimes you’ll see either an aperirtivo or antipasto course offered at restaurants, but I went all in and did both. I chose to serve my garlic and parmesan stuffed grilled artichokes for this course.

Primo or first course in Italian meal

Primo:

The primo course is a heavier course than the antipasto, but lighter than the secondo course that comes next and is often served hot. Typically it is a pasta dish, risotto or soup. I chose to serve a clam spaghetti or Spaghetti alla Vongole. I’ll be sharing my recipe for this soon because I make my Spaghetti alla Vongole a tad different than other people out there, but in the meantime you should check out the Spaghetti Vongole from Jamie Oliver! YUM.

Secondo or second course in Italian meal is usually the meat course.

Secondo: 

The secondo course is quite a bit heavier than the primo course and is typically the meat dish. It is often served alongside a contorno which is a vegetable side, either cooked or raw. An insalata (salad) can be served with this or after this course. I chose to serve my meat on top of my insalata or contorno (whichever you please) with a beautiful grilled flank steak served on a bed of arugula with freshly shaved parmesan and lemon. (Recipe coming soon!)

Italian inspired fruit and cheese plate

Formaggi e frutta:

A cheese and fruit plate comes next in this extravagant meal. While most of our meal was served family style I prepped individual plates for the cheese and fruit course. I served a beautiful Italian gorgonzola and fontina cheese alongside grapes and grilled figs that were drizzled in honey. Just so you know… figs and gorgonzola are beautiful together.

Dolce Course or dessert course is one of the most important courses in my opinion.

Dolce: 

One of my dear guests asked if she could bring anything to the event and I happily took her up on making a dessert because she is one of the best people in the world to ask to bring dessert. She never disappoints and didn’t disappoint on this lovely evening. She brought locally baked shortcakes to top with local strawberries and fresh whipped cream. Such a nice way to round out the meal.

Caffè:

Just when you think you are done… there is more! The caffè course is typically served last unless followed by an ammazzacaffè. I got this part wrong on my menu originally but fixed this for the printable. I put the digestivo after the caffè. It honestly didn’t make much of a difference though. We served a nice rich espresso. For all those non-Italian palates in the room (everyone) we had some whipped cream to top the strong coffee and sweeten it a bit.

Digestivo or Ammazzacaffè:

The digestivo is a drink to conclude the meal. It is typically a liqueur of some sort. We served Limoncello.

To say we were full after this evening would be an extreme understatement.

 

Dinner al Fresco menu and free printables

Free Italian Dinner Printables:

If you’ve been reading long then you know that I’m obsessed with the ease of printables. This party was no different. I created up some fun Italian-inspired printables to bring together the table. Today I’m giving them away… for free! If you like free printables then please take a moment to sign up for my newsletter. All of my newsletters promise never before seen content, goodies, opportunities or printables for subscribers ONLY. And, of course, if you use some of my free printables I’d love to see them in action! #awellcraftedparty on any social media images so I can see and share. Now… onto the goodies:

Instructions are listed on the printables. To download, click on your selected printable, hit download, and save to your computer. Print according to instructions. Printables are for personal use only.

Free Printable Wine Tag

 


 

A big thank you to Kohl’s for asking me how I celebrate Summer. This was a lot of fun to put together. Kohl’s provided me with a gift card to help in celebrating summer. Thank you for reading posts that help support this blog. I only talk about companies that I have used, liked and feel that my readers would benefit from knowing in my blog posts. I regularly shop at Kohl’s for their great selection and prices. Please refer to my policies for more information. 

 

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