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Simple, tasty recipes to serve a crowd

Karen Leland is the bestselling author of Time Management in an Instant: 60 Ways to Make the Most of Your Day. She is featured columnist for The Huffington Post Living section. Read her blog and contact her at

New Orleans-style dinner ideas

Whether you are planning to host a party, volunteered to bring a main dish to a potluck or are cooking for a family reunion, feeding a crowd of 15 or more can make the coolest of chefs break out in a sweat. Not to worry. To keep things simple and easy, stick to dishes you can cook in one pot, eat with a cup and spoon, and make in less than an hour.

New Orleans-style dinner ideas

Seafood Gumbo in a Snap

Serves 15

Stop 100 people on the streets of New Orleans and ask them for the quintessential seafood gumbo recipe, and you'll get 100 different variations on the theme. While this may not be the be-all, end-all gumbo recipe, it's a great place to start.

1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup flour
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 green bell peppers, diced
3 ribs celery, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon Creole seasoning blend
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 pounds okra, chopped
4 quarts seafood stock or water
2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound fresh lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
8 cups cooked long-grain white rice
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, over a medium flame, heat the oil and add the flour. Being careful not to burn the flour, stir continually until the mixture becomes a light brown roux. Add the onions, bell pepper, celery and garlic. Sauté until the onions are translucent. Add the tomatoes, seasonings, herbs and okra; cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. Add the seafood stock (or water) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for another 30 minutes. With the gumbo on very low heat, add the shrimp and crab 10 minutes before serving. Taste and adjust seasonings, and serve over cooked rice.

In a Hurry Chili

Serves 15

Although this recipe contains no chili powder, the mix of strong flavors makes a delicious dish that is perfect for spicing up a crowd. Best of all, it only takes about 45 minutes from start to finish.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 red bell peppers, diced
8 spicy turkey sausages, uncooked
3 cans kidney beans, drained
2 cans (6 ounces) tomato paste
3 cans (1 pound 13 ounces) stewed tomatoes
3 cans (1 pound) tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

In large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Next, add the celery and red bell pepper, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients; bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes or until the celery and red pepper are soft.

Quick Chicken Stew

Serves 15

If you're throwing a last-minute get-together and need to feed a crowd in a hurry, you can prep, cook and serve this easy-to-make soup/stew within an hour.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup diced potatoes
1-1/2 pounds cooked chicken, chopped into medium pieces
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
4 cups water
4 cups mixed fresh vegetables including carrots, celery, zucchini, mushrooms and squash
1 (15-ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 tablespoon parsley flakes

In large soup pot, heat oil and butter over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the diced potatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients; bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are al dente, but not hard. Spoon into individual cups, give your guests a spoon and serve hot!

More tasty recipes ideas

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Cheap healthy lunches
Homemade spiced rum

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