Anyone else trying to figure out what kind of meal(s) to plan for family reunions or other large get togethers this summer? We should start a support group.
I’m guessing I’m not the only one in the midst of this agony since I’ve been receiving tons of emails and comments lately from many of you wondering what the heck you should make for your upcoming family reunion for a bazillion people that won’t keep you in the kitchen all day (and in some cases, several of you don’t even have access to a kitchen – my condolences).
Can I suggest taco salad as a super star front runner in that decision making? It’s one of my favorite meals of all time any average Thursday night dinner, but it’s also fabulous for large groups, get-togethers, family reunions, you name it.
Because it doesn’t have to be served warm, all of the ingredients can be prepped ahead of time (hallelujah), and when making it for a crowd, I always serve it build-your-own style to cater to even the pickiest of eaters (leave those avocados for me, thankyouverymuch!).
It’s also great for mixed allergen crowds since it can easily be tailored to be egg-free, gluten-free, dairy-free and a lot of other -frees.
Today’s chicken taco salad is amazing and would be perfect for your upcoming gathering (if you’re looking for a more traditional option, here’s my favorite traditional chopped taco salad number).
The chicken gets a huge boost of flavor after simmering in a yummy concoction that takes seconds to stir together and can be cooked in an InstantPot (or other electric or stovetop pressure cooker), slow cooker or on the stovetop; all of those instructions are included in the recipe. That sauce then doubles as dressing, and drizzling in swirls with the creamy ranch, it is simply divine.
Taco salad doesn’t have to be old school and boring – a few simple steps to add homemade flavor can make a huge difference. And don’t underestimate the glitz of serving it with fresh lime wedges. Not only do those luscious limes add the best burst of flavor when squeezed over the colorful salad, but they add a bit of fancy-pants value with hardly any work, and you’ll get some bonus points for having those cut limes ready. Promise.
If you’re looking for a few other family reunion/large gathering meals, here’s a step-by-step menu plan I did a while back for large groups with three great meal ideas. And here are a few additional easy, delicious meal ideas that can be exponentially increased for whatever size group you are serving and won’t leave you missing out on the family olympics in order to get a meal ready:
Sloppy Joes (make ahead of time and heat up in a slow cooker or roaster)
Freezer Beef and Bean Burritos (these are great for family reunion lunches; make them ahead of time and people can heat them up as needed one-by-one or in batches in the oven)
Slow Cooker Southwest Chicken Stacks (another Mexican-themed meal but it’s so super easy, it’s hard to resist for large crowds – I’ve made it for upwards of 100 people and it is easy-peasy)
Ultimate Beef Stroganoff (served with rice and a salad or vegetable)
Italian Beef Sandwiches (another great slow cooker meal that can actually be made ahead of time and reheated to serve)
Homemade Spaghetti Sauce (this sauce can be made ahead of time – and even frozen – and is easily reheated in a slow cooker or on the stovetop and can be served over any type of noodles)
What are your favorite meals to serve at family reunions?
It's really annoying to have to open a can of tomato paste for a couple tablespoons (I get it); try looking for tubes of tomato paste. My grocery store carries them as well as Trader Joe's. Just squeeze out what you need and refrigerate the tube until you need it next time.
Also, you might be questioning the cocoa powder in the sauce. It's not a typo! The small amount adds a depth to the sauce; it's yummy, I promise (and it won't make the sauce taste like a brownie)!
- 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup diced yellow or white onion
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 to 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 10 to 12 cups chopped romaine salad (about 3 medium heads of romaine)
- 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup chopped cilantro
- 3 to 4 green onions, chopped
- 1 cup thawed frozen or fresh corn kernels
- 1 to 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
- 4 ounces (about 1 cup) cubed or thinly sliced cheddar, Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack cheese (or a combo)
- 1 cup chopped olives
- 1 to 2 avocados, seed removed and diced
- Lime wedges for serving, optional
- Tortilla chips for serving
- Ranch dressing for serving (favorite homemade version here)
- For the chicken:
- Pressure cooker, combine all the ingredients for the sauce, except the chicken, in an electric or stovetop pressure cooker and stir well. Nestle the chicken in the sauce. Cook on high pressure for 9 minutes (7 minutes if using a stovetop pressure cooker). Let the pressure naturally release.
- Slow cooker, combine all the ingredients for the sauce, except the chicken, in a slow cooker and stir well. Nestle the chicken in the sauce. Cook on low for 4-5 hours or high for 2-3 hours.
- Stovetop, combine all the ingredients for the sauce, except the chicken, in a saucepan. Nestle the chicken in the sauce. Bring to a simmer, stirring often to make sure it isn't sticking. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
- When the chicken is finished cooking, take it out and dice or shred into small pieces.
- Puree the sauce (with an immersion or regular blender) until smooth. If you want the sauce even thicker, consider simmering it on the stove for 10 minutes until it thickens and reduces a bit (I'm never that patient).
- For the salad, either toss all the salad ingredients together in a bowl, including the chicken, or serve all the ingredients separately so everyone can build their own salad.
- Drizzle the salad with ranch dressing and cooled tomato sauce (from cooking the chicken). Toss, if desired. Top with crushed tortilla chips, serve with lime wedges, and dig in.
Recipe Source: adapted from a recipe in Cuisine at Home (changed up the ingredients a bit, added instructions for slow cooker, pressure cooker and stovetop)